Little Lassie

Not Lassie

Not Lassie

On Wednesday i was driving home with Hadar, and outside the village i spotted a little dog that looked a little like a Pug. It had a collar and ran free in an empty place. We thought that it may be lost or abandoned and stopped and ran to look at it. It was female, very cute, trembling of fear or cold (or both). Hadar called a veterenarian she knows and she agreed to check the dog, despite the late hour.

Luckily the dog was tagged with an ID chip and the veterenarian gave us the phone numbers for the county’s pet authorities and also a pack of dog food. All for free – so nice of her. I called her Dr. Aybolit, which is the Russian version of Dr. Doolittle.

We kept her at our place overnight. She was very nervous, but went calm when we would stroke her. Our cats loved her … locked in a separate room.

In the morning Hadar made some phonecalls and found that the owner lives in Nes Harim, which seems to be close to our village when you look at the map, but only if you run through hills and woods (accordingly, our village is called Givat-Yearim, which means Hill of Woods). If one goes through the paved mountainous roads it will be at least half an hour in a car. The dog, however – her name was Clara – may have indeed ran through woods. Which is an adventure. But little Clara is a Very Small Animal, much like Piglet and not a Lassie.

Clara’s owners sent their friend to pick her up. A few hours later they called and said that it is not their dog. Luckily they are good people and veterenarians themselves, so they keep her and ran a few checks. There was some mistake with the number. Different directories list her number as belonging to different owners. At one of them she is listed as a male.

So in the meantime she is waiting for her real owners. Maybe we’ll take her eventually. To be continued.


No Nukes

Twenty years ago in a small town in Ukraine there was a big nuclear explosion.

In 1986 i lived in Moscow. A few months before the explosion i was with my family in Ukraine, in a town called Ostior (i hope it’s the right spelling), which is quite close to Chernobyl. When my parents heard about the explosion, they were rather panicky – they know a couple of things about physics and my father worked in power plants (non-nuclear) all his life. (He also served in Chernobyl as a soldier of the Soviet Army.)

I was only 6 years old, but i liked listening to the news, even though it was 60% about the imperialist armament race (гонка вооружений) and 40% about the great crops of wheat and cotton (перевыполненый план по сборке урожая, и т.д.). A few days later when people started talking openly about the terrible consequences i started connecting things and told my mom:

— “Mama, now the Americans must be really laughing at the USSR – our Soviet government is fighting against nuclear weapons all the time and now we have done a bad nuclear explosion ourselves, didn’t we? Did i get it right?”

— “Yes, dear …”

For No Reason (with translation into Hebrew)

On Saturday there was the inevitable meeting between my parents and Hadar’s, in Petach Tikva. Wedding stuffs. When i came out to meet my folks the first thing father told me was:

בשבת הייתה הפגישה הבלתי נמנעת בין ההורים שלי לבין ההורים של הדר בביתם בפתח תקווה. ענייני חתונה. יצאתי לפגוש את ההורים שלי ולכוון אותם לחניה והדבר הראשון שאבא שלי אמר לי, כבר במכונית, היה:

— “It’s very important that the food will be very good. Because you know, there are such people who like it when meat is fried on both sides…”

— “זה חשוב מאד שהאוכל יהיה טוב, כי אתה יודע, יש אנשים שמאד אוהבים שצולים את הבשר משני הצדדים…”

— “And i like it when there’s no meat at all.”

— “ואני אוהב שאין בשר בכלל”.

He didn’t even consider the possibility that i might have negative feelings about something that he said, let alone the possibility that i don’t want any dead animals on my wedding.

הוא בכלל לא העלה על הדעת את האפשרות שיהיו לי אי-אלו רגשות בקשר למה שהוא אמר, שלא לדבר על האפשרות שאולי אני לא ארצה חיות מתות בחתונה שלי.

Obviously most of the talk focused on that. Hadar’s mother is in denial. She didn’t even want to look on the dairy menus that we brought. Quite expectedly she went to a few banquet halls herself, ’cause she didn’t have the patience to wait for us to choose a place and she doesn’t trust our taste in the first place and that’s before our vegetarianism is even taken into account – and it is not. She showed the proposals and the menus from the other halls to my parents, who liked them. “You see”, she said to them, “this place has fried chicken” – “Oh yes, yes, fried chicken”. I wanted to say: “They’re all the same, they’ve all got fried chicken, and that’s exactly the reason why i’m not going there” – but refrained. Why waste words and nerves.

