Obama’s visit to Israel and the West Bank in Pictures

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As I’ve been scouring the news the last few days, eagerly anticipating Obama’s visit, I’ve been affected by the photos. They show how differently Obama is perceived in Israel in comparison to the West Bank.

Here are photos of Obama flags in Israel before the visit:

Photo from Your Jewish News

In Jerusalem: “Unbreakable Alliance, President Obama in Israel, 2013.” Photo from Your Jewish News

Students in Israel make an image of President Obama from chocolate. Photo from Ariel Schalit/AP

Students in Israel make an image of President Obama from chocolate. Photo from Ariel Schalit/AP

And here are the first photos of Obama in Israel. Around 1,000 people came to greet him at the airport, including a military band, politicians, and a whole lot of journalists:

The whole scene at the airport as Obama arrives. Photo from Camilla Schick, Jerusalem Post

The whole scene at the airport as Obama arrives. Photo from Camilla Schick, Jerusalem Post

President Shimon Peres, President Barack Obama, and Prime Minister Netanyahu. They all wore blue! Photo from Ben Hartman, Jerusalem Post

President Shimon Peres, President Barack Obama, and Prime Minister Netanyahu. They all wore blue ties! Photo from Ben Hartman, Jerusalem Post

Meanwhile, this is what has been going on in the West Bank.

Palestinian protestors against Obama. Photo from REUTERS/Ammar Awad

Palestinian protestors against Obama. Photo from REUTERS/Ammar Awad

Photo from AP

Photo from AP

Photo from EPA

Photo from EPA

Obviously, many Palestinians are not pleased with Obama coming.

Obama’s already done quite a charm offensive to Israel, saying some words in Hebrew and describing the Jewish people’s 3,000-year-old connection to the land.

What will Obama do when he meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas? It’s hard to imagine Obama being able to sweet talk his way out of these hostilities. Honestly, I have no idea what that kind of charm offensive could look like.

Rating the news: ‘Drinking tea with the man who killed my father’ – Ynet Magazine

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This a moving story about Jo Berrya woman whose British MP father was killed by Pat Magee, a bomber from the IRA. When he was released from jail as part of final peace negotiations with Ireland, she sought to develop a dialogue with the man who killed her father. They have been in a dialogue ever since.

They both visited Israel and told Ynet their story. The piece is moving and thought provoking, and I personally doubt that I would have the fortitude to do something like Ms. Berry did. I wonder how many stories there would be like this if  peace were negotiated in Israel/Palestine?

Rating: Stuff that makes me happy/ Sh*t is complicated

Jo Berry and Pat Magee Photo: Ofer Amram

Jo Berry and Pat Magee. Photo: Ofer Amram, Ynet 

Rating the news: ‘Liberman: IDF should open fire at stone-throwers’ – The Jerusalem Post

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Avigdor Liberman, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s second hand man and Yisrael Beytenu chairman (who is also on trial for corruption), wants to change IDF rules of engagement so that soldiers should open fire at stone throwers rather than use dispersal methods, such as tear gas. My first gut reaction to this article from The Jerusalem Postwas man, this is definitely stuff that makes me mad. It’s totally messed up to shoot Palestinians that are throwing stones. A gun seems like excessive force.

Rating: Stuff that makes me mad/ Sh*t is complicated

Sh*t is also complicated because of the context behind the comment. On Thursday, The Times of Israel reported that, “Six people were injured, one critically, after stones thrown by Palestinians caused a car to collide with a truck near the West Bank settlement of Ariel.” That one critically injured was a 3-year-old. She’s currently in a hospital, fighting for her life.

Additionally, violence in the West Bank has been on the rise. Here’s a good tally of attacks from The Jerusalem Post:

“A total of 139 attacks, including firebombings and the use of improvised explosives, took place in February, compared to 83 in January.
One hundred of February’s attacks took place in the West Bank – 84 of them firebombings – compared to 56 in the previous month.
In the capital, 38 attacks – 35 of them firebombings – were registered by the Shin Bet in February, compared to 27 in January.”

In general, I support a 2-state solution and hope for as little violence as possible. I don’t want soldiers to shoot at Palestinians throwing stones, but I also want stone throwing to recede.

Maybe President Obama can give his thoughts on the subject when he visits Israel this week. Although I doubt he will, considering he’s coming here on a “listening tour.”

What do you suggest?

