Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
This Friday, I was amongst the 2 billion people who watched the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games. It was very impressive, but in spite of my endless efforts, I couldn’t bring myself to enjoy it. It was a magnificent event, a prologue to the sports event we’ve all been waiting for. An event which is one of the few common grounds for all the residents of planet Earth. Because sports, just like music, is a common language to all people. In sports, just like in music, there should be no room for politics. The Olympic games should have been the opportunity for all the countries of the world to enjoy a friendly competition, to cheer their team and perhaps even be impressed with other teams. But as much as these games are a competition, they are supposed to be a professional competition, where the winners and losers are accountable for their achievements. In this competition there should be no politics, so that we can all enjoy the games. In this competition, the participants should be addressed to as athletes, and there should be no special treatment due to one’s nationality. Politics free- this is how it should be and how it is presented to the world.
After watching the opening ceremony, I am ashamed to say that the people behind this grand production caved in to politics. Even though they decided not to, I still had hope that in the last moment, they will change their minds and show one last respect to the 11 Israeli athletes who were killed in Munich in 1972. The request for a moment of silence in their memory was denied by the IOC for the so called fear that Arabic countries would boycott the ceremony. This reason was so absurd that I was sure they would come to their senses and surprise everybody with that minute of silence, especially after more than 20,000 Londoners held an informal one, along with many Israelis and Americans. Just like the musicians who cancelled their concerts in Israel, the IOC, while announcing they don’t want to let politics in this so called neutral territory, let it in in a horrible way. Those 11 athletes were people before they were Israelis. They were 11 athletes who were taken hostage and then killed by a Palestinian group. Is it just me, or that in a normal world a minute of silence would have been held? In a normative world, the participants of the Olympic Games would have showed respect for their fellow athletes who were brutally murdered. In a normative world, their nationality wouldn’t have mattered. And as if all this is not insensitive enough, the first part of the ceremony ended with a minute of silence in memory of the victims of the 7/7 London bombing. The bombing occurred in 2005, when an Islamic terrorist committed suicide in the middle of London, during rush hour. If beforehand, the IOC could have maybe get away with this whole debacle by saying the Olympic Games should revolve around the living and not the dead, this minute of silence made the inequity and discrimination even clearer.
Once again, politics rears its ugly head, and once again, Israel is on the losing side for no reason. I’ve showed by affirmative objection to musicians who cancel their concerts in Israel, because they falsely accuse us for things we don’t do to the Palestinians, many times before. This is much worse. This is not private people who don’t like Israel, this is an official worldwide event which shows no proper respect for the dead, just because they fear those who supported this massacre would not show up to the event. What sense does it make? The IOC was so blinded by politics that they have lost all sensitivity. Those athletes were people, and I have a strange feeling that if they were from any other country, a minute of silence would have been held. This hurts not only the state of Israel, but also the families of the 11 athletes. By making this decision, by marking the deceased as Israelis first and athletes later, they ruined the essence of the Olympic Games as a politics-free-sports-only event. They now made it as political as any UN discussion. Add the team of the non-existing country, Palestine, with east-Jerusalem as their non-existing capital, and you got yourself the most political non-political event.
I always saw sports, music and art as the languages we all understand; one of the symbols of Globalization, which brings us all together with common ground. Lately, these worlds of escapism are slowly fading away, blending with the real world and making no room for peace.
*At this point I would like to thank all the US networks and correspondents, as well as the Israeli ones, who showed their respect to the victims of the Munich massacre and held their own minute of silence.
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July 30, 2012 | 8:43 am
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
For this week’s Israel and the World, I can’t think of something more important than the Olympic Games. Only three days into the games, I present to you the Israeli Olympic team members. Ofir Golan, one of Israel’s best Olympic specialists, will provide you with a prediction for the Israeli athletes who are still in the game. So far, we’re not doing so well, but there’s still hope for some of our athletes to bring home a medal.Athletics
Donald Sanford- 400m (8/4)
: will reach the semifinals.
Zohar Zemiro- Marathon (8/12)Prediction
: will rank 30th or higher.
Jillian Schwartz – Pole vault (8/4).
she will have to fight hard to reach the finals, where she will meet with the world record holder and the Olympic champion: Yelena Isinbayeva.
Misha Zilberman- Men’s singles. Ranked 3rd (did not advance).
Felix Aronovich- All around. Ranked 32 (did not advance).
Alexander Shatilov- All around and floor (advanced. Finals in 8/1 and 8/5.)
The biggest Israeli Olympic hope, and there’s a good reason for it. Has the biggest chance in winning a medal in Floor.
