28 June 2009

The Cat and I

We've been together almost 20 years. Art's doing ok for an old geezer. A little stiff in the hips, a more bohemian attitude toward hygiene these days, obsessed with food and bowel movements, nervous sleeper, but could be a lot worse considering.

That's the cat I'm talking about--got it?

Editor's note: Arthur Katz Siegel, passed away at the end of October 2009, at home with his human family. We spoke to him, and held him, until he left us. Just a pet? No, he was a friend of nearly twenty years, with a God-breathed spirit just like you and I. He is sorely missed.

Alpha Male Chair in the South Pacific Corner

I would assume that many homes have one of these corners. My wife's paintings, various gifts from my Mother's several trips to Ponape, in the south Pacific, and Churchill's History of the Second World War, as manly a set of books as ever there was. Dad's photo on the wall. Smoking pipes I no longer smoke, but definately a macho accessory. What you can't see are the various cutting tools--a Leatherman, a SwissTool, a diving knife, and the old key rings, bits of chain and string. And a few choice home-made back-scratchers. My favourite I call "the flensing tool," named after a blubber-removal knife with a 2-meter handle I saw in action at a whale-landing station in southern Iceland. Last but not least, a copy of Nevi'im, The Prophets, as in ancient Hebrew, as in Amos and Isaiah and Ezekiel and Habakuk and friends. It doesn't get anymore Alpha-environmental then this.

Cup rings on the tables. Lots and lots of cup rings.

The Good Fence into Lebanon

This is the border crossing into Lebanon from Metulla, Israel, at the northern end of the Hula Valley in the Galilee. Nassrallah and the Hizbullah live somewhere on the other side. In another time, same place but very different dimension, Nassrallah would send me honey-sweetened and rose-water-scented baqlahwa for Rosh Ha-Shannah, and I'd send him a chub of Hebrew National kosher bologna for Eid. For now, its just missiles and gristle.

24 June 2009

Yerushala'im Shel Zahav ירושלים של זהב

Jerusalem. This is what it is all about for a very many people. Of primary holiness to the Whole House of Israel, and to Biblical Christianity; a tertiary holy site for traditional Islam. The Qur'an recognizes that God gave the Land of Kna'an to the Israelites in perpetuity, but modern so-called traditional Islam, alas, has a short memory. And Obama apparently has no memory at all.

Sunset on the Galilee Coast

The beach at Nahariya, on the north coast of Israel. The world over, a beach at sunset with a solitary fisherman is a vision of peace and tranquility.

Of course, afterward you have to slit the poor little beasties open and pull their guts out, then go home to house full of screaming kids and a blaring television, cook them (the fish--not the kids), and then splurt ketchup all over them and eat em.

23 June 2009

When A Terrorist Was A Terrorist

Dare I say it? Shall those words come from out of my own mouth? Oh! Here it comes . . .

I miss you, Abu Amar. Yasser, you were the genuine article. No silk ties with Oxford knots for you, or putting on deodorant just because you were visiting a president or prime minister. You really made your clothing last, Yasser, season in and season out. And you didn't know about matching socks from adam. They say that khaki, like plaid, is never out of fashion, as you have demonstrated so elegantly. You were a terrorist's terrorist, and not ashamed of it. Forever the desert warrior fresh out of battle, with a manly scent about you, and a crusty festering wound or two. Now even Hamas guys show up in the darndest places wearing Italian suits. And your old PLO trench-mates, they shave, habibi, they shave every blessed day (except for Hanan Ashrawi, who should). Oh the humanity!

But now you're gone, Yasser, and a big hole remains in my heart (but not where you shot me, you bugger!), and another really huge one in Ramallah, which I think is where your house used to stand, yes?

You, I understood. Nu those crazy goons that run around today in Ghazza City, Washington, Ramallah, Paris are pale techno-terrorcrats in comparison. They won't amount to a hill of spicy chick peas in the great scheme of things. But who could ever forget Yasser.

So . . .

Here's looking at you, sh'kheed!

Firing Range . . .

This was posted on the fence of a firing range on the beach between Shavei-Tzion and Akko, north of Haifa. (I made the sign a bit artsy, by turning up the colour a bit, and taking the letters out from behind the fence for better clarity.) It says:


As in Jerusalem--to Jews?

