Friday, February 15, 2008

Winging it with airline pick-up lines

As Izzy Bee prepares to fly out for a quick visit to Morocco, on a day when travelers from Israel are on alert for retaliatory terrorism, a little gallows humour helps. My buddy sent me this:
A nerdy guy is sitting in the bar in departures at Ben Gurion airport. A
gorgeous woman walks in and sits down at the table next to him.

He decides because she's that pretty, she's probably an off-duty
flight attendant. So he decides to have a go at picking her up by
identifying the airline she flies for, thereby impressing her greatly.

He leans across to her and says the Delta Airlines motto 'We love
to fly and it shows'.

The woman looks at him blankly. He sits back and thinks up another line. He leans forward again and delivers the Air France motto 'Winning thehearts of the world'.
Again she just stares at him with a slightly puzzled look on her
face. Undeterred, he tries again, this time saying the Malaysian
Airlines motto 'Going beyond expectations'.

The woman looks at him and says 'What the fuck do you want?'

'Ah!' he says, sitting back with a smile on his face. 'El-Al'.

(hat-tip to Jim Teeple for the joke.)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Spring Roll strike supports Israel's foreign cooks

Spring rolls are off the menu as Asian chefs go on strike in Israel, according to the wire services. The problem with these chinese foodworker strikes is that two weeks later, you have to go on strike again. What to do for sushi and noodle addicts? The problem goes beyond ginger pork or kosher cuisine - it's cutting back on foreign workers.

Israel's Asian restaurants went on a one-day spring-roll strike yesterday in protest over government plans to rid kitchens of foreign chefs, and said sushi and noodles would be the next items off the menu.

Proprietors are angry at government plans to purge Japanese, Chinese and Thai eateries of Asian cooks and replace them with Israelis as part of a broader programme to cut the number of foreigners working in the Jewish state.

The Israeli Ethnic Restaurant Organisation said the country's 300 Asian restaurants refused to serve spring- or egg- rolls – among their most popular dishes – and planned a follow-up strike in two weeks for sushi and noodles.

"Today there is no egg roll and in two weeks' time there will be no sushi and noodles," said Arnon Volosky, head of the organisation.

Israel attracts virtually no immigrants from Asia since anyone seeking citizenship here must prove they have Jewish family or links to the country.

Seeking to plug a gap in the labour market during the first Palestinian uprising, Israel allowed in foreigners to work. But now it is trying to limit those numbers to create more jobs for Israelis.

This year, the government is granting 500 permits to Asian chefs compared with 900 last year. Next year, no permits will be issued, although restaurants willing to pay twice the average national salary will be allowed to employ chefs as "experts".

The government says Israelis can be trained. "Everyone can make Chinese food; it's not impossible to learn," said Shoshana Strauss, a lawyer on foreign worker issues for the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labour.

Asian restaurants started dishing up chicken chow mein and Thai green curry to Israelis about 30 years ago and have evolved into a £140m industry.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Viagra to keep IAF pilots up

Viagra will render Israeli fighter pilots a potent force, according to James Hider, the Times' Jerusalem correspondent. It's not quite the air force blue we're accustomed to. Do these pills work on the principle of more bloodflow to the main brain? It's second-generation Viagra, lasting 36 hours and alcohol consumption is not a problem. If you support Israel's erect fighting men, read on:

Israeli fighter pilots may soon be receiving Viagra-style pills to help them to perform better at greater heights, according to a study by military officials released yesterday.

While the potential use of anti-impotence pills may make pilots’ enemies in the Middle East crack a joke or two at their expense, military researchers believe the ingredients that allow improved blood flow for men suffering from sexual problems may help flyers operating at very high altitudes.

The proposal, to be presented to the air force by a retired general, developed from a study by Israeli doctors among mountain climbers scaling Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, according to Bamahaneh (“On the Army Base”), an official military magazine. The study found that tadalafil, the active ingredient in Cialis, a Viagra-like antiimpotence drug, helped climbers to ward off fatigue and dizziness at greater heights.

