Monday, October 31, 2005

How AbbaGav Learned Hebrew 

Now that I've lived in Israel long enough to have forgotten where the turn signal in an automobile is located, I thought it might be worthwhile to share with you some of the tips and tricks I've used in picking up my vast and comprehensive smattering of the local language. So I've compiled a pie chart showing the breakdown of all my sources of modern Hebrew knowledge.

Please note: the pie is not drawn to scale. In reality, it and my entire knowledge of Hebrew would fit inside a pie this big:


But as any Israeli economist will tell you -- at least an economist associated with the government -- it's not the size of the pie, but how you slice it, and how well you lick the knife clean after each slice.

On that note, here's my Hebrew pie.
Now let's carve up that pie a little and take a look at the various sources I've used to reach this level of what I like to call Hebrew fluency. Starting with the most helpful sources of day-to-day Hebrew in my life, and working down from there:IMPORTANT LEGAL NOTICE: Kids, please don't try this at home. These advanced techniques were performed by a highly skilled, unpaid professional. If you are trying to pick up Hebrew, please follow more pedestrian but proven guidelines. I personally would recommend you start with being born here in Israel -- if you aren't sure how to implement that technique, have a brief chat with your parents, they should be able to help.

Until next time, Shalom, Mazel Tov and Hasta La Vista from Israel.

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Friday, October 28, 2005

New UNRWA Articles 

Arlene Kushner has done a lot of great work shining light into UNRWA's darkest corners (hint: most of the corners are dark and it's almost all corners). Now she has an op-ed in this weekend's Jerusalem Post asking why UNRWA even exists.

She's also published a new article in Azure magazine showing in detail how UNRWA merely perpetuates the Palestinian refugee problem rather than solving it as the UNHCR does for every other refugee group in the world:

UNRWA has failed the Palestinian refugees. This failure is the product of half a century of overwhelming politicization of a humanitarian effort. Fortunately, another UN agency exists to deal with the problem of refugees, one with a successful record of resolving their problems around the world. Those nations interested in finding a genuine, viable solution to the Palestinian refugee problem–a sine qua non for peace in the Middle East–should be encouraged to support the end of UNRWA’s regime and the application of the policies of the UNHCR to the Palestinian refugee issue.
Arlene Kushner is the author of "Disclosed: Inside the Palestinian Authority and the PLO" (Pavilion, 2004), has written reports on UNRWA for the Center for Near East Research, and is the grandmother of three beautiful little girls who happen to live in my house. Great work, Savta!

Thursday, October 27, 2005


Haaretz - Israel News:

Palestinian Authority senior negotiator Saeb Erekat on Thursday condemned the Iranian President Majmoud Ahmadinejad call for Israel's destruction.

'This is unacceptable to us,' Erekat said. 'We have recognized the state of Israel and we are pursuing a peace process with Israel, and ... we do not accept the statements of the president of Iran. This is unacceptable.'
Peace-Loving Gavriel's hopeful take: What an envigorating breath of fresh air in these depressing times! It is truly a hopeful sign that such a noted Palestinian spokesman would come out to publically repudiate the Iranian president's noxious call to wipe Israel from the map. Given such brave commitment to Israel's continued existence, this should help give some momentum to peace efforts, allowing Israel to offer more concessions in negotiations without fear those concessions are just kindling for a bonfire big enough to consume the Jewish state.

War-Mongering Gavriel's cynical take: What's the big surprise here? Erekat knows exactly how the Iranians plan to do their wiping, and is doubtless aware of blast radiusses and radiation yield projections. He's done nothing but politely and publically request that his ally not drop an atomic bomb on his head. Now if he were facing the other direction with these words, talking to his own people in Arabic, leading them in a cheer of "L'Haim" to the Jewish state's continued existence, and if we heard a groundswell of grassroots Palestinian condemnation of Iran's map-meddling plans, then maybe we might...

