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Friday, 26 May 2017

Manchester Measures the Diameter of Its Bomb

The Diameter Of The Bomb


The diameter of the bomb was thirty centimeters

and the diameter of its effective range about seven meters,

with four dead and eleven wounded.

And around these, in a larger circle

of pain and time, two hospitals are scattered

and one graveyard. But the young woman

who was buried in the city she came from,

at a distance of more than a hundred kilometers,

enlarges the circle considerably,

and the solitary man mourning her death

at the distant shores of a country far across the sea

includes the entire world in the circle.

And I won’t even mention the crying of orphans

that reaches up to the throne of God and

beyond, making a circle with no end and no God.

(by Yehuda Amichai, one of Israel’s most esteemed poets)

Ariana GrandeThe bomb that ripped through the foyer at the Manchester Arena on Monday night somehow turned Amichai’s clinical analysis upside-down.

This time, the circle of life and death tightened, skewed and then reversed, leaving young parents without children; a future generation half-wiped out before it had quite begun.

What sort of villain would do this?

I’ll tell you:

This atrocity, I swear, was north west England’s own May-time Ma’alot massacre, whose quite eerie similarity in dates and statistics saw 25 hostages, including 22 children killed and a further 68 people injured.

While the circumstances of what happened in Manchester this week and those in Israel during spring 1974 were quite different, the consequences were wickedly familiar. The following year, for example, a commission of enquiry noted that many mistakes had been made by the authorities and recommendations for improvement were made.

Forty-three years on, I suggest that all public buildings in the U.K., including entertainment venues, install electronic screening for anyone entering or leaving the premises until every non-employee has vacated after a performance. Such a rule should be applied strictly to all involved, no matter their fame and importance.

I have spurred some public debate about singer Ariana Grande’s hasty return to the US after the explosion. While I consider the 23-year-old’s behaviour immature, selfish and irresponsible, others say she was traumatised and probably took advice from her ‘handlers’ and her terrified family. But she is an adult, more than old enough to be a mother, to make decisions for herself and to be answerable for her actions.

Even less worthy was her alleged offer to pay for the murder victims’ funerals. How easy it seems for the wealthy to cure the world’s ills by raining golden pennies on its bruises. Anyone who has been bereaved anyhow –that must be nearly everyone reading this – knows too well that burying the dead only starts the grieving process. This burden, too often something beyond dreadful, may last a mourner’s own lifetime.

While I accept my view is unpopular, I still insist that the star could instead have increased her personal security team and then visited the bereaved and injured before her departure. Instead, the duty was performed by HM Queen Elizabeth II, still performing with ineffable grace and composure aged 91.

As an expat Mancunian now living in Israel, I conclude this short piece by offering sincerest condolences to the bereaved and hopes for the speediest possible recovery to all  those injured.

© Natalie Wood (26 May 2017)


Friday, 19 May 2017

Of This Food Is Coral Made?

Of This Food Is Coral Made?: Deep down, very deep down among the kale, lovage and sorrel at our fruit and vegetable market here in Karmiel, Galilee, I thought I had foun...

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Israeli Minister’s Yom Yerushalayim Scene Stealer!

Miri Regev (Eli Sabati)Not universally popular either in Israel or the general Jewish world, Miri Regev, Israel’s Minister of Culture and Sport has stunned visitors to the current Cannes Film Festival with her choice of gown.
The politically-charged ‘conceptual’ frock, designed by fellow Israeli Arik Aviad Herman, features a fabric frieze on its voluminous skirt showing contentious Jerusalem sites including the Dome of the Rock and the Western Wall.
The choice was most astute, not only because next week sees celebrations for Jerusalem Day and the start of events marking the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Jerusalem in the Six-Day War, but because the famed cinema fest is a haven for the sort radical left-wingers who love to hate the Jewish state.
And continuing a rare flow of good Israeli news, former British Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Lord Sacks has produced What Jerusalem Means to Me an eloquent, elegiac video clip proving conclusively that Jews’ historic association with the holy city far pre-dates that of Judaism’s sister monotheistic faiths.
Last, but perhaps even more important as a resource for Israel supporters is Jerusalem, One Nation’s Capital Throughout History, a 24-page online booklet, by Eli E. Hertz whose contents range from Jerusalem’s Jewish link as against Islam’s tenuous connection to the city and on to its rocky relationship with the United Nations.
© Natalie Wood (18 May 2017)

Saturday, 6 May 2017

The Spiritual Fires of Meron

Night Tales of Meron Mountain“If Jerusalem is the heart of our people”, writes Gittel Marcus “then the Galilee is the imagination. The fires of Meron travel from mountain top to mountain top throughout the land, just like in times of old.”

