Christmas under siege

I came to Israel from New York in 1977 to attend the One-Year Program at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. When the year ended, I wasn’t ready to leave. So I decided to finish my degree in the Holy Land, rather than return to my college in the U.S.

I did not know that this would set the course of my personal history.

Prior to my arrival, I had always been staunchly pro-Israel, and the 1976 Entebbe raid only served to strengthen my pride in the Jewish state. But I hadn’t really considered myself a Zionist. I didn’t think all Jews had to move to Israel. Nor had I ever believed that I would become one of the Hebrew-speaking hora-dancers I had imagined Israelis to be.

Actually living in Israel (where the only hora-dancing I ever encountered was at weddings, right before the DJ blasted the hall with disco music) changed all that. Without much serious thought or particular attention — other than to the plethora of hunky soldiers as far as the eye could see — I had turned into someone who couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. It was no longer necessary for me to contemplate whether I was a Zionist; I was an Israeli.

This did not mean I was fully accepted as one by the “natives,” however. And during that period, an immigrant to Israel had to prove he was worthy of the title. Possessing an ID card and passport was only a first step in the audition process. Israel was not America, after all. And lots of Jews who tried to make it in their ancient homeland preferred to return to their more recent historical dwellings, where creature comforts were better met and cultural norms more familiar.

Still, anyone opting for “downward mobility” (to borrow my father’s phrase) was also looked at as a bit odd. What about Israel, I was often asked, could possibly be preferable to the U.S.?

Because there wasn’t, and still isn’t, a simple answer to that question, I developed a series of one-liners. Among them was that in Israel I never have to know when it’s Christmas.

Indeed, one of the things I found most surprising about the Jewish state was that it was Jewish.

This meant that the public holidays celebrated were all ours. It meant that children were in costume on Purim, not Halloween. It meant that gifts were given on Passover or Hanukkah, not Christmas. And it meant that all of us were on the same festive page on the same dates.

Rebuilding in Haiti Lags After Billions in Post-Quake Aid: Deborah Sontag….read the note from an e-pal

This remark is from an astute e-pal…could not have said it better myself…..rsk

“The dispiriting article is reminiscent of the aid results to most of Africa, the Arab Middle East, Muslim Asia etc..An orgy of self-congratulatory, self-indulgent, paternalistic, inefficient, wasteful, ‘liberal-leftist’ outpouring into a failed, socialist state in Haiti. A fainter facsimile happens in the US with our failing social services, the continuing poor, the failed government education etc despite many billions ladled in by a leftist-leaning philosophy of ‘social democracy’ ie diluted socialism. Obamacare will worsen it… In all instances, an unfettered, free market system — with government and amateur-heavy NGO’s out of the way — would quickly do a better job, once the immediate charitable response to a disaster is over …..”

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – A few days after the Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake, Reginald Boulos opened the gates of his destroyed car dealership to some 14,000 displaced people who settled on the expansive property. Seven months later, eager to rebuild his business, he paid the families $400 each to leave Camp Boulos and return to their devastated neighborhoods.

At the time, Dr. Boulos, a physician and business magnate, was much maligned for what was portrayed as bribing the homeless to participate in their own eviction. But eventually, desperate to rid public plazas of squalid camps, the Haitian government and the international authorities adopted his approach themselves: “return cash grants” have become the primary resettlement tool.

This represents a marked deflation of the lofty ambitions that followed the disaster, when the world aspired not only to repair Haiti but to remake it completely. The new pragmatism signals an acknowledgment that despite billions of dollars spent – and billions more allocated for Haiti but unspent – rebuilding has barely begun and 357,785 Haitians still languish in 496 tent camps.

“When you look at things, you say, ‘Hell, almost three years later, where is the reconstruction?’ ” said Michèle Pierre-Louis, a former prime minister of Haiti. “If you ask what went right and what went wrong, the answer is, most everything went wrong. There needs to be some accountability for all that money.”

An analysis of all that money – at least $7.5 billion disbursed so far – helps explain why such a seeming bounty is not more palpable here in the eviscerated capital city, where the world’s chief accomplishment is to have finally cleared away most of the rubble.

