Posts filed under ‘Life’

Simultaneously in Tel Aviv

Last week, Israeli grandmaster Alik Gershon broke the Guinness World Record in simultaneous chess by playing against 527 other chess players, winning 87 percent of his games. The event took place at Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square on Thursday and Friday.

The previous record, set in 2009, was held by the Iranian grandmaster Morteza Mahjoub.

The Ministry of Defense has yet to announce whether systematically going through the book of Guinness World Records and breaking every single Iranian record is a new form of psychological warfare against the Islamic Republic.


October 24, 2010 at 16:47 1 comment

Confessions of a Traveler

Bitte Hammargren, the Middle East expert at Svenska Dagbladet wrote a column recently where she reflected on the fact that Israel, arguably the most flight security conscious country in the world, has such an apparently cavalier attitude to passengers bringing fluids onto planes departing from Ben-Gurion international airport.

I have a similar experience, and – after having flown extensively back and forth all over Europe this summer – I must say that Ben-Gurion has the absolutely best and most efficient security checks of all the airports I’ve ever been to, leaving Rhodes, Ataturk, Kastrup and Barajas far behind. Copenhagen’s airport Kastrup stands out with its especially inefficient and painfully slow security check.

The key to the expedient security procedures at Ben-Gurion is the interview that all passengers are put through before they’re even allowed to check in. Once they pass the eye of that needle, the mechanical check of luggage and pockets is fairly painless – the logic being that if you’ve been let through to that stage you’re probably mostly harmless.

I know that the interview can be far from a breezy formality. Anyone who can be suspected of harboring ill will, and particularly a will to blow a plane up, are given the third degree by the security staff. Israelis usually are unaware of this annoying routine – unless they happen to be Israeli Arabs – because Israeli passport holders get through fairly quickly. Single European males are also regarded with suspicion, and before I got my Israeli passport I was usually held up for a ten to fifteen minute chat at this point when leaving Israel.

Since I did quite a lot of travelling to and from Israel in the decade or so before I settled here permanently, I developed a keen sense for what kind of answers would shorten the interview.

In the end, the temptation to lie to get past this hurdle quicker turned out to be too big for me.

At first I only lied a little bit to expedite matters, but soon enough it turned into a sport. I would make up long and intricate stories that I would feed the girls (why are they always girls, by the way?) who interviewed me. I know that this is an extremely risky business, and if I had been caught lying it would have reduced my time in the tax free shops considerably. Nonetheless, I always got away with it, and at the end I don’t think I ever spent more than a minute or two being grilled.

Thankfully, I don’t need to employ that kind of tactics anymore.

October 1, 2010 at 06:24 1 comment

The Hardest Word

Israel has now received its own, admittedly watered-down, version of the Abu Ghraib scandal. In the original, American service men and women posed next to naked and humiliated Iraqi soldiers. In the Israeli version, a female ex-soldier from Ashdod has posted pictures of herself on Facebook next to blindfolded Palestinian prisoners.

The pictures have caused outrage more or less everywhere, from the IDF to the international media, and the girl is met with universal condemnation. What, then, is her response now in the month of slikhot?

According to Israel Hayom, she says: “I’m sorry if I hurt anyone.”

If you hurt anyone? If?

It would seem that the ability to accept responsibility displayed by the Chief of Staff Ashkenazi the other day doesn’t extend all the way down through the organization.

August 17, 2010 at 14:24 Leave a comment

Führer of the Hill

According to Swedish custom, the climber who first reaches a new peak gets the privilege to name it. Haaretz reports that some climbers with a highly developed interest in the Second World War and a somewhat less developed sense for decorum have used this privilege to give mountains they’ve conquered in Järfälla, not far from Stockholm, names such as “Little Hitler”, “Zyklon”, “Crematorium” and “Third Reich”.

I’m not sure what surprises me the most about this story. I guess it must be the news that there are mountains in the Järfälla area.

UPDATE: The report in Haaretz seems to be based on this article in Dagens Nyheter. At least that clears up the mountain issue.

August 16, 2010 at 10:09 1 comment

Waiting for a Star to Be Born

Last night I went to the summer concert of the Dorot Choir, and afterward I sat with a few friends at a café on Tschernikhowsky Street, watching the Italians barely avoiding making fools of themselves against Paraguay. Strolling home through the White City after the game, I noticed that almost every single café, bar and restaurant in Tel Aviv has put up a widescreen TV so that their patrons can watch the World Cup.

Everyone, except Café Landwehr at Gan Meir

June 15, 2010 at 08:53 1 comment

How Rumors Get Started

Only a few more days left now until the biggest, though perhaps not the greatest, annual cultural event in Europe – the Eurovision Song Contest.

The Israeli contestant, Harel Skaat, is considered one of the favorites this year, and his entry, “Milim”, has already been translated into both English and French. Even the Swedish experts, who don’t usually waste any superlatives on Israeli songs, seem to have fallen for Harel’s irresistible charm.

Harel Skaat has already arrived in Oslo and according to this clip, his charm is working wonders also on Norwegian school children. Now let’s just hope that they all are equipped with cell phones.

There is, however, one worrying aspect of that generally heartwarming footage. Toward the end of the clip, Harel – who is full of enthusiasm about his meeting with the Norwegian children – says to the reporter: “They’re so cute. I could eat them.”

Now I just hope that no one will alert Donald Boström, Åsa Linderborg or someone else at Aftonbladet of this obvious proof that Israelis eat little children.

May 21, 2010 at 12:25 Leave a comment

Better Late than Always

Israelis are very proud of their contribution to saving the planet by developing techniques to use solar energy.

But let’s face it: this country has other things on its mind, and environmental concerns have frankly been pushed to the backburner, where they’ve been nursed by Tel Avivians and hippie immigrants from the United States.

That’s why it’s highly symbolic, and quite befitting, that Earth Hour is celebrated today all over Israel – one month after the rest of the world.

Except of course for North Korea, that celebrates Earth Hour every day.

April 22, 2010 at 07:07 Leave a comment

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