So concludes the first chapter of her collection, Night Tales of Meron Mountain,** a magical mix of stories for young people based on the lives and deeds of Jewish heroes of antiquity - and several contemporary characters of her invention.

I must own a personal interest in the author and her book as Meron is a small village not far from where we first met in Karmiel, western  Galilee, Israel. It is the largest town in the area and where, she points out, many modern Meron residents work, study and shop.

As the US-born author includes an extensive bibliography and explanatory notes, the book should appeal both to religious Jewish families and those non-Jewish teachers and their students wishing to learn more about the background to Orthodox Judaism and a little of the lives of its Israeli adherents.  Gittel Marcus

**Night Tales of Meron Mountain is available from Amazon on Kindle @ $3.99 and in Paperback @ $7.50.

© Natalie Wood (05 May 2017)

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

PerfectlyWriteFamilyTales: Just Nippon Out for a Banana!

PerfectlyWriteFamilyTales: Just Nippon Out for a Banana!:   Mr Martin Pavelka knows it's important to have a banana. Do You? In  my sagacious opinion, both Mr Pavelka and Telegraph Travel s...

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Playing – Paying for the - Consequences

There’s ‘no such thing as co-incidence’.

Fishel Benkhald Passport Jew PakistaniSo we must suppose, for example, that as the outrage caused by the US Trump administration’s tough anti-illegal immigration policies highlighted the large number of Muslim countries that ban Jews, so the consequent embarrassment has forced Pakistan to allow Fischel (ne Faisal) Benkhald to register officially as a Jew.

Benkhald (29), born to a Muslim father and a Jewish mother, describes himself as ‘the last Jew in Pakistan’. But it is believed there may be hundreds more Jews who have decided to live secretly in Pakistan due to the steep rise in antisemitism there following the partition from India in 1947.

Benkhald, whose Muslim siblings distance themselves from his activities, has done much to restore the Jewish cemetery in Karachi, where a community of largely Iraqi and Indian immigrants once lived. He says he hopes to travel abroad "to a free country" to study Hebrew and Judaism but until then, he will continue his activism in Pakistan.


There’s ‘no such thing as co-incidence’.

So it must have been a fluke that caused The Guardian newspaper to feature the worst excesses of the Nazi film industry barely hours after it was the subject of a screening and discussion for the Anglo community here in Karmiel, Israel.

In her nJud Sussewspaper feature, historian and film-maker Karen Liebreich covered several of the same movies as those discussed during the local event led by US-Israeli Marc Milzman.

Both, for example, examined Jud Süss (Süss the Jew), generally considered to be the most dangerously antisemitic film ever produced.

The movie, seen by about 20 million people throughout Europe by 1943 , is thought to have been the direct cause of many pogroms as well having helped to enthuse SS troops and concentration guards to perform their evil work with yet greater zeal..

It is painfully clear from Liebreich’s interview with Kristina Söderbaum (whom she dubs ‘the Nazi Marilyn Munroe’) that even aged eighty and many years after the war, that the actress harbours all the same prejudices she held when she played the story’s ravished heroine, Dorothea Sturm.

Astoundingly, Söderbaum  claims the movie was not anti-Jewish; that everyone felt sympathy for the anti-hero and  that she was forced to appear in it simply because the director was her husband, Veit Harlan.

Post-war, Harlan was tried (but acquitted) for crimes against humanity. As for Söderbaum, in her autobiography she wrote that Jud Süss “burnt a wound in my soul, and whenever it seems nearly healed over, it is ripped open once more. I know it will never heal. That is my fate, I must live with it.”

And so must we.


There’s ‘no such thing as co-incidence’.

So it could only have been a really unlucky twist of fate that caused  an anti-Israel conference, first scheduled for, but then prevented from convening at  the University of Southampton, to be held instead at  University College Cork in Ireland during the very same weekend as we Karmielis were treated to  our Nazi film show!

Ghada KarmiIndeed,  Harlan could hardly have bettered the scenario: 

With the luscious green landscape of the Emerald Isle as backdrop, it starred Jerusalem-born Dr Ghada Karmi, a lecturer on the Middle East at Exeter University,  who said that the term ‘untermensch’ — used by the Nazis to brand “inferior” non-Aryan people — could be legitimately used to describe Israel’s relationship with the Palestinians.

Dr Karmi further argued  that Jews had flocked to Mandate Palestine because they were “an unpopular, unloved people” and then described European Jews who fled to the Middle East as a “group of foreign immigrants trying to behave as if they were indigenous.”

