Thursday, July 31, 2008
Ah, yes, you know you've returned to Israel from being abroad when you spot a sign that just goes too far. I spotted this sign while using the bathroom at the Tel Aviv airport. There was a row of normally situated urinals, and then a smaller urinal positioned much lower. For you ladies unaware, this is a fairly common sight in male bathrooms in high traffic locations.
I'm not so sensitive that something like this bothers me, but I just have to wonder if the guy was smirking as he sent this design off to the printers. I mean, honestly, did he think that I would have any problem figuring out that the miniature urinal sitting less than a foot off the ground was meant for anything else than a child?
The guy who designed this was laughing when he did it, right?
Friday, July 25, 2008
Now, I don't want anyone to get the wrong impression of my intention for posting pictures like this. I don't want you to think that I am judging, or as my father said, "making fun of anyone." Heaven forbid, honestly, that I of all people should judge another's religious beliefs. In my opinion, as long as your religion doesn't prescribe violence or any hindrance to another's religion, it is a faith that I can respect.
So, I post these images with interested anthropological intent. I grew up with signs like this dotting the landscape adjoining my familial home - and this sign is, indeed, just around the corner - and so I have earnestly divorced my own religious orientation from these messages. When I see something like this, a sign that directly speaks out against Jews and Judaism, or any unbeliever of Jesus, I do not feel anger, offense, or even a desire to mock in a natural act of self-defense. Rather, I see such a sign and think something along the lines of, 'What faith they must have! I wonder how they would react to me telling them about my beliefs?'
My other intent in posting this picture - and really, isn't it amazing that there are large areas of the United States where this sign is not even of particular irregularity? - is to really bring home just how large of a leap I have made from moving from the Shenandoah Valley to Jerusalem, Israel. As I have noted before, Jerusalem is packed full of religious billboards, signs, advertisements, and even full posters on the sides of buses. And as I have shown you in just a few pictures, the Shenandoah Valley, and particularly my little area of Rockingham County, is brimming with the same religious billboards, signs, advertisements, and posters.
Same message, different religion: Listen up, or you might get left behind.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Picture this, if you will: In the still of the night, a Lebanese terrorist unit sneaks into northern Israel. One of these groups enters the home of an Israeli family. The leader of the group captures the father and his four-year-old daughter, at gunpoint, and takes them outside to precipitate a shoot-out. The mother hides in a closet with their toddler - the toddler is accidentally suffocated in order to keep her screams from revealing their hiding spot. Outside, the terrorist shoots his hostage in his back, in front of his crying daughter, and then dashes her head on rocks and finally with the butt of his gun.
This is the definition of a terrorist, a cruel attacker of civilians. This is Samir Kuntar, a Lebanese 'hero,' a righteous warrior of the holiest degree. Despite my current indignation with Israel's neighbors, I don't want to point out his rock-star status across the militant Muslim world. I don't want to discuss the Hizbullah promotion of his cause, their attempts to free him over the years. I don't even want to vent my frustration that Hamas, a group that we supposedly entered a peace-agreement with just recently, holds up Samir Kuntar as an example of a true warrior for the Palestinian people. I could make this post about these groups; groups that the world constantly berates Israel for not wanting to hold discussions with. How could anyone wonder why after seeing how actively they praise a brutal murderer like Samir Kuntar?
No, no, I want to reveal what no one wants to discuss. I want to make my disappointment with a certain 'partner in peace' so clear that no reader of this blog will ever make the mistake of saying that Israel has even one true peace-loving neighbor. Jordan and Egypt aside, states which do have official treaties with Israel, we seem to stand alone in yearning for serenity. You should know that the "Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process" is no process for peace, but rather an exercise in Palestinian backstabbing and deceit. Don't be offended - I'll prove it.
Everyone knows that Hamas is a terrorist organization, and that any agreement with those persecutors of the innocent Gazans is a sham. Will there ever be peace with Hamas? Probably not. But, as opposed to Hamas, most people feel comfortable calling Fatah, the government of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, a 'moderate' group. Most of us feel comfortable claiming that if peace will exist between Israel and the Palestinians, it will only be with Fatah as the head of the people. I myself would have made this claim without hesitation until I found out the official stance of Fatah during this Samir Kuntar business.
Mahmoud Abbas is the political leader of Fatah and president of the Palestinian Authority. He is the successor of Yasser Arafat's short-sighted government, and many were inspired with hope that this new leader would be courageous enough to make a compromise, courageous enough to make peace. Many feel that Abbas is a moderate leader, a man who unlike Arafat realizes that Israel is here to stay, and consequently to end the violence he might just sit down in earnest to end the senseless violence. The world has called on Israel to embrace Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah government. The world sees Abbas and Fatah as sensible, moderate, considerate partners in peace with Israel.
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Samir Kuntar brutally murdered a father and his four-year-old daughter, as well as another innocent man who stood in his way, and yet the Arab world calls them "liberated heroes." One would have expected Abbas to have rejected the hero's welcome that Kuntar received in Lebanon today. I would have expected a true partner in peace to have rejected senseless violence against an innocent family, senseless bestial brutality against a young child. And yet, with the sudden decision to release Samir Kuntar to Lebanon, Mahmoud Abbas "praised the prisoner swap and congratulated the Kuntar family."
