Monday, July 28, 2008

And now for some home-grown terrorism

Yesterday morning, Jim Adkisson shot and killed two people in the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church.

According to an AP story today, the police are reporting that Man shot churchgoers over liberal views.

Chief Sterling Owen IV said Monday that police found a letter in Jim D. Adkisson's car. Owen said Adkisson was apparently frustrated over being out of work and had a "stated hatred of the liberal movement."

Sara Robinson of Orcinus just wrote a very moving post on the events at the church, including describing how one church member, Greg McKendry, protected others from the gunman's shotgun blasts (and was killed) and how the gunman was tackled by church members. She describes the history of Unitarianism in the U.S. and how tough the members of the church have had to be to stand up for their convictions.

Some updates: David Neiwert reports on some of the items found at the gunman's home:

Police found right-wing political books, brass knuckles, empty shotgun shell boxes and a handgun in the Powell home of a man who said he attacked a church in order to kill liberals "who are ruining the country," court records show...

Adkisson targeted the church... "because of its liberal teachings and his belief that all liberals should be killed because they were ruining the country, and that he felt that the Democrats had tied his country's hands in the war on terror and they had ruined every institution in America with the aid of media outlets."

Adkisson told Still that "he could not get to the leaders of the liberal movement that he would then target those that had voted them in to office."

Adkisson told officers he left the house unlocked for them because "he expected to be killed during the assault."

Inside the house, officers found "Liberalism is a Mental Health Disorder" by radio talk show host Michael Savage, "Let Freedom Ring" by talk show host Sean Hannity, and "The O'Reilly Factor," by television talk show host Bill O'Reilly.

Neiwert also commented on Orcinus - In Tennessee, eliminationism is no longer 'just a joke'.

Another blogger comments that the church had put up signs welcoming gays and lesbians to the community.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Other terrorism....

I suppose one might consider this a rather morbid preoccupation of mine, but these two headlines caught my attention this evening:

Istanbul Bombings Kill 15 Evening Strollers.

Two bombs exploded within minutes of each other late Sunday in a crowded pedestrian area of Istanbul, killing at least 15 people and wounding more than 100 in what the city’s governor called a terrorist attack.

The double bombing appeared to be the worst incident of terrorist violence in Turkey in nearly five years and seemed to take the Turkish authorities completely by surprise. There were no immediate claims of responsibility, although Kurdish separatist militants were initially suspected. The Istanbul neighborhood that was targeted, which is almost completely residential, had no obvious reason to be the object of a terrorism plot....

The double-bombing appeared to be the most serious terrorism attack here since twin truck bombings at two Istanbul synagogues killed 23 people and wounded more than 300 on Nov. 15, 2003. An obscure group linked to Al Qaeda took responsibility for the synagogue blasts, which were the worst in a series of explosions blamed on Islamic extremist groups that year that killed more than 60 people.

At least 45 killed in explosions in India.

For the second time in two days, small explosions rocked an Indian city, this time in Ahmedabad on Saturday evening, killing at least 45 people. The Indian government said cities across the country had been put on alert for similar attacks....

On Friday, a series of similar low-intensity blasts went off in the southern technology hub of Bangalore, killing one woman.

In this case also the government does not know who set the bombs.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Shuki Kramer - injured in terror attack

The man who lost his leg in the terrorist attack on Tuesday afternoon describes what happened to him.

Shuki Kramer says he "remembers everything." The attorney who was seriously wounded and lost his leg in the latest bulldozer attack in Jerusalem told Ynet the memory of the attack "lives on inside him" but vowed not to let the injury stop him from enjoying life.

"It was a regular work day," Kramer says. "I was supposed to meet an old colleague so I rushed for the meeting. I made a mistake by deciding to take my Mercedes instead of the motorcycle I usually ride."

At first, Kramer says, he failed to realize he was in the midst of a terror attack.

"I was talking on the phone, and suddenly I felt someone hitting me from behind ... I came out of the car, and saw a bulldozer charging in my direction," the attorney said. "At that point I immediately realized this was a terror attack. I was completely focused and aware . . . I told myself: 'Shuki, you'll come out of it.' I tried to run to the sidewalk. He drove wildly towards me; I could feel terror getting closer."

Kramer says he also clearly recalls the moment he was hurt.

"I got away, but I felt that my left leg was hurt . . . I saw the Mercedes upturned next to me, and my leg was in the other direction, barely connected to me," he says, but notes that he was treated within a matter of seconds.

