Yom Kippur

From the Times of Israel:

More than 60 percent of Jewish Israelis plan on fasting during the Yom Kippur holiday this year, according to a new poll by the Israel Democracy Institute ahead of the holiest day in the Jewish calendar.

Polls are to be taken with a pinch of salt, but in this case the result matches anecdotal evidence.

Yom Kippur begins on Tuesday at sundown and ends Wednesday night. Also known as the Day of Atonement, the holiday is marked with a 25-hour fast. While many religious Jews observe Yom Kippur by attending daylong synagogue services at which they pray for forgiveness and a good new year, more secular Israelis often use the day to ride bicycles on the country’s deserted highways.

A couple of times I’ve been along to the main drag in Ra’anana to watch the cycling balagan that goes on there. It’s very much worth seeing.

According to the IDI, 60.5% of Jewish Israelis plan to fast on Yom Kippur, while 27.5% do not, 5% plan on only drinking liquids and 7% haven’t decided.

 

The think tank said the poll’s results tracked closely with a 2000 survey that found 63% said they planned to fast, but was a significant drop from a 1994 survey that found 73% planning on fasting.

Suspect that fall in numbers who plan on fasting is about right.

Though most Israeli Jews will be fasting, only 23% of those surveyed said that they would attend the day’s lengthy synagogue services. Nineteen percent said they plan on attending some, 12% plan to come to synagogue just to hear the shofar — the traditional ram’s horn blown at the conclusion of the holiday — and 39% do not plan to attend at all.

 

Israel shuts down on every year on Yom Kippur, with public transportation, government services and television broadcasters ceasing operations for the duration of the holiday.

To those who are fasting, may you have a meaningful fast. And may it be a fast fast. To those of you marking the day in your own spiritual way, I hope it works for you.

!גמר חתימה טובה

 

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Rosh Hashanah

To those who celebrate the Jewish New Year, may it be a good and sweet year.

To those in the preceding group who live in Israel, my additional wish is that it be a year free of elections.

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Elections and Peace

This post was triggered by a comment I saw on Facebook:

“There will never be peace while Netanyahu has a thread of power or influence.”

While I am unsure if I would go as far as the commenter, I understand the source for that view and can sympathize with it. However, I felt that it was also a comment that reflected how the media, in the main, see the situation. It’s a variation on the theme, “It’s all Israel’s fault.” Wrong.

I therefore posted the following:

“There will never be peace while Abbas has a thread of power or influence.”

 

“There will never be peace while Hamas has a thread of power or influence.”

These are the parts the world forgets. (Sometimes, because it suits them.)

To conclude with the final perspective, I also posted this:

“Hopefully, today’s election results will remove Bibi from the picture. If so, we’re still stuck.”

Which is the real point. Israel has a vibrant democracy. We may not all want Bibi, but he was elected the leader. If he wins again, we have to respect the decision and hope he steers the country in the right (sic) direction. But even if Bibi loses, and Ganz becomes Prime Minister, the prospects of peace are no better.

For example, with Ganz as PM:

  • What do you think the prospects are for the Palestinian Authority or Hamas being more likely to be able to deliver peace?
  • What do you think the prospects are for the media blaming the PA or Hamas for the lack of peace?
  • How long do you think it will be before the media start parroting a line like this:

“There will never be peace while Ganz has a thread of power or influence.”

In short, while I would welcome a change from Bibi, I see no Palestinian partner for peace. I’d like to see peace or progress towards it, but on the basis of the available evidence, I am pessimistic. However, I’m reasonably certain Israel will be blamed, no matter what! Blaming Bibi is lazy thinking, for it fails to consider the whole picture.

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The Bourne Identity – Robert Ludlum

I decided to go back in time and read some older novels which I had read the first time they came out, and remembered fondly. This was the first and was something of a surprise.

First, I’m now convinced I had never read it before! That was one surprise. Second, it was pretty disappointing. That was another surprise. Third, I was impressed at the good job the filmmakers did with this raw material – the films are way better than this book (and presumably the rest).

The story is well known. A body, shot to hell, is washed up by the sea. He’s not dead. An alcoholic ex-pat doctor puts him back together again physically, but mentally his greatest challenge is that he cannot remember who (or what) he is. The microfilm sewn into his hip is a clue, as is the evidence of plastic surgery to his face. Oh, and that Zurich bank account with several million dollars that the microfilm leads to, that could be another clue!

Our man Bourne goes on a journey to find himself. Unfortunately, there are people out to kill him. Thus starts the adventure.

In short, the book has not aged well. Th story is not bad, but Bourne’s introspectives are turgid, and the relationship with his lover is beyond credible. The action scenes are not bad. The scene setting is reasonable, though I wasn’t convinced by the logic explaining the actions of some of the competing factions.

Yes, disappointing is a fair summary.

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Unrest – Jesper Stein

DCI Axel Steen is assigned the case of a murdered man whose hooded and tortured body is found in a Copenhage cemetery. What makes it particularly puzzling is that the area was flooded with policemen at the time of the crime, supposedly on guard and dealing with a riot. Was a policeman the killer? How did the victim’s body get to his final resting place?

As Steen tries to solve the murder, in best crime novel tradition, the body count goes up, and the case becomes more complex and less clear. Steen, another in a long line of defective detectives, drives himself too hard in his mission to get the killer. The tension is ramped up, and the climax is suitably exciting.

I liked this. It had bite, plenty of twists, and a decent main character. Copenhagen was an interesting backdrop, and made a fine accompaniment to a well told story. There are one or two rough edges, and a couple of overly maudlin scenes, but that’s just nitpicking by me. Recommended.

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The Man Who Came Uptown – George Pelecanos

This is a melancholy tale of a prison librarian Anna Byrne, a prisoner on remand called Michael Hudson, and Phil Ornazian, a private investigator with a sideline in crime.

Byrne knows the people in jail are not all good, but she knows the power of books and loves being able to bring some light into dark places. Sometimes she forgets and is drawn too close to a prisoner, like Hudson. But before things can get too involved, Hudson is released. His freedom is at a price, and he has to find a safe way around the dangerous obstacles that await his passage. Ornazian features largely in his future.

The characters are interesting, though I wasn’t completely convinced about Ornazian’s motivation. The interactions are well told with a light touch, and free flowing narrative.  The violence is not overdone, and the city backdrop is pitched just right. The story is straightforward – verging on lightweight – so the reader has to secure enjoyment from something other than plot twists and turns. On balance I would say that this novel just about delivers. I enjoyed it even though the absence of a decent, meaty plot meant I sometimes felt I was just coasting along.

The ending, when it comes, does add some spice to this simple tale. Overall, I liked it.

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