Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Equivocation, An Independence Day Gift

Today is Israel's Independence Day. For reasons I understand only dimly, I had the impulse to usher it in by listening once again to Zadie Smith’s marvelous, yet finally vexing lecture about the acquisiton of—dare I use the word?—identity; a lecture she delivered at the New York Public Library honoring the New York Review’s Robert Silvers—a lecture you can listen to here or read as an essay here.

Smith’s argument, so precisely and gently wrought, explores the ways we acquire voices through our lifetimes, for writers, crucially, early in one’s lifetime. We think we are merely "adding" experience when we come to live in a new place, or work to gain a discipline. But like Eliza Doolittle, we actually transform ourselves into something hybrid; we come to see the self-conscious complication of the self, the navigation from voice to voice, discourse to discourse, as a surprisingly and sadly precious form of sovereignty. 

Smith’s words carry a particular charge for me, I confess, since I began to experience this exhilarating sadness writing for Bob Silvers in the early 1970s, exploring Israel, whose Hebrew was making me over, yet writing—largely thanks to him—in an English I barely knew was in me. Most people in Israel have come from or seem quasi-officially haunted by somewhere else. Anyway, Smith puts the matter touchingly. She boils things down, finally, to a "little theory":

The first stage in the evolution is contingent and cannot be contrived. In this first stage, the voice, by no fault of its own, finds itself trapped between two poles, two competing belief systems. And so this first stage necessitates the second: the voice learns to be flexible between these two fixed points, even to the point of equivocation. Then the third stage: this native flexibility leads to a sense of being able to ‘see a thing from both sides.’ And then the final stage, which I think of as the mark of a certain kind of genius: the voice relinquishes ownership of itself, develops a creative sense of disassociation in which the claims that are particular to it seem no stronger than anyone else's

Smith’s ostensible subject, here, is Barack Obama, the writer turned politician turned statesman. Her touchstone is Shakespeare, the master of seeing things from both sides, the master of “equivocation.” I won’t say more about how she puts them both together except to say the effect is mesmerizing and the associations unforgettable. Finally, she brings us to what she calls a “doleful conclusion,” that people like Shakespeare—like Obama, perhaps—are not likely to be good politicians because they will finally lack a kind of political bravery. 

She always wanted such people in politics, she says, but believes that to see things from many sides, worse, to be aware that one does, will tend to make one incapable of conviction. “There are many forms of heroism in Shakespeare [himself],” Smith quotes the great critic Stephen Greenblatt, “but ideological heroism—the fierce, self-immolating embrace of an idea or institution—is not one of them.”

I SEE WHAT Zadie Smith is saying. But as I listened to her through my ear buds, tossing in my Jerusalem bed, agreeing with every word of her premise, I felt a fierce anger welling up by the time of her conclusion. For I think she is wrong, terribly wrong, to depict people with hard-won, self-conscious human sympathy as objects of political pathos. She says, quoting Thomas Macaulay about Lord Halifax, "that intellectual peculiarities which make his writings valuable frequently impeded him in the contests of active life." Presumably, it would be hopeless for someone like Smith to take on someone like Dick Cheney. But would it, really? What was Obama's speech on race if not something very like this, the power of seeing things from both sides against the power of creepy intolerance?

The point is, Obama took things another obvious step, which Smith might be seeing so much more clearly if she were waking up in Jerusalem and not in New York or London this morning. The step is "an idea or institution" which makes two-sidedness legal, even culturally admirable; a civilized way of life to be fiercely embraced, if not in a self-immolating way, then in the stubborn and brave way Obama does. Perhaps I am getting carried away, but what about fighting for this thing writers from Locke to Franklin to Mill called "liberty"?

Its “ideological heroes” do not seem so heroic after they have won. But what about the times victory doesn't seem assured? Lincoln, Adam Gopnik touchingly shows, was a writer in Smith's sense. What, in our own lifetimes, about writers who fought fascism, like Orwell and Koestler? (Obama, inhabiting his own dream-city, never fails to remind us about his grandfather, after all.) There is something deliciously feckless about Smith's self-presentation. But imagine the ferocity she'd produce if someone told her she were not entitled to her delicious fecklessness, say, if a father tried to marry her off, or a general ordered her to shell the next village. Equivocation can, after all, be training for resistence.
WHICH BRINGS ME back to where I am typing these words. Victory, here, seems less and less assured. So let me celebrate Independence Day with my favorite tribute to Hebrew equivocation, Shalom Chanoch's song of songs, "Good Troubles," which like the "Song of Songs," produces the kind of free spirits who are rather embattled these days. Listen to the song here. The words translate something like this:

In my town, there were two graces,
Two graces, lovely twins.
They always looked so alike,
So alike, these twins.
And my God, how I loved them both,
This was mine, and that was mine.
Thus came my way good troubles.
They were two, and did not know,
She about her, and she about her.