Dr Karmi’s remarks were sparked by an academic paper written by Professor Yosefa Loshitzky from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) who used the Nazi terminology to describe what she called Israeli “crimes against humanity” in Gaza.

Dr Karmi also said: “We are not allowed to use words the Nazis used, as if they were true and unique only to what the Nazis did to the Jews. It is not right. For Palestinians, I don’t think they make a distinction between what happened to the Jews in Germany and what is happening to them. That is something we need to remember.”

The conference organisers included a former Israeli law lecturer Oren Ben-Dor — whose own university is Southampton. He told his audience, who included former Labour frontbench MP Clare Short, that “Jews need to become human again” and that they possessed a “victim mentality” and a “suppressed desire to be hated … to be boycotted.”

In a separate lecture, Mr Ben-Dor  attacked the ‘extreme separateness’ and ‘apartheid’ within  Israel. ‘Separateness’ and ‘exceptionalism’ were “the State of Israel’s raison d’etre”, he claimed. Later, he added  that Israel was “worse than South Africa” and an apartheid state; but not like South Africa because the kind of legalisms used in Israel were tricks of law to prevent looking from within.”

From reports I’ve read, only two speeches attempted to level  the argument.

Piaras Mac Éinrí, also a conference organiser and a geography lecturer at University  College  Cork,  pointed  out  that  comparison  between “Israel/ Palestine and Nazi Germany is not only historically unfounded, it is also unhelpful. “I feel strongly about that. I think we should stop doing this, it does our movement no favours,” he said.

The sole pro-Zionist speech during the entire three-day event was made by Professor Geoffrey Alderman  from the University of Buckingham who said later that he did not  regret having gone, as he had received  some positive feedback from his remarks.


So here I am, about to light a candle on the eve of another Yom Hashoa – Holocaust Memorial Day. Elsewhere, be it in close-up  or long-shot, the picture for Jews and Israel looks like the black screen of death.  That’s no coincidence!

© Natalie Wood (23 April 2017)

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Sticking the Knife In!

Well. Here’s a thing.

This time major international news sites – most especially the BBC – have jumped to report a murder in the ongoing Palestinian knife intifada aimed at Jewish Israelis.

Hannah BladonMost happily for the po-faced, hand-wringing hacks at the BBC, Sky News, et al, the victim was not Jewish. She was not even an Israeli, but a British national. So they may describe Hannah Bladon’s terrible death with all due ceremony.

Indeed 20-year-old Hannah, from Burton, Staffordshire, was on Jerusalem’s light railway (‘tram’) on Good Friday when she was stabbed several times in the chest. She was studying at the University of Birmingham and was in Israel on an exchange programme based at the Hebrew University.

This time, the Middle East pages on the BBC’s website have been assiduously updated to ensure that readers may view tributes from both universities; condolences from Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin and an image of the murder weapon  – a long-bladed kitchen knife - posted originally on Twitter by Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld.

Even here  hatemongers have tried to make mischief but have been slapped down by  others pointing out that the picture was published to show the length of Jerusalem Murder Weapon.14.04.17the blade.

This flurry of activity is a world away from what usually happens after such attacks.  They are mostly ignored by the international media because of  skewed, prejudiced editorial policies.

I am writing about this now as Ms Bladon’s murder occurred barely days after Hadar Sela of BBC Watch looked back at a terrorist attack of December 2014.

Ayala Shapira and her father, Avner were driving home near Ma’ale Shomron in Samaria when their car was set ablaze by a petrol bomb.

Ayala, then aged 11 and now 13, suffered life-threatening third degree burns to much of her body and face and  must continue to wear a facial pressure mask for the foreseeable future.

Ms Sela wrote: “Ayala’s story is one of hundreds of which BBC audiences have no knowledge because non-fatal terror attacks – however devastating for the victims and their families – are for the most part not reported by the BBC and certainly do not receive any follow-up coverage.

“During 2016, for example, the BBC News website reported all the terror attacks against Israelis that resulted in fatalities, but those attacks were a small proportion of the total number of incidents and audiences were not provided with the crucial context of the scale of attacks as a whole.

“Untold stories such as that of Ayala Shapira are no less important than the fatal attacks which do make BBC headlines in helping audiences to understand Israel’s policies, counter-terrorism measures and the concerns of the Israeli people.

“The fact that such stories are ignored also means that when Israel is obliged to respond to rising terrorism, audiences and BBC journalists alike are unable to put events into their appropriate context and thus arrive at uninformed and inaccurate conclusions.”

© Natalie Wood (15 April 2017)