Commence breath holding.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Job Applicants at Hooters-Tokyo 

Square Garden in New York, October 20, 2005. They are participating in the 'World S.U.M.O. Challenge - Battle of the Giants' at New York's Madison Square Garden on October 22, 2005. (Seth Wenig/Reuters)
Apologies for posting with a complete lack of taste, sensitivity, or condemnation of the Palestinian Authority. Tomorrow is the last of the big Jewish holidays and the blog should return to its usual fever pitch soon after.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Twice In One Week 

This is my second "too-much-free-time-to-possibly-find-a-moment-to-post-anything" post this week. Holidays, kid care, all the usual excuses, you know the story.

If it's any consolation the series of Jewish holidays that have recently been inconveniencing my blogging regimen will finally be over early next week. Even if it's no consolation, they still end early next week, so expect blogging to pick up once again whether it consoles you or not.

On the bright side I've been having an incredible number of stupid ideas during my time off and they're all neatly tucked away in my drafts section waiting for just the right moment. Something to look forward to.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Beilin sees Pavlov in the mirror again 

Heh, Yossi Beilin feels the Israeli government's reaction to the recent terror attacks in Gush Etzion is too knee-jerk:

Meretz-Yahad Chairman MK Yossi Beilin lambasted on Monday the government's reaction to the shooting attack in Gush Etzion that killed three and wounded another seven on Sunday, saying it was playing into the hands of the Palestinian terrorists.

'The government's reaction is the Pavlovian reaction, the much expected reaction which plays exactly to the tune of the Palestinian terror groups,' Beilin told Israel Radio.
If I were anywhere in the vicinity of Mr. Beilin and a microphone when a terrorist attack occurs, I would immediately seek shelter before being trampled. The ironic and Pavlovian jerk of Mr. Beilin's knee is as powerful as it is predictable:

Instead of tightening cooperation, Beilin said, "[Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon cancels meeting with [PA Chairman] Mahmoud Abbas, [Defense Minister Shaul] Mofaz ends all defense cooperation with the Palestinians, we're bringing back the curfews and the roadblocks."

This in turn, Beilin said, increases hatred and will for revenge among Palestinians." The Hamas and Islamic Jihad are rubbing their hands with delight - this is exactly what they wanted to happen as a result of yesterday's attack."

"We are returning to 2002 2003 with eyes open wide before the mistake," he said, referring to the height of the second Palestinian intifada.
It must be frustrating to stand in Mr. Beilin's shoes, seeing so clearly all that uncoddled terrorism yet unable to spoon-feed it anything but his own weak complaints.

Mr. Beilin, should ask himself if Osama Bin Laden was merely enraged into a 9-11 frenzy by those few retaliatory, sand-thumping cruise missiles of the late 90's. Or whether he was instead more emboldened by the West's weak and ineffectual response. He might say it's just a difference in world-view, with the wise on one side and fools on the other; I wouldn't disagree. But he should notice there isn't a society in the world that prospers by rewarding violent and criminal behavior.

He might be confused by the political games he mistakes for the real world, where obstreperous and misbehaving parties torpedo each other's initiatives, only to be bribed into the opposing camp the next time. Terrorists aren't playing that game, so neither can we. At least not until they've been defeated at their deadly game.

Doubtless, Mr. Beilin could take the cheap way out by simply characterizing my criticism of his knee-jerk as further Pavlovianism. But I would of course reserve the right to respond in kind.

Dr. Bricks and Mortar, M.D. 

I have all the symptoms of a classic hypochondriac -- I know, I've looked them up. But please, don't feel sorry for me. Thanks to Google, there has never been a better time in human history to be a hypochondriac. For anyone whose life is essentially an endless series of symptoms and the occasional diagnosis, the ability to google* each and every one -- individually and in combination -- provides a candidate set of diseases and syndromes heretofore unavailable to all but the classically trained physician or coroner.

That said, one must keep in mind that even hypochondriacs can get sick. The important thing to remember in these cases is when to look beyond Google, to consider accepting some old-world, 20th century-style diagnostic support. While Google is great, still, technically speaking, it is not the same as going to medical school and operating on cadavers and all that.

