Posts Tagged ‘Israel’

Incidents and accidents: Holy land tourism, part 3

December 12, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Dec. 12, 2018

So, about our time in Tiberias…

I’ve already chronicled many of the hitches and goof-ups that threatened to complicate my 2009 trip to Israel with Lady X. But I haven’t written about the sticky situation we got into on our first morning in the city nestled on the west bank of the Sea of Galilee, also known as Lake Tiberias, a.k.a. the Kinneret. (And it has a few other names to boot!)

After a leisurely breakfast, X and I drove down the hill and into town without much of a plan. After exploring a bit in our car, we strayed south of the main town and spotted an intriguing road leading toward the top of one of the picturesque grassy hills that loomed in the middle distance. We decided to head up the road without knowing what was there.

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Incidents and accidents: Holy land tourism, part 2

December 11, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Dec. 11, 2018

Some of the glitches on the Israel trip that Lady X and I took in 2009 involved airports. I’ve already recounted my possible (likely?) anxiety about not having booked a rental car in advance, but there were two further incidents that had some potential to go badly.

The first one was a discrete incident that occurred as we were waiting in line to be screened at Ben Gurion before flying back to the U.S., I suddenly became fixated on some knotted leather strings on X’s backpack that weren’t fastened to my satisfaction. It was a small thing, but I must have looked like a bit nutty. When the screener started quizzing us, X quite sensibly told me to cut it out and help her answer the questions like a normal person.

The other hiccup — which, like everything else on our trip, worked out fine in the end — occurred at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, where we needed to clear customs and immigration before we could catch our flight back to Raleigh-Durham International Airport. However, this problem stemmed from a decision X and I had made, at my urging, upon our arrival in Israel.

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Incidents and accidents: Holy land tourism, part 1

December 8, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Dec. 8, 2018

Lady X and I flew into Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport on Dec. 4, 2009, and flew back to the States on Dec. 11. It was a wonderful trip, but there were a few moments that left me feeling anxious or frightened. This is an account of some of them.

I can’t remember whether I booked a rental car in advance; if not, I was certainly freaking out about transportation as we deplaned and went to pick up our luggage. Nor could I tell you if I got a good rental price. Regardless, we obtained a Fiat Punto without trouble and were soon on our way.

The car, which was white with a few sporty red and green stripes, served us well. We drove more than 300 miles in the course of a week: From the airport east to Jerusalem; after a few days in Jerusalem, east and south to Ein Gedi, a beach on the Dead Sea; then, on the same day, north through the West Bank to Tiberias, on the Sea of Galilee, which is also known as (among other things) the Kinneret or Lake Tiberias; after a few days there, west and southwest to Nazareth, then west and northwest to Haifa, and — still on the same day! — south along the Mediterranean to Tel Aviv; and after a few days there, southeast back to the airport.

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Cheeps and Chirps for July 31, 2018

July 31, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
July 31, 2018

Bits and bites from ye olde Twitter stream:

• A few personal notes

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A world-weary, hard-drinking former American diplomat tries to save his friend — and himself — amid a tangle of intrigue in ‘Beirut’

April 30, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
April 30, 2018

Director Brad Anderson’s new feature, Beirut, is a taut drama set in the war-torn capital of Lebanon.

The movie opens at a lavish reception for a visiting U.S. congressman hosted by American diplomat Mason Skiles (Jon Hamm) and his Lebanese wife, Nadia (Leïla Bekhti), at their lovely villa overlooking Beirut. The party is subject to a pair of interruptions, one minor and one life-shattering.

First, a colleague tells Skiles that intelligence officials want to question the couple’s 13-year-old ward, Karim, who turns out to be the younger brother of a Palestinian bomb-maker who helped plan the raid of the Israeli quarters at the Munich Olympic Games. Rami (Ben Affan) is eager to renew familial bonds, and naturally, he has no reservations about using force. When Rami’s confederates invade the Skiles household to reunite the siblings, Nadia is fatally shot and killed.

The story picks up a decade later, in 1982. Skiles is now an alcoholic New England labor negotiator whose two-man firm is rapidly losing men. He never thought he’d return to Lebanon, but when a former client hands him a passport and a first-class ticket for a flight to Beirut that departs in a few hours, the dissolute former diplomat answers the call.

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Nuclear deterrence, nation-states and the real threat from nuclear proliferation

July 29, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
July 29, 2015

I’m not particularly eager to see Iran obtain nuclear weapons. For one thing, Iran’s government has traditionally shown extreme hostility toward Israel. For another, nuclear proliferation in general seems to hold great potential to destabilize any region.

Even so, I suspect the danger of Iran’s successful development of nuclear armaments may be somewhat exaggerated. The problem, I fear, is that atomic weaponry might fall into the hands of a terrorist organization such as the so-called Islamic State, al Qaeda or the like.

