Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Why is the World Silent? (Iran's supression of freedom)

Unrest Continues After Iranian Presidential Elections    

The United States, England, France, Germany and most western developed countries act like they have no interest in protecting freedom against the worst tyranny on earth. Freedom is of no interest to the so called free world. The United Nations just sites quietly, not even debating the issues on TV. Who cared when the Nazis killed innocent Jews and the weak minorities of Europe? NO ONE in the free world! These are the same countries that don't give a damn that thousands of freedom fighters are being slaughtered by the 21st century version of the Nazi party in Iran, cloaked under the guise of religious purity. (The NAZI party also called "National Socialist German Workers' Party" gussied their intentions behind socialism for workers).

Only Israel has called on the United Nations to halt this slaughter and show support for freedom. Benyamin Netanyahu said on what is going on in Iran:

"I cannot tell you how this thing will end up. I think something very deep and very fundamental is going on... There is an expression of the deep desire amid the people of Iran for freedom. ... This is what is going on."

While president Barack Obama waited a week and more to "toughen up" on Iran (until June 23rd). It's time for the free world to stand up for what they say they believe in. The leaders of these countries should hang their heads in shame. Perhaps they should all resign and go live with the mullahs.

We should all fight for freedom
Cast off your chains
sam-d-man @ TLV tomorrow blog


Monday, June 22, 2009

Iran Election Demonstration from Tel Aviv Perspective

Soldiers from battalion 52, givati brigade, after taking the bank in Ness Tziona, 1948-1956, photographer: unknown, [] Attribution: ארכיון לתולדות רחובות

There is an unwritten agreement among countries when it comes to internal political strife: "don't tell me what to do and I will not tell you what to do". I guess this goes for these developed and civilized countries. The ones which fought hundreds of years ago when gentlemen made the rules and stuck by them. When it comes to political media sniping and gentleman's agreements its pretty safe to say that Israel and Iran are on the other side of this "don't tell me what to do" spectrum. Iran's leaders have used the media to attack Israel's politics so much that when you see a crowd of chanting Iranians following a leader's chant "... death to America, death to Israel..." most people just ignore this, after 30 years of the Iranian revolution it's not news any more. International TV news channels (CNN, BBC, Al Jazeera) run these videos as if they are meaningless. But in Tel Aviv it is not meaningless. Americans and Britons can take some comfort in distance and strength in numbers. It seems improbable that Iran would carry out on the chants 'death to America'. But with intermediaries like Hezbollah in Lebanon, it does not seem such a far fetched idea to be attacked - even if not killed by extremists in Iran. So the idea of "I am not going to tell you what to do" does not fit here. Israeli leaders have shied away from voicing their opinion in public. Many here think that this is a big mistake.

Why should Israeli leaders incite Iranian demonstrators? Why should Israel be on the side of changing a government in Iran? Because the election demonstrations in Iran is the best news Tel Avivians have heard from Iran in a long time. Why should it seem to most of us that fighting Hezbollah in Lebanon is OK but speaking out in the media is not? Does this make sense? No, it does not make sense. It also does not make sense to be silent about an oppressive Islamic government exporting it's hatred to Israel's borders left unchecked. Words may not influence Iran during peaceful times but these are not peaceful times in Iran. Israel wants to stay neutral, so far that has been one sided and it does not seem like Iran is going to stop using international media against Israel. Even without absolute proof, Iran has been supplying Hezbollah and Hamas with arms to use against Israel. It seems that this "I will not tell you what to do" equation is not balancing in the side of Israel. On the streets of Tel Aviv there is a split between these who think of achieving peace by simply being peaceful and these who feel that we need to defend ourselves against Iran and it's Palestinian intermediaries (Hezbollah and Hamas.)

