Friday, July 20, 2012

Politics – July 2012

Support is sought to facilitate the work of the Middle East Study Group. Information at http://www2.hull.ac.uk/fass/mestudygroup/informationfordonors.aspx

I also welcome promoting the two-state solution. See http://www.hull.ac.uk/rca/campaigns.html


Curiosity is an engine of success.

When I start behaving my age I know I am getting old.


~Raphael Cohen-Almagor


During the past month, former Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir died. My last communication with him was more than seven years ago, when I directed to him questions relating to the 1980s Shabac affair. Shamir was not well enough already then to respond.

Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was acquitted in two of the four corruption trials he faced. He was found guilty in one trial, and awaits decision in the most considerable file, the Holyland Jerusalem affair in which the allegation is that Olmert received a hefty bribe to authorize the building of new neighbourhoods in Jerusalem.

The movement for social justice is seeking to revamp itself, while Prime Minister Netanyahu and Minister Mofaz were seeking ways to remain in coalition. Both wished the same and no one wished to lose face. Political maneuvering is something that Mr Netanyahu masters very well. Mofaz has a lesson or two still to learn. Maybe he will better learn those lessons as a scholar… More about Mofaz infra.

The media waste a lot of ink and energy on red herrings, or summer cucumbers that have not much substance: First, why Kadima joined the coalition (purely selfish interests, nothing beyond that, and all other words are hyperbole); then the Plesner Committee and the issue whether to compel the Haredim to draft into the army (no). The real issue is the Haredi commitment to Israel, and the resources Israel is willing to commit to sustain this unproductive, inward-looking, growing community. More infra.

Glorious summer in Israel: the sun is shining, the beaches are lovely; new high towers everywhere and the building spree continues; French is less noticeable compared to the last few years; but one hears so many languages on the streets of the never-tired, energetic Tel Aviv that one feels like it's a booming international center. I love Tel Aviv. It is, as Frank Sinatra sings, just my kind of town.


Reflections on June Newsletter
Israeli Politics
World In Search of Clear Moral Leadership
Egypt
Sami Michael
Social Justice
Israeli Scientific Innovation
Just and Unjust Wars - A Study of the Israeli Wars
Why Auschwitz Was Not BombedThank You
Syria
Iran
Shrinking British ArmyMy New Article
New Books
Rembrandt Van Rijn

Movie - The Intouchables
Monthly Poem
Gem of the Month – Tel Aviv
Light Side




Reflections on June Newsletter

Rafi - I'm delighted to see your new website.  It looks terrific!  You're making a real difference, my friend.  For Israel's sake, and for the world's sake, we need the solutions you are discussing.  Cheers - Art

Art Hobson, Emeritus Professor of Physics, U Arkansas, Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA.  


Israeli Politics

Mr Netanyahu has secured his seat. No one is likely to threaten him in the foreseeable future. Labour is too weak. It is difficult to perceive Kadima as a threat under the new leadership that goes in and out of government in a world-record pace. I hope Mofaz’s sex life is better… When he entered Mr Netanyahu’s government, Mofaz was perceived as his poodle rather than a legitimate contender for leadership. And now he exited the government. What do people think of this? Not much. Why enter? Didn’t you know that Netanyahu is only deceiving you? If you didn’t, sit quietly and learn. And if you did, why retire?

Mofaz thinks primarily about Mofaz. Sometimes he feels uncomfortable about this feeling and listens to his advisers. The result is horrendous processes of decision-making; anything but prudent; he is saying the wrong things, and makes gross mistakes. I find it hard to believe that he would be able to pose a credible threat to Mr Netanyahu’s regime. He is not a viable candidate to compete against the prime minister. That’s the price Mofaz has to pay because of his zigzag from the government’s comfortable chair and back to the lukewarm seats of the opposition.

Mr Netanyahu is not going to do anything that might play into the hands of his competitors. He is interested in what I call “constructive silence”: Don’t do anything too drastic that might give power to the opposition. Simply stroll to the elections and keep your big decisions, your big moves (if there are any) until after the elections. Thus, I suspect, all those who spoke in terms of “now it is time to make big moves” will be disappointed. There is time for everything. Netanyahu enjoys a relaxed summer. Please do not disturb his peace.

