Five for Friday

And so the weekend beckons. It’s a very welcome pause in the hectic rush of day-to-day life, as always. Every week, however, is different – so it is not the case that this is a break from any monotony. Oh no. Every week is unique, with a fair share of surprises and twists; some at work, and some at home. Maybe that’s another of the everlasting redemptive qualities of observing Shabbat: even if the things you do in any one Shabbat are different – for example, whether you are invited out for meals, whether you go to any shiurim, whether there’s a simchah in shul, and so on – there’s always, for me, this overwhelming sense of peace, of rest, of distinction about Shabbat. I enjoy it. I savor it. I hope you get something enjoyable, or worth savoring out of this week’s collection of links.

Shabbat Shalom!

Speech of the year?

I know it’s only January, but Matti Friedman‘s speech to BICOM at a dinner in London on January 26, was wonderful.

One taster:

“In my time in the press corps I saw, from the inside, how Israel’s flaws were dissected and magnified, while the flaws of its enemies were purposely erased. I saw how the threats facing Israel were disregarded or even mocked as figments of the Israeli imagination, even as these threats repeatedly materialized. I saw how a fictional image of Israel and of its enemies was manufactured, polished, and propagated to devastating effect by inflating certain details, ignoring others, and presenting the result as an accurate picture of reality. Lest we think this is something that has never happened before, we might remember Orwell’s observation about journalism from the Spanish civil war:

“Early in life,” he wrote, “I had noticed that no event is ever correctly reported in a newspaper, but in Spain, for the first time, I saw newspaper reports which do not bear any relation to the facts, not even the relationship which is implied in an ordinary lie. … I saw, in fact, history being written not in terms of what had happened but of what ought to have happened according to various ‘party lines.’”

That was in 1942.”

Turn off your phone. Get something nice to drink, and perhaps a nibble or two. Snuggle up somewhere quiet and comfortable, click here and read it all. You will not be sorry.

[Another one to chalk up to the Elder of Ziyon.]

One way to go

Arab citizens of Israel amount to about 20% of the population, but are largely disconnected from mainstream politics. There are several reasons. For example, traditionally their turnout at the polls has been low. And to add insult to injury, those who could be bothered to vote were faced with many parties to choose from, even if they focused exclusively on those from their own sector.

The scenario has changed with the raising of the threshold – the minimum percentage of the vote required to guarantee a seat in the Knesset – from 2 to 3.25%. For me, the raise was a good move towards the general (higher) European standards. (Note that in Turkey, the threshold is 10%.)

The response of the smaller parties has been to band together in one list. As the Times of Israel puts it:

Israel’s Arab political parties are banding together under one ticket for the first time ever ahead of national elections in March, hoping to boost turnout and help unseat Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The result is an awkward political marriage of communists, Palestinian nationalists, religious Muslims, feminists and even one Jew. But Arab politicians say it will improve chronically low Arab voter turnout and help block Netanyahu from forming the next government.

First, although there’s an opinion poll that suggests the combined list will improve voter turnout, the reported improvement is both woeful and only theoretical. Let’s see whether people actually bother to vote. After all, when you vote you have to get up and go to the polling station. It’s not like taking part in an opinion poll, when the pollsters come to you!

Second, look how different the parts of the list are. What does that tell us? There is no single Arab perspective? That’s good. But only if they can find a party that represents them. (It may explain why Shas, traditionally, went out of their way to curry favor with Arab towns, and was successful in attracting their votes.)  I wonder what efforts the mainstream parties are making, and should be making, to get these votes and get the Arab population involved in the democracy.

Third, it’s notable that the aim is to block Netanyahu from getting in. Wouldn’t it be a better goal to achieve something positive? To campaign for and promote changes in the law that they see as necessary and important fro their potential constituents? Or is this AP’s spin?

Whatever the outcome, it will be interesting to see how this unified list does.

The Brits need chutzpah?

Check this out from the Register:

Brits need chutzpah to copy Israeli cyberspies’ tech creche – ex-spooks

GCHQ needs culture change first

Feature Israel’s intelligence agency, Unit 8200, has been a production line for hi-tech startups since the 1980s, a success British politicians are now seeking to emulate. Yet replicating that success in Blighty may be difficult because of cultural and environmental differences that may prove difficult to overcome.

Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude MP recently visited Israel, where, amongt other things, he met some Unit 8200 alumni. Cabinet Office spinners briefed the press soon afterwards about UK hopes of turning GCHQ into an incubator for the next generation of tech entrepreneurs.

