from 9/11 to MH370

“At the moment everyone is an expert on what happened to flight MH370″

these were the words that started a debate in a mostly US American frequented IRC chatroom I sometimes hang out in. I can’t shake off the feeling it ended with be having become some kind of a persona non grata. And that was not because I was told off for using the word “clusterfuck” in a chat room.

But back to the beginning. So everyone was speculating on what happened to that plane that has disappeared somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. Little surprise theories were ripe about aliens and black holes and whatnot. Some were more serious, some less. At some point I suggested it may have been the NSA since they seem to be to blame for everything these days but sure enough I got told off by the American experts. I was kindly informed that you blame the NSA when it’s something that can be done hiding cowardly behind a computer. If it involves actual dirty on the ground work you blame the CIA.
Fair enough. Point taken.

So all was fun and games until the discussion got somewhat more serious again and I suggested it did indeed look very much like an attempt on hijacking a plane gone very wrong. Now that got the US Americans all fired up. “Do you really think after nine-eleven you could still crash a plane into a major city?” As a matter of fact, yes, I do but I decided not to say as much. A wise decision but not wise enough as it turned out. Instead I put out the possibility it could have been (or rather should have been) a good old-fashioned attempt on getting ransom. It’s only been some fifteen years after all that it seemed some plane got hijacked for ransom every other month or so and there may well still be groups alive that remember the times when you could do other things with hijacked planes than crashing them into buildings.

“Completely impossible!” I was informed because “after what happened” plane hijackings were taken “very seriously” and nobody would hesitate any more before shooting down a potentially hijacked plane. Again I think that’s all – to put it the old school way since any US American readers may take offence on me swearing – a bunch of rubbish. And again I had the sense of not saying that much in front of my US American audience. “The plane hasn’t disappeared from the US though, has it?” I instead suggested. Now I opened the gates of hell. Or so it felt.

I was ‘unbelievably naive’ I was told and asked whether I knew ‘what happened on the 11th of September’ and duly informed that 3000 people were murdered. Maybe that should have been the point at which I realised that the case was lost either way and instead I should have taken to amusing myself by quizzing them about the number of Syrians that died on a monthly basis. Or the amount of their own fellow citizens that were poisoned by trash food and a pharma industry gone rogue every single day. I didn’t. Really I didn’t get the chance to either cause that’s when I used that evil word that was half the F-word of which Americans seem to be scared to hell and that was that with the discussion. And yes, I did apologise for ‘not watching my language’ in the interest of cultural sensitivity. Apparently the acknowledgement for cultural differences works only one way, though.

In all seriousness, after twelve and a half years does your random US American still think the world stopped spinning on the eleventh of September 2001? It was a terrible tragedy, don’t get me wrong, and it will be a date our kids will get to learn in school. With a little bit of bad luck they may get to learn it as a trigger for things to come much like my generation has had to learn about the murder of the Austrian crown prince. But still: the world did not stop spinning on the eleventh of September 2001. And just because the US decided to turn into one giant collective looking for revenge no matter what costs and cast aside human rights and the very freedom the terrorists had set out to destroy in the first place it does not mean that so did the rest of the world. Would the US shoot down any plane approaching a large city without a good reason? Maybe, who knows. But I doubt most other places in the world would do it. The world is not the United States of Earth yet. Not by a far shot.

Just the other day I watched a documentary on the 2011 Norwegian Utøya attacks. And as I watched and remembered the media coverage that followed and the way Norway was shown to cope I couldn’t help but think just how different the Norwegian reaction was to that of the US. One thing struck me especially: In the documentary they interviewed the Norwegian prime minister at the time, Jens Stoltenberg, a man who claimed to have himself visited the island every summer since his youth. But when asked how Utøya had changed Norway he said that people had become more considerate towards minorities, especially the Muslims Anders Behring Breivik wanted thrown out of Norway so desperately. Society, it seemed, had entered the time after in showing to the world just how democratic and open they are instead on going on a blind rampage against the potential Breivik’s of tomorrow and blaming each other forever for not having identified him earlier. Yes, mistakes had been made, especially in the time it took police to get to Utøya but society didn’t dwell on it. They grew stronger instead of breaking.

And if you’d ask me who will shake his head in disbelief on having achieved nothing and who will dance a little happy dance about having brought a global superpower to its knees I know the answer.