JED BABBIN: THE POLITICS OF GUN CONTROL Or how the Republicans have become the New York Jets of political Washington. The Newtown, Connecticut massacre of children has changed the gun control debate to an extent no other event has in decades. One of the reasons it has had such an effect is that it came at the time when liberals are […]

Lawless at Sea A Case Study in the Dangers of the Law of the Sea Treaty

Click here: Review & Outlook: Lawless at Sea – Lawless at Sea A case study in the dangers of the Law of the Sea Treaty. The curious case of the U.S. hedge fund, the Argentine ship and Ghana is getting curiouser, and now it has taken a turn against national sovereignty. That’s the only […]


Following significant military [1] successes [2] and diplomatic [3] gains by Syria’s anti-Bashar Assad Sunni Muslim insurgency over recent weeks, Moscow, a key Assad regime ally, announced [2] Tuesday 12/18/12 its preparations for an evacuation of Russian citizens living in Syria.

While the Assad regime’s ruling Alawite minority sect retained a firm hold [2] on their indigenous base in the coastal Syrian provinces, the predominantly Sunni Muslim Syrian rebels have seized [2] the northern and eastern border zones, near Turkey and Iraq, respectively, and dominate [2] wide swathes of rural Syria. The continued rebel assault is even advancing on Assad’s seat of power, Damascus, near the western frontier of Lebanon, having just seized [2] the pro-Assad Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk, on the southern edge of the Syrian capital.

By Wednesday, the rebels had reportedly [4] captured at least six towns in the central Hama governorate (Latamneh, Helfaya, Kfar Naboudah, Hasraya, Tibat al-Imn, and Kfar Zita), with skirmishes erupting in the city of Hama itself. As of Friday, the Sunni insurgents were besieging [5] Morek, an Alawite stronghold in Hama governorate, a province which contains dozens of Alawite and Christian villages among Sunni towns, igniting fears [5] of increased sectarian violence.

During an interview with Barbara Walters on December 11, President Obama announced [6] the U.S. would formally recognize the recently established Syrian National Coalition of Revolution and Opposition Forces (SNCROF), an umbrella group seeking to depose Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. Mr. Obama extolled [6] the SNCROF for its inclusiveness, allegedly being open to various ethnic and religious groups, and bonds to local councils participating in the fight against Assad’s security forces. He opined:

JOHN STEELE GORDON: WHEN THE SIXTIES BEGAN **** No sooner had the Voting Rights Act of 1965 been signed into law than Watts exploded in riots. What a difference a year makes. When Lyndon Johnson lit the national Christmas tree on Dec. 18, 1964, he declared, “These are the most hopeful times in all the years since Christ was born in Bethlehem.” […]


With Susan Rice withdrawing her name for U.S. secretary of state, President Obama last week nominated Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry for the job. Don’t expect applause from beleaguered democrats south of the border.Mr. Kerry’s record of promoting American values abroad is dismal. It isn’t that he opposes U.S. intervention—far from it. The trouble is that he has a habit of intervening on behalf of bad guys. A left-wing world view and an earnest conviction that it is his destiny to impose it on others may make him a perfect fit in the Obama cabinet. But it won’t be good for poor countries or for U.S. interests.

RYAN MAURO: SHARIA IS NOW EGYPT’S LAW OF THE LAND Sharia is now Egypt’s law of the land. The Islamist-written draft constitution was approved by about 64% of voters. The Muslim Brotherhood believes its time has come. At long last, it has overtaken the land where the group was founded in 1928. For them, this is a blessing from Allah for their years of […]

THE LOST VERSES OF THE KORAN: THEODORE SHOEBAT Is the Quran of today, the same as it was when it was first written? Muslims says that it is. But there is evidence to suggest that the reality is otherwise. In old books on Islam that I have acquired, I have found references to verses in the Quran which cannot be found in […]

JOHN KERRY: STILL WRONG BY DANIEL GREENFIELD A year and a half before Osama bin Laden was found living in a compound at the heart of Pakistan’s military establishment, Senator John Kerry was celebrating the passage of the “Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act,” also known as the Kerry-Lugar Pakistan Bill. Under either name, Kerry was offering a rather sizable giveaway to […]