A Land of Contrasts

StarOfDavidby Steve Lancaster8/28/15
22 July Monday night, Fayetteville time  •  Well, we are somewhere over the Atlantic and expect to arrive in TA about 10 in the morning Israel time. The plane is full, a small group of Americans who are making Aliyah, (in Hebrew this means to go up to Israel) are on the flight. Most, however, are on holiday. The majority are Jewish, although there is a tour group from a church in TX that are evangelical Christian. There are also a couple of guys that I suspect are the Israel version of sky marshals, one forward close to the first class seating and another seated in the rear, where I would sit to watch what is going on. It is comforting to know they are there; of course they could be accountants from Pittsburg if so the audits must be painful.

Getting through security was the same Kabuki dance that by now we all know and love, shoeless, almost naked poked and prodded for what seems to be hours, boarding and waiting for wheels up, it’s a good thing we had a long layover. If I make this trip again I will fly El Al. Then at least I will know that the scary looking guys are really who they seem to be, lesson learned, its worth a couple hundred dollars to not get repeatedly hammered by the TSA.

I heard from my friend in TA Sunday morning and he will meet us at Ben-Gurion international. We are not going to do much other than get over jet lag which is a lot tougher than for folks in their late 60s than those in their 20s. I have not seen Meir since 73 and then only for a few days. Our employers did not look favorably on friendships with competitors, even if we are mostly on the same side. I look forward to visiting with him again. Not much else to comment on, off to sleep.

Monday 27 July

It has been quite a week. We spent most of two days just recovering from travel, jet lag is much tougher on us at our age than when we were in our 20s. We spent the time in TA. Tel Aviv, (in Hebrew it means hill of spring) is a prosperous city with elements of New York, Chicago, Seattle, and San Francisco. Mier is proud of his city and with justification 100 years ago it was not much more than a few tents and some salt-water marsh. Today it is a major city of over 400,000. The burbs around TA bring the total up to about a million.

Meir opened his home to us. We, for all intents, have a luxury suite with a sitting room, bath, bedroom, access to patio and private entrance. We also have, to my wife’s chagrin, armed security on site and when we travel. Iris is an IDF veteran in her late 20s, conversant in English, and German as well as her native Hebrew. She is a Sabra, born in Israel, as were her parents. She has the self-assurance of someone who knows competence in her chosen work, and the easy movements of superb training, I assume Krav Maga, yet she plays with Meir’s grandchildren with complete confidence. Ah, if I were 40 years younger.

We are spending Shabbos with the family tonight, Friday. Meir is not overly religious but he attends to the basics of faith. He says, out of respect for his parents who escaped Russia in the 30s and for those who never lived through the Holocaust. I can’t disagree with his logic, of course as a proper guest I wouldn’t even if I did. Meir and I will spend most Saturday talking about old times in Chile, Sunday and Monday we will be in Haifa.

15 August 2015

Ok, I never claimed to be a travel writer and it’s been three weeks since I even thought of opening this file. I do have some notes so I will just let it flow. So rather than a step-by-step blog I think I will just go with impressions. Haifa is a cross between what you think a Middle Eastern city should be and a modern seaport city; close your eyes and it could be Brest. The drive from TA is not a long one about one hour. It is in many respects like driving up the Pacific Coast Highway from Malibu to Sana Barbara. There are areas of industrialization and stretches of farms, mostly old style Kibbutz some founded over 100 years ago.  Haifa is like most cities in the less war torn areas of the Levant a mixture of old and new. In one block you can walk from a cave that Neolithic man lived to a high rise apartment with all the modern accouterments, a strange dichotomy for the modern American.

It’s been hot even along the coast. Israel electric is concerned that reserve electric power generation is going to be reached with the possibility of rolling blackouts. I am sure the areas affected will claim that it is some sort of conspiracy.  We plan on heading to Masada. I hear that it is 125 f in parts of the Negev; my wife is passing on the trip.

Yep, it’s hot up here. From the top you can see the outlines of the Roman camps. How must the Zealots have felt knowing that escape was impossible? There are not a lot of people willing to brave the heat and they are mostly Americans. There is a small group of Israeli commandos who are here for their final graduation ceremony before assignment to posts. How strange that after 2000 years of diaspora Jewish warriors are again standing on Jewish soil vowing to defend the nation. It almost wipes out the last 2000 years and it brings to mind a Psalm, I don’t recall which one,  “he who keeps Israel shall neither sleep nor slumber”. There is a connection with a very old way that is at the same time modern. I think you could say that Israel is a land of contrasts.

The Kotel (wall) in Jerusalem brings elements of Judaism and Christianity into focus. There is no way anyone can visit Jerusalem and not be aware of the history behind these stonewalls. Here Richard of England might have stood, over there King David walked, next to that where Israeli troops took control of the old city of Jerusalem in 1967. Here is the very spot that the Romans took the temple treasure to Rome, a great deal of which went to the building of monuments all over Rome.

There has been an upsurge of violence at crossing points from West Bank. This time it is terrorists knifing police border guards. There have been at least five such knifings in the last few days each time by someone asking for water in the heat. I wonder how long Americans would tolerate something like this at the Mexican border? Meir says that it is part of the Palestinian effort to make Israel overreact. I think he is right.