Nations can act recklessly — see Operation Iraqi Freedom — but generally, they do so with one underlying goal in mind: To insure their continued existence and, if possible, prosperity. A nation tied to a nuclear strike would almost surely face extensive shunning by the global community. Economic repercussions would be all but guaranteed; some kind of military counterstrike would be likely; the chances of a war being launched to unseat that nation’s rulers would rise significantly.

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In music, escape: Palestinian schoolgirl singers seek acclaim in ‘Sad Songs of Happiness’

April 12, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
April 12, 2015

Constanze Knoche’s 2014 documentary, Sad Songs of Happiness, chronicles the journey of a handful of Palestinian girls and their singing instructor as they participate in a European music competition.

The story here is told simply and clearly. A few interviews with the three most prominent girls, Rita, Hiba and Tamar, are sprinkled throughout, but mostly we see the youngsters working with their teacher, attending school, talking with their families and, over the last third or so, taking part in the contest.

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The American right embraces Netanyahu ardently as Netanyahu embraces U.S. conservatives’ slash-and-burn tactics

March 20, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
March 20, 2015

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, prides himself on taking a hard-nosed approach to security issues. He’s been warning for more than 20 years that Iran was just a few years away from building a functional nuclear bomb. He’s a longtime proponent of building settlements in the West Bank, an initiative that diminishes the possibility of establishing an independent Palestinian state alongside the Jewish nation of Israel — the so-called two-state solution.

But Netanyahu’s Likud Party was struggling in the polls leading up to Tuesday’s elections, in part because many Israelis are focused on economic issues, not national security. So Netanyahu doubled down on his core issues.

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Palestinians and Israelis must stop glorifying their own side and stop demonizing their enemies

August 4, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Aug. 4, 2014

Israeli novelist Amos Oz recently gave an interview to Dennis Stule of the German national news service Deutsche Welle. The dialogue caught the eye of multiple pundits, not least because the writer began the exchange in a novel way — by posing two questions to the news service’s audience.

Said Oz:

Question 1: What would you do if your neighbor across the street sits down on the balcony, puts his little boy on his lap and starts shooting machine gun fire into your nursery?

Question 2: What would you do if your neighbor across the street digs a tunnel from his nursery to your nursery in order to blow up your home or in order to kidnap your family?

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On dead children in Gaza Strip and the villain(s) in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict

August 2, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.word press.com
Aug. 2, 2014

A major goal of Israel’s Gaza offensive, which showed indications Saturday of winding down, has been to destroy tunnels leading into Israelis territory — structures that I gather mainly have a military purpose. In fact, just days ago, one tunnel was used for an assault in which five Israeli soldiers (and one Hamas fighter) were killed.

Jeremy Bender and Armin Rosen of Business Insider published a post on Tuesday at Business Insider that excerpts some video that the assailants took during that attack. But what truly caught my eye about their article was the sentence at the start of the second paragraph, which casually mentioned that dozens of children died in the process of building the tunnels.

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The stupid war: Israel’s apparent war crimes in its Gaza offensive must be investigated and punished

July 31, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
July 31, 2014

I wrote earlier this week about why the existence of Israel was and remains worthy of support. The subject is topical, alas, because of the Jewish nation’s ongoing war against Gaza, which began on July 7 and has involved a combination of aerial and naval bombardment and ground offensives.

The fighting has taken an appalling toll. As of Wednesday, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 1,263 Palestinians had been killed. Some 852 people, or more than two-thirds of the deaths, were civilians, including an astounding 249 children. The U.N. identified 181 of the victims as “members of armed groups.” Another 230 individuals had yet to be categorized; many of them are believed to have been civilians.

Israeli casualties, by contrast, have been light. Fifty-three soldiers have been killed along with two Israeli civilians and a Thai worker.

But the consequences of this war go beyond just killing. Earlier this week, the Palestinian Ministry of Health reported that 6,233 Gazans had been wounded; nearly 2,000 of the injured are children.

The property damage inflicted by Israelis upon Gaza has also been staggering. More than 800 homes have been totally destroyed or severely damaged. At least 68 families have suffered three or more deaths in one incident. That accounts for 360 deaths, the U.N. reports: 147 children, 73 women and 140 men.

The organization says that nearly 9,400 families — more than 28,000 people — must make major repairs or entirely rebuild their homes. Another 27,000 families, or 162,000 people, live in homes that sustained minor or moderate damage.

Some 245,000 Palestinians have registered in public shelters, many of which are schools; up to 200,000 more may have sought refuge in private residences.

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A bloody birthright: Why I support Israel’s right to exist

July 29, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
July 29, 2014

The reasons why I support Israel’s continued existence as a Jewish homeland are rooted in the mortal perils that Jews have faced over the millennia. However, the heart of the matter is and will always be the bloody history of the 20th century.

No serious discussion of the subject can overlook the impetus for Israel’s establishment in 1948. That was only a few years after the end of World War II, which went hand in hand with the widespread realization that Adolf Hitler had conducted a massive, horrifying campaign to exterminate Jews and other so-called undesirables.

