I wanted to write something witty about the parallels of chauvinism and machismo in the Middle East and professional kitchens but I just am totally baffled by the fact that Lebanon and Israel are fighting each other by cooking obscene amounts of falafel.
Lebanese chefs load up with falafel for Israel food fight
BEIRUT — A day after firing a 10-tonne hummus broadside in a food fight with Israel, chefs in Lebanon weighed in with another first for a Guinness record on Sunday — five tonnes of falafel.
More than 300 chefs mixed a ton of chickpeas with an equal portion of broad beans, adding onions, garlic, coriander, onion, pepper and cumin to concoct 5,173 kilos (11,381 pounds) of falafel, a deep-fried patty popular in Lebanon and many parts of the Middle East. More »
I’m no stand up, but Chasnoff is, which is where his book begins: as a wannabe comic going nowhere fast, he enlisted for a year in the IDF. The resulting hijinks with boot camp, the pushy parents of his Mizrahi girlfriend, and ultimately fighting Hezbollah in Lebanon became fodder for 270 pages of Israel-Diaspora satire.
But this isn’t Dad’s copy of The Jewish Book of Humor, put down the drum snares. Chasnoff’s straight man is himself — us Americans and Diaspora Jews by extension. Our assumptions (fantasies, really) of kickass, hardcore Jews become the joke just as much as the unprofessional (and deadly) antics of his platoon mates.
You learn a lot of military vocabulary through Crybaby. Most important, it seems, is mefageret – retard. In loyally reproducing the conversations of a teenage army, we learn the Hebrew for fuck up, whore, coward, dick, moron, disgrace, nincompoop, momma’s boy, zealot, and your mother’s cunt. What behavior could we expect from combat units staffed and run by 18- to 22-year-old males?
Male pride and military enthusiasm culminates with the most morbidly funny vignette in the book, “The Unluckiest Dog in Lebanon.” One night patrolling in Lebanon, Chasnoff sees the only action of his service: a heat signature through his Merkava tank’s night vision that could be a terrorist. Everyone awakes; the alarm is passed up the chain; the order comes to fire! Then Chasnoff identifies the “terrorist” — it’s a dog. A dog. Fueled by combat adrenaline, his commander nonetheless fires several shells. Several. Check the book for the conclusion.
The incident symbolizes the moment where the reality really kills the myth. All the training and technological mastery crescendos in a moment of absurdity. And humor is the only way to make sense of it.
I like this book because it shows us Israeli society at it’s most simple: as fickled and stratified as any other. Despite their bonding by shared boot camp hell, his fellow soldiers are awarded rank and job by virtue of racism. The whites become commanders, the Russians get second best, the Mizrahi get the worst. We may think all Israelis are heroes, but we count the notable percentage of his unit that didn’t pass boot camp. The book features cowards, drop outs, and the criminally reckless. A veritable alternate dimension.
I appreciate most that Joel Chasnoff doesn’t hit us with reality like a punch to the face. (As perhaps I am wont to do.) Instead he slowly and steadily pops our little sacred cows one by one, like a square yard of bubble wrap. It teaches as it pokes fun and it loves as it admonishes. Laughing makes both the Diaspora and Israel normal, even humble. I would highly encourage the use of this book by educators.
Ultimately Crybaby is a good book because it’s not a canned laugh track but a well-written story about a relatable Jew seeking manliness as America defines it. He comes of age not when he masters his tank or shows off his gun (see the trailer for that bit), but when he sees Israel for what it is and not what he wants it to be. And that, even if the book weren’t funny, would still make it touching and totally worth reading.
It is, of course, people who make up the cities of one’s imagination; the cities that we hold dearest and closest when we plot the paths of our lives. In an essential, non-trivial way the names of cities often are closed sets which are interchangeable with the names of certain people. For me, at a certain time—the late seventies and early eighties—Jerusalem meant, in part Yona and Miriam Baumel. I was one of the fortunate many who were the beneficiaries of their boundless hospitality. Their apartment in Bayit Ve-Gan was truly open wide, and lucky were those who fell into its embrace.
I started frequenting their home as a result of my friendship with their son Zach. We were in the same yeshivah, we were both American born (he much closer to native than I), and inevitably he invited me to spend Shabbat with his family. This was a recurrent invitation and ultimately just an open door as I became fleetingly a member of the family.