"A young guy showed up, he had curly hair and a beard. He was about to go on a trip so he had a first-aid kit. A short time later, a paramedic arrived from the King David Hotel," Kramer says. "At that point, I made my first phone call. When I'm in distress I always call my wife, Tammy....later my wife told me that I yelled on the phone: 'They killed me.'"

As a result of the injury, the doctors had to amputate Kramer's leg, yet he is optimistic despite the injury: "I'm surrounded by family and friends and I'll do everything possible, times a hundred, time a million, to go back to a normal routine. I won't give up anything in my life, not even sports."

Kramer says he is only angry at authorities for allowing the bulldozer driver who had a criminal record to drive such heavy machine.

"How do they give a guy with a criminal record and convictions such lethal weapon?" he says. "This is something that can be fixed immediately. This isn't for my sake, but for the next 'Shuki Kramer,' so at least other people will get to keep their legs."

Thursday, July 24, 2008

At home with the family

I'm currently sitting in my family's vacation home in Westport, Mass., and my niece is trying to persuade my father ("Grandpa") and my brother (her father) to get them help her pay for a new MacBook. There are three of us sitting here and working on our laptops - and Eve (my stepmother) just took a photo of all of us working on our computers (although to tell the truth I think that only my brother is actually working). It's rather amusing here.

Outside, it's cool and rather humid - quite a change from hot and dry Jerusalem.

My niece is trying her best persuasive arguments but hasn't quite made the sale yet.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Another terrorist attack in Jerusalem

This afternoon there was another terrorist attack in Jerusalem, also committed by a driver who took his tractor and attacked a bus, cars, and pedestrians on King David St., close to the intersection with Keren ha-Yesod St. A friend of mine works in an office right there and heard (and saw) what happened. No one was killed by the terrorist, although quite a few were injured, one very seriously (leg severed). The terrorist himself was killed by a Border Policeman.

I happened to be near Jaffa Gate at the time - I had just come to the end of Mamilla St. closest to Jaffa Gate (after strolling down there - my intention was to go into the Old City and buy some photographs of old Jerusalem as gifts), and when I walked up the steps to the plaza before Jaffa Gate I heard a lot of police and ambulance sirens. With a lot of other people, I looked over the bridge towards the King David Hotel and wondered what was going on. Lots of police cars went under the bridge and up the road to where they could turn onto Hebron Rd. It didn't seem so good.

I started asking people what was going on and it turned out that there had been another tractor attack, this time on King David St. I called my friend and she told me what she had seen. I was rather shaken up and wondered what I should be doing. I walked inside the Jaffa Gate and stood around. The usual men trying to get one to buy from their shops came up to me, and I asked them if they had heard anything about what was happening - which they hadn't. I then saw more police and soldiers rushing out of the gate - two policemen on horses and a number of soldiers on foot. I went out a few minutes after they had gone and talked to a haredi guy I had previously spoken to - he said that they had headed for the Sultan's Pool area and further on below Yemin Moshe. They told people to get away. (I read on the news just now that apparently the police were chasing two men they thought were accomplices of the terrorist).

My friend on King David St. told me that there were shots then - this is when they shot at the driver and killed him. I went back inside the Jaffa Gate and went into a shop at the beginning of David St. - a watchseller where there was a television on showing the Israeli news. The shopkeeper and I watched the news for a while and then I went out again.

After I had calmed down a bit, I went into the Old City and found the photo shop that I had been looking for - Elia's Photos on 14 Hanka Rd., in the Christian Quarter. The man who owns the shop is Armenian, and the photos he sells were taken by his father, a refugee from the Armenian genocide, who came to Jerusalem in 1924. I bought a few for gifts and then decided it was time to go.

I went back to the Jaffa Gate and tried to figure out what to do. It seemed unlikely that a cab would be able to get me back to my apartment on Shimon St., because the police had closed off King David St. I started to walk, going back on Mamilla St. to King David and then walking down towards Gan ha-Pa'amon. At Mapu St. the road was blocked by police tape, so I turned onto Mapu St. and passed the bus that had been damaged by the tractor - the windows had been knocked out.

I then turned on Keren Ha-Yesod heading towards Baka and came to the intersection with King David, where there were still many police and soldiers, as well as the international press. People were standing around and looking - including me - and I could see a damaged car and the tractor itself. It wasn't as big as the one that wreaked havoc on Jaffa Rd. three weeks ago, but sufficiently big to overturn a car and run into others. It's really a miracle that no one was killed.

