Category Archives: Daily Life Israel

Corruption or Animal Rights?

We live in a strange country at a strange time. On Friday it was officially announced that the wife of the Prime Minister Sara Netanyahu is going to be indicted for misuse of public funds.  No one in the right mind believes that her husband was not aware of what was going on.  All last week the news was filled with stories of different people arrested all of them confidants of the Prime Minister. (See my Newsweek story) .  But tonight what is happening in the streets of Tel Aviv? About 100 people have come out for the demonstration against corruption, and 14,000 or more are taking part in a rally for animal rights and favoring vegetarianism.

 

Demonstration at Habima against corruption
Demonstration at Habima against corruption

Most of those attending the rally against corruption were people in their 50’s,60’s and 70’s. The speaker called for Bibi to resign and described the many corrupt things that have happened, and gave a preview of some of the things that have not been understood by the public yet.

The large rally for animal rights was filled with young people including some of the younger members of the Knesset.  It was well organized and the crowd was enthusiastic.  They seemed strangely hopeful that they would make a difference.

Marchers for Animal Rights on Dizengoff
Marchers for Animal Rights on Dizengoff

I interviewed a few of the marchers and asked them why they came out.  Two young women said because they cared about animals.  I asked why not go to the rally against corruption? They shrugged and said they cared about corruption, but animals are something that tugs at your heart.  They said animals cannot speak for themselves.  When I asked another couple why did they come out for animal rights and not for the slaughter in Syria (there were a couple of rallies at the Russian Embassy where 100 people showed up)they also shrugged and said they really care about animals.

animalrights Click for short video

We are at a strange place.  Young people want to express themselves but seem convinced that when it comes to politics or even economics it’s impossible.  Instead, they seem to be directing themselves to a nice generic cause- where they cannot fail, after all, there are more vegans and vegetarians in Tel Aviv every day.

 

I am not sure whether to laugh or cry

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Thoughts on Another Rally

I went tonight to the rally in Rabin Square by Sholom Achshav to mark 50 years of occupation.  Before going I was skeptical – another rally, what would it accomplish?  On the other hand putting on my journalist hat, I said how can I not go. When I first arrived, I was enthusiastic. I went around interviewing people taking notes. I even got a some good quotes.  A man about my age, who is a wounded veteran and who lost his brother in the Yom Kippur War said “that the Six Day War was a great victory- but if we keep the territories forever it will be the end of the state.”  Another couple, also my age who actually arrived in Israel from Argentina 42 years ago two months before I first arrived said “we have to bring about change”.

But then the rally started and the speeches began.  There were a few minutes of news in the speeches, Herzog who was met with both cheers and boo’s called for the creation of one bloc on the center left that would include both Kachlon and Lapid- both names were met with boo’s but Herzog went on to call for an open primary for the leader of the bloc.  Nice idea but it’s not clear how you get Lapid who is convinced that his only chance to be Prime Minister is to move to the right, to join in the effort.  Ayamn Odeh, that head of the Joint Arab list called for the creation of joint bloc called the democratic bloc.  An interesting idea, but after interviewing Odeh two years ago I have been very disappointed in his actions, and even in his speech.  He was very careful in defining himself, as a Palestinian Arab citizen of Israel, but could not call himself an Israeli.

As the rally came to the end, I mostly felt sad.  A feeling I have been having often lately( not on a personal level but on a political level).  Sad that this was the nth rally I have attended in the last six years since we returned, sad that there was nothing new.  Sad that the left continued to think short term, instead of worrying about the long term.  Odeh talked about democracy, but in reality democracy is eroding in this country, and most people are not even aware of it.  I am not sure of the answers but I am fairly sure that our current leadership does not have them.

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Ari Shavit and Sexual Harrassment

The Israeli world of journalism and politics is an uproar today, not over the fate of the Supreme Court or of the settlement of Armona and certainly not over the latest anti-Israel decision as Unesco.  But rather at something more prosaic and maybe over something more important in some way-the accusation by an American Jewish Journalist, Danielle Berrin that she was sexually assaulted by a prominent Israeli journalist later self identified as Ari Shavit.  Frankly I am not surprised, not that I know Shavit personally, but rather I spent a fair amount of time around places where Israeli males met American Jewish female professional and have seen what the results have been.  Of course my experience is from another era- I worked in the American/Israeli/Jewish years when I was young 17-20 and than later in my mid 30’s and it was a different time with different expectations.  Certainly during my service in the Israeli Air Force I saw things that in todays world, would  end careers.  But during my years working for Jewish Agency I saw first hand the actions of Israeli visitors.  It was still the years of the macho Israeli soldier, and they felt free to get their way with often willing American Jewish women students and professionals.  Many of the women were willing participants, although in retrospect since many of the sinners were their bosses or other in a hierarchy above them in many of the case one can not speak about willing consent, others less so. It was widespread, and reached to people today who hold some of the highest positions in the government.

I think it is better today, although I obviously cannot be sure.  My daughters did not experience in the army any of what I saw when I was serving. The problem seems to be greater among older Israeli men who seem to be stuck in the past, a past that might have been pleasant for them but not for women who were on the receiving ends of unwanted attention or much more.  We cannot be a society that tolerates this sort to behavior in any way.  Ari Shavit role as the spokesman for the liberal Israel is over.  Its too bad he was not a bad spokesman.  Hopefully American won’t elect someone to be President who is guilty of as much or more than Shavit- but  its irrelevant- there can be no excuses, no questions, sexual harassment is a career ender however talented an individual may be.

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Five Years in Israel

Today marks the fifth anniversary of our return to Israel. Our landing was tough having arrived soon after my Mom passed away and watching in the first  months we were here my Fathers health deteriorate to the point that he died three months after we arrived.  Living here continues to be struggle financially, but that has unfortunately been my fate most of my life. Moving back and forth between between Israel and US probably never  helped that.  This is my first experience living in Tel Aviv and I must say that while in my high school year book I have a quote that says that even though I was not born in Jerusalem, I have felt a Jerusalemite my whole life, today it’s Tel Aviv that I love more than any other city in the world.  Becoming a Newsweek columnist with a column called Tel Aviv Diary has certainly cemented that relationship. The research for our App Journey Tel Aviv combined with my column has allowed me to know the city from the top( I interviewed the mayor) and the bottom( I have walked almost all the city adding locations to our App).

Being in Israel has also resulted in another change.  Its very much in vogue today to write how people will need multiple careers.  While that is certainly true for the future, that has certainly been true for me.  While one hand I have been involved in the development of software for three decades and the writing of history even longer, what defines my prime activities in life has changed a number of times over the years.  Much to my surprise and certainly not something that I would have guessed before we came, I am now more of a journalist than anything else.  While having a regular column in Newsweek has certainly given me both access and a certain level of prestige, it was not until I started working for European economic web site, who are actually paying me to file multiple stories a day that it became clear that today I am primarily a journalist.  I probably still spend more time a day working on software and history, but its become my writings that defines me today

I was worried about returning here this late in life, I was 56 when we came back and was concerned about being the outsider.  That is the one worry that was unnecessary.  The combination of having been in the IDF, having two children who have served, and having a third on the way has eliminated any concern in that direction. Of course it helps to be fluent in Hebrew and have a dog, but there is no question that I feel totally at home as if I lived in Tel Aviv all my life and am thankful every day that we live here. We have made many friends, and have access to all aspects of life in Tel Aviv. (Well almost every  we will never be a 20-30 year old single).

One finally thought, none of this would have been possible without my family,  Amy who has always been at my side and been my partner in everything I have done these last 25+ years  and three great kids.

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Some Random Thoughts Before Rosh Hashanah

Its been a while since I wrote a blog piece.  For the last month since I stated working for Emerging Market Reports plus started MYIsraelNews I have gone from writing one or two articles top for Newsweek plus a blog piece or two every week, to writing on average ten stories a day.  While I am enjoying it and Emerging Markets is helping to pay our bills,  writing a blog article which is more writing sometime seems like a mountain too high to climb. Since we are effectively in the midst of a five day weekend in Israel and I cannot imagine there will be any economic news until Wednesday to write about and hopefully no political military news, I thought I would take a few minutes to share some thoughts. Furthermore I am hopeful that this will be a quiet week and my Newsweek article long planned but not yet written will be this week about the Jewish vote in the US.  On Wednesday we will have been back in Israel for five year, I hope to reflect on that then, so here are some random thoughts that I did not want to write for Newsweek as a new Jewish year begins

First on the decision of the Joint Arab List not to attend Peres funeral: it was in my mind one of the stupidest  things I have seen lately, and while they are not part of the traditional left in this country it is another example of the left committing collective suicide.  The Left including the Arabs seem more concerned about being right than accomplishing anything.  Accomplishing something is a matter of convincing voters.  You do not convince voters this way.  You do not convince the average Israelis that is ever a chance at reconciliation when you effectively say that even Peres who spent the last quarter of his life trying to find a way to achieve peace cannot be forgiven for earlier “mistakes” than how do you ever reach peace.  It was terrible decision and will effectively delegitimize the Joint List further.

 

The decision of the White House to correct the Email to the press: I am officially a member of the White House press corp- (because of my section on the web site on the Obama Presidency. ) I along with the rest of the Press Corp received Friday night an Email that corrected an earlier E-mail with Obama remarks at the funeral.  The original one said Mt Herzl Jerusalem, Israel the corrected one marked out Israel .One has to keep in mind this has been US policy since Harry TrumanI checked back at all my E mails from the earlier visit and everything said Jerusalem without Israel. My daughters passports say Jerusalem and not Israel as place of birth. The US never officially recognized any de jure borders beyond the 1947 partition plan and Jerusalem was suppose to an international city under that plan, This time it was a mistake that should have just been left alone. President Obama left behind good will with his speech, it was partially undermined by this correction

A few thoughts on the death of President Peres: Israel faces a real crisis.  When I was speaking to Herzog on Thursday night he compared it to the US after the Founding Fathers, but I mentioned to him that did not go that well for the US- He agreed and said that was our challenge.  It really is a problem for the country, after Netanyahu the other leaders of Likud are not very competent people to say the least.  That does not bode well for the future. They say the whole world suffers from a lock of leaders, our suffering is worse than many places.

One comment on the US elections: I am astounded that there are people who are actually planning to vote for Trump.  Its seems inconceivable that anyone can think after all we have seen that this man should be in the Oval Office.  There has never been someone less prepared and less suited for the Presidency.  You can agree or disagree with policy but I am not sure how anyone can disagree about the man fitness to be President.  A further issue for  Jews remains the fact that he brings out the worse in Americans, including a level of anti-semitism that we may have all thought existed but are shocked to see out in the open the United States

My last thought Before Rosh Hashanah relates to Syria.  As an American and as an Israelis I am ashamed.  We have been spending the past 70 years saying never again, and yet when it comes down to it, its Never Again only when its easy- or maybe when its Jews, I am not sure which.  There are only two countries that could have stopped the at least part of the slaughter in Syria, the US and Israel. The US for reasons I will never fathom did not because of President Obama’s unwillingness to use conventional force, has led to his decision not to even threaten the use of forces, and Israel because it’s not in our interest.  From the Israeli perspective we need to stop talking about how the world did not do enough during the World War II  to stop the holocaust.  It was not in their military interest to do more, even if they could have, which is a highly disputed historic point . It’s not in our national interest to get involved, but if we wanted to we could ground the Syrian air force in a matter of minutes.

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Three Thoughts

Three random thoughts of the last few days.  The first and the first and most disturbing was the information that Hadar Cohen, the young Border Policewoman killed yesterday, was still in basic training when she was killed.  It surprised me and saddened me to learn how little the army has learned in the 40 years since I was in basic training.  In 1975 they sent me and my fellow soldiers, who at the time had been in basic training for all of one week, to the Casbah of Nabulus to patrol.  I even spent a day guarding Joseph’s tomb and having stones thrown at me, after having fired my rifle all of once.  Now forty years later they send a soldier early in her training to one of the most attacked locations in Israel.

The second totally unrelated news was from a Knesset committee on public relations.  The Foreign Ministry reported that the total budget worldwide was approximately 10 million dollars and that their budget for Sweden was $17,000.  For over a year I have been amazed at Israeli chutzpah on the matter.  They wonder why they fail at Hasbara- and while Israeli policies are sometimes to blame the failure to fund any serious effort is certainly a major factor.  I have never understood how Israel can receive over $2 billion a year from the US and not think it needs to do any serious marketing.

Final thought relates to recent stories on the F-35, the US new front line fighter jet that Israel has contracted to buy at over $200 million a plane.  The F-35 does not seem to living up to expectations and by some measurements is inferior to Israel’s current aircraft.  I have always been very skeptical to the idea of buying a plane that cost $200 million.  But then what do I know.!

Lt. Cmdr. Eric "Magic" Buus flew the F-35C for two hours
Lt. Cmdr. Eric “Magic” Buus flew the F-35C for two hours
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A Depressing Day

It was just this morning that I was standing around a group of friends talking about the situation, and our sense was that maybe the worse was behind us.  All the attacks in the last few days had taken place in the West Bank, it seemed far away.  The economy seemed at least for the moment unaffected.  This afternoon all that changed, two stabbing, two different cities, both effectively suburbs of Tel Aviv.  Once again the terror is no longer far away ( 50 miles) but in the middle of our cities, and once again everyone will be on edge, no matter where we are. The two most severely wounded an 80 year old woman and a 70 year old man- I guess they were easy prey for 20 year old men.

Most of us were depressed enough this morning, all having the sort of morning after discussion after Saturday nights rally, and almost everyone I spoke to all member of the same Tel Aviv bubble were disgusted and discouraged.  Everyone agrees that the rally was a disaster, a meaningless get together, where Clinton so outshined every Israeli, it was embarrasing.  Even more so, since of all the speakers other then his family he was the only one to know Rabin.  Then there is the realization that we are all stuck with our current Prime Minister, who is a brilliant politician but a terrible leader, and yet there is no one to challenge him.  To round off the events of the day- Mosiac Magazine published an artice titled What do Palestinian Want, by Daniel Polisar.  The article lays out in detail, both how much they hate us, and how much they living in reality of their own making.  A totally depressing article, in a depressing day.

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Our Crazy Country

The day is coming to an end, we just uploaded our first Apple TV app which is also our first game.  It’s a Presidential election trivia game, and to get it out with all the new requirements of the Apple TV we had a family hackathon for the last few days.  As a result, I have tried living in my own little world of American election history and tried to ignore the events taking place in Israel- if just a little.

Of course that really is not possible, with my phone going off every few minutes with a different notification from Asset Source, or Channel 2 news, the events around are really hard to ignore.  The complete idiocy of our governmental system is hard to ignore on a day like today.  After Prime Minister Netanyahu spent the last week trying to prove to the world that Israel has no intention of changing the status quo on the Temple Mount- Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hoteveli- a member of Netanyahu’s Likud party, gave an interview in which she says that she is hoping for the day that the Israeli flag flys from the Temple Mount.  In any other country in the work she would have been fired on the spot, but not here.

Today is the 20th anniversary to the assassination of Prime Minister Rabin.  The official governmental ceremonies took place today, and once again it was difficult to hear Bibi who was the chief inciter against Rabin speak about him.  There has been some really strange revisionism going on the last year from the right wing, making the claim that the death of Rabin hurt the right, since if he had not been killed he would have stopped the Oslo process.  I am working on a longer the usual article for Newsweek that will go with my  coverage of the main commemoration in Saturday night, where President Bill Clinton will be speaking.  I hope to examine the issue in depth, and look at how a political assassination has been depoliticized. Meanwhile it’s been raining, they say that is a good thing, it does make it harder to walk our dog who hates water!

Rabin Square
Rabin Square
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Another Week of Violence

Another week is coming to an end in Israel, the third-week  violence.  Yesterday that violence reached a Bet Shemesh, a city where one of my closest friends lives in.  As she said to me on the phone last night- Nothing bad ever happens in Bet Shemesh, and I guess that was the point of the terrorist, similar to their attack in Raanana- we should not feel comfortable anywhere.  It is certainly having an impact.  If one is rational about it, it’s clearly no more dangerous in Israel then any of the big US cities before crime was brought down.  Certainly as someone who spent many a year in Morningside Heights ( Upper West Side of Manhattan) I should not feel unsafe, and in reality I do not, but after getting use to the feeling of absolute safety that I have always felt in Tel Aviv, I am glad these days that most of where I go I take “Mac” our dog with us.

Yesterday evening I was in Dizengoff Center.  Usually on Thursday night which is the night of the food fair, the place is teeming with people.  Last night it was mostly empty.  That seems to be the case throughout the country.  Stores have been empty and I am sure we are going to see all too soon more signs “Store for Rent”.   There have been other small changes, suddenly security guards that were there only for the show, are carrying weapons and soldiers on leave are not only carrying their weapons, but they are carrying them with magazines inserted- something that in itself can be dangerous.

 

I was initially planning to write to turn these events and observation into a piece for Newsweek, but as opposed to these posts which I just read through for overt grammar and spelling errors, I actually spend time and effort in editing my Newsweek pieces, something I do not have time for at the moment.  We just finished a large client project, have anther one on the cusp of being finished. We  two, are also in the midst of trying to finish two important products of our own, one of which it for the Apple TV and must be finished by Sunday night if we want to have a product at launch- so this is it.  Next Saturday night is the major commemoration to mark 20 years since the assassination of Prime Minister Rabin.  I am going to have to find the time to  write a major article on impact, 20 years later for Newsweek.

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Some Things Never Change

When I was a teenager, my parents use to come visit Israel every summer ( as I did) and they liked staying at the old Moriah Hotel.  The old hotel was a small hotel with 30-40 rooms run by the owner.  This was during the period between the Six Day War and the Yom Kippur War and with tourism booming in Jerusalem, they decided to expand, and try to build the new building that stands today on Keren Hayesod Street in Jerusalem.  When I visited them I would stare in amazement as three or four workers would be working on the site trying to build a big hotel.  Three summers in a row they returned and slowly a hole was dug, foundations laid and maybe one story finished.  Finally, I imagine the owner ran out of money, sold out to one of the chains at the time and quickly the building went up.

 

I was reminded of that story today when I went with my son Eytan to Mifgash Ha Steak, which is located at the intersection of Begin and Karlbach- one of the interchanges that have been closed to begin work on the Light Rail.  I stood in the restaurant talking to the owner, one of the many owners of small business that will be terribly impacted by the construction, that is expected to keep the intersection closed for five years.  We discussed why is it that in Israel it takes five years to do the work that would  allow the intersection to reopen, when in many other places the work would be done in 6 months.  As we looked out the windows of the restaurant it was clear, there we one piece of heavy equipment working. On the whole site, I counted at tops 10 workers toiling away.  Other places in the world, if a key intersection was to close they would have hundreds of workers toiling 24/ 6 finishing the project.

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Some things never change!

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