מובן שרוב השיחה התמקדה בזה. אמא של הדר בהכחשה. היא לא רצתה בכלל להסתכל על התפריטים החלביים שהבאנו. באופן צפוי למדי היא ביקרה בכמה אולמות אירועים בעצמה, כי לא היתה לה סבלנות לחכות לנו שנמצא אולם, וחוץ מזה היא לא סומכת על הטעם שלנו מלכתחילה – וזה עוד לפני שהיא בכלל מתחשבת בצמחונות שלנו, והיא לא. היא הראתה את הצעות המחיר ואת התפריטים להורים שלי, שאהבו אותם. “תראו”, היא אמרה, “יש פה פרגיות בתפריט”. “אה, כן, כן, פרגיות.” רציתי להגיד: “הם כולם אותו דבר, בכולם יש פרגיות, ובדיוק בגלל זה אני לא אלך אליהם”, רציתי להגיד – אבל לא אמרתי. למה לבזבז מילים ועצבים.

My parents don’t take it well too. I try to explain that all their worries are for no reason, that the food will be good even without meat, but it doesn’t help. They say that it’s insensible towards them and their friends – but what about sensibility towards me? They say that i can’t impose my beliefs on the public – but what about the public imposing its beliefs on me? By the way, i don’t have any beliefs – if meat is to be ate, blood must be spilled first, that’s a fact. It’s the public that wrongly believes that it’s necessary to eat meat and completely ignores the fact the many millions of people live and celebrate without it.

גם ההורים שלי לא מקבלים את זה בקלות. אני מנסה להסביר להם שכל הדאגות שלהם הם ללא שום סיבה, שהאוכל יהיה טוב גם אם לא יהיה בשר, אבל זה לא עוזר. הם אומרים שאני מפגין חוסר רגישות כלפיהם וכלפי החברים שלהם, שהם רוצים להזמין – אבל מה עם קצת רגישות כלפיי? הם אומרים שאני לא יכול לכפות את האמונות שלי על הקהל – אבל מה עם הקהל רוצה לכפות את האמונות שלו עליי? לי אין שום אמונות – כדי לאכול בשר צריך לשפוך דם וזו עובדה, לא אמונה. זה הקהל שמאמין ש”צריך” לאכול בשר ומתעלם מכך שיש מיליוני אנשים שחיים וחוגגים בלי זה.

But getting back to sensibility – i admit that i’m rather surprised by people’s insensibility. In one hall to which i went yesterday the marketing guy offered me a dairy menu with fish and when i asked whether i can replace the fish with something else, he told me that i can’t: “Why abuse the guests?” Isn’t it his fucking job to be minimally sensitive to his potential clients?

אבל נחזור לרגישות – אני די מופתע מחוסר הרגישות שחלק מהאנשים מפגינים לנושא. אתמול הסתובבנו בין אולמות ואיש המכירות של אחד מהם הציע לי תפריט חלבי של קייטרינג הבית – דבר יוצא דופן ודי מבורך לכשעצמו – אבל הוא כלל דגים. כששאלתי אם אפשר להמיר את הדגים במגוון רחב יותר של מנות צמחוניות, הוא אמר – “לא, חייבים לקחת דגים. למה להתעלל באורחים?” לעזאזל, חשבתי שהעבודה של איש מכירות זה להראות רגישות ללקוחות עתידיים.

If until yesterday i had doubts about ordering meat, now i’m hundred percent firm: I’m not taking any part in paying fifty thousand sheqels for meat – even if it will be somebody else’s money, and in killing about two hundred chickens and a larger than zero number of cows. Not on my celebration.

בקיצור, אם עד אתמול היו לי עוד הרהורים שאני כן אקנה בשר במקרה קיצוני, עכשיו זה מנוי וגמור: אני לא הולך לקחת שום חלק בקניית בשר בכחמישים אלף שקל, גם אם מישהו אחר ישלם עליו, וברצח של כמאתיים תרנגולות ועוד מספר כלשהו של פרות. לא בחגיגה שלי.

People Speaking – Inclinations

— “If you’re looking for a doctor for your baby, it’s important to go to someone normal. These doctors have … inclinations … For example – if your child is one millimeter over the standard line for his age, they tell you to stop giving him any food. Don’t listen to them. Ever. And it’s very important that you tell your wife not to listen to her mother. And you don’t listen to your mother either.”

How Can the National Union Change Israel

I was asked “How can ‘National Union – National Religious Party’ change Israel”. I tried to write something long, philosophical and complicated in response, but decided to leave it for later, and to write something simple and short instead.

First, i voted for the National Union, because i had made a very firm decision not to vote for any party that supports evicting settlers for any reason. I love the libertarian anarchy of Green Leaf, the firm-but-pragmatic ecological platform of the Green Party and the commitment – at least on paper – of Meretz to human rights (though not their socialism); i also have to admit that Our Home Israel (Lieberman) was very tempting with a platform that was pragmatic in a good Russian way (you have to be Russian/Soviet to fully understand it) – but for me it was too pragmatic; and, with all my sympathy to B. Netanyahu’s economic policies, i didn’t count on Likud to be firmly against irresponsible land concessions. So, out of thirty-one parties, i was left with only three options – Herut, Jewish National Front and NU-NRP. Herut is too small and irrelevant and JNF is a fanatical, racist and war-loving one-man party. So i voted for NU-NRP. But now i’m going to prove that it was more than mere elimination.

