Today is the last Thursday in June, which means another White Night in Tel Aviv.
Like Paris, Rome, Madrid and a few other European capitals, our little Tel Aviv mounts a White Night festival once a year. Many of the city's cultural institutions and entertainment places will stay open all or most of the night. Among events scheduled for my neighborhood are dancing, jazz performances, and a post-midnight field trip to places connected with the unsolved 1933 murder of Zionist leader Haim Arlosoroff.
Tel Aviv's White Night festival began as a celebration of the city's selection in 2004 as a World Heritage Site of UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Actually, UNESCO didn't select all of Tel Aviv but only the socalled "White City" of 1930s Bauhaus architecture.
To make the White Night festival legal, the city government amended its laws and allowed places of business to stay open beyond regular closing hours. This put the White Night festival on the same footing as Israel's two big celebration holidays, Independence Eve and Purim.
In its wisdom, the city government determined that the White Night festival will always take place on a Thursday night. The choice of Thursday night reflects a change that has come over the Israeli workplace in the last couple of decades. For many Israelis, there is no longer a need to get up for work on Friday morning. Friday, which used to be a day for working until early afternoon, has become the first half of the weekend for many, and an errand-running time for others.
With notable exceptions, such as people who work in stores and essential public services, Israel's work week ends on Thursday. Even the army went on a Sunday-to-Thursday work week years ago for many of its components. Thursday night has become a time for going out, or even for going away for the weekend. It is Israel's counterpart of Friday night in the western workplace.
The Sunday-Thursday week does not please everyone, and it puts Israel out of synch with other countries. A bill to make Sunday a full day of rest, giving Israel a western-style Monday-Friday workweek, has passed its first reading in the Knesset. To become law, it would have to pass second and third readings.
Powerful interests oppose a Monday-Friday week. Eli Yishai, the leader of the Shas party, says it would be better to make Friday a full day off for everyone. Heads of business organizations say the economy can't afford a Monday-Friday week. They say a five-day week would actually be more like a four-day or four-and-one-half-day week.
This is reminiscent of a joke that used to be heard when the Israel economy was on the six-day week. There were proposals to go to a five-day workweek. Someone said that a five-day week would be too drastic a change for the Israeli worker, and that this should be approached gradually -- first, Israelis should try working one day a week, then two days a week, then three days etc. etc.
-- Joseph M. Hochstein, Tel Aviv
Thursday, June 28, 2007
Today is the last Thursday in June, which means another White Night in Tel Aviv.
Friday, June 22, 2007
Another analysis of the Six Day War? Not at all. Now that the flood of 40th-anniversary analyses by just about everyone else has abated, here is something entirely different --- a little recollection of a comment which someone uttered one night in Washington, D.C., not long before the fighting started. Although this post starts with a 1967 event, it is mainly about attitudes that endure today.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Thirty percent of Israelis say they feel lonely sometimes. This includes 59 percent of widowed Israelis, 49 percent of divorced Israelis, 38 percent of Arab Israelis, and 29 percent of Jewish Israelis.
Wednesday, June 6, 2007
Sunday, June 3, 2007
An article in Ha'aretz draws attention to an all but forgotten corner and neglected tragedy of Jewish history. It is history that is happening right now, history that we can change. It is, in my opinion, as a largely ignorant bystander, a failure of the Zionist movement, the Israeli government, and the Jews of the United States and Western Europe.
The Jewish community of Greater Russia, which became the USSR and is now the C.I.S. (Confederation of (not-very) Independent States) was once the heart of the Jewish world, and the original mainspring of Zionism. At one time, it numbered over 5 million. Its people were the engine of the Zionist revival. Achad Ha'am, Ben-Gurion, Bialik, A.D. Gordon, Jabotinsky, Pinsker, Weizmann... the list is endless. This is the world that my grandparents and my great grand-parents, and those of many other Israelis left behind to come to "Eretz Yisroel" as it was known before 1917. These were the people who clamored most insistently for a Jewish National Home, and who were most insistent that that home had to be the land of Israel. Unlike the Jews of Germany or France, they had few illusions about a rosy future for Jews in the Diaspora, except for the communists among them. Confined to the pale of settlement, living in abject poverty, they knew that time was running out for them. Large numbers emigrated to the United States and a smaller number to Palestine, but most of the Jews of Russia were trapped inside the Soviet Union soon after 1917.
Constant persecution, successively under Tsarism and Communism, with a big assist from Nazism, reduced the numbers of the Jewish community. By the eve of World War II, there were about 3.5 million Jews left in the Soviet Union, and about 2.6 million remained after World War II (See here ). By 1959, the Jewish community there numbered only about 2,300,000 and by 1989, there were supposedly less than 1.5 million Jews in the Soviet Union, apparently counting only "Halachic" Jews, whose mothers were Jewish. Of these about a million emigrated. Actually, about 1.5 million Jews emigrated, including those who were not halachically Jewish. 1.5 million minus 1.5 million should be zero, yet there are still Jews in Greater Russia, because the statistics always under-estimate the actual number of Jews. That is perhaps the most hopeful sign. Scattered communities remain throughout the former Soviet Union. In Tadjikistan there are 900 Jews ,12,000 aged Jews in the Stalinist fiasco Birobidjan Jewish republic, 112,000 to 500,000 in the Ukraine, 25,000 to 50,000 in Belarus, 16,000 in the three Baltic states, 275,000 to 650,000 in Russia (figures are from here and here). . The larger estimates count those who hide their nationality and those who have only a Jewish father and are not halachically Jewish, and there may be even more counting those who remember that a great grandfather was Jewish. Former Soviet Union is just part of the story. In Hungary for example, there are about 100,000 Jews or maybe as many as 500,000. In Poland, there are perhaps 10,000 Jews.
