Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Agreeing even with Tom Segev

Generally speaking, I am not much of a Tom Segev fan. On the other hand, I rather like Isaac Herzog, our Minister of Welfare, even though career politicians are only rarely worthy of being liked. This morning, however, the editor of Haaretz was quite right to put Segev's scathing attack on the front page.

Monday, July 30, 2007


Prior to this blog, I briefly ran an experimental one, which I used to understand the technology. People tell me it's the only blog they ever saw about starting a blog. It is now defunct, but still online, and can be visited here.

Distances and communications

Back at the turn of the 20th century all of my various great-grandparents, most of them young couples with small children, took leave of their parents, siblings and cousins in various towns and cities of what at the time was Russia, and went to America. With one notable exception, they never saw any of their relatives ever again. The separation was forever, as eveyone involved knew.

It also saved the lives of all those who migrated, as they perhaps sensed it might, but that is a different story.

Many years later my father, their grandson, went off to serve in the American military. He was already married, didn't see his wife for some months, and then got shipped off to Germany. Months later she joined him there; when I was born, a while later, one of my grandmothers came over to Germany; this was the only member of their family my parents saw for the entire three-year duration.

In the 1970's I joined the army (the Israeli one, the family having changed countries in the meanwhile). By the end of the week I was back home for the weekend. Though, truth be told, later on I often did spend many weeks with no leave, with only one weekly phonecall on Saturday night, with half of the platoon standing in line listening to the conversation and kvetching if anyone talked more than 46 seconds

Yesterday Achikam went in. Throughout the entire day I kept looking at my cellphone, hoping he'd call, or at least send a text message. Eventually he called, late in the evening. What a long day it was.

Language and Perspectives

Achikam, my 19-year-old son, was inducted into the IDF yesterday morning. Last week he and I, along with his 21-year-old sister Nechama, went to a store in Jeruslem's largest mall that specializes in the gear that soldiers buy - all those neccessary items the army doesn't supply them with. As part of their service the staff (mostly in their twenties themselves) have drawn up tailored lists of what new soldiers will need, according to their branch of the army (and, of course, they just so happen to have all the items, perhaps not dirt cheap but conveniently all at one place). So Nechama and Achikam were following the list and filling a basket with stuff, while I wandered around. Nearby stood a rather bewildered looking woman, trying to figure out what she needed. A few people tried to be helpful, but eventually she muttered that she'd simply have to bring her son; a short exchange and it was clear that her son, also, was about to enlist, just like mine.

In English when sending someone off to deal with some challenge we wish them "good luck". Not so in Hebrew, where we say "be'hatzlacha" - "may you be successful". Is there a deep philosophical difference here? I don't know.

So I expressed my wishes for the woman's son: "That he be successful". She looked at me curiously, and retorted: "Let him come back in peace. Who cares about success!?"