Five things you’re likely to see only in Israel

image collage for post

When was the last time you were accosted by four teenage boys brandishing…Rubik’s Cubes?

My wife, Marcia, and I are now traveling in the US. When people here learn that we live in Israel they often ask how we manage to cope with “all the violence and unrest.” They seem surprised, if not stunned (or skeptical), when we answer that our neighborhood in Jerusalem is a safe and enjoyable place. Remember the following scene from the 1990 comedy, The Freshman…?

Like Matthew Broderick’s Rodolfo Lasparri’s take on Palermo, an informed judgment on Israel would surely benefit from a visit. Though the country has its share of problems it’s not the place one would imagine from having watched only network news. Following are five vignettes from personal experience that might help refine one’s impression of the Middle East’s only democracy.

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or, “how Juttah got her name…” three prophets bannerYesterday was a big day. Almost ten years ago, Marcia and I began a writing project to create an entertaining and scripturally  accurate novel about the miraculous life of the prophet, Daniel, while he was held captive in Babylon. Yesterday, July 13th, we were thrilled to do a small mailing to announce its publication as an eBook. The Daniel story had already been uploaded for sale at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Kobo since May but we chose not to publicize it until a second novel was ready to go. This second novel, entitled, The Ivory House, the days of Elijah, is now available as well and, we hope, meets the same criteria, entertaining and accurate.

Juttah, the wild Jerusalem dog, as she appears on The Ivory House book coverRegular readers of this blog may have spotted a familiar face on The Ivory House cover. It’s Juttah, the wild dog of Jerusalem you may remember from here, and here! Always cooperative except when awake, Juttah volunteered to stand in for the male, fictional, canine star  of The Ivory House, also named Juttah…only first. For a look at the original photo of our cover girl before being Photoshopped to look a bit scarier, details on how to keep up with goodStories and more about Juttah’s status, read on.
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Who’s Haman?

Purim Celebrants, Jerusalem, 2014
Purim Celebrants, Jerusalem, 2014

Strange Bedfellows update, March 5th,  following Netanyahu’s speech to Congress regarding Iran:

The Israeli Prime Minister got a vote of confidence from an odd source following his recent address to the US Congress. While Nancy Pelosi found herself near tears, “saddened by [Netanyahu’s] insult to the intelligence of the United States, “Al-Arabiya‘s English edition editor-in-chief Faisal J. Abbas wrote a surprising op-ed on Tuesday, calling on US President Barack Obama to listen to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.”

“What is absurd, however, is that despite this being perhaps the only thing that brings together Arabs and Israelis (as it threatens them all), the only stakeholder that seems not to realize the danger of the situation is President Obama, who is now infamous for being the latest pen-pal of the Supreme Leader of the World’s biggest terrorist regime: Ayottallah Ali Khamenei,” Abbas wrote.

Good grief, even Israel’s sworn enemies see the foolishness and shortsightedness of this deal. (Al-Aribiya editor demands Obama listen to Netanyahu)


Original Post:

March has arrived, a critical election looms in Israel and here in Jerusalem it seems that Chicago, not spring, is in the air. The New York Times reports...

Jeremy Bird, the architect of the grass-roots and online organizing efforts that powered President Obama’s presidential campaigns from Chicago, is advising a similar operation in Tel Aviv. But this time it is focused on ousting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel.

Jeremy Bird
Jeremy Bird

The Times goes on to suggest that the White House’s apparent intrusion into the upcoming Israeli elections is nothing special, arguing on the administration’s behalf, “American strategists have for decades signed on to work in Israeli political campaigns,” but, given the negativity  Mr. Bird has ushered into the contest while directing the sudden political phenomenon, V15, and considering the disturbing sources of V15’s funds (see below), this effort fails to pass the smell test when compared to the past involvements of other American election advisers in Israel.

Of V15, the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, wrote on January 26…

“…with the help of American money and a former campaign adviser to President Barack Obama, V15 is trying to replace Israel’s government. The money and organization comes from V15’s partnership with OneVoice…an international grassroots movement that amplifies the voice of mainstream Israelis and Palestinians, empowering them to propel their elected representatives toward the two-state solution.”