ShowImage

Bus damaged by stones on Route 5 near Ariel, March 14 

Photo: Channel 10

Rating the news

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A lot of friends and readers have wanted to hear more of my opinions. For example, my most popular post on Facebook last year was a status I wrote right after Operation Pillar of Defense began.

“Several friends and family have been reading about the recent military conflict between Israel and Gaza and wanted to know if my friends and I are okay. Thankfully, so far, the answer is yes. I appreciate your thoughts and concerns. In the next day or so, I’m going to write as objective a post as I can write about the history of this conflict and what’s currently going on. Sending my love and hopes for peace.”

I unfortunately never got around to writing the post because I experienced so many things during the conflict that it was hard for me to articulate all of my thoughts in a timely enough manner. Sorry Facebook friends.

So, I’m trying to devise ways to share more of my opinions about current events without needing the time nor energy to create well-formulated posts. I’d also like to do this in a way that’s insightful for the reader versus just fluff.

Rating the news

Because I’m a journalist, I’m reading news ALL the time. I often have a gut reaction about a piece, whether that’s positive or negative.

Now, I’m going to post articles I read and categorize them in 1 of 3 ways:

1) Stuff that makes me mad

2) Stuff that makes me happy

3) Sh*t is complicated

Because news in Israel is often so complicated, I may end up double-categorizing many pieces. But still, I think this will help me share current issues that are important as well as my take on things.

If you have other suggestions for how I should rate news, let me know!

Last, a fun GIF to top things off, :).

thumbs up and down

 

So far this year, being a woman is more deadly than terror in Israel

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(This post was recently re-published onto the Jerusalem Post’s blog site.) I can’t count the number of terror related articles I have read in the last year about Israel. On the other hand, I’ve probably only read a few dozen articles over the same period of time about Israeli women facing domestic violence.

With this kind of media focus on conflict many Israeli women, myself included, are more afraid of terror than their intimate partners. However, the data reveals another story.

The Women’s International Zionist Organization just announced that the number of women that have been killed by partner violence in Israel so far this year is 19this is more than nine times the number of Israeli women that have been killed in terrorist related incidents in 2012, including Operation Pillar of Defense. Only two women have been killed in terror attacks so far this year. Furthermore, the number of people in general that have been killed in terror incidents in Israel in 2012 is 14: this is five people less than the total number of women that have been killed by their partners.

As a journalist and a woman, this gives me a lot to think about. Any thoughts from readers?

PHOTO: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST

Why aren’t you still doing stand up?

I was talking to a colleague at work who I often joke around with in English. He’s awkward, I’m awkward — At the minimum, we make each other laugh. He mentioned trying to do stand up comedy, to which I told him that I used to do stand up as a hobby. He said, “yeah? When can I see you?”

Well, I don’t really do stand up anymore, I replied. At least not in Israel. I haven’t been terribly inspired.

A large part of it is because I’m happier. Now I have Uri, my wonderful boyfriend. Before, many of my stand up ideas came from failed relationships and bad dates that ranged from uncomfortable to humiliating.

Actually a poster for a show in Palo Alto, CA by Dragon Productions Theatre Company…  so random.

At one of my lowest moments, I was on a date through an online dating site. And yes, that was only the beginning of the embarrassment.

He was mostly interested in me because I mentioned that I did stand up as a hobby. He showed this by only asking questions about my stand up. Whenever I tried to ask him about himself, he’d somehow manage to bring it up back to my stand up. Well, when you talk about stand up, you’re almost never very funny. And I wasn’t. And he didn’t think I was either: I eeked out only a few half laughs of the pitying variety. So I spent a date talking about my stand up, which is in-and-of-itself intimate, and I wasn’t even funny. What a fail.

However, the other key inspiration for my comedy writing was from politics. For example, I used to do a pretty good Sarah Palin impersonation (this also shows how long ago I was doing stand up). My twist was that I would imitate Sarah Palin trying to court black voters. It was some seriously politically incorrect, hilarious stuff.

I’m a journalist now, which means I’m more tuned into politics than ever. But I still don’t feel comfortable doing stand up here, I explained to my colleague. Again, he asked why?

One, my Hebrew’s not nearly good enough to do stand up. That requires a level of fluency that’ll take me years to get.

But more than that, I’m an immigrant. Part of why I loved doing stand up in the U.S. was because I felt like I understood the culture well enough to create jokes that would make most people laugh. I can’t do that here yet; I’m still a foreigner.