This government is not going to compel the Haredim (ultra-orthodox) to serve in the army. PM Netanyahu is their greatest ally. I suspect no government can do this. The government may opt to create a separate army for Haredim, with no women present, no women singing, no women dressing or, God forbid, undressing, with ultra kosher food, with shabbat-clocks installed, and special training to suit the Haredi abilities and worldview. But I do not think this will happen soon. Maybe in the future, when they become the majority and won’t have the luxury of secular people protecting them.

Over all, just over half of Israelis now do military duty. Israel is no longer a nation in arms. Last year, about 17 percent of 18-year-old Haredim joined the Army, compared with about 75 percent of other Jewish men. These Haredi men, apparently do not excel in the study of Torah thus waste their time serving in the IDF; an additional 14 percent of Haredim and 8 percent of Arab citizens signed up for civilian service. Commendable, but a far cry from the target numbers.

While Haredim account at present for less than 10 percent of Israel’s 7.8 million citizens, and Arabs account for 20 percent, their high birthrates mean that about 46 percent of today’s kindergartners come from these two groups. Israel surely and slowly returns to the biblical days of religious Israel, with the Chivy, Yevusy and Pelishti residing in its territory and around it. Hurray. And the Third Temple? Will it be destroyed by external enemies or internal rivalries?


World In Search of Clear Moral Leadership

In March 1999, the USA led the western world via NATO forces to put a halt to genocide. It instituted a justified 78-day bombing campaign against Serbia. This humanitarian involvement, which President Clinton dubbed “the first ever humanitarian war” was taken after the refusal of the Serbian leader, Slobodan Milosevic, to sign the Rambouillet Agreement (http://www.state.gov/www/regions/eur/ksvo_rambouillet_text.html) which aimed to stop the violence against the Albanian minority in the Serbian region of Kosovo. The air campaign led to Serb government capitulation and to the entry of NATO forces into Kosovo. For the first time, a major war was won by air power alone (Dan Halutz tried to imitate this in 2006 against the Hezbollah and failed miserably). The war was waged outside any UN remit as Russia would almost certainly have vetoed the military campaign in the UN Security Council.

Syria

Now a similar situation arises in Syria, yet Obama hesitates. Syrian genocide is going on day in and day out, and we need moral leadership to halt it.


Nuclear weapons and Iran

President Obama expressed commitment to reduce the role of nuclear weapons, as written in Article 6 of the Non-Proliferation Treaty: “Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a Treaty in general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control” (http://www.fas.org/nuke/control/npt/text/npt2.htm). He has negotiated with Russia to reduce their respective nuclear arsenals. He has been a driving force behind the sanctions campaign against Iran which until now yielded limited results. Far more has to be done to ensure that Iran remains free of nuclear attacking capabilities and that the region would not enter into a relentless nuclear arms race which would destabilize the security of the Middle East and the world at large.


Palestinian occupation

We are born free and would like to live our lives as free human beings. Like Old Cato I have been saying time and again that occupation qua occupation is an appalling phenomenon, an aberration that should discontinue, the sooner the better.



The Israeli occupation is 45-year long. It needs to come to a close at some point. The present government is striving to make the West Bank Israeli by enlarging settlements; paving more roads for the use of Israelis, and only Israelis; taking water and land from the Palestinians.

At present, some 300,000 Israelis reside in more than 120 settlements and dozens “unrecognized” sites in the West Bank excluding East Jerusalem. They encompass 10% of the territory. All of them are in Area C which takes 60% of the West Bank and in which 150,000 Palestinians reside. The total Palestinian population of the West Bank is over 2 million.

The Palestinian population in the entire West Bank, Areas A, B and C, is deprived of basic civic and human rights. They are subject to Israeli military directives and to continued discrimination in the allocation of water and energy; their freedom of movement is severely restricted; their taxes are paid to Israel that is required to return to the Palestinian Authority (PA); they are required to receive permits to exit and enter the Bank; their security is in the hands of Israel. In essence, Israel continues to control Palestinian life in all vital aspects: civic, economy and security. Israel behaves like a control-freak motivated primarily by fear as well as feelings of superiority. Israel should let go.

