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The Beaten Path: Jericho, city of flexible time (part 11)

On we go, deconstructing the tourist trail, except this time it melts in our hands, much like Salvador Dali’s clocks. Welcome to Jericho, oldest city on earth, established right this moment. Part 11 of Yuval Ben-Ami’s latest journey.

ruthie

When I visit Jericho with groups, the visit is typically brief. This sweet, ultra-historical desert town is an attractive destination, but is sadly stuck between two far more attractive ones: Jerusalem and the Dead Sea. It ends up being no more than a way station for most.

We usually swing into town, scale “Tel al-Sultan,” the mound that marks Jericho’s original Neolithic settlement, speak as much of the city’s 120 centuries of history as the heat allows (which is seldom much) and then head over to the main attraction: a round stone tower, buried inside the mound and visible thanks to the trench dug by legendary British archeologist Jana Kenyon.

“This,” my Palestinian partner Husam says to the group, “is the oldest structure ever discovered. It’s 12,000 years old, so old that we don’t even know what purpose it served. It could have been a watchtower, a temple, a silo…”

I like to take over at this point and add an illustration: “this is 8,000 years older than Stonehenge.”

The visitors are typically impressed but they are more concerned with a different period in Jericho’s history, that of Joshua’s conquest. They wish to see remains of Jericho’s famous toppled walls. I am no expert on the archaeological debate, but here is what I do know: it appears that most archaeologists today are in consensus that the oasis was periodically uninhabited at the time attributed to the conquest. The ones who do believe a living Jericho existed during the 13th century BC, are those who dig with a bible in one hand and a rake in another.

Try and explain this to a mixed faith group.

Actually, it isn’t so difficult. Archaeology is the world’s most positive science. It can only prove what was, no that anything was not. You never know conclusively what you might find if you dug a foot deeper or a mile further. You only know what you have found so far and what you haven’t.

When the ever rationalist Husam is being too adamant about Rahab being mythology, I pop in with this notion, appeasing the faithful. Then we...

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The Beaten Path: Looking the other way at Masada (part 10)

Contrary to the strict Israeli narrative, Masada is really what you make of it: it can be the site of a majestic palace, the place where Jewish rebels committed mass suicide, a backdrop for an opera or a tourist attraction complete with the golden arches of a local McDonald’s. Part ten of Yuval Ben-Ami’s journey through the Holy Land’s most popular tourist sites.

A story for you all.

Several years ago, the Tel Aviv-based Israeli Opera decided to launch an opera festival at Masada. Its intention was to use the mountain (and the palace that sits atop it) as a dramatic backdrop. That way it could follow in the footsteps of opera festivals across the world that make use of historical and natural monuments. Clearly the climate on the shores of the Dead Sea is harsh, and the desert surrounding Masada is wild. But the Israeli Opera became committed to the cause, and determined to become the “first opera house in the world to ever pave a road,” in the words of Director Hannah Munitz, it set off into the wild.

The Society for the Preservation of Nature in Israel, however, imposed a restriction. The stage must be set approximately a mile away from Masada itself in order to prevent damage to the rare geological formations at the base of the mountain. The majestic backdrop appears a tad less majestic from the new location. As if they felt the need to compensate, the set-up of the festival grounds was actually quite majestic. With the support of Israel’s Discount Bank, the event’s prime sponsor, the opera company set up a huge reception area. Upon arrival spectators found themselves at a Discount Bank-fest, which resembled an Israeli outdoor wedding, replete with fine refreshments, soft music and promotional banners.

The first opera staged at Masada was, naturally, Aida. The second was Nabbuco. These are the only two operas in the canonical repertoire set in a desert. But Sevilla is a warm place too, so the third year saw the opera put together a production of Carmen. The following year organizers skipped the deserts and heat and just went for La Traviata. I was writing as a theater critic at the time, and went to review each one of those productions. By the time I got to Nabucco I was already over it, especially...

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The Beaten Path: Seeking refuge in Eilat (part 9)

Israel was borne of a need to escape a violent Europe. Now Israelis feel a constant need to escape a violent Israel. The deconstructed tourist trail reaches the deepest south, which is where they often go. Part nine of Yuval Ben-Ami’s journey through the Holy Land’s most popular tourist sites.