The Lubavitchers had set up a big banner right in the intersection - something about how the Rebbe thinks the government should be overturned. (Of course, the rebbe is dead, something these particular Lubavitchers don't acknowledge, since they think he's the Messiah and still alive - shades of Christianity). I thought it was pretty disgraceful that they had decide to come here to this place to shove their political opinions in our faces, and I told them so. I then continued down Keren ha-Yesod to where Emek Refaim and Bethelehem Rd. meet, and there my friend picked me up in a (thankfully) air-conditioned cab. And so I came home and took a shower.

Not what I wanted to experience on my last day in Jerusalem.

Oh, and by the way, this was actually a terrorist attack - the previous attack was considered by the BBC (but not by any Israelis) to be the attack of a disturbed man. The perpetrator of this assault is related to a Hamas official who is currently in an Israeli prison.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Radovan Karadzic captured

Some unequivocally good news (via Drink Soaked Trots) - Serbia captures fugitive Karadzic. He has been indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia for war crimes and genocide over the 1995 massacre at Srebrenica, in which at least 7,500 Muslim men and boys were killed. He was also charged over the shelling of Sarajevo and the use of UN peacekeepers as human shields. See this BBC story for more details on the charges. Ratko Mladic, who was chief of the Bosnian Serb army, has still not been captured - may it happen soon!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Benny Morris - nuclear war against Iran

Benny Morris has an utterly terrifying article in yesterday's New York Times arguing that Israel should bomb Iran's nuclear sites sometime after the U.S. presidential election and before the next president is sworn in - or else there will be a nuclear war between Israel and Iran.

Because if the attack fails, the Middle East will almost certainly face a nuclear war — either through a subsequent pre-emptive Israeli nuclear strike or a nuclear exchange shortly after Iran gets the bomb.

He admits that if Israel's conventional strike fails, there will be Iranian counterattacks, both directly and through Iranian proxies like Hizbollah and Syria. He also says that it's unlikely that Western countries will then force Iran to abandon its nuclear program, which Iran will in turn work on even more strongly. His argument then slides into the possibility/probability that Israel will launch a nuclear first strike against Iran before Iran succeeds in building a nuclear weapon.

Such a situation would confront Israeli leaders with two agonizing, dismal choices. One is to allow the Iranians to acquire the bomb and hope for the best — meaning a nuclear standoff, with the prospect of mutual assured destruction preventing the Iranians from actually using the weapon. The other would be to use the Iranian counterstrikes as an excuse to escalate and use the only means available that will actually destroy the Iranian nuclear project: Israel’s own nuclear arsenal.

Given the fundamentalist, self-sacrificial mindset of the mullahs who run Iran, Israel knows that deterrence may not work as well as it did with the comparatively rational men who ran the Kremlin and White House during the cold war. They are likely to use any bomb they build, both because of ideology and because of fear of Israeli nuclear pre-emption. Thus an Israeli nuclear strike to prevent the Iranians from taking the final steps toward getting the bomb is probable. The alternative is letting Tehran have its bomb. In either case, a Middle Eastern nuclear holocaust would be in the cards.

Morris should not have written this article and the New York Times should not have published it. I think that this is one of the most irresponsible articles I have ever read. I think that it is quite possible to read Morris' article not only as descriptive of what might happen, but also as urging Israel to attack Iran conventionally, and if that doesn't work, launch a nuclear war against it. The Israeli government doesn't even admit publicly that it has a nuclear capability.

I assume that Morris really cares about Israel - if so, why is he writing such inflammatory words in an already dangerous situation? Not to speak of the moral implications of such a possibility - hasn't Morris thought about the absolute immorality of launching a nuclear first strike on a nation which has not attacked Israel?

Physicians for Social Responsibility produced a report in 2006 on the consequences of an American nuclear strike on Iran (using nuclear bunker-buster bombs with the purpose of destroying its underground nuclear installations in addition to conventional bombing). They estimate that about 2.6 million people would die in the first 48 hours after the attack. In the wider region, over 10 million would be exposed to significant radiation. (See the article for complete information and how they arrived at the numbers).

Gershom Gorenberg has a far more reasonable article on Iran and Israel in the most recent American Prospect, laying out the reasons why such an Israeli attack would be unwise and ineffective.

