Tag Archives: Zionism

Heidis, Milkies and Amalekites

It is no secret. I am not settled here. I need a change. I was originally thinking Cork (I bottled it). Now on the radar is Berlin.

MilkyAnd the brouhaha stirred up last week by an Israeli in the German capital encouraging others to join him is about far more than the price of chocolate pudding with a splurge of whipped cream (Times of Israel).

I can’t put my finger on what exactly has made me so unsettled here. The illness and passing, last year, of my lovely mum – I have now lost all three members of my immediate family (it is not quite as dramatic as it sounds) – won’t have helped, though my feet were already itching about a year or so beforehand. My aunt is convinced it is my still being single. But, while a wife and kids would not have left as much time for indulgent introspection, I don’t share her conviction that being tied to this country would have made me any more contented in it. Perhaps I am just experiencing some kind of mild, mid-life malaise.

Like “Pudding Man”, I still consider myself a Zionist. What I need, however, is some time (to draw on the Hebrew idiom) out of the Land. I look back at some of my more fervent postings here and wonder if it was really me who authored them. I recently deleted, as unrepresentative of it, “this miraculous little country” (though it is undoubtedly that) from the bullets under About This Blog. The locals now irritate me even more than they always have. The charedim appear more preposterous, the Tel Avivis more arrogant, and the working classes (I had better not get any more specific) more primitive. Tel Aviv feels ever more superficial, and while Jerusalem is more like home, it is also suffocatingly parochial. And there is little escape. The north disappoints (especially knowing the Lakes and Highlands as I do), and the south holds no appeal at all.

Soon into my Tour Guides’ course (which I was anyway forced to abandon in order to care for my mother), it became very apparent that my love for this place was on the wane. The sandstone was of as little interest as the lime, and the myths had lost all their meaning. On a Succot outing last week, our (excellent) guide’s enthusiasm just left me cold. And I have long stopped reading the Israeli press.

My reasons for wanting a break are not typical. They are neither economic nor security-related (though I thank the dear lady who, on the steps of Raleigh Close on Rosh Hashana, and with a grave wink hinting at the unspeakable, assured me that there would always be a spare bedroom for me in NW4 . . . should I “need it”). Unlike the Milky protesters – and there is genuine discontent amongst many Israeli twenty and thirty-somethings – I thankfully need neither cheaper housing nor grocery bills. The missiles, too, don’t faze me. It is more the arseholes who never let you into traffic, drive with a finger on the horn, jump red lights, and don’t stop at pedestrian crossings.

On Thursday evening, a delightful Jerusalem police officer chose to curse my mother in Arabic after spotting me raise my eyebrows as he overran the red light and stopped his marked 4×4 on the crossing. And, more upsettingly (who expects anything from Israeli police?), I recently witnessed the owner of the café where I drink my morning juice eject a frail gentleman in his seventies, who could only shake his head in disbelief, because he was deemed to have been sitting with his newspaper for too long following his last sip of hafuch.

I am sometimes assured, by those attempting to assuage the recent black moods, that such experiences are one-offs, exceptions and not rules. If only. I witness similar things here nearly every day. And they are signs of a society lacking class, boundaries and respect.

I am not comfortable about publishing much of the above, and apologise to anyone it offends (or depresses). But I have always endeavoured in these pages to tell it as I feel it (what otherwise is the point?) And if Yair Lapid wishes to label me an anti-Zionist, or even a traitor, I can live with that. But there is a great big world out there, and just because we have been hounded wherever we have gone in it, it doesn’t follow that we shouldn’t wish to experience it for longer than an Israir Special.

All in all, then, fresh surroundings and challenges clearly can’t come too soon.

Berlin is a wonderful city. Resonant with history, stylish, cosmopolitan, tolerant, and, yes, affordable. It is, I imagine, somewhat similar to the city of my birth . . . before it lost its identity and soul (just sit and observe, as I did a few weeks ago, from the top deck of an Ealing to Golders Green 83). And its main downside is not that history, but the very folk I need a break from: “You got rid of the very cream of world Jewry,” I always remind Oliver, my German lawyer, “and have ended up with tens of thousands of Israelis . . . serves you right!”

Resonant with history: the Neue Synagoge at dusk

Resonant with history: Berlin’s Neue Synagoge at dusk

Even though Angela Merkel’s Germany is arguably Israel’s most loyal and trusted ally (at a time when we don’t have many), on hearing “Berlin”, many of the reactions to my proposed move fall between shock and horror, often accompanied with the expression of someone biting on a pickle that has turned.

But why are we so insistent on clinging to our former enemies? Because of the shortage of current ones? Say I have a short memory, but even if the Germans are (as I was recently informed) the descendants of Amalek, Hamas, IS and Iran all cause me rather more sleep loss than the Amalekites (whom, incidentally, I would take over the Palestinians quicker than you can shriek “Allahu Akbar” and detonate your suicide vest).

Some of the double standards I have encountered have been hilarious, from friends and family whose kitchens could moonlight as AEG/Bosch/Miele/Neff/Siemens showrooms to the elderly relative who I discovered, soon after learning that he was Berlin-broyges with me, had been nailing a local fräulein while serving King and country in Allied-occupied Austria!

Perish the thought . . .

Perish the thought . . .

Indeed, folks’ greatest dread on hearing that I might move to Berlin is, of course, that I could end up in some kind of unseemly liaison with an athletic, fair-haired female with bone structure out of a human biology textbook. I don’t even want to think about that. Much. But anyway, at 47, should I still be placing national survivalism before personal happiness? (And even if Heidi has midos like the pair nearest the camera?)

Some of the ‘caring’ souls who have provided unsolicited opinions as to why I “can’t” move to Berlin are, curiously, the very same who went entirely AWOL during my mother’s illness and the second that I got up from shiva. My oldest friend, Shuli, though, is certainly an exception to that. And, while I am loath to compliment him, I do know that he genuinely cares. After I had successfully repelled his latest attempt, last week, to persuade me to pursue a future with a couple (though separately) of completely unsuitable women – his former search criteria for me long having been reduced to a criterion (i.e., Jewish) – he threw his hands up in the air and exclaimed “Don’t tell me you are happy when you are sitting alone at home with Stuey and Dexxy!” The hard truth is, though, that most dates leave me longing to get back to them.

As for Deutschland, I have a few rather loose ends to tie up here first, but am already looking forward to the new challenge. I have some exciting business ideas and the feeling that my “fascination for the [former] abomination” (to quote Joseph Conrad) could be the impetus for a renewed vigour for writing (both blogging and even something more tangible). Who knows, it might even recharge my flagging Zionism.

