Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Well, isn’t this a surprising twist!

Hamas bombs…..wait for it…. a Fatah jail in the West Bank city of Nablus reports Ynet News:
An explosive device was detonated Tuesday in a Palestinian Authority prison in Nablus, where Hamas prisoners are being held, following a wave of crackdowns against the Islamist group's operatives in the West Bank after its June takeover of Gaza. No injuries were reported in the blast at Jenaid prison. Palestinian sources said the event is considered a "warning sign" to the PA, to stop its arrests of Hamas operatives.

In recent weeks, leaders of Hamas and its military wing, Izz al-Din al-Qassam, warned Fatah and the Palestinian Authority against continuing its campaign of arrests of the organization's operatives, saying "our patience is wearing thin. Don't underestimate our forces in the West Bank."
How long before kassams fall on Ramallah?

Sometimes a great notion – NOT

I have heard about this BabyFirstTV and I really have to wonder about the kind of minds inhabit the entertainment industry. Does the world really need TV for babies? I suppose I should be grateful it’s to be “commercial free” though for how long is the real question. I remember when the big plus of FM radio was its alleged “commercial free” content or when the cable specialty channels were billed as “commercial free”.

It never occurred to me to put a baby in front of the TV to “watch” television. The whole earth was their playground and we were too busy exploring it to sit still to watch television. By the time my youngest was about 3 years old and my oldest 6, I was working at a make-up school which taught make-up artists the art of film and television make-up – from your basic glamour makeup to bruises, bullet & stab wounds, monster make-up, creature suits, and animatronics.

All the teachers were professional make-up artists, so once a week one of “teacher” would give a demonstration to the staff, and we would critique it, in order that teachers could become more effective in communicating their expertise to their students. There were times when I had no one to watch the children so they came to work with me and play in the student lounge.

The first time they saw me fully made-up (bruised and bludgeoned) all three broke out in tears. I had always told my children that television was strictly make believe but there still remained a part of them which didn’t fully internalize how much fantasy television entailed until they watched me wipe the bruises off my face. After that, I took them regularly to staff meetings in order to de-sensitize them. I figured it worked just fine when I caught them watching a cop show and they were criticizing a murder victim’s make-up. Quite a heated debated ensured between the three of them in trying to determine what brand of fake blood which was used.

But television for babies – I think not. What babies really need instead is a turn on the kitchen floor with free access to the pots & pans cupboard. Want to make their day? Give them a few spoons and once in a while throw in a big empty box as well. Better than even Fisher-Price.

Monday, July 30, 2007

So much for resistance

Last week western leaders praised alleged Palestinian Prime Minister Salaam Fayad for taking “resistance” out of the government’s platforms. At an Arab league press conference he discussed the legitimate right to “resist” the Israeli “occupation”.

Palestinians have a legitimate right to resist the Israeli "occupation", even if the term "resistance" does not appear in the new Palestinian Authority platform, PA Prime Minister Salaam Fayad said during a press conference in Cairo on Monday.

Fayad, who is representing the Palestinian Authority during an Arab League conference in Egypt, explained that the term "resistance" was excluded from the platform because it was too often associated with "armed struggle." "What is the essence of resistance, especially in light of the current occupation?" Fayad asked. "Does it not begin with all possible efforts to strengthen the permanence of the Palestinian citizens on their land? That is precisely the government's agenda."

Fayad's government came under heavy criticism over the weekend from Hamas and other radical groups for failing to mention the "armed resistance" in its platform. One group threatened to kill the "traitor" Fayad and his colleagues in Ramallah, while another said it would step up its efforts to bring down his government. The threats against Fayad were the worst since he was appointed prime minister last month. PA security officials in Ramallah told The Jerusalem Post that they were taking the threats very seriously and that measures had already been implemented to protect Fayad and other top figures.

I say, give Fayad two weeks, a homegrown audience and he will completely cave. "Resisting the occupation' will be right back on the public government agenda.

On Kadima's heads

There is something deeply ironic about Ehud (cut and run) Barak insisting on increasing the military budget while Prime Minister Ehud Olmert argues against. But then again, Olmert properly surmises; if the military is fully funded Israelis will demand it protect them. Then the demands for protection never end so its better to scale it down. Ynet News:
The government on Sunday rejected a proposal issued by Defense Minister Ehud Barak to add $1.6 billion to next year's defense budget and push back the debate on the Brodet Committee's recommendations on budget reform.

A total of 16 ministers voted to accept the Brodet Committee's report, in accordance with the proposal put forward by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert – which bested Barak's. Only five ministers voted with Barak. Olmert rebuffed claims that any failures during the Second Lebanon War had anything to do with budgetary difficulties.

"We've been through a difficult experience. There were many failings, but most of them aren't related to budgetary reasons. The attempt to depict the situation in that manner is disturbing," he said. Barak presented his demand to increase the military's budget at the cabinet meeting, sparking harshly worded confrontations between defense and treasury officials.

"I'm asking you to pass it. I'm warning you, know that if the budget doesn't pass – it'll be on your heads," said Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi at the meeting, according to numerous participants. Barak reportedly listed five points he vehemently refused to back down from: No cutbacks on training exercises, increasing troop numbers, maintaining the necessary stockpiles and preserving the IDF's strategic capabilities and long reach of its arm.

I suppose Olmert feels relatively secure cutting training exercises and decreasing troop numbers since the US President has promised to increase the military aid to Israel;
Defense aid to Israel is still a top priority for the United States, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told the cabinet Sunday, saying that Israel enjoys more financial assistance than other countries in the Middle East.

"We have renewed agreements and a renewed commitment from the Americans that would help preserve our advantage over the Arab countries," the prime minister added, referring to reports that the US is mulling a $20 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf states. However, Olmert said that Israel fully understood the US' need to support the moderate states in the region.

According to the prime minister, the agreements he referred to has been reached during his meeting with President George W. Bush in Washington on June 20. An additional 25% increase in the aid package to Israel worth $3 billion per year and $30 billion over the next decade has also been agreed upon. "This would mean a lot to Israel's security, and this is a good opportunity to thank President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice," Olmert stated.

Of course, this is problematic for the Israelis. It continues an ever growing dependency on the United States for its security needs which could be held hostage the minute American interests conflict with Israeli ones. The Six Days War proved Israelis can do just fine on their own.

In addition, it continues the current trend of over relying on technology rather than emphasing training and effective use of current resources. There was no question over last summer’s war with Lebanon that the Israeli army held the technological edge over Hezbollah; but all the toys in the world don’t necessarily replace well-trained, well equipped boots on the ground. And we all know how that conflict played out.

In the end, the US president can promise all he wants, but it is still congress which has the final say whether to deliver or not. But since Olmert’s all gung-ho for outsourcing Israeli security this Jerusalem Post report isn’t the least surprising:
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is exploring the idea of allowing Jordanian forces, and not NATO troops, into the West Bank to help the Palestinian Authority fight terrorism, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

What Olmert has in mind, and what has been raised in recent meetings with Jordan's King Abdullah II, is not the Badr Brigade - a group of Palestinian soldiers inside the Jordanian Army - but rather "regular" Jordanian Army troops, Beduin who have experience fighting terrorism
The longer Olmert is prime minister - the more I am convinced that he is committed (under one guise or another) of giving the entire country away.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Paying salaries and keeping the right to kill jews

I wouldn’t bet on it, but I am not so sure this 'isolate Hamas in the Gaza Strip' is going to be one of the international communities more successful boycotts. Ha’aretz reports Hamas found the money:
In an act of defiance against Fatah, Hamas on Saturday said it will begin paying salaries of civil servants in the Gaza Strip. Hamas said it will pay over 10,000 civil servants who were cut from the payroll of the rival West Bank-based administration because of their loyalty to Hamas, a union official said.

In all, the Palestinian Authority employs about 165,000 people, half of them members of the security forces. After the fall of Gaza to Hamas, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayad ordered civil servants in Gaza not to cooperate with Hamas.

Palestinian-American money man Fayad has his own PR problems reports Ha’aretz:
A Popular Resistance Committee spokesman threatened Saturday that Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayad and his government are targets for military operations such as are employed against Israel.