With combat pilots operating hi-tech equipment in low-pressure environments, doctors believe the drug could enhance their operational abilities.

“The Viagra family of drugs is considered effective in these conditions because when there is a long shortage in oxygen it leads to high blood pressure in the lungs, and the drugs help fight that,” a military medical officer told the weekly magazine.

“The study’s findings justify the continuation of tests with drugs of this type in low-oxygen environments,” an air force officer said.

Israeli air force pilots are sometimes called upon to perform incredible feats of airmanship, such as the 1981 operation to destroy Iraq’s nascent nuclear reactor. Eight F16 fighter-bombers, escorted by six F15 tactical fighters, flew almost 700 miles (1,100km) across Jordanian, Saudi Arabian and Iraqi airspace to destroy the French-built reactor.

According to some accounts, the jets flew in such close formation that any radar pickup would have identified them as one large passenger aircraft.


— Viagra saved the life of Lewis Goodfellow, born prematurely last year and weighing only 1lb 8oz, when one of his lungs failed. It caused tiny blood vessels in the lung to widen, to give his body sufficient oxygen

— Argentinian research last year found that the drug may be useful in treating jet lag. Hamsters subjected to simulated jet lag recovered up to 50 per cent faster when given the drug, known generically as sildenafil

— In an American study in 2005 Viagra was given to pregnant women with high blood pressure. It helped to maintain healthy circulation and possibly contributed to easier, safer childbirth

— Viagra mixed with stimulants such as cocaine or Ecstasy has become increasingly popular in nightclubs. The combined drug — known as “sextasy” — is taken to fuel all-night dancing and sex marathons

Oy veh, fellas. Straighten up and fly right

Friday, February 08, 2008

Target Practice Gets Graphic

Jerusalem City council has hoisted banners up along all our main streets to celebrate 40 years of "unity". To see a mock-up map of a divided Jerusalem, and view the fourfold security threat if, in the words of cabdriver Rodney King, "we can't all get along" , just click here. Each weapon's range is shown, so you can judge your neighborhood's safety from potential mortars, Qassam rockets, Kalashnikov fire and the like. How comforting.

Friends recounted the other night how , after their daughter's high school graduation, they'd invited all her buddies to a big party at their upscale home in West Jerusalem. The students who normally live on the East Side were nervous about attending. (This was at the height of the Second Intifada.) "We're worried about suicide bombers," they admitted. "They don't operate on our side of town." Point taken. Being asked by guards outside cafes whether or not you are packing a pistol still doesn't give us much comfort these days.

The city space sacred to three different religions has been a sanctuary from all-out war inside Jerusalem for decades...any side who destroys it will trigger the apocalypse. Few people would want that, other than the ultras grazing flocks outside the Old City walls and readying them for sacrifice in a third temple.

Contemplating the ruin of life as we know it is one way to make a living, it seems.
The same gamers, from, also produce a scenario of an Israeli/US attack against Iran, and vice versa, featuring Dolphin submarines, aircraft carriers, nuclear sites, and missile launchers. Press here.
The graphics company does a series of realistic demo maps for Debkafile, and these make conflict seem as simple as being the first to "push the button". It would be good to include nuclear fall-out in the aftermath, as well, on these interactive infographics, as they are dubbed. The name, pronounced like "artichoke", provides some hope. These clever guys seem rather prickly but presumably do have a heart.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Dimona suicide bombers - from West Bank or Gaza?

The A-plant in Dimona (above) is secure.
A suicide bomber on Monday morning blew himself up in the southern town that houses Israel's secretive nuclear reactor, killing an Israeli woman and wounding seven other people, Israeli authorities said. Police said they killed a second attacker before he had a chance to detonate his explosives belt. Both of the perpetrators were killed and there was no damage to the reactor, which was miles from the blast.
It was the first suicide attack in Israel in a year, and officials were investigating whether the attackers came in through Egypt after Palestinian militants breached the Gaza-Egypt border last month, according to the Associated Press.