And, to all you young Israelis who feel the need for a change, go for it I say! The experiences, culture and Weltanschauung that many of you will eventually bring home will serve this ‘island’ far better than the arrogance and hypocrisy of those who criticise and condescend from their villas in Caesarea and Ramat Aviv.

To all my readers, a very happy, healthy and gevaldig 5775!

Looking ahead (with Vladimir Ilyich, Prenzlauer Berg)

Looking ahead: with Vladimir Ilyich, Prenzlauer Berg

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Whose catastrophe is it anyway?

Driving past the Tel Aviv Cinematheque on Sunday evening, I witnessed the kind of scene which, though no longer new to me, never fails to sicken me anew: on this occasion, a demonstration by around a hundred keffiyeh-wearing Israelis to mark Yawm al-Nakba, or Day of the Catastrophe, on which Palestinians mourn the birth of Israel, in 1948.

Last week, meanwhile, on Yom Hazikaron (Memorial Day), this country remembered its 22,867 fallen soldiers and 3,971 victims of Palestinian terror. And immediately following the thought that most of the crusty-leftie protesters looked like they could do with a good bath . . . alright, and the fleeting one, too, of plowing my Focus into the shameless bastards, I couldn’t help but ask myself: “Allah, whose Nakba?!”

I have no inclination to regurgitate here the details of our two Peoples’ claims to this Land. We are, however, two Peoples. And with two claims. And they both have their merits.

But the Palestinian “catastrophe” as I see it, and it predates 1948, is that neither the Palestinians nor their leaders have – conversely to the attitude of the large majority of Israelis towards them – never truly accepted any aspect of the Zionist narrative, or that there is even another party with a legitimate claim to, at least a share of, this Land.

This explains how the ‘moderate’ Palestinian leadership in the West Bank could sign an agreement, two weeks ago, with the Islamofascists in Gaza, the leader of whom had, a mere two days earlier, condemned the killing of Osama “the holy warrior.” And it is why even Israelis (like me) who favour a two-state solution do not believe that the 1967 borders represent the true extent of the vast majority of Palestinians’ claims and aspirations.

The reason that there will never be peace in this Land, therefore, is not our minority of nutters . . . but their majority of them.

Indeed, we Israelis, if we were so inclined, could commemorate our own “catastrophe”: that, in addition to our almost 27,000 fallen soldiers and murdered civilians, we have been cursed with neighbours – Palestinian and Arab – who are, at worst, capable of slaughtering babies in cold blood and, at best, completely backward-looking and incapable of moving on . . . as evidenced by their endlessly self-pitying, all-consuming, fixation with the Nakba and the past.

Israel’s present government has certainly not covered itself in glory: Bibi’s ‘leadership’ has been characterised only by mind-boggling inaction, making the country – at a time when its international image was already at an all-time low – appear completely uninterested in even attempting to resolve this horrible, tragic mess. Indeed, over the last two years, it has almost been as if Israel hasn’t even had a government.

But, even ignoring its appalling crime figures, one only has to roam the streets of Jaffa to witness the Arab aversion to progress: decrepit buildings without communal electricity (cut-off for failure to pay bills) and surrounded by garbage (usually discarded by residents’ children). Then, for contrast, walk a matter of minutes to the beautiful tayelet (beachfront promenade) recently developed by the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality through Ajami, one of Jaffa’s most crime-ridden areas.

Of course, the same folk who have always criticised Israel’s supposed neglect of Arab neighbourhoods are now claiming that the tayelet is part of a strategic Judaization, even ethnic cleansing, of them. Though there is no pleasing the Jew/self-hater.

“The Arabs,” Abba Eban famously once said, “never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” And, whilst some may currently be enjoying a Spring, others – including the Palestinians and their leadership (now, officially, semi-Islamofascist at least) – are still stuck in deepest, darkest Winter.

"Murderers in Uniform," reads the sign at Sunday's demonstration

Sometimes there’s a man: Pichotka’s simcha

“Sometimes there’s a man . . . I won’t say a hero, ’cause what’s a hero? But sometimes there’s a man . . . he’s the man for his time and place. He fits right in there . . . I don’t know about you, but I take comfort in that. It’s good knowin’ he’s out there.”    

The Stranger, The Big Lebowski (1998) 

When I was a boy – or, should I say, were a lad? – my greatest wish was to meet William John Bremner.    

Footballer Billy Bremner was the captain of Scotland, but, more significantly for me, of my beloved Leeds United. And I still recall exactly where I was – on Yirmeyahu Street, in north Tel Aviv – when I heard news, on the BBC World Service, of his premature passing, in December 1997.    

I doubt that it is still an Anglo-Jewish custom – professional footballers’ salaries hardly need supplementing these days – but, growing up in the UK, the very best present that parents could give a bar mitzvah boy was to invite his favourite footballer to the party. And every Friday’s Jewish Chronicle would feature photographs of sheepish looking Gentiles, who clearly (and understandably) would much rather have been in the pub – or anywhere else for that matter – than surrounded by scores of fawning Anglo Jews.    

But, however much I may have dreamt of meeting “King” Billy, I knew that my parents had more depth than to cheapen my coming of age with so meaningless a gesture. And I respected them for that.    

At a recent family bar mitzvah in London, however, I was saddened to hear even the Rabbi (United Synagogue), in his sermon, appeal to my twin cousins purely in terms of Arsenal FC and cricket. It may come across as pompous – even as hypocritical, from “El Presidente” of the Tel Aviv Whites! – but don’t we Jews have enough of our own, genuine heroes to whom we can point?    

Indeed, a close childhood friend, as steeped in Arsenal as the worst of them, chose to name his firstborn after Yonatan Netanyahu (right), the fallen commander of Operation Entebbe. Whilst, at the time, rather tickled by the gesture (considering Graham had never even set foot in Israel), “Yoni” was by far preferable to the always more likely “Thierry”, “Dennis”, or even “Charlie”.    

A couple of weeks ago, my new squeeze invited me to the wedding of Binyamin, an old friend of hers from film school. Tali has had quite enough of having to suffer smug, boring and/or miserable (are there any other kind?!) married couples at such dos alone. And, not sharing her fear of The Wedding – what can be bad about a free bar and good scoff? – I accepted.    