The house was characterized by laughter and warmth and generosity. It was a wonderful refuge for me, a family to stand in for the family that I had left behind in New York when I made aliyah.
In June of 1982 Zach and I went off to war. I came back. Zack still has not returned. Nothing was ever the same.
Yona and Miriam have spent the last almost 27 years trying to find Zach and reach some closure. Yona Baumel died last Friday at the age of 81 without an answer. Without knowing definitively if Zach is alive or dead. Without a son, without a gravestone. Much has been written, some of it by Yona Baumel himself, about the way the families of the MIAs from the 1982 war were treated by the IDF and the Israeli government. Its not a pretty story. It is a story about the costs of war.
Today I remember Yona Baumel before everything changed. Yehi zichro baruch.
Chillul Who? posted a summary of Gershom Gorenberg’s presentation at DC’s Sixth & I Synagogue but here is the full presentation in video. It’s really worth your own viewing. I saw Gorenberg in NYC a few weeks ago and felt he was a gust of fresh air — someone who lived Israel politics in a world of well-researched history free of the ongoing myths about Israel and the conflict. Personally, the man is a luminary for being something simple: a well-researched journalist.
I’m more than a little bummed that Waltz with Bashir did not win the Oscar. Not that I’ve seen the film that won, but it’s a break from the typical Jewish films up for Oscars which are always about the Holocaust. Seriously, it’s time to find another good-vs-evil setting in which we can inspire ourselves that We Westerners did a Good Job.
Whoa! But hang on a minute. Bradley Burston has not done his homework. Apparently this clip of Winslet was on the HBO show Extra and she’s satirizing herself and her lack of Oscar trophies despite thrice-over nominations — and three years ago at that. More »
At least three Katyusha rockets fired from south Lebanon exploded in northern Israel early Thursday morning, leaving two people lightly wounded and a number of others suffering from shock.
This was the first time a Katyusha fired from Lebanon struck Israeli territory since the Israel Air Force began its offensive against Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip on December 27.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah on Wednesday warned that should Israel attack Lebanon, it would suffer an even greater defeat than the one he claimed it suffered in 2006.
“We are prepared for every possibility and are ready for all aggression… The Zionists will discover that the war they had in July was a walk in the park if we compare it to what we’ve prepared for every new aggression,” Nasrallah said, referring to the Second Lebanon War.
A tiny bit more from the BBC. JPost points a finger at “Palestinian terror groups” and not Hizbullah.
“This is not good” is the content of a text I received just before stepping into Waltz with Bashir, as the IDF sent ground troops into Gaza. Waltz is the award-winning and Israel’s Oscar foreign film entry Oscar-nominated animated documentary about the filmmaker’s search for his wartime memories of the Saaba and Shatila massacres of the 1982 Lebanon invasion, and the implications were heavy on my mind as I stepped inside.
When I emerged I felt precisely that…implicated. Implicated for Israel’s invasion this weekend.
More than war or trauma, the film is about memory. We fabricate memories we don’t otherwise remember and we chose not to remember what we find traumatic. Searching for his own trauma-blocked memories of the Sabra and Shatila camp massacres, filmmaker Ari Folman interviews war buddies about where he was in all the fighting. “Was I there too?” he asks his former commander after a particularly bloody anecdote. The former commander takes a cigarette drag, “Of course. You were always with me.”
Snippets of visions and dreams by Folman’s war buddies compliment his own as real memories blend together — aided by the masterful animation by David Polonsky (see stills here). The visages are haunting and yet patient, never over the top or dramatic. Sometimes the depictions of war are even funny, resembling video games or a black humor’s happenstance. At the end of the film, real TV footage of the morning after in Shatila is all that reminds us that this film isn’t just a vision.
As Israel rolls into Gaza, what are the Jewish and Israeli communities remembering about the IDF’s previous ill-fated incursions to “uproot” and “destroy the terrorist infrastructure” while “minimizing civilian casualties”? Very little apparently. More »
Some new developments in the prisoner swap with Hezbollah:
Yesterday, Ha’aretz reported that Israel is exhuming the bodies of Hezbollah guerillas fulfilling part of their end of the prisoner swap for the captured soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, captured June 2006. In that article, the remains of 200 Lebanese will be transferred at the border crossing at Rosh HaNikra.