Some of the streets and markets are unchanged and with a little imagination take you back 500 years or more. Of course, just down the street is a McDonalds, Kosher of course. Ray Kroc would be proud and amused. It’s a long way from the first restaurant in San Bernardino CA to the streets of Israel. McDonalds is not the only American chain but it is the most recognizable. I bought Iris her first Big Mac; with some trepidation she took a bite. The complex flavors of the Americanized sandwich made to Kosher standards and with the Israeli pallet were priceless; just wait till I find some grits.

You can travel to Israel and eat like an American. There are even Israeli restaurants that are competing favorably with the fast food giants. The other big American chain is Kentucky Fried Chicken, although Israelis seem to find the Colonel a difficult symbol and the commercials in Hebrew with a Southern accent are wonderful. I can’t translate “finger licken good” to Hebrew and make it sound right.

Long conversation with Meir and some of his friends the subject got round to the Iran deal and what Israel should do about it. Meir is of the opinion that on a geopolitical level the deal is meaningless. Bibi, who is not one of Meir’s favorite people, is making political hay in Israel and the US. Meir’s opinion is that the deal is a moot point. Iran already has a nuclear weapon, perhaps as many as five. Bibi knows that, and so does Obama. The major hold up is the ability to marry the warheads to ICBMs, a technology that Obama’s agreement does not address. Iran will acquire that within the next few years. I wonder what the next president will do? Potentially, millions of lives will depend on his/her decision.

The only deterrent are the 200+ Israeli weapons with MIRVed capability and SLCM that are now constantly on station in the Persian Gulf, MAD has come to the ME with a vengeance. In addition, the Saudis, according to Meir, have or are about to acquire, weapons and delivery technology from the Paks; who’s nuclear program they financed. The most critical flashpoint for state on state nuclear war has not been made any safer with Obama’s meddlesome posturing.

There are many in Israel who believe that some workable accommodation with Iran is possible.  The illusions of leftists never falter and they are a minority. Even the left wing paper Haaretz has significant doubts about the IAEA and the ability to inspect, not to mention enforcing penalties should or rather when Iran is found to be cheating. The whole thing sounds like the same goat rope we went through with Iraq, and that turned out so well.

My guess is that Obama’s deal will have two possible outcomes:

  1. Iran will live up to the agreement and take their time going nuclear
  2. Israel will be pushed to the point of having no other alternative but to destroy Iran’s ability to launch nuclear-armed missiles. In which case Israel will have to resort to their own nuclear weapons to make sure of destroying Iran’s weapons and technology.

If so, the greatest mass murderer since Stalin will be Barack Obama.

There is so much more but the general impression is that Israel will defend itself from any existential threat and the rest of the world can go to hell if they don’t like it. The nation is calm and confident and the IDF, Shin Bet and Mossad know what they are doing. Eight million people who just want to be left alone. • (836 views)

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6 Responses to A Land of Contrasts

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    I rather expect that option 2 is likelier, with Teheran and Qom as very logical targets politically (and the latter would certainly be no loss, particularly if they timed it right).

    A nice report, but I will note that there’s a difference between “palate” and “pallet”, and you probably meant the former. Also, Richard the Lionhearted never himself entered Jerusalem. He wisely didn’t take the chance of trying to take it and risking a repeat of the Horns of Hattin, and because of that decided he had no right to enter it when he made a deal with Saladin to allow pilgrims to visit the city.

    • Steve Lancaster says:

      Well spell check did it again. I should be glad it did not insert pullet and yes Richard did not enter the old city but he was within spitting distance.

      I just don’t see anything good coming from this phony agreement it was a bad idea from the start its like syphilis; you know how you got it and why, if you don’t treat it the pain just gets worse.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        A spelling checker (to me, a spell check is something a Wiccan would need) can be interesting. Arlan Andrews once suggested putting any Shakespeare sonnet through a spelling checker and taking the most humorous suggestions. An interesting take on the idea turns up in one of Piers Anthony’s Xanth novels, when Prince Dor summons a spelling bee to help him write a short report, and the bee supplies him with every homophone it can (he even spells his own name wrong).

  2. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    I have read that the Israel and the Americans have come to the conclusion that the weakest point in the Iranian nuclear program is the delivery system. According to some, it takes some time to ready an ICBM for launch and should the Iranians do so, Israel and the USA, with our satellite technology will know this is happening and take action. I can only hope this is true.

    As to greatest mass-murderers, don’t forget Mao beats them all.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      All estimates of mass murder by democidal governments are estimates, of course. R. J. Rummel in Death by Government counted about 62 million dead in the Soviet Union (probably most of them by Stalin) compared to about 35 million by Mao (and 21 million by the Nazis).

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        I have seen and heard much higher numbers for Mao. In Asia, 50 million is considered the low with 70 or 80 million being considered more likely. Given the poor statistical standards in China at that time as well as the well known disregard for peasant life, and horrible communications, it is impossible to know exactly.

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