We should not be listening to Benny Morris and I hope that someone high-up in the Bush administration is informing the Israeli government right now that such an attack should not even be contemplated.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Regev and Goldwasser

It's just been announced - the bodies have been positively identified as those of Regev and Goldwasser, and the army has sent officers to their families to give them the official announcement of their deaths.

In about an hour and a half, the handover of the Lebanese, including Samir Kuntar, will occur.

What can one say?

End of the Second Lebanon War

Two years and four days after it broke out, as Yaron Dekel of Israel Radio just said, "The Second Lebanon War has just ended."

Hizbollah just handed over two black coffins to the Israelis at Rosh Ha-Nikra, on the border between Israel and Lebanon. The Hizbollah spokesman announced, "Here are Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser." He was asked - "Are they alive or dead?" He said: "Now you will know their fate."

The Israelis will now proceed with making sure that these are indeed the bodies of Regev and Goldwasser, and when they do so, they will hand over to Hizbollah Samir Kuntar and the other Lebanese terrorists.

An article in today's New York Times says, "Hezbollah has said it carried out the 2006 raid in a bid to win the release of Mr. Kuntar, whom Hezbollah celebrates as a hero. Past attempts to secure his release include the hijacking of the Achille Lauro cruise ship in 1985."

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Freeing Samir Kuntar

Haaretz reports on how the exchange will be conducted tomorrow to return Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser to Israel, in exchange for five Lebanese terrorists. They were abducted on July 12, 2006 - the attack by Hizbollah that sparked the Second Lebanon War. It's unclear whether Regev and Goldwasser are still alive - a couple of weeks ago the Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, was asking the military rabbinate to declare them dead, and there was a report in today's Haaretz that said that one of them was killed during the abduction two years ago. The Lebanese government has announced that tomorrow will be a national holiday to celebrate the "liberation of prisoners from the jails of the Israeli enemy and the return of the remains of martyrs."

I wrote about Kuntar before, on August 10, 2006, and about the horrendous crime he committed. It's disgusting that the Lebanese government is celebrating him.

One of the other things that Hizbollah is giving to Israel is a report on Ron Arad, an Israeli pilot who was shot down over Lebanon in 1986 and hasn't been heard from since. Olmert rejected the report that Hizbollah has already delivered, saying that it's unsatisfactory and didn't give Israel the information it needs about him.

If Regev and Goldwasser are still alive, then it will be worthwhile to set Kuntar free. Their lives and freedom are more important than he is. But if they are not - then is it worth it to set free this murderous, unrepentant terrorist?

Bradley Burston says it better than I can:

For Israelis, even after all these years, the release of Kuntar is a form of self-inflicted torture. So heinous, so unpardonable were his crimes, that American Jewish author and journalist Jeffrey Goldberg, himself a veteran of the IDF, wrote on The Atlantic Monthly's Website last week, "As unbelievable as this sounds, Israel is actually thinking of swapping Samir Kuntar in a prisoner exchange with Hezbollah. Kuntar is perhaps the most terrible person held in an Israeli prison, a man who crushed the skull of a Jewish child against a rock. Sometimes, these prisoner exchanges don't seem worth it."

What are they for, these prisoner exchanges? Perhaps only for this: that when sending their troops into battle, Israeli commanders can continue to look them in the eye and say with candor and in good faith that if they are taken prisoner, Israel will spare no effort to bring them back.

It may be all we have left to endure this torture. But it may also be the essence of what we are.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Uniting Jerusalem through architecture?

On a cheerier note, today I visited a new pedestrian mall in Jerusalem that has positively beautiful architecture. It's an outside mall in the neighborhood called Mamilla, which is between the Old City and west Jerusalem. Before the 1948 war Mamilla St. was a lively commercial street, but then for 19 years (from 1948 to 1967) it was located in the no-man's-land between Israeli and Jordanian Jerusalem. After Israel took the rest of the city in the 1967 war, it retained its no-man's-land look (sans road barriers and barbed wire) for a very long time. When I first came to Jerusalem to live, in the summer of 1987, it was a mess. In fact, it was a mess up until last year. Now, the whole area is being vigorously redeveloped. The new pedestrian mall includes the facades of buildings on Mamilla St. that were painstakingly moved, stone by stone, from Mamilla St. to the new mall. You can still see the numbering on the blocks.