As we arrived at Sadot, a delightful, rustic venue (no more miserable synagogue halls, tasteless banqueting suites, or airport hotel conference centres for me!) close to Netanya – and before I could even get to the bar for my first bottle of Goldstar – Tali pointed out Binyamin’s father, who, she informed me, is a well-known ex-ish tzava (army man).    

Brazen Zionist that I am, I was suddenly excited to be there for reasons other than grub and alcohol (and, of course, you, Tali!) And the feeling was only heightened when Tali told me his nickname: “Pichotka” (“פיחוטקה”). You can’t be a serious ex-IDF man without having a nickname like a teddy bear.    

To corroborate Tali’s account, I immediately sms’d another ish tzava, my friend Yuval, to find out whether he knew of “Pichotka”.    

“Of course!” came the instant reply.    

“I am at his son’s wedding!” I texted back excitedly.    

“Forget “Pichotka”,” Yuval responded, clearly unimpressed, “how is it going with Tali?!”    

But my feelings of privilege and recharged Zionist zeal were not to be dampened.

"Pichotka" & Ariel Sharon (1st & 2nd left), Battle of Mitla

Tat Aluf (Brigadier General) Efraim “Pichotka” Hiram was born in Poland in 1933. Ariel Sharon recruited the young Holocaust survivor, now an artillery officer, into his Paratroopers Brigade in 1956. In October of that year, during the Sinai Campaign, “Pichotka” participated in the historic Battle of Mitla – to this day, the only occasion on which IDF paratroopers have parachuted in a combat situation – and, in the following years, in numerous operations against Fatah and the PLO.    

One story, shared at our table, was of Sharon, not knowing his officer’s real name, refusing to let “Pichotka” go on a mission, but ordering that Efraim Hiram be sent in his stead!    

A confidant of Yitzhak Rabin and friend of former Chief of Staff Rafael Eitan, “Pichotka” was influential in the promotions of future IDF Chiefs Dan Shomron and Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, as well as of Major General Matan Vilnai. (Less interestingly, to me at least, he went on to become mayor of Ramat Hasharon.)    

"Pichotka" (right) with Major Saad Haddad, founder and head of the South Lebanon Army (circa 1982)

Sharing “Pichotka”’s simcha (celebration) served as a much-needed reminder for me – at a time when it is all too easy to forget – that this country is not just about high-tech and real estate.  

I know nothing about “Pichotka”’s childhood, merely that, before eventually relenting, he forbade Binyamin from setting foot in Poland. And, observing “Pichotka” during dinner, I opined to Tali – though in the knowledge that a Sabra (person born in Israel) would not quite understand – that only we Jews could have gone from the Holocaust to rustic weddings within so short a time frame.   

At the end of the evening, I made a point of approaching “Pichotka”, and wished him a warm mazal tov (congratulations). It had been a special simcha – Binyamin had been, like me, a 42-year old bachelor! – and I felt the handshake of a survivor in every sense. In his mid-seventies and white of hair, perhaps . . . but “Pichotka” still has a presence and voice that boom as loudly as any artillery cannon.    

At the kiosk on Rothschild, the following morning, I proudly announced to anyone who would listen that I had been at “Pichotka”’s simcha. What did the Sabras understand, however, or care? But I was chuffed, indeed privileged, to have been there. For a diehard Zionist who didn’t grow up here, it was the real deal.   

We employ terms such as “hero” and “legend” far too lightly. It is the “Pichotkas” of this world, ordinary people who have made extraordinary sacrifices, who are the real ones for us Jews, not the “Bremners” (whose only merit, if it is one, was being good enough to have earned a living as one of – to quote my former French master – “22 grown men chasing a pig’s bladder”).    

And “Pichotkas” live amongst us. They are not just names and stories in some ancient Book. And, on this anniversary of the day on which God is supposed to have given us the Torah, we should appreciate – indeed, tell our bar mitzvah boys about – our living Davids and Gideons.    

Happy Shavuot ! חג שבועות שמח  

England, Your England

“Sorry,” he proffered, as he inadvertently passed between me and the bookshelf.

“Bloody hell” I thought, after doing a brief double take, “that would never happen in Steimatzky!”

I had been browsing the Travel Writing section of my favourite bookshop – Waterstone’s (formerly Dillons) on Gower Street – as the impeccably mannered Englishman momentarily obstructed my view. This seemingly insignificant episode, however, resonated with me, demonstrating as it did the huge contrast in attitudes and behaviour between my birthplace and my homeland.

There is something lovely and serene about many aspects of life in Blighty, including the manner in which (most) folk treat each other with common courtesy and respect (if not warmth).

After a week in London (following a year and a half without a visit), however, I was ready to come home (which I did a few days later, last Thursday). Whilst enjoying the ‘civilisation’ booster, I now experience considerable difficulty in readjusting to the English, and – oddly perhaps – to English Jews especially.

This has become very apparent to me on Anglo-Jewish charity bike rides overseas, when I find it extremely testing having to spend a week and a half with a hundred, primarily North-West London coreligionists. For my last ride, in the Far East, I made my own way from Tel Aviv to the group’s hotel in Saigon. On arrival, the first person I came across, from Stanmore, on hearing that I had come from Israel, felt compelled to assure me of his Zionist credentials:

“I would never sell my flat in Herzliya Pituach.”

Oh, Theodor would have been so proud!

At last Monday’s seder (Passover meal), which I enjoyed in Muswell Hill, the Manc sitting opposite me, finding an Anglo-Israeli at the table, laid into American Jewish settlers, who – even if I don’t always agree with them – have priorities considerably more weighty than the “French château that sleeps 19” which Manc informed us he is about to lose to his ex-wife. I liked her already.

Then, clearly trying to impress the new fiancée by his side – and more closely resembling the Haggadah’s (seder service’s) Wicked Son (who tries to distance himself from the Jewish people) with every ignorant word – he became a tad bolder:

“It might have been better if Israel had never existed.”

“Your life would be a lot more precarious if it didn’t,” I fired back as if he had just dissed my mum. In fact, if the Wicked Son hadn’t been my friend’s brother-in-law, the Isaac Son might have jeopardised any future invitation by following the Haggadah’s instruction to “smash his teeth”.

The purpose of my trip was to attend an Isaacson simcha (festivity). And whilst – following the bar mitzvah of my cousin’s twins – there are two fine new Isaacson men, the speeches (including that of the Rabbi), essentially on cricket and Arsenal FC, prompted even this once sports mad teenager to think that his Isaacsons (should he, one day, surprise everyone) will grow up here.