The Nazi Germany genocide — Raphael Lemkin coined that word in 1944 to describe what we today call the Holocaust — racked up a staggering death toll. The numbers vary from account to account, but according to one tally published by The Telegraph, between five million and six million Jews were killed.

Jews were hardly the Nazis’ only victims; four million Soviet, Polish and Yugoslav civilians died in the German camps, along with three million Soviet prisoners of war, 70,000 individuals with mental and physical disabilities, more than 200,000 Roma and an “unknown number of political prisoners, resistance fighters, homosexuals and deportees.”

Entire Jewish neighborhoods were wiped off the map; Nazis and locals appropriated their property. (There are a few brief but poignant nods to this in The Monuments Men, and this morbid history forms the dark heart of the brilliant Polish movie Ida — although Germans were only indirectly responsible for the killings and theft in the latter film.)

Poland’s Jewish community was hardest-hit, dropping from more than three million in 1933 to about 45,000 in 1950, according to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. (Here, as elsewhere in Europe, most of the reduction was caused by the Nazi slaughter, although some was due to postwar migration.)

The devastation elsewhere in Europe was comparable: Germany’s Jewish population fell from 565,000 to 37,000 over the same time period; Czechoslovakia’s, from 357,000 to 17,000; Austria’s, from 250,000 to 18,000; Greece’s, from 100,000 to 7,000. And this is only part of the grim census of genocide.

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A restless 1960s kibbutznik seeks ‘A Perfect Peace’ in Oz’s inquiry on personal and community strife

August 15, 2013

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Aug. 15, 2013

Yonatan Lifshitz, age 26, isn’t sure where his destiny lies. But in the winter of 1965, Lifshitz — Yoni to friends and family — becomes convinced that he must break away from the communal Israeli farm where he was born and raised.

Lifshitz’s escape is both aided and delayed by the arrival at Kibbutz Granot of a mysterious young man named Azariah Gitlin. The gregarious foreigner makes quite a contrast with Lifshitz, a taciturn Israeli native. One thing they have in common, however, is their grandiose, unfocused ambitions.

They also come to share the social circle of the insular Kibbutz Granot. Yolek, a lion in both literal and figurative winter, is the patriarch of the Lifshitz clan and a co-founder of the kibbutz; he’s also a Labor Party official who once served in the Israeli cabinet. Yolek takes an immediate liking to Gitlin, an affection that is soon echoed by Yoni’s emotionally distant wife, Rimona.

The action in A Perfect Peace, the 1982 novel by Israeli author Amos Oz, spans a little more than a year. Gitlin finds his place at the kibbutz as Lifshitz works up the nerve to leave it — an adventure that seems liable to plunge the other characters into chaos. When Yolek passes the kibbutz reins to Srulik, his longtime associate, the former struggles to come to grips with his waning influence over family, community and nation as his successor strives to find his feet. Yolek’s friend and rival, the seemingly ineffectual Prime Minister Levi Eshkol, visits the kibbutz and is lectured by a wild-eyed Gitlin. (“If we Jews hate each other so much, why be surprised that the Gentiles hate us?” the young man asks feverishly.) The question of Yoni’s paternity, and of Yolek’s possible role in driving away his wife Hava’s other lover, is relitigated. Read the rest of this entry »

One Wondrous Sentence: Peace between Israelis and Palestinians

December 14, 2012

This one wondrous sentence shows in detail how a self-described impenitent Zionist, impenitent dove and hawkish dove who has “irritated some of my comrades … with my unglowing view of the Palestinians and their inability to recognize the historical grandeur of compromise” views the long-standing and possibly intractable conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

I am still quite certain that the establishment of the state of Palestine is a condition for the survival of the state of Israel, as a Jewish state and a democratic state, and that for Israel not to be a Jewish state would be a Jewish catastrophe, and for it not to be a democratic state would be a human catastrophe; and that the only solution there has ever been to this conflict is the solution that was proposed by the Peel Commission in 1937, that is, the partition of one land into two states; and that the Jewish settlement of the West Bank was a colossal mistake, and the occupation (and the indifference to it) corrodes the decency of the occupiers; and that the Jewish state is a secular entity; and that anti-Semitism, which will never disappear, does not explain the entirety of the history of the Jews or their state, or exempt Israel from accountability for its actions.

Source: Leon Wieseltier, “Losing Hope on Israeli-Palestinian Peace,” The New Republic, Dec. 20, 2012.

One Wondrous Sentence: Obama and Israel

December 6, 2012

This one wondrous sentence pops a hole in the overblown conservative theory that Barack Obama and his administration is nearly as opposed — or nearly as dangerous — to Israel as that nation’s sworn enemies.

Despite misgivings in Washington, the Obama administration got Congress to provide $205 million for Iron Dome in 2010, a financial boost that saved the project.

Source: Ernesto Londoño, “For Israel, Iron Dome missile defense system represents breakthrough,” The Washington Post, Dec. 2, 2012. (Link is to story’s second page.)

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