Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Robotic Wasps getting Closer

Those flying robotic spy wasps which the Israeli defence experts alluded to last year may actually be in production before too long. Weaponizing will be a further challenge. An article in the British press details how mechanical engineers at the University of Bath were able to mimic the flight patterns of bees and are working on prototype mini-aircraft that could be as small as, well, a Mossad agent's fist.
The cute one above is from a Seattle shop called "Science, Art and More" which already stocks cunning robot bees (apparently these models don't quite fly, but improved versions are being developed.)

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

More on Eilat Blast

Well, the Israeli cops tell quite a different tale from the initial Palestinian reports, which should be examined carefully for disinformation. This young Gazan guy, who reportedly was jobless and unable to save his dead baby girl with timely medical help, also lost a good buddy in an Israeli military operation last year. Friends recalled he was depressed, desperate and dangerous. Israeli military intelligence says he travelled through via Egypt, picked up his explosive vest from Islamic urban guerrillas there, crossed the Sinai desert, and hitched a ride into Eilat. An IDF reservist Lt Col who picked him up was immediately suspicious because the glum Arab in a windbreaker did not speak much and looked jumpy. The driver called the cops after he let this hitchhiker off a km out of town, but by then the bomber already had entered the bakery and triggered the blast.
Now security advisers and fence manufacturers may argue that this latest atrocity is reason for a separation barrier to be erected across the Sinai Desert , too. The fence is why attackers from the West Bank have been deterred for 9 months, they say. We shall see.

Dive spots and resorts have been increasingly in the bombers' cross hairs. : Bali (twice), Sharm el Sheik and Dahab in Egypt, Hikkaduwa in Sri Lanka, Antalya in Turkey, Pattani and Narathiwat provinces in southern Thailand. So, best to be careful out there.
(Regional Map by

Monday, January 29, 2007

Beachside blast in Eilat

And so the nastiness recommences.
In Eilat, a suicide bomber killed himself and three bakery customers at a little bun shop this morning and wounded several more. This is the first such blast in this upscale Red Sea diving resort. Three different terror groups initially claimed credit for the bombing, the first in nine months, and included Islamic Jihad and Fatah's Al-Aksa Martyr brigade and the previously unknown Islamic Brigade ( Sources: JPost and YNET). Palestinian press reports later said Mohammed Faisel Al-SakSak, a 21 year old Gazan bomber who sneaked in via Jordan, had planned the attack seven months ago, at the height of the IDF assault on Gaza.
(source: BBC )

Kosher Porn from LA?

When "Tight Fit" productions, an outfit run by pornographer Oren Cohen from the sleazier side of Tinseltown in Van Nuys, advertised their skinflick as "K-rated" rather than the more usual X-rated, a righteous row resulted.
"Assraelis", their dubious new blue DVD, recently was shot in Galilee and Tel Aviv and edited in LA, though presumably never on a Saturday. Cohen's controversial gimmick was stamping his porn wrapper with a familiar emblem, one that assures American customers that, for instance, their Hebrew National frankfurters pass Rabbinical inspection. The resulting storm of publicity over what purports to be a 100 per cent Israeli porn production was just what the expat Cohen had banked on. His lawyers argue that no firm can own the Hebrew letter for K, but he is not exactly on firm ground with Kof-K, a New Jersey-based Kosher Supervisory board who monitor this trusted stamp. Their ire has not stopped musicicians from riffing on the beef frank for a Kosher Classics album (see photo above).
Even after Cohen removed the fake kosher stamp, the third generation pornographer now is likely to face more lawsuits in the Holy Land. The screen names of all his porn stars are takeoffs on famous Israeli singers and actors. Oy veh.