When in England, these days, I find myself acting like a member of the Israel Tourist Board. Wicked Son excepted, I offered Melchett hospitality to everyone I met. The obvious reluctance of some to accept it, however, saddened me.

“I am not visiting until there is peace,” declared a cousin on the other, Reiss side of the family, who spends his vacations in Dubai. “I wouldn’t feel safe there” (a curious statement, I thought, considering he has never been). And another (who has a box at Arsenal) hasn’t returned since receiving poor service at his hotel’s pool during his only visit, in the Seventies.

I also dropped in on an old friend from law school, whose seemingly delightful Hampstead Garden Suburb existence – replete with BMW jeep and designer Labrador – showed me what I could have had if I didn’t love this f*cked-up country so bloody much.

The only thing that I truly do miss about Blighty is the sound of leather on willow – one even more seductive than that, from the building opposite, of “Melchett Shabbes afternoon girl” (if you get my drift) – but the politeness, the châteaus, the Premier League boxes, the Suburb, the jeeps, even the ‘proper’ dogs (only joking, Stuey and Dexx!) . . .  none of them held any real allure.

If you feel that you truly belong here, none of that “stuff” is any substitute.

[See also Why I Am Not (Really) an Englishman and the last four paragraphs of my Rosh Hashanah Message.]

The Israel-only bashers, a case study: Bridlington Gert

Note to readers: In view of the appalling case of Belgian paedophile serial killer Marc Dutroux – replete with government cover-ups and allegations reaching as high as the Belgian King – together with evidence that Madeleine McCann was stolen to order for a Belgian paedophile ring, melchett mike will, until further notice, be dedicated to highlighting the plight of Belgian children.

Despite, in general, not wasting my energies on anti-Israel activity on the Web, checking out a friend’s blog recently – an excellent one, incidentally, for monitoring and analysis of anti-Zionist activity in the UK (though guess where he ‘stole’ the design from!) – I got sucked into a ‘discussion’ with a member of the “Boycott Israel” brigade: see here (I entered the fray on March 9).

On the front page of his own blog, Gert Meyers – a 48-year old former company director from Belgium, now residing in the East Yorkshire seaside town of Bridlington – states as follows:

“Since Gaza and until further notice this blog will be dedicated to the Palestinian people’s struggle for statehood.”

Now, what got me goading (I admit it!) Gert is my genuine belief that those who, without any connection to this Land or its peoples, dedicate all their energies to waging ‘war’ on Israel and Zionists to the exclusion of all else have in all probability – and even if they don’t know it – some issue with Jews too.

How else can one explain their overriding obsession? How many peoples on our planet are suffering oppression? And any reasonable person, with even the most rudimentary understanding of history, must surely see the complex factors at play in this most intractable of crises.

In the twisted world of the Israel-only bashers, however, there are only Palestinians.

Some of these Israel-only bashers, including the UK’s most infamous one, are anti-Semites. And they don’t need to say “We hate Jews” for us to know that. But they don’t interest me.

Goading now aside, what continues to intrigue me about Gert – and, indeed, many others, including the deeply distrusted (in Jewish circles at least) Independent journalist Robert Fisk and even the “concentration camp guard” jibing, former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone – is that I actually find myself believing his repeated exhortations that he is not an anti-Semite . . . or, at least, that he genuinely believes that he is not.

But the question remains: how does one explain Gert’s obsession with Israel and Zionists to the exclusion of all else?

In August 2005, five months after setting up his blog, Gert commenced his analysis of “the I/P conflict” (under the subheading Palestine and Israel):

“with hindsight, the creation of Israel can also be considered a historical mistake . . . It is important to recognise that prior to 1948 there was no such state of Israel and that its presence in an area called Palestine is in fact an artificial geographical construct.”

To my mind, anyone who denies the spiritual, historical and geographical centrality of Israel to Judaism and to the vast majority of Jews, together with the Jewish people’s claim to this Land, is – even if he claims not to hate individual Jews (and, therefore, not to be an anti-Semite) – in some meaningful sense, anti-Jewish.

Gert continues:

“Today, no one seriously challenges the right to existence and independence of the state of Israel, and the Palestinian people don’t either . . . The conflict is not about Israel’s right to exist.”

A mere fortnight later (under The Israeli-Palestinian question), however, Gert describes:

“the extremist views of Hamas et al regarding the total destruction of the state of Israel”.

Gert rejected my claim, on Richard Millett’s blog, that he is obsessed with Israel and Zionists as:

“a gross and jingoistic inaccuracy . . . it was after the War on Gaza I shifted from critical supporter of Israel to anti-Zionist activist.”

“Critical supporter of Israel”?! As far back as September 2005, Gert was writing about “the Butcher in Tel-Aviv”, while his Zionist Niceties post two months later could, for balance and impartiality, just as easily have been titled The Protocols II.

I had read enough, and did not feel that there was any point in taking my research further (though, if any readers of melchett mike have the time or the inclination, search “Israel” in Gert’s monthly Archives and see if you agree with his contention that, prior to the War in Gaza, his blog was ‘only’ “some 25 % about the I/P conflict”).

What is certain, however, is that, post-Gaza, Gert’s obsession with Israel and Zionists has become all-consuming. And the last few words of his objectively-titled Sick Fuck Livni are, perhaps, rather revealing:

“What a shame in many respects that “the reality” of the Middle East has already “been changed”: when Israel was created, that is…”

Referring back to my opening paragraph, I don’t like paedophiles. Yet I haven’t devoted melchett mike to attacking Belgium and Belgians, for whom kiddy fiddling could arguably be listed as a national pastime.

If I had made Belgians my sole cause, however, I certainly wouldn’t become apoplectic with rage every time that someone suggested that I was obsessed with, or even that I didn’t like, Belgians.

But not the Israel-only bashers. One daren’t even question their obsession. And heaven forbid you should enquire as to whether they just might be anti-Semitic. Even if they are not, is it not a reasonable suspicion about someone who devotes all of their time to Israel and Zionists alone?

While Gert believes that it is fine for him to have dedicated his entire existence to attacking Israel and Zionists, when he discovered a single post that I wrote about the French (and, then, largely in jest), he had found the diversion he had been seeking . . . and milked it:

“Mike, you’re an imbecile, as well as a hypocrite and Zionist.”

Me, Gert? A “Zionist”? How very dare you!

Following  Gert’s attempt to insult me with the badge that I wear more proudly than any other (including even my Leeds United one), he refers to one of the very pillars on which melchett mike is based (see About this Blog):

“I see you’ve got it in for ‘self-hating Jews’ as well, says it all really…”

Did you expect me to like them, Gert?!