To be clear, I am not suggesting unilateral withdrawal. The Gaza lesson has been learnt, thank you. I am calling for direct and sincere negotiations with the PA to bring the conflict to rest. I am calling, as you all may know, for a two-state solution. Soon. Now.


Egypt

Egypt got rid of the Mubarak authoritarian regime and is now facing two options: either the Muslim Brotherhood authoritarian theocracy, or military authoritarian rule. Egypt may elect theocracy by democratic means or be coerced into military rule to evade theocracy.

The marvels and pitfalls of democracy are an illustration of what I termed in my books “The Democratic Catch”. What form of coercion is better for the Egyptian people? Will it be an improvement to the Mubarak era?

The future for the Egyptian citizens remains bleak; the consequences for Egypt’s neighbours are unclear.


Sami Michael

I just returned from the 28th Annual Conference of the Association for Israel Studies that was held at the University of Haifa. I presented two papers: “Separation between State and Religion in Israel”, and “Accommodating the Palestinians on Both Sides of the Fence”. The Keynote speaker was the author and human rights activist, Sami Michael.



Michael argued that Israel still has not found the way to address three fundamental problems: its place in the Middle East; racism; and the religious-secular schism.

In his honest, blunt way, Michael said conclusively, with no make-up: Israel is the most racist country in the western world. Clearly, Michael is very troubled by the constant manifestations of racism against Palestinians, against Middle-Eastern Jews, against guest workers and refugees. Michael was a victim of racism as an immigrant from Iraq during the 1950s. He believes that racism of the Ashkenazi against the Middle Eastern (Sephardi) is very much alive and kicking, cutting across the entire Israeli society and shared by the right and left political spectrum. To his mind, much of the Israeli left is false as it does not truly aspire to achieve equality and justice in Israeli society. Michael called himself an “immigrant inside my country”.

Israel was and still is eager to settle at the heart of Palestinian population. The occupation started by the Jewish socialist movement, and is maintained by Jewish capitalism. The Palestinians are paying a high price for the occupation, but Israel focuses only on the price that it is paying in combating Palestinian terrorism, which aspires to freedom and sovereignty. Michael argued that during the past thirty years for each and every Israeli who was killed by Palestinian violence, ten Palestinians were killed by Israeli brutality.

Michael spoke of the spiritual and cultural fascism that is prevalent in Israeli society. One recent example is the Attorney General’s decision to close the “King Torah” (Torat Hamelech) case, a fascist book published by some rabbis that authorizes the killing of non-Jews who compete with Israel over Eretz Yisrael. This wrong, unjust decision enables free dissemination of this fascist book across Israel.

Israel, argued Michael, turned its back on basic values of humanism and human rights. Israel cannot be a spiritual country as long as it upholds such racist sentiments. Michael acknowledged that Israel is a prosperous due to the hard work and industry of its citizens but it should realize that the tank and the rifle are meaningless when confronted with a child who is holding a stone.


Social Justice

2 July 2012
A plenary session dealt with the movement for social justice. There were three speakers: two belonged to the movement, and one represented the Ministry of Finance. The latter, Dr. Avi Simhon, presented figures, speaking of “growth”, “inflation control”, “flourishing industry”, claiming that Prime Minister Netanyahu goes against the wealthy elite of Israel! How ignorant am I in not seeing that, and thinking the reverse. When someone commented that it seems that he was talking of a different country, his answer was that the Israeli public is misled by Haaretz newspaper, a hostile and biased paper that does not let the facts sway its editors from their inherent bias against the just government. Dr. Simhon’s reality is not shared by vast segments of the Israeli population.

Professor Yossi Zeira, an economist who serves as a consultant to the social justice movement, avoided arguments with Dr. Simhon. He simply said that the wealth does not trickle down. The government focuses on the numbers, not the people. It is not a bottom up economy but an economy that benefits the elite and thinks that the elite would push the entire society up. This does not happen. There is a vast discrepancy between economy of figures and just economy.

