Sunday, 23 August 2009

49.Behind the news

The Scottish Justice minister MacAskill included a perverse argument In his reasons for releasing Al Megrahi, the Lybian murderer of Lockerbie :

'Mr Al Megrahi now faces a sentence imposed by a higher power. It is one that no court, in any jurisdiction, in any land, could revoke or overrule.'

MacAskill is mistaken for two reasons. First, in my opinion the murderer should not have been released.
And second, that statement clearly suggests, that Megrahi's death sentence, from prostate cancer, is a divine punishment for his crime - from God or, in his case, from Allah.
MacAskill's false argument is based on the original Biblical doctrine, that life and death, and sickness and health, are all in the exclusive power and control of God, meted out as punishment or reward. That is why there are virtually no human doctors or treatments described in the Bible.
Moses, in his final speech, quotes God as saying: 'I put to death and I keep alive. I wound and I heal'
[Deuteronomy-32:39]. Likewise, God is in control of all illnesses and cures - and fertility, of course: 'I will remove all sickness out of your midst... I will grant you a full span of life'. [Exodus-23:25].
Furthermore, physical disabilities are also entirely within God's power, as punishment for sins, of course. God tells Moses: 'Who is it that gives man speech? Who makes him dumb, or deaf? Who makes him clear-sighted or blind?'
As the Scottish minister suggested, diseases, cancers and disabilities, are inflicted as divine punishment for sins - incapable of human influence. When we are afflicted, we ask: 'what have I done to deserve it?' The word 'pain' actually means punishment.

So the reverse applies as well: anyone who is sick or disabled must have sinned. Therefore, they deserve our scorn and rejection. Leprosy sufferers were shunned by Byzantine society - many centuries before their bacillus was discovered. They bore the hallmarks of sin! That is one of the most harmful legacies of the Bible. And it is still very much alive today. The clergy still use it to explain and justify the suffering of their parishioners: 'maybe you should increase your donation, my son?'
And when Glen Hoddle declared, that disabled people are former sinners, who are being punished, nobody objected. So if you see a cripple, you should wonder what sin he had committed.
If you are a Moslem, you do not have many crimes to commit. Certainly murder is permitted. Judaism and Christianity, in contrast, cunningly ensured that everybody would have a bad conscience. They defined a great deal of sexual activity as sinful, even within marriage -
even single persons masturbating. But that will have to be a separate blog.
Before that, in the mean time, Al Megrahi,
MacAskill, and myself, will all end up in hell - for different reasons.
- What about you??

Saturday, 22 August 2009

48.Our golden Lodgers

Hamid and Gita had moved into our former house further up the road and we have remained friends. As they pass our house, they very kindly drop in post that is still addressed for us at our former house - mainly begging letters from charities, that had bought cheap obsolete mailing lists. (The Moslem ones are quite moving).
We, in turn, keep a key of their house for them, for the odd occasions when one of their children locks themselves out. We have several such keys from various neighbours: we are mostly at home when needed, and we have honest faces. In case a burglar finds these keys, their labels are in code.
Some 3 weeks ago
Hamid and Gita were going on holiday abroad. On this occasion, Gita asked for two favours: to water their plants in the garden and in the house, and to look after their two goldfish. Judith agreed, and Gita delivered the large bowl plus a jar of their food.
The weather was mostly hot and dry, and Judith looked after the hydration of the plants. But for the first time ever, we were looking not just after our children, but also two live animals. The bowl stood on one of the work surfaces in the kitchen, visible constantly. It is said that goldfish have a memory of several seconds - which is probably true. They never showed any sign of recognition, or getting used to us. They still circle in panic whenever I passed nearby. Neither did they seem to recognize each other, react to one another, or play, or fight.
The two fish are identical, without any distinguishing marks. We certainly did not fancy naming them - we are not romantic that way. But I well remember that our niece Miriam also had two goldfish. As she was a child at the time, and with a father who loves Hebrew terms, they were given appropriate names, of course: DAGA [dag = fish] and SHOOTA [shoot = float]. The final 'a' converts each of these words into Aramaic: THE fish, and the imperative form of the verb.
I do not know how long they survived. But unlike the joke about the talking parrot that the man gave to his mother, I'm quite certain that they were not eaten as 'most delicious' - and there was no other resident animal in that house that could have consumed them. I think goldfish are of the carp family and edible.
Now Miriam has her own son - but no pets as yet, I think. But if Aaron were to have two goldfish, I know what they would be called.