One I drove to the mountain,
To see the dawning of the sun,
And the other to the forests,
To see how the sun disappears.
And my God, how I loved them both,
This was mine, and that was mine.
Thus came my way good troubles.
They were two, and did not know,
She about her, and she about her.

How the days are passing fast,
And how the night goes its way, shorter and shorter.
And the angels are already hinting to me:
What shall I do,
Which one shall I choose?
And my God, how I loved them both,
This was mine, and that was mine.
Thus came my way good troubles.
They were two, and did not know,
She about her, and she about her.

(Words by Shimrit Or, music by Shalom Chanoch.)  

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Israeli Intelligence

"I have to tell you, there is a real chance you will get arrested." How can anyone resist a come-on like that? So I joined my friend David Shulman and an intrepid band of students on Ta'ayush's minibus to Hebron this morning.  

It seems--so David explained--there are settlers from Kiryat Arba encroaching yet again on the land of an Arab family. The settlers have even thrown up a temporary shack to squat in. Our mission improbable was to occupy the shack and then wait for the police to tell us to leave--which we would refuse to do, unless the illegality of the structure would be acknowledged and (such are our dreams) the shack taken down.

EXCEPT THAT WE never got much beyond the first checkpoint to Hebron after the settlement-suburb of Har Homa. We were met by a police car that stopped our minibus. A cheerful officer (pictured here)  showed us an order that declared the whole area we were riding in a closed military zone--an order that seemed to apply only to us, since none of the other vehicles around us were stopped. 

One of the students, who obviously knew what she was about better than any of us, challenged the order, since it stated a zone adjacent to a different checkpoint. So the officer confiscated our IDs, and ordered us to follow him to the checkpoint to which the order did apply. Once we got there, his commander formally presented the order to us again.  We got our IDs back; turned around and regrouped. At another checkpoint, we met up with some other Ta'ayush activists, who told us that one small group had gotten through. Our minibus, as things turned out, proved to be a kind of decoy.
NOT THE MOST productive way to spend a Sabbath morning, perhaps, but revealing in a way that is almost too silly, and serious, to believe. Why was our minibus, of all vehicles, stopped? There are only two possibilities. The first is that every Palestinian-registered van carrying Israeli-looking people (with no knitted yarmulkes, driving on the Sabbath) is stopped, since this must mean "peace activists"; that the police are now closing the West Bank to protest, though not to settlement. The second possibility (which David strongly believes to be the case) is that some of Ta'ayush's leaders have their phones tapped, or that the intelligence services had our meeting place under observation, and the police were on the lookout for just our group. 

Either case, clearly, would represent yet another way the occupation threatens ordinary democratic principles, though the second (after a pleasurable, if momentary, narcissistic buzz) is truly chilling.   

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Connect The Dots # 10: Cognitive Dissonance

1. A report that 75% of Jewish Israelis, and 40% of Arab Israelis, wish Israel to be a member of the European Union.

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2. A report of an economic rescue plan, the major pillar of which is "increasing exports."

3. A report by the Israel Export Institute that 10% of 400 polled exporters received order cancellation notices this year, because of Israel's assault on Gaza. (About half of Israel's exports are "high-tech" and about a third go to Europe; most Israeli agricultural produce go to Europe; Israel plays in European sports leagues--need I go on?)

4. A report that the EU refuses to upgrade its ties to Israel, so long as the Netanyahu government will impede a two-state solution.

5. Reports that Netanyahu is telling Obama he will not proceed with any peace process until Iran renounces its nuclear program and recognizes Israel as a "Jewish" state.

Question: Explain the term "Economic Implosion."
Extra Credit: Define "Paper Tiger."

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Your Deal, Mr. President

"In a meeting with King Abdullah II of Jordan on Tuesday, U.S. President Barack Obama said he hoped "over the next several months, that you start seeing gestures of good faith on all sides. I don't want to get into the details of what those gestures might be, but I think that the parties in the region probably have a pretty good recognition of what intermediate steps could be taken as confidence-building measures."
- Haaretz, this morning.