Obama is not the first anti-Israel king of America. Frankly, they all were in many ways, with Lyndon Johnson the possible exception. But, King Barrack has upped the ante, and brought out into the open the issue of Jerusalem in such a way that proves what he is:

N O T - W I T H - U S

Like it or not, suicide is not our national pasttime here. Either King Barrack understands Israel, Jews and anti-Semitism, or not. If not, he is dangerous because he appears to want to act decisively inspite of his ignorance. If he does understand, than he is a very deceptive man, and an extreme liability to Israel.

I am also shocked at Hillary Clinton's gobspill. And I mean shocked. She is a classic Machiavellian mucilaginous spherical. She carpetbags the New York senate seat a number of years ago, as a bid to enter politics in her own right. She was then the friend of Jews and Israel. But Jews just don't mean anything to her, and certainly not the Jewish homeland, which is Israel, and not New York (or Miami) anyway.

Fine, don't like us, and then leave us alone. I don't give a fig what religion Obama is, or what his skin colour is, or whether he was born in America or not. My gorge is rising, and my mood is foul. He is not prime minister of Israel, is not my president (Baruch Ha-Shem!), and he certainly is not King of the World. Just another one of that class of grandiose princes and bloated merchants of this world, two categories of men about which the Tanach has little good to say.

So are we a country or not? Are we just a firing range? Awaiting eviction? And a fire sale? Good G-d these people have gone too far already. But we knew it would happen. The prophet Zachariah foretold the day when ALL NATIONS WILL GATHER AROUND JERUSALEM, AND ATTEMPT TO LIFT IT FROM ZION.

And so they are. I'm better now. Let the games begin . . .

Read Any Good Books Lately?

Well let's see...

Greek island travel guides to places I'll likely never visit (Rhodos and Kritim). Great reads for travel and geography enthusiasts like me, though.

Ephraim Kishon humourous play. Thought up in Hebrew, written in German, then translated back to Hebrew.

An Open University of Tel Aviv introduction to the history of ancient Greece. A great starter before tackling the next more complicated level of ancient Greek history.

Autobiography of General Avigdor Kahalani, IDF armour corps commander of renown. You name it, and he's done it, and lived to tell the tale.

Ah, an old favourite in both English and Hebrew: The Old Man and the Sea. Say no more. Hemingway's perfect tale-telling language loses nothing in the translation.

Jewish history during the Second Temple period. Very scholarly. Either you're into it or not.

Kikero, aka Cicero. Definately ditto above, into it or not. I am. Probably why I paid 80 sheqels for this old used copy.

Jews of Ancient Rome. What a rich, lively world full of intrigue, and few who profess an interest in Bible or Jewish history knows about this not inconsiderable world.

The other stack includes early modern Common Law crime and punishment in England and Wales; Jews of the Russian Empire (who were forbidden from living in Russia); a charming little volume on the reasons why Rome declined and fell (none of which I believe--it was the lead pipes and the venereal disease, and besides they didn't really fall even if they did decline); and a slim slip-in-the-back-pocket hardcover account of a Boston man who sailed round the world before the days of radio or radar in a small wooden sailing vessel.

Plus a liberal sprinkling of techno-military thrillers (which certainly do not thrill me), spy novels, and murder mysteries. I used read a lot of science fiction, until most of the post-WWII biggies died of old age. I hate seeing "fantasy" in the sci-fi section of book stores. Much like a category of literature called "home repairs and soil science" (ok, houses usually sit on soil), or "French provincial cooking and non-malignant skin diseases" (hmm, who knows what they throw in the pot in deep countryside). You get what I mean anyway.

Tourist-Shooting Range

I saw this advertisement for "Tourist Shooting" at a kibbutz about half an hour north of Karmiel. Now, I do know what they mean. Its just that, well, that grin on the fellow's face did leave me with a moment's hesitation in the matter. Those loud, cheery, bright spun-rayon clad knockabouts have almost been the victims of open season shooting in many a once-quiet, now-popular tourist destination.

Hostility to tourists, or at least making fun of them above and beyond normal inter-cultural play, was pronounced when I was in the Kingdom of Hawaii years ago. They were, and still are, under occupation after being seized illegally by the United States because it needed a mid-Pacific coaling station back then a hundred and something years ago. The plantations added a little sugar to the deal, needless to say. I started out mildly against Hawaiian independence, but ended up being very much in agreement with the independence movement. Except that it is probably too late for that, which is too bad, though the real problem is not political sovereignty so much as losing your identity in an agressive onslaught carried out by people who just don't care that much about such things.

