Sunday, January 25, 2015

Utrecht (I)

We spent the morning passing through a grey frost of foggy pea soup.  We ventured lost through the Oudegracht canal, searching for Surinamese.  After hunger and tire set in, we ventured into Graaf Floris to warm our weary bones.

Steeped in old world charm of velvet, mahogany and burlap, we sat by the fiery hearth sipping hot spiced wine to warm the body and soul.

I had a traditional Dutch beef stew prepared with abbey beer and gingerbread.  The beer-braised beef could be cut with a spoon.  I drizzled the stew on frittes and dabbed it with crusty warm bread.


The Alexandrians sensed, of course,
that these were mere words and theatricals.
But the day was warm and poetical,
the sky a pale azure

Keeping the cold day at bay with hot spiced wine as I read the Greek poetry of Cavafy as the old master spins verse of ghost Greek kings facing the fates.

"a Greek gentleman in a straw hat, standing absolutely motionless at a slight angle to the universe," was how E.M. Forester described Cavafy.

Along the canal, we sipped rooibos tea  and kafie verkeerd in a warm cafe, admiring the reflections of the arched bridges.

We ventured back through the city to the old cathedral that once was the center of Utrecht.  We wandered through the cloisters of the old marvel.

We wandered through the funky eclectic little canaled city.  Marianna got earrings of eggshells and of moonstones.

Eventually we found the Surinamese I had been searching for.  While she snapped pictures of the evening lights reflecting in the canal, I popped in to a found Moksi.

"Hello Paul," said the owner.  She recognized me immediately; I recognized the smell of sumptuous curries.

Not only was I remembered, but I was up on the wall.  The article I wrote on Edible Nation Branding for the Netherlands was prominently displayed on the wall.  I beamed.

I chatted with the owner about life and other things.  They had opened up a second shop near the cathedral bell tower.  It was next to a Greek shop, and I had seen it earlier but hadn't realized its provenance.

I planned to come back the next day for lunch.

The evening was spent in the dire attempts to stay warm.  Some warmth was indeed found over frittes slathered in curry ketchup.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Buzz buzz

Or in my parental generation's nomenclature, I turned a phrase. It sounds even better in French.  Or Dutch at the moment.

The Idiot, Amsterdam style



But I like being free, 
and that makes me
an idiot, I suppose.
-Stan Rogers

An idiot but smart enough to keep coming back to this ethereal city.

A bulldogged evening over silver haze, hot chocolate, Belgian waffles and earl grey tea.

The bulldogged reflections of the canal gingerbread decor shines bright in the canal water.  I am off to have fun with my new camera.


Terminal man

Sipping pear schnapps and eating chocolate pudding in the Lufthansa transit lounge.

Traveling a ton has its perks in the transit lounges.

I wish all transit lounges could have German perks, and open taps.

I think I may start an online magazine, rating transit lounges around the world.

Good terminal karma is access to the lounge; great terminal karma is having the lounge next to the gate.  Yes, I will have one more for the road.

PS: the overly-itinerant food guide to airport lounges and airline food, take 1: Hamburg Lufthansa lounge has great carrot-ginger soup!

15 Tons

Paid off my first grad school student loan. Now just 5 more usurious student loans to service to the vultures.

Or down from 16 tons to 15.....yes, I owe my soul to the company store.. .‪#‎AmericanDream‬

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

halal

Missing the swine schnitzl forest for the bacon spätzle trees, and other kosher missteps in Germany

Dakar to Stuttgart

There might be some bigger contrasts going from Dakar to Stuttgart, some I have even experienced (like Calcutta to Amsterdam), but the change in scenery is pretty incredible and profound.

The NL Senegal program was a bit of a blur, I will leave it at that.

As befitting my incessant travels, I received a ticket into the first class lounge at the Dakar airport.  I tried to bring my group in but to no avail.  So instead, I smuggled water out stuffed in the pockets of my coat.

With a few remaining questions ("No, you can't bring a baobab sampling back to 'Murica") answered, the team boarded their 1am flight home.  And I killed some time back in the first class lounge as I waited for my own 2am flight out, sipping an armagnac to celebrate the conclusion of a tricky residency.

I slept through the first class flight to Portugal, and meandered through the immigration line into Europe.  I caught the connecting flight from Lisbon to Frankfurt, and killed some time waiting for my train to Stuttgart.

