27 October 2009
02 July 2009
Most of them were sports related:
I AM AN DRUG ADICCT AND I AM PROUD
SXE = LIFE, DXA = DEATH
Jonathan Pollard is a Zionist dog (this last one in Hebrew)
... all written by one guy, presumably a fan of Beitar Jerusalem (soccer).
Hapo'al is a whore
Maccabbi Haifa is a whore
Maccabbi TA is a whore
But then at a certain point the artist (clearly the same one) goes with a more political (well, racist) message.
Sports loyalty and nationalism? It seems plausible that they spring from the same graffiti-ing place inside of us.
Gaza is a whore
A Jew is a spirit
An Arab is a son of a whore
Death to Arabs!
By the way, "spirit" (נשמה) colloquially means "pretty decent person" and you can use it to address people with cool respect, in much the way you'd use "dude" or "man" in English. The first two lines of that little triplet rhyme, and have a /x/x/x/ prosodic meter, so that they practically chant themselves.
On the way to the bus, I saw (in English)
Please take a moment to appreciate the artist's heartwarming concern for the well-being of children. Which reminds me, I have two sets of pride-march photos to post. I'll put them on the intenet just as soon as I get them off my camera!
HOMOSEXUALS IS DANGEROUS FOR CHILDREN
And just to avoid being too depressing, I'll end with the night's cutest bus graffito, which was written close to the one that links the mysterious mysterious entities SXE and DXA to life and death. It laments the tragedy of unrecognized generosity:
I brought you a shnitzel but you did not want it.
01 June 2009
In a post addressed to American Jews, the blogger argued that the recent attempt to bomb the Riverdale Jewish Center in New York* shows that Jews in the US are extremely unsafe. She writes:
Don't you get it? America is NOT your home. You belong here in Israel. The economic problems, worries about finding a job, learning a new language, and interacting with Jews of several cultures completely different from your own, are totally irrelevant.This lady is completely serious. I don't want to link her, but you can google the quote if you like.
So just in case anyone was thinking of doing anything rash....
An American-born Jew dies soon after immigrating to Israel. An angel tells him that he is going to hell, but that he gets a choice of American hell or Israeli hell.
He asks, "What's American hell like?" So the angel answers, "In American hell, you live in a cozy house overlooking the sea, with a pool and an in-home bar, and easy access to a broad variety of restaurants serving food from many cultures. But every day at 5 p.m., a guy comes and dips you into a vat of boiling water."The man shudders and asks, "What about Israeli hell?" The angel answers, "In Israeli hell, you live in a tiny apartment on the top of a four story building with no elevator and no air conditioning, overlooking a bus station. You eat mostly bread, boiled eggs, tomatoes, and cucumbers. And every day at 5 p.m., a guy comes and dips you into a vat of boiling water."
So the guy asks, "Why would anyone pick Israeli hell?"
The angel answers him, "well... in Israeli hell, no one really arrives at 5 p.m. In fact, the guy with the vat doesn't show up half the time because he's on army reserve duty, on vacation in Greece, or busy with his part-time cab business, or his friends took the vat to make poike on the beach.
"And even when he does show up, the water never gets all that hot anyway."
(It's still hell, though, cause there's no chummus.)
* P.S. A little bit of perspective on the attempted NY synagogue attack.
08 March 2009
That's right! It's super-fateful grad school visiting time!
But first: culture shock! ETA: Daniel added my translation to the video! Subtitled version here...
Shai Avivi: I am.
KM: Is there someone...?
Dov Navon: Some old lady. She's been in there for an hour.
KM: I just have one question.
SA: Sweetie, everyone just has one question.
DN: I've just had one question since morning!
KM: This can only happen in Israel.
DN: All because of the bureaucracy...
SA: In America, you wouldn't wait even one minute in line.
KM: America — how can you compare? In America, the customer is always right. You can buy a shirt and return it a month later, and they'll give you your money back.
DN: Here, I bought this in America. No buttons!
KM: They'll give you your money back even without buttons. Even if you don't want to return the shirt, they'll still give you your money back.
SA: They'll give it back and say thank you!
KM: Sure, "thank you," but later they'll mug you in the street, with, with the money you got back.
DN: Yeah, they'll kill you there, like, no big deal.
KM: Murders and muggings, and no one even cares. You could walk around there in the middle of the street at midday and get murdered, and no one would care. You could bleed all day long on the sidewalk and no one would care.
DN: Yeah, in Israel, people care.
KM: In Israel! In Israel you can walk outside at night without having to worry.
DN: They'll murder you! And no one will care.
DN: In America.
