Connecting the Chicken and the Egg

How Low Can High-Tech Go?

They forced me to move again, as they always do. They just told me to take my computer and connect it in some corner in another room. I did just that.

But then the connection to the net in my new office was not working. Without the internal factory net and without internet I have no email, no access to my files, nothing productive to do at work.

It looks like a very simple problem that shouldn’t take more than five minutes for our IT service to solve.

I went down the stairs to the IT service room.

I told them that I was transferred to a new office and that I can’t connect to the net.

No problem, they said. Just file a request in our service site.

How can I enter the service site if I have no connection to the net?

Ask some friends to do that for you.

I have no friends… Can’t you open a service call for me?

At last they gave me a telephone number in Malaysia for the company’s central IT service. They promised me that these people in Malaysia can open a service call for me.

* * *

I climbed the stairs back to my new office and called IT in Malaysia.

There was a recorded message, saying that there is a new number for the international IT service, valid from August 1. It was August 1. The new number can be found on the international service site. Great news for me.

* * *

Waiting more on the line to Malaysia, there were some more options and finally I succeeded to talk with a person.

I told him I have no connection to the net.

Yes, he told me, just file a service request.

Can’t you file a service request for me?

I can, he said, but you need a local service…

* * *

Finally I robbed some other guy (who was not there) from his net connection.breaking the computer

I noticed that Malaysia opened a service request for me – and closed it, saying that the customer was convinced to open another request.

I pressed the “boo” button to open the request again.

I also opened a local service request. I promptly received an email with a link to my request on the service site. It very seriously promised to complete the logging of my request within 8 days, until August 9, 11:23 am. The handling of the request will be quickly handled until August 20, 11:23.

Having concrete commitment from IT, with such sharp timing, was reassuring. But the delicate timing made me also feel some uncertainty. What if my IT expert will have an urgent call exactly at August 20, 11:22? Wouldn’t it be smarter to leave some operational margins, making it 11:25, or even 11:30?

The next day someone from IT came in and connected my computer. It didn’t take more than five minutes.

* * *

When our artificial intelligence will start reengineering the system and come to the conclusion that the bug in the system is the human brain don’t pretend that you were subject to injustice.


Down and Out in Amsterdam 1973

As I was visiting friends in Amsterdam lately, I remembered my old days in Amsterdam in the autumn of 1973.

I was a shy, long haired, village boy and just finished my first year in the University of Jerusalem. I flew for a vacation to London and had an open return ticket from Amsterdam.

The war started while I was still in London. I continued according to plan and took the ferry to Amsterdam, but I definitely didn’t want to go back while the war was still raging, so I had to wait it out on low budget and hope for a fast ceasefire.

Amsterdam was a pretty good place for a young guy to kill time in that period. I embarked in a cheap youth hostel near the center. There were flocks of young people from all over Europe wandering around, still infected with the fever of the youth rebellion of the Sixties. You could sit with everybody to hear music for free in the open air. I was already pretty serious by that time about my political activism, but I wouldn’t say no to a joint if it passed by me.

Israelis looking for war

Wandering around just to keep myself away from war, I met some Israeli guys that were just looking for a way to go home to take part in the war. They were no regular flights but there were rumors about some flights that might fly to Lod from Amsterdam or some other European airports.

I remember especially one of them. He left Israel and already had good life in California. He came to Amsterdam as he heard that there may be some flight he could catch. It was not his first station in Europe. He told me how unlucky he was as he was only 18 in 1967 and just missed the war. He enlisted to the army later and continued to the USA, but he wouldn’t let himself miss another war. I still wonder whether he finally succeeded to get himself killed.

Criminal or just polite?

At the time you could hardly pass by in the streets near our hostel without having somebody whisper in your ear: “Hash, hash, hash… want hash?”

I could see where they took the willing customers. There was a middle-aged man seated always at the back of the longue in the hostel. They would seat with him while another guy would bring the stuff and soon they will go away.

Once I was hanging around in the street myself while one potential customer turned to me: Do you know where I can get hash?

Like the other guys (but without whispering in anybody’s ears), I brought him to the reliable source. I thought I’m entitled to get my fees for the service but decided to leave it like that, just being polite to everybody.

