The middle east is always hot in July.  This summer is no exception, to the left we have the Muslim Brotherhood vs. the Egyptian army.  To the right we have Alawites vs. a mix trail of radicals .  To the North the Iranian backed Hezbollah is going head to head against anti-Syrian warlords.   From the sea we have an invasion of jelly fish attacking the Israeli shore.  The middle east in true form.

But the real battle happens in Rabin Square, the same location where Israeli peace time stopped back in 1995 and went backwards when Yigal Amir downed Yizahak Rabin.  Yes, in the same place where the  peace process was sent back by a fanatical meteor, Tel Aviv has  its annual  gigantic water fight: The Tel Aviv Water War (WW TLV).

Since 2004, every Summer, Tel Aviv immobilizes for the annual water Armageddon; with thousands of residents and visitors shooting, spraying and blasting each other to the drench.  This war of all wars, bring thousands from near and far to participate in the festival of aqua ambiguity.  Yet another example (and beauty) of the contradictions that make up this wonderful land.


Last weekend in Itamar, an Israeli settlement in the west bank or Samarian hills, a family of five were murdered.

That weekend I planned to write an article about the growing trend of bicycle riding in Israel and that Tel Aviv will join the many metropolitan cities that will offer bikes for rent. And then reality set in.

Perhaps Tel Aviv is far from Itamar, but the brutal killings resonated throughout the country. A Middle East wake-up call. The Itamar massacre made me realize that I need to take a step back and re-evaluate my surroundings. Made me take u-turn in my optimistic outlook for the future. It depressed me to hell that I could be so blindfolded, so naive to think that we can start thinking of biking to Mecca or Damascus.

Perhaps my visions of grandeur were inspired by the recent rebellion in Egypt and the sparks of the end of Arab tyranny in the region…I was hoping that the Facebook revolution would bring me closer to meeting my neighbors and telling them that there aren’t bad people only bad politicians. And that we are more alike than we are different.

Whether the Itamar settlement is right or wrong can be debated…but the brutality behind the murders can’t. It can’t be understood or explained.


“Strangers No More” is a 40 minute documentary about children of foreign workers and refugees at Tel Aviv’s Bialik-Rogozin school. It is an inspiring bittersweet account of three students; Johannes from Ethiopia, Esther from South Africa, and Mohammed from Darfur. The film was shot during an entire school year and depicts the turmoil faced by the children en route to Israel, and how the school has become a sort of safe haven for them in Israel.

Located in south Tel Aviv, Bialik-Rogozin educates 800 students from over 40 nations around the world. Although the film main message of hope and conviction worms the heart, the real issue that isn’t covered in the movie is that the school has become very famous in Israel over the past year, because 120 of its students face possible deportation. Bialik-Rogozin’s 120 students are among the 400 students nationwide who have been selected for deportation.

10-year-old Esther who is one of the main co-stars of the movie is facing probable deportation. Esther, who is bright and eloquent, fled South Africa and arrived in Israel with her father four years ago. She is to be deported in the coming weeks just missing the five-year mark set as a condition to remain in the country.

“Strangers No More” won the Oscar on Monday for Best Documentary Short Subject and brought honor to Tel Aviv. Perhaps the Israeli government can reconsider their decision and bring honor to the nation.


“70 firefighters put out huge blaze; roof collapses and entire inventory reportedly incinerated; Company says will take months to repair damage.”hhe

This blog article is best with דג נחש  

Oh well…can’t say that I am distraught.  I never cared for IKEA in Israel anyway.   IKEA for me was the bad Israel. The mass market westernization of Israel, the suburbanization of Israel – the blending of the “American Dream” into an “Israeli Dream” into a bad dream.  

Don’t get me wrong, IKEA is OK. In fact, when I first came to Israel I brought with me a container full of IKEA furniture thinking that I would be unique.  What a fool I was…little did I know that IKEA would become the essence of mainstream.  

I don’t mind the piles and piles of second-rate textiles and furniture made out of cardboard. The wax paper lamps and the heaps and piles of stockpiled weird clocks that were cool in Sweden….five years ago.  And what’s with their naming convention, what the hell is a SMASKA plate.   IKEA is a little like making Aliya…it looks good in the catalog, but once you bring it home it’s not exactly what you imagined( just kidding Israel is great).

It’s not IKEA itself.  It’s what Israelis made of IKEA.

Last year Israelis purchased NIS 678 million worth of IKEA goods.  Maybe this year they will buy local.



The old adage “a picture is worth a thousand words” was never more appropriate than with the aerial photo of Yoav Galant’s villa in Moshav Amikam.  That single mid-air snapshot has tainted the future of our next chief of staff and added another question mark to the ongoing saga of Israeli corruption.

 The question that needs to be asked …is every Israeli public official corrupt?  Is it part of our national psyche? 

A global corruption report lists Israel in 30th place globally, not bad considering there are over 170 countries in the world.  However, a closer look at this banal statistic indicates that 30th position is the gateway to predominantly totalitarian, 3rd world mega corrupt nations. 