I know, I know, I share your objection.

What if we show up at the Doctor's office with a thoroughly documented list of symptoms, but the doctor just didn't happen to read last Tuesday's easily googleable online-edition of "The Papua New Guinea Journal of Bacteriology" where a new and very rare tropical disease was discussed that has a strikingly similar profile? Well c'mon folks, that's what printers are for.

And yes, there will be that rare instance when the doctor furrows his brow, wondering what could be the reason for this visit so close on the heels of the last. And yes, two aspirin can't be the course of treatment for every rare tropical disease. But statistically speaking, I've found that so far it's worked out in about 99% or more of the cases I'm aware of.

So until Google gets the whole medical thing checked out and licensed to prescribe aspirin, I'll probably be keeping my bricks-and-mortar health professionals on the old speed-dial. Just in case.

Now if I could just figure out whether it's the medial collateral or anterior cruciate ligament that's going to need the surgery. I might be able to save an office visit.

* aside: do we capitalize google as a verb?

Paging Sandy Berger! 

A specially made corset designed to help smuggle eggs out of Australia. An Australian man who attempted to smuggle cockatoo eggs out of the country in his underpants was jailed for two years.(AFP/Australian Customs/File)
Sandy, where are you when they need you? The world is finally ready for the "Sandy Berger Pants Poaching and Sock Stuffing Institute of Higher Learning."

Then again, maybe this guy didn't want your help. After all, even though he got caught, he managed to do it without getting egg on his face.

How can they tell it's working? 

A woman studies a painting by Paul Gauguin. A Swedish researcher said viewing and discussing art not only soothes the soul, it also helps cure ills like high blood pressure and constipation.(AFP/Scanpix/File -- click photo for link to original)
I mean, I'm studying the photo and wondering whether this is the constipation "before" or "after" shot. Oh well, what do I know about art?

Peres Always Loves Tricks 

Israeli Deputy Prime Minister and Vice Premier Shimon Peres (L) attend a meeting with Palestinian Authority negotiator Saeb Erekat in Tel Aviv October 14, 2005. REUTERS/Gil Cohen Magen
Saeb smiles knowingly as Shimon reaches delightedly for his pen, the always-reliable "slip Shimon's pen from his breast pocket while he is coughing" trick having succeeded yet again in distracting the old buzzard from that annoying negotiating ploy about the so-called "right to fully-funded Peace Centers".

It's Only Temporary 

Between all of the holidays coming one after another this time of (the Jewish) year, and being a bit under the weather, I'm in a bit of a blogging lull the last few days. But rest assured, it's only temporary, and I'll be back at the keyboard before the end of the week.

In the meantime, I browsed around for a new site I haven't read before (Truth Laid Bear is helpful for exploring) and found a really well-stated opinion regarding Iraqi elections and reactions to them -- and well-stated here means more than just that I agreed with it, but agreement is always a good start.

Also check out Lou Minatti, who's definitely not straddling this fence.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Shocked? Maybe that he didn't take anyone with him. 

ArabNews reports that the Arab world is shocked, shocked!

People all over the Arab world were shocked yesterday after hearing the news that Syrian Interior Minister Ghazi Kanaan, who headed his country's military intelligence in Lebanon for two decades, had committed suicide.
So technically speaking, does Ghazi get the virgins or not? I'm guessing not.

I'm sure this story merits much more serious analysis than pithy little one liners, but that analysis would probably best come from someone with nutrition coursing through their veins and brains. Maybe if my post-Yom Kippur mood improves later I'll add more. But don't hold your breath.

UPDATE: Here is some analysis from the same source as the original post. Wait and see I guess. But it seems really, really strange to me that someone would bother using a silencer when killing themselves.

Cue sinister background music and exit stage left.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Mystic Tackles Madonna, Figuratively Speaking 

MSNBC reports a leading Kabbalistic Rabbi has a few very choice words for Madonna and her latest mystically inspired song:

The 'Confessions on a Dance Floor' collection includes a song titled 'Isaac' -- in reference, entertainment media say, to Rabbi Isaac Luria, founder of the Kabbalah school of mysticism which counts Madonna, 47, as one of its devotees.

