Five for Friday

That was the week that the dream of an independent Scotland died. Again. Let’s hope it is all for the best.

And as the weekend rolls around, here are some links for your interest. I guarantee they are 100% free of Scottish referendum matters! You all deserve that break at least!

No bonus links this week, but a quote from Guy Fawkes’ blog which made me laugh:

Diane Abbott on the Daily Politics:

“Labour MPs will unite behind Ed Miliband, once we find out what our policies are.”


Shabbat Shalom!



As the Herald puts it:

It’s No go: a record 84.6% turnout sees Scotland reject independence by 55%-45%

I hope the Scottish people can come together, and work together, for the benefit of all. And I also hope that amazing turnout translates into something (or some things) positive in the political arena. If more are involved, perhaps the quality of the argument, the representation, and the decision making will improve. Yes, I know. It’s another dream.

Be careful what you wish for

[Crossposted from the Jerusalem Post, here.]

It was June 1973. As part of the school English syllabus, I and my fellow Eastwood High School pupils had been dragged along to the Citizens Theater in Glasgow, forced to see the play, The Cheviot, The Stag, and the Black, Black Oil.

John McGrath’s groundbreaking musical and political drama sent shockwaves in all directions. One of those waves must have hit me, because that was the only explanation. I didn’t like the theater. I especially didn’t like musicals. They were all boring. So why had I been glued to my seat? Why had I laughed along with the crowd at the political jokes – that in truth, I probably did not understand? Why did I feel – yes, really feel – something special in the air?

I left that performance, giddy with the after effects of the play. However, I do remember, on the pavement outside the theater, greedily grabbing and devouring the literature that savvy members of the then tiny Scottish National Party were handing out.

That was my introduction to the SNP. That was the start of my belief in the idea of an independent Scotland. Then it was a dream. Recently, that dream has turned into a nightmare.

Let me explain.

I made Aliyah from Glasgow in the summer of 2009. I still have family, friends, and acquaintances in the Jewish community there, and have made visits for smachot, and to recharge my Irn Bru* taste buds. Inevitably, the topic of the referendum has surfaced in polite conversation.

Generally, my impression is that most members of the community are opposed to Scottish independence; there are some pockets of SNP support, but they are in a minority.

If you had asked me six months ago about the effects of an independent Scotland on the Jewish community, I would have (perhaps naively) answered that I would not have expected any material change. Things would continue, as they have for other small diaspora communities, with people largely free to follow their religion without interference or harassment.

However, then came the recent Gaza war.

Part of that war was fought out in the arena of social media. There, many of the pro-independence groups lined up, resolutely and completely, with the Palestinians. They were not all Hamas supporters, but there was little sympathy or understanding for the position of Israel and its citizens.

That’s being polite.

A less restrained version of events would be that the conflict unleashed a veritable online tsunami of bigotry, hate, and defamation towards, Israel, the idea of a Jewish state, and Jews. It was as if the poison had been bubbling away, hidden below the surface, waiting for the right moment to be pumped into the world outside.

Incidentally, I ventured into that sewer a few times and asked how a people struggling for their own state of independence – the Scots – could deny the right of the Jewish people to the same. The replies were full of delusional, incoherent, hate, and personal insults. It’s worth noting that it was clear many of the haters were ignorant about the most basic facts concerning Israel.

My memories of Scotland and the Scottish people did not include such vicious hatred. Sure, I had witnessed and experienced instances of out and out anti-Semitism. However, they were far from commonplace. And all the time I lived in Scotland, I never felt threatened or at risk.

But it appears the last Gaza conflict has sparked a real change.

For example, for as long as I can remember, on most weekends pro-Palestinian campaigners used to have a token presence – a table and chairs and tatty leaflets available for distribution – outside the Argyle Street, Glasgow branch of Marks and Spencers. But few noticed, they were mostly ignored, and I don’t recall any trouble.

Recently however, the Boycott Divestment and Sanction (BDS) movement has surfaced for real. In Glasgow and Edinburgh it has launched what appear to be picket like activities, brimming with intimidation and bullying behavior, directed at stalls in shopping centers selling Israeli products, and their potential customers.

