Chelsea to Tel Aviv?

“I created one super successful football club. Maybe I should do it again. In Tel Aviv.” Picture source: WikiMedia

This may not be the most mature response to Roman Abramovich’s new status as an Israeli citizen, now that he has pulled the plug on the Chelsea stadium project, and there are rumors he is trying to sell the club and quit his commercial ties to the UK. However, I cannot help hoping that Israel’s richest citizen does sell Chelsea and then buys Maccabi Tel Aviv, turning it into a European giant of a club that puts Israeli soccer on the map, big time. Boy, would that seriously trouble the BDS activists in Europe!

I know it’s very unlikely, but it’s an intellectual and emotional pleasure playing with the possibilities. I mean, if deals could be done fast enough, the dream outcome would be the double signing of Gareth Bale and Cristian Ronaldo…

[Not so incidentally, if you look at the mainstream media discussion boards about this – for example, the Guardian – you will see that some of the comments are infused with what can only be called antisemitism. It seems that a certain group of people were glad to have Roman while he was their team’s benefactor. But when he is said to be departing, suddenly he is evil, corrupt, and Jewish. As I have said before, the ability of people posting on these boards to hide behind pseudonyms, gives them the ‘courage’ to post vile hate and naked antisemitism. If they were forced to give their true identities, I wonder how many of them would be so bold? Or, is it better that they vent their spleen? Not a short topic. But it needs dealt with.]

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The Toughest Challenge

“I think I’m being followed.”

Sovev Yerushalayim (“Around Jerusalem”) is a mountain biking event that was originally started as part of the celebrations to mark the opening of the Tachanah (“Station”) complex in Jerusalem, where the old Ottoman era train station was. It has continued each year since then, with a range of events – 8, 20, 40, and 50 km – to suit riders of all abilities.

Susan, Shosh and I have habitually done the 40 km event, starting and returning to the Tachanah, and feeling totally exhausted. Last year, Susan suggested we should aim to do the 50 km event in 2018. So, that’s what we decided to, though I was fearful that the extra 10 km was a bit too much.

Then real life interfered:

First, Susan had too many bouts of illness to properly train, so it was left to Shosh and me to live up to Susan’s suggestion!

Second, the event was postponed from 27 April (due to bad weather) to 11 May. It was bound to be hotter.

Third, they changed the route to keep us away from the Tachanah and the center of Jerusalem. Instead, we started and finished at the zoo. It was a much harder route even without the extra 10 km.

So, on the day, Shosh and I turned up ready for the 6.45 AM start we had in our welcome pack. Unbeknownst to us, the organizers had brought the start forward for the 50 km riders to 6.30 AM. As we were late, and ignorant of this, it meant we were caught in the much bigger mass of 40 km riders. The effect was to slow us down. Not that we would have been riding too much faster, but we would have avoided the stop-start delay at various choke points on the route, where the trails were not wide enough for everyone to pass at the same time.

The 50 km route included a circular 10 km add on to the 40 km route. When we eventually got to the start of that add on, many of the 50 km riders were finishing it. Needles to say, the add on was 10 km of hard, mostly uphill riding. And the sun was starting to make its presence felt.

Between gasps for breath and prayers for the pain to stop, I could admire the beautiful scenery: stunning views, fantastic panoramas, a glorious impossibly blue sky, and the buzz of a great biking event. Then back to the pain… Keep pedaling!

Shosh and I persevered, helping one another keep going until, eventually, we made it to the finish.

At the end, having long since drunk my water dry, I gladly accepted a bottle of water thrown to me by the staff at the finishing line. I took off the top and poured it over me. Unfortunately, the bottle had clearly been out in the heat too long, because it gave me a hot shower. Oh dear. Well, you cannot get everything you want, can you?

I was so exhausted, that I could not raise my bike enough to get it on the bike rack. I had to put it down and grab a five minute nap, to add a little charge to my drained batteries. I also drove home much more slowly than usual, conscious that I was not at my most alert.

“Five minutes rest, then I’ll put you on the rack.”

That 50 km event was the most physically demanding challenge I have ever faced. Immediately afterwards my feelings were along the lines of I’m never doing that again. In fact, I’m not doing the 50, the 40, the 20 or any part of the Sovev next year.

Of course, with the pain and effort slipping from my memory, I am not that sure what I will do. One thing is for sure though: next year, Susan is joining in, no matter what!

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Something else to thank the UN for

The Times of Israel reports:

Last month, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) organized a “Kites of Hope” festival for over 1,000 Gazan schoolchildren from Khan Younis.

The same report also tells us:

Israel struggles to handle latest threat from Gaza: Fire-starting kites

 

Blaze breaks out near Kibbutz Be’eri after a container of burning liquid is flown over the border on a kite, in fourth such attack in as many days

I have cycled at Be’eri. I knew it was close to Gaza. This brings it into perspective as to how close. And it also underlines that no good deed goes unpunished. Except that, when it comes to the UN, you do have to wonder about their motivation.

To put it another way, welcome to the Middle East.

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Private Eye and Israel

Private Eye, the UK news and satirical magazine (issue 1464 of 23 February) has an item about the UK’s Security and Policing event.

“The Home Office has invited some of the world’s most repressive regimes to the UK next month to browse stalls selling surveillance technology and crowd control equipment at a ‘security’ fair it is running.”

You can guess what is coming.

The article later reports that:

“The current list of invitees is secret until March, but in recent years delegates have included such cuddly bastions of human rights as Bahrain, Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the UAE, Kazakhstan and Pakistan.”

This is a nasty dig at Israel. Criticism is all very well, but this is demonization. Private Eye doesn’t like Israel. It may no longer have the institutional anti-semitism of Richard Ingrams, but that has morphed somewhat into repeated sniping attacks like this one, which nobody is going to waste any time trying to rebut, but everybody is going to get used to reading. Slowly, slowly poisoning the well.

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