Indeed, in order to attempt to obtain legitimacy for his obsession, Gert continually, and predictably, calls upon these self-hating Jews.

Sorry to have to inform you, Gert, but the views of such Jews – who represent Anglo-Jewry no more, thankfully, than you represent the Belgian community in Britain – are about as valid as yours. They are, in the main, an eccentric and spineless minority of accidents of birth who have little or no connection with Judaism, never mind Israel. And their motivation is purely to ease their discomfort as ‘Jews’ when Israel is embarrassing them in their PC left, Gentile circles. Moreover, the huge majority of British Jews take their signed letters in The Guardian and Independent about as seriously as your average Belgian would take criticism by fellow ex-pats who only “come out” at times of national adversity, in order to distance themselves even further from their roots. (See melchett mike‘s Self-Hating Jews category.)

Gert copied my Hating the French post to his blog, replacing – with a Steve Martin-like eye for spoof – my references to “Frenchmen in Tel Aviv” with “Jews in Paris”. He signed off with:

“I almost find myself wishing more British Jews of your particular racist inclination would make Aliyah but that would only be moving the problem.”

Rather rich, I thought, coming from a – to at least some extent, I believe – Jew-obsessed Belgian living in East Yorkshire!

So how does one explain Gert’s – and the Israel-only bashers’ – obsession with Israel and Zionists to the exclusion of all else?

In spite of my repeated requests for clarification, Gert preferred insults and repeated student union-like calls of “racist” (I was half expecting him to inform me that I was “out of order”!) Finally, however, some four days later, Gert did manage to come up with the following:

“Gaza really was the straw that broke the camel’s back”.

Miraculous how that “back” somehow managed to withstand eight years of Palestinian rocket attacks on Israeli civilians. And I have little doubt that had they, instead, been landing on Bridlington, Gert would soon have been scuttling back across the Channel.

Most Israelis, however, have nowhere else to go. Though let us not forget the unspoken premise of the Israel-only bashers: unlike the Palestinians, Israelis have no right to live in peace, or to defend themselves (see F*ck you, too).

You see, my problem with Gert and the Israel-only bashers is not that they might be anti-Semitic or racist (following my post on the French, how could it be?!) Whereas I profess, however, to not being wild about all things Gallic – and even my understanding of the growing appeal of the BNP (did you miss that one, Gert?) – Gert and the Israel-only bashers continually attempt to conceal their true motives from everyone. And perhaps even from themselves.

Why doesn’t the front page of Gert’s blog also feature a Burmese, North Korean, Zimbabwean, or – heaven forbid he risk upsetting Muslims – an Arab (take your pick) or Iranian flag between its bold capitalised “BOYCOTT” graphic?

Because Israel is a worse human rights offender than all of these countries? Because the Palestinians are more deserving of sympathy, or are just nicer, than other oppressed peoples?

I think not. Warts n’ all, Israel is clearly the only state in the entire Middle East that can claim, without causing unbridled hilarity, to be a democracy.

Israel has, however, over the past sixty years, made both extremely poor decisions and morally questionable ones, not the least of which was its long-term settling of the pre-1967 “territories”.

But the Palestinians and their leaders fare no better. Indeed, without their absolute rejection of any Jewish claim to Israel, and total refusal to share it, the last sixty years might have been very different.

I, and most people I know, are in favour of a Palestinian state. How many Palestinians, however, would accept – never mind be in favour of – a Jewish one? The Israel-only bashers just haven’t got a clue!

Of course one can legitimately criticise Israel and Zionists without being an anti-Semite – indeed, it is tolerance of criticism, especially from within, that sets Israel apart from all of its neighbours – but when such criticism becomes all-consuming, it reveals something else.

So what is that “else”? Or, in the language of our upcoming Passover festival, “What makes this criticism different from every other?”

The answer, I believe, is Jews. Whether individual Israel-only bashers are honest, or self-aware, enough to recognise it, we Jews are the ingredient that sets the Israeli/Palestinian issue apart for them, transforming it from one issue amongst many to an all-consuming obsession.

As I wrote above, anti-Semites – from the ideologically-driven, motivated by hatred and lies, to those who are ‘merely’ jealous of Jews – don’t interest me. Regarding the remainder, however, in spite of much soul-searching this past fortnight (explaining the lengthy gap between posts), I – perhaps appropriately for Passover – still have more questions than answers. Of course I can understand why the situation in Israel causes anger and activism, but I cannot adequately explain the obsession of Gert and the Israel-only bashers.

Bouncing ideas off fellow Jews and Israelis, it has become extremely clear that most agree that the Israel-only bashers are covering up for something “else”. Beyond my late father’s “Jews are news”, however, the only answer that I can come up with is that we are witnessing a post-Holocaust, ‘respectable’ alternative to anti-Semitism, facilitated by the (primarily left-wing) media’s disproportionate, unfair, even dishonest, treatment of the Jewish state.

This “alternative” is perfectly tailored to the PC era, and to the “sheep” that prefer bandwagons to facts. And those who, once upon a time, simply didn’t like Jews, broke glass, and bayed for blood now ‘merely’ say that they don’t like Zionists, go on protests, and devote all of their time to undermining Israel (some even questioning its right to exist).

I don’t say that Gert is necessarily a bad person, a George Galloway, or even an anti-Semite . . .  though I am not certain that he and the Israel-only bashers are sufficiently self-aware to be fully cognisant of what they truly are.

Anyway, bollocks to the lot of ‘em.

Though, to all readers of melchett mike, a very happy Passover.

Next year in Jerusalem ! לשנה הבאה בירושלים

melchett mike’s Rosh Hashanah Message

Dear Friends (well, that’s how “Sacksy” starts),

Dalia, one of the Rothschild kiosk quarter-to-seven crew – and the most balanced and normal of the natives who drink their morning coffee there (the competition, it has to be said, is not all that fierce) – recently surprised her husband, for his birthday, with a long weekend in Budapest.

On the morning following their return, she was simply gushing about the Pearl of the Danube, and especially the Marriott Hotel, on its banks, at which they stayed. The food. The rooms. The service. All superb. “And the best thing of all,” declared Dalia, without even a hint of jest, “we were the only Israelis.”

Now, you will never hear the Englishman – on his return to Blighty from the Costa del Sozzled (or whichever other destination he decided to grace with his civilising presence) – revel in the fact that he didn’t come across any other Englishmen during his sojourn.

