By its Cover – Donna Leon

The book tells us of the continuing experiences of Commissario Brunetti, the wise Venetian policeman who weaves his way through the maze of politics, corruption, and other crime that awaits his every step. Yet he remains a kind, gentle – if occasionally abrupt – soul, often ruminating on spiritual matters with the perspective of a cynic, but a need to believe in happy endings. It isn’t always like that.

This time around, the story starts with the discovery of thefts of valuable books from one of the city’s libraries, before turning violent. Slowly, but surely, Brunetti gets to the bottom of things. On the way, we are treated to the exquisitely rendered Venetian backdrop, sharp observations on family and the world at large, and the human condition, by a writer at the top of her form.

This is a compact, evenly paced, well written piece of crime fiction that has the unmistakable seal of quality: I was so sad to get to the end. More, please!


Ra’anana business news

From Globes:

Technology company Amdocs Ltd. (Nasdaq: DOX), which occupies a giant 75,000-sq.m. complex at the Ra’anana Junction, today notified its employees that it was looking for a new location in the central region. The company’s lease with REIT 1 Ltd. (TASE:RIT1), the owner of the company’s current site, expires at the end of 2019.

In its announcement to the employees, company management explained the planned move by saying that it wished to improve their working environment. Among the alternatives under consideration by the company are the purchase of a new office building to be constructed for it, renting a new office building, and renovation and adaptation of the existing complex to the company’s needs. For this purpose, Amdocs has established a task force, which has already begun looking for locations.

Amdocs are on the move. It is a few years away, but the possibility of such a large site being vacant if the landlords cannot attract a replacement, will not be good news for local business.

Amdocs, unsurprisingly, are looking for something in the central belt. The article has this quote from an Amdocs letter to its employees:

“The main guiding criteria are a better experience for the employees, including better transportation, suitable facilities in the area, business, cost, and other operation considerations.”

The interesting part there is the reference to transportation. The traffic junction around Amdocs is currently being redeveloped. Further, while there is no train connection in Ra’anana, by the time their lease ends there will be two train stations in the city. Neither, unfortunately, is in a terrific location for the Amdocs building, but transportation connections are being improved.

As the article mentions, Microsoft are in the same area. Perhaps they will be interested in taking up the slack?


Flag that delivery

Friday morning, Ra’anana. The weekend papers have arrived:


What’s that wrapped up with the newspapers?

Let’s have a look:


Just in time for Yom Haatzmaut.

(You may have guessed: the pennant flags came with the Jerusalem Post, and not Haaretz!)



Five for Friday

It feels good to be back in a routine, even if the restful part of Pesach is now forgotten. And what is a key part of the routine? The weekend. Shabbat is nearly upon us. So, whatever you do, or don’t do on Shabbat, here are this week’s collection of links I have prepared for you.


The Yom HaShoah Siren

The Yom HaShoah siren is a terrible, painful thing to hear.

It is a sound firmly rooted in the past, but calling out to us here and now, across the ages.

It is a sound that affects each of us standing in respectful silence, differently.

We may remember, we may mourn, we may mark, we may mull, we may malign.

And we also may momentarily feel a spark of pride at what has been achieved since the Holocaust: a living, thriving, vibrant proof of survival of the Jewish people and more.

When the siren ends, we return from the past to the present, and think about the future.

Past? We have remembered.

Present? We remember.

Future? We will always remember those who perished; we must.

We think thoughts both negative and positive.

Negative? Never again.

Positive? Never again will the Jewish people have no land to call their own. Never again will the Jewish people have no sanctuary from tyranny, oppression, and hate.

And at the end, we know:

Am Yisrael Chai. עם ישראל חי



"One day, a casino will make all the difference."

“One day, a casino will make all the difference.”

This week’s session started with John and Sheer teaching me how to play Suburbia. As in, the pair of them completely crushed me. I think it was my worst performance at the game, and I only have a vague idea why that might be.

First, we used Sheer’s suggestion to vary the selection of our individual hidden goals. I chose badly – fewest green buildings – and that mistake had a major impact.

Second, Sheer got his game engine in early order and took a big lead in income. John and I were still pottering along – none of us growing our populations too much – and I decided to go for a money strategy to work. That was a mistake, too.