An offshoot of moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement claimed responsibility, complicating recently renewed peace efforts. The attackers, they said, came from the West Bank, though the claim could not immediately be verified.
Hours after the suicide bombing, Israeli aircraft struck a car in the northern Gaza Strip, killing a top wanted man.
Israeli government officials dismissed the notion that the heavily guarded Dimona nuclear reactor was the suicide attackers' target. The explosion took place in a shopping area about 10 kilometers (6 miles) from the reactor site.
«We heard a large explosion and people started to run. I saw pieces of flesh flying in the air,» a witness identified only by her first name, Revital, told Army Radio.
Ambulances and a large contingent of soldiers, rescue workers and police rushed to the scene of the bombing, the first in the working class town of 37,000.
Police said one attacker managed to detonate his explosives belt, but the second was shot dead by police before he could set off his bomb. A police bomb squad was on the scene defusing the explosives.
Dr. Baruch Mandelzweig said he was at his clinic nearby when he heard the blast. He and his nurses rushed out to the street to see what had happened, and saw body parts «strewn around everywhere.
They spotted a critically injured man whose head was moving, and began to treat him before realizing he was the second attacker.
«We saw an explosive belt,» he said. «We ran away,» and later we heard he had been shot, Mandelzweig said.
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Arye Mekel said, «the terror organizations have shown again who they are and what they are.
«Their goal was and continues to be to kill Israeli citizens in their homes and their schools and in their shopping centers,» he added. «Israel will continue to fight against this murderous terror.
Shortly after the attack, Israeli aircraft killed a senior commander in the Hamas-affiliated Popular Resistance Committees in the Gaza Strip, the group said. The military confirmed an attack against a PRC activist in Beit Lahiya, a town Palestinian militants frequently use to fire rockets into southern Israel.
At Sunday's Cabinet meeting, Israeli security chiefs warned that because of the anarchy on the Gaza-Egypt frontier, Palestinian militants might enter Israel through Gaza's Sinai desert to attack a civilian Israeli target, a government official said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because the Cabinet meeting was closed.
Southern Israel has been on alert against militant attacks since the Gaza Strip's Islamic Hamas rulers breached the border with Egypt on Jan. 23. Egypt managed to reseal the border only on Sunday.
The breach made Israel's Negev desert, where Dimona is located, more vulnerable to penetration by Palestinian militants who could enter through Egypt's porous border. Dimona is about 60 kilometers (40 miles) northeast of Egypt.
In an e-mail to The Associated Press, the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade, a Fatah offshoot, said it sent attackers from the West Bank town of Ramallah, Abbas' base, to carry out the «heroic martyrdom bombing in Dimona.
The faction said it carried out the attack with the small Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
Although Abbas' government has claimed to have dismantled Al Aqsa forces in the West Bank, a group spokesman, Abu Fouad, said Monday that «nobody has given up weapons.
The bombing came at a critical juncture. Israeli and Palestinian negotiators relaunched peace talks after a seven-year break just two months ago, and Israel has made it clear it won't implement any accord until militant groups in the West Bank and Hamas-ruled Gaza are disarmed.

Abbas' office denounced the attack. But it denied Al Aqsa was involved and linked the bombing to an Israeli raid in the West Bank that killed two Islamic Jihad militants before dawn Monday.
«The Palestinian Authority expresses its full condemnation of the Israeli operation in the northern West Bank and it condemns the attack in the commercial center in the city of Dimona, which targeted Israeli civilians,» his office said.
«Fatah has confirmed that the Al Aqsa Brigades has nothing to do with this attack,» it added, saying that a «well known group opposed to the peace process» was responsible. It did not elaborate.
In the southern Gaza town of Rafah, gunmen fired their weapons into the air to celebrate the bombing.
Hamas spokesman Ayman Taha said he did not know whether his group was involved, but praised the attack. He also rejected suggestions that the bombing would hurt Hamas' chances of reopening the border with Egypt.
«The suicide bombings were there before the closures and the resistance used every opportunity to make these glorious acts,» he said. «They show the Palestinians can respond to the enemy and their crimes.
The previous suicide bombing in Israel occurred on Jan. 29, 2007, when a Palestinian attacker entered Israel from Egypt, killing three Israelis at a bakery in the southern Israeli city of Eilat.
After Israeli-Palestinian peace talks broke down in 2000, Palestinian militants killed hundreds of people in dozens of suicide bombings.
Dimona is home to Israel's nuclear research center, and it is widely believed that atomic weapons were developed at the plant. Israel neither admits nor denies having nuclear arms.