Far from it. The Englishman delights in being amongst his own (and is even somewhat lost without them). Indeed, it is the “Kraut” and the “Frog”, the “Itie” and the “Spic” – in short, “Johnny Foreigner” – whom the Englishman does not wish to rub shoulders with on his hols.

I have been pondering this difference in attitude between the Englishman and the Israeli towards their own. It is not hard to fathom what it tells us about the Englishman . . . but what does it say about the Israeli?

The Israeli revels in one-upmanship. Everything he does or has must be better, less obtainable, more expensive – or, in the case of an identical product or service, cheaper – than what his friend does or has. So, for Dalia, the absence of other Israelis in the Marriott perhaps gave it an air of exclusivity.

The Israeli also believes that the Gentile – or at least the European, or white, English-speaking one – must necessarily have more class and/or culture than the native of the Middle East (said Israeli has obviously not spent a Friday evening in your average English city centre). Even I, a naturalised Israeli, receive looks of reverence when I – or, rather, my dreadful Hebrew-speaking accent – reveal my English roots. And I listen in puzzlement as awe-filled locals rave about aspects of London and England that I always took for granted. So, perhaps Dalia just didn’t want the Middle East interfering with her European weekend.

The Israeli also exhibits his own variant of what comedian Jackie Mason describes as “too Jewish” syndrome, relating to the Hebrew’s lack of comfort in his own skin. So, escaping her fellow Israeli for a few days perhaps provided Dalia with a welcome break from that uncomfortable ‘mirror’.

Jewish self-deprecation, our numerous complexes, and especially Groucho Marx’s not wanting “to belong to a club that accepts people like me as members”, all play their part here too.

Or perhaps I am just over-analysing. Anyone who has been on a flight, in a hotel, or anywhere for that matter, with a group of Israelis will know that there are politer, more decorous and rule-obeying breeds. Dalia’s continental breakfasts would not have been quite the same if dozens of her compatriots had been fighting over, and smuggling vast quantities of food out of, the Marriott buffet.

But – and I am getting to the Rosh Hashanah Message bit now (I think you will find the transition quite seamless!) – whilst neither Israelis nor life in Israel are perfect (both far from it), I strongly believe that those of you who are still living in the Diaspora are really missing out. You are just not “in the game”.

And when I hear of the ‘problems’ and concerns of friends visiting from the UK, of their interests, and those of their kids – not to mention Britain’s (and Europe’s) creeping Islamisation (about which I have blogged) – it just serves to reaffirm my decision to live here. Apologies for getting all existential on you, but, in the large scheme of things, the plushest of homes, flashest of cars, most extravagant of holidays, and even the best of schools, surely mean and count for little.

Diaspora Jewry . . . the shofar calls!

Diaspora Jewry . . . the shofar calls!

To return to the “footie” analogy (they tend to be the best, I find), the intensive training, expensive boots and fancy strip mean nothing . . . if you can’t even get on the pitch. And having the privilege to live during a rare period of Jewish self-determination – with sovereignty in the Land of Israel – has given all of us the opportunity to get on that “pitch”. It is totally incomprehensible to me how Jews, and self-declared Zionists to boot (pun intended), choose instead to watch from the touchline. (Whilst this may come across as preachy, my intention is not to patronise. And if just one or two readers think about the “Israel option” while bored sh*tless in shul this weekend . . . then pissing the rest of you off will have been worth it!)

So, a happy, healthy and peaceful New Year to readers of melchett mike and to all of Am Yisroel (the Jewish people) . . . but especially to the State of Israel and its citizens, who – in spite of their many faults – are the vanguard of our people, bringing their Diaspora brothers the standing, credibility, and thus security, to continue what I believe to be their relatively meaningless (in a Jewish sense) and increasingly precarious existence.

And, whilst Dalia may not be so pleased to see you during her next European “weekend of culture” . . . she would be delighted to have you here!

melchett mike,
Rosh Hashanah 5770

Hasmo Legends XIV: Conversations with Osher

[Followed by Osher: The Postscript (featuring melchett mike‘s Osher Poll)]

A couple of hours after posting Hasmo Legends XIII: A Legend (Osher) Strikes Back, I received a phone call from a fellow ex-Hasmo Tel Avivi (single, no dogs) who couldn’t believe the coup of having Osher Baddiel on melchett mike:

“If you could have chosen anyone,” Jonny said excitedly, “Osher would have been in the top five . . . perhaps even the top one!”

And over two hundred comments in three weeks is testament to the fact that – agree with his views or disagree, and whether you liked him at Hasmo or not – Osher Baddiel is almost the definition of a legend: “a person about whom unauthenticated tales are told” (The Concise Oxford Dictionary).

Much of my initial, 45-minute telephone conversation with – or, more accurately (for the first twenty minutes or so), lecture from – Osher (see Hasmo Legends XIII: The Background below the main post) centered on the right to exist. Not of Israel. But of Hasmo Legends. According to Osher (I hope Mr. Baddiel will forgive the impertinence . . . it is how we all knew him), the series is a necessary evil which encourages only mischief and is causing only hurt: “A fat lot of kiddush Hashem it is doing.” And he repeatedly urged me to remove all posts and comments at once: “Close it. Kill it. Bye-bye.” (But Osher’s unambiguous views on the subject are there for all to read, and rehashing them here serves no useful purpose.)

When (during the initial barrage) I managed to get a word in edgeways, I informed Osher that my motives for penning Hasmo Legends were anything but malicious – I had a lot of warm and amusing memories of Hasmonean, and had been amazed to find little or nothing written about the institution on the Web. I told him that if he would actually read my posts (and turn a blind eye to the odd indiscretion), he might even find them amusing and of merit. In spite of having an Internet connection, however, Osher seemed intent not to be seen to be condoning the series, the blog, or their author (though he did eventually concede that I was “not a bad fellow”, but had just “made a very silly mistake”).

It is Osher’s disapproval of Hasmo Legends, and of melchett mike, which makes the fact of his posting all the more startling, according both a certain degree of ‘official’ approval which they did not previously have. Of course, I had no intention of telling him that. And his express precondition for posting, that I refrain from editing his words, was entirely superfluous. I had no intention! Whilst chosen to damn me – and my fellow “overgrown babies” – those words merely incriminated their author and, in many ways, Hasmo’s former religious ‘elite’. Indeed, they are a far better record of the ethos of Hasmonean Grammar School for Boys than our cumulative testimonies. And, every time I read them, I am taken back to the pottiness of those musty, dilapidated classrooms.