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Off the Sinai smuggling routes, there’s a place called Coral Beach – that’s where you wanna go, to get away from it all. It is only a short bus ride from central Eilat, so you can get there fast and take it slow. Just don’t go wandering the hills on your own, since you may accidentally cross the Egyptian border and get shot.

But why resort to a Beach Boys paraphrase? Eilat is amply sung about in Hebrew. In the words of local songster Yaron London: ”Come, let us escape from the asphalt/And from the crumpled cities/Come, let us escape to the quiet lagoons/Come on to Eilat, to Eilat.”

We have come quite far on this series so far, and some degree of originality is called for. We deconstructed Nazareth aesthetically, Bethlehem historically, Safed mystically and Yad Vashem according to literary standards. I have five hours on the bus to choose an angle for tackling Eilat before arriving; I think I will try and analyze it psychologically. It is, after all, a state of mind.

Eilat, the only remote city in a country hardly large enough to be called a country, is seen by Israelis as partially ex-territorial. And in a sense it is. At the end of a delightfully scenic desert drive, my bus must stop at a checkpoint and be inspected by members of the Border Police. What border are we crossing? No border, of course. We are entering Eilat’ free trade zone, where VAT is not charged and instead prices are hiked independently to cover the difference.

Eilat is not sacred, it is not under occupation. It is not even, in pure Jewish religious terms, located within the “Land of Israel.” It therefore qualifies it as a fine haven for an anxious nation. Of course, Israelis aren’t the only ones who visit Eilat. It is a favorite among Scandinavians and other northern Europeans, who can trust the sun to shine here year round. We come here despite the weather: the climate in the rest of Israel is quite a bit more...

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The Beaten Path: Framing the story at Yad Vashem (part 8)

Exploring Jerusalem’s Holocaust museum allows us to understand the way in which the Zionist narrative deals with the destruction of European Jewry. But is it the whole story? Part eight of Yuval Ben-Ami’s journey through the Holy Land’s most popular tourist sites.

Janus Korczak Memorial, Yad Vashem Museum, Jerusalem. (Yuval Ben-Ami)

In the early years of the 11th Century, the Holy Land was taken over by ISIS. The religious militants came from the north, their faces covered. They pillaged every town through which they passed, beheading “heathens” and abducting women. Their sense of self-righteousness and the blessings of fundamentalist clergymen made them entirely blind to their atrocities.

They did not call themselves “ISIS” or “ISIL” or even “The Islamic State.” They called themselves Crusaders, and are celebrated today as noble knights. As part of this series, I had the idea of visiting Acre, capital of the second Crusader kingdom, checking out its various crusader-themed sites and discussing how we romanticize history.

Eventually, I chose to stick to the list of sites chosen by my trusty editor Michael. It skips Acre, but does feature Yad Vashem, Jerusalem’s Holocaust museum. On the way there I wonder whether that would be the perfect place to explore the theme of “romanticizing history.” Clearly, Yad Vashem does not cleanse wrongdoers. Nor does it diminish history. The museum provides a very serious educational experience, and is invaluable in preserving the memory of the Holocaust. As a teenager I spent hours in Yad Vashem’s archives searching through sheets of microfilm for survivors among my grandfather’s family members who disappeared from southern Slovakia in the early 40s, almost without a trace.

At the same time I cannot escape the way in which Israeli culture ceremonializes the memory of the Holocaust, boxing it away it from the rest of history and distilling our emotional reaction with its every mention. It seems to me that Israeli politicians appear to ceaselessly use this emotional reaction in order to enhance our sense of vulnerability and ostensible dependence on their polices.

We also beautify the Holocaust, leaving out that which we find “unbecoming” of the canonized memory. Consider the experiences of sex slaves in the camps. Women survivors who have been through unimaginable horrors must go on feeling ashamed, hiding their stories and the tattoos that attest to them. Their pain is almost never told. My great...

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The Beaten Path: Time traveling in Bethlehem (part 7)

Seeking the past in a land with an overwhelming present can be challenging, and ever more so in the extremely compact city of Bethlehem. Part seven of Yuval Ben-Ami’s journey.

The Wall in Bethlehem. (photo: Yuval Ben-Ami)

If you want the world to hate you, turn Bethlehem into a prison. I can’t fully fathom why my government wants the world to hate it (and me), but this is exactly what it has been doing in a lengthy, gradual process that has only intensified over the past decade.