SA: America! In America, of course they'll murder you. But we were talking about Israel!
DN: Oh! No, in Israel they won't murder you.
KM: No, they won't murder you but they'll take the skin off your back with these prices, and what'll you get out of it in the end? Such small portions!
SA: Ah, in America, portions are portions — enough for you and all of your friends!
DN: Yeah, but, that's America. In America, there are no friends. There, it's dog-eat-dog. So what'll you do, go to a restaurant alone? And then what will you do with all the leftovers from your huge portions?
KM: What, what's the problem? Just take the leftovers home.
SA: Yeah, it's completely acceptable. In Israel, if you ask a waiter to wrap up your leftover food, they'll look at you like you killed somebody!
DN: Yeah, and then, on the way home, they'll kill you AND take your food.
DN: ... in America.
KM: Sure! In America, no one cares!
SA: In America, you can bleed in the middle of a restaurant, right into your plate — no one will care!
DN: But there, your plate's be full of big portions.
KM: Yeah and then they'll give you your money back and say thank you!
SA: In Israel, if you bleed in the middle of a restaurant right into your plate, they'll look at you like you killed somebody!
DN: Well yeah, it's completely acceptable.
DN: In America —
KM: In Israel —
DN: — err, in Israel —
KM: — in America —
SA: In America, if they raise the prices, people take to the streets.
DN: True, but they can get murdered in the streets.
KM: Sure, but who cares? No one.
SA: In Israel, people won't ever take to the streets.
DN: And even if they do, no one will murder them.
KM: And if they do get murdered, everyone will care.
DN: ... In America.
SA: What shit.
SA: In Israel.
DN: But not like in America.
SA: Well, America! How can you compare? [sigh]
KM: ... Who's the doctor?
The real reason for my bloggy silence is that I have had nothing sufficiently important to procrastinate about. Semester-א ended on February 6th, and Semester-ב only starts tomorrow. I've been on vacation!
Now, just to be clear: there are no real breaks between semesters in Israel. Instead of having reading week, finals week, and then vacation, the exams are spread across a whole month, right up until the day before classes resume. In fact, it's even worse than that. All of this is just "Mo'ed Alef" (the first round of exams). If you want to improve your score, you're guaranteed an opportunity to retake the exams: "Mo'ed Bet". And if you're not sure you're ready for the exam when the exam date arrives, you can take it on the retake date, and you're guaranteed another retake date even later on. That's right, "Mo'ed Gimel." I think there's even a "Mo'ed Daled," for students who get called away to reserves service during the earlier rounds of exams.
Consequently, pathological procrastinators wind up smearing one semester's exam period into the following semester. The guy I dated over the summer couldn't go home for Rosh Hashana because he was still studying for last year's semester-ב exams.
So during the break all the Serious Hebrew U Students were busy with a never-ending stream of exams. Meanwhile, I took the opportunity to travel and have adventures around Israel! The Center for the Study of Rationality took all of us on a retreat to the Galillee and the Golan Heights, where we investigated rationality, hiked, and thorougly celebrated Tu B'Shvat with wild hotel-room parties. Just after I got back, I took off again and drove half the length of the country on an off-roading jeep trip with my uncle. I crashed with Jessa and her cousin Suzie for a few days at the University of Haifa, hung out in Tel Aviv and Rehovot with Garth, had a cookout with Katey & Dan on the roof of a dorm at Weitzman and spent a few days chilling with Rotem's family in Nes Tziona.
After that, I was supposed to go on a ʇɥbıɹq1nɟ-sponsored trip to the north of Israel, but my body decided it was time to catch a respiratory virus and a digestive bug, and have a total blue-screen system meltdown. I took my packed bags — actually, Rotem took them for me — and crash-landed at my grandmother's house, that well-known middle-east TLC hotspot. A week and a half and a million cups of tea later, I'm coughing but otherwise fully recovered. בשעה טובה!
19 January 2009
For example, Hebrew has two words that fill the space of the English "independent":
- "עצמאי" is derived from the root ע.צ.מ. (which means self or essence). This is the word you'd use for "independent research" or "Independence Day." And then there's...
- "בלתי תלוי," i.e. non-dependent — which is the word you'd use for "independent variable" and the like.
Here's another one I often mess up. There are four words that do the job of the English word "class" (in the educational context):
- "כיתה" ≈ classroom ("The blackboard's at the front of the class.")
- "קורס" ≈ course ("I'm going to sign up for this class.")
- "שיעור" ≈ lesson ("I have to get to class.")
- "שכבה" ≈ level ("She's in my graduating class.")