However surprising the fact of his posting, it confirms Osher’s status as Hasmo’s primary maverick. Excluding the posts of Tony Pearce – who only had a cameo (however unique) in the carry-on that was Hasmonean – and a brief comment from Clive Fierstone, no other Hasmo Legend has had the courage or imagination to rear his head. We hardly expected DJ or Jerry Gerber to speak out, but one of the renegade English department, for example, could quite easily have done so without jeopardising a Golders Green shtiebl membership (in spite of his son being a regular contributor to melchett mike, unearthing information on Nazi war criminals has proved a simpler task than obtaining anything whatsoever on Jeff Soester).

I tried telling Osher that comments to Hasmo Legends indicate that the Hasmonean experiences of many ex-pupils (certainly many more than I would have imagined) were far from idyllic (and again, far further than I would have believed). Osher dismissed out of hand, however, the “online therapy” justification for the series.

When I brought up the issue of corporal punishment, Osher responded that “there was very little malice” at Hasmonean, that “those things were done in those days”, and that “sometimes a kid gets what’s coming to him”. Indeed, much of the violence in today’s society, Osher believes, stems from children no longer being physically disciplined at school: “Children don’t know what physical hurt means, so they do it to others when they leave.” And “the Torah,” Osher argues, “doesn’t say it is wrong to hit a child”.

I was longing, however, to get to the two matters of most interest to me: Osher’s attitudes towards Israel/Zionism, and to his celebrity rent-a-Jew cousin David Baddiel (who, on telly, always seemed oddly willing to play the role of a Jewish Uncle Tom).

I started by quizzing Osher about the truth of a comment to melchett mike, that he had asked a pupil who attended school on Yom Ha’Atzmaut in a blue and white striped shirt why he was “wearing an Auschwitz uniform”. “Not me,” replied Osher, “I would never have said that.” What Osher did, however, volunteer was his recollection – following a talk with Sixth Formers on some aspect of (what he considered to be) “chilul shabbes in Eretz Yisroel” – of the scrawling on a classroom wall: “Osher, Hitler would have loved you!”

Osher’s views on Israel – to a Sheinkin dweller at least – do seem rather extreme: “If you don’t keep Torah mitzvos, you have no right to it.” Osher further decries the arrogance of chiloni Israelis, who “think they can defend themselves without Avinu She’bashomayim.” And he is certain that Israel only continues to exist because of God’s help, much of which has been “undeserved” and given “on credit”.

Far from being totally detached from the State, however, Osher’s mother and son live here, and he certainly has a finger on Israel’s pulse, commenting on the evils of certain “parades” (he didn’t need to specify which) and that so-called human rights groups, B’tselem and Shalom Achshav, are “terrible enemies of the Jewish people”.

When I asked Osher whether he had any sympathy for Neturei Karta and the individuals who met with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran, he replied that he was “dead against them” and that they were so out of touch that “even the Arabs don’t use them for propaganda”.

In spite of having it on my to ask list, I decided not to bring up Osher’s alleged ‘assault’ on Norman Kahler, as witnessed by various commenters to melchett mike. If I can be forgiven for the Khaled Mashaal impression, it sounded very much like Norman – with his endless “Zionist provocations” – had it coming to him!

I did, however, ask Osher whether he had really washed boys’ mouths out with soap. No denials there: “It was no more treif than what had come out of them. And they never swore again.” In front of him, at any rate.

Osher's Cuz

Osher's cuz, Dave

My curiosity as to Osher’s relationship with his author/TV presenter (he is no more a comedian than Osher) relative, David Baddiel (right), stems from my recollection of the latter – in a desperate, failed attempt to draw Osher into a 2004 episode of the BBC genealogy series Who Do You Think You Are? – making some cringeworthy reference to his ultra-Orthodox cousin whilst standing outside a Golders Green bagel bakery. Osher recalled how the documentary’s producer had spent two and a half hours in his Stamford Hill home, over tea, trying to persuade him to participate. Even the very little Osher knew about David – including the “goyishe girlfriend” – was sufficient to persuade him that it could only come to no good. And David’s boasting of his partiality for seafood confirmed to Osher that he had made the correct decision. As he put it, in true Osher style: “Even goyim don’t eat oysters!” Anyhow, it seems that a wider Baddiel family Rosh Hashanah reunion may not be on the cards.

Towards the end of our first conversation, Osher enquired as to my marital status. On hearing of my singularity, he proceeded to impart similar advice to that which I receive daily from my dear mother. Following his “parades” reference, I was longing to reassure Osher – though why I don’t know – that I am not gay.  But I couldn’t quite summon up the courage or the appropriate wording (I mean, would I have gone for “gay”, “homosexual” . . . or something rather more “feigele”-like?)

Osher then enquired as to my level of religious observance. I gulped (even though I knew it was coming). “Are you sure you want me to tell you?” He did. And I told him. “Of course you believe in the Ribono Shel Olom,” Osher assured me, “you are just estranged from him. It is just that you have seen things in your life that you didn’t like.” (At the risk of reinforcing your views on modern Israel, Osher, what I forgot to tell you is that I was the first person in my company – of over nine hundred employees – to challenge the big boss and put a mezuzah on my office door. My deference to the Big Boss, even if born of superstition, perhaps means that I am not such an apikores after all.)

My “joker” for Osher was the thorny issue of charedi service – or, rather, the lack of it – in the IDF. But I might as well not have played it. “The Shulchan Oruch and the Rambam,” he assured me, allow for “Torah learners to be left alone.”

“Anyway,” said Osher, “frum Jews have never got a good press, because we’re outlandish and strange.”

I couldn’t argue with that. I had, however, enjoyed talking – or, rather, for the most part, listening– to Osher. And I must have asked him about five times whether I could have “just one more question”. In spite of Osher repeatedly saying that he “would like to keep up the contact” (I would too), I had the strong feeling that I had to make the most of this audience because he might not speak to me so freely again.

Defending his position on corporal punishment, Osher had commented: “Fashions change. Values don’t. Because they come from Hashem . . . and He doesn’t change.”

Pithy and brilliant.

What a shame, I thought, that this man – who most definitely has something to say (even if I might not always agree with it) – didn’t teach me at Hasmo, instead of the various muppets . . . who had nothing to.

[I took contemporaneous handwritten notes of my telephone conversations with Osher Baddiel with his express knowledge and consent, and on the clear understanding that I would be using them to accurately document them. I did not amend the above post in the light of the following.]