As another example, take the enforced cancellation of performances at the Edinburgh Festival by the Jerusalem-based Incubator Theater, after Palestinian agitators held intimidating public protests. With their safety at risk, it was no surprise the Ben Gurion University student dancers withdrew from the Festival.

As yet another example, take the decision of some Scottish Local Authorities to fly the Palestinian flag in solidarity with the people of Gaza. Despite some cogent representations from the Jewish community and other parties, noting the divisiveness of such action, the authorities could not be persuaded otherwise. No authority was willing to fly the Israeli flag.

All such cases and others adversely affect the lives of Jews in Scotland. They create an atmosphere in which people are fearful of identifying as being Jewish or as having connections to Israel.

And that’s before independence.

This sea change in the political arena in Scotland has ended my belief in the idea of an independent Scotland. I no longer see it as something to strive for. Quite the opposite.
Much as it pains me, I fear for the welfare of the Jewish community in an independent Scotland.

I expect those in political power to make all the right noises about protecting minorities, and respecting opposing opinions.

But at the same time, I would expect certain actions to follow independence.

For example, during the Gaza conflict, the Scottish External Affairs Minister Humza Yousaf made an offer to treat wounded Gazans. Personally, it looked to me like political posturing rather than any serious attempt to do some good. After independence, there would surely be more of the same, but probably going beyond gesture politics.

Perhaps it’s not unrealistic to expect the establishment of a PLO office in Scotland, to be greeted with continuing exchanges of fraternal greetings and joint condemnation of Israel.

For sure, the country’s foreign policy – laughably touted as being ‘ethical’ – will be hostile to Israel.

And I would expect BDS to be adopted as official government policy.

The referendum has succeeded in getting more people more involved in the political process than has been the case for a while. If there is independence, I expect some of that involvement to be used by anti-Israel interest groups outside the mainstream, to campaign for positions which are even more radical and anti-Israel. (Might an independent Scotland end up, unwillingly, mimicking Venezuela?)

I am hoping that outright acts of anti-Semitism will continue to be rare and isolated. But I fear that independence will bring about a drip-drip effect of measures that will increase the discomfort of the Jewish community.

I should say that the Jewish community has not been taking things lying down. There have been a number of grass roots and communal initiatives that have impressed me with their fervor and energy. They are fighting a much better resourced and numerous enemy. But they are putting up a good fight.

Unfortunately, while I hope I am proven wrong, the future does not look good. The bottom line is that, eventually, I expect the community – or those parts that are able – to get up and leave. It would be a sad ending for a community that has enriched Scotland with substantial contributions in the arts, sciences, medicine, the law, commerce, and elsewhere. But the realization of my dream of an independent Scotland, one that started with the swish of the curtain going up on The Cheviot, The Stag, and the Black, Black Oil, may ironically also signal the curtain coming down on the Jewish community in Scotland. Now that would be a nightmare.

[*Note: Irn Bru is a bestselling Scottish soft drink, often described as "Scotland's other national drink" (after Scotch whisky). It is not readily available in Israel.]

Crash and bash

By way of follow up to this post, I just want to record that I have finally got around to properly playing Hoplite, the Richard Berg and Mark Herman game about ancient classical warfare, published by GMT games.

I played the easy Tanagra scenario (Athenians v Spartans) several times to get used to the rules. My only real issue was confusing a bloody diagram in the rules that wasn’t properly labelled. With that nuisance out of the way, things were straightforward.

When I say straightforward, that is actually one of the nice changes in the package. Apart from Spartan hoplites – the only true professional soldiers on show – other hoplites attack towards the enemy in a randomly determined fashion: walk, trot, or run. Gone are the ruler sharp lines, and in are the true waves of meandering lines.

While I think some of the units that are not hoplites are still too easy to micro manage, on the whole I liked the direction this set was taking.

I sharpened my skills on the Leuctra scenario (Thebes v Sparta) featuring the immense Theban massed phalanx. I have played it through three times to a conclusion now, with Sparta ahead by 2 to 1.