This all sounds so reasonable: the parties to the conflict will build confidence toward a subsequent negotiation; Israel will freeze settlements, the Arab countries will invite Israeli academics to conferences. And it was reasonable after the 1973 War. But does the president seriously think he can do now what Jimmy Carter did after Camp David, only try harder?

Forgive me for confessing to that sinking feeling, but the language is all wrong here.

Framing the peace process as a negotiation between the interested parties, with more or less active American facilitation, will not work, for reasons I (and others) have laid out, again and again. Colin Powell once said that America cannot want peace more than the parties themselves. It was one of the most fatuous formulations by an American Secretary of State in a long series.

In fact, the leaders of Israel and Palestine will not want peace more than their fanatic oppositions; and they will cling to power by trafficking in the demagogy of national solidarity. Moreover, America is itself an interested party. It is time for the Quartet to present its plan, from Jerusalem to refugees. Oh, and don't we all know what the plan is, from Jerusalem to refugees?

Obama is the first president since Eisenhower with the sophistication, popularity, and objectivity to rally the Western allies to (in effect) impose a just settlement on the region. He knows how to speak about a world order rooted in collective security, federal institutions, and democratic alliances. He can be the face of international peacekeeping. If, as we all suspect, he means to push the sides toward a deal, there is no obvious reason apply pressure privately. It is time he started talking more like John Foster Dulles and less like Oprah.

Obama, in other words, has to start by imposing an agenda on Israel's conversation. He can win over Israelis eventually, but only if every front page story for the next six months is about whether or not Bibi and Lieberman are destroying relations with Washington. That is the only thing Israeli elites fear more than the loss of solidarity. That is what empowers the peace camp, such as it is: the chance to appear, not the party of concessions, but the party of America.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Practicing Human: An Exchange

This came in to TPM Cafe from Jack Miles, in response to my post about his New York Times review of James Carroll's new book, Practicing Catholic.

I love loyalty to friends, and I love the loyalty I see here and the vicarious pain on behalf of a friend you see as wounded. But the wound cannot be the one you feel because the difference between the Roman Catholic Church and the Episcopal Church is not the difference between eretz yisrael and the golah. Jim Carroll and I share the assumption that beneath many historical differences there abides a single great church. I haven't left that greater church, and he wouldn't claim otherwise, any more than he would claim that his Episcopal wife is less authentic a Christian than he is.

Once we recognize that nobody is finally leaving anything, the decision to practice Christianity, including the pursuit of Christian unity, from one of its many administrative centers rather than from another is a practical choice that each may legitimately make on practical or, for that matter, even on emotional and sentimental grounds. For me, the practical grounds were decisive and rested upon the judgment that the laity had not taken power in the Roman Church and were unlikely to do so. The emotional grounds came down to: Where do you feel at home?

In any case, the larger point is that the Roman Catholic church, for an informed and liberal Catholic, is not "the" church in the way that eretz yisrael is "ha" aretz. Would Bernie regard choosing Reform over Orthodox Judaism as analogous to choosing the golah over eretz yisrael? I doubt it. But isn't that analogy, finally and rather obviously, the closer fit to Episcopalianism vs. Roman Catholicism?

The only way one could defend the analogy he wants to draw is by regarding the Roman Catholic Church as a kind of greater Vatican State into which all Christians must eventually be ingathered as Jews ingathered into eretz yisrael. But Christian unity won't come about that way, and shouldn't. Here, I am reminded of the remark of a Serb nationalist around the time that Yugoslavia was coming into existence between the world wars. He said, "I do not wish Serbia to be dissolved into a South Slav Sea. I wish Serbia to be the sea into which all South Slavs are dissolved." But Rome is not the promised land to which all will one day repair or the sea into which all will be dissolved. It has been only half a church since the schism of 1054; and many would argue, perhaps Jim among them, that its spiritual unity was destroyed rather than preserved by the political unity created by Constantine and Theodosius. That lost spiritual unity will only be achieved by the assembly and preservation of some kind of world Christian mosaic. And in the long interim before that happens, what Roman Catholics can best do is begin thinking of the distinction between their church and the other world churches as analogous to the distinctions among their own religious orders, each with its own habit, its own history, its own spirituality, and all here to stay. Paulist/Jesuit rather than anything remotely approaching oleh/yored.