The custodians of Luria's tomb and seminary in the northern Israeli town of Safed accused her of breaking a taboo.

'There is a prohibition in Jewish law against using the holy name of our master, the Sage Isaac, for profit,' the seminary's director, Rabbi Rafael Cohen, told the Israeli newspaper Maariv on Sunday.
Hmmm. That first part kind of makes sense, when Rabbi Cohen wards off Madonna's impurity by declaring Sage Isaac's "holy name" off-limits.

But then he throws in the words "for profit." I can only speculate what Madonna, having fought her way to the top of the media mountain, will make of those two little words. She might wonder what would happen if she were to, oh let's just say for instance, donate all of the "profit" to this or that appropriate charity -- one that lived up to Rabbi Cohen's expectations of holiness. Would her use of the Sage's "holy name" suddenly be sanctioned, since it would no longer be "for profit"?

Stranger things have happened in Madonna's world.

And would she bother paying her way to legitimacy? After all, I don't think the mega-rich, super-successful Ethereal Girl is recording a tribute song to her 16th-century Rebbe in order to make scads of extra cash. Even if she were, would she believe that securing Rabbi Cohen's blessing would have the slightest influence on her album-buying public?

But crass as it may sound, I suspect Madonna's intentions here are relatively pure, even if not totally grounded in a traditional Jewish view of Kaballah. So you never know, she might see some value in reassuring Rabbi Cohen she is not motivated here by profit -- assuming that really is the issue. She might consider a well-placed donation to be a virtuous act.

Then again, she might just answer the Rabbi in song:

Rabbi Don't Preach

Rabbi I know you’re going to be upset
’cause Ari was always your little world
But you should know by now
I don't have cooties

Don't try to teach me right from wrong
You need my help, Rabbi play along
I may be just a tart
But I know what I’m singing

The one you warn me all about
The name you said I should do without
We're gonna awesome bless, just ask Ashton and Demi - please


Rabbi don’t preach, I’m no troubled sheep
Rabbi don’t preach, I'm not losing sleep
But I made up my mind, I’m keeping my Rebbe, oh
I’m gonna keep my Rebbe, mmm...

You say that you're going to harry me
But profits come so very easily
Maybe a fee's all right
It’s no sacrifice

But your friends keep praying that I'll give it up
Saying I’m all tongue, I ought to zip it up
What we need right now is some tax advice, please


Rabbi, Rabbi if you could only see
Just how good is entreating me
You’d ask for my blessing right now
’cause red thread is enough, red thread is enough, so please


Rabbi don’t preach, I’m no troubled sheep
Rabbi don’t preach, I'm not losing sleep

Oh, I’m gonna keep my Rebbe, ooh
Don’t stop promoting me Rabbi
I know, I’m keeping my Rebbe

Monday, October 10, 2005

Nobel's Also-Rans 

I was struck by the spirit of prophecy while reading the BBC's report of this year's Nobel Peace Prize winner:

UN nuclear agency director and Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohamed ElBaradei has said the award will give him and his organisation a 'shot in the arm'.

Mr ElBaradei said the peace prize would act as a spur to tackle nuclear crises in Iran and North Korea.
I don't expect this Nobel award to spur anything in Iran, except maybe to enhance the chances of the Chief Mullah for Nuclear Procrastination and Obfuscation Through Negotiation (CMNPOTN) of the Islamic Democratic Republic of Free Iranian Democratic Peoples (IDRFIDP) to win next year's award.

In fact, given the recent history of the illustrious prize's list of recipients, I think I can hazard a pretty reasonable guess at what next year's short list of candidates might look like. Of course, you can't check my predictions for the better part of a century since the list of also-rans is sealed for about 50 years. Then again, I've never shied away from making unverifiable predictions before, so why start now?

