For the avoidance of doubt, this is unacceptable. It may underline – again – the need for a long term, peaceful resolution. But it is not an appropriate response to meet terror with terror. Where, I would like to know, is the local Rabbinic leadership in all of this?

About those roadblocks…

From the Times of Israel:

An Israeli was killed Tuesday morning after he was stabbed by a Palestinian man at the Tapuah junction in the northern West Bank.

The attacker stabbed the Israeli, grabbed his weapon, and according to some accounts shot him at close range.

He then fired at nearby border police, who returned fire and succeeded in subduing him.

The victim, who was said to be about 30 years old, was declared dead at the scene after MDA paramedics’ resuscitation efforts failed.

The attacker was evacuated to Beilinson hospital in Petah Tikva in moderate condition.

Shomron Regional Council head Gershon Mesika condemned the attack and blamed it on Israeli government policy.

“This despicable murder is a direct result of the impotence in the face of rock-throwing, the removal of roadblocks, and the continued treatment of terror attacks as ‘disorderly conduct,’” Mesika said at the scene of the attack.

“The IDF and security establishment must internalize the fact that terror kills. The government has to get with the program and acknowledge that terrorism is terrorism,” he added.

The attacker was released from prison less than six months ago after serving a three-year sentence for throwing stones, Ynet reported. He hails from a village near Tulkarem and his brother was imprisoned by the Palestinian Authority for collaborating with Israel on Monday, the report said.

The authorities are in a difficult position. More roadblocks and more security means better protection, worse disruption for the Palestinians living there, and more condemnation by the world’s apologists for terror. Less roadblocks and less security means less protection, less disruption for the Palestinians living there, and less condemnation by the world’s apologists for terror. It’s a balancing attack. And it’s people like today’s victim who pay the price when the balance is askew.

As an aside, note this part of the article:

“…his brother was imprisoned by the Palestinian Authority for collaborating with Israel on Monday…

So, on Monday his brother is imprisoned by the PA, and on Tuesday he kills an Israeli. Does anyone else feel it in their bones that somebody in the PA might bear some responsibility for today’s attack?

Stepping back from the detail, today’s terror attack underlines the continuing desire for a meaningful, peaceful, long term resolution. Now, where’s my magic wand?

Beyond redemption?

A fine piece from Norman Geras blog about the Boston Marathon:

A writer at the Scientific American looks at what happened at this year’s Boston Marathon and sees what he calls ‘an unmistakable beauty’. You read that right; it isn’t a misprint. For it’s not the act of terrorism and the deaths and injuries resulting from it that Adrian F. Ward is referring to in so characterizing what happened. No, it is, rather, the responses prompted by the crime: people showing concern for one another; rushing to help without care for possible danger to themselves; individuals giving blood; behaviour patterns that ‘transcend us-vs-them ways of thinking’; testimony, all in all, to the altruistic impulses in human nature. It is the ‘immense capacity for human goodness’ that moves Ward to write in the terms he does.

I have no desire to make light of any of this. It is entirely proper to remind people of the good of which we are capable, and it is especially apt to do so in the face of acts of wanton criminality and wickedness. Even in the most extreme circumstances, human courage and compassion are there to resist the evils perpetrated by some human beings against others. I have never accepted the argument, for example, that it is wrong to focus on Holocaust rescuers, wrong because that is to suggest there was a good side of the story when the overwhelming weight of things was in fact otherwise. But there was a good side; even there – and even in the death camps – however reduced it was by the force of Nazi barbarism.

So I have no quarrel with Ward’s effort to balance the picture of the crime done in Boston with the positive social responses it evoked. Yet it is the balance that is everything, and Ward gets it wrong. He concludes by saying that the reactions of ordinary people in Boston ‘offer the hope, at least, that the good in people will always overcome the bad’. Unfortunately, it won’t; that is a manifest falsehood. The bad is neither overpowered nor washed away by any good called forth in response to it. The prematurely dead remain dead; the injured and the traumatized rarely recover fully from what has been done to them; the grief of those who have lost loved ones cannot be undone. And this is to say nothing of the other poisons that are invariably released into the social bloodstream: those who celebrate the crime, or make myths about the agents of it, those who insist that it wasn’t as bad as some previous crime (which is nearly always true), or who go into apologia’s thousand other modes. This is true of smaller crimes, as it is true of vast ones genocidal in scope.

To speak of the bad always being overcome is what truly makes light of things that should be properly weighed – makes light of the terrible permanence of grave wrong-doing when it occurs. This can never be put right; nothing redeems it.

