Back to School!

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In keeping with the way Israeli society and culture treats children, the start of the new school year is a big deal. Not only has it featured as the topic of numerous media pieces in the run up to the actual day – including the inevitable political coverage of Naftali Bennett’s plans as published by the Ministry of Education – but it has also been marked by the usual social media commentary of relieved parents, glad to see their offspring out from under their feet back in full time education.

As usual, the academic year starts on 1st September, so today is when the traffic returns to its higher level of cramped chaos.

On the plus side, as you can see from the icon at the top, Google Israel is marking the occasion. If Google had been around when I was returning for a new school year, to be realistic the graphic would have had to include a tie, a slide rule, a book of log tables, a football, a packed lunch, a bag of tomato flavored crisps, and a switchblade. No, the knife wasn’t mine, but I saw enough being carried by my contemporaries.

Anyway, all the best to the kids going to school here, especially first timers. Here’s hoping they all have a great experience. Good luck everyone!

[A post about my school experiences in more detail, the importance of teachers, their lowly pay here, and the woes of the educational system in much of the western world, will have to wait for another time.]

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What is progressive about Palestine?

I read the following in Petra Marquardt-Bigman‘s piece (Dear Linda Sarsour, what’s progressive about Palestine?) at the Elder of Ziyon, and found my self silently nodding in agreement:

“If there is one constant in the long history of antisemitism it is the notion that whatever you see as your biggest problem, it is somehow the fault of the Jews. Nowadays, it’s the fault of the world’s only Jewish state.”

Read the whole thing here.

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The Meatgrinder

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Action from my game with Josh. This is in the German second turn. They have taken the first building on the right, and have established their tanks in a hull down position. One KV-2 is in place to defend (but is about to be immobilized). Meantime, on the left, German tank reinforcements are about to cream a BT-7A, then will run into the Russian anti-tank gun…

My continuing ASL education…

Recently, I had the opportunity to play scenario AP41, The Meat Grinder, against Ran then Josh.

This two board scenario is set in Lutsk in 1941, with the Russians defending. Their forces include eight squads, two leaders, an anti-tank rifle, an LMG, and a HMG. In support, they have a couple of KV-2 tanks, a GAZ truck with a 20mm AAMG on it, and a 76LL anti-tank gun. First turn reinforcements are three lightly armed tanks: a BT-7A, and two BT-7s. The Germans have ten squads, three leaders, an anti-tank rifle, two LMGs, and a MMG. Their starting support takes the form of three Panzer IV E tanks. Their turn two reinforcements are three Panzer III tanks (and a 9-1 armor leader).

Victory is determined by casualties, with control of multi-hex buildings contributing victory points.

The Russians do not have the forces to defend everything. Generally, a forward defense is a recipe for disaster, so the trick is to defend what is likely to hold out. Then, there is a need to find a good location for the anti-tank gun, the truck borne AAMG, and a safe place to hide the weaker tanks. I was the Russian defender in both games.

The Germans have the right tools for everything but the KV-2s. However, their main enemy is time. So, they either have to get lucky by immobilizing the KV-2s, or avoid them. At the same time, they need to keep their infantry advance moving forward, while hunting down and eliminating the weaker Russian vehicles.

First off, Ran made his main effort on my left flank. That was the weakest portion of my defense, and I made a bad mistake by not shuttling more defenders towards that threat. By the time Ran told me what was going on, and I belatedly did something about it, I had lost all my tanks, and half the buildings. One KV-2 had been immobilized by fire, and one had suffered mechanical breakdown. My anti-tank gun and AAMG between them did nothing. Game over.

That experience helped me a lot in my game with Josh. I used a similar setup, but balanced the flanks so one did not look worse than the other. I also hid my anti-tank gun on one flank, and put the truck borne AAMG in a more prominent position. This time, Josh made his main effort on my right flank (of course my hidden anti-tank gun was on the other flank…) and very quickly overran the first building. However, this time I did react better, and so rushed defenders towards that main threat.

Josh did steamroller the infantry defenses, but it took time. As he fell behind in his timetable, he became more daring (aka “reckless”) with his tanks. So, by the end of the game there were almost no German tanks left. I had a KV-2 left, securing part of the field. And my two BT-7s survived, albeit one had a broken down main armament.

I was very surprised to have won, with the Germans taking 7 out of 13 victory point buildings, and inflicting way more casualties. However, Josh’s tank losses were worse. The bloody toll my infantry took was awful, but had done its job by (just) holding on to the key buildings.