NU-NRP remind me of the Mormons a little. Try this as a thought experiment:

  1. Take Mormons.
  2. Forget that they believe in an unusual story about Jews that lived in America two thousand years ago1.
  3. Forget that some of them used to practice polygamy.
  4. Forget that they are sometimes dressed in funny ill-fitting clothes.
  5. Don’t forget that they are encouraged in every way to have a good job and be good at what they do there.
  6. Don’t forget that they don’t convert anyone to their faith by force, not even their own children (at least according to their official doctrine).
  7. Don’t forget that they have (relatively) stable families and good education system, which teaches not only sciences but values too.
  8. Don’t forget that Mormons that live in the USA love their country with all their heart, but are able to be criticize it when it is due.
  9. Now let them run the country. Is it so bad?

I have a lot of reasons not to vote for NU-NRP. They are socially conservative – for example, they are against gay rights, which is quite disgusting. They want to ban pornography and oppose public transportation on Sabbath, which is quite ridiculous. They quietly support the corrupt and wasteful system of taxpayer-funded religious services; Shinui did their best to reform it, but they collapsed before finishing the work, and now the religious parties will try to revive it.

But they have their good points. And those good points are the reason why i decided to give my precious vote to them not just because there was no-one else to vote for. Except the unfortunate and ridiculous things which i mentioned, they are conservative in a good way. They believe in strong families; it may sound boring and Republican, but i don’t see anything good in the slow suicide which the societies in Russia and EU are collectively committing either (and i don’t buy no over-population myths).

The NU-NRP believe in good education – good old education, which doesn’t reduce sciences and arts to subjects of a good grade on a matriculation test; which doesn’t shorten the list of topics to be learnt at grammar classes every year; which chooses teachers carefully and pays them well; in which school discipline in based – at least is theory – on heritage, respect and reason and not on metal detectors.

Also, they believe in Jewish education. Many people think that Jewish education is all about memorizing old, weird and irrelevant books; that in Jewish religious schools pupils spend more time praying than studying sciences and that they don’t learn anything valuable, such as History, Math and English. These claims may be true to a certain degree about some Ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) schools, but NU-NRP is not Ultra-Orthodox. The level of science education in the mainstream Orthodox Jewish schools is proven to be higher than average. They do study religious books – because that’s what Jews did for ages and ages, and it wasn’t so bad. The Jews are not alone in studying their ancient heritage – for example, not all Italian students receive good grades in their Latin classes, but at least they know who Cicero, Caesar and Pliny were. Pupils who study in secular schools hardly learn any Bible and they graduate without even knowing how a page in any other religious book looks like and in what language it is written (the Hebrew of Mishna and Halakha books has a distinctive style and the Aramaic of Gemara is a different language altogether). But in Israel many secular people say that those books are obsolete and no time should be wasted on them. What do they know. You see, i haven’t heard of a secular school that teaches explicitly that slander and gossip are inherently and universally wrong. I haven’t heard of a secular school that teaches that not only stealing and cheating is bad, but that selling an item for more than its market price is a terrible crime just as well. That’s education in the fullest sense of the word. It’s true that not everyone who studied in such a school growed up to be completely honest and well-behaving, but secular schools don’t even try to educate that way. They barely care about test grades.

However, as it often happens, the religious education can blame only itself for the ignorance of the secular people about this heritage. In the past NRP representatives were often appointed as Ministers of Education. They had built a splendid Jewish education network – but only their voters could enjoy it, because they didn’t apply any of these methods to the rest of Israel and few secular families would consider sending their children to a religious school. And they payed the price – hardly anyone gave a damn about the religious schools that were demolished in Gush-Katif for no sensible reason. If the general public would understand the “National Religious” community just a little bit more, it would all be so different.

So why did i vote for them anyway? Because this mistake was so grave that i hope that they finally understood it and will do something about it. That they will approach the secular schools and change it in such a way that all children in Israel will know something about their heritage and no-one will think that people with kipas on their heads waste their time on stupid old books. And maybe people will cheat a little less in business. But that will take years – and in the meantime they’ll stop the madness called “evicting the settlements”.

Now when anyone tells me – “You can’t be serious, how could you vote for this single-issue settlers’ party??”, that’s my explanation why they are not a single issue party and why it is not so weird that i, a secular free-thinker, vote for a party that represents “conservative values”, “strong families”, and “heritage education”.

OK, so it was very long. That’s how i write.

1If you are a Latter-Day Saint and you were offended by it, i sincerely apologize. It is a fact that there are some people who think that the Book of Mormon is rather unusual.