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2023 Addendum

 

It's a decade since this visit to Israel in September 2014.

From July until just a month before we arrived, Israeli troops had been conducting an 'operation' against Hamas in the Gaza strip, in the course of which 469 Israeli soldiers lost their lives.  The country was still reeling. 

17,200 Garzan homes were totally destroyed and three times that number were seriously damaged.  An estimated 2,000 (who keeps count) civilians died in the destruction.  'Bibi' Netanyahu, who had ordered the Operation, declared it a victory.

This time it's on a grander scale: a 'War', and Bibi has vowed to wipe-out Hamas.

Pundits have been moved to speculate on the Hamas strategy, that was obviously premeditated. In addition to taking hostages, it involving sickening brutality against obvious innocents, with many of the worst images made and published by themselves. 

It seemed to be deliberate provocation, with a highly predictable outcome.

Martyrdom?  

Historically, Hamas have done Bibi no harm.  See: 'For years, Netanyahu propped up Hamas. Now it’s blown up in our faces' in the Israel Times.

Thinking about our visit, I've been moved to wonder how many of today's terrorists were children a decade ago?  How many saw their loved ones: buried alive; blown apart; maimed for life; then dismissed by Bibi as: 'collateral damage'? 

And how many of the children, now stumbling in the rubble, will, in their turn, become terrorists against the hated oppressor across the barrier?

Is Bibi's present purge a good strategy for assuring future harmony?

I commend my decade old analysis to you: A Brief Modern History and Is there a solution?

Comments: 
Since posting the above I've been sent the following article, implicating religious belief, with which I substantially agree, save for its disregarding the Jewish fundamentalists'/extremists' complicity; amplifying the present horrors: The Bright Line Between Good and Evil 

Another reader has provided a link to a perspective similar to my own by Australian 'Elder Statesman' John MenadueHamas, Gaza and the continuing Zionist project.  His Pearls and Irritations site provides a number of articles relating to the current Gaza situation. Worth a read.

The Economist has since reported and unusual spate of short-selling immediately preceding the attacks: Who made millions trading the October 7th attacks?  

short-selling

Money-making by someone in the know? If so, it's beyond evil.

 

 

A Little Background

The land between the Jordan river and the Mediterranean Sea, known as Palestine, is one of the most fought over in human history.  Anthropologists believe that the first humans to leave Africa lived in and around this region and that all non-African humans are related to these common ancestors who lived perhaps 70,000 years ago.  At first glance this interest seems odd, because as bits of territory go it's nothing special.  These days it's mostly desert and semi-desert.  Somewhere back-o-Bourke might look similar, if a bit redder. 

Yet since humans have kept written records, Egyptians, Canaanites, Philistines, Ancient Israelites, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, early Muslims, Christian Crusaders, Ottomans (and other later Muslims), British and Zionists, have all fought to control this land.  This has sometimes been for strategic reasons alone but often partly for affairs of the heart, because this land is steeped in history and myth. 

Perhaps the most enduring cause for this conflict is that about four thousand years ago this was the land of a semi-nomadic war lord who came to be called Abraham and who's god Yahweh became the 'One God' of Moses then, in due course, the single, universal, all-encompassing, deity shared by all three 'Abrahamic' religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Once-upon-a-time this land was far more attractive to human habitation, lush and welcoming. Along with adjoining Lebanon, Jordan and Syria, the eastern shore of the Mediterranean was said to be a land of milk and honey. But climates change and expanding populations over-graze and cut down trees, as we have seen in desertified and deserted Petra, nearby in Jordan, that was a populous city in a green and pleasant landscape in the time of Herod.  Now much of the Palestinian countryside varies in appearance from cultivated farmland, dependent on irrigation, to absolute desert. 

In many ways this is vast improvement since the end of the nineteenth century, when it was most frequently described by visitors from more verdant Europe as desolate, poor, backward and diseased.  Malaria and malnutrition were endemic and Western aid focussed on the provision of hospitals.

 

Israel3 Israel4

Israel

 

Today modern parts of Israel are a like resort areas of southern Europe or perhaps California. Many private houses are large and well appointed. There are many new high rise apartment blocks and more under construction. The use of a more or less standard colour scheme with light sandstone walls, and even raw concrete, gives the cities and towns a uniform clean or sandy look. The roads and other public infrastructure are of a high standard and prices are similar to those in southern France or Spain.