This was a challenging scenario. When I look at it from the Russian perspectvie, I want to be the German player – look at all those leaders and semi decent tanks. When I look at it form the German player, I want to be the Russian – look at those KV-2s, and how do you capture all those buildings in so short a time? This would suggest the scenario is quite balanced. However, if (as happened to me) one of the Russian KV-2s breaks down, that is likely to be crucial. It’s tricky for those tanks to avoid deliberate immobilization shots, but if they can do that and avoid breaking down, the German player has his hands full.  That having been said, there are plenty of weaker Russian targets that provide the necessary victory points. As I said, a challenging scenario, and one that is fun to play. The ASL experience remains among the best in the world of games, even when I get crushed. Well, sometimes…

Thanks to both Ran and Josh for the continuing education.

 

 

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The Scots making the front page in Israel

Making the front page for the wrong reasons. Here’s the cover of today’s Israel HaYom newspaper:

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The red highlighted piece has a picture of the wall of hate at Parkhead, Celtic’s home stadium.

Above the main headline – Provocation – it says:

Shame. Celtic supporters try to assault Hapoel Be’er Sheva supporters.

As far as I can tell, the attempts must have succeeded to some extent as there is discussion on a Celtic Facebook page about people successfully grabbing an Israeli flag from an opposition supporter.

Be that as it may, under the picture it says:

Hundreds of supporters of the Scottish champions waived Palestinian flags outside and inside the stadium. Supporters of the Israeli champions were forced to enter under police escort. On the field, Be’er Sheva were defeated 5:2.

I have not heard any independent reports about the match, but the pictures available tend to speak for themselves. It’s not all Celtic supporters – it’s the vocal hateful minority – but it still leaves a bad taste in the mouth. And, yes, somewhat ironical that it was an Israeli player who was sent on as a sub when the Celtic were a wee bit shaky in the second half.

Celtic knew there was going to be an issue with supporters and flags, but I see no sign that any attempt was made to stop this happening. Celtic do know it is against UEFA rules, having been fined for it before. However, the low level of fines may be one reason why they reckoned it was not worth the effort to do something about it. Their financial gain for reaching the Champions’ League is substantial. While I don’t think Celtic as a club deserve the punishment, there is a part of me that would like UEFA to throw them out of the tournament for being repeat offenders. Boy would that get the message across. But that is not going to happen. In fact, there’s more chance of Hapoel overturning the deficit in the return leg, and knocking out Celtic. And there’s zero chance of that!

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Am I glad I cancelled my Economist subscription

Since I cancelled my subscription to the Economist in the light of its deteriorating coverage about all things Israeli, and its continual shift towards the territory inhabited by the haters at the Guardian and the Independent, I have had no regrets. I have read a few issues since then, borrowed from others, or seen in airport lounges. Each time, I would run my eye over their Israeli coverage, and whatever was there simply reaffirmed how right I was to get out of their nasty, poisonous pit.

I was, therefore, not surprised the publication was among those promoting – and certainly not reporting on, or reviewing – Ben Ehrenreich‘s book about Nabi Saleh and the Tamimi family, The Way to the Spring: Life and Death in Palestine.  (See here.)

And so, I am also not surprised by their latest contribution to the hate, as reported on at UK Media Watch:

A serious journalist who wished to provide an analysis to news consumers on the recent Olympic scandal involving an Egyptian judoka who refused to shake the hand of his Israeli competitor may have contextualized the incident by noting endemic Egyptian antisemitism. Indeed, though Cairo and Jerusalem signed a peace agreement in 1979, and ties between the two countries (on the governmental level) have never been closer, there is little if any sign that Egyptian animosity towards Jews – not just Israelis, but Jews qua Jews – has waned.

In 2011, a Pew Global poll revealed that only 2% of Egyptians had favorable attitudes towards Jews.

More recently, an ADL commissioned poll reported that 75% of Egyptians held antisemitic views – a sign of an entrenched hatred that persists despite the fact that there are almost no Jews left in the country.

Yet, remarkably, the Economist’s “N.P.” (presumably Nicolas Pelham), in ‘Politics hogs the Olympic spotlight‘, Aug. 15, ignores Egyptian antisemitism in his report on the conduct of the Egyptian athlete, and does his best to turn the story into one of Israeli hypocrisy.

Steel yourself, then read it all here. And if you have a subscription, cancel it now. You will feel so much better!

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Tisha B’Av +1

This year, Tisha B’Av (9th 0f Av) is on Shabbat (which has just ended). Since, other than Yom Kippur, we don’t fast on Shabbat, the fast is pushed back a day. That means the fast is now on, and ends on Sunday night.