As I was sitting on a bench, waiting for the train.  Two old German ladies sat next to me and we got to chatting.  They were out on their adventure from their village, to see the busy-ness of the city. They sat back on the bench and rested their legs, and one lady swung her legs back and forth in a manner that belied her years.  They were on their big adventure for the day, and I was almost done with mine.

I hopped the speeding train from Frankfurt passed Manheim Station ("By Jack, I swear to Kerouac"), marveling at the quietness and smoothness of the ride.

From the train, I hopped the U-Bahn (the tram) through Stuttgart, marveling at the spires and capelas that had replaced the mosques.

And like that I was in a completely opposite world of quiet precision to replace the boisterous colorful life.  Trading sand and dust for snow and fog.








Sunday, January 11, 2015

Next Level Senegal

Well 2015 is turning out to be much like 2014 in terms of time to write....

So hopefully pics are worth a few thousand words....



And here is a video from the Next Level Senegal's Dakar Academy:

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Trente-Cinq

As anyone who knows me understands: I love birthdays.  


I love the birthday wishes streaming in from Iraq, India, Brazil, Switzerland, Bangladesh, Taiwan and the rest of the four corners of the globe--it feels like a reminder that I was once present in someone else's life.

I am 35, and find myself exactly half way between the 30s decade.  And staring at the azure waves of the ocean lap against the cliffs below me as I sit off the coast of West Africa, I feel pretty damn good.

I feel content this birthday in ways that I didn't at the last hinge point when I was busy reflecting: my 30th birthday.

Five years ago, I was struggling with turning 30.  I was feeling that I was entering my third decade, I hadn't accomplished enough.  So I hopped on a bus in Los Angeles, and headed down to Panama to hit the remainder that would mark 50 countries visited by my 30th birthday.


As I have said since that day: turning 30 was hard; being 30 is easy.  

Now, in the five years that have passed I am up to 70 countries I have visited.  Since that day and up to this point, I have had so many adventures and tilted at so many windmills that I can't even recount them all.

Sitting here, listening to the waves lap against the coast of Mama Afrika, I feel so utterly blessed.  

I feel that I am doing the work I was meant to do--connecting people through music, dance, food and culture.  A bit of tikkun olam through cultural diplomacy.  My valiant quixotic attempts at repairing a jagged world through understanding borne out of public diplomacy--the communication of peoples.

 At 30, traversing Central America through I was a bit lost at how this road would lead; at 35, sitting off the African coast, I feel like i have found a bit of direction, which gives me a bit of peace.

Perhaps I love birthdays so because they are point where you get to focus on past, present and future all at once.  For once, I feel at peace with my past, my present and my future.

I will end this birthday missive with a few words of wisdom.  First from a fellow Capricorn who shares a birthday, and whose words I found on a subway in New York on my 29th birthday as the angst of turning 30 kicked in.

"I do not know what I may appear to the world; but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me." 

-Isaac Newton (2 Train Brooklyn to Manhattan, "Train of Thought")

And of course, my favorite song by my dear dulcinea Dellas, which I was so honored when they dedicated it to me in a theater in Sorrocaba during our adventures in Brazil during the World Cup.


I am a seeker of fortune 

I am an honest man 
I’m tied to my morals 
By a steady hand
I’ll bow my head
Into the sea
Let the waves
Wash over me

Thank you to all in my life who have shared their love, light and blessing with me in my 35 years on this long and winding road.  

...and of course: the 4 birthday questions:


1) B-day Dinner: Eating puppies and kimchi with Kim Jung-Un in Pyongyang after a crazy night of karoke


2) Best B-day: While not the best ever, a damn good one was spent for 32 in Boston with Harry (Sancho Harranza).  I was surprised with the release of a Della video ("Paper Prince") on a WAMU Bluegrass session I had organized for their AMA tour.  Harry and I ate falafel at Rami's, and sipped Arbor Gold from the top of the Pru.  Then we had Chinese scalp massages, before I had a candlepin birthday party in Sommerville.


3) Last year: Bowling in the midst of a polar vortex


4) Next year: Havana!

Thursday, January 01, 2015

2015: Year of Afrika

Oh 2015, you are going to be a year of windmills! Mama Afrika is calling, and I will be heading to Senegal tomorrow eve for an incredible Next Levelhip hop program in Dakar.
2015 is my year of Africa, and I feel beyond blessed. West, South and East on the horizon. Dakar to Zim to Zanzibar. Zanzibar! I am giddy at the promise and potential of the year to come.
Don Pablo Quixote thanks everyone involved for an absolutely incredible 2014. It was truly a blessed year.
Journey on.