We can – and should – write about, note, and celebrate the good that people do in response to a shocking event such as the Boston Marathon bombing. But, we cannot – and should not – pretend that good will always overcome the lasting effects of such an evil act. The effects are beyond redemption. And, presumably, so are the perpetrators.

Outrage – Arnaldur Indridason

Detective Elinborg leads the investigation into the murder of a man in his own flat in Reykjavik. His throat has been slashed, he is wearing a t-shirt that’s not his, and has the the date-rape drug (Rohypnol) in his pocket. It transpires that he had also taken Rohypnol.

Facing a puzzle with no clues as to the killer, Elinborg – while simultaneously doing her best to maintain some balance with her family and home life – tries to build up a picture of the victim.

The character is well developed and given plenty of opportunity to tell the reader about her thoughts and troubles. The interaction with her family comes across as normal and realistic, and is not so overdone as to intrude on the crime investigation.

What you get here is thoughtful introspection on life, humanity and criminality – all done without boring the reader to death, or making him forget this is a crime novel. The writing is polished without being flowery, and while the dialogue is not razor sharp, it conveys a down to earth picture of something that might be real. In short, it’s believable.

Reykjavik does not have the gloss or glitzy appeal of other cities, and it obviously cannot claim to be a rural backwater, so it’s a credit to the author that he gets the backdrop spot on. He doesn’t overplay the city as something it isn’t, so it’s there but doesn’t take over the story. Some may say it makes the setting anonymous which, I suspect, is exactly the author’s intent. Anyway, the point is, do not read this expecting to experience something of substance in that city, or indeed the country. Instead, savor the gritty resolution of the detective, and a well crafted crime novel.

Score: 7.5/10


Kids stuff


It’s Lag BaOmer today, and the kids are off school today and tomorrow. If I had forgotten the holiday, as soon as I walked into the canteen at lunchtime I would have been reminded. Instead of (as usual) table after table of tech people, I could see table after table of parent with child – or children – getting stuck in to their meal. Bringing your kids to work is normal and not seen as anything unusual. While I don’t mind it – even if it means dodging the more boisterous boys from time to time – it still seems out of the ordinary to me. Guess I have a long way to go before I become a proper Israeli.

Meantime, courtesy of the Times of Israel, here are a selection of interesting Lag BaOmer links:

Modern times

From the Register:

Student falsely IDed by Reddit as Boston bomber found dead

Online lynch mob unlikely to be responsible

Sunil Tripathi, the 22 year-old Brown University philosophy student mistakenly identified as a suspect in the Boston bombings by amateur investigators on Reddit, has been found dead in the Providence River, his family has said.

“This last month has changed our lives forever, and we hope it will change yours too,” they said on a Facebook page. “Take care of one another. Be gentle, be compassionate. Be open to letting someone in when it is you who is faltering. Lend your hand. We need it. The world needs it.”

Tripathi, who was reported to have suffered from depression, went missing on March 15 – over a month before the bombings that left three people dead and 264 wounded. After the FBI released photographs of their suspects, he was wrongly identified as one of them by users of Reddit, who had set up a /findbostonbombers forum to crowdsource the investigation.

Several members claimed to have heard Tripathi’s name mentioned on police scanners and his family, who had been running an intensive online campaign to try and find their missing son, began to be deluged with comments and abuse. The /findbostonbombers forum moderator apologized to the family after the current suspects were detained and removed the forum from public view.

“I’d like to extend the deepest apologies to the family of Sunil Tripathi for any part we may have had in relaying what has turned out to be faulty information,” the moderator said in the apology.

“We cannot begin to know what you’re going through and for that we are truly sorry. Several users, twitter users, and other sources had heard him identified as the suspect and believed it to be confirmed. We were mistaken.”

Laura Lague, spokeswoman for the Providence police, told the Boston Globe that Tripathi’s body had been spotted in the river by a Brown university rowing coach on Tuesday and that it had been identified by dental records, suggesting a long immersion. Foul play was not a factor, she confirmed.

Tripathi’s case showed the dangers of crowdsourcing investigations of this type, particularly when some of the more excitable sections of the media seem willing to accept such findings as “evidence.” As this hack has pointed out, crowdsourcing has great promise in processing large amounts of information, but this kind of stuff is best left to the authorities.

Is this the world we want to live in? Not me. How about you? What can we do to stop this type of senseless, wasteful loss of life from happening again?

Oleh, oleh!

A (male) immigrant is an oleh in Hebrew. So, you will not have to work too hard to work out what the site #OlehProblems is all about. Given the focus, it’s largely complaints, maybe to let off steam or to help people vent their frustrations. However, some of them are funny. And, given my recent post on the topic, this one caught my eye:


[Thanks to Sarah-Lee for the spot.]

Figuring it out

"I think you're still safer here than on the roads."