Without further ado, my list of nominees for next year's Nobel Peace Prize:
Good luck, and may all my nominees receive exactly what they deserve in the coming year.

[NOTE: just to be clear, of course I'm not wishing the same fate on Jimmy Carter or al-Gore as on Osama Bin Laden or his buddy Zarqawi. Now Wile E. Coyote, maybe that's a more fair comparison...]

TrackBacks posted to some good blogs: Cafe Oregano, MacStansbury.org, My Vast Right Wing Conspiracy, Point Five, and Basil's Blog

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Abdullah Developing His Own 50 Cent Crotch Grab 

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, second right, and UAE (Unired Arab Emirates) Information Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, brother of UAE president, second left, listen to an unidentified official during a ceremony to lay the cornerstone for a new housing project set to rise from the rubble of the former Jewish settlement of Morag, the first major construction project in the Gaza Strip since Israel completed its withdrawal from the territory last month, in the outskirts of the Rafah refugee camp, in the southern of Gaza Strip Saturday, Oct. 8, 2005. Work is due to start on Sunday on the Sheikh Khalifa neighborhood, named after Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, president of the United Arab Emirates, which is bankrolling the $100 million, (83 million) two-year project. Others are unidentified.(AP Photo/Khalil Hamra).
50 Cent, don't worry, your title as Crotch Grab King (or Emir) is not in immediate danger.

(Interestingly, in the sidebar to my upload of crotch_grab_1.jpg Flickr decided to place a targeted advertisement for the site www.fashionplumbing.com.)

Actually, on further inspection, it appears Abdullah may not have been practicing his gangsta moves, but was just worried about a loose catheter:

same caption as first picture (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
But at least Abdullah was grabbing his own crotch:

Israeli soldiers quarrel with Palestinians outside the Ibrahime mosque on the first Friday of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan in the West Bank city of Hebron, October 7, 2005. Muslims across the world abstain from eating, drinking, and sexual relations from sunrise to sunset during Ramadan, the holiest month in the Islamic calendar. REUTERS/Nayef Hashlamoun

I think technically this doesn't count as sexual relations, but more of a cordial greeting, so it's not a Ramadan problem.

And what is the first, most important tool? 

Media surround masked members of eight armed Palestinian factions during a joint press conference in Gaza City Saturday Oct. 8, 2005. The group, that includes al-Aqsa brigades, which is linked to the ruling Fatah movement, militias linked to Islamic Jihad and Hamas military wing released a statement reaffirming that 'as long as the Israeli occupation continues resistance will continue by all means, using all tools available'. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)
And which tool do they turn to first?

It's quite an accomplishment to be the favorite tool in the toolbox, more prized even than point-blank execution of families of young children, or blowing up kids at pizza restaurants. Hey, journalists, enjoy that most-favored-tool love while you can get it from these "militia members", but watch out for the work accidents. (hat tip: looperguy)

Palestinian sharpshooter? 

Palestinian gunmen attend a news conference in Gaza October 8, 2005. Eight armed factions vowed they will not disarm and they will respond to Israeli attacks despite their commitment to the truce. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem
We can only hope.

Friday, October 07, 2005

The Plotting, Captured On Film 

Israellycool has the scoop. So many of us didn't want to believe, but seeing is believing.

Someday I'm really gonna have to try one of Israellycool's podcast thingamabobs.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

They only want you to read the first paragraph 

Yahoo would be most happy if you read just their headlines and maybe the AFP's first paragraph:

Calm returned to the Gaza Strip after deadly internecine clashes and police protests over dire insecurity problems, as Israeli soldiers shot dead a Palestinian mother of five in the West Bank.
They probably figure today's MTV attention span doesn't stand a chance of hanging in until the 13th paragraph for some minor details:

Despite the calm in Gaza, Israeli soldiers Tuesday shot dead a Palestinian mother of five at a checkpoint in the northern West Bank after she stabbed a female soldier in the face.
"Despite the calm..."