The 1979 peace treaty with Egypt brought about a drastic reduction in the security budget. One would hope that the free money would be diverted to social services but this did not happen. In real terms, the monthly income in Israel did not rise since 2000. The growth of the Israeli economy does not affect the salary people bring home. The inequality in society is increasing since the 2000s. There is more neglect of fundamental social services, with the development of gray and black markets for everything: products, education, health, services. The privatisation of services increases prices and pushes more people from the middle classes to struggle against poverty.

Mr Netanyahu is an old-fashioned capitalist who does not understand the meaning of social justice. The very terminology is foreign to his ears. He believes in capital, made by capitalists who push the social wagon forward. Socialism is a four-letter word.

Social justice means providing adequate health care to every resident of the State. Note that I said “resident”, not necessarily “citizen”. Israel should not neglect the needy guest workers and refugees.

Social justice means maintaining an education system that enables pupils to learn about the world and to develop their individuality and thinking.

Social justice means fair distribution of wealth.

The litmus test is the salaries of what I call the “angel professions”, those that are based on giving to others: teachers, nurses, social workers. These professions provide the social underpinning of society and, to a large extent, secure society’s future. People in these professions should earn a decent living, enjoying attractive salaries that would draw the best people into them.

Social justice means that people who worked and contributed to society for 45 years will be able to retire in dignity, and live on their pension in the same level of living they are use to.

Social justice means taking care of the needy, the poor, the elderly.

Social justice means that the banks protect the best interests of the people, not that the people serve the best interests of the banks.

Social justice means progressive taxation that maintains a small gap between the rich and the poor and strives for a wide middle class.

Social justice means equality before the law.

Social justice requires leadership that leads by example, looking at the people in the eyes, not looking down at people from the recently-built most lucrative skyscrapers.



I asked Stav Shafir, one of the popular leaders of the social justice movement, what are the plans to bring substantial changes. Many people support the movement and what it aims to achieve; but on Election Day most of them will vote Likud. There is no real opposition to Mr Netanyahu. Among the ranks of the social movement we do not see national-religious people, settlers and the Haredi population. This is for obvious reasons: Mr Netanyahu is their greatest supporter.  In the social justice movement we do not see many Israeli-Palestinians who still do not feel that they belong to Israel, who are alien to its principal values. It is unclear how many people of the peripheries take active part in the social justice movement. Shafir said “many”. We do not see or hear them. Shafir explained that this is because the Israeli media tend to focus on Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. But she agreed with me that many of these people in the periphery will continue to vote Netanyahu.

The key for change is to lose innocence and enter the muddy political waters. I asked Stav whether there are any plans to associate the social justice movement with any political party. She answered in the negative. I asked whether they plan to establish a party and her answer was that “we are debating this”. Well, if no concrete steps will be taken to enter politics, nothing substantive will happen. Netanyahu is a very capable politician. He will find ways to overcome the challenge that does not undermine his vast coalition. We saw that he established the Trajtenberg Committee, made a few changes, none of which is truly game-changing,  and bolstered the coalition by inviting Kadima in.

Can the Egyptian spring happen in Israel? Probably not. Netanyahu is not Mubarak, and Israeli democracy is not Egyptian authoritarianism. We see that the police are more impatient with the protesters, and there is little doubt in my mind that the instructions come from above. Police violence only plays into the hands of the social justice movement. I think the establishment has recognized that and issued new orders to avoid violence and maintain law and order with utmost respect. The bottom line, I am afraid to say, lots of blah-blah and little essence.


I asked Stav what is her profession. She said she was a journalist. Now she is a full time activist. The movement receives some sponsorship and now she earns more or less the same as she did as a journalist: 5000 shekels ($1250) per month. I bet Dr. Simhon earns a bit more. Young, single people can survive with such a salary but not for long. People like Stav are the true future of Israel. They deserve more, far more, to develop themselves and contribute to society to the best of their abilities. The government should help them pave their way, not exhaust them and tag them as “anarchists, zealots, leftist, radicals, anti-social”. Shame. Real shame.

13 July 2012
The Israeli periphery is no different than peripheries in other parts of the world. It is neglected. It is far from the eyes and mind of the centre that does not invest in it in a just, egalitarian way. Unemployment is relatively high; infrastructure is lacking; public transportation is awful; human power is not great. The periphery does not attract the best of the crop. It does not attract, period. People with options use the options. People with no or little option go to the periphery.

