SpaceX Dragon Capsule Leaves Space Station

... and heads home.

UPDATE: Splashdown!

Interview: 21 Years in Israel (3)

-What were the factors that prompted you to leave Jerusalem?

To put it simply, meltdown! Financial, health, just being fed up with the stress. The intifada of the early 2000's didn't help either. I'm a desert rat by nature, so the Negev was always a consideration. When I lived in Jerusalem, I'd sometimes just hop a bus & to this town and walk around for an hour or so to chill out & breathe some desert air.

I'd taken a very good computer applications course through the Ministry of Employment in 2003-04. The course was in Hebrew, but as a native English speaker, I've been able to continue to add to my skill set. At the time, had planned to come back to the USA. But the health care/social support system is much more developed here in spite of the the fact that day to day life is much less convient and comfortable. There is more of safety net here. In the long run it's easier to maintain one's health and well-being and continue to work. There's no comparable system in the USA. As an ageing Boomer this scares me terribly. I'd like nothing more than to be able to come back home and be near family. Maybe I'll be able to swing it one day. Believe me, I'm not the only American who feels this way.

-Tell me your impressions of where you live now. Can you tell me something about the ethnic situation there?

The day-to-day here is in a word, quiet routine. Our sleepy Negev town is relatively new. So, it's well-planned, very pleasant and convenient to walk around. The original settlers were North African immigrants, and former kibbutz members. Now 40% of the residents are immigrants from the former Soviet Union, a large number of the mature set. So Russian is commonly spoken & used on signage.

I used to get annoyed by the prevalence of Russian, but now take it in stride. Hey, they're fellow olim (immigrants to Israel), so we're really in the same boat in some ways.

There are a few English speakers, Americans, English, Canadian. Many of the veteran residents have moved away or passed on. They were a rather tight-knit group, so I never got to know them very well. With all that, I do have a few friends among the English speakers.

Totten: Where the Arab Spring Began

Michael Totten has a sobering post on his recent visit to Kasserine, Tunisia:
“Are you Zionists?”

My colleague Armin Rosen and I were supposed to be conducting the interview. Instead, we were put on the defensive before we could even ask our first question.

“Of course not,” I said.

“Nope,” Armin said. “I don’t have a Zionist bone in my body.”

We were at the headquarters for the UGGT, Tunisia’s biggest labor union, in the small city of Kasserine just down the road from Sidi Bouzid where the revolution—and the region-wide Arab Spring generally—began at the tail end of 2010 when fruit vendor Mohammad Bouazizi set himself on fire to protest crooked and onerous government regulation.

Four men sat in the union office with us. Armin and I wanted to hear about what happened in the early days of the revolt against Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s autocratic regime, but they were in no mood to share such information with Zionists.

Our translator Ahmed Medien, a young and—shall we say—more cosmopolitan journalist based in the capital, Tunis, sat with us.

“What if we were Zionists?” I said, directing my question to Ahmed as much as to our interlocutors.

“They wouldn’t talk to you,” he said. ...
And it goes downhill from there. Not to be missed.

Virgin Galactic Gets Experimental FAA Permit

Via Instapundit, FAA grants experimental permit to Virgin Galactic:
Virgin Galactic says it expects to make rocket-powered test flights of its passenger spaceship later this year.

The company said Wednesday its spaceship builder partner has been granted an experimental permit from the Federal Aviation Administration - a move that will allow it to proceed with powered flights. ...


Interview: 21 Years in Israel (2)

[Interview with Paula Gaon, part 2.]

-I am interested in your take on the recent events in the Negev and South TA.

OK, my take on recent events in the Negev & South Tel Aviv. I take it you're referring to incidents involving refugees/immigrants from Sudan. In all honesty, I have not been following the news closely. And when I do catch snippets on the radio, can't help but wonder how accurate the stories are. Also, since I live in the Negev, don't have much feeling for the reality in Tel Aviv. But will give you a few impressions.

From what I see here in this little Negev town, most Sudanese are young men, some with families. From the hours they come and go & the buses they take, looks like they are working in service jobs at the Dead Sea, probably hotels and food services - not jobs people are anxious to take. I have no idea what percentage are employed, or if employed how legal it is. At any given time of day, young men are hanging around the downtown area and in apartment residential areas. But in all honesty, have no idea if they are employed or work night shifts.

When the Sudanese first came here about three years ago, people were suspicious and wondered if they were really refugees or illegals fleeing an awful situation. It looks like some have left, either sent back or decided to go back. But now I get the feeling, at least here, that on the whole, they are hardly noticed. My personal theory is that since this town is more than 40% immigrants, most from the former Soviet Union, residents feel more empathy with people who, for whatever reason, have been displaced.

As you can imagine, Tel Aviv is much more upscale than any town in the Negev. There are a lot more people with a lot more money, more upscale hotels and places of entertainment, more places that would require low-wage employment. The neighborhoods where the African refugees live, as far as I know, have always been poor Israeli neighborhoods with the reputation that many poor neighborhoods have. Get the picture? It doesn't take a great leap of imagination to see the potential for some serious friction.