Monday, 17 August 2009

47.What's behind the news

From time to time there are news items that cry out for comments. Here are a few:

A Puma helicopter crashed in Afghanistan. Two of the occupants were killed, and now the pilot has given evidence
, hidden from view [why?]. He said the following:-

1. Just before the crash, the radio failed. In a cloud of dust, the pilot lost his bearings and crashed. We were told that the radio on the Puma is 'notoriously unreliable'. [how long??]

2. The occupants had been unable to fasten the Puma's safety belts over their bulky equipment. This defect was also well known. It might have saved their lives.

So, to quote some labour minister or other, the Puma was clearly not 'fit for purpose', and this was well known. Now if I were their commanding officer, I would have refused to order that flight in a grossly faulty helicopter. However, stopping the flight would have blocked any future career prospects or promotion for that commander. Better to risk the lives of the helicopter occupants...

Next, Aung San Suu Kyi
and her dotty American visitor. Across the lake, an elderly American swims to visit her house, and knocks on her door to deliver a warning from God. Here is a highly intelligent woman, imprisoned and closely watched by Burmese soldiers. But instead of calling her guards to arrest the intruder - an obvious agent provocateur, she gives him hospitality overnight - for which she knew that she would receive an additional term of imprisonment.
Did her guards tell her at first that it was OK to admit the man, and then pretended otherwise? Or was it a desperate lonely woman's yearning for a one night stand? I do not think so! Why the hell did she let him in?

I suspect that the American man was found, briefed and advised by the Burmese. An elderly man and a religious nut, he might even have been assisted by the Burmese in his heroic swim. Once he had caused a legitimate prolongation of Suu Kyi's sentence, to prevent her from taking part in the next elections, the Burmese no longer needed him and they let the US senator take him home. He was checked in a hospital first: was it psychiatric?

Next - the alleged torture by MI5 of Binyam Mohamed. He is a British convert to Islam and I am convinced that he was flown around, interrogated and tortured as he claims - including by MI5. The relevant flight records of landings and re-fuelling have just been mysteriously 'lost'. Has anyone been disciplined?
So how could Milliband, a respected government minister, truthfully deny that British intelligence was involved? No, Milliband is not lying: it is the civil servants who have briefed him who are. They are anonymous and protected. They know exactly what the minister wants to hear - and so they tell him. Orally, no paperwork!
These are the same civil servants who briefed Tony Blair about the 30 minute threat of Iraqui weapons of mass destruction. Except that Blair swallowed this convenient lie, instead of asking questions. He was a barrister!

Lastly some questions: I do not believe that Princess Diana was murdered, as poor Fayed claims. The palace and the intelligence services are far too stupid and incompetent. Now if the Israeli Mossad had been involved - maybe...
But 3 questions have bothered me ever since - each could have easily saved her life:

- Why did Diana and Dodi not stay in the Ritz hotel that night?

- Why did none of the intelligent adults in that car instruct the speeding driver to slow down?

- Why did Diana, the mother of two young children, not wear her safety belt?

- I suspect that we shall never know.

Next time - corrupt MPs and the incompetent so-called parliamentary expense committee. Watch this space.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

46.Readers Digest - scam or offer?

Some weeks ago Readers Digest wrote to warn me that an important letter would arrive and I should not ignore it.
Sure enough, within days a large envelope arrives. It was marked 'important', and 'approved release'. A sticker saying
'Urgent',and 'time-sensitive' was stuck on it at an angle - except that it was part of the envelope's printing - as was the 'postage stamp' and its cancellation. All along the back flap it was stamped 'secured' . By that time I was getting really excited.
In his enclosed letter Jeremy Jacobs, the Readers Digest finance director, told me that if I should win, anything from £250,000 down to one thousand prizes of £10 each, the provisional payment date was 14th August 2009.
There was no cost involved to me: a reply-paid addressed return envelope was enclosed for my response. Except that there were two envelopes: one, the 'YES' envelope, if I agree to examine, on 7 days' approval and with no obligation to buy, a marvellous book, for which Readers Digest are anticipating a high demand - 'it will be a best-seller'. Furthermore, if I said 'YES', I could also win a car.