But of course in Israel why would we object to the two millions who visit here? Standard international tourist survey polls show a high degree of satisfaction by tourists to Israel. Not because we know how to run hotels like the best in Europe (overrated unless you are in the truly wealthy category), or because we have low prices. Of course if you are an Israeli hiking around the Galilee, and you ever chance upon a tour bus full of Lutherans being taught by their pastor/tour leader at the Mount of Beatitudes how they are the New Israel, and how the Israel of today is a mean, secular entity unconnected to any Israel mentioned in the Hebrew Scriptures, and without rights to the land of "Arab Palestine," you might rethink that advert above.

Lock 'n Load!

22 June 2009

Corner Vine & Louvre Window

A truly peaceful corner on my little apartment balcony. The ancestor of this vine lived by an apartment building on the other side of the neighbourhood. A few centimeters were transplanted into a pot where it lived indoors for a few years. Then it passed over to me. One of our cats pulled over and shattered the large clay pot in which it lived, and I retrieved a few lengths and started over in another, smaller pot. This photo shows the happy vine six or seven years later.

We never feed the poor thing, though it always looked good anyway, if a little slow growing. So one day we fed it. Too much. It died, except for a few last green centimeters. Which are now thriving in a jar of water, awaiting a new bed of soil and a clay pot.

Isn't that just like life? Heck if I know. But it does suggest that a) cats can be dangerous to house plants, and b) I need to take better care of them.

19 June 2009


An artistic collaboration between myself and the City of Karmiel Gardens Department.

The municipality did some pruning and culling in the public greenspace by of our apartment house backyard. I grabbed a small chunk, and knocked away the soft, buggy parts, and a few odd protrusions. Next came the gritty sandpaper, then the fine. Then the oil rag, and a final polish. This is what greeted me. This is what was inside awaiting a new life as, well, art.

I think. But in any case, I like it, and it has survived multiple attacks from a tubby neutered fuzzball.

12 June 2009

An antique olivewood walking stick

I was returning from a long walk outside Karmiel maybe 10 or 15 years ago. At the edges of the industrial park was some waste land, formerly part of an olive orchard. The trees were mostly dead, or diseased, as the land was not being worked at all. A considerable amount of old cuttings were laying about, half covered in damp, rotting leaves and soil. I thought I saw a useable length of wood, so I tugged at it and pulled it out of the half-buried pile within which it lay. I reduced it to a manageable two meters or so with my Swiss Army knife saw. And this is what eventually emerged from the gray, leaf-stained wood with trimming and polishing.

The stick is resting on the sheet music for the tune "Sir James MacDonald of the Isles," a very old Scottish Highland bagpipe tune, of the type called piobaireachd. Beautiful, well-aged things go well together. Too bad that we don't understand this for ideas as well.

06 June 2009

The crown of Gaulantis

This is majestic Har Kheirmon (aka Mt Heirmon) in the Golan Heights district of northern Israel, anciently called Gaulantis, and Bashan as in the home of the giant king Og. Far from being a totured, twisted, desolate land, it ranges from green and lush orchards, to grassy meadows and fields. It is very open, and there are signs of ancient vulcanism. But it is no more of a wasteland than an English moor or the Highlands of Scotland. Very rural, but productive.

It may be of interest to note that the Golan Heights was included in the British Mandate of Palestine, and slated as Jewish land. There was a long Jewish history on those heights. The British loved cartography, sensible borders and a neat arrangement of geographical features. The Golan, including the Kheirmon massif, rivers and streams running down from its slopes, the Hula valley below, and Lake Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) all make up a tidy watershed system. In 1923 the Golan was transferred from Palestine to the French Syrian mandate for a variety of reasons and trade-offs, without consultation with all parties concerned. Something to do with French-British plans well outside of the Golan area.

In the years between 1948 and 1967, before the Golan was brought back into the natural and agreed-upon scheme of borders, how did the Syrians use their "beloved ancient Syrian" region? The shelled Israeli villiages below, and tried to cut off the natural flow of water from the high ground they controlled. What has israel done up there since 1967? It has established a valuable agricultural community, including winneries, and a prosperous tourist economy.

There are any number of ways to look at border delineation between future states by colonial powers. But one thing is certain, the Golan Heights makes much more sense inside of Israel, was intended to be inside Israel, and the Syrians have a very brief and very thin claim based on Britain making a private backroom deal with France.