The separation barrier runs along the northern edge of the city. A monstrous concrete wall hugs the urban core like the arm of a tango dancer, embracing the hip of his partner. On other sides, a double electric fence skirts former farmhouses, separating them from their former lands. To the south, a cluster of settlements constitutes off-limits terrain for Bethlehem residents. To the east and west of the town run the carefully watched bypass roads that serve these settlements.

The besieged area is roughly the size of Brooklyn’s Flatbush neighborhood. People here joke that in Bethlehem you never have to switch out of first gear. It’s not really a joke, actually.

Oh, and this is where Jesus was born, and King David, too. The latter left no interesting monument for visitors to enjoy, while the former is celebrated by a truly fascinating church, the oldest on earth; a beautiful building that once stirred a major world war. Here pilgrims and tourists can visit the site of the manger itself, or the cave in which St. Jerome translated the bible, or the nave of St. Catherine, the site where the midnight mass is held each Christmas. And on and on and on.

Now count to three and say which is more interesting to you: Jesus or the occupation? You don’t have to say it out loud. Faith and political convictions are both personal, but one would assume that not everyone reading this murmured “Jesus.”

It appears that over the past 10 years Israel has actually built a monument in Bethlehem that rivals the 1,700-year-old Church of the Nativity. Not bad. Not bad.

The omnipresent present

Milan Kundera’s novel, Life is Elsewhere, tells the life story of a young Czech poet named Jaromil. At one point toward the end of the book, the author halts the narrative,...

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The Beaten Path: Fixing a hole in Safed (part 6)

The deconstructed tourist trail reaches the mystical Galillean town and its many ghosts. Safed is the incredible shrinking city, forever threatened by its own capacity to be more than one thing. Part six of Yuval Ben-Ami’s journey.

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Safed makes me sick. Literally. As soon as I hop off the bus, take in the obligatory breath of fresh mountain air and settle at the “Baghdad Café” for an Americano, my stomach begins to torment me. I know this isn’t only the snack I had in Geinosar. This place makes my spirit sad, and my body sympathizes.

Safed is one of many cities around the country that used to be mixed, and no longer is. Tiberias, as mentioned in the previous post, is another. These cities survived. They were the fortunate ones. Many communities simply disappeared in the bloody days of 1948.

Safed only half disappeared: its Jewish quarter survived. Its Muslim quarter emptied and was later fashioned into a Jewish artists’ colony. My seat on the café’s terrace overlooks the old mosque, which was converted into an gallery; the tourists sitting at an adjacent table are excitedly discussing their plan to head there and take in a few canvasses. None of the refugees were allowed to return. Over the years, one of them became the Palestinian president, and as I head again to the café’s bathroom I can’t avoid thinking that I’m suffering from a case of Abbas’s Revenge.

Israel’s air conditioner

Sick or not, when I see a sign advertising “Fricassee,” I pop in for a Tunisian sandwich. The gathering of Jewish diasporas brought a new form of diversity into the newly homogenized Safed of the 50s. Newly arrived North African Jews joined the older Jewish community, which dates back to the 11th century. Shimon, a Libyan-Israeli in his sixties, prepared my delicious sandwich, stuffed with tuna-fish, spicy Harissa and pickled lemon. “How’s Safed?” I ask him.

“Mit’haredet,” he answers gloomily.

So much is charged into this one word, which can be most plainly translated as “turning ultra-Orthodox.” One often hears secular Israelis use it when complaining of changing atmosphere in their communities, but Shimon wears a skullcap. Then again, Safed really has become very religious over the decades. He may be wearing it only so as not to lose costumers.

“When was the first time you visited here?” he asks.

“Back in...

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The Beaten Path: Fishing for the real at the Sea of Galilee (part 5)

In an over-mythologized, pre-imagined land of promise, the Sea of Galilee is a dream waiting to be shattered. Here it is, deconstructed. Part five of Yuval Ben-Ami’s journey. 

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Ruthie, My girlfriend, hates movie spoilers. Tell her so much as one detail of the plot, any detail, and she’ll pass on the entire film. I joke that even knowing the genre would kill her fun. Actually, it’s worse. We once decided to watch “The Long Goodbye.” While waiting for it to download, I hummed the theme song, and she yelled: “don’t ruin it for me!”

