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!

Jerusalem, Jerusalem

There are many (many) reasons to admire the work of the Elder of Ziyon. One reason is his talent at asking pointed and relevant questions about anti-Israel propaganda; questions that should make a neutral, objective observer (if there is such a beast) stop, think, and admit: he’s right. One of his recent posts – Jerusalem, quod erat demonstrandum and Daniel Seidemann  – is a perfect example.

It starts with a tweet by Seidemann, contrasting Bibi’s declaration of support for a two state solution with his other declaration about never giving up Jerusalem. Seidemann tweeted that the appropriate conclusion is that Bibi does not support a two state solution.

So, the Elder tweeted a simple question: why do the Palestinians need Jerusalem for a state? They may want it, they may like it, but why do they need it?

Answer came there none.

The Elder (whose whole post is here) concludes his analysis as follows:

“Arabs aren’t afraid of Jews like Seidemann who say they want to give up Jerusalem for peace. They are afraid of Jews – even secular Jews like Netanyahu – who would rather die than lose the Old City.

Beggars can’t be choosers, yet Palestinians who are supposedly living in stateless misery are making preconditions for a state that have nothing to do with statehood.

Because their goal isn’t the creation of a state but the destruction of one.

And the proof is because they insist, without a shred of proof, that there can be no Palestinian state without Jerusalem.


So, quod erat demonstrandum. Or, quintessential Elder demolition.

Balancing act


This week at work was another half day yom kef (fun day), when our little group went on a trip around Jerusalem on segways. A couple of years back we had done a tour of the Tel Aviv sea front and Jaffa (see here), so it took us a lot less time to get used to the machines and to get up and on our way.


We used Smart Tour, starting from their base at the renovated tachanah (old railway station) and heading in to the Old City. We passed the King David Hotel, skirted the Mamilla centre, went round the Jaffa Gate area, and then did a quick run through the Christian Quarter from the New Gate back to the Jaffa Gate. Then back to the tachanah for some lunch. Then back to the office…


The Smart Tour people were well organized and professional, so I would not hesitate using them again. They also hire out bikes and other modes of transport, meaning there are decent alternatives for those who may be slightly fearful of the demands of the a segway.

While I enjoyed the previous Tel Aviv segway trip, there is definitely something different about Jerusalem and having it as a backdrop. I don’t expect to ever be of a disposition to want to live there, but there’s no doubting its special setting and atmosphere. It made me resolve to think about going back and doing another tour using my Canon to get some decent pictures taken. Me flailing about, one armed on a segway with a mobile phone, is not a good photographic situation!

The passport that threatens the peace process

Rick Richman at Commentary magazine gives us this amazing situation in detail:

Now that the Supreme Court has agreed in Zivotofsky v. Kerry to decide the constitutionality of the law allowing Jerusalem-born Americans to have “Israel” on their passports as their place of birth, it bears reiterating that President Obama did not need to make this a federal case, and that he could still take the same approach President Clinton did in 1994, when Congress passed a law allowing Americans born in Taiwan to have “Taiwan” on their passports rather than “China.”

Clinton enforced the law, but declared that America’s “One China” policy (recognizing only the People’s Republic of China) remained unchanged. Obama could uphold the law regarding Menachem Zivotofsky’s passport, but declare that the policy that Jerusalem’s status is subject to negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians remains unchanged. Case closed! It is not clear why this should present a problem: the State Department website identifies Jerusalem as Israel’s capital; so does the CIA website; the Department of Defense website features a 2009 picture of Secretary Gates and Prime Minister Netanyahu meeting in “Jerusalem, Israel,” a 2012 picture of Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey with Israeli President Peres in “Jerusalem, Israel,” and Secretary Hagel’s 2013 statement at his meeting with Netanyahu in “Jerusalem, Israel.”

In a nutshell, USA policy is that somebody born in Jerusalem is not born in Israel, and so cannot have that as their country of birth on their passport. Continue reading

Around Jerusalem

As previously posted, last week I did a 40 km ride around Jerusalem.  The event started at the newly refurbished railway station, partly to advertise its opening as a social, cultural, events and meeting venue. And very nice it is too.

Registration was to start at 6.15 am, but of course I arrived before then. The place was already alive.

Watch this space disappear

Watch this space disappear

But it got busier.

A sea of cyclists

A sea of cyclists

After I had picked up my event number, and joined up with Shosh and her crew, there was a wait until the start time of 7.00 am. Which became 7.15 am. I think the Jerusalem mayor was involved, but it was hard to hear much above the crowd. Besides, he was speaking this funny language…

It took a full ten minutes for us to get from our position in the venue, to the starting line. After that, on to the bike, and off we went on our ride.