Speaking to reporters in the Gaza Strip, PRC spokesman Abu Abir dubbed Abbas, Fayad and other members of the government the "Ramallah traitors" and vowed they will receive an "identical response as to the Israeli occupation." The PRC is an umbrella organization for various militant groups in the Gaza Strip.
In response to Friday's ommission of a call for "armed resistance" against Israel in the proposed PA government's platform, Abir described the cabinet as illegal and unrepresentative of the Palestinian nation. Abir said Fayad's government supports the United States' policies and collaborates with "the Israeli enemy," as it damaged Palestinian resistance. He added that his group only recognizes a government under the authority of deposed PA prime minister, Gaza-based Hamas' leader Ismail Haniyeh.

Islamic Jihad decided to weigh in on the issue and have got Hamas' back on this.

Friday, July 27, 2007

If you can’t beat’em in a fair fight – legislate ‘em out of electoral victory

Or at least that’s the suggestion from the famed champion of Palestinian democrat. Ynet News reports:
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Thursday he would decree a change in Palestinian electoral rules that might make it harder for Hamas Islamists to maintain the parliamentary majority they won last year.

However, pressed to say whether the early elections that he has promised would be held as soon as this year, Abbas said he could not set a date yet. Nor could he yet say whether he would run himself for re-election as president.

In an interview at his West Bank headquarters in Ramallah, Abbas said parliamentary and presidential elections must be held simultaneously in the West Bank and Gaza Strip - a condition that leaves the timing uncertain, given the opposition of Hamas leaders who seized control of Gaza from Abbas' forces in June.

Abbas said that, after he has met the Central Electoral Commission on Friday, he will not only issue decrees setting early elections but also decree that parliamentary polls be contested only by nationwide party lists, scrapping constituency seats which were crucial to Hamas' victory in January 2006. "We will amend the electoral law," the president said, adding that decrees could be issued as early as next week.

"I will use Article 43 of the Basic Law, which gives me the power to make those changes, to change the electoral law to a single national list instead of having two lists, one national and one by constituencies," he said. Under the existing rules, half the seats in parliament are allocated to parties according their share of the national vote and half are allocated to local constituencies.

Some constitutional experts question Abbas' right to appoint a new government and amend the constitution by decree following his dismissal of the Hamas-led government in the wake of the rift with Gaza. Some say he needs parliamentary approval. Abbas said he could issue the decrees on elections next week.

Voting is not scheduled until 2010 and some critics note that the Basic Law has no provision for calling early elections. Asked if he could say whether voting could take place as early as this year, Abbas said: "No I can't give any dates now." Asked whether voting could take place in the West Bank while leaving an election in Gaza aside or holding it over for later, he said: "We do not want to divide the homeland. "We are seeking elections in both the West Bank and Gaza. There can be no division according to the electoral law."
Well, ah, good luck with that.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Never-ending Siege

Is till going on. This has to be a record holder for mopping up operations. Taken from the Jerusalem Post
Lebanese army troops unleashed barrages of artillery and tank shells Wednesday at Islamic militants in a Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon, witnesses and security officials said. In some of the heaviest bombardment of Nahr el-Bared in weeks, army cannons fired shells at a rate of 8 to 10 every minute at suspected Fatah Islam positions inside the camp. The shelling could be heard in the nearby port city of Tripoli, witnesses said.

The army action, which began at dawn Wednesday, follows days of low intensity fighting during which soldiers continued to push their way deeper into the camp, seizing weapons and other military equipment from tunnels dug by the militants A senior military official said Wednesday that two soldiers were killed in military operations a day earlier, raising to 118 the number of troops killed since fighting with the al-Qaida-inspired militants broke out in the camp on May 20.

The “militants” are still firing Katyusha rockets. At the rate the Lebanese soldiers are falling the army should be depleted by the time Fatah with the Islam is “defeated” and the siege ends.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

I can't wait to see what Fatah will accomplish with my tax dollars

Geeze, it’s a good thing Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas convinced Fatah’s Al-Asqa’s Martyr’s Brigades to disarm. Ynet News carries this report of a shoot-out at a West Bank University:
Palestinian sources in Nablus reported Tuesday that one Hamas operative was critically injured, and nine others were lightly to moderately wounded, by Fatah gunfire near an-Najah University in Nablus. The clashes began after Hamas-affiliated students put up anti-Fatah fliers slamming the recent arrests of Hamas operatives in the city.

In response, dozens of Shabiba members – the Fatah youth movement on campus – started rioting. University security personnel quickly arrived on the scene, firing warning shots in the air. At that time, dozens of al-Aqsa gunmen (Fatah's military wing) stormed the campus and opened fire on Hamas members. Fatah members in Nablus told Ynet that the act was a clear provocation by Hamas, who had been warned by the university to stop distributing inciteful materials. Following the altercation, the university suspended all classes and asked the students to leave the grounds and return to their homes.
Odd how I keep forgetting Fatah are the good terrorists. I wonder how many times you have to say it before its true

Reform - Palestinian Authority Style

Ynet News carries this financial news tidbit:
After receiving the funds from Israel and additional aid from the United States and European countries, the Palestinian Finance Ministry decided to pay the monthly salaries of government members, including dismissed Hamas ministers and the group's representatives in the Legislative Council.

Each of these officials received on Monday NIS 12,000 (about $2,836) from Palestinian Prime Minister and Finance Minister Salam Fayyad's treasury. One of the people to receive this sum was former Palestinian Foreign Minister Mahmoud al-Zahar, one of Hamas' most radical members.

And just so the Israelis know they are not on the hook for the whole tab the Toronto Star is reporting that the Canadian taxpayers will now be stepping forward (courtesy of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government) to up the collection kitty for this new improved Palestinian Authority as well:
OTTAWA–Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government is joining the new push for a breakthrough in Middle East peace efforts by resuming financial support for the embattled Palestinian government of Mahmoud Abbas.

The federal government yesterday earmarked $8 million for the Palestinian Authority and Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay signalled millions more would likely follow in coming months. (..)While Canada's initial commitment is only $8 million, MacKay said it could be quickly expanded to reach the $35 million level of support for Palestinians provided by Ottawa in 2005. (…)But Canada has been given "certain indications that positive steps have been made to reform Fatah," MacKay said yesterday.

No doubt appointing Hamas’ man, Sheikh Mahmoud Habbash, as Social Welfare & Agriculture Minister in Abbas ‘new reformed’ Palestinian Authority government is just another part of those “positive steps” MacKay quips about.

The longer this Canadian minority government goes on - the more reasons I find for keeping my $1.75 firmly in my own pocket the next time there is a federal election.

Monday, July 23, 2007

The Right Click

For all those not in the know, a click on the banner ad running on my site results in a donation this quarter to Standing Together. This weekend I discovered a story on the NGO in the Jerusalem Post and thought I would share since I am not always about war and conflict….
Standing Together, a NGO that devotes most of its efforts to supporting IDF soldiers on active duty, organized a trip to Sderot last week for 45 Jerusalem-area residents, in an attempt to draw attention to the town's plight and to help local businesses.

Meanwhile Friday, two more Kassam rockets hit the western Negev. In the early morning, one struck Sderot's industrial zone; two people were released after being treated for shock at the Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon. Two hours before Shabbat, a second projectile hit an open area near a kibbutz in the Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council, without causing damage.

Wednesday's visitors, primarily American- and Canadian-Israelis from Jerusalem, Efrat, and Ramat Beit Shemesh, boarded a bus (rented from a Sderot company). "This could be Monsey," exclaimed a middle-aged American woman standing on a well-manicured lawn in front of a large, attractive house in Sderot.

But the dwelling had one particular attribute that would make it rather noteworthy in the New York suburb; a Kassam rocket had added a new, unwanted, window to the second floor two days earlier. "Standing Together was created to help Jews in Israel and around the world make a difference in the lives of IDF soldiers," said spokeswoman Miriam Gottlieb. "But the people living in Sderot are defending the land of Israel, too. And they're doing it for world Jewry." More information on the NGO is available at www.stogether.org.