Oh, and about the New York Times: They gave me not a word of advice beforehand, and their one revision afterward was to include the full titles of the Carroll books to which I had alluded.

To which I reply:

We haven't seen one another for many years and should not be meeting like this. If I have been intemperate, I apologize; I know your integrity, and certainly did not mean to imply that the New York Times edited or restrained you, only that there is a code to reviewing here and writers and readers all know what to make, alas, of even velvet criticisms like yours. But more important, I feel you have not done justice to this opportunity to engage with Jim's book. I should not be answering for him, so let me address what you suggest is my portion of the problem, my presumably false analogy between Catholicism and Zionism.

You say, as you do in your review: "For me, the practical grounds were decisive and rested upon the judgment that the laity had not taken power in the Roman Church and were unlikely to do so. The emotional grounds came down to: Where do you feel at home?"

Then you say: "The only way one could defend the analogy [Bernie] wants to draw [to Zionism] is by regarding the Roman Catholic Church as a kind of greater Vatican State into which all Christians must eventually be ingathered as Jews ingathered into eretz yisrael. But Christian unity won't come about that way, and shouldn't."

Jack, my point, surely, was not about how to reform any religion; nor did I expect to invite visions of a Catholicism reconstituted as Vatican state. Rather, my point was that where you feel "at home" is not, or not always, merely "sentimental," a kind of touching childhood prejudice, as opposed to some "practical" (presumably, more adult) judgment about the likelihood of succeeding in remaking the world as you would want to.

The analogy to my Zionism suggests that it is possible to feel at home in a vivid experience of how things might be, a microcosm of possibility--a hope, if you'll forgive the expression--that resolves (for a while, but unforgettably) the moral, aesthetic and affectionate contradictions that you live in and know you will always live in. Think of Pete Seeger's socialism and folk tradition. Shall we dismiss him (as The New Republic has) as an implicit Stalinist, or tsk-tsk about how 1960s folk music eventually yielded cheezy pop or heroine addicts?

No, hope that is played out in this way, and with this integrity, becomes the foundation of identity, the name of your desire--not in the silly sociologist's sense of socialized appetites, or as a child's first impressions, but as a maturing choice that continues on the level of the lived life. It is like your falling in love, which remains an indelible experience, no matter your wife's later experiences of your faults or burps.

And here, again, the analogy to Zionism. I know that Israel has become in many ways a grotesque version of the cultural Zionist or Haskalic theories I once studied. But every time I hear a poem of Yehuda Amichai's or Leah Goldberg's, or visit Chanan's farm, I know that I can never disengage from the hope of Zionism. It is real in the sense of practical--practiced--not merely sentimental. My wife Sidra and I touch it again and again--this synthesis between Jew and "modern."

It doesn't have to win to be real, you see. Once you have fallen in love with it, fighting for it becomes second nature. And this, I think, is Jim's experience of Vatican Two, of its democratic possibility, of creating a innovative mass as a young priest, of feeling Cardinal Cushing's synthesis of American tolerance and the world-wide institution, of smelling Pope John XXIII's cheek in the presence of his father.

To engage with Jim, one has to think about the peculiar theological moves possible in the Catholic church of his hope, as opposed to, say, an Episcopal or black Baptist church. What does Jim desire that no other possibility provides? To do justice to the question, a reviewer would work sympathetically to tease this out. He or she would not say, well, we are all Christians, all part of this big church, and he could just as well have found this corner of it, as I have.

That is like someone saying to me, well, if you want to be a Jew and modern, why not just be a Reform Jew--something the American Council for Judaism has been telling Zionists for generations. It is like saying, hell, Pete Seeger might simply have joined the Stevenson campaign.

As if Reform Jews are not disappointing in their own way. As if Episcopalians and liberal Democrats are not. The real point is--dare I say Jesus's point, brooding in Gethsemane during the night before his death--is that we will never remake this world as we would want it. Our hopes will always be disappointing, as we will be, but our choices can have an integrity that is irreducibly precious--anyway, that is not simply "emotional." You stand (God willing, not die) for your hope. And our different hopes (sometimes books) are, if nothing else, interesting; they deserve to be explored as far as possible on their own terms.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Practicing Human

"If things are so bad, why don't you just leave?"  No matter how often you hear such things, they always sting--in part, of course, because there are enemies and scoffers you don't mean to comfort--but more deeply because unusually detailed criticisms imply an unusually vivid idea of how things might have been; they occur, typically, to people who have had their lives changed by moments of revelation and romance, when things that seemed painfully contradictory seemed reconciled--when something like "identity" took shape. To be asked why you don't leave feels like being disinherited.