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Wars, peace, prophets, produce and Innocents Abroad

Israeli Tanks

Mark Twain is credited with having said, “History may not repeat itself but it does rhyme.”  Rhyming aside, one can easily argue that history repeats itself in Israel. As of old, history has repeated itself at least fifteen times here since November of 1947 in the form of war. Twain visited the land (among other places) in 1867, before its restoration, and assessed the dire state of the Galilee in his humorous memoir of his travels, The Innocents Abroad…

“ …[Judea and Samaria is a] desolate country whose soil is rich enough, but is given over wholly to weeds-a silent mournful expanse…. A desolation is here that not even imagination can grace with the pomp of life and action…. We never saw a human being on the whole route…. There was hardly a tree or a shrub anywhere. Even the olive and the cactus, those fast friends of the worthless soil, had almost deserted the country.” – (Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad. London: 1881)

Time and the vision of several Hebrew prophets have proved Mark Twain only half correct. One hundred and forty-five years after the famous author memorialized Israel’s northern land as a “desolation” I walked the south shore of the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) with my camera and snapped the confounding photos below.

They would certainly have surprised him.

Continue reading “Wars, peace, prophets, produce and Innocents Abroad”

Rockets and Duct Tape

Hamas Launches Rockets from Gaza

Minutes after I began this entry on Thursday, July 10 at about 6:00 PM, sirens sounded here in Jerusalem for the second time since Hamas, the people of Gaza’s elected terrorist government, began the latest round of rocket fire against Israeli homes and schools. Marcia and I counted 6 explosions after the sirens sounded yet we remain hopeful that, as was the case two nights ago, none in Jerusalem were harmed by the attack. Soon after the excitement ended, a friend told us that she, while waiting at a nearby Jerusalem bus stop, had watched first hand as Iron Dome missiles intercepted two incoming rockets overhead.

A man stopped traffic to hop out of his car and take pictures.

The rockets, of course, came from Gaza,  the territory that Israel ceded to the Arabs nine years ago in hopes of furthering peace.

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Bring Back Our Boys



Three Israeli boys, yeshiva students in their teens, came up missing six days ago on Friday, June 13, after they were last seen hitchhiking in the West Bank. The overwhelming suspicion is that they were taken captive by terrorists. Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu has publicly held the Palestinian Authority responsible for the well being of the boys.  A first report linked here from The Times of Israel. The students have not been found yet.

One of the most disturbing aspects of the Times article…

Earlier Friday, a senior Islamic Jihad official called on Palestinians to kidnap Israeli citizens, arguing that Israel had proven in the past that it was willing to negotiate the release of Palestinian security prisoners in exchange for the lives of its civilians.

Who can argue with his logic? Recall that Israel agreed to release 1,027 terror convicts in exchange for captured soldier, Gilad Shalit, on October 11, 2011, “the first captured Israeli soldier to be released alive in 26 years.”

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Who are these guys?


Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain returned to England from Germany in September of 1938 believing he had struck an honest deal with Adolf Hitler, having crafted the now infamous Munich Agreement.

That agreement, at first hailed as Peace in Our Time, delayed World War II for not quite 335 days. (Original video below: “One man saved us from the greatest war of all.”)


Today hope for peace in the Middle East (and the world) rests upon John Kerry’s equally vacant though much less sincere smile .

But while the British Prime Minister clearly hoped to bring peace to Europe, Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei  has made it difficult for Kerry to pretend that the US opposes Iran’s becoming a nuclear power. Khamenei said recently, “The American government is untrustworthy, supercilious and unreasonable, and breaks its promises,” (Link)

Tellingly, Kerry ignored those remarks and sniped instead at Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu for suggesting that further negotiations with Iran might be a tragic mistake.

So a question goes begging for an answer; Who will have better served mankind after the smoke clears? Neville Chamberlain as a caricature of  Don Quixote or John Kerry as a less competent Don Knotts?

Continue reading “Who are these guys?”