The article in Haaretz describes a Chabad movement teachers' training college in Dniepropetrovsk, Ukraine, one of many such efforts that sends its female students all across Russia. The school, supported by the Jewish agency and the State of Israel, accepts students who are not formally Jewish. The once great Russian Jewish community, almost destroyed by Nazism and Communism, is flickering to life, but what we see may just be embers. The school itself is a tiny effort. It was founded in 1995. In the twelve years of its existence, three hundred students in all have completed the course of studies. A drop in the bucket. But it is one of the more successful efforts.
Rabbi Stambler, who heads the school, explains:
Until the Messiah does come (don't hold your breath) along with "Yiddishkeit" of course, the Chabad school is also teaching Chabadism. Chabad is not a Zionist movement, and has some strange beliefs. Among other things, at least some of its members believe that their late Rabbi was the Messiah, and the Rabbi himself believed that the Holocaust was a just punishment of the Jews. If God did it, according to the Lubavitcher Rebbe, He knew what He was doing.
But Chabad nonetheless does excellent practical work, and, at least, Chabad is doing something and so are some others. They have produced a bit of hope for Jewish life in the FSU. The revival is usually described in somewhat hyperbolic terms. For example:
And from here:
It sounds impressive, but is it really enough? Look closely. "Hundreds" trained to lead Pesach seders in four years, schools that may graduate 25 students a year like the Chabad college, do not seem to me so much, compared to the huge work that is needed to save the remnants of these communities.
The article in Ha'aretz describes one exceptional young lady at the Chabad college, whose great grand-parent was Jewish, and who opted to study in the college, to convert and to become orthodox. The article tells us:
How, indeed is it greeted with Israel? With horror, to be sure, but not for the reasons that Chabad may fear. Statistically, most of the Russian Jews may not be halachically Jewish by now. Yet this school, and others like it, may reach only a small percent of them.
In fifty years, there may be nothing left at all of Russian Jewry. If that was because all the Jews of the former Soviet Union emigrated to Israel or found new lives in the United States, it would not be a cause for sorrow. But what if they are all lost because of our negligence? Our children and grandchildren will be wondering, "What were they thinking? How did Zionism fail the Jews of Greater Russia? How did American Judaism fail them?
The effort should be reaching out not only to those who are Jewish, and to those who "know" they are Jewish, but to those who hardly know, those who are afraid to know, and those who do not want to know. Somehow, the Zionist movement in Israel, and the Jews of the United States, Zionist and otherwise, have to understand the magnitude of the tragedy that befell the Jews of the FSU as a community. Because it was so very hard, almost impossible, to be Jewish for so long, it must now be made easy to be Jewish and easy to become Jewish again.
With all due respect to the work of Chabad and of the reform movement, we have to understand that many of the Jews of Russia may see themselves as members of the Jewish people, but do not necessarily identify with the Jewish religion. Many come to Israel, only to find that they are ostracized because they are Jewish only because of their father. "In Russia I was Jewish, here I am Russian," one complained to me. One complained, many others are silent, and many leave in frustration. We must give the forgotten Jews of the C.I.S. a road back to secular Judaism. Are we going to abandon all of these Jews because most of them, like Ben-Gurion, Berdichevsky and Borochov before them, have little or no use for religion?
Saturday, June 2, 2007
Gang wars on our door step. A teen age kid was stabbed in a brawl a couple of blocks away from our apartment, in a "good" neighborhood. This is not Netanya or Yaffo. It was apparently a racial fight. This was once more or less unthinkable in Israel. Someone should be thinking about the implications....
Last update - 12:09 02/06/2007
17-year-old Rehovot teen stabbed to death in brawl
By Roni Singer-Heruti, Haaretz Correspondent
A 17-year-old Rehovot teen was stabbed to death overnight Saturday in a brawl between two groups of youths in the city.
Police have arrested three suspects in connection with the murder, and said they expect more arrests to follow.
At approximately 3:00 A.M., police received reports of a brawl that had broken out at Ben Yehuda street in Rehovot.
A Magen David Adom emergency medical services team arrived on the scene to find the 17-year-old, Adama Teriko, seriously injured from stab wounds in the chest.
He was taken to Kaplan Hospital in Rehovot where he underwent an operation, but the teen succumbed to his wounds Saturday morning.
Police said an initial investigation has found that the brawl was part of an ongoing conflict between the two groups, which had met in order to settle accounts.
'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.
Notice- Copyright Materials
Israel: like this as if articles are copyright intellectual property of the authors. Please link to the originals and quote parts of them in non-commercial Web publications, and forward them to friends by e-mail with the URL of the original article and credit to the author. Other uses require written permission.
LinksZionism-Israel Info Center
Zionation Web Log
Zionism & Israel News
IMO Web Log (Dutch)
Israël-Palestina.Info (Dutch & English)
MidEastWeb: Middle East
Middle East Web Log
Irene Lancaster's Diary
Cynthia's Israel Adventure
Jeff Weintraub Commentaries and controversies
Meretz USA Weblog
Liberal for Israel
ZOTW's Zionism and Israel News
Zionism On The Web News
Dr Ginosar Recalls
Questions: Zionism anti-Zionism Israel & Palestine
Peace With Realism
Encyclopedic Dictionary of Zionism & Israel
Maps of Israel
Six Day War
Zionism and its Impact Jew Hate!
Zionism on the Web
Articles on Zionism
Anti-Zionism Information Center
Academic boycott of Israel Resource Center
The anti-Israel Hackers
Antisemitism Information Center
Zionism Israel and Apartheid
Middle East, Peace and War
The Palestine state
ZOTW Expert Search