In 2010, the unemployment rate in Kiryat Gat was 10.4% compared to 3.1% in Tel Aviv. Salaries are 2/3 compared to salaries of people who work in similar jobs at the centre; 47% complete high school with matriculation certificate compared to 66% at the centre; hospital beds are 1.3 for 1000 people compared to 2.5 beds in Tel Aviv; for every 1000 people there is 1.6 physicians, compared to 5.5 physicians in Tel Aviv. (Revital Hovel, “Why protest did not succeed in the periphery”, Haaretz, 13 July 2012).



Haaretz published an interview with Danny Cohn-Bendit, known as “Red Danny”, Dany le Rouge, leader of the student revolution in France 1968 and now leader of the Green Party at the European parliament. His advice to the leaders of the social justice movement in Israel is to join forces and move forward as one party. To succeed, they must enter the muddy political waters and address troubling questions such as the occupation and peace with the Palestinians as the occupation and enlarging the settlements are very costly, at public expense, and because a party needs to relate to all contentious issues in society, not just a fraction of them.

Cohn-Bendit went a long way from an anti-establishment radical activist to a successful parliamentarian. If some leaders of the Israeli social movement wish to have a similar career, they should observe his words carefully. If they wish to remain anti-establishment, confront the police whenever the establishment decides to unleash it against them, and to affect Israeli society as they did until now (in common parlour, Bibi eats them without salt), they should ignore him completely.


Israeli Scientific Innovation

See new technology designed to enable people confined to wheelchairs to walk:


Just and Unjust Wars - A Study of the Israeli Wars

From the conference in Haifa I went to the University of Reading to participate in the Liberal Wars conference where I presented my research “Just and Unjust Wars - A Study of the Israeli Wars”. In this research I apply Michael Walzer's theory and examine the extent to which Israeli wars were justified.



The debate over what constitutes a just war is ancient. Just war theories stem from philosophical, religious and military thinking. Christian religious thinkers, like St. Augustine (354-430), and Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274) spoke of laws of war and peace, reflecting on the reasons that bring about war (jus ad bellum) and the means employed in the conduct of war (jus in bello). A contemporary thinker who has developed a liberal theory on just and unjust wars that accentuates moral considerations is Michael Walzer. He used Clausewitz as a point of departure, aiming to construct an interdisciplinary liberal theory that brings together political theory, ethics and international relations. In this paper, I employ Walzer’s theory to assess the justifications for all Israeli wars from the day of its establishment until nowadays. Section (I) provides historical-philosophical background and context. Section (II) accentuates the underpinning principles of Walzer’s theory. Section (III) explains Israel’s precarious position in the Middle East and its defence policy. Section (IV) employs Walzer’s theory to analyse the wars. I argue that while the 1948 Independence War, the 1956 Suez War, the 1967 Six Day War, and the 1973 Yom Kippur War were justified, the 1982 Lebanon War, the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah War, and the 2008-2009 War on Gaza were not.

Why Auschwitz Was Not Bombed
Richard Overy is an historian of the Second World War. Overy explained in his lecture on bombing during WWII that the allies would not line up 10,000 people for killing but they bombed German cities which resulted in such a number of casualties, sometimes in a single air raid.

It occurred to me that the Nazis, on the other hand, had no qualms to line up many thousands of Jews for execution. They stopped doing this not because morality troubled them but for reasons of expediency and the psychological effects that the en masse murderous conduct had on the perpetrators.