There were only two such attacks between April 2006 and now, the last being in January 2007 when a bomber blew himself up in a bakery in Eilat, killing three people.

The Dimona suicide bomb attack is also the first since renewed efforts to come to an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal were launched with US support late in November.

Israel argues that its blockade of about four million Palestinians in Gaza and large parts of the occupied West Bank prevents such attacks. Intelligence officers suspect that the breach of the Rafah border between the Gaza strip and Egpt, which was resealed only yesterday after a dozen days without regulation, is likely to have played a role in this incident.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Graveyard Shift: Meet Islamic Jihad 's brazen rocket scientists

Extraordinary photos of a Qassam weapons team ran in Der Spiegel. They can crank out 100 rockets per night. Fertilizer for the explosives comes in sacks labeled in Hebrew, so the source presumably is Israel.


The TNT comes to us from Sudan via Egypt." Other elements arrive by boat across the sea to Gaza. "We get some from Eastern Europe." The raw materials for one large rocket cost up to €500. The money to finance the operation comes the same route as the materials. "The Israeli blockade doesn't affect us; it's just intended to plunge the people into misery."

Now and then shots can be heard outside and an explosion echoes through the night. There is fighting at the nearby border. The walkie-talkies in the hut keep them up-to-date on the situation. With a hiss, the gas cooker comes to life. A cauldron full of fuel is set on it, and one of the men stirs in a lump of golden syrup, while the others weigh the fertilizer, which contains nitrate. They explain that the nitrate has to be mixed very slowly with the sugar solution. "The thing is highly explosive." Abdul admits that many of his friends have suffered severe burns or lost fingers. He shrugs his shoulders: "There is a local saying in Gaza: He who cooks poison has to also try it."

The production of the fuel may be delicate, but the real danger lies in the Israeli helicopters, Abdul says. "We know that we are easy prey." His thumb flashes a nervous Morse code with his flashlight onto the floor of the hut. "We are ready to die; that is the price of our freedom." He says that the Palestinians are left with no other choice but to fight the Israelis with weapons. "Either we resist, or they treat us like slaves." He has thought about who is hit by his rockets. "If we kill soldiers, then we are more than happy," he says. "If it hits a child, then naturally we are not happy."

The simple fact of the matter is that you can't aim a Qassam, he says. "And look at the Israelis. They have F-16s and Apache helicopters and can shoot with amazing accuracy. And they still kill our women and children." He reflects for a moment. "Children shouldn't be killed in any war in this world," says Abdul, who has no children of his own.

Then he sends everyone outside. "This is the most dangerous moment. Just before the fuel is ready, the whole thing can explode." Over tea on the porch Abdul tells of his career as a rocket maker. A few hours of theory, then he and his friends did their apprenticeship with an experienced rocket builder. He doesn't want to explicitly say it, but it seems as if he also trained abroad. "I was in Syria, Jordan and one other country," he says. In Iran? Abdul smiles slightly.

The rocket fuel in the cauldron is ready: a thick yellow dough. Abdul carries a spoonful outside and put it in the fire on which the tea is brewing. A flame darts up, the nitrate-sugar mixture fizzes and bubbles as it burns off. It smells like fireworks, Abdul is pleased. The mixture is ready and is poured into a plastic tube, where it is to cool down. A fuse with a long wire is embedded in the mixture, with which the rocket can be ignited later. Once the fuel has set, the plastic tube will be cut away and the yellow fuel cylinder will be placed in the Qassam casing.