Wednesday, December 31, 2014

It's only weird if it doesn't work....

2,014 Windmills

I wanted to write a detailed account of a crazy year, but the busyness continued to the end of the year that was.  2014 had a ton of windmills, sadly too many I was unable to give reflection on.  The past year I hit 13 countries, a few of which a few times.  I ran programs in South America, the Balkans and South Asia.  Levantine PD tilted at its biggest windmill to date: the World Cup in Brazil.  This Quixote even found a Dulcinea this year, a lovely Greek.

2015 is going to be also full tilt at the windmills.  I am off on Jan 2 to Dakar to run the Next Level Senegal program, and I have a number of trips to Southern and East Africa in the year to come.  Hopefully this PD Knight Errant will get back into the writing groove.  I do have a lot of flights this year where I can hopefully catch up on the blog.

Happy New Year to all!  May the new year bring Windmill Wishes and Cervantine Dreams!


Friday, December 26, 2014

No Shit, Hans Brix

Did North Korea actually hack Sony?  Perhaps not....

Let's consider:

1. First of all, there is the fact that the attackers only brought up the anti-North Korean bias of “The Interview” after the media did—the film was never mentioned by the hackers right at the start of their campaign. In fact, it was only after a few people started speculating in the media that this and the communication from North Korea “might be linked” that suddenly it did get linked. My view is that the attackers saw this as an opportunity for “lulz”, and a way to misdirect everyone. (And wouldn’t you know it? The hackers are now saying it’s okay for Sony to release the movie, after all.) If everyone believes it’s a nation state, then the criminal investigation will likely die. It’s the perfect smokescreen.
2. The hackers dumped the data. Would a state with a keen understanding of the power of propaganda be so willing to just throw away such a trove of information? The mass dump suggests that whoever did this, their primary motivation was to embarrass Sony Pictures. They wanted to humiliate the company, pure and simple.
3. Blaming North Korea offers an easy way out for the many, many people who allowed this debacle to happen; from Sony Pictures management through to the security team that were defending Sony Picture’s network.

4. You don’t need to be a conspiracy theorist to see that blaming North Korea is quite convenient for the FBI and the current U.S. administration. It’s the perfect excuse to push through whatever new, strong, cyber-laws they feel are appropriate, safe in the knowledge that an outraged public is fairly likely to support them.

Doomsday!

Less sexy, non-clickbait headline: the world is not going to hell-in-a-hand-basket.  Not even close.  A reminder of why I feel more optimistic about life and the world when I am not reading newspapers or glued to news sites on the internet....

What Americans can learn about other food cultures

Food in France is about pleasure; food in Italy is about love.  And other food cultures worldwide.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Serbia, the Hidden Gem of Europe

Some amazing photos of Serbia, a place I fell in love with earlier this year.  Hvala Јохн Бровн 

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Days

"We consume our tomorrows fretting about our yesterdays."
-Persius

Friday, December 19, 2014

Havana Health

With all this talk of what Cuba will gain with more open relations with the U.S., perhaps we too can gain. Maybe they will share the secrets of their healthcare system with us, since the Cuban population has a higher life expectancy than U.S. citizens despite a GDP per capita almost 9 times lower.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Havana

Kudos to Che Obama for putting an end to the fallacy of our foreign policy approach to Cuba.  While this is PROOF that Obama is a socialist...it is also nice to have a policy towards Havana that wasn't put in place when Eisenhower was in office.

You Don't Protect My Freedom

A great piece on the faux worship of American troops:

No American freedom is currently at stake in Afghanistan. It is impossible to imagine an argument to the contrary, just as the war in Iraq was clearly fought for the interests of empire, the profits of defense contractors, and the edification of neoconservative theorists. It had nothing to do with the safety or freedom of the American people. The last time the U.S. military deployed to fight for the protection of American life was in World War II – an inconvenient fact that reduces clichés about “thanking a soldier” for free speech to rubble. If a soldier deserves gratitude, so does the litigator who argued key First Amendment cases in court, the legislators who voted for the protection of free speech, and thousands of external agitators who rallied for more speech rights, less censorship and broader access to media.
Wars that are not heroic have no real heroes, except for the people who oppose those wars. Far from being the heroes of recent wars, American troops are among their victims. No rational person can blame the soldier, the Marine, the airman, or the Navy man for the stupid and destructive foreign policy of the U.S. government, but calling them “heroes,” and settling for nothing less, makes honest and critical conversations about American foreign policy less likely to happen. If all troops are heroes, it doesn’t make much sense to call their mission unnecessary and unjust. It also makes conversations about the sexual assault epidemic, or the killing of innocent civilians, impossible. If all troops are heroes, it doesn’t make any sense to acknowledge that some are rapists and sadists.
The same principle of clear-eyed scrutiny applies to law enforcement agencies. Police departments everywhere need extensive investigation of their training methods, qualifications for getting on the job, and psychological evaluation. None of that will happen as long as the culture calls cops heroes, regardless of their behavior.
An understandable reason for calling all troops heroes, even on the left, is to honor the sacrifice they make after they die or endure a life-altering injury in one of America’s foolish acts of aggression. A more helpful and productive act of citizenship, and sign of solidarity with the military, is the enlistment in an antiwar movement that would prevent the government from using its volunteer Army as a plaything for the financial advancement and political cover of the state-corporate nexus and the military-industrial complex of Dwight Eishenhower’s nightmares.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Obamacare

Just signed up for Obamacare!

Surprisingly easy and user-friendly. It only took me approximately 30 minutes.

This status will change drastically if there are glitches in the system that affect my coverage, but for now: Thanks President Obama!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Thessaloniki: Sailing to Byzantium

Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.
-W.B. Yeats, "Sailing to Byzantium"

Of course a train will also do.  In the wee hours on a Friday morning, Marianna and I set out from Athens to Thessaloniki via train. Salonika, if you will.

Thessaloniki is named for the sister of Alexander the Great.  Legend has it that Thessaloniki was a mermaid, and after Alexander the Great's demise, she would sail to ships to ask the captains for news of Alex.  If they replied that he was dead, she would sink the triremes.
-Marianna

The ride was bleary-eyed, sustained by cake and filtered coffee as we swept past the morning mist.  I dug deep into the cinnamon and sand of the spice planet of Dune-- a fine Hanukkah gift from the Bene Gessarit.  Marianna was Dancing with Dragons.  I would steal a glance at her page when she left for the bathroom.  It was a calm train ride that I would have been happy if it never ended, and we spent days riding the rails--just reading away.

Over and over with Paul's floating awareness the lesson rolled.
-Dune

But arrive, we did to old Byzantium.  We caught a cab to the apartment of Marianna's friend George. His modernist space had a nice view across the city.  We were staying there, and he was staying at his girlfriend's place.  We sat out sipping coffee and chatted of his girlfriend Eleni's desire for a cat.

We ventured out for a walk along the sea wall through the fog down past the Tower of the Undying.  No dragons, alas--just an old Turkish fortress on the waterfront.  The White Tower.

Starving, we made our way to to a souvlaki place.  Apparently, as I learned Thessaloniki and Athens have a tiff over the meaning of "souvlaki."  One place it means "gyro", the other simply a sandwich.  Whatever, the gyro was amazing.  I had my chicken gyro in a baguette with tzatziki.  It was succulent and delicious.

We trekked it back, and spent the night watching Workaholics before passing out early.

Saturday morn Marianna and I made our way

down through the city to the sea--past Alex and his horse to get some cappuccinos out on the Strand.

Some Nigerian fellows were hawking a reggae show and bracelets.  Marianna told me not to talk to them, but I ended up chatting one up.  He was a funny fellow.  We spoke of Nollywood.  He said to me: I only respect four people in America: 1) Barrack Obama 2) Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson 3) You 4) Your princess.  Then he smiled and tried to hawk a reggae bracelet to her.  Why don't you get her a bracelet? Because I bring her pearls.  That got a smile as he left.

Polish comes from the cities; wisdom from the desert.
-Dune

If wishes were fishes, we'd all cast nets.
-Paul Atreides, Dune

And fish come from the sea. And Bougatza comes from Thessaloniki,

We caught up with George and Eleni, and made our way to Yanni's for a famous Thessalonikian dish: Bougatza.  Bougatza is a Thessaloniki specialty of filo dough stuffed with spinach (savory) or vanilla cream (sweet).  The vanilla cream variety get another level of sweet, with a heavy top layer of nutella-style spread.  For a full covering, add a layer of dusting from confectioner powdered sugar and cinnamon.

The full covered sweet bougatza is divine.  A complexity of flavors ranging from the chocolate-covered filo to the vanilla cream to a heady cinnamon finish.

