Showing posts with label 2012. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 2012. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Day 7: Operation Pillar of Cloud: On the Edge

Some Assembled Israeli Troops - Sunday Nov 18, 2012
There have been a number of developments in Israel's latest battle with Gaza.  It appears that Operation Pillar of Cloud is now at a critical point.  If Israel and Hamas do not reach a truce deal within a day or two, it appears likely that Israel will commence a, full scale ground invasion of Gaza.  According to the IDF, there are approximately 57,000 troops assembled and ready to commence the attack.  Last night, Israel's cabinet met late into the night to discuss truce options.  The cabinet is said to have concluded that there were no viable cease fire options at this point but that it was committed to trying to reach a deal.  Israel's main concern is that a limited cease fire deal that would simply allow Hamas to rearm with new weapons from Iran and then start another round of fighting after a short lull.  This would not be an acceptable outcome.

There has been a flurry of diplomatic activity.  Secretary General of the U.N. Ban-Ki Moon has become involved, a joint French-Qatari truce proposal was presented to both sides and various other countries have been meeting in Cairo with Egypt acting as the lynchpin to most of these discussions.  The German foreign minister just completed a meeting with Israeli officials.  U.S. Secretary of State Clinton in en route to Israel.  In a televised interview yesterday, Hamas leader Khaled Meshal taunted the Israelis to begin a ground invasion and made various threats about the damage that Hamas would cause if such an invasion were to incur.   He insisted that Israel had "requested" the cease fire talks even though Israelis spokespeople stated that this comment was about as accurate as Hamas claims that it had attacked Israel's parliament or shot down F-16s (neither of which have occurred).  Of course, this may have been posturing to try to claim victory on behalf of Gaza residents, who have faced some very serious attacks from the Israeli air force and have suffered heavy losses.

Nevertheless, there is no cease fire in place at this point.  This morning, Hamas ramped up its rocket attacks.  More than 60 rockets were fired at Israel between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. alone, with 20 of these rockets fired at Beersheva.  Although many of these missiles were intercepted by the Iron Dome, three rockets hit targets in Beersheva, causing significant damage.  A shopping mall was hit, a home was destroyed and a passenger bus (with passengers) was hit.  There are reports of numerous injuries, some of which are apparently very serious.

YNet News Photo - Beersheva Nov 20, 2012
While it is often common in these situations for the two sides to ramp up their final attacks just before a cease fire, this latest round of attacks on Beersheva and Ashkelon is bound to harden the resolve of Israel's southern residents who are demanding results from this operation.  It is Israeli residents in the south who have been facing rocket barrages for years and who have pushed the government most adamantly to take action on behalf of their cities and on behalf of the whole country.  It is crucial for the Israeli government that any truce deal guarantees a fairly lengthy period without rocket fire.  |Without this kind of deal, it would make little sense for Israel to halt its operation.

Meanwhile. the IDF continued its attacks on different parts of Gaza overnight, aiming at military targets, weapons storage facilities, missile launching sites and Hamas military leaders.  Reports from Gaza have indicated that more than 100 Gaza residents have been killed since the start of these hostilities, at least 20 of whom have been civilians.  It is hard to imagine that a continued battle with Israel is really a good thing for the people of Gaza.  It seems that it would be much better to negotiate a longer term deal that would address concerns that both sides have.  However, at this point, there is little indication that the two sides have been able to reach this type of deal.  It remains to be seen whether talks will progress today and tomorrow or whether the situation will deteriorate further.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Yemen Blues - Toronto - September 2, 2012

Israeli musical group Yemen Blues performed at the Harbourfront Westjet concert stage in Toronto on Sunday September 2, 2012 to a standing room only crowd of more than 2,000.  The concert was presented as part of the Ashkenaz festival in Toronto, though there is very little that is "ashkenaz" about this group.

Yemen Blues is a unique musical experience that combines Yemenite/African and eastern musical styles with contemporary jazz, funk and blues.  The band is made up of musicians playing a variety of different instruments including a cello, violin, trombone, trumpet, flute, guitar, percussion/lute, and standard drum kit. Lead singer Ravid Khalani fronts the band and also plays an eastern version of a bass. 

Khalani sings most of the group's songs in Yemenite (a dialect of Arabic).  Influenced by the Yemenite chants that he learned as a child in his local Synagogue in Israel, Khalani has taken this Yemenite-traditional musical base and mixed it up with a range of other African and eastern influences.

For the uninitiated, Khalani's voice can be rough at times.  For part of the performance, he can alternate between trance-like Yemenite chants in a gravelly voice, mixed with shrieks, and various exuberant calls.  At other times, he veers to falsetto and other vocal styles.  With a little bit of Hebrew thrown in and perhaps some other languages, the singing is mainly Yemenite.  For Yemen Blues, this can mean wide ranging appeal in many places where traditional Israeli groups would be quite unwelcome.  Apparently, Yemen Blues, has a following among many Arab and Muslim listeners.

Of course, this would best suit the spirit and objective of Khalani's music.  Near the end of the concert, he explained to the audience that the music is intended to cross religious, ethnic and cultural boundaries.  "It doesn't matter whether you are Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist or from some other religious or cultural background - our goal is to bring everyone together through music," he explained.

The audience responded, particularly towards the end of the 75 minute show, as Khalani took off his jacket and implored everyone to get up, clap and dance along.  Khalani himself is quite a spectacle on stage.  He works himself into a frenzied dance, moving along the stage with an obvious passion and infectious enthusiasm.

Overall, the band was fascinating.  The high calibre musicians were well rehearsed and moved into extended jazz interludes that could have fit into any world class blues/jazz festival.  Then they veered back into Yemenite/eastern music that were reminiscent of the sounds of an Israeli/Yemenite Hina (a pre-wedding celebration).

It is exciting and remarkable that such an eclectic sounding ethnic musical group from Israel would develop such a large following in so many places.  Yemen Blues have been peforming around the world and have attracted audiences in Scandanavia, Eastern Europe, the U.S. and of course their home country.  In Toronto, the audience size and welcoming reaction made a case for a larger venue for Yemen Blues' next Canadian peformance.