I could hardly contain my excitement. In fairness, if all I wanted was to win one of the cash prizes, without buying the book, Readers Digest offered a response using the other envelope, marked

Readers Digest are on to a winner here: every 'YES' response is a book sale of £14.99 [plus postage], whereas all the 'NO' envelope can go straight in the shredder - unopened. And although all the prize money has been 'deposited in the bank', it might not all be won. Also, I'm being kept in the dark about the method of the prize draw, and there is no way of enquiring afterwards.

I'll let you know in a few days.

Monday, 10 August 2009


The daily Israeli web programme 'Arutz sheva' [channel seven] published these charming pictures with the news that the Fatah party, which is meeting in Bethlehem, accused Israel of being responsible for the “assassination” of Yasser Arafat, who died in 2004.

Arafat, the terrorist and winner of the Nobel prize, died after his physical condition had deteriorated quite rapidly. He was hospitalized in isolation for two weeks and died while being treated in France. The shroud of security and secrecy at the time, and since, have prevented any medical facts from being known.

I had followed the story at the time and I was convinced that he had died from AIDS. Comments by many readers in
'channel seven' now confirm my diagnosis. Arafat was a paedophile, and one of these Arab 'rent boys' supplied by his entourage infected the old goat.

Significantly, his widow had avoided any physical contact with him towards the end. She and her daughter, [of questionable paternity], continue to live in luxury in France - financed by the vast wealth that Arafat stole from the Palestinian people.

One aspect of Arafat's cause of death has puzzled me. No Israeli spokesperson has given the true information, about Arafat's AIDS - although it is obviously correct. But this is in line with the chronic deficiency of Israeli counter-propaganda. For many years, their arrogant attitude seems to be that as long as Israel is in the right (in their opinion), they can ignore what other people think or say. But that is a great mistake: it corrupts world public opinion and the Arabs
cunningly exploit it all the time. After five years they have resurrected lies about Arafat's 'assasination' in the full knowledge that Israel will not bother to tell the truth.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

44.Israel Visit

It's high time that I wrote a blog again - for the benefit of my 2 readers!

Ruth has her vacation in July and she agreed to be the driver of our hire car.
Also in July the tenth season of archaeological excavations
took place on the Hellenistic-Byzantine city of Sussita [Hippos]. It is one of the Decapolis [look it up in Google] and the dig is led by Professor Arthur Segal who is a friend. Sussita is just behind Kibbutz Ein Gev, east of the sea of Galilee, and my 93 year old cousin and his family live in Ein Gev. Ruben is my favourite relative, but he is now frail and in the kibbutz's sheltered accommodation. It was time to visit him. So far he has retained his former 'house' - and towards the end of my blog the significance of this situation will become clearer. We stayed there for the duration.

The plane for our night flight including some 15 or 20 noisy teen age girls, stimulated by a couple of boys. Their shrill American accents persisted all night, and we got no sleep whatever.

En route to Ein Gev we visited Judith's cousin Yona in kibbutz Ramat David. When my late mother lay for many weeks in Affula hospital, having broken her femoral shaft on the road outside Ramat David, Yona visited her with devotion at least twice a week - by 2 buses each way. After almost 60 years of marriage, Yona's husband died last year. She still works in the kibbutz's disabled and dialysis unit.

Our next stop along the way was at moshav [seach in Google] Tel Adashim, to see Eva. Her father was a brother of my maternal grandfather - work it out. He was an ordained rabbi in Bohemia and escaped with his family to Palestine around 1940. But he was not orthodox enough for the bigoted Jerusalem rabbinic authorities and those bastards rejected him. To eke out a living he peddled chocolate, sweets and shoelaces from house to house.

