Thursday, October 23, 2014


Both contributors to this web log passed away in June 2011.

Below is the eulogy we wrote back then.


We mourn the passing of Joe Hochstein, who died this June 26, and of Ami Isseroff, who died only a few days later, on June 29.

Joe and Ami at Ami's place in 2009
Joe and Ami at Ami's place in 2009

Ami was the guy who set up MidEast Web in 2000 and Zionism and Israel Information Center in 2005, and their associated Yahoo news and discussion groups, and Joe has been a co-moderator for most of this time. The goal of MidEast Web was to bring Jews and Arabs together and to work on mutual understanding; the goal of Zionism and Israel Info Center was to defend the legitimacy of Israel and Zionism.

Both men were born in the United States and made aliyah, Ami in the 1960s and Joe in the 1980s. Both were firm believers in Israel and in the quest for peace in the Middle East, and came to pursue their dreams and to help make the country a better place. 

Ami started out working on a kibbutz in the late 1960s to bring his socialist ideas into practice, but after a while became frustrated with the lack of intellectual challenge; after a day's hard work in the fields, his fellow kibbutzniks were not inclined to engage in discussions on socialist and Zionist ideals and the state of the world. So Ami went on to study psychology and achieved a doctorate, met his wife and started a family. He eventually got a job at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot as a very skilled computer programmer, and a nighttime career as an internet activist and a very illuminating thinker and productive writer on the web, inspiring many with his views on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Joe already had a career behind him as an established journalist and publisher of the award-winning Washington-based newspaper The Jewish Week, when, as a widower with three children, he came to Israel in 1983, realizing a long-held dream. Then Joe's son Marcus, who had made aliyah before him, was killed in an ambush by Hezbollah in Lebanon in 1985. Despite this, in a memorial ceremony in 1986 Joe expressed his and others' commitment to Israel: "Jewish history is being made today, here in Israel. Our loved ones played their role in it; we can give it further meaning."
Joe himself survived an Islamic Jihad suicide bombing in Tel Aviv in 1996.

In the 1990s, during the Oslo peace process, Ami became involved in Jewish-Arab dialog and peace activities. In 1998 he started the PEACE group together with Jordanian Ameen Hannoun, and soon they recruited dozens of participants.
Next to dialogue meetings, they started several projects on the rapidly expanding worldwide web, like the Peace Dialogue site and the PeaceWatch column; the latter was hosted on fellow peace activist Robert Rosenberg's Ariga website and was maintained by Ami until 2007.

In August 2000, initiator Yehoshua Zamir, Hope Flowers school founder Hussein Issa, Ami and many others launched MidEast Web for Coexistence, "an NGO for advancing education for coexistence and dialogue in the Middle East". Ami as webmaster filled the website almost singlehandedly with an impressive number of background articles, documents and insightful analyses about the Israeli-Arab conflict. His remarkable intellect, productivity and passion are evident throughout these pages.

In December 2000 they started the MEW Dialog Yahoo group, followed in January 2001 by the MEW News group and in October 2002 by the MEW Background group. In December 2002 they added the Middle East Web Log on MidEast Web. By then, Joseph Hochstein had joined the website and e-mail groups, bringing his knowledge, thoughtfulness and many years of experience as a publisher and editor to MidEast Web, mostly providing quiet advice in the background, pointing out important facts and viewpoints and setting straight historical errors.

Joseph Hochstein in 2008
Joseph Hochstein in 2008

When the hope for a solution to the conflict dwindled during the second intifada, many lost their faith in the MidEast Web project and drifted away. Ami, Joe and a handful of others remained active, but Ami recognized the dangers of the increasing international campaigns to delegitimize Israel and Zionism. In 2005, after helping to set up Zionism on the Web, he started another major website, Zionism and Israel Information Center, and new affiliated Yahoo groups to defend Zionism and Israel against these vicious attacks. He recruited us and later Joe Hochstein to aid in this effort.

On "ZIIC" Ami repeated his amazing MidEast Web work and wrote article after article about all aspects of Zionism and its history and meaning, making it one of the best and comprehensive websites on the subject. He started the ZioNation blog to provide his comments and invited others to join, and offered Ratna a separate blog in Dutch.