If you know me, you can guess where I'm headed: Sometimes languages make conceptual distinctions that encourage Bad Framing. Handy example: English doesn't have a one-word label for a promiscuous person, or an unmarried person. In both of these cases, it divides the concept into a male category (pimp, bachelor) and a female category (slut, spinster). And our patriarchal notions about gender performance infect these gendered terms with contrasting connotations, clouding our moral vision, et cetera.
Moral cataracts are easier to spot when they're not on your eyes. So when Hebrew's problematic conceptual distinctions glare out at me, I try to remember that I live in a glass house. With that disclaimer out of the way, let me just throw this one stone...
Hebrew distinguishes between propaganda (תעמולה) and "explanation"/Hasbara (הסברה). Propaganda is what Arabs do when they use skewed political analysis and gruesome images to rally the world to against us. Explanation is what Israel does when it publishes sympathetic political analysis and powerful images to help the world understand what we're feeling? Deep down inside? (... What?)
I mean, how would you feel, if someone throws on you טיל [a rocket]?
Hebrish rap from Israel's fantastic sketch comedy show, Eretz Nehederet
To watch it with English subtitles: click on the triangle
icon at the bottom right corner of the viewer, and select "CC."
There's been a lot of talk about Hasbara on the news. How'd we do this time? Could we do better? How will we confront the Hasbara challenges of the coming weeks? (Hasbara challenges are soon-to-be-published facts, like death counts in Gaza. We'll address that one by painting Israel's soldiers as the true victims: "Hamas forced them to kill civilians! Our boys shed a tear as they pulled the trigger!")
I don't know if the discourse would be any different without this absurdly transparent euphemism. I like to think it would.
18 January 2009
[I should note, for the sake of completeness, that the war has hit much closer to home for my male friends, many of whom have been in and out of reserve service over the past three weeks. Niv's in uniform for 24 hours out of every 72 and Sarel's been at the border for over a week.]
It's not that I don't care. (I care! a lot!) But if you were to make a movie about my life over the past month, you wouldn't need special effects. I ride the bus to class, I work on application essays, I go to plays and concerts, and I cook dinner with a very handsome dude. Last weekend, I visited ʇɥbıɹq1nɟ friends in Rehovot. We went to a campfire cookout with Rotem's crew on Friday night and drove to Giv'at Brenner for hummus on Saturday. Yesterday, Rotem and I joined up with a youth group for a day-long orienteering trip. My philosophy class has been reading about religious conscientious objections from military service, and today we'll review excerpts from a book called "Terror in the Balance." There have been a lot of war conversations, and lots of regular conversations too.
All this talking haven't given me much clarity. War conversations are usually thick with rhetoric and implicit premises. But there's one thing that I almost always find myself saying:
I don't have accurate information about what exactly we're doing in Gaza (or exactly how, or exactly-exactly why) — and even if I did, I wouldn't have the tools to evaluate whether it is an effective component of a just, peace-seeking strategy. But from what I do know about the government/military institutions charged with making these decisions, I have serious doubts both about the war's effectiveness and its legitimacy.
These articles have also helped to clarify my thoughts. (Hans sent me the first and the third; the second article was mentioned in Leiter's blog.)
A perfect definition of "terrorism" by Glenn Greenwald.
Who the perpetrators and victims are of "terrorism" is almost always a function of who is wielding the term rather than some objective assessment. Aimlessly shooting rockets towards civilians (as Hamas and Hezbollah do) and dropping bombs from 35,000 feet that you know will slaughter many civilians while viewing that slaughter as a strategic benefit (as Friedman advocates) are acts that have far more in common with each other than differences.Another War, Another Defeat by John J. Mearsheimer.
Is the Gaza War Legal? by David Luban.
Israel’s leaders remain determined to control all of what used to be known as Mandate Palestine, which includes Gaza and the West Bank. The Palestinians would have limited autonomy in a handful of disconnected and economically crippled enclaves, one of which is Gaza. Israel would control the borders around them, movement between them, the air above and the water below them. The key to achieving this is to inflict massive pain on the Palestinians so that they come to accept the fact that they are a defeated people and that Israel will be largely responsible for controlling their future.
I can't answer the question of proportionality. The fact is, nobody has ever proposed an operational test of how you weigh a military objective against "collateral damage"— our antiseptic euphemism for dead and maimed civilians who were at the wrong place at the wrong time.... But let's be clear about this: proportionality only comes in when the targets are legitimate.... If Israel is targeting all the institutions of Hamas's civil government of Gaza, including all those who work in those targets, it seems to be going after civilians ... according to the law of war as Israel's own Supreme Court understands it. If that's right, the attacks are illegal even without reaching the question of proportionality.