The initial stages were on the roads, and the traffic was stopped to let us have a free and less dangerous passage. But after maybe 15 minutes, we were off road and climbing.

Jerusalem is hilly. Around Jerusalem it is hilly. So we went down and up, but mostly up. And after that, we went up some more. Thank goodness for the water stations.

"What do you mean, you have no bananas?"

“What do you mean, you have no bananas?”

It was hot, and I used up my backpack water all too quickly. I would have liked some fruit, but you had to be at the front of the event to stand a chance of getting a banana. The rest did not look too appetizing, so I stuck to water.

No escape...

No escape…

Everything went well until we got back into Jerusalem.

(Here, “well” is a relative term. I was hot, thirsty, tired, sore, and hot. But that was not the worst of it.)

Shosh, who had kindly kept me company for most of the time, was being held back by my pace, so I encouraged her to go ahead. But somewhere after passing the Teddy Kollek stadium in Jerusalem, I looked around and realized there was nobody ahead of me. The pack of riders had gone. Worse, there was nobody behind me. Worse, there were no signs, and no stewards. Yes, I was lost.

I cycled on a bit. No riders. (I was looking for any sign of the green color of the free t-shirt they gave each rider. Most wore theirs for the ride.)

A passing motorist told me to get lost keep going. But I was still lost. What did I do? I put on Waze (the Israeli GPS social network app about to be snapped up by Facebook, allegedly) and let it direct me. I reckon I did at least an extra couple of km with that off route detour. Anyway, eventually, I made it back. At the venue, there was a massage tent with masseurs offering treatment to relieve the pain, but all I wanted to do was get home. My bike bore the signs of the ride and I know it wanted a clean up.

Play dusty for me

Play dusty for me

All in all, a good ride. Pity about the poor stewarding and route marking at the end. I am comforted in knowing I was not the only lost rider.

Thanks to Shosh for the tip and the company. And thanks to Jerusalem for being such a cracking backdrop. I was too busy biking to take too many pictures, so you will have to take my word for it this time. It was lovely. (It was also hot, and uphill.)

I hope there will be another one next year and I will be able to ride it again. Next time, I am aiming to get a banana.

A Letter to the World from Jerusalem

Tonight (Tuesday 7 May) sees the start of Yom Yerushalayim, marking the reunification of Jerusalem in 1967. In honor of the event, I offer the following text of a lengthy, but memorable, readable, and important letter from way back when.

By Eliezer Ben Yisrael

I am not a creature from another planet, as you seem to believe. I am a Jerusalemite – like yourselves, a man of flesh and blood. I am a citizen of my city, an integral part of my people.

I have a few things to get off my chest. Because I am not a diplomat, I do not have to mince words. I do not have to please you, or even persuade you. I owe you nothing. You did not build this city; you did not live in it; you did not defend it when they came to destroy it. And we will be damned if we will let you take it away.

There was a Jerusalem before there was a New York. When Berlin, Moscow, London, and Paris were miasmal forest and swamp, there was a thriving Jewish community here. It gave something to the world which you nations have rejected ever since you established yourselves – a humane moral code.

Here the prophets walked, their words flashing like forked lightning. Here a people who wanted nothing more than to be left alone, fought off waves of heathen would-be conquerors, bled and died on the battlements, hurled themselves into the flames of their burning Temple rather than surrender, and when finally overwhelmed by sheer numbers and led away into captivity, swore that before they forgot Jerusalem, they would see their tongues cleave to their palates, their right arms wither.

For two pain-filled millennia, while we were your unwelcome guests, we prayed daily to return to this city. Three times a day we petitioned the Almighty: “Gather us from the four corners of the world, bring us upright to our land; return in mercy to Jerusalem, Thy city, and dwell in it as Thou promised.” On every Yom Kippur and Passover, we fervently voice the hope that next year would find us in Jerusalem.

Your inquisitions, pogroms, expulsions, the ghettos into which you jammed us, your forced baptisms, your quota systems, your genteel anti-Semitism, and the final unspeakable horror, the holocaust (and worse, your terrifying disinterest in it) – all these have not broken us. They may have sapped what little moral strength you still possessed, but they forged us into steel. Do you think that you can break us now after all we have been through? Do you really believe that after Dachau and Auschwitz we are frightened by your threats of blockades and sanctions? We have been to Hell and back – a Hell of your making. What more could you possibly have in your arsenal that could scare us?

I have watched this city bombarded twice by nations calling themselves civilized. In 1948, while you looked on apathetically, I saw women and children blown to smithereens, after we agreed to your request to internationalize the city. It was a deadly combination that did the job. British officers, Arab gunners, and American-made cannons. And then the savage sacking of the Old City; the willful slaughter, the wanton destruction of every synagogue and religious school; the desecration of Jewish cemeteries; the sale by a ghoulish government of tombstones for building materials, for poultry runs, army camps – even latrines.
And you never said a word.