Although their characters were quite different, Joe and Ami highly respected each other's work and benefited from each other's knowledge and insights. They co-authored the blog Israel Like This As If for some years, where especially Joe placed stories about his everyday experiences living in Tel Aviv.

What was very special about both Ami and Joe is that they combined their Zionism and love for Israel with a progressive viewpoint and the quest for peace and understanding of the other side. Unlike many peace activists they, especially Ami, were staunch defenders of Israel and its right to exist and defend itself, but unlike many pro-Israel activists they never lost the will and hope to reach peace with the Palestinians and Arabs. Both men came from the political left and remained faithful to these basic views, Joe also being active for the Tel Aviv chapter of Meretz.

They also shared an eagerness to unravel the facts behind media reports and claims from both sides in the conflict. The truth was the basis for all positions, even if inconvenient for Israel, like what happened in Deir Yassin, which got Ami a lot of angry responses from other Zionists. They were not blind to Israel's own faults, but neither to the many faults of the Palestinian leadership, which was ultimately unwilling to really compromise for peace.

As for us personally, Joe and Ami were our first friends in Israel, and we visited them every time we were there in the last six years. MidEast Web, Zionism Israel Info Center and their news and discussion groups were what got us involved with the country and the conflict. They taught us much of what we know about Israel and the conflict.

As educated men they were interested in and well informed of a wide variety of subjects, from history to culture, from philosophy to nature. There was always plenty to talk about and to learn from them, and to enjoy. We remember Ami also for his humor, his and his wife Ruth's hospitality, and Joe for the dinners at his place or sharing a good falafel in the streets of Tel Aviv.

We will sorely miss them both, personally and as political allies and guides. Israel won't be the same without these friends.

Ami Isseroff in 2007
Ami Isseroff in 2007

We express our sympathy with the families of both Joe and Ami for their very great loss. Ami reached the age of 65, and leaves behind a wife and three children. Joe reached the age of 77, and leaves behind two children and eight grandchildren.

Ratna & Wouter, the Netherlands

Ami's family has indicated that donations to commemorate Ami are welcome to any hospital in Israel. Rehovot's Kaplan Medical Center has an American Friends group and can be contacted at

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Lehitraot, from Joseph M. Hochstein

 It's time to take my leave from this blog. You could say that it's long past time, since I have been inactive here for more than two years.

My last post here was a comparison of New York with Israel, dated June 11, 2008. I am responsible for posts signed with my name through that date. Posts that appeared at this blog between then and this note of farewell should not be charged to my account.
Read more »

