Showing posts with label Fauda. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fauda. Show all posts

Monday, June 20, 2022

Breaking News - Another Israeli Election

Shavua Tov (Happy New Week), Happy Juneteenth (if that's the right greeting) and welcome to summer (just about).  I have decided to put together this quick blog with some breaking news and a few other bits....As always, I welcome comments and invite discussion.  And there is certainly lots to discuss... 

Israel Politics

After one year of governing in Israel with a diverse, rag-tag coalition, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett held a press conference today with his coalition partner and alternate Prime Minister - Yair Lapid. At the press conference, Bennett announced that he had done everything he could to keep the government together but they had reached an insurmountable roadblock and would have to dissolve the Knesset (the Israeli Parliament) and call an election.  If the dissolution proceeds, as expected, the election is likely to fall at the end of October.

As might be expected, Bennett reviewed what he maintained were the successes of his government.  His list included an improving Israeli economy, the notion of working together with political opponents for the benefit of the country,  and advances in a number of different areas.  He praised his coalition partners and thanked them for serving in the government, particularly those who had served as cabinet ministers.  Bennett also indicated that he would honour the coalition agreement and transfer power to Yair Lapid - who will become the interim Prime Minister of Israel - assuming the transfer can be put through the Knesset.  If this goes through - Lapid will become a caretaker, lame duck Prime Minister of Israel, charged with steering the country through to the next election - and post-election until a new government can be formed.

Bennett himself faces a very uncertain future.  His fellow Yamina party members have largely abandoned him and commentators have speculated that this is the end of his party.  Bennett still intends to remain in politics but it is unclear at this point - which party he will represent.  It is also unclear where his fellow Yamina members will go.  Some might join Likud - perhaps with enticement from Netanyahu.  Others might move further to the right and join the Ben-Gvir/Smotrich party.  If Yamina were to run in its present form, it seems unlikely that it could even make it past the electoral threshold.

Lapid also spoke at the press conference - but his talk was quite abbreviated.  He thanked Bennett and told him that he really believed that Bennett was acting for the good of the country over the course of the coalition agreement - even though he and Bennett have their disagreements.  He thanked Bennett for their friendship and, yes, expressed his love and respect for Bennett.  It was somewhat emotional.  Lapid then stated that there are still many pressing issues to address - and time will not stop and wait for the election or the post election results.  He intends to roll up his leaves and get to work even though he will face significant hurdles in trying to do so.  

We may still see some political wrangling between now and a vote to dissolve the knesset.  There may be a way for the opposition to prevent Lapid from taking power.  We might even see Netanyahu make an effort to put together a 61 seat government.  This does not seem likely but anything is possible.  I would imagine that the dissolution bill will be passed within the next week to ten days though I am not totally clear on what is actually going to happen after that.

It is too early to speculate on what may happen in the next election.  There is a reasonable possibility that the "right" bloc, led by Netanyahu, will amass a sufficient number of votes to build a coalition and take back power.  

But nothing in Israel is a certainty.  There may well be a sizeable number of Israelis who view this coalition government as having offered a refreshing change - and a harbinger of new types of government in Israel.  If Netanyahu and his "bloc" cannot put together 61 seats - we may well see another type of coalition government - even if it is not led by Bennett.  Suitors for the role are likely to include Avigdor Lieberman, Yair Lapid and Benny Gantz.  There may well be others.  

Opposition leader and former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke shortly after the Bennett-Lapid press conference.  He was smug, arrogant, and completely dismissive of the current government.  He called it a failed government and said that from talking to "people in the streets," he is well aware that Israelis can't wait to have him and his government back in power.  I would imagine that there are certainly some segments in Israeli society who would agree with him but many who would not.  My sense from this press conference was that Netanyahu is living in a bit of an alternate universe - but I would not rule out the possibility that he may still be able to win another election.  Of course he was also using the opportunity to try and "spin" things as favourably as possible.  We will have to wait to see what the Israeli public really thinks.