According to news reports, African residents were attacked by young Israelis. Having worked in the school system, I'm not surprised by this. From my experience, politically correct has taken a strange twist here. Schools, for whatever reason, do not teach or enforce the idea of appropriate behaviour in the appropriate place. The idea of impulse control and expressing one's self inteligently, refraining from insults or attacks was not consistently taught or enforced. I've even heard Israelis aged 50 and above say the same. Why this has come to be - can't tell you exactly. But have gotten the feeling that this is a result of tensions in Israeli society among the different Jewish ethnic groups and has caused a kind of 'despair' regarding matters of discipline in the educational system. Nobody wants a fight, or risk an accusation of being against any Jewish ethnic group, so those in the educational system walk on eggs and make excuses.

In any case, it's terribly embarassing. Of course the USA has severly criticized Israel's racism. How soon they forget... But we do expect more from the Jewish State.

OK, now back to why I came to the Negev. It's very simple, actually. I've just always dug the Negev, Here's an interesting piece of trivia my town is almost the same latitude as Tucson.

On a more serious note, I moved to Jerusalem for perceived job opportunity. But personally, I find Jerusalem unlivable. It's terribly expensive. The cheaper areas are far flung, requiring long, nerve-racking bus trips - cars cost 4 times US price. And the security issues are abssolutely grinding. The Negev is cleaner, cheaper, and low-stress. I have a higher quality of life for a little less money.


Chesler: Arest Mother as Accomplice in Sarah and Amina Said Killing

Phyllis Chesler:
On January 1, 2008, two American teenager sisters, 17 year-old Amina Said, and 18 year-old Sarah Said, were shot to death by their Egyptian father, Yaser Said, in Irving, Texas. After a lifetime of being physically and sexually abused by their father, the girls had finally decided to run away.

Sarah had rejected an arranged marriage with a much-older friend of her father’s whom she had never met. Both Amina and Sarah had boyfriends—and thus, their father viewed them as “whores” who had disobeyed the rules and who therefore deserved to die. ...
DIL1 blogged about it here.
Now, Phyllis writes, based on her communications with the girls' great-aunt Jill
Abplanalp, she believes that
Texas-born Patricia (“Tissie”) Said, the mother of the two girls, should long ago have been charged as an accomplice in their honor killing. She is the one who tricked them, first by running away with them—and then by luring them back home in a series of phone calls. ...

According to great aunt Jill, there are three witnesses who can testify that, although Tissie ran away with her daughters, she did so in order to spy on them for Yaser; that all along, Tissie had planned to return to her husband—which she did. She knew that Yaser planned to kill his daughters. And nevertheless, upon her return, she started calling her daughters persistently.
Read the rest at the link.

Interview: 21 Years in Israel

During my visit to Israel last November, I met up with an old friend, Paula Gaon, who has been living in Israel for many years now. She kindly agreed to an interview.

-So, how long have you been living in Israel?

21 years in September.

-Where did you live when you first moved to Israel?

I lived on a kibbutz near Jerusalem while studying in a university level ulpan (intense Hebrew language course) and working part-time on the kibbutz. It was a very interesting experience since most of the students were from the former Soviet Union. After ulpan, I even spoke Hebrew with a Russian accent. At the time, I didn't have much confidence about speaking to Israelis. So I tended to speak only with Russian speakers, a more level playing field.

-How long were you on the kibbutz, and what were your impressions of it?

I was on that kibbutz for only six months. This kibbutz was one of the large, veteran, very successful, kibbutzim. It seemed to have been very well managed - nothing wasted & kibbutz members very settled into their jobs. But, as an ulpan student and temporary resident, most members didn't take much notice of us, nor were they interested in getting to know most of us. Of course ulpanistim were given the least desirable jobs - like employees from manpower agencies & regarded as pretty disposable. In general, kibbutz members, at least at that time on that kibbutz, were quite closed to most things outside their world - including the need for common courtesy. I don't want to sound too negative here. The day-to-day life was really quite pleasant & it was wonderful having so many chores, like laundry & meals taken care of and very well done.

-Where did you go after the kibbutz?

After ulpan on kibbutz, the story starts to get complicated, at least time-wise. But looking back on it, I realize that it was really more the same. So I'll stick to the essentials.

After ulpan, I spent the next two and a half years on two other kibbutzim in the north, southern part of the Galilee. Both were religious and newer. Neither remained kibbutzim. As far as I know, both are now yeshuvim, settlements. I was actually up for membership on the first of the two, but soon saw that this was not going to be. In any case, I managed to get the kind of work on both that allowed me to hone language skills. So from there, I moved to Beit El in the Shamron Sumaria. Beit El was a large National Religious (Dati Leumi) Settlement. Understand that religious communities do not typically like single people, especially single women. So it was somewhat rare that I moved there. But they did areas that single people live in.