The visitors showed their support by meeting with Sderot residents, hearing their stories, and spending money in their shops. Standing Together director David Landau said one reason the organization had sponsored the trip was to promote tzedaka (charity) that would not be a handout, but would help keep the town's economy running.

On his numerous trips to Sderot, Landau has established ties between Standing Together and Sderot's hesder yeshiva, in which soldiers combine religious study with military service. Gedalya Fridel, a soldier and participant in the hesder program, introduced the visitors to his town and showed them the home hit by one of Monday's rockets.

The residents of the well-furnished house complained about a lack of government and community support. "You've all come from so far away, but nobody from the city has come to see us [since the Kassam hit]," said homeowner Marcel Maimon.

With rockets raining down daily, some residents have become jaded about the Kassams, which rarely leave anyone seriously wounded. Maimon admitted that her family did not head for the bomb shelter when the city's early warning system went off ahead of the first Kassam hit (there were three that night,) but only - luckily - when the third siren sounded. The visitors were not so blasé.

"Where is the nearest shelter?" one asked Fridel before disembarking to do some shopping on Sderot's modest commercial strip. The question provoked nervous laugher from the other visitors and a bit of down-to-earth advice from the guide. "Gaza is that way," he said, pointing west. "If you hear the warning siren, get on the opposite side of a building. And shrapnel flies up, so if a rocket hits the ground near you, get down," he said.

Read the full article here. Just to remind you of the Israeli Prime Minister’s response to kassam fire on Sderot:
"A country cannot protect itself ad infinitum, because there would be no end to it."

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Speaking of Fat Ladies who refuse to sing

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (the one political leader who makes George W. Bush’s poll numbers look outstandingly good) has announced he will be running again for the leadership of the Kadima party reports the Ha’aretz:
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced Saturday his intention to seek a second term as the leader of the Kadima party and run as its candidate for the position of prime minister in the next general elections.

During an address to Kibbutz Movement leaders at Kibbutz Yifat, Olmert reiterated he would not step down despite criticism by State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss of his handling of the Second Lebanon War last summer.
This guy just doesn’t get it and what’s even more unfortunate; he cannot even be shamed into leaving. Maybe I am just holding a grudge for almost being hoodwinked by him a few weeks ago. I started to read this speech and got excited thinking it was his resignation address to the nation but by the time I got a few lines in I realized my error. It was not his resignation speech but a resignation speech for the nation he reputedly leads. The Jerusalem Post carried an excerpt from it:
"A country cannot protect itself ad infinitum, because there would be no end to it." Olmert was addressing the Caesarea Conference. The prime minister added that stepping up protection would be "just as [ineffective] as the demand to solve Sderot's Kassam problem by wiping Beit Hanun and other towns in Gaza off the face of the earth.

The prime minister appealed to the residents of the Gaza periphery: "In the short term we cannot supply you with all of the personal security that we would like to provide, because such protection would draw from expensive resources that are needed for other critical security needs."

Olmert also addressed the media, asking that they "not encourage, even mutely, demands of citizens that no normal government could accept." He added that "life in Israel entails a certain security risk, and anyone who chooses to live in the Jewish state is accepting this risk." And yet, "the risk in Israel is lower than the risk threatening Jews in other parts of the world."

"A country cannot protect itself ad infinitum, because there would be no end to it." Talk about self-defeating and fracking ridiculous. For the record, no one has been lobbying kassams in Toronto in the hopes of taking out a few members of the Jewish community but anyway – time for a laugh at Olmert’s expense. Check out this old ABC News interview on You Tube and watch Meir Kahane wipe the floor with the “younger” Ehud. Personally, Olmert scared me just looking at that hair and those glasses.

Friday, July 20, 2007

The Fat Lady has yet to sing

The Lebanese Army continues its neverending siege on the Palestinian refugee camp where Fatah Islam has yet to surrender or be overwhelmed. According to this Jerusalem Post report now the “militants” are now firing katyusha rockets.
Four Lebanese soldiers were killed overnight as the army resumed Thursday shelling the remaining positions of al-Qaida-inspired Islamic militants entrenched in a Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon, a senior military official said. The shelling by artillery and tanks lasted more than an hour, sending plumes of heavy black smoke billowing into the air, witnesses said.

The army, meanwhile, announced the names of four soldiers it said were killed in fighting Wednesday with militants of the Fatah Islam group in the Nahr el-Bared camp on the outskirts of the northern port city of Tripoli. The senior military official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media, said Wednesday's deaths raised to 111 the number of troops killed since fighting broke out in the camp two months ago. The army will continue its offensive until the militants surrender to Lebanese authorities, he said. The militants have vowed never to surrender.

In response to the army's shelling, Fatah Islam fighters fired volleys of Katyusha rockets Thursday that landed in nearby villages, causing damage but no casualties, the state-run National News Agency reported. A Lebanese teenager was killed and a young girl was injured in Wednesday's Katyusha rocket attacks on villages near the camp. The use of Katyusha rockets appears to be a new tactic used by the militants to ease the army's pressure on its fighters.

The report goes on to suggest the Lebanese Army has now taken control of Fatah Islam’s main headquarters in the camp, but still there is no end in sight. I got to wonder where Fatah Islam got those rockets?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Potter Tales

I have loved being a mother. I can’t think of anything I would rather be but it has not all been easy. In fact, a great deal of it has been stage managing one crisis after another. Then there have been legions of nights where sleep eluded me because I could not get a handle on my worries and fears long enough to put them aside and grab a few hours of well need rest so I could effectively manage the next crisis.

My oldest son wasn’t a neat fit for the educational system. He struggled terribly in the elementary grades learning to read. His brain just did not process information in the learning style which was used pre-dominantly in the classroom at that time. He was brilliant in math but he just couldn’t seem to get a handle on reading. The school didn’t have any kind of remedial program for primary children with language issues until grade 4 and the only help I was offered was a spot in the “behaviour program” for troubled children…except he didn’t have behavioral issues – the child just couldn’t read.

In despair, I almost enrolled him. It was when I started to fill out the behaviour questionnaire that rebellion kicked in. Answering questions like ‘how many times does your child wet the bed in any given week’ or ‘how many times in any given week does your child bite other children’ that caused the rebellion. This wasn’t even close to Montana’s behaviour. I am not an educator but it just seems to me, if we let Montana flounder till grade 4, we stood a good chance of losing him academically and firmly establishing in his mind a pattern of failure which would be almost impossible to break.

I searched long and hard for a method of teaching him literacy and didn’t come up with anything very different from what was being offered in the classroom. Then by chance I ran into my daughter’s grade one teacher who had since retired from teaching. She decided to finally retire after having the Last Amazon in her classroom. The LA had won an essay contest on the rights of children in which 54 schools across the country competed. She cleaned up in the 6-9 year old category and got to be on YTV and won a host of prizes for herself and her classmates. Ironically, she had been grounded to her room for a week and used the time to write and hone her essay. Miss Chapeski didn’t believe her career would get better than that so she decided to retire on a high note.

She asked me innocently how my family was doing and I burst into tears on the street. I don’t cry often, so when I do – it’s ugly. Poor woman didn’t expect that but she did give me great advice as it turned out. Not only did she tell me to try an approach which had completely fell out of favour during the height of “see and say” style of teaching literacy but also advice on how to manipulate school politics to get the kind of program enacted which Montana needed as well as a few pointers on what to do in the home.

It all worked. I had always read to the children and I spent many hours searching the children’s sections of bookstores looking for something that would really engage their interests. I bought the first Harry Potter book for the Last Amazon to read at night just after the second book came out. She loved it so much that by the third chapter she was not content to wait patiently for bedtime to learn what happened next and took to reading it on her own.

By the time Montana was 9, he had a year and a half of special ed in reading under his belt and he was progressing but he still wouldn’t pick up a book to read from choice. We did all we could to make him read every day things such as refusing to read the instructions on the video games so he would be forced to work out what it was. I still read to him every night and he loved stories as long as I did all the work.

I decided one night to try reading Harry Potter to him. By the end of the second chapter he wasn’t content to wait each night for the next chapter and announced that he would start reading it on his own because I was just too slow. I fretted about that. It was a big book and I was concerned that the vocabulary was just too advanced for his skill set. He worked it out because he had a solid grounding in phonics and had mastered dictionary skills.