Oddly, the very same Ruthie isn’t bothered at all by travel spoilers, which are my pet peeve. I avoid looking at photos of towns and monuments before reaching them, hoping to view them “afresh,” and I get upset when an image of the site appears on the entry ticket. Ruthie devours guide books, I flip through them only after exploring a bit on my own, for fear of swapping my first impression with somebody else’s.

One place where a travel spoiler does come in handy is the Sea of Galilee, if only because its name alone creates a major false expectation. This is not a sea; it’s a lake that wouldn’t even stick out from the maps of most U.S. states. It is called “sea” because the word, “lake,” or rather its Hebrew equivalent, “agam,” was not yet in use when the Bible was written and compiled. Any body of water was “sea” to the Biblical authors, in the same way as any human settlement, no matter how tiny is a “city.” The term “village” was coined only later.

The Sea of Galilee has a long history of surprising visitors. Poet Rachel Bluwstein, who arrived here early in the 20th century from Russia, expected neither the climate nor the beauty nor the sort of peasant lifestyle she would assume. In one of her finer poems, she questions the very reality of her experience.

And what if none of this had ever taken place
What if I never rose up to the garden,
To work it with the sweat of my brow.

Never, in long, hot days of harvest
Have I burst in song, atop a hay-cart
Never have I dipped in the quiet azure and innocence




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The Beaten Path: The unholy hierarchies of Nazareth (part 4)

If the heart of Nazareth is sacred, its outskirts are very much the opposite. If anything, they provide a perfect example of a system that stubbornly preserves a hierarchy of communities: Arabs below, Jews on top. The third stop on the reconstructed tourist trail.

Photo by Yuval Ben-Ami Nazareth

There is a painting by an Italian master, the great Pierro della Francesca, called “Madonna del Parto.” Two angels hold up the folds of a tent in which Mary stands. She is pregnant, wearing a blue gown with a crack in it, just where her belly pokes out the furthest, allowing for a white undergarment to show through.

The eye, when looking at this painting, follows a carefully crafted trail. It first sees the white cloth at the heart of the matter, then moves out to the outskirts, discovers the tent and the angels, and then begins its journey back inwards, to the very center of the painting, to the hint of things to come, to the soon-to-be born son of God.

There is a church by the eccentric 20th century Italian architect Giovanni Muzio. It stands in the middle of the city of Nazareth, and is the only thing most tourist see of the town. The church is concentric. The bottom level of this massive 20th century concrete monster is a large empty space, centered on the grotto of the annunciation and the ruins of three earlier churches that once stood on this site. On the top floor a large hole gapes over that same central point. This is where all eyes are drawn.

Comparing the Madonna del Parto with the Basiliaca of Annunciation would be an injustice to both. I wouldn’t dream of doing that. Instead, I am comparing the Madonna del Parto with all of Nazareth. When architecture says “Look this way!” it’s a good idea to oblige before looking another way, then looking that way again. The same applies to touristic conventions point anywhere.  With your permission, I will explore Nazareth and its church today following the pattern designed by Pierro: Starting from the white glimpse of divine motherhood, moving on to the outskirts, and then moving back in.

City on a hill

In the middle, then, is a large black cone, towering over the site in which a unique encounter between divinity and humanity is said to have taken place. Muzio,...

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The Beaten Path: Baha'i Haifa, Banana St. and the ultimate Other (part 3)

From afar, the flight of the fancy complex and the boxy city appear rather harmonious. It is upon close inspection that they are revealed to be made up of entirely contradicting notions. The second stop on Yuval Ben-Ami’s journey to deconstruct Israel’s well-worn tourist trail is something of an exception, in every sense of the word. Welcome to Haifa’s Baha’i Gardens.

Photo by Yuval Ben-Ami Haifa

The view from the Baha’i Gardens (Photo by Yuval Ben-Ami)

A few weeks ago, my dear friend Osnat had an interesting experience on the slopes of Mt. Carmel. It happened when she came to visit the famed Baha’i Gardens: an astounding pillar of greenery rising up from Haifa’s port district, crowned by the golden-domed Mausoleum.

The group climbed down the higher tiers of the garden, descending toward the Tomb of the Bab – the Baha’i faith’s major prophet. There are 18 tiers in all. They reflect the pillars of faith as described by the Bab, and also provide a fairly nice framework for a guided tour. A basic introduction is given at the top, with a splendid view of the bay. A few steps down, features of the garden can be pointed out, and one or two tiers later it’s time for a Q&A session.

Osnat asks: “So say I would like to become Baha’i, how would I go about it?”