Valeria Maxiota- All around (did not advance.)
Neta Rivkin- Individual (8/9-10.)
Will come at top 10 in the finals.
Moran Buzoysky, Victoria Koshel, Noa Palathcy, Marina Shultz, Paulina Zakaluzny, Eliora Zholkovski- Team (8/9-11).Prediction:
will rank 5th, 6th or 7th in the finals.Judo
Artiom Arshansky- Men’s 60 kg (Did not advance.)
Golan Pollack- Men’s 60 kg (Did not advance.)
Losef “soso” palelashvili- Men’s 73 kg (Did not advance.)
Arik Ze’evi- Men’s 100 kg (8/2.)Predictions
: This is Ze’evi’s 4th time competing for an Olympic medal. His speed may not be like it used to, but his experience and good thinking may win him a place on the Podium.
Alice Schlesinger- Women’s 63 kg (7/31.)Prediction:
she is ranked 6th in the world, so there’s a good chance to see an Olympic medal, but in when it comes to Judo, you can never know…Sailing
Shahar Tzuberi- RS:X (7/31-8/6.)
It all depends on the wind. But after winning a bronze medal in 2008, he defiantly has a good chance of standing on the podium once again.
Gideon Kliger and Eran Sela- 470 (8/2-9.).Prediction:
after Kliger disappointing in 2004 and in 2008, this is his chance of leaving London as a winner.
Lee Kurzits- RS:X (7/31-8/6.)
Great expectations. May become the second Israeli woman to win an Olympic medal.
Nufar Edelman- Laser Radial (7/30-8/6.)Prediction:
will rank in the top 15.
Vered Buskila and Gil Cohen- 470 (8/3-10.)Prediction:
will defiantly finish in the top 10 and there’s a reasonable chance of winning an Olympic medal.Shooting
Sergey Richter - 10m air rifle (Did not advance); 50m rifle prone (8/3).
Can advance to one final at least. Everything will be determined on the spot and anything can happen.
Nimrod Shapira Bar-Or - 200m Freestyle (Did not advance.)
Imri Ganiel - 100m Breaststroke (Did not advance.)
Gal Nevo - 200m Butterfly (Advanced to the semifinals), 200m individual medley (8/1), 400m individual medley (Did not advance.)
Will reach the semifinals in 200m individual medley.
Yaakov-Yan Toumarkin: 100m Backstroke (Did not advance), 200m Backstroke (8/1.)Prediction:
May be the big surprise of the Olympic Games and reach the finals in 200m backstroke.
Amit Ivry: 100m Butterfly (did not advance), 200m individual medley (Advanced to the semifinals)
will try to break her personal record, and qualify for the semifinals.Synchronized swimming
Anastasia Gloushkov and Inna Yoffe- Duet (8/5-6).Prediction:
Will reach the finals.Tennis
Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram- Men’s double (Won round of 32.Still competing in Wimbledon.)Predictions:
After failing in 2008, there aren’t any great expectations from the duo. But who knows? Maybe the lack of expectations will bring some good luck.
Shahar Pe’er- Women’s singles (Did not advance.)Prediction:
After losing to Maria Sharapova, she is now waiting for the mixed doubles, where she may have another chance of winning a medal.
July 28, 2012 | 10:32 am
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
Keren Ann is probably the most successful Israeli singer abroad. In fact, she is so successful that you need to read about her to know she is Israeli. So far, she released sis solo albums. She took parts in acclaimed projects both in Europe and in the States. You might have heard some of her songs in the TV series “Grey’s Anatomy”, “Six Feet Under” and “Big love”, as well as in the international H&M Spring commercial.
She makes pop music, while usually keeping a safe distance from the pop-music mainstream. I personally am not a big fan of her music, and only like a few of her songs. But her greatest virtue and what makes her stand out is, to my opinion, her calm, soothing, voice. Perfect for a relaxing weekend…
July 26, 2012 | 11:49 am
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
“Lately, more and more German citizens have decided, on their deathbeds, to dedicate their will to the state of Israel”, said an article in the paper yesterday. In the past year, numerous German messengers knocked on the doors of Israeli Embassies, with wills signed by people who decided to give all their money to Israel. Some donations were modest, some contained millions of dollars. This is not a new fashion trend that struck Germany all of a sudden; this is a direct consequence of pure guilt. It’s been almost 70 years since the war ended, and almost 80 years since the Jews were marked as the reason for Germany’s financial problems and its loss in WW1. More and more Holocaust survivors pass away of old age, and with them, more and more German citizens, who knew and kept quiet.