Two weeks before the first Harry Potter movie was released I made a promise to the children. If Montana had finished the book before the movie was released; I would take them to see the movie on the night of its release. This was a big deal because bedtime was still 8:00 pm for all. In my mind, I can still picture that morning very clearly. Montana reading the last chapter of the book on the sofa with the Last Amazon on one side and Isaiah Sender on the other. Every few minutes one of them would be urging him on to hurry up and finish. By the time they were ready to leave for school; two of them were despondent. Montana came through in the end and finished the book on his lunch hour.

To the children, it was a magical night. Not only did they get to see their favourite fiction characters come to life but a large portion of the adult audience were dressed as characters as the book. While it struck me as a trifle strange - it struck them as a perfectly natural grown-up thing to do when going to see a Harry Potter movie. I don’t remember much after the movie started. I fell asleep and the children were far to engaged to bother to wake me up until the movie ended. Of course, they were disgusted with me. I mean, how could anyone fall asleep during Harry Potter…

Watching Potter come to life on the screen inspired Montana to write his own stories. I have about 50 exercise books from grades 4 and 5 filled with Montana’s stories. Montana being Montana came up with stories which were filled with unique twists and turns - even if the stories themselves were a trifle unorthodox. All his characters were named and drawn from his classmates and teachers. When I say he wrote stories - I mean stories. Not one or two pages stories but 20 to 30 pages for each story. He also discovered a unique way form of revenge against his classmates who he felt slighted him. He gave them bad characters or made terrible things happened to them. Both his grade 4 and 5th grade teacher use to allow him to read his stories once a week to the class which spurned him on to write even more stories. If a child’s feelings were hurt by their role in Montana’s stories both sets of teachers use to allow them to time to write rebuttal stories and read them to the class. It all ended in grade 6 when the teacher felt it wasn’t appropriate forum or use of class time for writing or reading stories.

By the time Montana graduated from grade 8, he was the valedictorian of his class. No one but him and I remembered the early days when he when he couldn’t tell the difference between tea or the. This year, his English teacher wrote a comment on his final report card to the affect - the high quality of his essay on Animal Farm on the final exam was completely unprecedented in his experience and where have you been all year?

So why the trip down memory lane? With the release of the final Harry Potter book all the papers seem to be running some kind of commentary – whether it be on hackers posting the “book” on the web, musing on who dies or lamenting of the decline of children’s literature with the advent of Harry Potter because they all seem to miss point. Harry Potter inspired a generation of children to not just read but to let their imagination run free. It doesn’t matter who dies or doesn’t die because the point of the reading for pleasure is not the ending but the journey.

This Saturday I will be awaiting delivery of three copies of the last Harry Potter book. One for Last Amazon who does not share her books very well, one for Montana who mangles books so badly during the reading process and one for me which I will share with Isaiah Sender when he comes home from Nana’s. Dinner will probably find all three of us sitting around the table with our noses stuck in a book and half our dinner in our laps. And after the books are read we will do what we always do - sit around as a family discussing what was good or bad and how we would have changed it or not.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Crossing borders

I originally saw this article on Monday and forgot all about this post until I read another article concerning the Rafiah border crossing.

Palestinians are being detained from entering Gaza by Egyptian authorities and rioted according to this report from the Jerusalem Post:
Dozens of anti-riot police with batons and shields stormed the el-Arish airport and clashed with rioters, injuring two of them, said one of the rioters, Muhammad Ali. A police official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that more troops have been deployed to the airport after Tuesday's clashes, fearing more riots and violence.

The Palestinians, who do not have entry visas for Egypt, were transferred under security supervision to el-Arish airport after first arriving at the Cairo airport from trips abroad. They had expected to then travel onward to the Gaza Strip, but they have been stuck in the el-Arish airport since Egypt sealed off its border with Gaza after the Hamas takeover last month.

Whatever was the Egyptian government thinking in deliberately refusing to allow these people to return to their homes in the Gaza Strip? According to this report the rationale was if Egypt detained enough Gazians from returning to the Strip it will pressure Hamas into making nice and kiss up to Fatah:

Egypt has said it is ruling out opening the border anytime soon, the official MENA news agency reported, a move intended to put pressure on Hamas to resolve its current conflict with Fatah. Egyptian officials are worried a Hamas-ruled Gaza on its borders could bolster Egypt's own banned Islamic opposition, the Muslim Brotherhood, and spawn terror attacks.

I am not sure I really follow the logic here. Presumably these people know they are going back into a Hamas run Palestinian Authority. Presumably, these people are from the area and probably have grown-up surrounded by Hamas run organizations so Hamas rule holds no surprises. You have to stop and ask yourself why the Egyptian government allegedly knows what’s best for them? Then a piece in the puzzle fell into place from this Arutz Sheva report:
(IsraelNN.com) The closure of the Rafiah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt was allegedly carried out at the request of Fatah Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, according to a PA source quoted by Haaretz.

The Rafiah Crossing was closed by Egypt in the wake of Hamas's successful coup against Fatah in Gaza, during which hundreds of Gazan Fatah supporters fled south to Egypt. Abbas reportedly asked Israel and Egypt to seal off the border at Rafiah after the Hamas terror organization took over Gaza in order to prevent infiltration of more Islamic terrorists from Egypt.

According to media reports, Abbas had also asked that the request not be made public. Chief PA negotiator Saeb Erekat denied the report soon after it was published Wednesday, saying the PA had requested several times that the Rafiah Crossing be opened since its closure last month.

The PA Chairman was reportedly also concerned that thousands of Hamas supporters would also flood into Gaza, thus weakening what little power Fatah had in the region. Gaza is now completely under Hamas control, as is the Rafiah border crossing on the Gaza side.

Thousands of Gaza residents were stuck on the Egyptian side of the border when the crossing was closed and have remained there since, due to Hamas’s refusal to allow them to return to Gaza via the Kerem Shalom crossing, located on the pre-1967 side of Israel. Both Egypt and Israel recommended that the Gaza residents return to their homes via Kerem Shalom. Reportedly Abbas made the same suggestion. Hamas demanded the right to bring merchandise into Gaza solely through the Rafiah crossing.

I fail to understand why it is in anyone’s best interest to prop up the dictatorship of an alleged moderator terrorist. I fail to comprehend why everyone thinks its just hunky dory to continue to play these games using the misery and suffering of the others to score political brownie points.

And if Hamas wants to make a go of the Gaza Strip - so what, and why not let them have a shot at it? It’s not like Fatah was doing such a stellar job. The sooner the Palestinians take control of their own destiny in the Gaza Strip the better for everyone - including the Israelis. The Israelis have left and until such time that the threat from the Gaza Strip is greater than the cost of reoccupying the strip - the Israelis are not coming back.

If the Israeli leadership was really smart it would doing everything within its sphere of influence to help Hamas establish a viable independent state next door rather than sucking up to Abbas and hoeing the Bush Administrations political line. Now that would be real geopolitics which might just get the last Jew out of Gaza.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

this is why I am no fun at parties

The Pathways tutoring program may be a win-win for Regent Park I remain rather skeptical of its impact on Canada’s most infamous housing project. The Toronto Star leads with the claims:
An unusual program that has all but eliminated high school dropouts in one of Toronto's poorest neighbourhoods appears to have helped reduce violent crime by one-third and teen pregnancies by a staggering 75 per cent – all in six short years, a new study shows.

Pathways to Education, the grass-roots mentoring and tutoring program that has cut the dropout rate in Regent Park to about one in 10 from more than one in two, now sends four times as many teens on to higher learning, while property crimes in the neighbourhood plunged by 56 per cent, said a report released yesterday by the Boston Consulting Group of Toronto, led by senior partner David Pecaut.

"Pathways to Education is one of the most successful programs we have found anywhere in North America in enabling youth from low-income neighbourhoods to graduate high school and attend college and university," said Pecaut, "and the payback to society as a whole is tremendous. "Our study calculated that every charitable dollar invested in Pathways will return $25 in future benefit to society."