This was a real conversation killer. The tour was in Hebrew, and Jews are deeply sensitive about proselytizing, while the Israeli state frowns on it severely. Consequently, all religions besides Judaism practice extreme care not to offer a pathway to the light. Osnat says she heard the group fall uneasily silent. Some may have suspected that she was “planted” to bring up the question. The guide had to quickly make clear that this is not the case. “The Baha’is do not accept Israeli converts,” she said, “so as to not meddle with the already complex fabric of this country.”

Fair enough. To the best of my knowledge, Osnat has no real inclination for becoming Baha’i (she beautifully described her very real journey of identity as a second generation Russian-Israeli here). She is, however, an authentically curious person. And so a few tiers down, on the central platform of the garden surrounding the tomb, she came up with an even more risqué...

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The Beaten Path: The Western Wall as military parade grounds (part 2)

It’s still beautiful and moving, but recent decades have done something strange to the ‘Kotel,’ our first stop along the deconstructed tourist trail. What happens when a site is the object of both religious longing and military identity?

Read part one of The Beaten Path, ‘An introduction, or how to ruin a good story’

Photo by Yuval Ben-Ami

(By Yuval Ben-Ami)

There are so many advantages to not being a tourist. For one, I know the best way to get to Jerusalem from Tel-Aviv. Busses only reach the main terminal, which is located on the western outskirts of town and requires a further trip by the light rail. The Sherut minibuses, however, go all the way to the city center, a mere five minutes’ walk from the Old City’s ramparts and the beauty therein.

I actually hop off earlier, because, not being a tourist, I know a good little hole in the wall Mizrahi restaurant in which to stop for lunch (“Ta’ami” on Shamai st. Their menu hasn’t changed since 1957). Not being a tourist, I also know a shortcut, so within 15 minutes I make it all the way from the restaurant to the Western Wall, and walk my very full stomach through the metal detector.

From this point onwards, however, I would much rather be a tourist.

The religion of longing

It’s perfectly alright for a historical site to come with baggage. One would be hard pressed to find one that isn’t in this country. Still, I’m a little more sensitive when it comes to the Western Wall. I guess I just deeply love it. It is an authentically Jewish symbol, and I love Judaism.

I love Judaism for the same reason I love the blues. Picture the cliché of an old timer blues musician, taken to an extreme. He’s poor, he’s blind and he’s the victim of a severly racist system. His girl left him and his drinking habit won’t. What does he do with all that? He makes art, beautiful art. Here is what Judaism has been for over two millennia: a creative response to a being extremely unlucky.

There once was a religion that centered on a temple, where sacrifices were performed by priests. The last and finest of those temples was destroyed in 70 AD and left the people irrecoverably scarred. Rather...

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The Beaten Path: An introduction, or how to ruin a good story (part 1)

In a new series of adventures, travel writer Yuval Ben-Ami sets out to deconstruct the Holy Land’s most famous and heavily trodden tourist attractions. To begin, he deconstructs the entire country.

Photo by Yuval Ben-Ami 13 mhuzak

(By Yuval Ben-Ami)

The Holy Land has no history. I mean it. It is a land without any history at all, insofar as “history” can be said to describe what is past. The wheels of history keep turning, of course, but the past, you will agree, is what most people mean by the word, especially when they travel. Rarely will someone roll into a town and say: “I’m here for the history. Where is your newest high-tech industrial park?”

In the conventions of tourism, history is what is over, and here nothing is over. Wars fought five millennia ago are still being fought. Old beliefs die hard. It is also a land without archeology. Where there is a ruin, people weep over it; where an ancient monument stands, it stands shrouded in controversy.

True, we have managed to encircle a few sites with fences and we demand entry fees, creating the semblance of touristic normalcy. But more often than not, even those sites are still in the midst of their own stories. Ethnicities claim them, scholars debate them and clerics denounce their status as attractions. Ideologists demand more excavations. Families are evicted, bulldozers trample walls, stones are thrown, blood flows.

Tourists have little choice but to ignore much of this. A short visit to the country hardly permits dealing with its countless political complexities, scholarly debates and philosophical paradoxes. Almost everything that lies outside the anticipated experience must be overlooked — is overlooked.