- Migdalit

Silk Road

When we thing about the Middle East how often do we merely think of the violence and the bloodshed?

A while ago I had the fortune of seeing the amazing Hidden Treasures from the National Museum Kabul exibition. You learn in school, of course, that ancient “mesopotamia” and all the other places that sound to the student more like fairy tales than actual locations were the cradde of civilisation during a time when Europeans were basically still living in caves. But it is easy to forget that all these marvels, Assur and Sumer and the Persian Empire, are the very geographic places we still see in the TV news all the time. I, too, forgot. Until some years ago I was at a UNESCO / Blue Shield conference and upon the long stream of presenters was an archaeologist almost in tears about the fashion in which Allied troops would trample throgh the very ruins of Babylon without even realising. Ulitmately she had a deck of playing cards, similar to the one featuring the US’ most wanted terrorists, printed showing the most important heritage sites of Iraq hoping someone would remember to thread lightly in these ancient lands.

These days I have been considering travel destinations for later this year and to my own surprise I found myself lay eyes on places I knew I cannot go: The ancient sites of Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan; the cradle of civilisation where every rock tells a story or two or three. I want to see how the ancient Silk Road winds through the ranges of northern Afghanistan and Iran; I want to see the marvellous Persian gardens and the ruins of all those places we learnt about in history class much like they were from another world. But of course I cannot go there for they are drenched in blood and chaos that can re-errupt at any moment. There are still, and that is for a reason, travel warnings for Iraq and Afghanistan and the boycott of Iran means you cannot even withdraw money from an ATM or use a credit card there – leaving you stranded without cash in an emergency.

So as I looked longingly upon those fairy tale places it dawned on me with new strength how much more there is to the Middle East than terrorism and war and IEDs blowing up everyone that comes too close. I wonder how long it will take until I can travel there and feel welcome and secure and all of a sudden I just cannot wait for the time when the conflict is nothing but a memory and heritage sites are being given a new lease of life.

Five years ago I went on an extended field trip to Croatia. I had been there as a child, before the civil war, and I still remembered the place nobody ever thought would descend into chaos; a place with people much as we were where we would go to unwind and enjoy the sea and the hospitality and great cuisine of her people. And then the war came and all we ever got to see again of Croatia were endless streams of traumatised refugees. For ten or so years Croatia, too, was one of these places you just could not go.

So going there again after the debris had been cleared and an emancipated Croatia was on its way of becomming an European Union member had something magic. Visiting Dubrovnik, that medieval gem that was almost destroyed by the ferocity of civil war but had been rebuilt to its fully glory was special. Yes, there were still the traces of shelled houses never rebuilt as soon as you left the main road; a reminder of just how little time had passed; but seeing Croatia again after the war was a pointer how there is always a time after. Eventually.

And now looking upon the Mesopotamian high cultures I wonder and hope whether in another ten years these, too, might just awake from their uncomfortable rest and once again become sites to be marvelled at by generations to come with the war but a chapter of a very, very long and glorious history.

- Migdalit

Iran, Iran

Boker Tov,

when I went through my blog roll yesterday I noticed with delight that a lot of the old sites are still going strong. The other thing I noted, however, was how all of my former Iranian links have now gone private and password-protected (not that there were ever too many in the first place).

Frankly, it sent a little bit of a shiver down my spine and acted as a reminder, much as Yana did to the Pagan community in regards to Syria early last year, that nothing is well in Iran.
Last time I was in Israel was last May and I remember it being a particularly tense time in the ongoing conflict, really almost a cold war, with Iran. I was travelling north on my own this time and I remember vividly how vulnerable I felt. It is a completely different story whether you are surrounded by well-informed Israeli friends discussing the latest at the dinner table on a daily basis or whether you have just been out of touch with everyone and everything for years and are stuck in a bed-and-breakfast led by and filled with clueless tourists in a town you don’t know. You don’t know whether the helicopters patrolling the beach are just the normal drill or whether it’s a more short interval patrol. They say knowledge is power and last May that definitely prove to be quite true for me; without the knowledge that used to shield me when I was living in Israel full time I felt very vulnerable to the situation completely out of my control.