Body-snatchers triumph

The Hornet, a fellow blogger, draws attention to a Jerusalem Post article today about how the ultra-orthodox Jews of Beit Shamesh defied police and made off with a corpse in order to prevent a full investigation into the death of a middleaged woman who had collapsed on the street. She reportedly was an attendant for ritual bathers and her devout neighbors rallied so that her body would not be "defiled" by an official autopsy.
Intense negotiations resulted in a consultation with her physicians, who suggested a heart condition was the likely cause of death, but no one knows for sure whether foul play is a factor in her death. Advocates of CT and MRI scans suggest that knifeless 'forensic radiology' might be an acceptable substitute for standard autopsy if it were to get a Rabbinical approval. Fatal mysteries should not be left to guesswork. This is a workaday example of the clash of cultures in Jerusalem when it comes to observing the "Rule of Law".

Bar Mitzvah, bar none

Friends invited us this weekend to a unique bar mitzvah ceremony for their son, who is the best known unicyclist in an Israeli-Palestinian children's circus. His classmates -- Arab Christians, Muslims and Jews alike -- joined in his unusually inclusive coming-of-age ritual at a Reform synagogue in West Jerusalem. This did not require as delicate a balancing act as you might assume. Their teacher had prepped the class by assigning readings in a copy of the Old Testament that had been translated into Arabic for them, to get ready for a teen party and a transcultural lesson in co-existence. The disarmingly accuracy of these kids pelting their 13-year-old friend with Hershey's chocolate kisses inside a synagogue could have evoked images of stone-throwing from the first intifada. But there were smiles all around.
The freewheeling shul was welcoming and enthusiastic to the motley crowd. An eloquent woman rabbi read some verses, and at one point, a lesbian activist and family friend carried the Torah scrolls. One of the cantors was a young man with Downs' syndrome who performed flawlessly. An unusual priestly blessing, right before the festive Kiddush, was given by a trio of clerics: a Christian sister spoke in English, a Muslim Imam followed in Arabic, and a Rabbi from Brooklyn summed up everything in atrociously-accented Hebrew. Not your run of the mill Jerusalem bar mitzvah, folks.

(Rehearsal photograph courtesy of shlomophoto.)

Friday, January 26, 2007

"Jahrusalem" - respect, man.

This is the only kind of dread that should be tolerated in Israel.
At last night's reggae concert at HaMa'abada (The Lab), a smallish alternative music venue in Jerusalem, the crowd was totally captivated by U-Roy (pictured right) and Junior Murvin. The mixed audience, wearing forelocks and dreadlocks and every conceivable kind of Rastafarian headgear or kipa, stood and swayed to the beat. For a moment, it seemed like all it might require for peace in the Middle East is heavy bass and drums, horns and guitar, and a little mutual respect, man, in Zion.
Tres-Ann Cooke, a Jamaican pacifist, told Izzy that Grandpa U-Roy, resplendant in his yellow suit and grey dreadlocks, way outperformed Ziggy Marley. She attended that gig on Israel's Mediterrranean coast last August, just after the Lebanon War. It was meant to be happy clappy, but she thought it bombed.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Life after death: a seminal decision

While public outrage over the sexual peccadilloes of the Israeli president has come to a head and Moshe Katsav is to be forced out of office after abusing his position and allegedly raping employees, there is surprisingly little controversy about an unnatural sexual practice that can provide grandchildren from beyond the grave.

This is not your ordinary test-tube granny.

It might seem inconceivable, but a judge’s ruling in Ramat Gan this week has opened the door to necro-paternity in Israel. Rachel Cohen, a grieving mother whose soldier son was shot dead by a sniper in Gaza some four years ago, had insisted that the morgue harvest her 20-year-old boy’s sperm and freeze it. She battled successfully in court to claim his seed from the hospital, even though her son Keivan had left no such instructions. Now a surrogate mother, who never even met Keivan, has volunteered to try and carry a long-delayed grandchild to term and surrender it to the dead soldier’s family.

This sounds like some ghoulish plot twist from a Stephen King novel, but the ruling is being portrayed as a landmark in family rights. The family disclosed that 200 patriotic Israeli women came forward to be impregnated, and they selected a healthy 25-year-old for this remarkable labour of love.