This is a round about way of saying why Jim Carroll has been as much an inspiration as a friend for nearly 30 years, and why I so resent the odd review of his new bookPracticing Catholic, in today's Times. More than anyone I know, Jim has criticized the church out of a relentless desire to live out what he knew it could be; to hold dear its history, grandeur and gifts, and yet finally move it beyond the grotesque infallibility of its clerical hierarchy. The reviewer of his book, Jack Miles, a good man and a fine writer in his own right, is asking Jim why, in view of all his criticisms, he remains a Catholic. As if Jim has not asked his friends to answer this very question, letting loose a self-deprecating laugh, every time he asks them to read a manuscript. As if asking this is not like asking someone on page 879 of a Russian novel why he intends to finish it.

Obviously, there is particular fellow-feeling here, since a great many people are now asking why people with democratic impulses don't just give up on the Jewish state. For me, the moment of truth came on a farm in the Valley of Jezreel where I volunteered for work during the summer of 1967. Chanan, the farmer who hosted me--his sunny daughters hanging from him--was trying to explain that his friend who had been killed in the war was an excellent farmer; he said, "mi shichmo va maala," "from his shoulders and higher," which I instantly recognized as a fragment of the phrase "from his shoulders and higher taller than the people," the description of Saul--so I had I had learned--from The Prophets which caused Samuel to choose him as king of Israel. 

Just why hearing Chanan say this meant the world to me is hard to explain quickly. I loved my father, still back in Montreal, but hated (as he tried to, but could not quite) the orthodoxy of the extended family. Which meant I loved his Zionist criticism of orthodoxy but loved all the more Philip Roth's skepticism about fathers. Then again, I loved the Torah, but hated what the rabbis did to it, but hated all the more what Nazis did to rabbis. Anyway, here on my new mentor's farm, I suddenly saw a way of loving more freely. One did not have to sacralize the Torah, one could milk cows quoting it. One did not have to give up on fathers.

JIM'S MOMENT WAS the feel on his cheek of Pope John XXIII's cheek, at an audience in the presence of his father, whose own cheek (so we learn from Jim's award-winning memoir, American Requiem) was not easily brushed against. This meeting was just before, and became inseparable in Jim's mind from, Vatican Two and President Kennedy's election--events that were going to insinuate what American Catholic life might yet be, and has since become something else again.

What Jim teaches is quite simple, really. How you make your stand for conscience defines who you are. Where you make that stand is mostly a matter of fate. You may, for all kinds of good reasons, choose to let the cup pass from your hand, but it will be placed there. To ask Jim why he doesn't leave the church is to wish, not for a better world, but for another one--not a bad thing to be thinking about on, of all days, Easter Sunday.

So here is an Easter gift, and a Passover gift, for that matter. Listen to Jim's interview about his book on Chris Lydon's indespensible program "Open Source."

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Child's Play

I had the privilege of attending a reading by the great Jerusalem poet Yehuda Amichai in New York about a year before he died. It was a day or two before Passover, in a not-really-filled synagogue hall, and he lapsed into a recollection of the bedikat hametz, the search for crumbs of bread and such, in his childhood home. 

Jews--if you are from Phnom Penh, you may not know this--are forbidden to eat leavened bread on Passover. European rabbis, presumably pleasing God by outdoing Him, interpreted this to mean no contact at all with leavened foods of any kind (including, alas, beer) or even grains and legumes that just swell up in water. So the morning before the seder, Amichai said, he and his father would prowl around the house searching for forbidden stuff, a feather in hand, blowing into corners, and sweeping up the dustballs, looking hopefully for crumbs. The piles would be slowly nudged together and added to leftover bread. Then the whole lot would be taken outside and burned in a newspaper. His father would chant exotic Aramaic words, feather still in hand, asking to be forgiven for any crumbs still lying around, potentially despoiling the kashrut--the purity and fitness--of the home. Amichai looked at the audience, wistfully. "Child's play," he said. 

