Saturday, April 17, 2010

Holiday Week, sort of, April 17, 2010

This is the season of the year in which we in Israel indulge in our phony holidays.  I commented on Holocaust Day last time and now we are facing Memorial Day and Independence Day, to be followed in May by the equally fake Jerusalem Unification Day.   With our characteristic sensitivity and good taste, Independence Day immediately follows Memorial Day.  First we sadly mourn our fallen and then, a switch is flipped, and we start dancing in the streets to mark our glorious independence.  The idea is to convince us that the sacrifice was worth the price, i.e. that the loss of your neighbor's son in combat is a small price to pay for our present status as a recalcitrant (for the moment) vassal of the world's superpower  We seem to be able to say no when told for our own good to stop building in East Jerusalem and to stop throwing people out of their homes. We were unable to tell the CIA to send their own Marines instead of our commandos to get a Soviet radar system from the Egyptians on Green Island forty years ago.  My neighbor's 19 year old son gave his life for this dubious cause.  There are countless other vain sacrifices that we shall mourn on Monday until the switch is thrown, sacrifices to the settlements, to the Occupation and to the egomania of idiot generals.  Our houses and cars are supposed to be decorated with national flags, made of course in China, and patriotic fervor fills the air.  I present above a different kind of flag, courtesy of the Peace Now movement.
After the flip, the Army and the establishment hold a ceremony  on Mt. Herzl in which soldiers march up and down, flags are passed from one Colonel Blimp to another, politicians blather and selected citizens light beacons for the glory of the state blah, blah.  We invite all to attend the Yesh Gvul alternative beacon ceremony held at Emil Gruenzweig Square in Jerusalem.  Last year, I had the honor of lighting one of the beacons, an event of which I am very proud and which I documented in this blog a year ago.  Please come to the event on Monday night.

Spinoza in 2010.
There were reports that Justice Richard Goldstone was to be excluded from the synagogue in South Africa where the bar mitzva of his grandson is scheduled to take place soon.  I could not but be reminded of the 17th century behavior of the Amsterdam Jewish community towards Baruch Spinoza who was excommunicated for the sin of thinking too freely.  I am glad to report that the leadership of the South African Jewish community has more values and decency than the local Zionist Federation.
I quote:
A report in the SA Jewish Report yesterday said that, following negotiations between the SA Zionist Federation and the Sandton shul, Beth Hamedrash Hagadol, where the bar mitzvah is due to take place, an agreement was reached with the family and Goldstone that he would not attend for fear of ruining the coming-of-age ceremony of his grandson.
However, last night, a spokeswoman for Zev Krengel, chairman of the SA Jewish Board of Deputies, told The Times that Goldstone had not been barred from attending the bar mitzvah.
"After thorough investigations, that Board found that the allegations are untrue," she said.
Earlier yesterday, reports on the alleged ban were met with outrage by Goldstone's peers, who labeled his exclusion from the family affair as "outrageous".  For more details click here.  I certainly hope that Justice Goldstone will attend the bar mitzva of his grandson and derive nachas from it.

More support for sending Burma to the UN for Investigation
The Czech Republic has become the third country, after Australia and the UK, to call for referring the regime in Burma to a UN Commission of inquiry.  This is good news and we hope it leads to an avalanche of nations supporting this initiative

A Bit on Science etc.

Here in Israel we complain, with justification, about the
  quality of education that our children receive and the
  depressingly low results on the PISA tests.  We might take a
  look at how the  Finns manage to be on top year after year.
 Proof of the Poincare Conjecture

There are problems in mathematics that bug people for
centuries and when solved generate a splash.  This story is
indeed strange, how someones can turn down a prize and
just become a hermit, despite obviously being a genius.

Saturn Lightning
Lightning is a fearsome natural phenomenon and gives rise to many
physical effects in the atmosphere.  It has been observed on other planets
as well along with the characteristic radio noise called whistlers that is familiar
to anyone who has ever listened to short wave radio.  My colleague Akiva Bar Nun
predicted that it would be found on Jupiter on the basis of chemical effects that would
admit of no other explanation.  It was found by the Voyager spacecraft both in images and
in radio observations by my friend, the late Fred Scarf.  We now have a movie of
lightning on Saturn from Cassini.  When watching it you should have your sound turned up to hear the
radio noise that was observed in synchrony with it.  Welcome to the show.

A Few More Rants

Here is a beautiful op-ed from the New York Times by Roger Cohen.  Thank you Yosefa for pointing it out.

I have refrained from discussing the Anat Kam case since there is not much more to be said until she has her day in court.  It is, however, worthy of note that the sensitivity of security spooks to whistle blowers who point out their shortcomings and corruption is not unique to Israel.  We have a report from the National Security Agency 
in the USA that shows how common this is. 

Some of us have trouble evaluating the opinions of experts who preach to
us about matters of public importance.  I am grateful to Bradley Burston for this
guide to MidEast experts.

A bit of good human rights news is always nice to add to our blog.  OTOH, it is unfortunate that someone thinks that everyone in Gaza has control over the Gilad Shalit issue and is refusing to allow a concert  by Daniel Barenboim's Youth Orchestra to take place there.

Be prepared to see saints wandering around Jaffa.  This week we saw a notice on the wall of the local museum providing a phone number to call to arrange a group visitation !!!

Finally congratulations to  Gene Weingarten for winning a 2010 Pulitzer Prize.  He deserved it indeed.  Now we can sign off with Below the Beltway.


1 comment:

  1. Saba it is very interesting and I liked it, the
    lightning and the noise from Saturn.
    Toda ve neshikot Maayan