It’s sort of like the difference between being Fez, a first generation immigrant character that’s laughed at on That 70’s Show (Courtesy of Hot Rod Homepage)…

and Margaret Cho, a second generation immigrant who’s made a career out of making fun of her immigrant mother. (Courtesy of Greginhollywood)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“So do jokes in English for other Anglo olim (new immigrants),” my colleague suggested. His assumption is accurate. I should at least feel like I have enough in common with new immigrants to make jokes that could resonate with that crowd.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for me. Many of the English-speaking immigrants that move here don’t have much in common with me. Many of them are perfectly nice, but are usually more religious and/or more right-wing. I get along with them circumstantially because we’re in the same boat. But when it comes to making jokes, I don’t feel like we have enough in common to be inspired to write stand up.

Jokes require the audience to relate to you. Here, frankly, I don’t feel all that relatable. Being a progressive, secular, Anglo-speaking, Jewish immigrant in Israel makes me stick out like a sore thumb.

In another conversation about bi-culturalism with my friend Leora, whose parents are Israeli but has lived most of her life in the U.S., I told her that I felt like I was in a no-man’s land. Culturally, I don’t really know where I fit anymore. In Israel, I am an immigrant without a community, and in the US, I’m an expat. This feeling of isolation has been one of the hardest parts about emigrating.

This is also why I haven’t had any impulse to write stand up since I moved here.

On the flip side, there have been many additions to my life since moving to Israel that would not have happened in the U.S. First, I fell in love with Uri. This fact is so powerful and amazingly, so simple, that there’s little I can say beyond how grateful I am that I found Uri.

Second, I entered journalism, my true calling. Likely, I may have never pursued journalism if I had stayed in the U.S. The complexities and richness of life in Israel inspired my career switch, and really, are much of what I love about living here.

With every change, there are benefits and sacrifices. I still joke around thankfully. I’d get bored with myself otherwise. For example, I wrote a post recently about mixing up the words for engagement and masturbation in Hebrew.

However, I see my stand up as a hobby that has been deferred. In truth, my stand up may have been lost in the move. Thankfully, online dating was also lost in the move. I think I can live with that.

Hebrew update: Some progress and a dirty joke

*Warning: There’s a little bit of strong language later in the piece. For those that don’t want to proceed, don’t. For everyone else, you’re probably now more titillated to read the piece (That was a pun).

Yes, I have been hibernating and studying and not just hibernating and wasting time, although I have been watching a good deal of Glee lately. There have been ups and downs, which have been mostly psychological: Am I actually improving? Did I start learning a foreign language too late in life to speak it without making a lot of mistakes? Will this agony ever end, or more specifically, when will those coworkers down the hall stop making fun of my Hebrew?

Thankfully, once I stop beating myself up, I can see that my studying is producing results. For example, a while back during Purim, I spent the weekend with a bunch of Israeli friends in Sde Boker. For the first time, I was able to actually speak in Hebrew for almost the entire weekend! I was both able to understand the majority of conversations and quick enough to respond most of the time. This was a huge step for me. Because I have been able to continue speaking in English, especially at work (I work for an English-language newspaper, after all), sometimes it’s been hard to gauge how far my Hebrew has come. This weekend was a much-needed ego boost.

This year, I dressed up as Ashton Kutcher for Purim. People say there is a resemblance: You be the judge.

Also, when I stay with Uri at his family’s place, he often has conversations with his parents in the living room while I’m chilling in his room, which is a door away. He’ll then translate these conversations for me, especially if he’s talking about something that relates to me. Gradually over time, I’ve been able to understand more and more of their conversations. Last time, every time he came back he would start to translate and I would say, “Yes Uri, I heard.” He then pointed this out: “Laura, you can understand everything now! We can’t hide anything from you anymore!” I certainly hope that’s true…

But, with progress, there are always funny language mistakes along the way. This one has to be the best Hebrew mess-up I’ve had in Israel lately, and perhaps, ever. I was at a bar with a friend and trying to explain that another friend had recently gotten engaged. However, instead of saying “Hee hayta me’oresset,” which means she got engaged, I said, “Hee hayta me’onnenet.” They both sound similar, and I had learned both words within a few days of each other. When my friend started bursting with laughter, and asked, “Hee hayta me’onnenet al ma?” (“al ma” means “about what?”), I understood that I said the other word… which meant that I told him, “She was masturbating.”  I can tell you this: I’ll never forget either word now.

Lesson learned? Humiliation is the best way to remember the difference between love and masturbation. Or, just acquire a new language. You choose.

A picture of a drunk guy for good measure (Courtesy of Bistrosavage).