Some two years ago Eva lost her husband, a farmer in Tel Adashim. She became very depressed. But by the time we visited she seems to have rallied a bit. She has a resident Phillipino help, whom she does not like - perhaps a good sign of her lessening depression.
One of their 2 sons manages his late father's farm. They have cattle and he has installed an automatic machine that entices cows
in sequence to enter a milking device. Very clever.

Then onward to Ein Gev. The haze spoilt our beloved view of the lake during the descent to the sea of Galilee. We were expected there and welcomed. Radio-controlled barriers have been installed on the internal roads to keep out unauthorized cars. In the afternoon we began to catch up on our sleep deficit - aided by the 2 hour time difference. The temperature was around 40 Celsius by day, and not much less at night. How did they cope [and work] before air conditioning?

There has been severe drought in the last five years. The level of the sea of Galilee has dropped disastrously and a wide dry shoreline is exposed. The single bonus is the archaeology of the many ancient anchorages that surround the lake. But the water no longer emerges into the Jordan. It has to be pumped up into the site of tourists' baptism ceremony! Beyond, only sewage flows down towards the dead sea - whose lower third is now dry. When we were in Jordan we were told of a project, agreed by the countries concerned, to pump sea water from the red sea down (!) to the dead sea, also generating electricity. But sea water is corrosive and they could not predict the project's time scale.

Israel ought to stop pumping the sea of Galilee dry for agricultural irrigation, but concentrate on technological industries. As someone said, if water is scarce, 'you cannot make the desert bloom'. At the same time, massive investment in de-salination of sea water should have been started years ago. Sea water and sunlight are abundant and the technology does exist. The problem lies in the myopic short-term policies of governments, that cannot think beyond their popularity for the next election. It needs a dictator: King Herod would have done it differently.

The next planned activity was to visit Sussita. Due to the heat the professor and his team work from 05.15 to 12.00, Sunday to Thursday. For some years now, Friday in Israel is like Saturday here.
We set off at 6.00, accompanied by Zvi. The road from the kibbutz to the start of the ascent to the site is less than 2 miles long, but on the way back he cheerfully revealed to us that this road had been constructed in 1948 by the Israel Army and not by the Public Works. Therefore it was unauthorized and is prohibited to all vehicles. I did see the large sign. Sometimes a police patrol waits around the corner to intercept motorists and fine them. We were lucky. Possibly the police stayed away while the excavation is in progress.

It was a cloudy morning. Obviously no rain was expected, but at least there was no direct sunshine. Lucky again. I have the feeling that the steep path from the road to the plateau is getting steeper every year.

Professor Segal was supervising a bulldozer that was clearing a large mound of rocks. For some mysterious reason, the Israel army had piled them there, ignoring the exciting presence of a semicircular structure - a small theatre or odeion. Only the lowest courses have survived, but they show remarkable precise dressing - as good as any at the time.
When Sussita was first conquered from the Syrians' occupation in 1948, the Israel army built defensive fortifications that caused a great deal of damage to the ancient structures. Normally, every Israeli is an amateur archaeologist - but not that lot, apparently.

Detailed reports of the excavations are published annually by Haifa University: they are models of clarity and punctuality. Five churches have been found and excavated, including some lovely mosaic floors that have been restored. A beautifully paved main street = cardo, runs east to west along the ridge. As usual, the paving slabs are laid diagonally, to prevent cart wheels from getting caught. There are several side roads [singular = decumanus], a forum with a monument [formerly erroneously thought to be a nymphaeum], with a water cistern below it with a vaulted barrell roof and steps leading down, and an agora. The sophisticated water supply to Sussita has been extensively researched and published. It reached the summit across the saddle and up the slope through a syphon of tubular collared basalt links. A major earthquke in 749 caused severe damage to it and 'flattened the town. The site had to be abandoned and was not resettled - invariably a boon for archaeologists.

There are three major obstacles to the development of the site as the major tourist attraction, that it deserves to be after 10 seasons of expert excavation and restoration:

a. The steep access to the plateau requires a funicular. That is an expensive project to construct and to run. A cable hoist was costructed by the
Israel army in 1948 for the hoisting of supplies [but not personnel] for their garrison at the top. At that time, the surrounding area of the side slopes, where the road now runs, was in Syrian hands.

b. No synagogue, or other Jewish remains have been found; and Jesus never climbed up to Sussita
from the seashore, where he expelled demons out of lunatics: his absence is a tragic oversight of the Gospels. So there is little attraction for religious tourists. Archaeologists are not likely to visit in sufficient numbers either.

c. At present there is still a risk that Sussita might be ceded to the Syrians in a final peace settlement.