It was a filo feast.

Thankfully, we kept walking after lunch.  We walked right into a protest.  Greece has been roiled by them as it comes on the anniversary of the death of a student.  I have heard a bit of the story--that one of his compatriots, who was in jail for robbery was on a hunger strike to be able to attend university classes.  In short, it was a bit of a mess.  I was glad to be out of Athens.

We walked past the protest in Thessaloniki I grabbed a few pics of the protest, and the anarchists in the mid-ranks.  This Yank got a few curses from bandanna-clad anarchists for snapping some pics, but it was all pretty civil.



MK's pic
Marianna and I made our way to the wonderful Museum of Byzantine Culture.  The museum was a fascinating, well-curated exhibition on Byzantium.  It looked at the Eastern Roman empire's rise and fall, and shined a light on the world that existed in Byzantium from Constantine to the Empire's fall to the Ottomans in 1453 through basic life, jewelry, funerary customs and art.  I am always amazed at jewelry, and how timeless it always is.  Fashions change, but only so much.

The art was most impressive.  I usually think of the Byzantine stuff as a tad too goyish for my tastes, but some of the other pictures were spectacularly effulgent and reminded me of Klimt's work.

Marianna and I were most impressed with the printings, which had to be done in reverse for proper printing--and in exquisite detail.

Overall, the museum was very well laid-out.  Very well designed and very accessible

That is no country for old men. The young
In one another’s arms, birds in the trees
—Those dying generations—at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.
-W.B. Yeats, "Sailing to Byzantium"

After the museum, we walked along the seascape and met back up with George and Eleni by the end of the sea wall


 We caught a bus up to The Wall-- built for Byzantium, not the Night's Watch.  We watched the lights of the city come on, then made our way to a cafe on the hilltop to warm up over some red wine.

We walked down throw the maze alleyways of the Old City, until we stumbled upon a restaurant of Crete cuisine that was one of our evening options.  George said that he had looked for the place before, but when he looked for it he was never able to find it.

We sat out under vine leaves and heaters, and the waiter brought us Creten rakija (kraki in Greek) to warm us.  Dinner was utterly incredible.  It was a Crete feast. the contents of which have since been digested and forgotten.  But it was damn good.

George and Eleni
We passed out early from the long day.  The next morning, we walked through the morning fog to a yacht club cafe.  We sipped cappuccinos among the Sunday morning brunch crowd.

After coffee we hoofed it through the city to visit a famous Thessaloniki taverna.  Unfortunately, the place was full with Sunday family dining; fortunately, we managed to convince the taverna to set us up a table outside under a tree.  We were met by a mutual friend Elias, who had an internet exotic pet site.  He sold snakes, rats and cockroaches.  He had over 100,000 cockroaches.

We drank retzina--Greek resin wine mixed with coke, and dined on incredible fare.  Garlicky tzatziki with fried zucchini, horta--a collard greeny-ish Greek veggie and salad.



The main courses were equally delicious.  There was a lamb brisket and aubergine stew, kokoresi--lamb intestines filled with all sort of lamb stuffing, and a delicious roasted chicken dish.  It was a dagla (Greek siesta)-inspiring nap, which Marianna and I took on the train back to Athens that evening.

All and all, a pretty wonderful weekend in Thessaloniki.



ἰχθύς

Greek brunch of grilled spicy sardines & salted, lemoned herring with red onions and cilantro over fava paste with red onions & capers. I am a lil fishy swimming in a Greek sea of olive oil, lemon and garlic.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

If Eric Garner were white...

‘We need not risk our national honor to prevail in this or any war’

Sen John McCain, a victim of torture, had a very eloquent response to the release of the Senate Intel Report on Torture.  His speech is worth a watch, and a reminder why I long considered him a man of honor.


papermill

You know your shit is legit when it is plagiarizable! There exists a gastrodiplomacy papermill! Anyone want an essay on gastrodiplomacy?

I will write you one at half the price of Elite Academic Essays.

h/t Sam Chapple-Sokol for this gem.

From polling lips to God's ear

Or at least the ballots of Israeli voters.  Labor-Livni bloc would trump Bibi.  Granted, Kadima beat Likud in 2009, and Bibi still ended up occupying the Iron Throne because of coalition politics, but I pray that won't happen again.

Ljubav (The Cup Song)

In my heart there lives the hope that love will win over all. In my heart there is a place for all people, for all who need love.