Over Shabbat, I read the Dry Bones Tisha B’Av cartoon in the Jerusalem Post. It’s here and well worth a look.

Meantime, the Elder of Ziyon has an interesting post about Christian marking of Tisha B’Av. See it here.

If you are fasting, have an easy one.

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The Olympic Memory

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The Rio Olympics are due to start this weekend. In many countries, the focus will be on that team’s prospects of winning medals, and the potential to become their most successful representatives ever. That’s certainly some of the media coverage in Israel. But there is another significant point of interest here, and it’s an important (and emotional) one. We will never forget.

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This never happened in Scotland!

On a recent bike ride – passing through the wilds of Herzliya – a couple of riders passing us in the opposite direction, took time to give us a warning message. Potholes? No. Broken traffic lights? No. Snake? Yep.

It would be fair to say that we cycled somewhat tentatively through that part of the ride… Thankfully, we never saw the snake. But I am going to see about beefing up our first aid kit, just in case.

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The hateful value judgement of the BBC

We have known for a while, that in this politically correct world, the use of language has become as much a political as a linguistic exercise. While not quite as bad as Orwell’s 1984, there are certain aspects that come damn close, and often the attitude and intent are entirely in keeping with it. This post is about the words terror and terrorist.

Reading about much of the mad violence that has taken place, you may well hunt in vain – except in Israel’s own media coverage – for those words. People are decapitated, run down, blown up, tortured, butchered, and killed. But that is rarely described as terror, and the actors are not terrorists.

Occasionally, you might see these words encased in quotation marks. This stylistic exercise is carried out to convey a clear message: someone else said this, and we certainly don’t agree, because we would never use such a word.

The BBC are on the most influential media outlets on the planet, and (very regrettably) they seem to be leading the charge (to mix a metaphor or two) in sanitizing terror from their reports on such incidents.

However, over at the excellent BBC Watch, they have a post that highlights how the BBC does actually use these words, and their hypocrisy when it comes to using terror and terrorist.

That post explains the BBC’s public stance on the use of these words. In short, they claim they are unable to make a value judgement, and so avoid doing so. However, as BBC Watch points out:

In other words, when it comes to terrorism in Europe the BBC apparently has no problem with “value judgements”.

So, apparently the BBC can make a value judgement if it wants to.

After reading the BBC Watch post, you might not unreasonably form the conclusion that so far as the BBC is concerned,  terror is something that happens in Europe, but never in Israel, unless it comes to Jewish terror.. Strange that. On the other hand, after reading it, you might conclude that the BBC is a vengeful, hateful beast, ridden with antisemitism and a distaste for the Jewish State.

Read the post here. And see the BBC Watch post about the BBC’s use of Jewish terror here. Quite a contrast.

 

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The land of milk and honey. And traffic.

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From Globes:

Israel has the greatest average traffic density per kilometer among OECD countries. This data is presented in a new OECD paper examining Israel’s green taxation.

That’s the bad news. In the good news section, there is this:

The paper commends the unique method of calculating the green tax Israel formulated in 2009, claiming that it is “innovative and creative in referring not only to CO2 but taking into account five different pollutants and using the vehicle purchase tax to differentiate car models according to their relative impact on the environment.”

Even more good news is this:

According to the paper, the effect of green taxation on the purchase of cleaner vehicles has been “tremendous” and by 2014 about 83% of the private cars sold in Israel were in the lowest pollution grades, compared with 19% in 2009.

Unfortunately, in keeping with the law of unintended consequences, there is also this bad news:

At the same time, OECD researchers claim that the green tax had the side effect of drastically reducing the real purchase tax for many cars, due to green tax benefits, and has therefore reduced family car prices and led to new car sales skyrocketing. The OECD claimed that this leap has facilitated a substantial increase in traffic congestion, resulting in a rise in pollutant emissions, despite decreasing emission per vehicle.

Oh, that’s not good. That’s really bad. They would have been better, it seems, doing nothing!

So, another challenge for the government. Will they rise to it? And how? Well, whatever they do, some of the battle lines are already drawn:

At the present, professional-level officials in the Ministry of Environmental Protection and the Tax Authority support a congestion tax, which imposes a tax based on the driver’s actual contribution to congestion and air pollution, while the Ministry of Transportation resolutely opposes such a tax.

The environmental issues may be solved by a growth in electric vehicles, but the issue of congestion is likely to be ever present. We are just going to have to live with the jams.

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