Violent crime reduced by one-third, and teen pregnancies down 75% who would have thought it? But before we all get gung-ho, let me point out as one who lives in the immediate vicinity; demolishing North Regent Park and resettling those families in other housing projects scattered across the city might have had a much larger impact on teen pregnancies or reducing violent and property crimes in the neighborhood than a mentoring/tutoring program for youth. And while I think of it – didn’t the provincial McGinty government pass the compulsory stay-in-school until you reach your 18th birthday in 2006?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Its not easy being green or the Prime Putz

I was a little surprised to learn that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert welcomed back the disgraced former Justice Minister Haim Ramon into the government as the new Vice Premier. What possible motivate could Olmert have for doing such a thing? Ynet News provides a possible clue:
Vice Premier Haim Ramon has initiated a new, smaller-scale realignment plan that would see Israel withdrawing from 70 percent of the West Bank territory and evacuating settlements, mainly isolated ones.

Ramon told Ynet that the new plan, which was first reported on Channel 10 Monday evening, "is still in its initial stages," and that it represented his views, not those of the prime minister.
Olmert needed at least one person in the Knesset who could be counted on to aspire to being a bigger putz then him.

Well, I suppose this is a relief - of sorts

Canadian can now breathe a sigh of relief and get back to telling “bomb” jokes at the airport without fear of arrest reports Yahoo News.
OTTAWA (Reuters) - Air travelers in Canada who make comments about bombs and guns will from now on only be arrested if it is clear they are making a serious threat, officials said on Wednesday. The Canadian Air Transport Safety Authority, trying to clamp down on screeners who alert police every time they hear alarming words, has issued a bulletin urging staff to show more discretion.

A person who announces "You better look through my suitcase carefully, because there's a bomb in there," "I am going to set fire to this airplane with this blowtorch" or "The man in seat 32F has a machine gun" will still be arrested.
But someone who remarks "Your hockey team is going to get bombed (badly beaten) tonight," "Hi Jack!" or "You don't need to frisk me, I'm not carrying a weapon" will first be warned about their behavior.

Brigitte Caron, a spokeswoman for the authority, compared the new system to handing out yellow warning cards in soccer. A player can receive one yellow card and still stay in the game."Sometimes it's just a joke and the person will say 'I'm sorry, I was upset'," she said. In recent years more than 100 passengers have been arrested for making threatening remarks in Canadian airports, she added.

Gee, do you think?

8 Facts about Me

There is another meme going around. The 8 facts readers don’t know about you. I’ve been tagged by both the Mad Zionist and Ocean Guy to play. The rules of this meme are as follows:
1. Let others know who tagged you.
2. Players start with 8 random facts about themselves.
3. Those who are tagged should post these rules and their 8 random facts.
4. Players should tag 8 other people and notify them they have been tagged.

So here goes:
1. I am a quasi-secret smoker of cigarettes. I started smoking young. I used cigarettes to replace food. It’s a very ballet thing to do but I have never ever smoked in front of my Father. I have successfully stopped smoking 5 times but always picked it up again. I am now attempting for the sixth time to quit. Here’s to Zyban.

2. When I was a little girl I really believed I was going to marry my uncle. People would ask my uncle when was he going to get married and he would always reply by saying he was waiting for me to grow up. I believed every word that came out of his mouth and I was absolutely devastated when he told he was getting married. When I learned at my grandfather’s funeral that my uncle’s 20 odd year marriage was over I was sad for him but secretly I was glad. I never liked that woman.

3. Today is my 45th birthday and I am far happier at 45 than I have ever been at any other time. Life is very good.

4. I have a great need to be alone for a few hours every day which is why I arise around 4am. Then I feed and change the cat's water, wash, and then say Tehillim every morning. Sometimes I cry when I read certain lines because I can hear the echo of my grandfather’s voice in my mind as my eyes run over the words. At first I did it to honour my dead but now I do it to feed my soul. As my grandfather would say, what is bred in the bone comes out in the flesh.

5. I resemble both my parents. When they were young sometimes people would mistake them for siblings though one was pale with dark hair and eyes while the other was dark skinned, blond and blue eyed. When I let myself tan my skin grows darker than my youngest son. Blond hair and blue eyes may be recessive gene traits but my blond hair-blue eyed genes are very strong. My youngest son is both blond with blue eyes even though his father is Jamaican Chinese. There must be a Cossack lurking somewhere in the gene pool and it seems it cannot be denied.

6. I don’t believe in astrology, psychics or fortune telling though I do own a set of tarot cards which are wrapped in silk and hidden up high in my house. It has been over 20 years or longer since I unwrapped those cards. When I was very young and broke, I use to take them with me to parties and read people’s fortunes for money. No one is more surprised with than me when I read others cards and what I said comes to pass. That being said, trust me in this - it’s all a fraud designed to take your money.

7. I have known both my father’s maternal and paternal grandparents but I had my children so late in life (according to my father’s sides standards) that they have really only known their grandparents.

8. This is for the Mad Zionist - I spent most of my early twenties living at 41 French Street in Buffalo, New York.

I am suppose to tag 8 people but I am not up to tagging any more people. Consider yourself tagged if you want to play. Tell them Kateland made you do it.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

It has been said timing is everything in life.

On Tuesday, the Jerusalem Post carried this report:
Finance Ministry on Monday barred Israeli fruits and vegetables from entering the Gaza Strip on Monday, according to the spokesman for the Fruit Growers Association. The move is likely to cost Israeli fruit growers NIS 3-5 million a day, according to the association.

The Hamas decision will also make it harder for Palestinians to keep fruits and vegetables in their diet, particularly those items not grown in Gaza, according to Shlomo Dror, spokesman for the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories.

Upon hearing that Palestinian private contractors on the Gaza side of the Kerem Shalom crossing planned to adhere to the prohibition, Israeli businessmen did not send out the scheduled 60 trucks of produce, Dror told The Jerusalem Post. The fruit and vegetable ban is the latest in a set of anti-Israel moves by Hamas, including continued mortar fire on the crossing to keep Kerem Shalom closed.

On Saturday, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said, "We are against opening the Zionist-controlled crossing of Kerem Shalom." He added that its use was part of a conspiracy by Israel and the pro-American Fatah leadership in Ramallah against the Palestinians in Gaza.

Well then. That seems pretty definitive but today Ha’aretz carries this report based on a World Bank meeting held today predicting the economic collapse of the Gaza Strip unless the Israelis open the borders:
The World Bank said on Thursday the prolonged closure of Israel's border crossings with Hamas-controlled Gaza could lead to the coastal strip's "irreversible" economic collapse. The international lending agency delivered that stark assessment during a closed-door meeting of aid groups and private sector organizations.Israel has largely closed the Karni commercial crossing, Gaza's economic lifeline, in an effort to isolate Hamas after it seized control of the Gaza Strip a month ago.

Egypt has also kept mainly shut Gaza's border crossing with the Sinai since mid-June. Israel has allowed humanitarian aid into the territory through smaller crossings. While aid groups said this should be sufficient to head off a food shortage in the territory of 1.5 million people, they warned Gaza's economy would be devastated.

Almost all Gaza businesses depend on imported raw materials and other supplies that must pass through the strip's shuttered crossings with Israel. "The pillars of Gaza's economy have weakened over the years. Now, with a sustained closure on this current scale, they would be at risk of virtually irreversible collapse," Faris Hadad-Zervos, the World Bank's acting country director for the West Bank and Gaza, told the aid groups.

A copy of the World Bank's presentation was obtained by Reuters from a participant in the meeting."A solution must be reached very soon, if not immediately... Otherwise, Gaza's dependence on humanitarian assistance could become a long-term and comprehensive situation. These impacts will be difficult to reverse," Hadad-Zervos said.

According to statistics compiled by the Palestine Trade Center and the Palestinian Federation of Industries, more than 3,190 Gaza businesses have temporarily shut down in the last month. Some 65,800 workers have also been temporarily laid off. Up to 54 percent of employment in Gaza is generated by the private sector, representing more than 100,000 jobs.

Aha, are we to presume prior to the Hamas takeover of the Gaza the strip was a blossoming oasis of economic self-sufficiency? And just why is it imperative for the Israelis to open commercial border crossing which are under constant mortar fire? Hamas obviously wants them closed and has quite plainly issued statements to that effect.