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Friday, June 26, 2009

Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Censorship of Kiddies

In a blogicle called "Not realizing which team he is on," Treppenwitz explains that he censored his five year old son's "inappropriate" TV watching activities, and his son did not understand that he is on the opposite "team" and was supposed to object. Cops and robbers. 
As Halfowitz, I have a different point of view. In the first place, I don't see quite how to apply this idea to rasing kids in Israel. Let's say you're an Israeli kid. So one minute you are watching a parentally approved non-violent 100% kosher TV program and the announcer comes on and says "This is an emergency. Israel is undergoing a missile attack. Please stay calm and enter your sealed rooms." Another time, the broadcast is interrupted to announce that Yigal Amir murdered the Prime Minister. Another time, you turn on the TV and Zaka people are busy collecting body parts after a suicide attack, or you learn that the President is accused of being a rapist. So what are you going to think if Mommy and Daddy tell you not to watch "The Shield" because it has explicit sex and violence? "Like, where are they living?"
Ultraorthodox Jews created a kosher search engine to keep the world out of the Internet. It's called Koogle. From what I can see, it works fine. Any English language search term I entered returned "Page not found." World guaranteed to be shut out, totally.
Does reality have an effect? Is it harmful to your mental health? Is TV the same as reality? Can we shut out the world and is it worth it? I am not too sure that watching explicit TV programing in childhood is the explanation for the existence of ultra orthodox pedophiles for example. I don't have scientific data to support my ideas, admittedly, just my own experiences.
Our kids always watched whatever they liked. The oldest son watched Oedipus Rex  at age three on the public broadcasting channel when we were in US. He explained to Ruth what it was about pretty well, and added that it was not nice at all. I think it was the only channel we got at the time. All three kids watched lots of "good stuff" of all kinds including people "doing it," people killing each other in very creative ways, and everything from nonsense and kiddie shows to an explicit homosexual series that was too much for me. They watched, at different periods and in the same periods, the Smurfs, the Muppets, Michal Yannai's kiddie show, Incredible Hulk, action flicks and series, Stephen Segal, Mel Gibson, Texas Ranger, Pamela Anderson, lots of cleavage stuff and people getting blown to bits. Generally they were only interested in junk suitable to they own age, with aberrant tendencies to watch works of art. They endlessly played Dungeons and Dragons too. which is supposed to be a good stimulant to evil behavior. .
I would like to report that our offspring are all homicidal, thieving, devil worshiping, drug addicted sex maniacs locked away in Ma'asiyahu prison with former Treasury Minister Hirschson and MK Benizri and President Katsav and others like them, just to prove the theories of the censorship advocates. Unfortunately, the three evil malefactors are not in jail yet I think, and our kids didn't turn out that way. The "boys" are grad students in chemistry and engineering and the "girl" is finishing the army. Maybe their futures in politics are ruined. Maybe Katsav and Benizri didn't get to watch enough junk on TV when they were kids. That is what comes of a deprived childhood.
As for me, when I was a kid in U.S.A. they didn't have "inappropriate" shows on TV or if they did, I was too dumb to know about it or to understand what was going on. If I wanted sexually explicit content and senseless violence I had to read the Bible I guess. The closest we could get on TV was Sheena Queen of the Jungle. I remember reading with shock that some group labeled the content as "inappropriate." After that, I made a point of watching it..Mostly,  we watched cartoons, "Father Knows Best" and "The Nelsons" which were probably a lot worse for developing psyches than Oedipus Rex.
One type of program I always watched together with my kids when they were kids, were series about crooked cops. In those shows there are two teams, but you can never quite figure out which is the good team. That type of show is really dangerous I guess, because it introduces MORAL RELATIVISM. Still,  naybe it is better if in families, everyone tries to stay on the same team, rather than playing cops vs junkies and murderers. Maybe people who play those games with their parents as cops, get to identify with the team of the bad guys.  
If there is less sin defined, perhaps there is less sinning. With fewer rules but important ones, it is easier to keep kids, ultraorthodox teachers and politicians from doing the things that are really harmful and wrong.  If no fruit are forbidden except those that are physically harmful, perhaps we eat the ones that taste best and we develop a taste for what is right.  
Ami Isseroff

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Henglish, or Why Gilad Schalit is not free

jill hennessy
Henglish is the language you get when you directly translate Hebrew into English. For example, the title of this Web log "Like this, As If" is translated from the Hebrew "Kazeh, Ke'ilu." That in turn is translated from the English slang, "so, like" as in "Jill Hennessy is so, like, foxy." (Well she is, isn't she?) So Kazeh Ke'ilu is Engbrew, the complement of Henglish.
Henglish has many comic constructions, such as "The situation is on the face." It is a direct translation of the Hebrew, "Hamatzav al hapanim," which it generally is. Usually, educated people who speak Henglish do it for laughs. The Jerusalem Post however, is not necessarily to be counted among the educated. Jill Hennessy As I noted in Why Gilad Shalit is not free, here's how they quoted Defense Minister Ehud Barak's remarks about Gilad Shalit:
"We have a moral responsibility and to do everything fitting and possible to bring Gilad Schalit home. Not at any price and not only in negotiations."

The best minds in Israel, as well as the defense establishment, "are currently sitting on the matter,"
"The matter is crucial, and it is not simple..."

The best minds are sitting on the matter. In Hebrew "Hamo'hot hachi tovim yoshvim al hainyan." But in English, it conjures up Mr. Barak, with his ample sitting department, sitting on a big file marked "Gilad Schalit." And maybe some other ample "minds" are also sitting on it. No wonder Schalit is not freed yet, the Israeli government doesn't know the difference between its mind and its sitting department! Or maybe that's just the Jerusalem Post.
Too bad they don't have Jill Hennessy or Bar Raphaeli sitting on the problem - they have such lovely minds for sitting.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

New York and Israel: Same same, as we say in Tel Aviv and other parts of Asia

A travel article in Smithsonian magazine contains some perceptive points about what life in Israel is like. The article isn't about Israel, though. It discusses the behavior of New Yorkers.

The New York City described in this article is strikingly similar to Israel. In the following passage, wherever you see "New Yorkers," imagine that the author has written "Israelis."