Anyway, Iran. It’s a country that has started to fascinate me increasingly over the years, so rich in culture and history yet with such a tragic past. It seems to be, in the end, one of a long succession of states driven into ongoing chaos by US “world supremacy” diplomacy of the 20th Century and is now in what seems to be a headlock of extremism. It’s so easy to see them just as “the enemy” willing to bomb the people and places you love with nukes just because … well, because they can, I guess. It’s easy to see Ahmadinejad (who was in charge back in my day when I was following Middle East politics more closely) as some kind of Persian Adolf Hitler too. The truth, however is never quite that easy or easy to grasp.

It was around the time of the Obama elections that I had a little conversation with one of the Tehran-based bloggers now gone private blog about Ahmadinejad and how people would possibly vote for him. She made a point of comparing his charisma to that of Obama, especially to a people desperate by years of sanctions, oppression and poverty. And in doing so she opened a tiny window for me into what people in Tehran are thinking and why they are acting the way the do. Unfortunately, as much as I enjoyed our conversations, some via our blogs and some via email, she never deviated from Ahmadinejad’s line when it came to the Evil Zionists of Israel. I never found out whether that was for fear or her truly buying into it.

So what about that new guy, Hassan Rohani, people that know I keep an eye on Middle East politics keep asking me. I know for most of the folks with a strong connection to Israel the question is easy to answer and most see Rohani as not much but a new face of the same old story, more fine-lined to confuse the West this time so they can eventually duck out of their sanctions. Me, I am not always certain about it. Maybe he is, I wouldn’t rule it out. But then I think if something is to be learnt from the now nearing-its-end presidency of Barak Obama (and here again I know people will disagree with me) it is how hard it is even for a man that entered presidency with the noblest of plans to achieve anything at all if he finds himself in a nation-sized political deadlock. I cannot help but think that if Rohani was who he claims to be and if the extremist-induced political deadlock is only half that of the United States of America the situation would probably be looking exactly like what we have been seeing since he took up presidency. So yes, I think there is a chance he may be sincere and there is a chance that things may go up stream for Iran and, eventually, the relationship to Israel.

On the other hand, though, this has not diminished that lingering fear in the back of my head that one day, without much of a warning, someone in Iran will push a button and the aftermath will see places and people I love reduced to ashes, a mushroom cloud for a monument. Not just because I am all but certain about the intentions of Hassan Rohani to create a more peaceful Iran but even more for knowing that even if he is sincere there is not much stopping the ultra-religious would-be martyrs that obviously cover high political functions with lots of power from taking over over at the blink of an eye.

It really is a mess of a situation to be in for all involved parties. Even if politics weren’t as corrupted as they are, even if I had any trust whatsoever left in the doings of the United Nations it would be. How do you offer a nation that may be willing to change a hand in peace when you have to be aware of the possibility that someone else is pushing the button just as you sit and negotiate? On the other hand if you do not reach out to them now that there is willingness to talk you will inadvertently give fuel to the ultra-extremists in confirming everything they have been preaching about the West for decades. It seems like either way you can only loose. And that is if we were living in a perfect world, which we are most definitely not. In the real world there is nobody sincerely interested in the fate of Iran or Israel or any other of the Middle Eastern countries at those negotiating tables; You are lucky if their interest is limited to polishing their respective country and party’s image as peace doves rather than more personal economic intentions.

If you ever try to understand what is happening in the Middle East imagine your own country’s political parties and how they would be inconsolable on whatever is a politically charged matter in your country at the moment. Now add the temperament and the high stakes of Middle Eastern politics to that. Voilá, there is your very own home-brewed Middle Eastern mess.

- Migdalit

Circus Maximus

Ahlan everybody,

this morning my long-standing friend Aracuron dragged out one of my old posts from 2010. In this context I also may want to link to my latest article from my active (Pagan themed) blog on freedom of speech that Aracuron too was referring to in his post. Really I probably could have posted it here instead of over there content wise. At times it feels almost schizophrenic to be dealing with two different blogs – which is probably why for simplicity’s sake I leave even the more political content over at Migdalit Or these days.

In the aftermath the usual conversation just had to start: why aren’t you blogging in that other blog any more? It has been almost a year after all and that’s your normal blogging interval in that one after all he teased me.

So why don’t I?