Egypt shares a border with Gaza, and anything the Gazans need to be imported from Israel could just as easily be acquired from the Egyptians. Maybe its time for the Egyptians to feel a little of the pressure which is routinely brought to bear on the Israelis.

And while I appreciate the irony of the poverty pimps meeting in Israel to discuss the impending humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip which lies under direct control by Hamas; has any of the perpetual aid-givers stopped to consider that Hamas should be contacted and asked for their direct in-put? After all, the Gaza Strip lies within their area of authority.

If the Palestinians are ever going to have any autonomy or control over their own lives; self-sufficiency and establishing an economy separate and apart from the Israelis should be the number one priority or consideration. Of course, it would help if the international community wouldn’t insist on infantizing the Palestinians at every turn of the screw.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

So much for a mopping up operation

At this rate the world will have another 10,000 day war to add to the history books. Ha’aretz:
The Lebanese army is preparing to launch a final assault against Al-Qaeda-inspired militants holed up at a Palestinian refugee camp in north Lebanon, political and security sources said on Wednesday.

Troops have been battling Fatah al-Islam fighters at Nahr al-Bared for nearly eight weeks in Lebanon's worst internal violence - which has so far killed 205 people - since the 1975-1990 civil war.The army seized all militant positions on the outskirts of the camp last month but refrained from entering its official boundaries.
The sources said the army was concerned it was being dragged into a war of attrition with the militants dug in inside the narrow alleys of the camp and decided to move in to crush them after they refused repeated calls for surrender.

A soldier was killed by a sniper on Tuesday. At least 87 soldiers, 75 militants and 43 civilians have been killed in the fighting that began on May 20. The sources said the army deployed extra troops in the area and was expected to use helicopter gunships and naval boats in any assault on the coastal encampment. Three ambulances belonging to the Palestinian Red Crescent society entered the besieged camp to evacuate civilians still trapped inside who wished to leave.
I maybe wrong (and I am too lazy to search this morning) but it appears the Lebanese Army has lost more soldiers in 8 weeks of fighting to Fatah Islam than the Canadian forces have lost to the Taliban during their entire deployment.

What do the Barbara Kay and Yossi Beilin have in common?

I don’t have a dog in this fight but when did that every stop me from having an opinion? And no, it’s not because I favour hats, dresses on the longest side or on a really bad day I could be said to look like I stepped out of a 19th century Russian Shul.

Yossi Bielin was quoted earlier this week in the Jerusalem Post saying this:
Beilin, speaking from Egypt where he was on a diplomatic mission, said that he normally did not get involved in municipal-level disputes, but the Romema synagogue was different.

"When people told me about how a bunch of weirdo Breslav Hassidim forcibly took over a synagogue that was run by a group of liberal Israelis that wanted a place to pray where they could feel comfortable, I felt I had to get involved," he said.

Here’s a little background:
The secular residents said that Beilin was the only MK they approached who was willing to get involved on their behalf. Beilin even visited the synagogue and gave a short speech denouncing what he called attempts to forcibly take over the synagogue.

The secular residents, who only attend the synagogue occasionally - during the High Holy Days or for family memorials - seemed more opposed to seeing their neighborhood overrun by men with beards and side-locks wearing long black coats and hats and women with head coverings than by the prospect of losing control over a prayer house which they do not attend regularly anyway.
"They changed the prayer custom, they demand complete separation of men and women, they use the synagogue as a yeshiva all day long without permission, and they even proselytize among Romema's younger population." Bar-David, who said he never attended the synagogue regularly, "only on holidays and memorials," does not like how the Breslavs "act as if they own the place." Senderovitch added: "They are hysterical during prayer. They shout, they dance. At night they wander around the neighborhood looking for a place to be alone and meditate."

And then there is Canada’s own Barbara Kay writing in the National Post this week commenting on a Hasidim group buying an old resort property in the Laurentians:
In Outremont, Montreal's most beautiful neighbourhood, one enclave, the aforementioned Outremont kaschere, is home to thousands of Hasidic Jews, who live peacefully but separately, very separately, from their neighbours. As in any Hasidic quarter, you can walk about there in assured physical security, although you may leave it wondering if you have become invisible.

Since the Hasidic way of life demands a separate school system, separate butchers and other foodstuff provision (often purchased outside the communities they inhabit), and synagogues close enough to walk to (no cars permitted on Sabbath or holidays); and since Hasidic families are as large as nature allows, inevitably their presence makes a huge impact on whatever urban environment they settle in.
Herein lies the "problem." Hasidim have zero interest in any social interaction with the outside world. By outside world I don't mean only Gentiles, but any non-Hasidic Jew. Mainstream Jews are not only invisible to Hasidim, they are also seen as apostates, and therefore worthy of contempt, as opposed to the indifference shown to Gentiles.
Neighbourhoods are about friendliness, trust and social interaction, as well as mutual economic support. What neighbourhoods get with Hasidim are voluntary ghettos in their midst, from which they derive modest economic benefit, and absolutely no social interaction. Hasidim may live as they choose, but they must understand that their cult-like presence is not, sociologically speaking, value added to a small and struggling community.

It is hypocritical to label St. Adolphans anti-Semitic. If Hasidim moved en bloc to my neighbourhood, I would worry "that [they] might not integrate into the [Barbara Kay] community with the result that the property would be ghettoized." Does that make me, a mainstream Jew, anti-Semitic?

I once was employed by a Haisdic (not Breslov) family run business. I won’t go into the long story on how I came to work for the Father and Son team. It deserves a posting on its’ own but let me preface it by saying the son wanted to retire but couldn’t until Father decided it was time. When I eventually left, the Father was 82 years old and still working with no end in sight. It was one of the most unique experiences of my life.

It sure beat the secular boss I had who would fight with his wife first thing in the morning and then come into the office and throw a full coffee cup at the wall immediately behind me muttering about the “bitch” he was married to. Or the evangelical Christian boss, who would leave pamphlets on my chair for me to find every morning which threatened me with everlasting hellfire and damnation if I didn’t accept Jesus as my personal saviour. Let’s not even talk about having to dodge more than a few office Romeos.

I admit there was minimum personal interaction, and a great deal of our “inter-office” interaction was through written instructions left on my desk. I was the public face to the greater outside world for my bosses but I got to know their wives quite well. At first, I was a bit taken back when I would get calls from their wives inquiring about my health or the children’s since I apparently looked tired when I hadn’t laid eyes on the women that day. I had my chair, they had theirs and never would the two meet, but I got over it and accepted their ways were different.

Then there were all the perks –both big and small. Once it was observed I always had a book with me I would often arrive at work to find a great stack of books left on my desk with a note from one of the wives. Not one ever promised me a place in hell. I got fed regularly and had fresh home-made challah every Friday morning to take home with me when I left work. Not only was I paid fairly and promptly but I also got off all Jewish holidays with pay as well. Frankly, the job was heaven sent and I will always be eternally grateful for it.

The Hasidim are a large diverse community within the greater Orthodox Jewish community and it would be a mistake to assume all Haisdic traditions are the same. I will even admit to having been on the receiving end of a few harsh tongued Haisdic in my day but I don’t think it is fair to characterize the Haisdim as looking on all other Jews as “apostates” and I would suggest it goes against Haisdim tradition to even say so. The easiest thing to do in the world is to assimilate into the wider dominate culture. It’s far harder to keep the faith of the fathers and that’s why being a stiff-necked people often means standing apart and alone.

Now I live in the downtown core of Toronto and having to dodge a few Breslovers Haisdim looking for a quite place to mediate sure beats having to dodge the hookers, drug dealers and junkies. I could only pray that my neighbourhood would be “invaded” by the Haisdim though I admit gay pride week could get a little scary. And I will even admit to holding a special place in my heart for Breslovers - I find their optimism heartwarming and besides - they dance. How can I not love a people who dance for joy? But I guess the real difference is a Chabad House would welcome Barbara Kay or even Yossi Beilin but can the same be said for Barbara or Yossi’s house?

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Yes but.....

