Archive for February, 2009

Parking Problems

Anyone who knows anyone who owns a car in Tel Aviv has heard their complaints about the problems of finding parking in this city. I’ve lived here for a couple of years now, so these litanies are familiar to me but so far I’ve been spared from the actual first-hand experience of circling side streets for hours in the vain pursuit of a parking spot.

That is, until yesterday.

I returned from Herzliya Pituach at around ten thirty at night and started to look for parking somewhere in the area of Ibn Gvirol-Pinkas-Remez-Jabotinsky.

Exactly. I could just as well have looked for a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

The whole experience reminded me of this clip that circulates among frustrated car-owners in the White City.

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February 27, 2009 at 09:22 1 comment

Left Party Leader Rejects Antisemitism — in Theory

Some time ago I wrote about how Lars Ohly, the leader of the Left Party in Sweden, claimed that an antisemitic blog was one of his favorites. Today Svenska Dagbladet publishes a short statement by Ohly, where he states that “antisemitism must be combated wherever it is found”.

He also points out that he has participated in memorial ceremonies on Kristallnacht and on Holocaust Memorial Day on several occasions.

Fair enough. 

But what about that particular blog? Why doesn’t Mr Ohly see it fit to comment on the matter at hand? If he hadn’t declared his support for this one particular blog in the first place, he wouldn’t have had to make this statement. He wants to sound categorical and clear, and he does reject antisemitism — in theory.

When it comes to an actual concrete example of anti-Jewish sentiments expressed by members of his party, he still chooses to avoid the issue.

UPDATE: In an interview in Expo (February 26 2009), Mr. Ohly clarifies that there is indeed antisemitic content on the blog in question, and that if he had known about it, he would never have listed it as one of his favorite blogs. He also says that Party representatives have spoken to the man behind the blog, and asked him to remove the antisemitic content. At the same time, Mr. Ohly doesn’t want to characterize the man responsible for the blog as an antisemite, and points out that most of the offensive content isn’t written by him.

February 25, 2009 at 15:25 2 comments

High Time for High Culture

Back from my long weekend in Paris, I notice that the opera tickets I ordered some time ago have arrived.

Maybe it’s because of the centennial celebrations, but the Tel Aviv Opera has a very strong season this year. I’ve already been to la Traviata in the park, and in April I plan to see Carmen. I’d also like to squeeze Aida, put on by the good people from la Scala in Milan, but we’ll see how much opera one man can take in a year.

On the envelope with the tickets, someone has deemed it fit to put a little image of a clock, together with the text: “Your time is important! At our opera house the performances begin on time”. This is probably a pertinent reminder, since Israelis are notoriously bad at keeping times. I don’t think I’ve attended a single social gathering, meeting or religious service that has begun on time in this country.

Needless to say, this can drive a Swede insane.

Before you start writing talkbacks about how Israelis really aren’t any worse than people in general (maybe Swedes excepted), let me just say to you: yes you are. And I can prove it.

A few years ago, I visited Budapest with a friend and we decided to take a guided tour of the parliament building. On the sign where the tour would begin, it said — in a number of languages — that the visitors should wait at that spot ten minutes before the tour was scheduled to start. The text was identical in English, French, Spanish, Italian, German and Russian. Only one language differed. There it said that visitors should wait at the spot 15 minutes before the scheduled start.

And what language was that? Hebrew, of course.

February 25, 2009 at 15:09 4 comments

Watch out Diderot

Ok, so it may not be the Britannica — or even the Judaica. Nonetheless, anyone who happens to be interested in the Jews of Sweden or Scandinavia, might want to check out the Encyclopedia of the Jewish Diaspora at a library near you.

February 17, 2009 at 08:33 Leave a comment

Spat over Sponsoring Supermarket

Tel Aviv turns 100 this year. Predictably enough, the City is going to celebrate this fact, and just as predictably these celebrations have already caused controversy.

The small, but well-organized, Haredi community in the City of Sin is enraged by the fact that a special festive Shabbat morning prayer service planned to be held in the dilapidated Great Synagogue on Allenby Street is sponsored by AM : PM. The problem is that AM : PM is a supermarket chain that stays open 24/7 — i.e. violates Shabbat every single week. Local rabbis are up in arms, likening the decision to spitting in the face of religious Tel Avivians and calling for a boycott of the event.

This, in turn, has annoyed City Council member Tami Zandberg (Meretz):

“There is nothing wrong with choosing AM : PM as the sponsors. It’s not a part of any discourse. This is a delusional, benighted call. I’m not praising the fact the a commercial chain was chosen as a sponsor – I would have preferred to see the events sponsored by a cultural institute, and I, myself, oppose opening businesses on Shabbat because of social reasons.

It is a shame that the rabbis cannot see their way to form cooperation on the matter and choose instead to hail obsolete messages”.

Incidentally, the 100% secular Amos Oz is quoted in today’s Yediot saying that he thinks that shopping malls etc. should keep closed on the day of rest.

I guess that’s easy to say if you’re a world famous author and don’t have to work 45 hours a week. You just go to the mall on a regular Tuesday morning, when all the Shabbat desecrating wage-slaves are at work.

February 16, 2009 at 15:58 Leave a comment

Allosemitism

After almost a decade in the Holocaust/antisemitism business, I stumbled upon a new term last week: allosemitism. For some inexplicable reason, there still isn’t an entry on Wikipedia for this concept, but I Googled it, and found an article in the Jewish Journal by Ruth Ellen Gruber, which contains a brief explanation:

Coined by a Polish-Jewish literary critic named Artur Sandauer, the term describes a concept with which I am quite familiar—the idea of Jews as the perpetual “other.”

Allosemitism can embrace both positive and negative feelings toward Jews—everything, as the sociologist Zygmunt Bauman put it, “from love and respect to outright condemnation and genocidal hatred.”

At root is the idea that, good or bad, Jews are different from the non-Jewish mainstream and thus unable to be dealt with in the same way or measured by the same yardstick.

Ms. Gruber then goes on to prove how problematic this approach is by quoting her brother, Frank: “People who think Jews are smarter than everyone else don’t have Jewish relatives”.

The whole article can be found here.

I’m so excited. I’ll start using this term all the time from now on.

February 15, 2009 at 18:44 4 comments

Associations and Other Occupational Hazards

I’ve dealt professionally with the Holocaust since 2001, and I’ve been working at Yad Vashem since 2006. Like all other jobs, this one also effects you.

For instance, I’d spontaneously connect 9/11 to November 9, instead of September 11, and I’ve already gotten used to the reoccurring conversations at dinner parties where people seem to be under the impression that I want to hear the story of how their grandparents escaped the Nazis. I can live with this — it’s not like I risk grave bodily harm in a sweat shop or am pestered for free medical or legal advice over the entrées, like so many of my physician and lawyer friends.

But the warning lights started to flash when I recently discovered that my North Face jacket has a logo not only over the heart, but also one on the back, under the right shoulder, and my spontaneous thought was: “Ah, just like the yellow badge!”

It might be time to move on to greener pastures.

February 14, 2009 at 17:09 Leave a comment

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