Third, I completely underestimated what John was up to. I thought he was also struggling. However, he gradually built up a slow but growing powerhouse of gray tiles, and was in serious contention.

Fourth, Sheer grabbed the Casino when it came out. This meant his income did not go down – as it normally does – on making progress up the population chart. That was a great move and probably sealed the victory for him.

So Sheer won, but only a few points ahead of John. I think both were around the 100 point mark, and I was struggling to claim even half of that.


We then played a couple of games of Dominion: Intrigue. We played a couple of the suggested combinations from the rule book, and both were good fun. The Torturer, Masquerade, and Upgrade cards were among the many highlights. The card mechanics and interactions are clever, and the game continues to impress me.

It was John’s turn to excel, as he claimed the win in both games. Sheer and I each claimed one second place.

Thanks to John and Sheer for contributing to another entertaining evening.


A thought for Yom HaShoah

“The Anti-Defamation League is calling the Stanford incident “an important teaching moment” in which the “university needs to make it clear to students and student groups that singling out identity and questioning on those kind of issues is discriminatory.” They’re right about that, but the problem won’t be dealt with by ignoring the clear connection between the worldwide BDS—boycott, divest, sanction—movement and anti-Semitism. That’s a stand that many supporters of Israel have refused to take believing that crying anti-Semitism will cloud the issue and make it harder to advocate for Israel. But divestment advocates are making it increasingly obvious they have no scruples about the link between Jew hatred and treating Israel as a pariah state. BDS isn’t about a political dispute within Israel, its borders, or sympathy for the Palestinians. It’s a war on Jews.”




A war on Jews.

What more of a wake up call does there need to be?

Read Jonathan Tobin‘s well directed piece at Commentary. Then pass the word on: antisemitism is alive and well.


Yom HaShoah 2015


Thanks to Richard for tonight’s excellent presentation of the life and work of Felix Nussbaum, delivered as part of Yom Hashoah – יום השואה.


Another piece of poison from HRW

Making a mockery of their name, and showing a total disregard for any standards of ethics, fairness, or impartiality, they are a leading contender for the WORST ‘human rights’ organization. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Human Rights Watch.

HRW have a new report which accuses Jewish farmers in the Jordan Valley of illegally employing Palestinian child laborers.

NGO Monitor:

As with many other HRW accusations and publications on Israel, as documented by NGO Monitor, the claims in this publication are entirely unverifiable and based solely on interviews. HRW provides no evidence that it even attempted to confirm any of the claims, many of which quote children, independently. Furthermore, in this instance, the allegations are inherently unverifiable, since there are no permits, pay slips, paperwork, or other documentation for the supposed child workers. Indeed, according to an Israeli official interviewed in in response to HRW’s allegations, “It is a horrific lie. There is no justification for employing children, not just morally and legally but financially as well.”

And this is a good summary by NGO Monitor:

As the publication’s methodology section makes clear, HRW’s researcher (Bill van Esveld) began with a conclusion condemning Israel, and then sought evidence to persuade the intended audiences, particularly journalists readily influenced by NGO allegations.

You can see the NGO Monitor piece, here, and the Elder of Ziyon‘s composite and follow up, here. (I particularly liked the irony behind the photograph used for the report cover.)

Bottom line: this is hate speech in all but name.


Housing and taxes woes

There is a difficult housing situation in Israel. In a nutshell, property prices are too high, and continue to rise. Young people are – generally – unable to afford to buy. It’s a problem that is not going to be solved overnight, but it would be helpful if people recognized one of the universal laws of economics before offering solutions: supply and demand. In short, there is a high demand for the main areas, like Tel Aviv, and there is a limited supply. So long as that situation continues, high prices are inevitable. (Rents are also high, not to say astronomical.)

The government have tried to take the heat out of the property market, not so much to bring prices down, but to try and avoid a property crash.

One method they have used has been increasing the restrictions on mortgages.

Another method they have used has been increasing the purchase tax where somebody buys a second property. This latter method seems to be easily avoided judging by anecdotal evidence. There’s an article at Globes (here) which sheds some slight on the situation, and is worth reading for background purposes.

Regardless of whether this type of tax is a good idea, it does seem that the state could make a better effort in collection, and to make avoidance much more difficult. Or, if not that, to come up with a flat rate tax that everyone had to pay.

And there still needs to be a concerted effort to deliver affordable housing.