The point of not eating bread--Passover is all about making points--is a kind of ethical transmission. Childhood memory is indelible, but historical memory is wiped out with every new child. So we are enjoined to dramatize the preciousness of freedom to our adorably clueless progeny by ritualizing how quickly our ancestors seized theirs--so quickly that their bread did not have time to rise. The good here is not in obediently freeing ourselves from bread, but in eating unleavened bread, matzoh, to mark the good of freedom. This, to paraphrase the slice of Isaiah chanted on Yom Kippur, is the fast that is desired.

And yet Amichai knew better than to leave things there. Poets cherish their freedom; they live, as Stanley Kunitz put it, in the layers. But for children, freedom is rather overrated. Amichai knew, with that ironic distance that launched his freedom, that children prefer fathers and games to play, rules to conform to and prayers to assure oneself forgiveness with. Better to have the smells of the seder meal filling the senses. Hell, the children of Israel were prepared to return to Egypt just for the garlic. Better to be a good Jew than a Jew worrying, like all poor bastards, about how to be good.

I AM THINKING about Amichai this morning because I've noticed a new conceit this year on Reshet Bet, Israel's dominant radio station. All the broadcasters from 6:30 to 10 AM signed off with the phrase "pesach kasher," a kosher Passover, something you did not hear in Israel a generation ago (and I have not heard since Talmud Torah, the orthodox school I went to in Montreal in the 1950s). Presumably, they were trying to be cute; most of these Tel-Aviv celebs wouldn't know a parsha from a haftorah. One interviewer explored the importance of artistic freedom with a humanities professor, with Janice Joplin's wailing rendition of Bobby McGee in the background. Not one interviewer (seriously, not one) asked about the universal importance of political freedom. Do I bore you by asking why nobody thought to invite a Palestinian, you know, to ask what it felt like to be denied the most obvious forms of it?

Okay, a little holiday blog post cannot do justice to liberty, trauma, Judaism, and the history of the Middle East conflict; please, spare me comments about how Ehud Barak offered everything at Camp David, and they came back with terror, blah, blah. The simple fact is that we have created a festival of freedom, political freedom, that has evolved for about 3000 years. In every generation we have presumed to believe that we, ourselves, stood at Sinai--standing in, that is, for humankind, passing from slavery to freedom, and from freedom to the rule of law. How can we possibly celebrate this festival without at least preoccupying ourselves with, well, occupation? Actually, the military announced a couple of days ago that the West Bank would be under a 12-day lock-down so that Israelis could celebrate the holiday in peace.

Israeli media are, instead, full of stories about where the line in Europe passed between sweet gefilte fish and the salty kind; and weirdly mandatory wishes that the holiday be kosher, that no crumbs remain. Meanwhile, some of us find this year in Jerusalem surreal--find it harder and harder in this curiously hopeful year to convey how cool it was to be a Zionist a couple of generations ago, when Israelis would have been far more likely to have heard of Paul Robeson than Sam Bronfman; when Passover meant interviews with political philosophers, the songs of national liberation, and a new Hagadah from the kibbutzim celebrating the universal rights of human beings and the workings of the natural world.

Do I idealize? Yes. I had a childhood--or at least a young adulthood--too. My Palestinian friends will tell me that Israelis back then were fancying themselves internationalists while refugees languished in camps. Still, I am noticing changes that leave their traces everywhere--changes that feel like a kind of regression, like the smiles and neatness and grabbiness of children whose parents can't stop fighting. 

For the record, Sidra and I just performed bedikat hametz with our two-year-old grand-daughter, Maya, the smells of seder meals wafting in from all sides. "Fiyah," she said, glancing at the burning pile, before running off to feed her little tiger what was left of her egg yolk. There was no point telling her about freedom. Her tiger lacked for nothing.

Friday, April 3, 2009

What The Doctor Ordered

Here's one you might have missed--and should not. The author, from the stubbornly positive group Sikkuy, explains why things that seem so hard are really so simple. But you have to start with the first principle of medicine, "Do no harm," which, come to think of it, is just another way of expressing Hillel's view of what of the Torah can be taught while standing on one-leg.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Comments On Krugman

One of the sheer pleasures of blogging is the comment stream one can now and then engender. I suspect that most people who read my postings here do so out of interest in Israel and the Middle East conflict. On TPM Café, there are many more who are focused on American politics and economy. Anyway, yesterday's post on Paul Krugman generated a huge, passionate and deeply intelligent debate among dozens of readers. Worth a look.