Congratulated the Kuntar family? As in congratulated them in having their murderous son back, a human who could actually slay a four-year-old girl and call himself a liberator? By congratulating the Kuntar family, Abbas has essentially praised Samir Kuntar's treachery, his violence against Israel. What kind of moderate leader, what kind of partner for peace praises renegade slaughtering of civilizians? Abbas has showed his cowardice in not standing up to the blood-thirsty mentality that groups such as Hamas have perpetuated within the Palestinian people, and consequently he has revealed his true weakness.
For Mahmoud Abbas and Fatah to bring true peace to the West Bank, they must first convince the people that peace with Israel is good for everyone, and secondly that that peace necessitates compromise. Unfortunately, Abbas has taken the short-term solution of appealing to the mob mentality, the desire to spill Zionist blood. Where Yasser Arafat truly wanted blood, Mahmoud Abbas has been forced to play along with this aim. Abbas has failed his duty to bring an end to the Palestinian plight. He has failed to stand-up to the idolization of violence in Palestinian culture. By praising Samir Kuntar's terrorism, Abbas has fully embraced his own impotence. Abbas cannot rebel against the will of the people, even though this will is viciously detrimental to the cause of Palestinian freedom.
And a final word on the faithful mediator, the only real partner in peace, the only group that without exception strives for an impartial and fair road to tranquility in the world. I speak, of course, of the United Nations. I speak, of course, sarcastically. I won't go into a discussion on the U.N.'s blatant anti-Israel history. For that, go ahead and check out the fascinating UN Watch discussion on this topic. So, what was the UN's role in the Hizbullah-Israel prisoner swap? One would think that they would observe the trade, guarantee peace for both sides, and step aside for each sovereign country to handle their citizens as they wish.
One would think. Samir Kuntar, after entering Lebanon, was flown by UN Interim Forces to Beirut to a red carpet where he was greeted by the heads of state. The UN placed him on the red carpet in a ceremony to embrace this national hero, this murderer of children. Should I say more? Honestly, do I need to even say one word more?
Let me review: Hamas and Hizbullah are terrorists. Abbas is a pawn of Yasser Arafat's blood-lust. The UN has failed its role in promoting peace.
I want to leave this conversation with Olmert's powerful words:
"Woe to the nation that celebrates in these hours the release of a bestial person who smashed the head of a 4-year-old child."
Thursday, July 10, 2008
It goes without saying that Jerusalem is a religious city. Being the center of Judaism, being the spiritual navel of the religion and the nation, Jerusalem is steeped in an atmosphere of faith and ritual. A walk down a street in Israel's capital will reveal various posters of religious leaders, signs declaring religious beliefs, and all manner of posters and billboards for Jewish things.
What's humorous is that I left one religious area for another. I left the Bible Belt of America for the Torah Town of Israel (catchy, right?). I left a resoundingly evangelical Christian area for a resoundingly orthodox Jewish area. Sometimes I think it's my destiny to associate with overwhelming religiosity...
I took these pictures on the drive to my house from the airport on Tuesday. I grew up around these billboards, seeing signs like "Jesus is LORD!" and the such. So, it's not that I'm surprised to see them again, it's just an interesting and note-worthy sighting once you live in Israel for a long time. And, I should add that these are just the first two I saw - there are dozens of these things along the road, including a house with a quote from the Gospel of John emblazoned across the side.
I wonder what my European friends think about this? Comments?
Thursday, July 3, 2008
I've tried to steer away from discussions on the political happenings in the Israeli-Arab conflict, but the past day's events are too good to let pass. I'm not talking about the rogue Israeli-Arab laborer who rampaged through the streets of Jerusalem in a bulldozer. I'm talking about the rockets that have been fired into Israel since this supposed peace between Hamas and Israel has been in effect.
As per the agreement, in short, as long as the rocket attacks from Gaza cease, Israel will keep open the border crossings. No rockets = food & fuel. So, what happens only a few days after the cease-fire goes into effect? You guessed it... rockets fall on Israel.
The past few months we've heard over and over how dire the situation in Gaza has been. Due to Hamas terrorist rule, and the ensuing barrages of rockets landing on Israel, we have been forced to close the borders between Israel and Gaza, and unfortunately for the Gazans, Egypt followed suit on their side of the border. Gaza does have it bad, and it would be a lie to say otherwise.
And this truce would be the greatest thing for the Arabs of Gaza right now. However, it seems that the militant groups living in that region - which is a substantial sector, believe me - either do not agree, don't care, or what I believe to be the truth, they benefit from conflict.
You see, the more Israel looks bad, the more innocent civilians join the ranks of Islamic Jihad, Hamas, or any other terrorist organization. The longer Israel keeps the borders closed, keeps the food, fuel, and even tax money out, the more villified us 'Zionist pigs' become; the richer terrorists become.
So, not more than one day after Israel reopens the crossings into Gaza, which were closed due to an attack soon after the 'truce' was signed, Israel again finds its sovereign land breached by a rocket from Gaza. Again, the Palestinian people find the crossings closed, the border sealed...
but not before Israel spends the day transferring seventy trucks worth of supplies to the innocent civilians betrayed by their own people.
I'd say I'm getting tired of our neighboor's foolishness, but this is what I predicted a week ago.