It took me a little while actually to find the entrance to the walkway (which was quite unpleasant because it was so hot today) but it was definitely worth when I did. This new walkway provides a very useful service, in addition to its inherent worth - it creates the first real architectural connection between west Jerusalem and the Old City since 1967. Prior to this, if you wanted to walk to the Old City from west Jerusalem, you had to start at the end of Jaffa Rd. (near the old Jerusalem city hall), cross one of the busiest intersections in the city, and then walk along the outside walls of the Old City until you reached Jaffa Gate. When I first came to Jerusalem in 1987, this wasn't a bad walk, but there really wasn't anything there on the sidewalk - no stores, houses, nothing. In the last few years, every time that I've visited, there's been construction going on that's made the walk quite unpleasant.

They've now finished reconstructing the giant intersection and it's much more pleasant. It's possible to see what the goal of all the mess was - to create the connection between the eastern and western parts of the city.

Unfortunately, architecture alone has not managed to actually unite the eastern and western parts of the city. The divisions between east Jerusalem (Arab-Palestinian) and west Jerusalem (Jewish-Israeli) are deeper than ever - only underscored by the terrorist attack last week.

Some recent anti-semitism

I thought it would be interesting to highlight two recent examples of anti-semitism, one from the left and one from the right. The first example comes from Harry's Place and is a quote from the International Socialist, published by the (British) Socialist Workers Party:

Where would a socialist be who decided their political attitude to Malcolm X on the basis of his reactionary religious beliefs as a member of the Nation of Islam, to Bob Marley on the basis of his belief in the divinity of that old tyrant Haile Selassie or even to Hugo Chavez on the basis of his self-proclaimed Catholicism and admiration of the pope? Unfortunately some would-be socialists who have no difficulty grasping this in relation to Chavez or Marley, under the pressure of intense bourgeois propaganda are unable to apply the same approach when the religion in question is Islam. To put the matter as starkly as possible: from the standpoint of Marxism and international socialism an illiterate, conservative, superstitious Muslim Palestinian peasant who supports Hamas is more progressive than an educated liberal atheist Israeli who supports Zionism (even critically).

The second example is from The Plank (TNR blog): Pat Buchanan Advertises His Book On Neo-Nazi Radio Show.

On June 29th, MSNBC personality and three-time presidential candidate Pat Buchanan appeared on a neo-Nazi radio program to promote his new revisionist history of the Second World War, Churchill, Hitler, and the Unnecessary War: How Britain Lost Its Empire and the West Lost the World. James Edwards is the host of the program "Political Cesspool," the stated mission of which is to "represent a philosophy that is pro-White." Edwards and his colleagues seek "to revive the White birthrate above replacement level fertility and beyond to grow the percentage of Whites in the world relative to other races" and believe that "Secession is a right of all people and individuals. It was successful in 1776 and this show honors those who tried to make it successful in 1865."

According to the researchers at the Anti-Defamation League, who listened to the show, Buchanan defended Charles Lindbergh, saying, "…his reputation has been blackened because of a single speech he gave and a couple of paragraphs in it where he said that … the Jewish community is beating the drums for war … but frankly, no one has said what he said was palpably untrue."

Monday, July 07, 2008

Leaving the UCU - Norman Geras

I've been following the discussions on the Engage list and on Normblog about the responses to the UCU motion 25, which in effect is calling for a boycott of Israeli academics. (See my prior discussions here and here). A number of people have finally made the decision to resign from the union, including Eve Garrard, who made a particularly eloquent statement of why she is doing so. Today Norman Geras wrote about why he would resign from the union, if he were still teaching. There's one paragraph that I particularly like, because it expresses my feelings about the need not to be craven in the face of anti-semitism:

This, for me, is the decisive point. To be a Jew in UCU today is to be, in some sort, a supplicant, pleading with the would-be boycotters and those unmoved to oppose them and deliver them a decisive defeat, pleading for Israeli academics to be accepted as having the same status as other academics world-wide, pleading that Jewish supporters of the rights of academics in the Jewish state should not be made to feel isolated in their own union, like participants willy-nilly in an anti-Semitic campaign. Well, not to put too fine a point on it, shove that. Not today, not tomorrow, and not any time. To be a supplicant Jew is not a choice I would be willing to contemplate. I should come and entreat within the UCU for the same consideration for Jewish academics in Israel and Jewish academics in Britain as are extended to academics of every other nationality? Forget about it.