In today’s news Israel’s High Court rejected an appeal against releasing Samir Kuntar, the Lebanese convicted murderer imprisoned in Israel since 1979. In that article, Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Hezbollah, is quoted as saying that reports that Regev and Goldwasser are dead are simply “speculation.”
Let us all hope and pray that he is not being a dickwad being truthful.
In a 22-3 vote, the Israeli cabinet approved a measure that would allow for Samir Kuntar, terrorist serving 4 life sentences for 1979 murders, to be exchanged for Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser who were kidnapped by Hezbollah in June 2006.
Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann, Housing Minister Ze’ev Boim and Finance Minister Ronny Bar-On opposed the measure while the remaining 22 ministers voted in favor.
The exchange will likely occur on German soil in the coming days.More »
In the past couple of weeks there has been a fury of news about the possible return of Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, and for good cause after two years of nervous waiting.
The negotiated deal was ready to be implemented between June 20-25, but earlier in the week, Hezbollah added some Palestinian prisoners to their list, Olmert shuffled his feet, and then all of a sudden Mossad is declaring that the captives are likely dead. After an outcry against the political move from the Israeli public and specifically the captive soldiers’ families the cabinet is now set to discuss a written deal with Hezbollah on Sunday.
Just returned from DC and an invigorating few days with Brit Tzedek v’Shalom‘s Advocacy Days on Capitol Hill. Anyone who supports a Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace policy should take heart in knowing that more than 150 activists from all over the country devoted themselves to in-depth briefings and advocacy training before fanning across the Hill to visit the offices of House reps and senators, encouraging our leaders to redouble their efforts toward a two-state solution.
It currently is a time of tentative hope in the region. A fragile cease-fire has been brokered between Israel and Hamas, talks are continuing between Syria and Israel, and there are also encouraging signs of hope coming out of Lebanon. Sadly, the US is nowhere is be seen in these efforts. (The negotiations with Hamas, Syria and Lebanon were brokered by Egypt, Turkey and Qatar, respectively). On this issue, Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak was quoted recently in Ha’aretz regarding negotiations with Syria:
I don’t think we will have negotiations before the end of this year without the contribution of the Americans, who, alone, can help bridge the gaps.
The plain truth is that no lasting negotiation between Israel and its neighbors has ever happened without an active mediating effort by the US. Sadly, the Annapolis talks are barely limping along – and despite Bush’s rosy prognostications, no one in his/her right mind could claim that anything resembling a negotiated settlement will emerge before time runs out on the current administration.
Our message to our national leaders was simple: Congress needs to urge our new administration to make peace between Israel and Palestine a real priority from day one. Time is running out – and we simply cannot afford another President who waits until the waning days of his presidency to become actively engaged in the peace process.
Our Congressional visits were encouraging – but the true test is yet to come. The latest polls tell us that 87% of American Jewry support a negotiated two-state solution. If this is true, then American Jews need to be unflagging in our efforts to encourage our leaders to take the specific and painful steps to make this a reality.
Indeed, there’s nothing novel about advocating for a two-state solution per se. What is needed now for leaders to be explicit on the steps needed to make this happen. A preliminary laundry list: the appointment of a special envoy for this exclusive purpose, an unequivocal demand for an end to Israeli settlements on the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and stronger Palestinian efforts to maintain security in the territories.
In the current political climate it will take real bravery for American politicians to take these kinds of public positions. But the strong majority of American Jews who are committed to a real and lasting peace must do what we can to give our leaders the cover to provide this kind of leadership. I’m enormously proud that Brit Tzedek is leading the charge in this effort.
In a very surprising change in the position of the Israeli government, Ha’aretz reports that the IDF may soon declare Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev “killed in action.” The two soldiers were kidnapped by Hezbollah in June of 2006, which triggered the summer war two years ago.
In recent reports, the government was said to be in negotiations with Hezbollah via German mediators on an exchange of Samir Kuntar, a convicted murderer held by Israel since 1979, for the two captive soldiers. The government announced that were the two soldiers declared “killed in action,” there would certainly be no deal exchanging Kuntar for their bodies.