This project is meant to cut a small window into that reality. Over the next few weeks, I intend to visit a number of the country’s most famous and heavily trodden tourist sites, and jollily deconstruct them. I will attempt to observe them with an open mind and offer fresh perspectives: an atypical political point of view, a new aesthetic notion. One take may be religious, a second social, a third historical. I’ll even look for new ways to view the geography itself — anything that isn’t part of the typical tour guide gab.

Of course, those gabs vary. Several tourist trails intertwine here, from the Russian or...

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WATCH: The boy who put equality back on the agenda

Reuven (Rubi) Rivlin did what no other Israeli leader is doing. He heeded the call of a tender Arab boy – and followed him in support of tolerance and equality. This is how George Amireh and Rivlin pose an alternative to an entire society,

We were presented with a pleasant surprise this week from the Presidential residence in Jerusalem: A video of Rubi Rivlin and a boy from Jaffa named George Amireh sitting together and silently presenting, through placards, a message of tolerance and denouncement of bullying. Amireh recently became famous for producing a similar video, in which he used the same Bob Dylan-like method to expose a series of harassments he is subject to at his school. The video with Rivlin is a re-enactment and continuation of the original video’s success. (To turn subtitles in video on, click on icon on the bottom right bar, to the right of the clock.)

A few positive things stand out: Amireh wasn’t necessarily suffering from racism. He was attacked for being a boy with gentle mannerisms and a soft voice, for which he was labeled, among other things, a “koksinel” (derogatory Hebrew word for transvestite). This issue isn’t highlighted in the video, resulting in a confluence of struggles against various forms of discrimination. Amireh confronts the camera not as an Arab but as a human being, though in the context of our society he is obviously facing it also as a Christian Palestinian Arab from Jaffa (if I am mistaken and he’s a descendant of Slovakia’s Jewry, correct me).

Harassing an Arab and harassing a “koksinel” derive from the same place that breeds misogyny, hatred of Mizrahim (Jews of Arab descent), hatred of refugees and migrant workers and hatred of Orthodox Jews – if only to name a few – which all feed into the dehumanizing of the occupation and the siege on Gaza. It is this infected place that needs treatment. Tolerance is exactly what this country requires, and up until the notably loquacious Rubi Rivlin took the presidential seat, no one bothered to spread the word; not the previous president, the part lover, and certainly not our prime minister, who promotes fine values such as “revenge.” I almost could not believe it when Rivlin held up a poster reading “equality.” Equality!!! Forget tolerance, equality! Try to imagine someone in the government...

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Good Lorde! Now we're fighting New Zealand!

In the world of Israel’s ‘anti-diplomacy,’ anything is possible — including the extremely improbable.

Maori warriors (Image by Wikimedia Commons)

Once were worriors… soon once more. Maori presentation at an NZ Navy base (Photo by New Zealand Defence Force)

There comes a time in every Israeli’s life when he or she must undertake a great challenge on behalf of the Zionist endeavor. This morning I learned that my country has found itself at the center of a diplomatic debacle with New Zealand, and it appears that I may have to be the one to tie the bungee rope around my waist, step into the ravine of international relations, and resolve it.

First, though, let us ask: how in the world does one run into conflict with New Zealand? It must take so much imagination and innovation to even start to ruffle kiwi feathers. Of course, the French sank a boat in Aukland harbor in 1985. It was the Greenpeace Rainbow Warrior, which threatened to temper with the Republic’s South Pacific nuclear experiments. Les Français actually ran a commando operation on New Zealand soil, killing one activist. Indeed, they are known for being avant garde, and that fiasco is up there with Duchamp’s Pissoir.

But how did we, a far more conservative nation, get the New Zealanders mad? We are experts on fighting our immediate neighbors – but they are so far away, and so famously peaceful to begin with. What could we have possibly done to irk them? Or how did they manage to irk us?

It fits right in with most of our famous cases of faux pas; it has to do with refusal to share. In this case: the refusal to share an ambassador. It appears that, in a is not at all unusual arrangement, New Zealand’s ambassador to Turkey also serves as its ambassador to Israel. He is based in Ankara and is in charge of contact with several regimes of the Levant, including Jordan and the Palestinian Authority.

As new Ambassador Jonathan Curr arrived in Turkey recently, he was due to present his credentials to Israeli President Reuven Rivlin. In addition, he was due to present a letter of introduction to the PA. New Zealand does not recognize Palestine as a sovereign state, hence the lesser ceremony.

Upon learning of the Ramallah...

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