Monday, January 24, 2011

Letter from Netanya: A Dispatch from TBE Congregant Jan Gaines

Dear Josh, I'm finally feeling more settled and thinking about what to say this week. All of TBE activities leave me partially envious. We do poorly by contrast. But the contentment and "rightness" I feel more than justifies this final move.

Dear TBE Friends,

While you have further cold and white, we are having warmth and drought. A seven year drought in fact. The whole area is parched; not just Israel. Lack of rain affects the Palestinians and the Jordanians as well. Nowhere do we need more inter-national cooperation than for this.

So each day of gorgeous sun and warm weather makes me wake up with an "Oh shucks" feeling again.

And on top of that, today's news about the "Palestine Papers" gave me a double "Oh Shucks" or stronger. This leakage to Al Jazeera is a disaster for the little that is left of the so called peace process and only serves to strengthen Hamas at the expense of the PA. We are in for some very tough times ahead. Given Hezbollah's inevitable take over of Lebanon, along with the growing "de factor" recognition from more and more countries of a Palestinian state on the pre-Six Day War boundaries, we are more and more threatened both internally and externally.

But you would never know it from everyday life here. People are pleased and optimistic with the extraordinary discoveries of natural gas off Israel's coast. The partnership of Israeli Delek Co. with Houston's Noble Energy has drilled two fabulous sites containing enough natural gas for the next two decades. And the excess after Israel's needs are met, could make Israel an exporter energy exporter.
The two sites are aptly named Tamar and Leviathan. Tamar is estimated to yield 240 billion cubic metres and Leviathan 453 billion cum. of gas. I can't grasp the meaning of that except to say that the article I read in the JPost Magazine this weekend (you should be able to access it on line) that today Israel uses only 5 billion cubic metres.

People and the media are also talking about the latest political maneuver in the coalition which is Barak's pullout from the Labor Party, taking 5 other members with him, and forming yet another new party. Ho-hum!! Labor party voters just shrug and say Labor will come back. Likud voters think this finishes the once all powerful Labor party. And there is still a feeling that we don't have the kind of leadership we need right now, even tho Netanyahu could be re-elected easily if he ran now.

But Bibi is looking for stability. And I honestly believe he is trying hard to get some kind of a treaty with the PLO. Without giving away too much. And without setting off another intifada or provoking Hizbollah.

Sadly, I don't think he's going to have any success in moving the whole process off square one. We are really stuck now in a holding pattern- - unable to get ready for the next big blow.

A lot of people are very unhappy with the Israeli education system. It used to be superb but tenure for bad teachers and too big class sizes have pulled it down. I see the tenure problem in the small elementary school where I tutor each week. There is only one good English teacher out of three and two of the three have tenure. And none of them are native English speakers. This is an all Ethiopian government religious school ( but nothing like the Haredi schools) where the mostly non-Orthodox teachers really struggle to make some progress but are hampered by too many kids in class and the typical rambunctiousness of the kids. ( That wildness you see in all the schools. )

And what about the Army? I've read reports and heard about the spoiled rich kids of Tel Aviv finding excuses to avoid Army service. But my granddaughter's boyfriend is from a rich TA family and he is now in one of the two most elite and toughest units of the Army. And the grandchildren of everyone I know are serving without complaint and with pride. Not being able to serve, as is the case with one of these grandchildren, (for health reasons) is a terrible blow to him right now and even in his future. So the Army is holding its own and is ready for whatever comes.

One thing I know for sure. The famous Israeli pushy hospitality is still at work. I was in the check out line of a super market the other day, holding a few items in my hand. The lady in front of me motioned that I should go ahead of her. That done, she told me her name and asked me where I lived, had I made Aliyah, etc. My granddaughter was with me also. Then this Rachel took an old piece of paper and wrote her name and telephone numbers and handed them to me.l Her last name is famous in Netanya as one of the builders of the city, especially the seashore area where I live. So when I said "Wow" in surprise, that made her all the more determined I should call her. She insisted I promise to call her and reminded me all the way to the exit. She expected to hear from me!!

I will call her- - - to be a speaker at one of our Sisterhood or Hadassah meetings. She was born in Poland, which means she too, like almost every Israeli, has a Story! And in spite of her well known family, she is reaching out to someone she never saw before to offer friendship.

That's Israel. That's our stubborn, pushy, loud, nosy, noisy Israeli sisters. I love 'em and I'll never want to leave 'em.

Best Regards, Jan Gaines

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