You never breathed the slightest protest when the Jordanians shut off the holiest of our places, the Western Wall, in violation of the pledges they had made after the war – a war they waged, incidentally, against the decision of the UN. Not a murmur came from you whenever the legionnaires in their spiked helmets casually opened fire upon our citizens from behind the walls.

Your hearts bled when Berlin came under siege. You rushed your airlift “to save the gallant Berliners”. But you did not send one ounce of food when Jews starved in besieged Jerusalem. You thundered against the wall which the East Germans ran through the middle of the German capital – but not one peep out of you about that other wall, the one that tore through the heart of Jerusalem.

And when that same thing happened 20 years later, and the Arabs unleashed a savage, unprovoked bombardment of the Holy City again, did any of you do anything?

The only time you came to life was when the city was at last reunited. Then you wrung your hands and spoke loftily of “justice” and need for the “Christian” quality of turning the other cheek.

The truth is – and you know it deep inside your gut – you would prefer the city to be destroyed rather than have it governed by Jews. No matter how diplomatically you phrase it, the age old prejudices seep out of every word.

If our return to the city has tied your theology in knots, perhaps you had better reexamine your catechisms. After what we have been through, we are not passively going to accommodate ourselves to the twisted idea that we are to suffer eternal homelessness until we accept your savior.

For the first time since the year 70 there is now complete religious freedom for all in Jerusalem. For the first time since the Romans put a torch to the Temple, everyone has equal rights. (You prefer to have some more equal than others.) We loathe the sword – but it was you who forced us to take it up. We crave peace – but we are not going back to the peace of 1948 as you would like us to.

We are home. It has a lovely sound for a nation you have willed to wander over the face of the globe. We are not leaving. We are redeeming the pledge made by our forefathers: Jerusalem is being rebuilt. “Next year” and the year after, and after, and after, until the end of time – “in Jerusalem!”

I read this over Shabbat in the last issue of Torah Tidbits. The editor of that publication noted:

This Letter – written by Eliezer Whartman – originally appeared in the summer of 1969 as an editorial in the long-defunct Times of Israel.

It is amazing how its words resonate so well 44 years later. And it is so sad that these words still need to be said after all this time.

As of today, no country in the world has its embassy in the capital of Israel.

As of today, people and governments around the world are still talking about dividing Jerusalem, about sharing Jerusalem.

Although the US Congress has been gung-ho in its support for moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem, it is not happening. We appreciate the enthusiasm and support of many US congressmen for Jerusalem remaining the undivided capital of Israel…

But the fact remains that the United States of America does not recognize Israeli sovereignty over any part of Jerusalem, let alone considering it our capital. Therefore, read this letter again and again and share it with others.

I agree with that editor’s sentiments. So, please read this letter – again and again – and share it with others.


[Another from the You Couldn’t Make It Up department. A big tip of the hat and vote of thanks to CiF Watch.]

Q: What is the capital of England?

A: London.

Q: What is the capital of France?

A: Paris.

Q: What is the capital of Israel?

A: That depends.

Eh? Surely everyone knows the capital of Israel is Jerusalem? Well, not quite everyone.

Here is an entry in the Guardian‘s Corrections and clarifications section:

The caption on a photograph featuring passengers on a tram in Jerusalem observing a two-minute silence for Yom HaShoah, a day of remembrance for the 6 million Jews who died in the Holocaust, wrongly referred to the city as the Israeli capital. The Guardian style guide states: “Jerusalem is not the capital of Israel; Tel Aviv is” (Eyewitness, 20 April, page 24).

It’s worthy repeating to highlight this nonsense:

The Guardian style guide states: “Jerusalem is not the capital of Israel; Tel Aviv is”

The Guardian style guide? Since when was that the arbiter of capital cities? Who the hell do these people think they are? What planet are they on? What right do they have to tell us what our capital is? If I were on Mastermind, The Weakest Link, or any other quiz program, would they accept Tel Aviv as an answer to the question about Israel’s capital because the Guardian style guide says it is so? It is absolutely barmy. It’s George Orwell’s 1984 in full flow, adapted for the anti-zionist phrase book.

Do read the post by AKUS at CiF Watch for a more polite, but equally scathing comment.

The only good thing about this nonsense – apart from the entertainment value – is that it exposes the warped mindset of Israel’s political foes in the British liberal (or sofa socialist) establishment. People holding this view really do need their head examined and a dose of reality administered. Quickly.