It is said that New Yorkers are rude, but I think what people mean by that is that New Yorkers are more familiar. The man who waits on you in the delicatessen is likely to call you sweetheart. (Feminists have gotten used to this.) People on the bus will say, "I have the same handbag as you. How much did you pay?" If they don't like the way you are treating your children, they will tell you. And should you try to cut in front of somebody in the grocery store checkout line, you will be swiftly corrected. My mother, who lives in California, doesn't like to be kept waiting, so when she goes into the bank, she says to the people in the line, "Oh, I have just one little thing to ask the teller. Do you mind?" Then she scoots to the front of the line, takes the next teller and transacts her business, which is typically no briefer than anyone else's. People let her do this because she is an old lady. In New York, she wouldn't get away with it for a second.

While New Yorkers don't mind correcting you, they also want to help you. In the subway or on the sidewalk, when someone asks a passerby for directions, other people, overhearing, may hover nearby, disappointed that they were not the ones asked, and waiting to see if maybe they can get a word in. New Yorkers like to be experts. Actually, all people like to be experts, but most of them satisfy this need with friends and children and employees. New Yorkers, once again, tend to behave with strangers the way they do with people they know.

Everything described above is something I have witnessed in Tel Aviv.

A comment about "sweetheart." In Israel, you may hear people calling one another "motek." This is a unisex term of familiarity, meaning "sweet one" in Hebrew. If you say "motek" to someone of the same or opposite sex, it doesn't necessarily convey flirtation or sexist overtones. You can hear "sweetheart" used the same way in New York.

Where do the similar behaviors in Israel and New York come from? Is it a Jewish thing? New York is sometimes seen, erroneously, as a city of Jews. It does have more Jewish residents than Tel Aviv. People who don't like Jews have long used the label "New York" as a pejorative synonym for things Jewish. The city has become a magnet for Israeli expatriates and Hebrew-speaking tourists. Sayed Kashua, a Haaretz columnist, was in Manhattan a few weeks ago and wrote, "I heard more Hebrew on the Upper West Side than I do in Jerusalem."

The Smithsonian piece does not even hint that there are Jews in New York. Its writer, Joan Acocella, a gifted essayist and critic, cites various factors to explain why New Yorkers behave as they do. She suggests that two reasons may be the difficulties of everyday life in the city, and the awareness of a shared plight. She writes, "When New Yorkers see a stranger, they don't think, 'I don't know you.' They think, 'I know you. I know your problems---they're the same as mine---and furthermore we have the same handbag.' So that's how they treat you." That observation could apply equally to Israelis.

Acocella points out: "The majority of people who live in New York City were not born here. Indeed, more than a third were not born in the United States." Thus, New Yorkers "are people who left another place and came here, looking for something, which suggests that the population is preselected for higher energy and ambition."

These New York data also bear a similarity to Tel Aviv, and to Israel in general. More than 30 percent of the Jews in Israel and also in the Tel Aviv area were born abroad. Tel Aviv, like New York, is a commercial and cultural center that attracts people loaded with energy and ambition. In 2006, the most recent year for which data are available, one of every 20 people in Tel Aviv had moved here less than 12 months earlier.

This raises another question: If the behavior of New Yorkers isn't particularly Jewish, what is it that causes Jews in Israel to behave like New Yorkers? The answer may lie in the old dictum that Jews are just like everyone else, only moreso.

---Joseph M. Hochstein, Tel Aviv

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Sunday, May 18, 2008

How some Israelis view the United States

[Here is some old material that remains pertinent. Three years ago my college alumni magazine produced a roundup of articles on how Americans are viewed in eight countries around the world. They asked me to write about Israel. -- J.M.H.]

“Don’t look at me like that,” a man’s voice rings out in American English. It resonates over the Hebrew buzz of a Tel Aviv shopping mall. “I’m not going to steal anything from you,” the American snaps at the manager of a newsstand that sells foreign magazines.

The newsstand manager replies in Israeli-accented English. “What’s the problem? Why must you talk this way? I didn’t say anything to you. We are brothers.” Brothers they may not be, but they are about the same age, in their late 20s or early 30s.