OK, so to continue with the Beit El chapter. I had been in Israel just over three years at this point. In all honesty, this is the time that I probably should have returned to the USA. Beit El was a very nice place, but I really came to understand the differences in Israeli and Ameriican mentality. For example, I was always invited by friends for sabbath and holidays meals. Why? Because a single person can't possibly manage. Have to admit that I did resent the fact that people wanted to feel sorry for me because I was single - couldn't understand that I've been alone most of my adult life and had long, long ago realized that that was not likely to change. They just couldn't get it and somehow felt that thay had to be partly responsibe for my well-being and at the same time resented the responsibility.

With all that, the four years at Beit El were nice ones. I came to realize that religious people are people just like everyone else - with the same challenges and obligations. And the people there are kind & decent folks.

My challenge was having to fall back on teaching elementary school English to earn a living. At the time, the Ministry of Education was so desperate for elementary English teachers that they financed certification courses for English-speaking academics.

I had substituted some, so they begged me to sign up for the certification course and teach a few hours at an elementary school in Jerusalem. This is the time that I referred to earlier as the time I should have returned to the USA. In all honesty, have to admit that I was worried about finding my niche in the American workforce, and being able to manage health insurance. Nonetheless, teaching in the public school system was a disaster from the very beginning - talking about a square peg in a round hole! The seminar did put me on probation for awhile, but they were so desperate that they even asked me to continue when I offered to quit. In any case, I did leave. But wasn't the only one. Most of those who went through this course eventually left. Looks like every body learned something from this experience.



Egypt: A Faded, Burdened Country

Michael Totten:
I never believed the uprising and palace coup that overthrew Hosni Mubarak would lead to a liberal democracy in the land of the pharoahs. I doubt Ajami did either. It isn’t what most Egyptians are yearning for, not at this time. And if most Egyptians don’t want it, who could possibly build it? ...
Fouad Ajami has more.


We Interrupt This Broadcast

Here is what I learned from watching half an hour of news on CNN:

2. Marvel Comics is going to have a character come out of the closet as gay, a development for which BARACK OBAMA opened the door. And speaking of BARACK OBAMA,
3. Will Smith will soon be starring in a movie about BARACK OBAMA.
4. And finally, I got to watch two women talking about prostate cancer.


Vandals Trash Valencia Street

This happened last night, within about two to five blocks of my house. A gang of Occupiers / anarchists / thugs vandalized a section of Valencia Street in the Mission District, San Francisco. Here's more from Mission Loc@al:
A group of protesters vandalized dozens of businesses, cars and any property they came across as they marched through the Mission on Monday night. One person was arrested according to Sgt. Daryl Fong but no details about the arrest were made available yet.

The mile-long trek of vandalism began at 18th and Dolores streets, where a group of more than 100 protesters met as part of an early May Day march. The protesters walked east on 18th Street, turned left on Valencia Street, right on Duboce Avenue, and made a right on Mission Street before being confronted by riot police at 14th and Mission, according to Justin Beck, an independent journalist who followed the protesters.

Police dispersed the crowd in the area of 12th and Folsom streets, Fong said.

In a statement released early Tuesday morning, Occupy San Francisco said the vandals were not associated with the movement, but the statement was taken down shortly after. ...

The vandalism began almost immediately after the group took off from Dolores Park at around 9 p.m. The protesters paint-bombed Tartine Bakery on 18th and Guerrero streets. When they reached Farina, one protester grabbed a chair and attempted to break a window but was not successful, said police officer D. Daza. Several of the protesters, dressed in black clothing and with their faces covered, threw sacks filled with paint at the restaurant’s windows, drew anarchist symbols on them and spraypainted “Yuppies out!”

Police confronted the protesters in front of the restaurant and a small group of them dispersed, but the main crew continued along Valencia Street. ...
Read the rest at the link.

SFGate has more:
Broken glass littered several streets in San Francisco's Mission District after protesters vandalized cars and buildings Monday night, including a police station.

The vandals were in a group that marched from Dolores Park shortly after 9 p.m., following a rally in advance of Tuesday's planned Occupy general strike, police said. Traveling down 18th Street and onto Valencia Street, the black-clad, masked protesters smashed windows with crowbars and signs, threw paint on buildings and spray-painted anarchy symbols on the hoods of parked cars. ...
Go read it all.
ATM at 511/513 Valencia.

Farina, across the street from the Women's Building (where I go for Friday night services at the Mission Minyan) was hit hard. Graffiti included things like "Yuppies out!"

Windows were broken (not visible in this photo) at the Mission District police station.

Weston Wear clothing store.


Even this dog boarding service on Mission Street was not spared the paint gun. Die yuppie puppies!

Not pictured here, but the whole front of ArtZone 461 was smashed and defaced. When I walked by there this morning, workers were re-painting the facade, and the glass storefront was boarded up. There were tracks of orange paint on the sidewalk from last night.

I am beyond disgusted.

UPDATE: OccupySF condemns vandalism.