While last week there were reports of an imminent deal to be carried out between June 20-25, beginning yesterday the Israeli media reported that the deal was in danger of collapsing after Hezbollah added Palestinian prisoners being released as part of the negotiated deal. Now, it seems that Israel is possibly going to declare the soldiers dead, thereby ending any negotiations regarding Samir Kuntar. It seems likely that Israel would continue to negotiate to retrieve the remains of the soldiers, as has been the historic practice of the Israeli government.
The announcement comes as a shock to the families of the captive soldiers, who were under the impression their sons would be home this week. According to Miki Goldwasser, mother of Ehud,
“I ask what happened now that they remembered two years after the abduction to make such a move…Why now? Why when the deal is closed and it is the best possible deal?”
The reported deal to exchange Samir Kuntar for the Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev was overwhelmingly supported in the Knesset and specifically, the cabinet. The deal also received support from the Israeli public, and most importantly, was supported by the families of the captive soldiers.
Ehud’s wife, Karnit, said:
“We are at the end of a very difficult day in the Knesset, on the verge of humiliating…At the end of the day I get a call that the file has been transferred to the chief military rabbi. I don’t have time to notify the family before I hear it on the news. I am furious. This is a terrible and shameful day for the state of Israel,”
According to the report, she added that the family has been reduced to begging the ministers to agree to a prisoner swap.
It seems that the Olmert administration picked up on the demand to release Palestinian soldiers as an excuse to get out of the deal. It seems that they had come so far in the negotiation to release Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev. It seemed like it had been successful and the soldiers would be freed. And now they’re dead?
What goes through the mind of Prime Minister who has almost no support from his people, who denies the will of his electorate, who denies the will of his cabinet, who denies the will of his parliament, who denies the will of the families who urge him to free Samir Kuntar to free their sons?
How is it that this man is even still in office? Is this a sign that Israeli democracy has matured to the point that bi-annual elections are a thing of the past? Or, perhaps, this is a sign that Israeli apathy has hit an all-time high, and a nation that once held the threat of toppling governments in a day now bears the corruption and dysfunction.
According to the report linked above, the deal received widespread support from the government and the public, only the PMO and the defense establishment do not support the deal. Is this an example of when the army and government “know more than the people”? Or is this another example of how the IDF and the PMO are completely out of touch with the perspectives and will of the Israeli public.
I, for one, am a bit dismayed and a lot surprised.
**This just in : BBC News clip of Olmert interview broadcast today on BBC Arabic Television (I’m looking for the full interview).Â Longer BBC clip, more detailed article.
The New York Times reports that Israel has offered Lebanon talks on peace negotiations and land exchange. These talks are referring, of course, to the disputed Shebaa Farms.
Part of the negotiation, according to the New York Times, will include Israel releasing maps of land mines and cluster bombs left behind from the 2006 summer war.
This news follows reports that talks have started with Syria, via Turkish mediators, and it seems that talks with Lebanon might be a result of those negotiations.
The news comes the same day that a truce in Gaza sets in.
And read below for Reb Yudel’s post on last year’s unofficial peace deal offered as a way to solve the stalled talks on Golan.
Is this Olmert struggling to convince his people and the world that he’s not a corrupt, incompetent buffoon? Is this the US exerting back room pressure so Bush’s legacy can be secured? Or, is this, maybe, perhaps, possibly even real? (unlikely, but I hope so).
If I learned anything from reading A Missing Peace, Dennis Ross’ major work on his experience as the lead US negotiator from 1987-2001, it is that a huge chunk of what happens in these negotiations is over-dramatized jockeying and a whole lot of PR and acting.
So, whether or not this is real, it clearly sends a message to Israel’s people, its neighbors and the world that perhaps there are partners with whom to negotiate. Likewise, it shows a willingness of Israel’s neighbors to be more comfortable making diplomatic meetings, and perhaps even ties.
According to media outlets, Israel has worked out several huge breakthroughs in (gasp) negotiating with terrorists! Yes, indeed, if our sources are to be trusted, Israel is talking to Hamas, Syria, and Lebanon. Simultaneously. TwoÂ deals on Ehud Goldwasser andÂ Eldad Regev with Hezbollah, andÂ Gilad Shalit with Hamas are buzzing in non-official statements by all sides.
