Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
After a week of UN speeches, I had the urge to tell you about politicians from my point of view. For several days now my mind has been occupied with a rumble of thoughts and feelings, and I figured the only way I can make sense of it all is to write it down. So who are politicians? They are people we vote for, usually once every four years, to represent us. We choose many, for various roles and parts, while only one of them is chosen to sit on top. This person is the State leader, and he/she is the best and worst of them all. State leaders have the most responsibility, and thus they are under the most pressure. They can try and handle it in a smart way, but the outcome is usually one big mess, with only us to blame.
When we cast our votes, we usually rely on a bundle of promises, packed one on top of another, creating a utopean vision that can never happen. We, the voters, are fully aware of the non-existing reliability of those promises, but choose to believe them anyway. Why? Probably because we crave those things, and by hearing our wildest dreams being realized from the mouth of a soon-to-be important person, we act like we're under a spell. Politicians have a very sharp tongue, especially during an election year. They know exactly what to say, and we listen. We are attracted to their words like a moth to fire, and eventually vote according to their speeches, and not by relying on past actions. We are forgiving, and therefore willing to give a second chance to a mouthful of promises we want to hear so badly. After we cast our vote to the greatest promiser we lay back and wait for the magic to happen. But since our State leaders are not Walt Disney, that's not possible. As time passes by, they make sincere attempts to follow their promises and make them reality, only to discover that's not possible. Then, as we wait patiently, they try to figure a way out, and spend about a year or so coming up with reasonable excuses. At first, we get angry, as we are tired of waiting for Utopia. We promise ourselves to never fall for their traps ever again, and begin to protest against our unrealized dreams. Then, as the election date comes closer, the game changes yet again.
A part of a politician's job is to make speeches. In fact, this is their primary job and the first requirement for the part. State leaders get to make the most meaningful speeches at the top of the political world- the UN. This is the one and only neutral organization which is as far from neutral as Britney Spears is from sanity. The closer the election date is, the more vague and more grandiose their speeches become. They basically stand behind the podium and throw words like "Peace", "Will not allow", "middle east", "obligation" and "friendship" to the air, without mentioning names and without actually saying anything. Then, when their job is done, our job begins, because the interpretation is on us. The day after, newspapers are filled with the finest journalists' attempts to realize what the State leader had said. At this point, each and every one of us forms an opinion based on the newspaper we read. The politician basically sits back at his/her chair, smiling to one self. Their job is done. Ours is just beginning.
One other fact about politicians is that they have selective hearing when it comes to the world's worst enemies. A leader of a hostile country, who may put the world in danger, can say a sentence which starts with "Death to all Israelis" and ends with "Let the peace begin", and the state leaders will only hear the latter. Politicians, just like the rest of us prior to elections, can also put words and actions to a complete separation. Examples? Coming right up! When a tyrant like Assad butchers his people and then poses for a family portrait for a top magazine, smiling shyly and being quoted saying things about the peace and love, politicians will take that as a statement of peace. When Ahmadinejad makes a peace sign to the camera, while building a nuclear bomb which is officially stated for the destruction of Israel, politicians will zoom in on the peace sign without reading in between the lines (or looking at newspapers' headlines).
This leads me to the next politicians' characteristic- they are naïve. Well, they’re either that or they're really good actors. I personally believe that a politician who truly believes Ahmadinejad craves peace is in the wrong business. And since they obviously make beautiful speeches and have ravishing charisma, they are in the right business, meaning they honestly can't really believe in his peace and love screen of lies. A politician who says he believes peace in the Middle East will arrive shortly is naïve. Same goes for the unbelievable politicians who listen to Ahmadinejad stating he intends to destroy every last Israeli and then shakes hands with him, saying his nuclear weapon is for research. A politician saying any of those things is a politician who sits far away from here, and has no clue what's really going on. This is a politician who has a lack of understanding of just how important Israel is for maintaining of peace in the Middle East. There are far more than one politician of that kind. There are countless politicians who truly believe in fairytale peace without changing a thing, or simply by exchanging words with our Prime Minister (who is quite a politician himself). This will not bring peace, and these are NOT the people who should sit on top of the political-diplomatic ladder.