Interestingly, Netanyahu stated more than once that the current government is a government held together and bolstered by "terror supporters"  (he was referring to the Arab Ra'am party led by Monsour Abbas) and he stated, definitively, that he would not form a government supported by Abbas (who has currently been an active member of the current governing coalition).  Netanyahu's numbers may not quite add up - and he may well come to visit Mr. Abbas with his hat in his hand, looking for some support down the road.

In any event, the next few months promise to be interesting political theatre in Israel.  I expect lots of suprises, lots of drama, lots of vitriol and some very loud discourse.  Then again, how is that different from any other electoral campaign in Israel?

Travel Update

Airports in both Canada (at least Toronto) and Tel-Aviv are incredibly crowded these days.  For leaving Israel, airlines are requesting that passengers arrive four hours before their flights.  I left Israel on Sunday June 12th and it took more than two hours to get through the first part of Israeli security.  Of course there are still three other security/exit stations to leave Israel  - so it probably took close to three hours to get through everything.  Don't worry - I still had a bit of time to visit the duty free shop but it was a long, frustrating and time-consuming experience.

Toronto Pearson Airport has been using a "metering" system for arrivals. Essentially, they keep you in the plane, away from a gate, for an extended period of time.  Then they announce that only passengers with "connecting flights" will be able to leave.  Naturally, the plane itself becomes quite chaotic.  People without connecting flights get up and take all of their luggage to the front of the plane, blocking the aisles and pushing forward to try and get off the plane first.  Our arrival in Toronto was quite a zoo.

Once we were out of the plane, the line up was not that terrible - especially for those with a Nexus pass.  And there were no real delays at the baggage carousel.

I have also left Toronto Pearson airport recently.  With Air Canada status, the line ups are not too bad - but for everyone else, it looks fairly chaotic.  Going to the U.S. from the Toronto  Airport is incredibly crowded, with extensive line-ups, fewer than normal staff at security and at customs - and lots of overstressed travellers.  Leaving for Israel from Toronto (or any other international destination) is probably a bit easier since you don't have to pass through customs on your way out as you do for U.S. travel.

TV Update

We recently watched the second season of Tehran.  The final episode was released this past Thursday night.  The first season featured a largely unknown cast but there were some terrific actors.  This second season was filmed in cooperation with Apple TV and brought in Glenn Close as an Israeli spy, operating in Tehran, to supplement the cast from the first season. I thought the second season was somewhat better than the first - and, overall, was quite rivetting.  For now, I think it can only be watched on AppleTV.  If you speak hebrew, you can watch it on sdarot.buzz, an Israeli streaming channel or on Israel's Channel 11.  Not sure if there will be a third season, but if so, I will look forward to it.  I understand that filming is also in progress for Fauda's fourth season.  Lots of recent Israeli programming to watch and much of it is very good.

With hockey playoffs just about over, football season still three months away and few other sporting events that really grab my attention, I may have to find a few other series to watch.  I welcome recommendations.  I don't mean to disrespect the Blue Jays, by the way. They have a very exciting team this year but I can't really see watching 162 games a year.  I will probably watch more baseball as it gets closer to the playoffs.

In any event, it is the summer and I hope to make it to the beach, the lake or some other water activities.  So I probably don't need to watch too much TV anyways.  Would definitely rather go for a swim.  Or visit a winery....

Wrap Up

We are looking forward to having some visitors over the summer, some who have been to Israel several times and some who are coming for their first time.  Although it is usually very hot in July and August (even intolerably hot), there is lots to do.  When we are not out and about, we put our faith in our air conditioning units - and the hope that things cool down somewhat in the evenings.  Sometimes it cools off considerably, sometimes it doesn't. For those who are thinking of visiting Israel, it is better, from a weather perspective, to come in March/April and October/November - maybe even September - if you have a choice.  Many people don't - and find that their available dates are dictated by school and work schedules.  This summer, in particular, Israel is expecting a very large number of tourists.  The planes are full (and tickets are very expensive).  Hotel prices are also very high.  