I don’t like the combination of the momentum and trumping rules – basically allowing the better led force to do more – because I think the advantage is too much. My house rule at the moment is to only allow one trump attempt per scenario. But that is not making enough of an impact. I need to do more playtesting.

But what I do love is that the game has sparked my interest in reading about the era, and I am enjoying the interaction between what I am reading and what I can see and experiment with on the game board. All great fun.



Scotland’s day of destiny

Today’s referendum on Scottish independence is a day that has been a long time coming, and may take a lot longer to forget. Ever since the 1979 referendum, when the establishment lied about North Sea oil deposits, and added an extra hurdle of a minimum percentage of the electorate voting, to fend off even devolution, the clock has been ticking towards a real and final showdown. In other words, a full and free vote on independence was inevitable.

And the ‘full’ part is particularly notable. This referendum has energized the electorate. Everyone is talking about it. Good or bad, everyone feels involved with something at risk. My concern is that part of the interest is driven by a young electorate too ready to spout slogans, high on emotion, with little regard for facts, facts, or facts. Some of the manifestations of this have looked like football supporters, cheering on their team to victory, with all the bad connotations associated with that hostile environment. Think Rangers v Celtic, without the restraint.

If the vote is ‘No’, those who lose out are likely to harbor a grudge for a while. Because this is probably a once in a generation opportunity. And if the vote is ‘Yes’ those who lose out may not hang around to find out if a wing and a prayer are sufficient capital for a new country.

Whichever way the vote goes, expect recriminations, analysis, and ongoing political fallout. Fascinating – but only if you are watching from the sidelines.

Right now, all I am going to do is offer my prayers that whatever happens, it turns out to be for the best for the people of Scotland. Every single one of them.

Come up and view me, I’ll make you smile

With grateful thanks to Israellycool where I saw the first video, I am able to offer a couple of rays of sunshine to take your mind off stuff like ISIS, Scottish independence, Gaza, Bennett v Ya’alon, or Arsenal’s continuing woes.

First up, High Five New York. Smile, everyone!

And for those who want to expand their dance education:

The creator’s Facebook page is here.

Have a great day, one and all.

Watch out for the other guy


This week, we started with Dominion.

Susan and I were joined by Ben and Yehuda, with a random distribution of Action Cards, including Council Room, Feast, Gardens, Market, Remodel, Spy, Throne Room, and some others that I cannot remember.

Yehuda quickly amassed the desired combination of cards, but couldn’t quite generate the 8 points of gold he needed to buy the Province victory Point cards. Or at least, not as often as he wanted.

Ben and Susan were in a similar situation, with Susan relying a fair bit on the Spy card, and Ben chopping and changing his approach.

I went for a combination of Market and money, in small doses. I got lucky and generated three consecutive Province purchases. When the scores were totted up at the end, I had won. In a game with such high level competitors, that was a notable win for me.

A good start to the night.

Sheer arrived, swapping in for Susan, and we turned to play Amerigo.


At this point, I want to give a special mention to Ben. Not about his braces, or his beer, or anything like that. Instead, I want to note his attitude to playing the game. He is a fine game player, and well able to hold his own. But like all of us, there are games  he likes, and games he doesn’t like. And games he plays well. And games he doesn’t play well – or do well at.

So, when the others suggested playing Amerigo, I noted Ben’s response. It was something like:

“I remember playing it last time and not hating it enough so as to never want to play it again.”

Looking back on last night’s game, I think I can now translate what he said as:

“I didn’t like the game. But I didn’t hate it. And to help the evening, if everyone else wants to play it, I will.”

What a gent. You see, he really struggled in the game. He was always at the back of the scoring track, and never looked like catching up. I really felt for him. But not once did he complain. (Unlike me…) and not once did he moan, or regret having made the decision to play. This was a major help in everyone having a good time. So, it was appreciated, and I wanted to record it.

Thank you Ben!