One more thing. Some twelve-or-so years ago, a Gazan gynecologist named Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish considered pursuing a medical fellowship in St. Louis. He was in contact with my dad then, and even though he didn't wind up coming, he sent our family "happy and peaceful New Years" greetings for years. On Friday, the Israeli army shelled Dr. Abuelaish's building and killed his three daughters.
This all happened about 60 miles from my house. You know you're in the first world when the earth breaks open at your doorstep and your carpeted floor doesn't even shake.
07 January 2009
No, it's nauseating.
Then I'm throwing it away.
You mustn't throw away food!
Do you want it? No.
So what am I supposed to do?
Donate it to...
...hungry children in ... Gaza!
Between the two, I think the kids in Gaza have a more serious shortage of chocolate.
Sure, but they're busy serving Hamas as human shields.
Maybe if we gave them more chocolate they'd busy themselves with something else.
02 January 2009
We look at him incredulously. "At least the rain is good," Ariela submits. (Israel's perpetual water shortage is especially severe this year, but as usual, the Territories are bearing the brunt.)
"Indeed!" Sarel continues, "the rain is not only good, but! Moreover! It is healthy for the plants!"
Rotem cites Arik Einstein: "צבי אומר שגשמים כאלה מזיקים לחקלאות / Tzvi says that rains like these impede the agriculture."
Sarel: "And who's Tzvi?"
Ariela and I giggle. "You need to work on your cultural knowledge," she says. (She's right. The song Rotem quoted is like Brown Eyed Girl — everyone knows it.)
grenade fly and send us all to hell. Drive slowly. Drive slowly.
01 January 2009
Niv's programming; I'm applying to graduate school.
Today's Galgalatz1 playlist is a little different. In honor of Arik Einstein's seventieth birthday on Saturday, they're scattering some more of his songs through the playlist. Between tracks, the DJ wishes us a "Happy New Civil Year" and reminds us to obey the Home Front Command2 and get in a shelter within 15 seconds if we hear a siren. And there are these ads.
Since July, the National Road Safety Authority has sponsored a heavy radio campaign reminding drivers to stay focused. The ads have a roleplay structure: someone's describing the great day they're having, and then you hear a crash, and a dark voice says,
Even a dreamy day can end in tragedy. There is life in the streets. Pay attention when you drive. The National Road Safety Authority.Today, the army's playing similar roleplay commercials. A young couple is having a telephone conversation. She asks what he's doing, and tells him she's worried. He says that he's not supposed to tell her.
"But I'm worried about you!"Then there's static noise, and the familiar dark voice says,
"Okay, just so that you won't worry. My mission is to..."
Revealing military secrets is forbidden by law. Unprotected cellphone lines can threaten our soldiers. Do not expose secure information.I raised an eyebrow at Niv. "It's a military radio station after all," he said.
A few minutes ago they interrupted "קח לך אישה" (the chorus is "find yourself a wife, and build her a home") to announce rocket threats in Ashdod. I joked about building her a bomb shelter. At the end of the song, they announced that Ashkelon is also under fire, and put on "All You Need is Love."
Ashkelon is a little town in the South, just 10 miles from Gaza strip. Niv grew up there. His parents still live there, and he calls their house home. The house is empty now; his parents have been staying with Niv's brother in Tel Aviv for the past five days. On the first day of the operation, Niv was home for Hannukah. Instead of doing doughnutty, candley Hannukah stuff, he watched his mother pack, sobbing. Then he got a call from a blocked number. The Navy was rousting him for emergency reserves service. "I just want my parents to be able to live in their home without being afraid of rockets, you know? When I saw my mom crying, I was ready to kill them all, I didn't care. It took me a while to get a grip on myself."
Two minutes ago, Niv's phone rang with an unidentified number. He asked me to answer for him, to make sure it's not the military. He just can't do reserves today. (He's already been scheduled for next week.)
Nitai is got called in today. Sarel has been warned that if they start a ground invasion, his unit will be among the first they deploy. Elad was in the infantry in Lebanon. He's afraid of answering his phone.
"Mr. Tamborine Man" was interrupted: alarms in Sderot.
1 GalGalaTz is one of two Israeli army radio stations. (The other military station is Galei Tzahal, aka GalaTz. Galgalatz is a play on words: "gal" means wave; "galgal" means wheel, as in traffic reports — the original telos of the secondary military station.)
2 In Hebrew, it's called פיקוד העורף — literally, "Nape Command."