"The drama is international, that mankind is able to continue after [a man's] death and his family can raise a new generation while he is no longer here," Irit Rosenblum, the family’s lawyer, told reporters. Rosenblum views this as a life-affirming war time trend. Before heading to battle in Lebanon last summer, some 100 IDF fighters either left behind sperm samples, or requested that post-mortem extractions be provided to their spouses, she said. Apparently, numerous American soldiers also deposited samples in sperm banks before deployment to Iraq. But that seems fundamentally different from a distraught mother acquiring the seed from her son’s corpse.

"Every time I go to his grave and touch his cold tombstone I tell myself how wonderful it would be to hold a warm child in my arms instead," Rachel Cohen said. "For Keivin it was his soul's desire to have children.”

All this is rather chilling. To me, adoption seems a far better option than quasi necro-incest.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

phony kasbahs, righteous gentiles, and oily ice cream

After a hiatus in America, Izzy Bee is back in Jerusalem. Such a buzz.

The nomination of the first Arab "righteous gentile", a Tunisian farmer named Khaled Abd al-Wahad who, according to a Jewish woman's testimony, saved Amy Boukris and 24 of her relatives from Nazi persecution, is huge news here. The Holocaust Museum, Yad Vashem, reportedly declined to rate the likelihood of its recognising this Arab hero nominated by the American scholar Robert Satloff, although 60 of the more than 21,000 named heroes who risked their lives to save threatened Jews from the Holocaust are indeed Muslims. Yet Khaled would be the first Arab ever to win such kudos, and some analysts predict that the high profile honor would help counteract the trend towards holocaust denial in some Arab countries.

Haaretz, the leftish newspaper which reported this item on its front page, also ran a weird recipe for a Holy Land ice cream containing whipped cream, honey and olive oil. Sprinkle on a bit of rosemary with the drizzled olive oil and you have a Biblical sweet treat. Milk and honey, I can see...but this takes some getting used to. Not a likely prospect for a Baskin-Robbins scoop of the month.

The Jerusalem Post devoted lots of space to the IDF's new American-built war gaming town, erected near Tze'elim in the southern Negev, where mock mosques, a marketplace, and an ersatz kasbah give a hyper-realistic setting for training exercises aimed at countering urban guerrilla warfare. William Arkin, a Vermont-based reporter, had leaked much of this last year, and the inaugural war games were opened up to the press. According to journalists who looked on, the young Israeli Defence Forces cadets were really ready to rock the kasbah. Canine and media handlers also will undergo training in the mock-up Muslim neighborhood, to prepare new tricks for the old dogs of war.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Bad Smell

King Abdullah II of Jordan has complained that nasty odors from an Israeli livestock facility are wafting into his palace on the Red Sea. Meanwhile, the ICAHD staged a march on Thursday 18 January, 2007 at 10.00 a.m. at the Girls School in Anata (near the Wall) to protest against the slaying by Border Police of the 10-year old daughter of Bassam Aramin. He is a member of Combatants for Peace, the Israeli-Palestinian peace organisation. Several high-profile Israelis turned out to demonstrate.
See The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD), Jerusalem;

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Teddy Kollek RIP

Izzy is away due to a family crisis, but wants to mark the passing of the lively Hungarian kibutznik who injected vibrancy into Jerusalem. Read this lively obituary (not necessarily an oxymoron) in the London press and tip your hat to Teddy Kollek

He is remembered as an outspoken Mayor of Jerusalem who transformed the city from sleepy outback to modern metropolis. It is less secular and more tense today. Kollek was born in Nagyvazsony, Hungary 27 May 1911; founder member, Kibbutz Ein Gev 1937; member, Political Dept, Jewish Agency for Palestine 1940; head of the US Division, Israel Foreign Ministry 1950; Minister to Washington 1951-52; Director-General, Prime Minister's Office 1962-65; chair, Government Tourist Corporation 1955-65; Mayor of Jerusalem 1965-93; married 1937 Tamar Schwartz (one son, one daughter); died Jerusalem 2 January 2007.

If you have a Teddy anecdote, please share. Izzy will be back blogging in ten days time.