Now that the first Qassam rocket of the night is practically finished, Abdul has become quieter. "Today the clouds are protecting us from the Israeli drones."

Such bravado is to be expected. But the easy access of the German press to Islamic Jihad is disturbing. One wonders how they would react to Shir Shusdig, a teenager from Sderot, who spoke at a rally in support of lifting the Gaza blockade: "For seven years I am suffering from the Qassams in Kibbutz Zikim and Sderot. I know that the people on the other side are also suffering very much. That's why I am here!"

According to the Jewish Voice for Peace, the Gaza Strip situation today has terrible echoes of a desperate appeal a century ago.*

"Arise and go now to the city of slaughter;
Into its courtyard wind your way;
There with your own hand touch, and with the eyes of your head,
Behold on tree, on stone, on fence, on mural clay,
The spattered blood and dried brains of the dead."

What can one think as one stands at the gates of Gaza?

Only this:

"There in the dismal corner, there in the shadowy nook,
Multitudinous eyes will look"

What can we imagine today as we stand at the gates of Gaza, other than

"A babe beside its mother flung,
Its mother speared..."

Because today, as we stand at the gates of Gaza, we have no voice, we have no words and we have no deeds. There is not a single Yanosh Korchak among us who will go in and protect the children from the fire. There are no Righteous Gentiles who will endanger their lives in order to save the victims of Gaza. We stand forlorn and contemptible in front of the gates of evil, in front of the fences of death, and obey the racist laws that have taken control over our lives, and all of us are helpless.

When Bialik wrote:
" Satan has not yet created Vengeance for the blood of a small child,"
It did not occur to him that the child would be a Palestinian child from
Gaza and his slaughterers would be Jewish soldiers from the Land of

And when he wrote:

Let the blood pierce
through the abyss! Let the blood seep
down into the depths of darkness, and
eat away there, in the dark, and breach
all the rotting foundations of the earth.

He did not imagine that those foundations would be the foundations of the Land of Israel. That the Jewish and Democratic State of Israel that uses the expression "blood on his hands" to justify its refusal to release freedom fighters and peace leaders would submerge us all in the blood of innocent babes up to our necks, up to our nostrils, so that every breath we take sends red bubbles of blood into the air of the Holy Land.

"And I, my heart is dead, no longer is there prayer
on my lips;
All strength is gone, and
hope is no more.
Until when,
How much longer,
Until when?"

* The poems "City of Slaughter" and "On Slaughter" were written by the Jewish poet Haim Nahman Bialik in tribute to the victims of the Kishinev Pogrom in 1903, Russia - trans.

Friday, February 01, 2008

'Lives on the Ground' - A. Hoffman

Adina Hoffman, in a book review running now in the Nation, talks about "the true Jerusalem syndrome, familiar from those medieval maps that turned the town into the omphalos, the hub around which the rest of creation revolves. Libraries loom large in this cramped cityscape--so much so that Oz announces at one point, "When I was little, my ambition was to grow up to be a book."

Hoffman's takes on the regional writers Amos Oz, Sari Nusseibeh, Raja Shehadeh, David Shulman are savvy and well-written. And she also got me perusing medieval maps

The map below is modern cartography inspired by Beatus of LiƩbana, an 8th century Spanish monk. A map with Jerusalem at the center appeared in the prologue to his twelve books of commentaries on the Apocalypse, similar to the one above.
It purports to show the inhabited world of the northern land mass -- the three continents of Africa, Asia and Europe. The navel of the world, umbelicus mundi, always is at Jerusalem. Asia was typically the size of the other two continents combined. The land on the map is divided into three parts by a "T" shape in which Asia occupies the top of the T area, Europe the bottom left and Africa the bottom right, within the "O" of the Ocean surrounding and separating them. Thus, North is to the left and South is to the right.

The T and O style of map is sometimes called a Beatine map, for Beatus.