What he's expressing, it seems to me, is a simple manner of self-respect. (I don't know if he'd think it was simple, but it seems simple to me). I understand why some people are staying in the union, to fight the boycotters - but the choice to leave for the sake of one's self-respect seems paramount to me.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Women and Qumran

I went to a panel discussion tonight on the question of whether there were women among the Qumran sect. It was very interesting, with quite a variety of speakers. This was the sole public event of a three-day conference sponsored by the Israel Museum on the 60th anniversary of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. For abstracts of the talks, click here. The conference is being webcast live (not that my browser can probably stream it!). If it were open to the public, I might go to some of the sessions. Tonight's panel discussion was in Hebrew, while the conference is entirely in English.

Jodi Magness spoke on the archaeological evidence, specifically on whether there were skeletons of women found in the Qumran cemeteries. She said that there were some skeletons of women, but many more skeletons of men. The next speaker was Larry Schiffman, who discussed the halakhah at Qumran, which assumes the presence of women and discusses such things as laws of marriage, purity, Shabbat, etc. Tal Ilan was the next speaker, who discussed the phenomenon of sects in Second Temple Judaism in general. She compared the evidence for the Dead Sea Sect with accounts in Josephus of the Pharisees and in Philo of the Therapeutae. Her contention is that women tend to be involved in sects that do not have political power, so that women supported the Pharisees, and as we know there were both men and women among the Therapeutae. She cited a few Qumran texts, including one which specified that a woman may be a witness against her husband for transgressions he may perform. 

The next speaker, Eyal Regev, pointed out that a central Qumran text, Serekh ha-Yahad, which is usually taken as evidence that the sect was monastic and included only men, in fact never discusses whether only men can belong to the group. He contrasted this with discussions in other communities, such as early Christian monastic groups, or the Shakers, about whether women could belong an what the relations between men and women should be. Since the Serekh ha-Yahad doesn't mention any disputes like this, he assumes that it should not be taken as evidence that the sect only consisted of celibate men. 

Adolfo Roitman, the final speaker, who is the director of the Shrine of the Book (part of the Israel Museum, where many of the Dead Sea Scrolls are housed) presented part of a movie that the Shrine of the Book made to show to tourists visiting the site. Originally it included a few scenes alluding to internal conflicts among the men of the community over whether to act on their attraction to women. These scenes were excised from the film because religious people in Jerusalem objected to them. From what he showed, the film seemed to run counter to everything the other speakers were suggesting - it assumed that the entire Qumran community was male and celibate, and run according to the rules of the Serekh ha-Yahad. He said that after the panel discussion tonight, a third edition of the film might include another point of view on that issue.

A number of people asked questions afterwards - most of which were in fact mini-lectures - but the panel members were finally able to address the questions. 

All in all, a very interesting evening.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Early Morning, Jerusalem

I woke up about an hour ago (5:30 a.m. my time) because the light woke me up. I got up and opened the door - and felt the nice cool, damp air of early morning. The birds were singing, and it was still cloudy. I looked up at the misty air breezing past. What I didn't hear (or see) were the sounds of other human beings. Across the street there was a woodpecker pecking away in a tall palm tree. Then a man walked by, holding his tallit bag (bag with his prayer shawl in it). He went into the synagogue next door. According to halakhah (Jewish law) the earliest time to say the Sh'ma ("Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one") is before sunrise, when it is possible to distinguish a white from a blue thread.

The pomegranate tree in the garden.

I went back inside to my little apartment and lay down again, trying to fall asleep. I began to hear more sounds of the city awakening, and finally decided to get up, despite wanting to get more sleep. I opened the door again to the garden (I have a one-room studio apartment that is attached to a much larger apartment with a nice garden) and saw a couple of other men walking by carrying their tallitot. Just sitting here now I remembered that it was Thursday morning, and the Torah is read in synagogue on Monday and Thursday mornings - this was the reason for the earlier service (I imagine it was earlier, but since I try to be asleep at this hour of the morning, I'm not sure). When I opened the door this time I could hear the sounds of the men praying next door.

(update, 6:42 a.m.) I can now hear the Torah reading from next door.

Just a normal, quiet, Jerusalem morning.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Terrorist attack in Jerusalem

There was a terrorist attack earlier today in Jerusalem - a Palestinian from east Jerusalem drove a bulldozer (which he drove as a part of his job working on the construction of the light rail in the city) into a couple of city buses, some cars, and pedestrians on Jaffa Rd., near to the old central bus station. At least 3 or 4 people were killed, and dozens were injured. I was sitting here in the National Library reading "Joseph and Aseneth" (a pseudepigraphic work about Aseneth, the wife of Joseph) when I checked the news and saw the first reports of the attack. Scary and unnerving. May it be the last one.