As for the game itself…

Everyone else was so busy watching Yehuda, that I was able to grab a small island, settle all its landing areas, and complete it by the end of turn 2. That gave me a huge morale boost and a 40 plus point score. From then on, I was always in the lead, or just about. Sheer was a threat. Yehuda was a threat. But I held on for the win, with Yehuda just edging out Sheer for the coveted (usually be me) runner up spot!

It helped that for the first two rounds, the pirates were no threat, but materialized in round three. In that round, I had already prepared my pirate defenses. So while everyone else was playing catch up there, I was able to score some more valuable victory points.

Yehuda had a relatively trouble free time in settling his lands. However, he seemed to have restricted his options and had nothing to build in the final couple of rounds. Ben and Sheer carved me up on one of the bigger islands, and that kept my score in check. Thankfully, for me, they were eating into each other’s points as well.

That white island is mine, I say. Mine!

That white island is mine, I say. Mine!

Incidentally, we had settled all the board – apart from one small island that Ben had captured for himself – by the last turn but one.  Unfortunately for Ben, he could not generate enough victory points out of the opportunity.

Separately, I’m beginning to suspect the game may be one turn too long, as it is not the first time not much of consequence has happened in the last turn.

Waiting in hope for the right color cubes to emerge...

Waiting in hope for the right color cubes to emerge…

But it was a good game, and everyone seemed to have a good time.

Thanks to all who came.

Today’s contribution to road safety

This is a true story, sadly.

Setting: Ra’anana, late afternoon, today. A suburban style side road, with cars parked on each side. There is traffic in both directions, but not too heavy. Not much room to move.

Action: I am driving on this road.

Question: What do I see coming towards me, on my side of the road?

Answer: A cyclist.

Question: Does he have a helmet?

Answer: No, but he does have a beard, payot, a kipa, and tzitzit.

Question: Anything else about him?

Answer: Yes.

Question: What?

Answer: You will never believe it. He is cycling one handed.

Question: What is in the other hand?

Answer: A baby. A real live baby. Maybe a year old. He is cycling, one handed, without a helmet, the wrong way down the street, against the traffic, carrying a baby in his other hand. OMG…

When I came home, I had to go for a lie down.

They lie, lie, and lie again

And gullible or lazy media in the west (especially) listen and repeat the lies.

Like the one about the power plant in Gaza.

Remember, the one that Israel ‘destroyed’?

Check out this stunning post by the Elder of Ziyon.

It’s a miracle. It will also be a miracle if there is any reporting – accurate, critical, and self searching – by the same media that positively rushed to embrace all information from the Hamas Ministry of Truth.

The Palestinian leadership, of all hues, lies, lies, and lies again. With no consequences. Why are they given a free pass? When will this end? Who will get into the international media arena and fight for honesty, truth, and real human rights? We cannot rely on Amnesty, or HRW. We cannot rely on anyone in the Arab world. Who will be a real champion?

Even in Israel

The Scottish referendum has arrived in the news here. From today’s Israel HaYom:


The main headline says:

“A historic week for Scotland”

And underneath that:

“Four days to a referendum on independence from the United Kingdom, surveys show that the result will be in suspense until the end. Businesses operating in Scotland: if you separate from the British, we will leave the country and costs will rise.”

At the bottom right of the page, the smaller headline says:

“Survey: Scottish men are for independence; women against.”

As to the rest of the text, you are on your own!

Some of the Scots (or Brits) resident in the UK may find a foreign perspective on the referendum interesting, if only to see how the story is covered. There was a poor opinion piece in Times of Israel (here). And back in May, Haaretz featured the Scottish Herald story that the first person to register as an official campaigner in the referendum, is a Holocaust denier (here). But not much else.

Sadly, what I noticed was that during the last Gaza war, many of the pro independence sites featured a harsh one-sided anti-Israel stance. Even more sadly, many of these places featured the most vile material you could imagine. In short, the full range of bigotry against Israel and the Jews was on display. And it inspired the previously silent BDS crew into action against Dead Sea Products stalls in Glasgow and Edinburgh shopping malls.

What next?