A true state leader, the one we really need, is a person who sticks to what he believes in, even during the election year. A true state leader is the person who is willing to make a change in this world, come what may. A person who is willing to take a risk for the sake of humanity. A true state leader will not only say all of this, but actually do, and "do" is the key word. I am a realistic person, which means I have almost lost hope in such a Messiah, but deep inside, I am still looking for the politician who will bring back our belief in that profession. The most important thing we all must remember is that both the blame and the hope is on us. We must not forgive and forget like we do once in every four years or so. We must remember and face all of the wrongs and rights, not listen to polls or promises, and fight for out Utopia.
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October 1, 2012 | 11:00 am
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
* Moran Itzkovitch (34), an Israeli with a dream, will lift off on a hot air balloon, on a journey across five continents. Itzkovitch, along with a group of one Israeli and eight Americans, will lift off from the Gilboa in Israel on October 3rd and participate in the Israeli hot air balloon festival in the south. Two days later, they will take a boat to Virginia, US, hover over ten states, and from there fly to South America, Asia, Australia and Europe. The journey is due to last one year, but according to Itzkovitch, nothing is certain when using a hot air balloon as transportation.
* In the past decade, a contest called Junior Eurovision took place. This is a singing competition starring children and aimed for children from all over Europe. The Junior Eurovision operates in a similar way to the official annual Eurovision Song Contest, where each member country submits a song to be performed on live television and radio and then casts votes for the other countries' songs to determine the most popular song in the competition. While Israel participates in the official contest since 1973 (with three wins), an Israeli delegation was invited to take part in the Junior Eurovision this year for the first time. In our delegation there are six members, ages 10 to 14, which will try to impress the rest of Europe on December 1st.
* Research on molecules' energy in coal earned Yuval Catzanelson (18) from Israel the first prize on First Step to Nobel Prize in Physics, an international contest which took place in Poland. The Israeli delegation had 16 members, from which 12 won various prizes and honorary scrolls in various categories. This made Israel come in first place as a delegation. But Catzanelson was the only Israeli member to win first prize in one of the most important categories in the contest. This will grant Catzanelson with a month-long stay in Poland, where he will perform research on his study, and will lecture in front of important figures in Physics from all over the world.
* A race car built by a group of Israeli students from Ben-Gurion University in the Negev, came in 11th on Formula SAE competition in Italy. 42 teams of Students from all over the world participated in the competition, where students design team develop a small Formula-style race car. The team that came in 1st place this year was the German team.
* Venezuela, which has no formal diplomatic relations with Israel, signed on an agreement with an Israeli company. This may not be a friendship statement, but this deal will defiantly bring Israel to Venezuela in a form of a settlement with an Israeli twist. According to the agreement, with a 400 million dollars investment- the Israeli company will build a Moshav- a unique Israeli form of settlement, which will contain 500 residence unites, schools and kindergartens, a dairy barn, chicken coops and a closed water base.
September 28, 2012 | 10:00 am
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
Netanyahu's speech last night really blew our minds. Every single Israeli, even the ones who have no respect for him as Prime Minister, agreed that this speech was on the verge of breathtaking. But turns out, once again, the joke's on us.
After wowing the audience with facts about Israel, the Middle East and Iran, and after breaking every rumor and misjudgment, Netanyahu pulled out a picture with the drawing of a bomb. It wasn't necessary. After all, he could have explained Iran's nuclear progress by using only words, but he probably wanted to make his speech unforgettable. Well, he definitely succeeded in doing that. Right after the speech, Israeli websites and Facebook accounts began to fill with Memes and caricatures of our prime minister and the bomb. But what started as an inside joke, managed to hurt our public image yet again.