The situation is a little more complex since US President Obama entered the scene. He was elected with the agenda of bringing a solution to the Israeli - Palestinian problem. To most outsiders that seemed like a good idea. From an outside perspective of US or Britain the situation here seem trivial. Obama probably thinks: [A] let the Palestinians declare a state, [B] give Israel more support in case the Palestinian government loses control over militant factions, [C] everybody goes home happy => [D] Obama/Clinton look great, take the credit, make the American public happy. What's wrong with this picture? A reality test in face of the fierce split among Palestinian factions and basically the Iranian support of Hisbollah and Hamas. No Arab leader, government or organization can be credible in assuring control over extreme factions' terrorizing Israel. So we are back to the first point, should Israel wish for Iranian government fall or even change in policy? If Iran's government falls or even alters it's support of intermediaries terrorizing Israel, than we can have the Obama scenario. Well, at least this is one scenario, hey a Tel Avivan can dream can't he? Let's wait and see what happens with the second Iranian revolution - oh sorry, election demonstration.


Saturday, June 20, 2009

Sports in The City - European RS:X World Championship ~ Windsurfing

Shahar Zubari just won the European windsurfing championship. Nice going for this young Israeli! [results] [Zubari - Wikipedia]

The 2009 European RS:X Championship (windsurfing finals) is in Tel Aviv this week. But for most beach goers on Tel Aviv's beaches this is just a jumble of sails on the horizon. Not that windsurfing is not a big thing here, after all Shahar Zubari was Israel's only Beijing Olympic medal winner (bronze). Not that Tel Aviv ignores international events in the city, they are announced weeks and months in advance and televised and reported in the national media (Haaretz article). So what is it? Tel Aviv simply has too much things to offer, the city is buzzing with activity specially summer on the beach, there is too much to do. Everyone has their own packed lives and weekends are for sunning on the beach for some Tel Avivians, there are just so many hours in the day tans have to be maintained and bikinis to watch and be watched. Anyway, the windsurfing event was here and a few fans gathered on the marina breakwater to watch on Friday and Saturday (June 19th and 20th). I can't tell you about the other days.

Twenty two countries are represented in the championship, mostly European with Canada, "Taipai", Hong Kong and Israel thrown in. The audience was light and enthusiastic, good to see Israelis interested in the sport. We were watching from the breakwater about 1/4 km away from the race buoys. Once the starting horn sounded the race seem like a complete chaos. I have to admit that this is not my sport, but I did look at the race notes before it started and figured out which buoys mark the course. With a set of binoculars you could follow the sailors and everything was clearly visible. My small digital camera was not enough to get a close shots of the racers, next time I will be better prepared. The weather was perfect with light wind, this give Zubari and advantage, he is a light wind windsurfer. The surfers from all over the world were somewhat surprised to be in the middle of a bustling city for the most part windsurfing races are heald in remote beaches with not more than a beach resort amenities. Overhearing some of the contestants was interesting. Most were totally surprised by the layed back feeling in the marina and along the beach. The marina is open to the public and the beach is meters away from a variety hotels and restaurants. The beach is dotted with people coming and going, from the water everything seems calm, like any Mediterranean resort town. Two Spaniards were wondering where is all the noise and bickering you hear on CNN? I wanted to jump in and give the standard Israeli "the media is one big conspiracy to make Israel the bad guy" speech, but than again these are athletes and they are here for a race. Let them get their own impression just by walking, listening and watching Tel Aviv's beach.


Friday, June 19, 2009

Rest in the City - Lots of Good Coffee and Nice Cafes

Tel Aviv is 100 - so what is so good about being here? Some say it's the coffee. Actually cafes and the race to make the best cup of coffee in the world. Well, we have some competition from Paris and Rome, but when it comes to a good table to sit, a nice espresso or cappuccino and a friendly place to meet for a chat - Tel Aviv is ready for a coffee reality show contest any time.

It is not clear when Tel Aviv became a cafe city. This is a new trend which goes back no more than 20 years. Recently as the picture show, we have seen "the attack of the cafe chains": Aroma, Cafe-Cafe, Ilan's, Arcafe, Cafe Joe, Cafeneto... there are a few other ones, smaller or regional (Cafe Greg is mostly in Haifa with one branch in Dizengoff Center). International chain The Coffee Bean has a few cafe locations in Tel Aviv and surrounding towns. Still the local independent cafes of Tel Aviv are what makes the coffee here special. Independent cafes represent a tradition brought from Europe over the years. New French and British immigrants the last few years invigorated this trend. The Landware and Elite are coffee roasters with cafes bearing their names. In malls and public places you will also find kiosks bearing Elite and chain cafes names (branding is a big here now). If this was not enough, in most public buildings (government centers, hospitals, universities) and malls you can find coffee vending carts from all the large brewers and roasters. Cafe Elite is the oldest and most popular coffee brand. It's Turkish coffee, a dark roast ground to a fine powder is Israel's traditional coffee.