Anyone who has been reading me for awhile knows I am a little skeptical over the 'global warming – we are all going to die' scenario. I don’t mean to be cynical and its not that I am against conservation in principle. It is just when I started school 39 years ago we were all going to die because the sun was going to burn out and the earth would enter into a new ice age from which we would never recover.

Then I was taught we didn’t need to worry about ice ages because we were all going to die via the famine the population explosion would induce. Then I was taught we didn’t need to worry about the population explosion and worldwide famine because we were all going to die in either the first blast of a nuclear bomb or in the aftermath of the nuclear winter. Excuse me, but I am a trifle fearmongered out, so news of the latest green initiative by any government agency, anywhere, really bores me.

Now I am the mailing list of The Israel Project and I received a copy of a press release issue issued by the Washington, DC, Israeli Ambassador Sallai Meridor announcing diplomatic vehicles will be switched to Hybrid-Electric ones.
WASHINGTON – Israel has announced that starting this fall, it will significantly reduce the petroleum consumption of its senior diplomats in the United States by switching to hybrid-electric vehicles. The symbolic initiative, led by Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, Sallai Meridor, will include Israel’s embassy in Washington, its nine consulates throughout the U.S. and its mission to the United Nations, making Israel’s foreign service among the first in the U.S. to significantly reduce oil demand throughout its entire official fleet.

"Reducing oil dependence and protecting the environment are key factors in improving international security," Meridor said. “We are proud to be among the first countries to take this small but symbolic step. Our hope is that many small steps taken together will lead to major policy action around the world that will address one of the most critical strategic and environmental issues facing our common future.”

Yadda, yadda, which is all well and good, but what I want to know is; what kinds of cars the Mossad will be driving?

Monday, July 09, 2007

Matriculating in Terror

Saturday Fatah gunmen took to the streets of the West Bank city of Nablus forcing teachers to call off exams reports the Jerusalem Post.
Abbas decided last week that all students must report to public exam halls throughout the West Bank, drawing sharp criticism from hundreds of gunmen belonging to the Aksa Martyrs Brigades. Until now, all Fatah gunmen were granted special treatment by the PA Ministry of Education when sitting for the tawjihi. In addition to allocating secret halls for them, the ministry also permitted the gunmen to enter the halls with their weapons - a move that was seen as a direct threat to the lives of the teachers.

In the context of his efforts to end lawlessness and anarchy in the West Bank, Abbas last week instructed PA Education Minister Lamis Alami to cancel the practice of allocating special halls to the fugitives. Enraged by the decision, some 100 Fatah gunmen went on a rampage in a number of schools in Nablus, forcing the ministry to call off the exams. Firing warning shots into the air, the gunmen ordered hundreds of students to leave four halls where the exams were being held.

One of the gunmen read a statement through a megaphone in which he announced that his group had decided to close the halls until further notice because of Abbas's decision. "This decision was taken by the Aksa Martyrs Brigades and all armed factions in Nablus," the masked gunman said. "We will not allow the exams to be held until President Abbas accepts our demand to have our own halls. We can't go to public halls together with hundreds of students because we are wanted by the Israelis."

Sahar Akoubeh, a senior official in the PA Ministry of Education, confirmed that the gunmen had closed down the exam halls. She pointed out that some 250 students from the Nablus area were registered as gunmen who are wanted by Israel and that they were demanding special treatment under the pretext that their lives were at stake.

One of the students who was forced to leave in the middle of the exam told The Jerusalem Post that PA policemen at the scene refused to interfere to stop the gunmen from closing the halls. "The policemen told us that they have orders not to anger the Fatah gunmen," he said. "What kind of a government is this? If they can't impose order, they must go."

I shudder to think of what happens to any teacher who failed one of these Fatah gunmen. I suppose it is just not done.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Be a mensch – click on the right banner

On the right side of my blog are banner ads run from by an Israeli based webs ad firm. I really am not sure what I make for every click. The small amount of time it would take to find out is more effort than I cared to spend on the issue.

At least once a month, I would get these strange emails from Web Ads stuck in my spam filter requesting I send them my remittance details. Getting paid for clicks seemed like such a surreal thing and kind of weirded me out. Mostly, I just chose to ignore the emails as I usually found find them "stuck" in my spam filter. Eventually, my code challenged self figured out how to set the filters so I could separate the Web Ads emails from the invitations to enlarge my penis or the emails offering me cheap Viagra.

I was a little at a loss as to what I was to do with the "money”. It was never my intention or desire to run any kind of web based ads on my blog and there were only two reasons I agreed to host a Web-Ads banner on my blog – 1) The company asked very nicely - in direct kind of pointed way. And 2); it was an Israeli firm.

When CUPE (Canada) voted for divestment from Israeli firms - I decided I need to be a pit more proactive about my own shopping. One of the easiest Israeli products to buy in Canada is wine. Now I am not much of a drinker and there really is a kind of limit to how many bottles of Israeli wine I can justify buying to keep in the house. As it is now, I keep expecting my visitors to start make snaky remarks about my "drinking" habits or calling the cops to report me as a bootlegger.

So what to do with my, ah, new found wealth? I didn’t discuss it with the family which is what I usually do when I find myself on receiving end of any unexpected largess. Instead, I kept it to myself and slept on it. I woke up with an idea and sent off an email to Web Ads suggesting that I would rather have any monies I would normally receive be donated to various charities in Israel every quarter. I supplied a list of the charities I would like to support but I wasn’t sure Web Ads would agree; it could potentially play all kinds of havoc with their internal accounting system.

To get to the point, Web Ads agreed to donate all my “earnings” from clicks to a different charity every quarter. The first charity is an organization called Standing Together.
Standing Together is a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting Israeli soldiers on active duty. Being totally funded by donations from Jews throughout the world, Standing Together acts as a bridge between Israel and other Jewish communities, creating a feeling of unity and support.

Standing Together ’s activities over the last three years have brought much happiness to thousands of Israeli soldiers, who never imagined that a Jew overseas was concerned for their welfare. Now is the time for you to join us and become a part of the Standing Together family, so that we can truly Stand Together.

But that is not all they do:
Representatives all over Israel are collecting orders for Challot from Sderot this Shabbat. We are coordinating purchases from local business in Sderot in danger of closing because many residents have fled. For 25 Shekel you can order 2 challot, and 1/2 Kilo of rugelach. Visit our online form at to order.

So here’s the deal. You can click on the flash ad and check out Web Ads advertiser and learn more about Israeli or Jewish business ventures while making a few shekels for a good cause at the same time.

Or if you are in a hurry to do a good deed; you can always click here and donate directly.

Bad day for Hamas on the homefront

Yesterday Hamas shared the international media spotlight with BBC reporter Alan Johnston who Hamas allegedly sprung from captivity. Today BBC reporter Alan Johnston traveled to Ramallah to thank Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas for all the effort the PA put into his release reports the Jerusalem Post:
Johnston's visit to Ramallah, a day after his release from 114 days in captivity in Gaza, came at the request of senior PA officials, who were unhappy with the fact that the British reporter had given Hamas full credit for his release, the officials said. They said that PA Prime Minister Salaam Fayad and former Fatah security commander Jibril Rajoub visited the British Consulate-General in Jerusalem on Wednesday night and extended an invitation to Johnston to meet with Abbas. However, BBC Middle East Bureau Editor Simon Wilson said the idea for the Abbas visit originated with Johnston himself.
"We [the BBC] asked for a meeting with the president," Wilson said. He added that the British consulate put in a request for the meeting on Thursday morning and it was accepted by the Palestinians. Palestinian journalists with close links to Abbas's office are said to have phoned the BBC bureau in Jerusalem and protested against Johnston's appearance alongside Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and his statements crediting Hamas for his release. The journalists are also said to have demanded that Johnston come to Ramallah on Thursday for a meeting with Abbas.
I suppose this is a case of no camel’s tooth shaper than the ingratitude of a BBC reporter.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Next Season on Tomorrow’s Pioneers

Just went you thought Farfur, the Hamas Mickey Mouse look-a-like, was safely dead Ha’aretz reports this:
A Hamas television station that last week killed off a Mickey Mouse look-alike who urged children to fight against Israel will use other famous characters to further their Islamist agenda, station officials said on Monday.