I asked Professor Overy why the allies did not bomb Auschwitz. By 1943, the allies knew that Auschwitz was a death camp and they had the capability to bomb the camp. They did bomb the factory that helped the Germans in their war effort (Buna-Werke, the I.G. Farben industrial complex located adjacent to the Monowitz forced labor camp located 5 kilometres from the Auschwitz I camp was bombed several times) but they did not bomb Birkenau. Overy explained that the targets bank included places that could harm the Germans and bring the war nearer to its end. The idea was to defeat the Nazis as soon as possible and ipso facto save the people in the camps. I said that if they were to bomb the gas chambers and crematoria, the allies could have saved at least half a million victims including the entire 400, 000 Hungarian Jewry. Overy answered that the Nazis would have built the gas chambers and crematoria very quickly and resume operations as they did when the railroads were bombed. Whenever the allies bombed the railroads, those were fixed rapidly, sometimes within a day. True, I said, but I do not speak of railroads but about the destruction of the death factory - the gas chambers and crematoria. Surely, those could not be fixed so rapidly. The allies did not include the gas chambers and crematoria in their considerations simply because they did not care. I asked Overy what would have happened if there were British in Auschwitz. He said: Well, this would have been a violation of the Geneva Convention on treatment of war prisoners. The British would have retaliated and avenge this. They would not have allowed this to happen. But there was no reason for the Germans to do this to the British. I wondered: And was there a reason to do this to the Jews?



Aerial reconnaissance photograph of Auschwitz showing Auschwitz II (Birkenau) taken by the U.S. Air Force between April 4, 1944 and January 15, 1945. The photos were discovered in the Defense Intelligence Archives by two CIA photo analysts in 1978 (USHMM Photo Archives). Source: http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Holocaust/bombau.html


Please see the attached letters. I thank Professor Andy Knapp for sending them to me.





Thank You

I thank Mira and Yizhar Nozick, Gila and Reuven Yagoda, Avi and Karin Ohri, Mira and Ofer Harel for their kind hospitality in Israel.

I thank Alan Cromartie, and Sarah and Andy Knapp and for their kind hospitality in Reading.


Syria

There are significant positive developments in Syria. Senior officials and generals crossed the border to Turkey. The US is said to arm the insurgents. Of course, far more needs and should be done to bring the end to the ruthless Assad regime.

Did President Obama know John Rawls? Surely he read him. Maybe someone could send Obama excerpts of Rawls' The Law of Peoples on addressing aggression of outlaw states.


Iran

The US avoids confrontation with nuclear powers.  This fact does not escape the Iranians and serves as an incentive for them to join the lucrative nuclear club.


Shrinking British Army

The British government has decided to substantially decrease it defence budget. The army is cut to 80,000 people, half of its size during the Cold War.

I congratulate the British government for taking this decision and wish all world governments to follow suit. It would be nice to live in an army-free world.


My New Article

Just published an article co-authored with Sharon Haleva-Amir: “Why Monitor Violent Websites? A Justification”, Beijing Law Journal, Vol. 3, No. 2 (June 2012), pp. 64-71: http://www.scirp.org/journal/blr/.

The article is an updated, much shorter version of an article published in 2008.


New Books

Jan Van Dijk, The Internet Society, London: Sage, 2012.

   This is a brilliant, highly informative book about the Internet. Its organization is simple and constructive. Chapter 3 is about technology. Chapter 4 concerns the economy of the Internet. Chapter 5 is about network politics, E-participation and its democratization powers. Chapter 6 concerns legal aspects, including E-governance, intellectual property rights, and the right to privacy. Chapter 7 is about space and time in the Network society. Chapter 8 relates to Digital Culture. Chapter 9 is on the psychology of the Internet: perception, cognition and the New Media.

This is a thought-provoking, intelligent and insightful book. I thank Sage for sending me a copy.


Recently two books were published on the Second World War: All Hell Let Loose by Max Hastings, and The Second World War by Antony Beever. Both books say little on Jewish resistance during the war.  Taylor Halpern has recently written to me, asking to highlight  the role of Jewish partisans in fighting the Axis powers during the war.

According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the majority of the Jewish partisan struggle took place after 1942, when it became clear that the Nazi effort was not just about expanding their powers over Europe, but of wiping out all members of the Jewish faith. By that time, most of the Jewish partisans had experienced their all-encompassing persecution first hand, they had seen their own family members, their friends and neighbors and fellow Jews taken by the Nazis and sent to concentration camps. In those camps many would be murdered. Indeed, many partisans watched their loved ones killed firsthand.

Jewish resistance units operated in France, Belgium, the Ukraine, Belorussia, Lithuania, and Poland. Jews also fought in general French, Italian, Yugoslav, Greek, and Soviet resistance organizations.