As the article and some commenters mention, chutzpah is probably the least of it. The fact of army life and the general culture are also important. Interestingly, some of the comments suggest that being at peace makes you lazy. (See? It’s good to be at war! Hmmm.)

Points of note:

  • The comments are less offensive than you might see at the Guardian – OK, I know that’s not much praise – but it will have to do
  • There doesn’t appear to be any suggestion about GCHQ might effect a culture change. (Convert en masse to Judaism?)
  • State sponsored hacking is a win-win activity: it creates jobs in the state and the private sector!
  • Would you trust a security company from the USA that was run by former USA army tech people? So why are Israeli companies trusted? Or am I just too cynical?

Check the article out here.

Let’s go, Rangers!


Or, my continuing adventures in the difficult and demanding, but intensely – with the emphasis on intensely – enjoyable journey towards better mastery of Advanced Squad Leader.

Ran was my patient teacher. He patiently smashed my attacking forces in two scenarios, proving I still have a lot to learn.

First up, Ranger Stronghold. (ASL scenario T3.)

A German force of a dozen squads (with four leaders, one MMG and five LMGs) backed up by a couple of Panzer IV F2 tanks, has to clear the five and a half squads of the USA 1st Ranger Battalion (with two leaders, two MMGs, and four bazookas) from the heights of board two. I was the Germans and Ran was the Americans.

The tactical challenge for the Germans is to get up close and personal with the defenders, without suffering too many casualties. I blew that for the following reasons, among others:

  • I forgot about the smoke generating capability of the tanks.
  • I was too cautious with the tanks.
  • I was too aggressive with the infantry.
  • Too often, my troops moved into hexes I thought were out of line of sight (LOS). I was wrong…
  • I did not pass a single bloody morale check throughout the scenario.
  • One tank main weapon malfunctioned. I tried to repair it – I shouldn’t have – and irreparably broke it. So the tank was recalled.

In fairness, Ran had a decent set of dice rolls when it came to taking his shots. But also in fairness, that wasn’t why he won; he played better than me.

Next up was Gavin Take. (ASL scenario T1.)

The roles were reversed this time, in that the Germans (played by Ran) were defending. They had seven squads, three leaders, a couple of MMGs and three LMGs. The Americans (under my control) had ten squads and three leaders, entering on either flank of the board three village.

Here, the tactical challenge for the attacker was to keep the defending forces occupied enough so as to be able to get troops around the village and off the board edge. I did better in this scenario, but at the end it was an easy win for Ran because I could not fulfill the victory conditions of exiting a squad and a leader.

Having learned one lesson from the first scenario, I was better at avoiding surprise LOS shots, but still couldn’t get the balance right between move and fire – or aggression and caution. When it came down to it, I didn’t make enough progress in time to threaten a victory.

For all the faults in my play, I have to give credit to Ran for the quality of his play. He did not let me off the hook, and it was impressive to watch the care and attention he gave to his moves, even when I thought the action to take was obvious. (It wasn’t…)

Another aspect is becoming crystal clear: it’s not enough to have a rough idea of the key rules. You need to know them – really, really know them. For example, my grasp of the LOS rules is not good enough. Neither is my knowledge of the vehicle smoke rules. If I am to make progress, I need to put some serious study time in.

I liked the short scenarios. I suspect they may be less enjoyable for Ran, because experienced ASL gamers seem to believe bigger is better. We shall see.

Meantime, I hope we can squeeze in another session before the ASL Israel Event – I need the practice!


The need to grow up

Given the abuse Israel and its leaders take from the Turkish establishment – especially in recent years – the following comes as a surprise:

From Globes:


The article says:

“As countries, there will always be a love-hate relationship between us and Israel. What’s important, however, is that business connects people, and we don’t let the bad people around interfere with our mission: to be always the preferred option for Israeli passengers. We’re very proud of our route, and we want to continue giving good service and a successful product that will make Israelis choose us,” said Turkish Airlines VP Ziya Taskent in response to a “Globes” question about his personal opinion on the prolonged diplomatic crisis between Israel and Turkey.

Bad people? Whoever could he mean?

Meantime, this type of commercial activity reflects the disconnect between the shrieks of BDS from the madding crowd, compared with the continual investment that foreign businesses make in Israel. People want to do business with Israel. They want our custom. They want our technology. They want our entrepreneurial skills. They want to create something positive, and investing in Israel offers that, and more.