The host of the children's show "Tomorrow's Pioneers," Farfur, dressed in a full-body suit to resemble the Walt Disney cartoon character. The character was beaten to death in the show's final episode last week by a character posing as an Israeli. Farfur and a female co-host instructed their young viewers on Hamas's militant brand of Muslim piety and urged children to support armed resistance against Israel.
So who will star next year – Bambi or Barney? Personally, I am pulling for Barney because that annoying purple dinosaur is next to impossible to kill.

Monday, July 02, 2007

ECW301 Revisited

Even as a little girl I remember telling stories. I don’t mean stories as in made up lies but stories created to entertain my peers; though, at the time I wasn’t inclined to write anything down. When I was in grade 11 I took a course called Creative Writing. Now this was back in the seventies when there was a freedom to basically take any course you wanted as long as you came out at the end of four or five years with requisite number of credits for your diploma. This is how I managed (much to my regret) to obtain no math credits; I opted for accounting instead. You could do that kind of thing then. Creative Writing appealed because there was no final exam, no tests, and the only requirement was a one page story a week with a major story due by the end of each term. Ah, the simplicity of the teenage mind.

I started writing my first major short story term paper right after school the day before it was due in an Eaton’s department store cafeteria. A funny thing happened after I got a few paragraphs in. I went into a place I call the zone. As I was writing, I suddenly existed on two levels. There was me in the physical world scribbling away but my mind’s eye was centered and I was literally watching the story unfold in my head as if I was watching a movie. I lost all sense of time, place or self. Writing wasn’t the only thing that put me in the zone. Drawing and dancing put me firmly in the place I call the zone. Dancers have an expression “see the music, hear the dance” and for that expression to make sense you have to have traveled to the zone.

I still have the story and I am surprised to find, 30 years later, it holds up remarkably well. Then again - it came from the zone. I called it The Rape of Eliza du Noir. It was inspired on a few lines taken from a William Blake poem (and no, they didn’t teach Blake or Milton in secondary school way back in the day:
Every night and every morn
Some to misery are born.
Every morn and every night
Some are born to sweet delight.
Some are born to sweet delight,
Some are born to endless night

It was based on the idea that so few of us comprehend what exactly goes on in the interior lives of other souls; no matter how closely we stand beside them, and how, some souls appear to have been born into an endless night. Of course, lots of teenage angst and alienation make a strong appearance – at the time I was the lone “punk” in school. The story is told from the point of view of Eliza’s best friend and it is not until the end does the reader discover that the friend is actually retelling how she came to find Eliza hanging dead from a beam in the hallway of Eliza’s home. The story got me an A+ and six months of harassment by the guidance department of my high school.

I learned a few valuable lessons writing that story. If you are teenager, it is an uphill battle to convince any guidance counselor or school psychologists you are not a risk as a potential suicide if you just turned in a paper concerning suicide and teenage alienation. Secondly, after you write a story, you have absolutely no control over how any reader will internalize what you have written. Readers will read into whatever you write as dictated by their own internal bias.

I forgot those lessons when I used a life event from my son’s experience to convey a message in Sins and Sticks. Perhaps it’s the innate danger of using an experience as an analogy for an event. In Sins and Sticks there are no real good guys or bad guys and no it is not an Ode or Apologia to Racism as some critics accuse me of. Nor do I see Right Girl as wearing strictly the mantle of one specific character.

So let me try to make it clearer. There are four 13 year old boys on a playground. A conflict develops. One child from a position of frustration and anger cries out and calls the others names. This represents either the first or second wrong which depends entirely on your point of view. The other boys were presented with an opportunity and choices in deciding how they would interact to the first boy. They could have chosen to try to understand the “dog-eater” position and how he got to this point. They could have tried using empathy and reason but they didn’t. They respond in trade which is also an entirely natural human kick-jerk reaction. After all, the 3 boys didn’t deal the play and the “dog-eater” should accept the consequences of dealing the play. This represents the second or third wrong.

In comes a new character, the principal. The principal is manipulated by a combination of the angst the first boy displays and the dictates of his own internal bias. He is neither a good or bad guy but just simply a misguided guy. At this point, the principal is faced with more opportunities and choices. He assigns himself the role of the judge and jury but he never stops to pause, reflect or examine the evidence of events. He never sees he has an opportunity to help the first boy grow away from knee-jerk responses, frustration and pain to mature emotionally. Instead the principal decides he will strike a blow for racial equality, harmony and justice – all noble qualities but here the principal was also presented with another set of opportunities and choices.

He assigns himself the role of the judge and jury but he never stops to pause, reflect or examine what events caused anyone’s actions. He could have questioned the “Jew-Slave”, “the Spic” or the “Gook” to determine if they had a point of view worth of examining or taking under consideration but he deliberately chose to ignore and marginalize them. He never saw he had a golden opportunity to establish a rapport with all his students rather than just one student out of hundreds. He had an opportunity to guide the other three boys away from tit-for-tat responses while establishing his reputation as an authority figure who stands both reflective and fair.

Then the principal muddies the mix by assigning himself a new role as teacher/social activist. He could have chosen to remain in the role of judge and hand down his sentence to all the boys directly involved for his “life” lessons but instead he chooses to subject an entire classroom to his particular brand of wisdom. This is where he still could have made a difference except he forgot who and what he represented to his audience and the nature of the forum he was standing in. In his righteous zeal to bludgeon home his point of view he alienated his captive audience. He completely overstepped his bounds and any potential good his tirade offered was lost in the wallowing resentment by the start of the third hour.

In walks me. Not only am I the actual “mother” in the event in real life I am blogging from the point of view of the mother. When I wrote my son ‘smirked’ when the principal threatened to call his mother it’s because my son Montana knows from experience; I don’t always take the positions one would assume I would take and only bring me into a conflict at your own peril.

In real life, I took the principal to task for missing all those choices and opportunities to make a real contribution and a difference in a positive fashion. He is suppose to represent the adult. I pointed out his inadequacies and failure as principal, judge, teacher and social activist. I reminded him of the precarious position he stands in racially and the need to be sensitive to those undercurrents when dealing with the other. I underscored the need to let go of a “lynch mob” mentality no matter how righteous your alleged cause Vengeance is mine sayeth the Lord; and I will repay.

But what I found infinitely fascinating was the response to my own Sins & Sticks post by other bloggers and what character they identified with instinctively. And of course, the role they chose to assume. It was more than a little ironic watching how the blogsphere re-created the playground/classroom/office environment of my posting on their blogs.

A few ‘progressive” bloggers bristled and decided to call me a few derogatory names on their blogs. I got a few emails and one comment suggesting I would feel differently if blacks were involved rather than Aboriginals. A few thought it was a shame we don’t lynch blacks any more - so “dumbfucks” like me would learn what it feels like. I ignored most of it.

But the element which sailed over those progressive blogger heads was my use of the phrase “well-meaning progressives.” I don’t necessarily believe all progressive bloggers to be well-meaning, (and I have an email box to attest to it) but some are, and I deliberately chose those highlight those I judged them to be both progressive and well-meaning; although, a slight revision may be in order. Just like the principal in my posting was not innately bad and he was motivated to try to make the school environment a better place for everyone. He just couldn’t effectively let go of his lynch mob mentality to do so, and by not letting go - he made another rip in veil of the world.

In real life, my son Montana learned if you can make your mother laugh she won’t raise her voice to you but you still don’t get a free pass for being disrespectful to authority figures. Nor can you avoid a lecture when you get home. And the next time someone reactions from a sense of grievance by calling you names; the prudent course is to take a minute to see where they are really coming from before you react. Just because someone else deals a play doesn’t mean you have to raise the stakes. He also learned that well-meaning progressives who hold positions of authority over any direction of your life should be approached with caution because they very well may hold a grudge.

Bloggers accuse each other continuously of creating echo chambers on their blogs, and others attempt to create a forum where individuals from all sides of the political spectrum can come together and share “ideas”. I do neither. This is my soap box in the midst of the rabble where I stand-up and say what I believe is true. Sometimes I answer questions. Then I climb down from my box and go home to feed my children. And brunch beckons.