Corbyn only has himself to blame

It’s this kind of behavior, from the man at the top, seen as acceptable within the Labor party, that has seen them play host – welcome host – to bigots and haters. Given how endemic antisemitism appears to be within the Muslim community, it’s not easy to see a durable solution for those who might actually want to fix the problem.

Oh, and it’s possible it might get worse. Labor have put a pyromaniac in charge of putting out the fires.


Leicester City are champions! Unbelievable. A team who were among the top four candidates for relegation, whose aim was survival in the Premiership, beat the lot. A beautiful, wonderful, amazing league success for the incredibly underrated Leicester City.

But it’s more than that; it’s probably the sporting underdog story of all time, probably, and certainly one of the most amazing stories in modern football.

Well done Claudio Ranieri and the Leicester team. Congratulations to you all. I’m glad I was wrong.

Why do soldiers keep fighting?


“I want to make sure…that you know how I feel about it, so that if anything happens you will not upset yourself too much. There are a crowd of us who have been in tanks all the time since we came here and at different times we could all have had easy jobs on transport but not one has ever taken it. I know why I have not and I suppose the others think the same. It is because of John and Stanley and all the others who have gone, it is a trust we have left and if I stopped now and skulked around until the end I would never hold my head up again and I have a feeling you [would] be ashamed of me a bit too. It seems a long time to keep going but we must otherwise we shall be letting them all down and they will have died for nothing…I am a tank commander, I have told you before I think. I’ve been one for a while and I shall continue to be one until the end. What the end will be I don’t know, and who am I to say, but if it should be the wrong one don’t worry. I’ve played the game as it seemed to me the right way to play it. I have respected the women and given my rations to the little children because they were hungry and I’ve shot the Germans down and laughed because of John and Stanley and in any case they started it.”

Extract from a letter by Jake Wardrop, 5th RTR to his mother. Quoted in Mark Urban‘s The Tank War, the WW2 story of the 5th Royal Tank Regiment told from the perspective of its soldiers.

The Girl in the Spider’s Web – David Lagercrantz

With the untimely death of Stieg Larsson, many readers were mourning not only him, but the end of the Millennium book series, with those intriguing characters Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist. Into the breach steps David Lagercrantz (no, I had never heard of him before, either) to craft a fourth book in the series. How does the new author fare?

The story begins with Salander and Blomkvist each doing their own thing, disconnected from one another. Salander is involved in some high level hacking, and Blomkvist is trying to maintain his journalistic standards in the face of directives from the new owners of Millennium. Then, a somewhat troubled scientist contacts Blomkvist, and sets off a chain of roller coaster events that bring Salander and Blomkvist into the same deadly arena.

There’s a mix of mafia, moles, and maladministration, topped with corruption and killings. All very familiar, and occasionally all too well telegraphed. However, despite some strained passages, Lagercrantz holds the reader’s attention, and gives a fair account of himself. The plot is passable, and the character development of the two main protagonists and their back story is more than that. A key element here is the scientist’s autistic child. In those parts of the story, I felt that Lagercrantz was on surer ground, as if he were writing from personal experience, as the narrative appeared to be steadier, smoother, and more rounded than other parts of the book.

While the new book doesn’t quite come up to the standards of the original three, it’s not a bad read, and in places I quite enjoyed it. Because I like the core characters, I hope that Lagercrantz gets another shot at a follow on.

Working does not contradict Torah

I wasn’t online much during the Pesach week, so I am only now catching up on the Globes piece published on 27th April 2016 about ZAKA chairman Yehuda Meshi Zahav.

ZAKA is a haredi organization that “rescues, identifies, and traces Jewish disaster victims in Israel and all over the world.” Zahav is a former anti-Zionist militant, which adds somewhat to the message conveyed in the interview, and to the sense of selflessness and of pure charity given by the man and his helpers.

Zahav was asked about the recent incident of an 81 year-old female passenger on a plane, asked to switch seats because a haredi man refused to sit next to her. Here’s his very quotable response:

“Things are so crazy here that everyone thinks how to be more strictly observant, how to show that he’s stricter… I don’t believe in all this nonsense. I’m rational. I don’t believe cult-like religious leaders and other foolishness. They taught us respect that the worst thing you can do is humiliate someone in public. It’s better to be thrown into the furnace than to humiliate your fellow man. There are stories about Rabbi Auerbach, one of the greatest religious authorities, when he would travel on a bus and a woman sat next to him. He didn’t get up. He said that respecting a person, respecting your fellow human being, took precedence over everything. God will forgo the respect due him if the purpose is to honor your fellow human being. To injure a woman, and for what? That’s not cleanliness, holiness, duty, or a commandment. It’s lack of respect for your fellow human being. Yes, there’s a non-ending argument among haredi Jews. Rabbi Ovadia Yosef was asked once if it was permitted to extend a hand back to a woman who puts her hand out to you. He ruled that it was permissible. That’s the way of Judaism. Respect takes precedence over Torah; that’s no slogan or cliche.”