In Eastern Europe, thousands of surviving Jews waged a battle against the Axis forces in ghettos and in forests. They did this even though anti-Semitism of the local populace was often wide-spread. Their efforts paid off. In 1943, with the tide turning, public sentiment in Eastern Europe was on their side and their efforts garnered more support. Meanwhile, in Western Europe, Jewish partisan groups joined with the French underground, supporting the uprisings in Paris, Toulouse, and Lyon, as well as smuggling fleeing Jews through to Switzerland. Underground Jewish partisan groups also operated in Belgium and Italy.

Halpern argues that the impact of the Jewish partisans is not as well known as it should be. Indeed, there is always a scope for further research to understand the Jewish contribution to the partisan movement in Europe and the relationships between the Jewish partisans and partisans of other religions and denominations. It is up to future generations to spread awareness of their bravery and sacrifice. 




Rembrandt is my favourite painter. You may understand why by looking at this wonderful resource, http://www.mystudios.com/artgallery/R/Rembrandt-Van-Rijn/Rembrandt-Van-Rijn-oil-paintings-1.html

Very few artists are able to capture light and the depth of colours as Rembrandt did.


Movie - The Intouchables



This is a beautiful, magical film about an aristocratic quadriplegic who hires a young man from a different life to be his caretaker. Together they discover the meaning of life. This is a charming gem, a make-you-feel-good film, in the best French tradition of a comic-drama that takes you to acknowledge the inner beauty of human relationships. We are intrigued by one another when we concede that to be different can be interesting and inspiring, when we find a chemistry that enriches us, when relationships make us better, rounder people.

Fran├žois Cluzet is wonderful and so is Omar Sy. The music by Chopin fits beautifully. I loved every moment.

This is the best film I have seen this year.



Monthly Poem

Limits

Of all the streets that blur in to the sunset,
There must be one (which, I am not sure)
That I by now have walked for the last time
Without guessing it, the pawn of that Someone



Who fixes in advance omnipotent laws,
Sets up a secret and unwavering scale
for all the shadows, dreams, and forms
Woven into the texture of this life.

If there is a limit to all things and a measure
And a last time and nothing more and forgetfulness,
Who will tell us to whom in this house
We without knowing it have said farewell?

Through the dawning window night withdraws
And among the stacked books which throw
Irregular shadows on the dim table,
There must be one which I will never read.

There is in the South more than one worn gate,
With its cement urns and planted cactus,
Which is already forbidden to my entry,
Inaccessible, as in a lithograph.

There is a door you have closed forever
And some mirror is expecting you in vain;
To you the crossroads seem wide open,
Yet watching you, four-faced, is a Janus.

There is among all your memories one
Which has now been lost beyond recall.
You will not be seen going down to that fountain
Neither by white sun nor by yellow moon.

You will never recapture what the Persian
Said in his language woven with birds and roses,
When, in the sunset, before the light disperses,
You wish to give words to unforgettable things.

And the steadily flowing Rhone and the lake,
All that vast yesterday over which today I bend?
They will be as lost as Carthage,
Scourged by the Romans with fire and salt.

At dawn I seem to hear the turbulent
Murmur of crowds milling and fading away;
They are all I have been loved by, forgotten by;
Space, time, and Borges now are leaving me.

Jorge Luis Borges


Gem of the Month – Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv continues to dazzle me. It is full of life, movement, colours, culture, people, music, beauty. Always something to see, always something to do. A marvellous city to enjoy.

Every spare moment was spent on the beach, or near the beach. The Tel Aviv beach is my favourite place on this planet. I love water; I love sun. The golden beach is simply stunning.


Light Side



Peace and love. Enjoy the summer as long as it lasts; I am told in some countries summer is a real summer, worthy of the term, not merely a mild winter.

The British, who love to perceive themselves in special terms, somehow insist to be like the rest when it comes to the weather. For some obscure reason, they follow global convention and speak of four seasons while the brute reality shows a stark contrast between the terms and what they aim to describe. In Britain, we need to acknowledge, there are two seasons: Winter, and a mild winter. Every other term is either a testimony to the famous British sense of humor, or wishful thinking.


Yours as ever,

Rafi


My last communications are available on http://almagor.blogspot.com/
Earlier posts at my home page:
http://hcc.haifa.ac.il/~rca/

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