…..

Osher: The Postscript (featuring melchett mike‘s Osher Poll)

During my drive home from work, on Monday, I had two “missed calls” from a UK telephone number. I called back. It was Osher Baddiel. He asked me to remove his post from melchett mike. I listened to the reasons for his request – essentially, the nature of the comments it had engendered – whilst remaining purposely non-committal.

The following day, after receiving a message from Osher on my answer machine – seeking confirmation that I had removed the post as requested – I sent him the following by e-mail:

Dear Mr. Baddiel,

I just heard your voice message.

After spending the evening thinking it over, I have decided not to remove your post from the blog. You expressly agreed that I post it, and – with the greatest respect – I will not remove it because you don’t like the resulting discussion. I will, however, consider removing or editing specific comments.

I had already (i.e., before your telephone call of yesterday) written a further post about our conversations, which I told you I would and which I intend to post. If you would like me to send it to you first, I will be happy to and to take into consideration your response. Anyway, I think you will find it to be – in the main – flattering and positive.

As I have mentioned to you, many, many ex-Hasmos have found the Hasmo Legends series to be extremely beneficial, and not just mere entertainment.

I am not e-mailing because I wish to avoid talking to you, but because I fear it would end in an argument. And I don’t wish to get into that situation with you. Our world views are very different. I will talk about the law and rights. And you will talk about Torah.

Even though I didn’t really get to know you during my Hasmo days, I respect you and your forthrightness. And I would still like to meet you some day soon, even though I understand that I might now be jeopardizing that . . . or that I am likely, at the very least, to get a “putch” for my disobedience!

Yours respectfully,

Mike

I addressed Osher’s reply of that same afternoon, written between paragraphs of the above, on a similarly piecemeal basis (my explanations of the context, where necessary, in square brackets):

  • I listened carefully [to your request] and very intentionally did not make any “promises” of the kind [that I would remove the post].
  • You are of course “entitled to ask for it back”, but – in terms of the general law – I don’t believe that I am obliged to remove it. This is made even clearer by the terms and conditions of my blog (see https://melchettmike.wordpress.com/about-this-blog/).
  • Your post has had 3,145 ‘hits’ to date. Since November of last year, my blog has had 128,378. These statistics hardly support your contention [that the post has “breathed life into” melchett mike and that I “wish to exploit” it “to engender more interest”] (though you are of course free to think as you please).
  • I have no desire to get into a personal war of words, but your post makes it abundantly clear that you are not afraid of hurting people’s “feelings”. [re Osher, once again, accusing contributors to melchett mike of this]
  • The e-mail at the bottom of this page [seeking, and obtaining, your confirmation I could post the draft] makes it quite clear that there were no such “false pretences” involved. [re Osher’s claim that his post was obtained under such]

Just as you have no wish do get into a public “scrum”, I have no wish to get into a private one. You sent me a post. I posted it. I do not believe that I am under any obligation, moral, legal, or otherwise (we are not at school anymore), to unpost it.

If you wish to appeal via the blog, feel free to do so. They are not all “foulmouthed cretins”.

Still respectfully,

Mike

It may sound a little harsh, but the bottom line is this . . . melchett mike is a blog (see the link above). It is not the Hasmonean School Magazine Online. If it were, none of you would be reading it. I am an ex-journalist, and (believe it or not) take my blog reasonably seriously. And, whilst it didn’t “make” melchett mike as Osher seems to think, receiving a post from him was (as I wrote in the first paragraph above) a “coup” for Hasmo Legends. Why would I remove it?

Early on that Tuesday evening, Osher sent me his pièce de résistance (of seven hundred words no less), to which, yesterday morning, I replied as follows:

Dear Mr. Baddiel,

In spite of the deeply insensitive things that you wrote about me in your post to the blog, I went out of my way to refrain from attacking you personally. But you fail to accord me the same courtesy. How ironic that you write about “hurting people, deliberately, gratuitously” . . . and call me a “bully boy”!

You have now crossed the line, and I certainly no longer feel the need to accord you special treatment. I won’t, however, get drawn into an unseemly e-mail ‘war’.  But neither will I “tell [my] bloggers” anything. If you are as “not afraid of the truth” and “not scared of [my] bloggers” as you claim, you will have no objection to their seeing the e-mails you have sent me. I have nothing to hide . . . do you?

In some sense, as a result of all their comments, my Hasmo Legends series has become theirs too. And perhaps they are the ones to decide whether your post to the blog should rightfully be removed.

Mike

By prompt reply, Osher refused me permission to publish his e-mails, which I will respect (even though, from a strictly legal standpoint, I don’t believe that I require any such permission). Perhaps he considers them copyrightable works of art. In subtlety, however, they owe rather less to the school of Michelangelo than to that of Rabbi Angel (and the plank for our backsides that he christened “wacko”).

"Osher who?"

"Osher who?"

Indeed, after what he wrote in those e-mails, I have little respect left for Osher Baddiel. They were hateful, viciously abusing both me – though I am mischievously proud of my new “Rotter-in-Chief” title – and contributors to melchett mike. Osher was particularly scathing and unpleasant about my relationship with his seeming bêtes noires, Stuey (above right) and Dexxy. The great defender of former Hasmo teachers’ and Rebbes’ (suddenly) delicate sensibilities appears to have no problem assaulting those of their former pupils, too many of whom are singing from the same hymnsheet for his liking. (If Osher wishes to challenge any of this, I will gladly publish his e-mails . . . and let you be the judges.)

So, what do I take out of this whole Osher episode (apart, that is, from marvel at the man’s astonishing ability to psychically reproduce dogs)?

(Trite and banal, perhaps, but . . .) That religious extremism is bad, whatever the religion. No less than the fundamentalist imams around the corner from him, in Finsbury Park, Osher dexterously manipulates the Scriptures to suit his own arguments and ends. His post to melchett mike, e-mails, and even telephone utterances, clearly illustrate that Osher does not apply the laws of loshon hora (for example) as rigorously to himself as to others. And I have no doubt that Osher would have a most eloquent and persuasive justification for that. (It is just fortunate that Jewish texts are rather less open to pernicious interpretation than those of our Islamic cousins [though 72 virgins could always be nice].)

And there was I, wondering how many buses I would have to catch for the honour of tea with a Legend in N16 during my next visit to the “green and pleasant land” (though Stamford Hill is probably not quite what William Blake had in mind).

 

Next on Hasmo Legends, Part XV: “Polly” Sue Schneider