“I think you’re still safer here than on the roads.”

First, the good news from the Times of Israel:

Israel marked a 50-year low in roads deaths in 2012, according to figures released by the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) on Wednesday.

The tally of traffic accidents in Israel, the number injured, and the number of fatalities also marked double-digit drops in 2012 compared to the previous year.

The number of people killed on the road in 2012 was 263, the report said, 23 percent lower than in 2011 and the lowest figure in 49 years.

Police registered 12,484 accidents with casualties in 2012, 11.6% lower than the year before.

One thing the CBS emphasized was that using crosswalks wasn’t a guarantee of safety — 72% of collisions with pedestrians occurred at crosswalks.

The breakdown also found that men were three times as likely to be the driver in a car crash as women, with 74% of the drivers registered in accidents with injuries being men, and only 26% women.

The figures don’t include accidents involving Palestinians in the West Bank.

Note the male: female ratio of drivers involved in fatal accidents.

I am pleased – surprised, but pleased – at the drop, because the driving standards on the roads in Israel are bad. Very bad. Very, very, bad. Very, very, very… (Nurse! Get him his medication, quickly!) So, it’s good to know the number of fatalities has decreased. The cynic in me wants to know if the main factor is the high level of medical skill available in the hospitals, but since that’s impossible to know or measure, we will move on.

Where will we move to? I know; how about the UK? What are the driving figures like for the UK? I’m glad you asked that…

According to this source, the figure for UK fatalities in 2011 was 1,901. And, according to this source, the 2012 figure was 1,760. (So, they have also experienced a decline.) The UK population is 63 million. If we divide the fatalities by the population in millions, we get these results:

  • 2011: 1,901/63 = 30.2
  • 2012: 1,760/63 = 27.9

How does Israel compare? It has a population of 8 million. Therefore:

  • 2011: 341/8 = 42.6
  • 2012: 263/8 = 32.9

Israeli road fatalities are running at a level roughly 17% higher than in the UK: 32.9 per million, as opposed to 27.9 per million. Not as bad as I thought it might be, but still bad enough. Perhaps when the new government has finished sorting out the economy, they can turn their attention to the situation on the roads…

Meantime, be careful out there.

Savages – Don Winslow

Setting: Laguna Bay, California, USA

Story: Ben does designer marijuana. Chon, his partner, is an ex SEAL and mercenary who handles the rough stuff. Ophelia is the love interest. Things are going well until the Mexican Baja Cartel signals that it wants in, and makes them an offer they cannot refuse. They refuse. And so starts the escalation of violence, despite Ben and Chon’s best intentions.

Good Stuff: Think Elmore Leonard with a twist of something special. Think sassy dialogue, snappy, sharp writing, action, violence, thrills, suspense, and sex. And drugs. What’s not to like?

More Good Stuff: the plot has its fair share of twists, and some of the cynical observations about the war on drugs, and the American Way of Life, are to the point, and thought provoking.

Even More Good Stuff: It’s great material for a good film.

Not So Good Stuff: They made the film. It’s not that good.

More Not So Good Stuff: Just how far can you go when it comes to suspending disbelief? In other words, at times this book borders on fantasy. (This may be intentional.) For example, the casual way in which certain characters turn into killers, and the free for all body count, are all tough to take. Also, some would also say it crosses the line into pornography, but I’m steering clear of that discussion for now.

But these blemishes cannot undermine what is a fine piece of entertainment. It’s a one sitting, full flavored, roller coaster of a read. I enjoyed it.

Score: 8.5/10

My First Record Purchase

It was the first record I bought with my own money, hard earned from my morning paper round.

It was 1973.

It was Brain Salad Surgery, by Emerson, Lake and Palmer.

I remember the stunning artwork. At the time I had no idea who H R Giger was, but I liked what I saw.

I remember the reworking of Jerusalem:

“…and did those feet, in ancient times, walk upon England’s green and pleasant land?”

And the slapstick comedy of Benny the Bouncer:

“…he’d sell you back all the bits, all for less than half a quid. He thought he was the meanest, until he met with Savage Sid.”

Why did I buy that record? I don’t remember. It’s possible that I wanted something new and fell for the artwork. However, I should also give credit to a couple of my school contemporaries who were much more into music – and mainly music outside of Radio 1 and the Top 20 – and from whom I picked up a couple of tips. So, it’s also possible I bought it on a recommendation from one of these scholars.

It was my first ELP purchase. But the music, enjoyable as it was, did not connect well enough with me to convert me to an ELP fan and make me want more. Therefore, it was also my last ELP purchase. I had heard of Tarkus, for example, but never showed any interest in getting hold of a copy.