During the second act of Cabaret, when the Nazis can no longer be ignored, and people start to realize in what direction Germany is going, Fräulein Schneider asks Cliff: What would you do? She knows what’s going on, and breaks off her marriage with Herr Schultz, because she fears for her business she worked too hard to build and maintain. She knows that marrying a Jew at the time would mean being boycotted or even killed. This is not just a scene from a musical, this is what happened. German citizens, who didn’t support the Nazis, simply froze. They knew Germany was going towards a dark time, but felt impotent, powerless against the big wave of hate. This is something I have no idea how to respond to. I just feel a whirlpool in my stomach whenever this subject arises, just like yesterday morning, when I read the paper. People couldn’t bear the guilt, so they gave all of their property to the Jewish state. I don’t know if their will made them feel better, or if they saw it as their redemption. I cannot get into their minds and ask them if they feel like this money is given as an apology for looking the other way after witnessing their neighbors being butchered. Maybe they knew it counts for nothing, but still chose to do the best they could to make up for their mistakes. Maybe they supported the Nazis and stole property from their Jewish neighbors and now they felt like they should return it. Either way, I hope they knew they could have prevented this whole thing from happening.
It is a very reasonable presumption that there was more than one Cliff out there, in the real world. People disagreed, but couldn’t bring themselves to say it out loud. They were mentally weak. I cannot put my rage aside when I encounter this topic, because a big part of the Holocaust was the civilians, those who stood by as Jews were beaten up on the street; those who disconnected from their Jewish friends, because they didn’t want to be marked; those who lived across the street from a death camp; those who saw the smoke, heard the screams, and cried at home, trying to convince themselves it’s not what they think. On one hand, I really don’t wish for them to die with a clean conscience, just because they donated their money to Israel. But on the other hand, the older and wiser I get, the more I can’t help but understanding their actions.
Every Holocaust day in Israel, I think to myself “what would you do if you were a Jew, living in Gemany at that time?” Would I leave during the early 30’s? Would I join the Partisans later on? Or perhaps I would be led, quietly. After reading about the wills, I started thinking what I would do if I was standing in the Germans’ place. Would I be able to stand up to the Nazis? We don’t need research, though there is plenty, to know how difficult it is to stand up to the majority, or even to a very strong minority. This story got me thinking of how guilty those Germans felt for everything that happened while they stood still. Maybe they didn’t see their wills as redemption, but as an apology to their friends and neighbors who have no grave, or way to help preventing this from ever happening again. I know I will never be able to forgive them, the people who by doing nothing helped the Nazi demons, and I don’t think anyone should ever forgive them. But lately I am starting to find a small place in my heart for understanding why they did what they did. Wills are usually dedicated to family members or close friends and are very personal and private. By giving everything to Israel, those people were at least able to show their torment and guilt, which is, in a way, a partial conciliation. Maybe now I will stop crying as much.
July 24, 2012 | 1:40 pm
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
Looking at the situation in Iran and Syria always brings us back to the same question- how come the outside world doesn’t step in? Physically. The mass murder and slaughter, as well as the rapid process of building a nuclear weapon, are both issues considering not only the countries involved, but the entire world. The situation in Syria can surely be given the name of “crimes against humanity”. The situation in Iran is a direct threat to the countries of the world. Both situations are familiar and proven- Both Assad and Achmadinijad should sit on the electric chair, and both of them are well aware of it. The reason they are so proud of their actions, and don’t even bother to deny (Assad did try, but he knows we know…), is the simple fact of their assumptions that the world would do nothing drastic. These assumptions also led them to go on with their crimes with full confidence, even after the truth came out.
These assumptions are unfortunately true. Up until not too long ago, world leaders have started wars with the primary goal of destroying the enemy. They entered war with all they had and exited either winners or dead. This type of a war no longer exists amongst the leaders of today. In the age of nuclear weapons, total wars are almost never a realistic option. We have soon came to the conclusion that entering a total war, while many modern states carry nuclear weapons, will lead to a fast destruction of the world. That is why many leaders of the modern world take time and thought before starting a war. Today’s situation in both Syria and Iran is the perfect example- the world condemns everything, but there is no action. Some will call it “diplomacy”, but I want to believe no intelligent person will see a threat to the world and react with words, unless one fears for one’s life. Don’t’ get me wrong, I am a fan of diplomacy. I was even told I am pretty good at it, but when I look at my Middle- Eastern neighbors, I see no room for diplomacy.