Ordinarily, when it's not calm in Gaza, it's perfectly understandable for a soldier to shoot someone who has stabbed her in the face. But on calm days in Gaza, AFP would prefer the soldier do nothing but call for a medic and pray her attacker gets tired of slashing at her face so she won't bleed to death -- thus delaying the checkpoint transit of other Palestinians on such a quiet day over in Gaza.

Hey, I understand the game perfectly well. It's just journalistic objectivity played out once again. They don't want to bias anyone against Palestinian mothers of five. Who use knives. To stab female sodiers. In the face.

Palestinian mothers of five who are then shot. To death. By soldiers. On a calm day in Gaza.

No bias at all.

Palestinian militants repeatedly use such attacks to justify their own campaign of violence, which they say will only end when Israel withdraws from all occupied Palestinian land, not just the Gaza Strip.
They use such attacks, and equally important, these reports of such attacks. Because they aren't justifying the attacks to themselves. They are stabbing female soldiers in the face to justify their cause to you.

And would the news agencies please quit parroting this all-occupied-lands refrain without any context. At least have the sense of self-preservation to add, totally without bias, that in addition to Gaza the entirety of the Jewish State, and even Spain, is considered occupied land.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Shanah Tovah and Happy New Year 

Rosh HaShannah is here once again, the Jewish New Year. I'll be back in a few days.

In the meantime, we have to spend the rest of today getting ready for the two day celebration. One custom is to eat symbolically significant foods, a notable example being the fish head. For our fish head, we like to use the head of the very rare and exotic Gefilte fish. The Gefilte fish is so rare because it is so difficult to catch -- it tends to crumble when you get it on the hook. It is also quite hard to find in open water, generally preferring thick sludgy fluids only found in glass jars. So you can see it is quite a treat to have this delicacy for out Rosh HaShannah table.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

And so the response? 

Radio Blogger quotes Hugh Hewitt in discussion with Mark Steyn, talking about a complaint I find puzzling, despite the fact that I agree with it:

HH: Exactly. When I was at the Columbia School of Journalism last week, I quizzed a group of students, sixteen, how many owned a gun? None. How many had been to church in the last month? Three. How many voted for Kerry? All but three who were not American citizens. It is an intake valve that is permanently stuck on left of center. And as a result, that's what happens to the media.
So the halls of journalism lean to the left and liberals lurk in every corner. Few right-thinking folks, myself included, would disagree with that these days. But what puzzles me is how this issue so commonly generates more complaint than call to action, especially given the Right's recognition that the Left's culture of complaint prefers wallowing in problems to solving them. I would rather hear about scholarship programs to encourage talented youngsters with diverse viewpoints to pursue journalism, or to read about endowments for new programs open to new ideas. Looking back just a few years ago, conservatives practically invented talk radio just to counter the uncritical support of the Left that was festering in the media. So why now all the griping instead of planning?

Well actually, behind the complaints a solution is taking shape: the growth of the blogosphere. Just as talk radio created a new channel for voices outside the control of what was then mainstream broadcast journalism -- without necessarily replacing it -- so this new platform publishes ideas and writers not vetted by the CSJ establishment. Sure, the Left has bloggers too, but their blogging reflects the comfort of someone who owns the rest of the press and is really more outraged at the temerity of the upstarts than eagerly seeking yet another outlet for already exhausted opinions.

What I wonder is why there is still so much complaint even as the solution grows more apparent evey day. Hugh Hewitt, agree with him or not, is himself a huge part of the change. Perhaps there is some strategic purpose to the two-pronged attack of complaining into the microphone while revolutionizing with the keyboard. I just worry that the complaining part risks inculcating unhelpful habits in the listeners. I'd prefer we all stop trying to solve our disputes by seeing who can complain the loudest, or wear the mantle of biggest victim. As if the new rule is "Slight makes right."

Someday that might work for Israel's conflicts too, but I'm not yet ready to take a dose of my own medicine, so don't even bother asking me to. Besides, I've got a few more batches of Reuters Jihad-rally photos to ridicule first.

If you really, really liked this -- or even really, really hated it -- there's lots more: