Yesterday was our fifth Thanksgiving in a row in  Israel.  Thanksgiving is the one American holiday that it seems American expats in Israel celebrate. There are two reasons for this. First for those of us who grew up in the observant world it was the one holiday that everyone could come and celebrate.  As opposed to Jewish holidays where driving might get in the way, Thanksgiving was the only holiday where relatives near and far could travel and get together.  It was also the only holiday that only the most extreme in the Orthodox world could come up with reasons not to celebrate.  Of course, there is also a simple reason, most of us have good memories of getting together with extended family on this holiday.

Living in Israel changes that and very few of us have extending family in Israel instead it is friends that generally have to be the stand-ins.  Our Thanksgiving celebration centered this year as it has the last few, on the friends of my daughter, most of them who she had met while in the army.  The house was properly filled with he friends,  Amy and I invited two friends to join us, in addition to the friend who was visiting  and Eytan had a friend as well, 24 people joined together in a uniquely American tradition in the heart of Tel Aviv.  We ate turkey which had to be specially ordered, feasted on a large number of side dishes, and drank the wine that my daughter’s friends brought.  Of course, no Thanksgiving could be complete without having Pumpkin Pie. In addition, my daughter made a unique Kalua desert that my Mother used to make on special occasions.  It was lovely and for a few hours we were seemingly all transported to another place and time.  Of course that was only partially true since we were indeed in Tel Aviv and the friends that Amy and I had invited are highly political and while we feasted like we were in New York, our discussion were far more serious  than the average Thanksgiving dinner in America.

A thanksgiving long ago
A thanksgiving long ago

Terror Returns-

It’s been a very difficult day,  we have gone from worry about the state of the world to once again worrying about our problems here. For a few days we could be spectators, seeing the events in Paris as events that we should be concerned with as Westerners but still it was happening there and not here.  I found the events scary, only in the sense that it showed how strong the hatred could be- and in Paris it was general not aimed at anything specific in the way many Palestinians hate us.  I had written my weekly column for Newsweek on an Israeli perspective to the attacks in Paris, and how at least from my perspective they are worse them the Palestinian attacks on us.  I must say I am tired of all the whining about double standards, yes killing us is terrible, but we should not be surprised A) that the world gets more upset when the number 1 tourist destination gets attacked and so many get gunned down.  France gets 83 million tourist a year we barely get 3 million, why are we surprised that people identify with Paris.  Not to mention the attack on Paris could easily happen in any other place our attacks are centered here, with people rightly or wrongly think they have been wronged.

Today terror returned to Israel- 5 deaths, two right here in Tel Aviv, the ambulances carrying the wounded passed close to my window.  Its not a distant matter.  Its also terribly depressing since I see no solution.  No solution for us and no solution for the world from greater terrorism.  A survey was published that 11% of the citizens of Turkey have positive feelings towards ISIS.  One could say- you see it’s only 11 percent, but 11 percent is over 8 million people.  How does the world end this?  It is has been fighting it now for 20 years in one way or another, and the sum total has been we are worse off today then we were 20 years ago.  Then there is our problem.  Anywhere else in the world our dispute could have been settled with a partition, but the Palestinians could not expect us here on even part of the land. Now we have a people who really really hates us.  There is nothing we can really do about that.  Yes maybe we could have done something different over the years but here we are, the hate us, and the mother of one of the terrorist said tonight that she is proud of her son who had done Palestine proud- how do we reach peace with people who believe that.  So we cannot reach peace, we cannot pull out and we cannot live with them? What do we do?  I truly do not know?

Despite all this life in Tel Aviv goes on.  The streets tonight are packed like any Thursday night.  Tonight near my house there was a demonstration at MacDonalds to allow the workers to organize.


Terror in Paris, Some Reflections From Tel Aviv

It’s been almost two days since the terrible event of Friday night.  As opposed to so many who posted so quickly whether on Twitter, Facebook in  articles I have not felt competent to sort out my feelings, and try to write something that makes sense until now.  I am still not ready to write an article for Newsweek, although I will play with some ideas and themes that I might expand into an article for Newsweek tomorrow  or the next day.  On the personal level it was a very strange night, we  had over for Shabbat dinner close friends, one of whom was German and over the course of dinner we had a heated discussion on politics, including the seemingly unstated IDF policy of killing all knife-wielding terrorist,  I can still hear one of our other friends saying to our German friend, that if there was terror in European streets she might feel different.

About 2 hours after our guest left word of an attack on Paris suddenly spread and I spent the next few hours  glued to Israeli TV as events unfolded.


Last night I briefly attended a rally in Rabin Square held in solidarity with the people of Paris.  As I was walking to the rally, it dawned on me that the last rally that I attended that had to do with France- was one I helped organize in the early 70’s against French President Pompidou and his policies towards Israel.  A strange feeling


I must admit I still have not gotten my head around the barbarity.  I have in the past compared ISIS to the Nazis and I think that comparison is even more valid.  There is something very inhuman of gunning down, one by one innocent people just because they are different.  While a bomb can kill as many, and certainly blowing up a plane or crashing it into a building can kill more, there is something very chilling about people who can just kill innocents men and women without the smallest sign of compassion.

A few random or not so random thoughts.  I really cannot stand all the posts by fellow Israelis who keep on posting something to the effect that they are certainly sympathetic to the French, but why is the whole world condemning this and not condemning Palestinian terrorism.  While I certainly do not condone Palestinian attacks especially those against civilians, there is certainly a big difference.  Most of their recent attacks have been against soldiers, which I hardly would classify as terrorism.  But even their terror attacks have thankfully been on a whole different level, not the mass planned killing that took place in Paris.  I know it’s not for trying, but they cannot pull it off thankfully. Finally, as much as we find their terror attack abhorrent, and as much as I think there is no diplomatic solution possible now, we cannot ignore the fact that we are occupying them.  Who exactly is occupying Paris?

That is not to say that there is not a link, and that link I am afraid is Islam.  Events in the last few days have a very clear link.  The only reason we have been at war for the last 65 year is that the Arabs of Palestine in 1947 refused to accept the UNSCOP recommendations and agree to the partition of Palestine.  If they had our history would have been very different.  The Arabs refused to compromise- they believed that the whole land was theirs and so they saw no need to agree to partition.  This problem has been endemic in conflicts in the Middle East and partially explains the many wars on one hand and the many terrorist attacks, on the other hand, involving Muslims.  It’s not that Islam is in itself bad, however when Islam and politics meet, as they do in much of the Middle East one is suddenly dealing with absolutes in relations between nations and peoples. One is suddenly dealing with the word of god and once that happens no man may compromise for god. Of course, we have similar zealots and they are equally dangerous to us, but at least until now they have not controlled our government.


One final thought Friday’s night attack is going to have a profound impact on the concept of Europe without borders.  Gone for the moment at least is the open borders that transformed Europe, the French are not going to rely on the Greeks and the British will not rely on the Italians to make sure that everyone entering Europe is properly vetted.  Furthermore despite all the noble talk about not allowing the events to impact that policy towards refugees, there is no doubt it will.  Already Poland which did not want to take any refugees has used this as an excuse to say it will not take any, and many other countries that agreed are now going to be under severe political pressure to refrain from taking any more refugees.



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.