Perhaps Yoav Galant is a corrupt, inscrutable professional soldier who has a home styled in the Sadom Hussein mansion décor …perhaps not.  And perhaps he is a dedicated, decorated soldier with a history of commitment to Israel… regardless modest he aint.

What makes the Galant affair timely and interesting is that while he is stumbling over whether he told the truth or not regarding a sworn affidavit saying he had asked for permission to add 40 square meters to his home before he went ahead and built them…the Arab world is in turmoil because of corruption and injustice.



After just six months in charge, Uri Malmilian was politely asked to leave Betar Jerusalem this week. Last week, another former Israeli football legend, Avi Nimni was also cordially asked to pack-up and find “new opportunities”. Both past football legends were deities on the field and failures as managers.  Both wore the number 8 on their shirt.

In the larger scheme of Israeli things the plight of Milimlian and Nimni is not a big deal; after all we live in a country where turmoil and confusion is common.  And in a week where Israeli convention and political loyalty (Barak leaves the labor party) took a cliff dive, football firings is not important news.  After all they were pretty lousy as managers…but their discharge has underlining significance and meaning. Malmilian’s and Nimni;s dismissal marks the end of an era – the demise of Israeli sport team ideology, the erosion of team symbols and a milestone in Israeli social history.

Ehhh…the sacking of two football coaches a milestone in Israeli social history seems a bit much, but if we take a closer  look at Malmilian and Nimni’s story we get a an interesting perspective of Israel –  past, present and future. 

Both Malmilian and Nimni were Gods as players; superb athletes and team symbols. For Betar Jerusalem and Maccabbi Tel Aviv respectively they were the team. Malmalian may be considered the best Israeli football player of all time and Avi Nimni was an institution at Maccabbi. Both players were above management, above the team, directly linked to the fans.  So much so, that they were untouchables. No one could or would disapprove of them.   Both spent huge amount of time with their devotees – whenever fans invited Nimni and Malamilian to a Bar Mitzvahs, weddings, etc., they attended.  Both spent their fair share at hospitals consoling the sick and ailing. Both volunteered their time and dedicated their resources to their supporters.  The fans cherished and exalted them.

Avi Nimini’s deity like status at Maccabbi was exemplified when a coach who dared to fire him was himself sacked by fan pressure. Nimini who was expelled from the team for a short period, returned on the shoulders of fans.  Nimi’s exalted status at Maccabbi was evident as he went through 3 different team owners and held every management position possible. Owners feared fan backlash whenever they disagreed with Nimni.

A few years ago, anyone who dared to confront Avi Nimni or Mailamian would have been scoured alive…last week they were dismissed without a moan.  No fan outcry, no fan riot, no nothing. Polite goodbyes by the fans and that’s all.

In a week where Israeli’s old guard, the labor party, in an act of utter sleaze, nailed itself shut in a political coffin, it’s only apt that another one of Israel’s last symbols  – its God like sport legends depart.  

Israel is changing. Winning has become more imortant then everything, more important then historical loylity…for Ehud Barak, Betar Jerusalem, Maccabbi Tel Aviv and the fans.




It’s been 37 days since I last wrote my last blog entry. I took a little leave of absence and everything has gone wacky. On good days, Israel is a roller coaster, in the past month it’s a runaway train.

The Carmel Fire

Forty four people were killed as a huge brush fire continued to rage across the Carmel Mountains in northern Israel, killing and injuring dozens, among them prison guards and firemen. In addition,  13,000 people were evacuated from their homes in the north and Israel called for international aid as the fire blazed out of control.


The December Storm

One of the worst storms in recent years battered the nation, with 100-km. winds and driving rain wreaking havoc up and down the coast.  A Moldovan cargo ship sank off Ashdod with all 11 sailors on board were rescued.

At the Tel Aviv Port, winds caused serious damage, shattering windows of restaurants and stores, uprooting concrete light-post from their foundations and scattering stones, debris and café furniture in all directions.


The Bar-Lev Episode

 Major General Uri Bar-Lev withdrew his candidacy for commissioner of the Israel Police and informed the attorney general that he was taking leave as he was being investigated for alleged sexual assault.  Dr. Orly Innes, lodged a sexual harassment complaint against the former police chief candidate.

Anti-foreigners protest

Several hundred protesters  in Tel Aviv’s  and Jerusalem demonstrated against the presence of foreign workers and refugees in their neighborhoods claiming that that they are responsible for violent incidents.  Protesters said that Jewish women fear going out in the neighborhood after dark because of their treatment by foreign residents.

Rabbi’s letter

A letter published and signed by dozens of rabbis state that it is against Jewish law to sell or rent apartments and other real estate in Israel, to gentiles. 


Former President of Israel Moshe Katsav Found Guilty of Rape

Former President Moshe Katsav was found guilty of rape and sexual assault at Tel Aviv District Court.  The judges stated that Katsav’s version of events was “riddled with lies.”


 Looking forward to 2011…..


Small Numbers


“Last call to all passengers of EL AL flight 103 to Toronto”.  

The story begins a few weeks earlier. 

EL AL customer service called me up after I sent a semi-nasty letter about their lack of service.  With scripted professionalism “R” called me to  express regret for the slight inconvenience EL AL had bestowed me and to offer kind thoughts.  “R” asked me when is my next flight and said that she would ensure that I would be “pampered” on that flight.  Being a true Israeli and a frequent flyer I saw the opportunity for an upgrade to business class, but not a sleazy squeeze the airline upgrade, but a fair deal of millage points from my side and slim compensation from EL AL.

EL AL said no-go to business class, but did say they would upgrade me from seat 53 to 23 in economy class.  Ahhh?  OK…where is the upgrade?  I am confused?  Both seats are in economy class so what makes seat 23 better than 53?  With resound disappointment “R” insisted that I was getting a better deal.  Again, I expressed my confusion and wondered why is seat 23 is better?  Will I have an advantage when we fall from the sky? Is it closer to the toilet? And what about the “pampered” part, it sounded mysteriously provocative. Would I be getting a special high-in-the-sky treat?

With great anticipation and curiosity I awaited for my flight 103 EL AL experience. To my amazement, upon boarding on flight 103, seat no. 23 was mysteriously unavailable.   Not officially taken but unofficially in use by a nice young lady who indicated that the Orthodox gentlemen adjacent refuses to sit next to her because she is a woman.   Although I am a devote pluralist, I was mad as hell that my “upgrade” seat was taken away from me by Haradi with a mission…my “upgrade seat”!  The courteous EL AL crew solved the problem without delay providing the Haradi guy with a real upgrade to a single window seat.  And I was left waiting for my surprises.

EL AL flights to North America are kind of a microcosm of Israel; the few but powerful wealthy individuals in business class, a few,  but very visible group of Haradim, North American youth who are on birth right (or some kind of right)mission , perhaps a few high-techies with a week in the US, couples who are going to NY or Vegas as a way to spice up their life and like me…the lackeys.  

The flight itself is a mix of Israeli efficiency, bureaucracy, and magic.  The Israeli efficiency part is reflected in flight schedule: depart, eat, turn-off lights, eat again and arrive.  The crews being courteous, mysteriously disappear after the departure meal, which consisted of a sandwich and a bottle of water (OK who wants to eat at 3:00 am…I do).  Where is Itay Segev and his master chef declaration of upcoming gourmet food on EL AL flights?  The in-flight entertainment includes a mix of banal movies with half hour spots of Israeli game shows.  Do you know what is worse than game shows?  Israeli versions of American game shows.   And with so many excellent Israeli films available these days why doesn’t  EL AL provide us with a little taste of real Israeli …”Lebanon”, “Waltz with Bashir”,” The Band’s visit” , etc.   Why do we get stuck with mindless movies? I know why… so we can drowse to sleep faster?

With faultless Israeli air-force precision we land perfectly at Person International airport in Toronto (YYZ plays on my iPod).  And just like modern day Israel has lost some of its historical charm, EL AL flights too have lost their charm with fewer and fewer people clapping as we land.  EL AL flight 103 has come to its destination and I am on to greater Toronto…the place I once lived and loved.

And those EL AL promises that I would be pampered…well…they too like modern day Israel did not completely materialize.


The television advertisement accompanying the launch of Call of Duty: Black Ops kick’s-off with a business woman waving an M16 through a war zone and blasting away.  In the background, the Rolling Stones play “it’s just a shot away” – riveting, kick-ass, super cool stuff.  For the next sixty seconds, the ad includes ordinary people – a university student, a construction worker, Koby Bryant shooting indiscreetly at all comers.  The ad closes with the line “There is a soldier in all of us”.

5.6 million Copies of Call of Duty: Black Ops were sold in the first week of its release.  That is approx 1 billion dollars.  By New Years 2011, Call of Duty will probably be the number one Christmas gift for young adults raking in another few billion dollars.  It’s apparent to me that most of the sales from Call of Duty: Black Ops will be from enlightened, peace loving nations.

Virtual war is big business and it’s ideal.  No Goldstone, no human shields,  no human rights watch, no stupid clips with prisoners on Youtube, no war criminal list on Facebook and no blood.  It’s ideal for those who simplify issues into plain right and wrongs.  

In the past few days a so called “war criminals” list has been circulating on Facebook. Apparently, initiated locally in Israel, the list provides names, identity numbers and pictures of ranking officers in the IDF who fought in the Cast Lead Operation.  I can relate with the fervor of peace loving people, but embarrassing and complicating the lives of Israeli soldiers seems a bit too much. 

Ironically and unfortunately, in Israel, the concept of “There is a soldier in all of us” takes on a different meaning. And the call of duty is a complex and very real way of life.