What Israel has achieved in the short time since its modern reestablishment is a miracle. The surrounding Arab world should hang its respective heads in shame. Whatever the issues, the handicaps, or the challenges, with the right application they could all have been overcome. (No, not overnight,. And there is this wee requirement for hard work.) Instead their apparent focus is on maintaining dictatorial regimes by channeling hate and intolerance, rather than spreading life, liberty, and freedom, dooms them to be the failed states they are.

The religious extremists of ISIS (or whatever the current label is) behave as if they are acting out a nightmare best described as murderous lunatics having taken over the asylum.

[Aside: are ISIS nothing to do with Islam? They sure seem to say otherwise.]

If there is ever going to be peace in this part of the world, our neighbors will first collectively have to took a good, long, hard look at themselves and realize where they are, and how far they are from progress unless they change their whole approach.

To put it more simply, they need to grow up.

Game of the week

OK, here’s your starter for 10 points:

At which recent Israeli event, did the halftime show feature “a Scottish bagpipes [sic] band from Ukraine that had people dancing in the stands”?

You are never going to guess – unless you google it and cheat.

Give in?

Historical Medieval Battles.

Never heard of it? Neither had I till I read a report at the Times of Israel.

It starts like this:

For some people, there’s nothing more entertaining than watching a good fight. There are boxing fans, and also plenty of folks who tune in to pro wrestling on TV. And then there’s the crowd that likes to watch competitors dressed in medieval armor wielding medieval weapons go at one another other without mercy.

That sort of fighting is called Historical Medieval Battles (HMB), and a few hundred Israeli fans of the sport — some dressed as though they stepped right out of Robin Hood’s Sherwood Forest — gathered Thursday evening at the Maccabi House Sports Hall in Rishon Lezion to watch the World Medieval Fighting Championship: Israeli Challenge.

Although HMB involves several different categories and styles of combat, this particular event focused on “professional fights.” The one-on-one bouts entail three rounds of three minutes, during which the opponents attack each other with unsharpened steel weapons, such as swords and poleaxes. Everything is allowed except for blows to the neck, back of the knee, groin, eyes, feet, and back of the head. Fighters score points with hits, and the competitor with the most points at the end of the three rounds wins.

Intriguing. Definitely a clash [sic!] of cultures.

You can read the whole report here.

Solo – William Boyd

This is a James Bond novel, set in 1969, with Bond celebrating his 45th birthday in style and living a life of fast cars, wine, women, and danger.

On the one hand, I am suspicious of the book as an attempt to exploit the late Ian Fleming’s invention. On the other, if there’s reading pleasure to be had, I’m all for it.

On the plus side, therefore, the Bond character is given just the right kind of treatment. He is no superstar, albeit he is rather good at his job. There’s a fine drawing of the man with a sympathetic slant given to his weaknesses. The other characters are pure cardboard – probably as it should be.

The plot doesn’t make a great deal of sense to me. To cast my doubts here would spoil it. Let’s say, that there is intrigue, and the investigation and unraveling is interesting.

It’s a page turner, tautly written in the main, with some excellent period touches and only the occasional out of time phraseology.

I wouldn’t recommend this as a must read, but fans of Bond won’t be disappointed, and it is not a bad way to spend some quiet reading time.

Video of the week

Context. I first saw this at The Jawa Report:

From the NY Daily News:

Pro-Palestinian activists disrupted a City Council meeting Thursday to protest Council members’ planned trip to Israel next month.
Protesters in the balcony of the Council chamber unfurled a Palestinian flag and began yelling “Palestinian lives matter,” “Don’t support genocide,” and “Melissa, you’re a hypocrite,” a slam on Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who will lead the Israel delegation.

Council members reacted furiously to the demonstration – especially because the disruption began as they were concluding a vote on a resolution commemorating the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp.

A few dozen protesters were booted from the chamber, with some physically removed, and were ordered off the City Hall property all together.

Now watch one (memorable) response:

Five for Friday

"What do you mean, pavement?"

“What do you mean, pavement?”

After yesterday’s traffic trauma, it put me in the mood to share with you Sarah-Lee’s snap of someone who felt that her precious passengers shouldn’t have to walk all the way to the car parking place when there was plenty of space available on the pavement. Never mind pedestrians… The selfishness of it all is obscene.

OK. That’s out the way and I can get back to the routine of the weekend. I’m not in the mood to say very much. So, the links follow:

Shabbat Shalom!