Common sense says “fight fire with fire”, but the leaders of the world fight fire with words. Instead of sending forces, they are busy being quoted by the press, saying what we all want to hear. Once again, the world acts like this is high school, as the teachers preach to the “problem” teens. This may be unfair and even irritating at times, but it is actually very understandable. The leaders think of their people first, and don’t want to take the risk of provoking a ticking bomb. Since I believe in the good nature of humanity, I always saw in the actions that have been the best solution, considering the circumstances. I wrote “saw” in past tense, because everything changed a couple of days ago. I read about the embargo the western world cast on Iran, as a reaction for the failure of the diplomatic conversations. This seemed like the smart thing to do- now Iran will feel an economic pressure like never before, its economy will collapse, and they will not be able to complete their evil plan to “take over the world” (Achmadinijad’s words, not mine…). After reading this headline in the paper, I put a smile on my face, but it soon disappeared. It took me a few seconds to realize this embargo, this diplomatic solution, may hurt the decision makers of Iran, but it hurts the citizens. It hurts the millions of people who will feel the inflation in every action, every day. In Syria things are far more worse, because for every day the world chooses to stay out, people lose their lives for no apparent reason.
As much as I hate to say this, a diplomatic solution may not be the answer for every issue. While wanting to keep the world intact, we need to keep in mind that by staying out of Syria and Iran, we may put people at risk. I must admit that even though I tend towards the idea of an attack, I am very scared of the consequences, considering my residency. I know there is no magical solution, and I am well aware of the complexity. However, this is, indeed, not my decision to make. As much as I am relieved that I’m not in charge of a country, I am anxious because those who are in charge are clueless. Now is the time for them to stop playing games, and sit down, no excuses, until they make the right, reasonable, call. Soon, it may be too late. It is now the world leaders’ turn to think to themselves whether this damage is irreconcilable or just collateral…
July 23, 2012 | 1:00 pm
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
•The best of the humanity: the kind staff of Volfson Hospital in Holon, Israel, decided to provide abandoned babies a good memory for the future. The staff has decided to make a photo album for each newborn, which doesn’t have present parents to capture his first moments in the world. The photos will be taken by the hospital’s carrying staff and will be handed to wherever those lone children would be taken to.
•On Thursday, the members of the international Zionist youth movement gathered in Jerusalem for the celebration of 85 years since established. The 10,000 young leaders of the movement come from 24 countries worldwide. Only 1500 of them came to celebrate, but the joy was all over the place.
•A little bit late, but still respectable, Israel mentioned the Fourth of July in various celebrations. Besides the parties and some fancy dinners, the theatre of Holon threw a festive show, with American Folk songs, the best of the best American singers and bands of all times. There were also very interesting lectures about the History of the U.S and the U.S- Israeli relationship, an American film festival, and more.
•Hungarian authorities arrested the Nazi war criminal Laszlo Csatary, after reporters of the British Sun, knocked on his door and tried to confront him about his alleged past. The reporters received new evidence which was brought by Israel’s Simon Wiesenthal Centre to the prosecutor in Budapest last week. The evidence allegedly linked Csatary to a list of crimes committed against Jews during WW II. According to the accusations, Csatary is one of the most wanted Nazis, who managed to escape from the authorities for years, changing his identity and moving from place to place until settling in Hungary. He is wanted for playing a key role in deporting about 15,700 Jews to the Auschwitz death camp.
•Israel’s ground shook several months ago, when the subject of discrimination by Ultra- Orthodox men towards women from outside of their community filled the headlines. There were several major stories during this period: one was regarding a small religious girl, who was spit on by an older man, for being “not modest enough”; the second revolved around a young secular woman, who was yelled at by Haredi Men for daring to sit in the front of a bus. The two stories were accompanied by a nation-wide scandal, which grew bigger when the issue of public women discrimination in areas of Jerusalem and Bney-Braq became a public discussion. It addressed the growing absence of women in various advertisements, even the ones who originally had women in them (the faces were covered, or removed). Earlier this week, we came closer to mitigating the issue: the State has told the High Court that from now on, the Transport Ministry will enforce the freedom of advertising on buses and would stipulate that the condition of receiving a public transportation license be non-discrimination in advertising.
•Israel can now add another cultural achievement: the celebrated Israeli director, Joseph Cedar was invited to join the The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (yes, the ones from the Academy Awards). Cedar is known for his Academy Award Nominee films: Footnote, and The Bufor, and many other excellent films.