I certainly learned that respect was more important than personal pride. And his comments ring all too true with me. Unfortunately, there are too many religious extremists who seem to have learned differently. Of course they are wrong, but…

As for the whole working or studying situation, Zahav says this:

“There’s something strange here that happens only in Israel. People work in all Jewish communities. The most extreme Jews in the US, the Satmar Hasidic Jews, work. All of them. The lay leader of the community, the most highly respected man, who sits next to the Satmar rabbinical leader on Sabbath eve, wears blue overalls and works in a printing firm during the week, and then wears all the Hasidic trimmings on the Sabbath. Only here in Israel do haredim not work. Why? They say that after the Holocaust, after the world of Torah was destroyed, the rabbis were unwilling to listen to anything before the world of Torah was rebuilt. Even if that were true then, however, it looks to me like an excuse later. In any case, the state of Israel owes a great debt to my dear friend, (former Minister of Finance and MK) Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid). He broke the direct connection between the yeshiva and the labor market. Before, anyone who left the yeshiva was automatically drafted into the army, but not now. The haredim have realized this, and one day, they will praise him. The result is that more and more haredi men are going to work. I don’t understand how it can be otherwise.”

Quite an eye opener. You will see that he, at least, recognizes the need for work, and the benefit of Lapid‘s policies which, nevertheless, were so denounced and hated by the haredi establishment.

In summary, Zahav is a real mensch, doing unbelievable work of which I suspect the Globes piece (which you can read here) only gives a tiny hint. How he went from anti-Zionist to national hero is especially poignant.

We are fortunate there are people like him in Israel.

So that was Pesach that was

So what did Susan and I get up to on Pesach?

On the games front, I played some ASL with Ran, some Ticket to Ride with Susan and Lori, and some Battle Lines with Lori.

On the reading front, I finished one novel, and three history books. Susan finished at least two novels.

On the wedding front, I did some wedding dress shopping with Sarah-Lee (and managed not to cry).  Susan did a bit more than that. The hot news is that I believe a final decision has been made.

On the family front, we had a great Seder with the Horesh crew and Hannah, and a Pesach Picnic and Tour. And we met up with Jonathan and Ann, and most of their crew.

On the exercise front, we managed two trips to the gym, and a couple of long bike rides to the Tel Aviv port and back.

We had a couple of barbecues, and ate too much meat.

I went to shul a few times. (By Shabbat, you could sense that people had had enough!)

Oh, it’s good to be back to a normal week to week routine.

Six for Thursday

Edge of the Hippodrome, with the mosque in the background, Caserea - April 2016

Edge of the Hippodrome, with the mosque in the background, Caesarea – April 2016

Because tonight is yomtov, I am unable to give the regular set of links on Friday. Here’s six for Thursday by way of compensation.


And a bonus, especially suitable for the chag and the times we live in:

From freedom to enslavement

Chag Sameach! Shabbat Shalom!

Five For Friday

Azrieli Center, Tel Aviv - February 2010

Azrieli Center, Tel Aviv – February 2010

I have spent most of this week trying not to think about Pesach. I failed. Every year, the festival looms like an ominous threat, because it’s always hard work (especially for Susan) and the change in diet is challenging on many levels. But, as someone reminded me earlier in the week, it’s good to be alive and able to complain. This observation is somewhat heightened by last night’s news of the death of Rabbi Daniel Beller, the rabbi of Shivtei Yisrael in Ra’anana, a thoroughly nice man, well respected, loved, and sure to be missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, and we hope they will be spared sorrow for many, many years to come.

After that, the sad truth is that life goes on, with every moment as precious as ever, no matter how we fill it. And so it is that I offer the regular weekly selection of links. I cannot promise you will find answers to the philosophical challenges of our time, or the meaning of life and death. But there are occasions when other less weighty topics are the best medicine for the challenges we all face.

Shabbat Shalom!

Chag Sameach!

Back to the Cold War

On the table, BAOR, one of SPI’s Central Front Series.

The dangers of advance after combat

The dangers of advance after combat

I always liked the system used in these games. It essentially combines the friction of combat with the friction of doing anything in wartime, so that units accumulate Friction Points (FP) from both activities. Get too many, and the unit dies. The cool additional feature is that you can activate units multiple times in the same game turn. So, you can push your forces hard, and deciding just how hard is one of the challenges the game gives you.

I recently twice played out the short scenario in this game, which tasks the invading Soviets with the mission of crossing the Weser, or taking Kessel. The defenders are mostly British and West German, with a few Belgian speed bumps for company.

The first time, I screwed up some key rules, and did not give the Soviets the proper benefit of the resources available to them (chemicals, air superiority). Partly this was because I remembered the system as being easier than it actually is. It’s not super complex, but there are some subtle tweaks that can make a big difference. That first effort ended with the Soviet threat being well and truly blunted.

Second time around, the Soviets were significantly more potent, and unsurprisingly more successful.  I’m not sure how easy it would be for the Soviets to win the longer scenario, given the run down in their forces and the growing ranks of the defenders.

It was good to take a trip back to the 1980s with this game. This is from the series that SPI changed horses half way through. It was announced as an ambitious ten game set covering a hypothetical 1980’s Cold War turning hot. The first three games (Hof Gap, Fifth Corps and BAOR) used the same system, even benefiting from a cleaned up second edition rule book. North German Plain and Donau Front belatedly appeared, and were new games almost completely; only the map scale was consistent. The series was never completed with either system. I didn’t take to the latter two games, though much of this may have been driven by my disappointment in the abandonment of the original system. One day, I’ll get them out and give them another try. All I have to do, is find them…