I know, I know, this is going to come as a shock to some people out there. And perhaps it’s a little early to tell — maybe this post will jinx the whole deal — but let’s put a big, fat nail in the obstructionism that plagues the small minds of naysayers that Hamas, Fatah, the PLO and (in future Presidencies perhaps) Iran can only understand reciprocal rockets.
Seriously, I hope this isn’t surprising because people reading even the Jewish press the past two months have seen plenty of references to Egypt and Turkey’s shuttle diplomacy. And there’splentyofanalysisavailable on whether the biggest deal, the Gaza ceasefire, will be a class-A fuck up.
It’s a moment for those of us who see that military might isn’t the magic wand in the Middle East to stand up and say “I told you so,” even if it’s a moment to hold our breath and promise to eat our yarmulkas. Then again, we could all move to Medinat Weimar and save ourselves the trouble.
from left to right: Ehud Goldwasser, Eldad Regev; Gilad Shalit (captured by Hamas in separate incident)
Ha’aretz is reporting that the soldiers kidnapped by Hezbollah, triggering the summer war of 2006 may be reunited with their families the week of June 20. Ha’aretz is citing the Lebanese newspaper, As-Safir, as breaking the news.
According to the Saudi owned newspaper al-Sharq al-Aswat, Israel will release Samir Kuntar, the infamous Lebanese terrorist sentenced to four life-terms for murders he committed in Israel in 1979.
According to Kuntar’s attorney, his client has received no information to this end.
Tonight at DC JCC: “What Makes an Army Jewish?” a panel discussion between Yehuda Shaul, co-founder of Breaking the Silence, and Adam Hartman, right-wing Israeli military soldier-turned ethicist.
Feb 25th, “On the Way to Gender Equality in Israel: a Comparative View” will present several expert perspectives on the struggle for gender equality in Israel, including recent initatives and developments. Location info here.
Hurricane Katrina was, according to Shas’ spiritual leader, punishment for American support of the disengagement from Gaza. Now, R. Ovadia Yosef is claiming, Israeli soldiers died in Lebanon because they weren’t frum enough.
The Jerusalem Post reports,
“Should it come as a surprise if, God forbid, soldiers are killed in war?” said Yosef, spiritual mentor of the haredi-Sephardi Shas party, referring to the 119 IDF soldiers killed during the Second Lebanon War.
“When they do not adhere to the laws of Shabbat, they do not keep the Torah, they do not pray every day, they do not put on phylacteries every day? God have mercy on them [soldiers] and make them become newly religious – then they will all live a good life in peace,” Yosef said.
Pardon me while I vomit in my mouth a little. Not surprisingly, the parents of soldiers who were killed in the war have a little bit to say about this. For example,
Moshe Muskal, another bereaved parent whose religious son Refanel was killed in Maroun a-Ras, said that since Yosef’s political party was part of the government coalition during the Second Lebanon War, the rabbi also bears responsibility for the deaths of the soldiers.
Muskal, who was interviewed on Army Radio, quoted from testimony given by Shas Chairman Eli Yishai before the Winograd Committee, which investigated the operational failures of the war.
According to the testimony, Yishai, a member of the government’s Defense Cabinet during the war, consulted with Yosef often.
“I want to know if Rabbi Ovadia Yosef advised Yishai to check if soldiers entering Maroun a-Ras [the Lebanese village where Muskal's son was killed] put on tefilin that morning,” said Muskal. “And if they did not put on tefilin, were they prevented from going to war?”
By now you’ve probably heard all about the Winograd Commission report, released today, which found that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s decisions regarding the 2006 Lebanon War were a “severe failure”. There’s one piece of this story that gives me hope about Israeli democracy, relative to American democracy: all the news articles are reporting that Olmert’s approval rating sits between 2% and 3%.
In the United States, even when a president spends 6 years accomplishing one severe failure after another, such that no one’s definition of success has been achieved except for multibillionaires and Al Qaeda recruiters, his approval rating will still never fall below 25%. For the “base”, loyalty is just that strong that it outweighs all empirical reality.
Israelis, on the other hand, whether they’re on the left or on the right, appear to be part of the reality-based community. When their government enters a disastrous war, they recognize this and hold their leaders accountable. Americans have much to learn.