These are the words in Bosnian sung by Jelena Milusic with the kids of a Sarajevo orphanage, in a music project created by the incredible Sabina Šabić and performed at the one and only Sarajevo War Theatre. This is the original video of the kids performing Ljubav (The Cup Song):





Thanks to YouTube, The River Singers Community Choir based in Vermont, found it and performed the Bosnian song Ljubav:



Keep some kleenex handy for this stirring reminder of how music can connect us.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

anti-Zionists

A good reminder that Zionism was much more than the narrow-minded Israeli Right Wing that perverts the movement today: Meet the worst anti-Zionist


Love

Great video by DJ Plainview (Russell Sticklor) tying the words of RFK following the assassination of MLK to the present situation today.



 RFK's full speech is here: http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/rfkonmlkdeath.html

RFK delivered the speech in Indianapolis, and his words are believed to have helped keep the city calm as other major metropolitan areas convulsed into riot.

Dictatorship of the Palateriat

An interesting article on the palates of dictators.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Bibi's Israel

This is Bibi's Israel:

Netanyahu shaped a different, darker Israel: In his own image by Gideon Levy

Benjamin Netanyahu will be remembered as one of Israel’s most important prime ministers, second only to David Ben-Gurion not just in the length of his time in office but also in the mark he made. Ben-Gurion was the founding father of the first Israeli kingdom, of the dream. Netanyahu is the founding father of the second kingdom, of the dream’s shattering.
Netanyahu is the shaper of contemporary Israel. It is a great injustice to compare him to one of his predecessors, Yitzhak Shamir — a featureless man whose creed was inaction. Netanyahu did a great deal; he influenced and he decided, he shaped and determined.
It is also unjust to view him as a cynical politician. He was one of Israel’s most ideological prime ministers ever, who could turn his extremist doctrine into the zeitgeist of the entire state.
Even when he hid his beliefs, he did so in order to advance them. Netanyahu never believed in peace with the Arabs — and he removed peace from Israel’s agenda. He never believed in the rights of the Palestinian people — and he destroyed the two-state solution. He genuinely believed that Jews are the chosen people — and he brought Israel closer to a future apartheid state modeled on his beliefs, including in its constitutional aspects.
Can one imagine a more sweeping success? Can one think of anyone who did more to advance his own worldview?
One of his predecessors made peace, another made war, but none of them was as influential as he. Pre-Netanyahu and post-Netanyahu Israel are two different states. The historian’s son made history, he can go out on top: He has guaranteed that he won’t be a mere footnote. History will remember everything about him.
Once upon a time there was an Israel. An Israel that spoke about peace and believed in it, even if it did almost nothing to achieve it; an Israel that was democratic, at least for Jews; an Israel that respected the other countries of the world and took them into account; that knew its size, the limits of its power and the boundaries of its influence.
Once there was an Israel that subdued its racism and was ashamed of it; that did not alternate only between rivers of hate and waves of intimidation. Where Arabs were not only suspicious objects and where war refugees were not only “infiltrators.” Where Judaism was not only for ultranationalists and the flag was not waved only by the settlers. Once there was hope, but it disappeared; someone severed it.
Netanyahu shaped a different Israel, in his own image. He was the prime minister of fear and hate.
Try to think of one positive mark he left, one significant way in which Israel is better after him than it was before him. Now think what a long road the state has traveled from Menachem Begin’s first resolution as premier, to take in a handful of Vietnamese “boat people,” to the last resolution of Netanyahu, Begin’s successor in Likud and in office, to enact a third version of the diabolical anti-infiltration bill. Think of the long road from banning Meir Kahane’s Kach party from the Knesset, including by Likud MKs, to the competition today among Likud MKs to introduce the most racist bills.
The darkness has emerged into the light, the margins have become the center and ultranationalism has become politically correct. Kahane lives: From his place in heaven, he can look with pride and satisfaction at the state Netanyahu has fashioned. From Kahane’s perspective, the state is surely on the right track, galloping toward the implementation of his doctrine.
This is not nostalgia for a past that never existed, nor is it an overly gloomy picture of the present and the future. Israel has changed. It’s a different place in which to live. It is more arrogant, more destructive, more aggressive and less democratic — toward minorities, both national and ideological; toward the neighborhood in which it lives and toward the world as a whole. It is more hated, and rightly so. It is a worse place.
Netanyahu is not prophesying Israel’s destruction, but he has done more than a little to bring that destruction closer.