Soon, those jokes spread worldwide, including articles in important papers, saying Israelis make jokes on Netanyahu's speech. It's true what some say: that this whole thing got people to remember this speech of all the others (Obama and Ahmadinejad included), but the way I look at it, this still bites us in our behinds. This speech contained all the right components. Netanyahu answered every single bad thing ever said about Israel. He managed not only to show the strategic importance of Israel in the Middle East, but also the damage in Iran's current existence there. He left the Palestinians speechless after mentioning the humanitarian aid Israelis provide them, which is something they consistently "leave out" whenever they get the chance to speak up. He answered all of those who try and harm us, or make us look bad in the eyes of the world and left the audience no choice but to applaud as he firmly said peace can never be accomplished by speeches, and that nuclear Iran will not make peace happen sooner.
This speech did something not many speeches do - convinced the world in its truthfulness. 24 hours later, all I can think of is what a shame none of those strong words were left. This was some healthy humor after an intense speech we all admired, and now it is out of context. This speech will definitely be the most remembered one. Only people would not remember the importance of drawing a red line, they will remember the drawing of a bomb and an empty sentence about Road Runner and Wiley Coyote. Yet again, maybe I am too much of a pessimist. perhaps this bomb will have the right impact, enough to stop the real bomb…
September 27, 2012 | 10:27 am
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
I have recently encountered several comments condemning and disrespecting some ways of religious beliefs. Some were aimed at me, some aimed at others. Surprisingly enough, in "some ways of religious beliefs" I don't mean other religions, I mean different ways of Judaism. It is something we all do-judge. Judgment is impossible to ignore and does not skip any of us. However, when it comes to a fellow Jew choosing to express his Judaism in a different way than another, judgment should take a step back. I am not a saint, either. In fact, from time to time I used to make remarks on fellow Jews who don't fast on Yom Kippur or mix meat and dairy. This was simply something I did, without even noticing. That is until I heard myself talk.
Right before Yom Kippur, all of the fast/no fast discussions take place. With them, come the Mitzvahs arguments, and with them come condescending comments about those who don't see some of the Mitzvahs as something worth keeping. When I rolled my eyes to a friend after stating she doesn't give a damn about Yom Kippur, it suddenly hit me: why do I do that? Why do I judge somebody else's perspective on Judaism? After all, when religious friends of mine make such comments on my way of Jewish life, I get all Big Hulk on them, firmly saying: "live and let live." If this is how I see my relations with them, the relations between me and the even less religious should not be any different. Judaism is a wide rainbow, with many paths to choose. There is not one path better than another, and there's not just one path leading to a good and healthy life. "More religious" is not better than "less religious," it's just a different path.
Yom Kippur is, to me, the realization that God respects all beliefs, even of those who don't believe in God. We sometimes tend to forget we are all in the same boat. We are all Jewish, just different types of Jewish. When the gates to heaven open as the sun goes down on Yom Kippur, God doesn't measure our Mitzvahs , so I believe. He measures our obligation to Judaism, all paths considered. But more than that, he measures our behavior as people. He measures our humanity and compassion for each other, the ability to look behind skin color, sexual preferences, or ways of beliefs. Last night, when I looked at the sky that night, after "Kol Nidrei", I knew deep in my heart that what I have to say or ask for is worth just as much as the heart-wishes of an Orthodox person or the ones of my non-fasting friend. You may agree with me, and may completely dismiss my entire statement, and that's okay. But I can only hope every single one of us will remember, especially in this time of the year, that all people are equal, and that none of us is better than the others, or entitled to more rights- in front of God or in front of the people of the world. I would like to use this stage to call you to do your best in thinking twice before passing a judgment on someone else. I sure will. חתימה טובה וצום קל!
September 24, 2012 | 10:10 am
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
In the past week, Muslims from all over the world lost it because of a movie. Since I haven't seen it, I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and say it is, in fact, more offensive than any artistic protest ever made before. Does this justify violent behavior on such scale? Does this justify murder? Of course not, nothing does. But it happened anyway. Islamists all over the world were so offended, they didn't set in for the civil reaction which is a legit protest and a request to ban this film. Instead they shook up the world, causing damage on an unbelievable scale because of somebody's opinion on Muhammad. Being extreme is never a good thing, and unfortunately with every religion comes an extreme group which causes all the negative opinion on that religion. That extreme group is usually easily offended and is willing to use all means to protect its honor. Judaism has it and Christianity has it, but the extreme Islamists are by far the worst. First of all, there are more extreme Islamists than extreme Jews or Christians (simply because there are more Islamists in the world, but also in relation to the total number of the religion followers). Secondly, they act more often and tend to shake the world into listening to what they have to say.