As people do in Israel, I butt in. I ask the American if he has been here long. He says he arrived only recently. He is on military duty. We talk for awhile. The American is black. I tell him he will find that people here don’t view skin color the way Americans do. He returns his attention to the magazine racks for a few minutes and then vanishes into the crowd.

“He thought you were staring at him,” I tell the shopkeeper, explaining that a white man staring at a black man in the United States might provoke some discomfort.

“In America, they’d think I’m white?” asks the magazine seller, whose olive skin marks him in Israel as of Mediterranean or Middle Eastern background — historically, a group that has suffered discrimination by fellow Jews of European origin. He tells me that he spent a couple of years in the States — in Seattle and California — and was not aware of racism. He was living there illegally and thought it best not to divulge his nationality. He told everyone he was Italian — which went over well with women, he adds. He loves America and would move there in a minute, he says, if he could get the immigration papers.

Elsewhere in Tel Aviv, friends and neighbors express various views of the United States and its people. Moshe, who owns a stationery store, says Americans are “freiers” — an evocative Israeli term of disapproval that is variously rendered as “suckers” or “pushovers” or “gullible victims.” Moshe explains: “They go to places where they don’t belong — Iraq, Afghanistan. They try to be the police force of the whole world. They should stay home and attend to their own problems.”

Hannah, a school administrator, finds fault with U.S. family life. Adult children move away and see their parents only once or twice a year, she says, and even college students leave home to study. Accustomed to a society where the generations are reunited every Sabbath, she sees the way Americans live as cold and fragmented.

Mazal, a beauty-shop operator and mother of a combat pilot, is impressed with the U.S. work ethic. Even the richest Americans insist that their children find jobs, she believes.

Some years ago an Israeli journalist wrote about U.S. supermarkets. What struck him was the impersonal way in which store clerks told him to have a nice day. Later, a book by a pair of cross-cultural consultants found that Israelis often see Americans as insincere, naive, superficial, too formal, lacking spontaneity, insistent on going by the book rather than improvising, and easily taken advantage of.

Mordechai, a jewelry designer who has visited 11 U.S. states, thinks differently. The first word that comes to mind when he is asked about Americans is “kind.” He adds that the Americans who visit his shop in Tel Aviv are not stingy the way French tourists are.

I tell Mordechai he is generalizing. “I know that,” he says, smiling.

--Joseph M. Hochstein, Tel Aviv

(Cross-posted at ZioNation: Progressive Zionism and Israel Web Log)

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Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Arabic voices, and the faces of Ma'alot

It is memorial day, and we are waiting for the start of a ceremony for the war dead in Ma'alot, a small Israeli city near the Lebanon border. We already know more or less what the speakers will say. They talk every year about the heartrending loss of young soldiers' lives as the price of protecting the country.

While we wait, people sitting behind me are chatting in Arabic. Three of the four local people killed in the Second Lebanon War were young Arab civilians. They were Shanati Shanati, 18, Amir Naeem, 18, and Muhammed Fa'ur, 17. A direct hit by a Hezbollah katyusha rocket killed them Aug. 3, 2006. They had been riding together in a jeep and got out to take cover.

The fourth local victim was Sgt. Maj. Moti Abutbul, 28, a member of Flotilla 13, an elite unit that is sometimes likened to the U.S. Navy SEALS. A katyusha killed Abutbul and 11 other Israeli soldiers Aug. 7, 2006, near Kfar Giladi.

We saw the faces of the local dead last night. On every memorial eve Ma'alot shows the faces of its dozens of fallen soldiers and terror victims, displaying them one by one on a big outdoor projection screen. Brief narration accompanies each photograph, telling when and how the person died. As each face appears, a family representative mounts the stage and lights a memorial candle.

Arab family members showed up last night to light candles for the recent victims. They chose again today to take part in a program in memory of the Israel war dead. A Jewish high school put together the program today.

Whatever meaning you may read into this, it is something to set alongside current media reports which suggest that Arabs have nothing on their minds except the notion of the Nakba, the disaster which some say resulted from the birth of the state of Israel. In Ma'alot, life is much more complicated than that, and coexistence is a daily event.

---Joseph M. Hochstein, Tel Aviv

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'Like this, as if' is a literal translation of Hebrew slang, 'kahzeh ke'ilu.' This Hebrew expression is a literal translation of 'so, like,' as in 'It was so, like, cool.' A weblog translating Israeli life into English.

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