The Israel Museum has still not announced dates for the annual Jerusalem Wine Festival (which is a wonderful event). It is probably going to take place in August this year.  There are hundreds of scheduled concerts across the country - so many musicians trying to make up for the loss of the past two years of live entertainment. 

So even though it is quite hot in the summer - there is so much to see and do in Israel that pretty much any time of year is a good time.  

Wishing everyone a wonderful summer.  Not sure how many blogs I will put together in the coming months but I am sure that I will write a few as the election draws closer.







Friday, April 17, 2020

Post Pesach Update Blog

Pesach has come and gone though the world-wide Covid-19 craziness has not left us yet.  I hope everyone is staying healthy.  This time, it is a blog about nothing in particular - just a few random updates on different things going on.  Some people seem to like reading these types of blogs the most.  As  usual, I welcome any responses and comments.

Pesach 2020

Passover has come and gone.  Here in Israel it is only 7 days so it goes by a bit more quickly than in North America (or anywhere else outside of Israel).  We only have one Seder.  Since we only had five people at our Seder (our immediate  family), we shouldn't have needed as many Pesach dishes.  But somehow it didn't seem to be that much less work than usual.  Changing over all the dishes, preparing some special Passover foods and making sure you have everything you need - is still a lot of effort whether you are having 30 people for dinner or just 5.  We might even have enough frozen brisket left over to last us through Rosh Hashana.

We had our annual family debate over whether to switch to eating kitniyot (legumes, rice etc.,) during Pesach.  Although we could not come up with too many great reasons  for continuing our Ashkenazi practice - other than tradition (and the possibility of hosting non-kitniyot eating guests) - we slogged through another year without eating humus, rice, corn or other kitniyot.  Since most restaurants were closed this year on hol hamoed (the intermediate days of Passover) because of the virus, there weren't many external temptations (like the pizza places that usually open up during Pesach using corn flour crust).  We had our family at home and cooked all of our meals in the house so it wasn't really too problematic.  The holiday even went by  quickly, it seemed.

We  considered following the Moroccan custom of making mufleta after the end of Pesach (essentially a fried dough served with honey or jam).  It would have been a "mini- Mimuna" (A Moroccan post-Passover party) since it would have been only the five of us.  But in the end, since none of us were Moroccan, we didn't really feel a compelling urge to spend the time making the mufleta.  Instead we spent the evening turning the kitchen back to its normal state and then made some pasta.

Covid-19

Israel, like most other countries, is still in a state of lock-down.  A range of stores are open including supermarkets, local convenience stores, hardware stores and take out restaurants.  But malls are still closed, many other businesses are closed and many Israelis are feeling the  challenge of economic hardship.

Israel has done a reasonable job at keeping the spread rate relatively low and, more importantly, the mortality rate down.   According to the latest statistics, Israel had a total of 12,855 active cases as of yesterday, including 97 new confirmed cases.  148 people have died, including 6 yesterday.  For the country, the overall mortality rate, tracked as "deaths per  million residents" is at 17.  By way of comparison, that number is 105 in the U.S., 413 in Spain, 202 in the UK and 32 in Canada.  So Israelis are cautiously optimistic that the country will emerge from this crisis with a relatively low number of casualties.

The challenging discussion now is how to open the economy back up so that people can get back to work.  The Israeli government is proposing a plan to gradually open up sectors of the  economy starting on Sunday and then to track progress after about two weeks.  Depending on the effect and the spread rate, the government will then decide if it can re-open more sectors.  This seems like a reasonable approach although there are obviously many Israelis who are suffering a great deal as a result of the economic disaster that the virus created.