Remember I said before I am willing to pretend this to be the most offensive artistic protest ever made? I changed my mind. Why? Because it is not possible. Us, Jews, encounter offensive movies, opinion columns, an caricatures on a daily basis. We handle with "The Jew" image for centuries. We are forced to encounter dark beliefs that people still trust, even in the 21st century. In fact, those beliefs, as we all sadly remember, caused the nearly destruction of our people in the 40's of the last century. So no, this movie could not have been that offensive. And I'm sure that there were Jews over the years who reacted in a rather extreme way, but if I recall correctly, we mostly sat quiet and "swallowed the bitter pill" rather than going to the streets and giving the world quite a shake. The not-so-funny part is, however, that most of the offensive behavior towards Judaism comes from the extreme Islamists. We reluctantly watch the Israeli flag, with the Star of David and the colors of the Talis, being burned on a daily basis. We also witness countless hurtful caricatured of "the Jew" being drawn by extreme Islamists, and are forced to hear more "death to the Jews" or "death to Israelis" call than calls for peace. This gives them NO RIGHT to kill people because one filmmaker expressed his hurtful opinion, which, if you had the chance to forget, was soon accused (by them) of being a "filthy Jew". Because why not leverage their chance for yet another riot to hurt us even more in the eyes of the world.
Bottom line is the world was on fire, literally, for a week. It wasn't justified by any other than those who lit it, and people were lost their lives over an overemotional reaction. This led me to my next and probably worst problem with last week's events: The western world's reactions. I browsed online, trying to find a proper reactions from the world leader's to the riots. I found none. The U.S government, which is led by the person with the obligating title: Leader of the Free World, only said the violence was not justified. So basically, Obama nicely asked them to stop what they're doing and threatened he would not give them candy after dinner tomorrow if they won't stop their destructive behavior. No angry reaction, no formal condemnation, not even a frown. I don't know what was the reason for him to react that way. Could have been a personal reason, could be a result of a careful consideration, could be an attempt to get more voters. I don't know, and frankly I don't care. The only thing I can safely say is that this reaction was absurd, and moreover unfair in comparison to how easily Obama condemns Israel for things not even half as bad as this. This reaction is yet another link in the chain of poor foreign policies, which I don't understand. As for the U.N, I must sadly say I knew I wasn't going to find anything official from the Human Rights Council, or even from the General Assembly. After all, this is the same organization that chose to investigate the inconvenience in the Palestinian territories while the government in Syria butchered its civilians. Since I already jumped to accusations, I will point out that it is possible that I missed the U.N condemnation on my Google search and while reading the paper, but I doubt it.
On the same matter, there's also the whole "freedom of speech in any cause" discussion. As an Israeli Jew, who encounters offensive material whenever she logs on, I say that fighting this is a losing game. People have some very hurtful things to say. Some remain "in doors," some is being translated into any form of art. Blocking this would be blocking the freedom of speech, and this is a decision every country should make to itself. China has already made this decision, and its citizens are forced to be detached from the Global world. Islam countries may join China, if they wish. But preventing freedom of speech worldwide would be a step backwards. Because no matter how hurtful it is to read "you stinky Jew" as a comment to a post, a world without freedom of speech is a dark world. I know most offensive comments online are being blocked, and that's more than okay, but since we cannot track every single offensive line, it's better to leave them online than to block the entire net. Sometimes, so I believe, writing such a comment online is a satisfaction for someone who otherwise would act outside of the World Wide Web.