 

Jerusalem - A Modern City
Israeli Jerusalem - A Modern City

 

Some parts of Jerusalem, Israel's largest city, remind me of Amman in Jordan or Damascus in Syria, before the recent destruction.

Although not nearly as rundown as those in neighbouring Egypt, Arab areas are not nearly so wealthy in appearance as the up-market, mostly European, Jewish areas.  But not all Jews are rich or live the high-life either.  Around half of the Jewish population is ethnically middle eastern, from poorer backgrounds.  The late model cars of the wealthy mix with the not so grand.  If you are interested Google Street-view is worth a look. Try clicking this link to see a not so wealthy area.

Physical appearance is where the similarity to Europe or California ends. This is a Jewish homeland, in many ways a theocracy.

Very orthodox groups abound and we were told by a cab driver when driving us on Saturday that some areas are out of bounds as cars moving on the street are stoned.  Almost all official public signage is in Hebrew.  English is widely understood which is good as otherwise it would be a difficult place to visit.  This is complemented or replaced by Arabic in the Arab areas. Comprehensible to us, English/Latin signage is reserved for commerce, like shop and restaurant names and advertising displays.

About 20% of Israeli citizens are Arab, both Muslim and Christian, and they are in a strange coalition with each other in contrast to the Jewish majority.  We found the Muslim Arabs almost universally friendly, but not necessarily adverse to ripping-off tourists.  People of unknown religion we interacted with on public transport and and in street cafés particularly outside the old city were usually polite and helpful and might have been in a major city anywhere in the world.  But Jews who were self-identifying by their mode of dress were frequently aloof to rude to us tourists, except when they seeking contributions to various causes like the Synagogue or the defence of Israel.  One exception was an elderly German man who went out of his way to talk to us and had, he told us, come to Israel as a young adult.

 

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Travel

Darwin after Europe

 

 

On our return from Europe we spent a few days in Darwin and its surrounds.  We had a strong sense of re-engagement with Australia and found ourselves saying things like: 'isn't this nice'.

We were also able to catch up with some of our extended family. 

Julia's sister Anneke was there, working on the forthcoming Darwin Festival.  Wendy's cousin Gary and his partner Son live on an off-grid property, collecting their own water and solar electricity, about 120 km out of town. 

We went to the Mindl markets with Anneke and her friend Chris; and drove out to see Gary, in our hire-car, who showed us around Dundee Beach in his more robust vehicle. Son demonstrated her excellent cooking skills.

 

Read more: Darwin after Europe

Fiction, Recollections & News

The Royal Wedding

 

 

 


It often surprises our international interlocutors, for example in Romania, Russia or Germany, that Australia is a monarchy.  More surprisingly, that our Monarch is not the privileged descendent of an early Australian squatter or more typically a medieval warlord but Queen Elizabeth of Great Britain and Northern Island - who I suppose could qualify as the latter.

Thus unlike those ex-colonial Americans, British Royal weddings are not just about celebrity.  To Australians, Canadians and New Zealanders, in addition to several smaller Commonwealth countries, they have a bearing our shared Monarchy.

Yet in Australia, except for occasional visits and the endorsement of our choice of viceroys, matters royal are mainly the preoccupation of the readers of women's magazines.

That women's magazines enjoy almost exclusive monopoly of this element of the National culture is rather strange in these days of gender equality.  There's nary a mention in the men's magazines.  Scan them as I might at the barber's or when browsing a newsstand - few protagonists who are not engaged in sport; modifying equipment or buildings; or exposing their breasts; get a look in. 

But a Royal wedding hypes things up, so there is collateral involvement.  Husbands and partners are drawn in.

Read more: The Royal Wedding

Opinions and Philosophy

In Defence of Secrecy

 

 

Julian Assange is in the news again. 

I have commented on his theories and his worries before.

I know no more than you do about his worries; except to say that in his shoes I would be worried too.  

But I take issue with his unqualified crusade to reveal the World’s secrets.  I disagree that secrets are always a bad thing.

Read more: In Defence of Secrecy

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