It’s not that Israel, my time there and the people I had to leave behind aren’t dear to me any more. Certainly not. I still visit there any chance I get (which is way too rarely for my taste) and though I may not count Quassamim and Katjushas any more I still do keep an eye out on the news. I also still have much of the same discussions with people around me as I have been having for the last half decade; I am still hearing much of the same old song about evil, occupying and human rights violating Jews that really ought to have learnt from their own history but didn’t. While I am sick and tired of these conversations it turns out the rest of the world isn’t. “The Conflict” (TM) still is the same kind of global circus maximus it used to be five and even fifty years ago.

Luckily as of today buses still haven’t gone back to blowing up on Sheinkin road on a daily basis. Whether that is because nobody tries any more or because security now has a more tight lock on it I will leave to the experts – and self-declared experts – to decide. For the time being it means that, besides from the regular rocket scares that seem to happen on an almost predetermined interval much like the holidays come and go, people in Tel Aviv and the rest of Israel have their lifes mostly back. The novelty of going to the beach and gathering in crowds larger than three has now worn off and in many ways Tel Aviv is becoming a lot more like other Mediterranean metropoles with much of the same kind of problems. I sometimes wonder whether, if I went there today rather than 2007 it would change me as much as it did; I still thoroughly enjoy Tel Aviv as a place that seems to bring out the best in me but it is not quite the same any more.

So really I gather I don’t write more than I do on this blog because not much is changed since 2007. Truth be told I could probably dig up some of my posts from five years ago and just change a few names before re-posting and most readers would never be the wiser. I may as well just leave the blog as is as an archive for anyone interested to look up the same old information, help yourself to the search field if you are looking for something in specific.

What I have done today, though, is found a new theme. I really couldn’t bear the old one any more so I hope you don’t mind. I am also going to go through the blog roll and weed inactive links. I know it frustrates the crap out of myself if other pages have more dead than active links.

To celebrate the occasion I have gone through my other blog and found you links to some of the somewhat Israel-relating articles. Bear in mind, though, that the other blog mostly is a Pagan one so these are somewhat of a different style.
If Aracuron keeps being his usual pain in the neck I may even think of cross-posting anything relevant in the future ;-)

explaining to the uninitiated why I keep babbling about Israel sometimes

Now, After
about PTSD albeit mostly in the American context. Includes a very good video.

on Warrior Paganism
some of this is inspired by my time in Israel and the time immediately after, also some Israel anecdotes mentioned

mostly general definitions but, again, some Israel anecdotes mixed in

Yana, a Syrian Pagan that got caught up in the civil war in March 2013 caused quite a stir in the Pagan community. It sometimes are single people getting caught up in a picture too big to understand that make us appreciate the human dimension.

honouring the wonderful lady I lived with in Tel Aviv. She has passed away in the meantime but I will never forget her.

So, yep, that’s it for this year, I guess. I have a story from my last visit in the back of my head that I may or may not come back to tell some of these days.

Otherwise … enjoy the blog archives.


flight boarding in Israel

This goes to show that I am still alive. And though my life may now be happening on a different continent I still appreciate some good old-fashioned Israeli humour.

As a friend said the other day: “Try humour when you are stressed. It helps us get through wars.”

Hard  to beat Israeli Technology!

TEL  AVIV, Israel – The Israelis are developing an airport security device that eliminates the privacy concerns that come with full-body scanners.

It’s an armored booth you step into that will not  X-ray you, but will detonate any explosive device you may have on your person.

Israel sees this as a win-win situation for everyone, with none of this crap about racial profiling. It will also eliminate the costs of long and expensive trials.

You’re in the airport terminal and you hear a muffled explosion.  Shortly thereafter, an announcement:

“Attention to all standby passengers, El Al is pleased to announce a seat available on flight 670 to London.  Shalom!”


Welcome to Israel


I know it’s been a while .. well … a fair while.

Israel and me … it’s still quite a relationship even though life has kept me too busy to return since 2009. My best friend, my adopted sister I’m tempted to say, got a gorgeous little son now though, so I figure I really have to hop that plane again if I want to see him off-skype before he is too old for a cuddle.

Anyway, I found a copy of this letter at the Middle East blog of an Austrian newspaper today and it really cracked me up. Maybe some Israeli official has figured out that he’s gonna be ripped apart by a certain group of people no matter what so he can at least have some fun while they are busy with it.