Parts from "Innocence of Muslims" can be found here on Youtube
September 21, 2012 | 1:00 pm
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
There is not a single Israeli who doesn't know Eskimo Limon (Lemon Popsicle), when about 20% of Israelis know it by heart. This 1978 cult film directed by Boaz Davidson became an essential part of the Israeli culture, and is being quoted on various opportunities since then. The plot is not much of a sophisticated one, and the acting is far from being Oscar worthy, but none of those came its way to become the Israeli, ahead of its time American Pie.
Eskimo Limon focuses on three male high-school students growing up in Tel Aviv and deals with each other, their peers, girls (older women as well) and adolescence. In spite of it being your typical teen flick, Eskimo Limon also tackles the more serious matters of adolescence, such as unwanted pregnancy and betrayal. Highly recommended if you want to feel like an Israeli, and simply if you're looking for some good time.
September 19, 2012 | 10:30 am
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
Rosh Hashana is my favorite holiday. But more than the food and the family-time, what makes this holiday my favorite is the atmosphere. It's this something I feel inside of me, in my house, in my town and nationwide. It is a one of a kind holiday spirit. As I said before, a Jewish holiday in Israel is not like the ones in the States: it is felt e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e. The stores are decorated, the people are smiling, and holiday songs are played on the radio. In Israel, every holiday carries the entire nation on a swirl of a joyful spirit. But Rosh Hashana's swirl is the best of them all. From the moment I wake up to the second I fall asleep, I feel like I'm in heaven. Ask anyone that knows me well enough and they'll tell you- in Rosh Hashana I am less cynical than ever. In the name of the holiday spirit, I will make an attempt to show you what it is that I see in the beginning of the Hebrew year…
First of all, I want to point out I am not religious, and so when I talk about a "spiritual experience", I am not referring to anything God-ish. My spiritual holiday experience does exist, but in a different way. It's that something in the air that gives me the feeling life is too good to be true, and I have every reason to celebrate it. Here are the three things I love about Rosh Hashana:
The first thing I love about Rosh Hashana is the radio. Every Rosh Hashana eve, from noon to 4pm, the biggest radio station, Galgalatz, ranks the best Hebrew songs of the year, and hands out awards for the best female singer, best male singer, best musical group and the "breakthrough" of the year. It's just like Billboard, only it happens once a year on such a scale. During those four hours, I am wearing my headphones. I usually work out during the first hour, and do some holiday shopping for my family at the mall at the second hour. In the next hour I walk down the streets, soaking in the holiday atmosphere as I greet my neighbors with a "happy holiday" greeting, and watch the people get ready for their big family dinners. The fourth hour is my quality time with my mother. Every year, we rank the songs together, and then listen to the top ten songs (the last hour) together, while cooking for the holiday dinner. This is most definitely my favorite time of the day, and my favorite type of mother-daughter time.
The second thing I love about Rosh Hashana is the optimism. In every holiday people feel slightly elevated, but Rosh Hashana makes everyone fly high in the sky. First of all, for three days, there is almost no bad news. The newspapers are filled with special interviews and very optimistic summaries of the year. Almost as if all that's wrong in the world faded away. Moreover, the people themselves seem to be less angry and anxious. It's almost as if we live in a Disney movie for the three days of holiday. The usually rude, easily triggered Israelis seem to forget their stereotypes, and appreciate their friends, family, neighbors and strangers more than the usual. I love that nationwide optimism. It's nice to know the world is not only crime, nuclear weapons and diplomatic issues. In a "regular" day, we sometimes tend to forget the good, and make more room for the bad. We take our loved ones for granted, we pay no attention to our attitude towards strangers, and we read mostly negative stories in the papers. One of the outcomes of this bursting optimism, and another thing that makes me love holidays, is the fact that this is the only time of year I almost enjoy traffic. During Rosh Hashana eve, the roads of Israel are packed with families trying to get to their dinner in time. I may not know this for a fact, but I have a pretty solid feeling every single car plays the same station, and in that way, all of Israel shares a moment. The songs playing on the radio, along with the atmosphere in the air, makes the record-breaking traffic bearable and almost nice. So bearable that it's the only time you hear almost no honks and curse words. Rosh Hashana is also a time of giving. It is the time when we put our own problems aside and open our wallets and our hearts for the ones in need, in order for them to have a decent holiday dinner as well. This, to me, is simply beautiful, and Israel at its best. The fact Rosh Hashana is ten days prior to Yom Kippur, along with it being the first holiday to open the longest holiday period of the year after five months of drought- makes our thoughts and interactions extra positive.