Cafes in Israel would be considered medium size by European standards. They seat 20 to 50 people with the low end of 20 to 30 for most of the locations (10 to 25 tables). You will be hard pressed to find a 5 seat counter only cafe in your neighborhood in the tradition of Paris, Madrid or Rome. These Europeans come for a drink, pay and move on with their daily routine. In Miami and New Jersey Cubans even have tiny windows in cafes facing the street where you can simply buy an espresso, drink it in one gulp and disappear. Tel Avivian's prefer a takeout paper cup if the 'daily dose' does not allow for time to sit and chat (American style). Also, coffee drinking does not take the style of a pub in London. You do not drink coffee with the barista you drink it with a friend or a newspaper. With the popularity of laptop computer use in public, we see how some cafes turned into virtual offices. The Gan Ha'yir (city hall complex on Iben Gvirol) Coffee Bean location seem to be half populated by students, digital entrepreneurs and salesmen of one type or another (from architects to insurance) with computers, notebooks full of notes and headphones to drown out noise. Some take a spot for hours for a 14 shekel cup of coffee. Not a bad deal for free wireless and electricity, a leather upholstered chair and decent temperature controlled room (in the summer air conditioning is nice to have). In most locations this new behavior is perfectly acceptable. The staff seems to be perfectly willing to be the "office away from the home office hosts". Not so in other locations where the cafe is dependent on customer flow they tend to push you out or ask for an order every hour or so. This is true for the none digitally equipped book and newspaper readers as well. So the digirati are not a prosecuted minority in any way just a part of everyday life here.

The coffees served in most cafes are dominated by the classic Italian espresso, capuchino and latte. Israeli old fashion Turkish coffee, essentially a dark brew ground to a fine powder mixed with steaming water than allowed to sit (the grounds settle to the bottom) - or the real classic finjan, a small copper pot used to brew strong coffee. Americano is a basic drip coffee but don't be alarmed if you actually get a french press coffee instead. French press coffee, the glass container with a plunger is also available but is less common in Tel Aviv. Most cafes also serve snacks, sandwiches and salads. This is a new trend specially in the smaller locations. The cafe chains offer uniform menu across locations, some are good enough to compete with fast food and restaurants. Independent cafes have snacks and light dishes and sometimes specialty baked goods, some are excellent specially croissants which are popular lately.

This story will not be complete without a few images. We will try to go out to a few cafes and photograph the places, people and coffee. If you have stories about Tel Aviv cafes and how they match up to their European cousins leave a comment. So come to Tel Aviv for the people and the fun and sit in a cafe - a local Tel Avivian way to relax -- From T"A //ami_v2//

Sex in The City - Sweaty Soldiers Out of Uniform

Imagine 50 sweaty hot soldiers running all morning and showing up in central Tel Aviv. On top of this, these are fresh Golani soldiers - Israel's most famous and best trained soldiers. This Monday you did not have to imagine, just keep your eyes open. The few women that paid attention got a sight from a Daniell Steel novel. Sweaty, hot, well trained bodies running through the city.

The soldiers were in the middle of a run across the country. This was the biennial (every two years) run across the country from the northern border to the red sea. Since Israel is a small country you can actually run the whole country if you are a fit soldier. The run takes a week and the soldiers need to be in top shape and put in all it takes. Even with the support of a strong team and great support, each soldier still needs to run the country.

You can imagine the sweaty palms, goo-goo eyes, moist lips and stares from most women under 30. The older ones probably sweat just much but imagine brothers or children more than lovers. Wearing yellow T-Shirts with the olive tree troop insignia most Israelis feel pride when they are running through the streets. This would not be a good time to pick one up, but can't a woman dream? day dream??