And then there's the heat...

Ruth and I invited all our relatives to a meal in the famous fish restaurant. It's air conditioned but that Friday evening there were no other tourists. The food was excellent and I'm proud of having thought of it - particularly as it was very successful and enjoyable. But then our Ein Gev family are extremely nice. My cousin Ruben was one of the early settlers. He would have been classed as a founder except that he was a metal worker and it took time for his lathe and equipment to be transferred to the new 'stockade and tower site. He was in charge of the water pumps and other motors. Before the days of ear protection from acoustic trauma he tragically became profoundly deaf. I well remember my early visits, when the engines generated an explosive 'bang' once a second continuously, day and night. Of course, Ruben took part in the conquest of Sussita from the Syrians in 1948. Later he was also area security commander.

Ruben's wife died 10 years ago. It was a very hard blow. His 3 daughters and son and their families rallied round and they continue to support him lovingly.
This is the first occasion when we did not visit the kibbutz cemetery. It was too hot and he is quite frail. Also buried there are my aunt Martha - Ruben's mother, and one grandson who was killed in an accident while serving in the army.
It is beautifully maintained.

Ruben's son Danni came to see us. He is an ex-fighter pilot, now at El Al. On a previous visit he was captain of our plane and we were allowed in the cockpit to watch the landing. Lately he also has a part time government job to upgrade the airline's neglected security ratings - before El Al lose their landing rights in the US.

Oded, his wife Adi and their lovely three sons came at the weekend. It was an aftermath for Oded's birthday. As the father of 3 daughters, I had offered Oded some help if they wanted a daughter next. But he was not convinced.

Most kibbutzim are losing their traditional communal character - including Ein Gev. Food has been privatized. In the dining hall at each meal members and their guests register all their chosen items and their budget is debited. So nobody has to subsidized other members' guests. To economize, the dining hall is shut at times of poor attendance, such as weekend breakfast. There is a grocery store instead - for payment. At Ramat David the process has gone further: members have to pay if they want help with gardening or for mowing the grass around their house.

Traditionally, a member who leaves the kibbutz or dies can leave no real estate to their descendants or beneficiaries - it all reverts to kibbutz ownership. But just these very days Ein Gev is voting on approving the private ownership of their members' houses. It is likely to be agreed. - Thus Tel Katzir south of Ein Gev, for example, 'is no longer a kibbutz'. The important question in Ein Gev is the 'operational date' for this decision. The longer it is postponed, the more elderly members will die, depriving their descendants of their inheritance.

The last event of our visit was an invitation by Ruthi, one of Ruben's daughters, to a 'son et lumiere' performence in the archaeological site of Bet Shean = Scytopolis - another decapolis city [ I know - that's a tautology]. A 10 minute presentation projected onto the back wall of the theatre was followed by a guided tour around the large excavated and restored site. But I do have to criticize, and the guide agreed with me that to leave the unique public latrine unlit was a mistake. The performances are held every summer night since 2006.

Our visit to this event emphasizes the crucial help that Ruth gave me during our visit. My balance is getting deficient and I had brought my stick to Bet Shean. The ground was quite uneven and it was not well lit. Ruth always hovered by me, in case I stumbled or fell. She must have been anxious - even though nothing happened. My memory is getting patchy. Ruth remembered the times of arrangements and even one or two tricky parts of our route - even though I was the actual map reader and navigator. Ruth's driving - on the opposite side of the road to ours - was impeccable. In short - I could not have managed the visit without her.

By driving back straight to the airport on 'route 6', the toll road, one saves time and hassle. But there is not a single petrol station on that road, or at the airport. We did not have time to exit and search, and so we had to return the car 'unfilled' and they charge extra for this.

Still, we had no accidents, no collisions and no breakdowns. No swine flu or other upset. And it was not a night flight back. All in all it was a very successful visit.