The third thing I love about Rosh Hashana is the family-time. During this holiday, I almost never leave the house, and neither do my brothers. The result is the best family time you could ever think of. Unlike the average Friday dinner, where we are all anxious to meet up with our friends, the Rosh Hashana dinner always takes longer. Everyone seems to have all the time in the world, so we sit together in the living room and sing as my father and brother play the guitar. Our Rosh Hashana dinners are also in a very big scale. Usually, there are about 80 of us staying at my aunt's, which makes this holiday dinner extra special for all of us. During the two days of holiday, the family-time continues, as we go for lunch at another aunt's house, and spend some time at home together, sometimes watching old family videos.
I hope you all find what you love most about this special holiday, and may you have the best of times during the upcoming Hebrew Year. חג שמח!
September 17, 2012 | 11:00 am
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
* Warren Weinstein, an American Jew, was captured by Al Qaeda a year ago. After turning to Obama for help, he now asks Netanyahu to give his captors all they want and release him back to his home. The leader of Al Qaeda demanded the release of all Al Qaeda and Taliban members which are held in the US. In addition, he demanded that the United States and its allies would cease from air-bombing Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia and Gaza. Last May, Al Qaeda published a video of Weinstein where he turned to President Obama, asking him to answer their demands and have him released. After he refused, another video was published, this time with Weinstein addressing Prime Minister Netanyahu. He has yet to reply.
* Eli Zborowski, Chairman of the American Society for Yad Vashem, passed away last week in New York at the age of 87. Zborowski survived the Holocaust as a teenager, and after his father was murdered by the Nazis, helped save his family members, and many other Jews. Zborowski dedicated his life to the memory of the Holocaust and to helping the survivors from his residence in New York. In 1974, he founded Martyrdom & Resistance, a periodical devoted to the Holocaust. That same year, the Zborowskis endowed the United States’ first academic chair in Holocaust Studies, at Yeshiva University, New York. He was appointed to the US Holocaust Memorial Council by President Jimmy Carter and reappointed by President Reagan. He was also appointed to the NY permanent Commission on the Holocaust by Mayor Edward Koch. In 1981 Zborowski founded the American Society for Yad Vashem and served as its Chairman until his death on September 10th.
* Rosh Hashana is a time of giving. It is the time when we put aside our own problems and open our hearts and wallets in order to help needy families make it through the holidays. We all give a few Shekels to at least one organization, but there are always those who give a little bit more: Last week it has been published that a 7 year old girl and a 13 year old boy gave an extra special donation to the "Pitchon Lev" organization, helping families under financial stress. The seven year old girl decided to donate all of her savings (about 150 Dollars), telling the volunteers she wants children her age to have something to eat this holiday. Later on that day, a 13 year old boy came in, and donated some of his Bar-Mitzvah money saying he won't be able to enjoy the holiday while knowing there are people who have nothing to eat at that time.
* Last week, a very exciting and tearful gathering took place in Tel Aviv: 60 survivors of Buchenwald and Dora Mittelbau concentration camps met together for the first time. The meeting was organized by the International Buchenwald Committee, and there the survivors met with some of the people in charge of maintaining the memory of the concentration camps.
* Turns out there are musicians who believe boycotting Israel is not a solution for anything. After experiencing many disappointments from musicians who caved in to politics and cancelled their scheduled concerts in Israel, it was really pleasing to hear this "trend" did not catch on with all foreign musicians. In fact, turns out some actually cleared their busy schedules in order to discuss this issue. At the 2012 Jerusalem Music Conference, a group of musicians from all around the globe rejected the idea of boycotting Israel in one of the panels held there.