July 20, 2012 | 9:17 am
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
Because we are all a part of the human nature, even us, the perfect Israelis, have the tendency of self-criticizing. One of the most common topics where we have a problem with, well, ourselves, is Israeli movies. In the past decade, our film industry flourishes, as more and more Israelis and non-Israelis enjoy Israeli films. However, for a long time now we all have the same complaint: all Israeli films deal with either one of the big Israeli conflict: religion-secularity, the Holocaust, or Jews -Palestinians. But once in ten films or so, comes a true masterpiece which contains a plain Hollywood-like plot and performances. One of those masterpieces is: The Debt, which even received a Hollywood adaptation. But before The Debt, in 2004, there was Lelechet al Ha’Maim (Walk on Water), which makes many other Israeli films look like high-school productions.
It tells the story of Eyal, an agent for the Mossad, the Israeli security service. He is a hitman who targets enemies of Israel. His wife has recently committed suicide, and the agency decides that he needs to take on a less challenging assignment: to find an aging Nazi war criminal and get him “before God does”. He is a hard shell and is very stiff and old fashioned. On his way to “seal the deal”, Eyal meets the target’s granddaughter and gay grandson, and a Palestinian young man, which gradually help him fight his inner-daemons. To complete the deep, meaningful side of the movie, there is non-stop James Bond style action and some breathtaking shots of the most beautiful places in Israel.
Lalechet al Ha’Maim is, in a way, one of a kind: it combines many of the cliché’ Israeli conflicts, but also manages to be a grand blasting action movie with a very big budget. Oh, and I almost forgot the best part: it stars Lior Ashkenazi, who was, and still is, the most talented (and good looking) Israeli actor.
July 18, 2012 | 6:14 am
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
I am not a political analyst. I can’t foresee political scandals and can’t predict politicians’ next moves. I am nothing but a common Israeli citizen who reads the paper. My modest point of view is of a head of a party, the biggest we’ve got, who instead of thinking first and then doing, does first and only then thinks. It seems like Shaul Mofaz, the chairman of Kadima party, hasn’t decided yet who he wishes to impress more: the Prime Minister, or the voters.
It was only two months ago when I wrote about Shaul Mofaz’s odd declaration to join Netanyahu’s coalition, after beating Tzipi Livni for the position of the head of Kadima. While admitting this unity government may be good for Israel in the long term, there was no doubt it made Mofaz seem like a sad person with no principles, who would do anything to get a seat in the Cabinet. Back then, it seemed like he did absolutely nothing for the party he represents, and the electors who believed in their agenda. He simply joined the coalition, no conditions, no nothing. This made Mofaz’s popularity drop abruptly. People believed in him and he merely sold out. But just when people lost their hope, he rose back up, claiming that if Netanyahu refuses to accept Kadima’s terms regarding the draft of Haredi to the IDF, Kadima would return to the opposition.
At their lowest point, they’ve reached us right where it hurts- the draft. Nowadays, it seems to be one of the top two issues that the Minister who takes them the most seriously,would become the most popular amongst us. When it comes to the Haredi recruitment to the IDF, Mofaz and Netanyahu managed to settle on most criteria and find a common ground with both demands. The one thing they couldn’t agree over was the age for the draft. Mofaz insisted on a draft at the age of 18 (like any other non-privileged Israeli), while Netanyahu who wishes to please the Haredi as well, insisted on an additional five years for them at a Yeshiva before the draft. Obviously there’s more to it than age, since drafting at the age of 23, while most of them already have families, means paying them much more. Honestly, the rest of the criteria were, in my opinion, far more drastic than this one, but it seems like Mofaz wasn’t able to miss a big wave of cheers from the mass. So he quit. After two months of mostly arguing with Netanyahu over the Haredi draft, Mofaz returned to the opposition. Well, I hope at least he got to enjoy the fancy coalition goodies (after all, it is a known fact they serve better coffee there) before returning to his position as head of the opposition.
I can’t help but being cynical right now, because hands down- this is ridiculous. Mofaz doesn’t know what he wants- more political privileges or principles. I can honestly say I appreciate him for standing up for his beliefs, and not letting Netanyahu bend him over. Nonetheless, I can’t help but remember the last time, where he probably emptied his head from his own mind. I don’t know whether to believe him or not, because he might change his mind yet again, while ignoring many of his fellow Kadima Ministers, after listening to them this time. I can’t even make a complete sentence here without encountering vertigo. So I’ll conclude this post in a great appreciation for the action itself, which seems to be putting the citizens of Israel first, as well as a hinge of suspicion for not knowing what Mofaz plans ahead.