Israel is not alone or unique in this regard.  According to some reports, the U.S. has not hit its peak yet and sits had more than 650,000 cases with more than 34,000 deaths.  Fortunately, the mortality numbers are much lower so far in the U.S. than some people had predicted.  Many people are feeling the pain of economic hardship that an economic lock-down brings.  The challenge for the U.S., like Israel and everywhere else, will be to find a way to reopen the economy without causing a massive spike in the infection and death rate.

Zoom and Religious Services

One of the big "winners" in the current  situation has been Zoom.  People are setting up Zoom meetings for everything - family meetings, club get-togethers, game playing, exercise classes and religious gatherings.  I have been scheduling quite a number of business meetings over Zoom and I am certainly thankful that this technology enables me to continue to run my business from a great distance.

For Passover, we considered the option of joining a big Zoom Seder with friends but  decided instead to run a more intimate family Seder.  We jumped in to say  hi to our extended family Seder in North America (at  about 3:30 a.m. our time) but that was on the second night - which wasn't really still a holiday for us.

Some synagogues have been wrestling with the challenges of Shabbat and holy days.  Since Covid-19 has meant the suspension of physical attendance at services, many  people have pushed for a replacement.  Some synagogues, including some Orthodox synagogues have decided that a daily minyan (a prayer service with at least 10 people) (or even a shiva) can be held through Zoom. I have attended some online services during the week.

Holding services by Zoom on Shabbat and chaggim is more of a challenge, halachically.  Although there are Conservative synagogues around the world that have been broadcasting their services for many years now, these have involved a passive camera, set up on a timer, before shabbat to enable people who are home-bound to watch a broadcast of a service.  Presumably, the people who are watching could set up their computer on a timer as well if they choose to do so.

A Zoom service is a bit different.  Since there is no actual service taking place with a minyan that could be broadcast, the service itself is by definition much more of an active on-line event.  The organization of Conservative Rabbis in Israel determined that this would not be appropriate halachically and recommended prohibiting these services on Shabbat and other religious holy days.

This has led to quite an active debate at our kehillah in Israel.  Some members feel that the halacha is outdated and that the emergency nature of the current situation demands a change to accommodate the spiritual needs of members.  Others are concerned at chipping away at the notion that the kehillah is still a halacha-based shul and that Zoom services on holy days are outside of that framework.  Certainly that is the decision of the Masorti leadership in Israel.

I am a bit torn here.  Although we (as a family) do tend to drive to our synagogue (knowing that we are not really supposed to), we try to keep a number of aspects of Shabbat.  We  don't use the TV or computers.  It would be a pretty big change for us to start participating in an active Zoom service on a Shabbat morning and I don't think that is right for us personally at this time.  I recognize that many  people have other needs and other opinions and this is certainly one of those issues that  has the potential to cause a major rift in some synagogues.

I suppose that if synagogues remain closed for an extended period of time, there may be more and more pressure to come up with creative solutions and a larger number of rabbis may start revisiting some aspects of halacha.  But hopefully, things will turn around sooner than anticipated and we will not have to deal what type of pressure.

I should note that we have been invited to our first Zoom wedding on Sunday (b'sha'a tova to our dear friends).  We  have also, unfortunately, had to deal with a few Zoom shivas over the past few weeks.  Neither of these scenarios would have been imaginable previously.  Needless to say, the world will continue to change in many ways as the Covid-19 crisis unfolds.

Conclusion

That's about it for now.  Hopefully many people are taking advantage of the time at home to do some different things.  We have been cooking some new and interesting dishes, playing some of our board games and trying to do some on-line fitness activities.  We have also been catching up on Fauda and enjoying the concerts that are being broadcast on Israeli TV every evening.  I am definitely looking forward to the One World concert being organized by Lady Gaga on Saturday night.

Most importantly I am hoping that as spring arrives, we will see things improve across the world.  Let's hope for a cure, a vaccine and the best of health for everyone.

I didn't deal with Israel's political situation in this blog - still a mess - and no solution in sight.  But more to come on that next week.

Shabbat Shalom from Ra'anana.