It was not a simple decision, as I was really running out of money.

Money problems

I was really naïve at the time. I had my last hundred dollars, and I tried to buy something in the street. The seller took the hundred dollar bill and requested me to wait while he is going to bring some change. He never returned. The other sellers around were looking at me like saying: you brought it upon yourself.

The war already finished and I had my flight back home, but for the last night I didn’t have money to pay the hostel, not to eat, not even to pay for the bus ticket to the airport.

In the evening I was wandering around in the streets of Amsterdam, just killing time, when some people called me. “Hey, they said, we know you from the hostel”. As I explained them my situation, they said they plan to sleep out on a boat and invited me to spend the night with them. I don’t really remember but I assume I even received some unexpected meal that night.

ComplicationsAmsterdam boats

Sitting with my new benefactors under the deck, I was not sure it was such a good luck. They were planning a robbery for that night. They went to sleep out so that there will be no evidence that they left the hostel in the middle of the night. There were maybe five men and one woman. It was her role to wake them up at around four o’clock in the morning.

I don’t think I slept much that night. But I was too egoistic to help my new friends and wake them up when the woman failed to do it. When they noticed it was already maybe six in the morning and the city around was starting to come to life – no good time for a robbery.

Happy End

I went to the station to take the bus to the airport.

As I arrived there I turned to the first man that happened to pass in the street.

“I have a ticket to go abroad, but I don’t have money to get the bus to the airport”, I told him.

He looked at me wearily.

“I know you’re lying. But I will give you the money anyway”.

I thanked him.

If you know him, please, thank him again.



Security Affair… in the Kindergarten

The following – completely true – short story is dedicated to all those people that are longing for the “democratic past” of Israel under “Mapai”.

In the middle Seventies, I was active in “The Workers’ League”, a small organization of the radical left that split from the famous “Matzpen”.

Two of our comrades were a couple of new immigrants from France. They came as Zionists but soon were disillusioned and became active in the Anti-Zionist organization. At the time that our story begins, the wife was working in a kindergarten that provided special care for children with Autism.

At the time there were not many institutions caring for these children. The kindergarten, in West Jerusalem, was affiliated to a local hospital. Our comrade was a specialist in her profession and did her best to help the children. She was loved by the management, the children and their parents.

Then, for some bureaucratic reason, the responsibility for the kindergarten was transferred from the ministry of health to the ministry of education.

As every Arab teacher knew very well at the time, in the ministry of education the last word about all appointments was given to the almighty Shin Bet – the Israeli secretive “internal security services”.

It came out that the Shin Bet’s authority didn’t spare Jewish teachers also, even not a kindergarten teacher that cared for autistic children. As soon as the ministry of education took control of the institution they informed the management that the leftist teacher should be immediately fired from her job.Dangerous_teacher

Finding a new qualified teacher for the hard task was not easy or fast, but the security authorities in the ministry refused even a temporary stay of execution until a replacement could be found. The parents faced a real problem also, as they couldn’t send their kids to the kindergarten without a teacher. Many of them had to skip work and stay at home. They organized a protest of their own, but, of course, their selfishness will not deter those responsible for the state’s security from fulfilling their sacred task.

All this was regular “no news” in the “Jewish democracy” under the “leftist” Labor Party. I wouldn’t waste your time with it unless there was a strange twist in the plot.

The teacher’s husband’s father happened to be one of the leaders of the Jewish community in France. When he heard the story he thought it is too foolish to be true. He didn’t support his son’s and daughter in law’s political activity in any way. But he thought that there is no reason that the teacher will be removed from work in a kindergarten where she obviously couldn’t have any subversive influence on the kids…

He remembered that he has a good friend. They went together to the same school and were active together in the Zionist movement. His friend made “Aliya” long time ago. By the time of our story his friend was already a pretty important minister in the Israeli government.

So he called his friend and told him of the extraordinary senseless persecution of his daughter in law. The minister quickly agreed that this doesn’t make sense and promised to speak with the responsible people and solve the problem.

The old French Jewish leader waited for a few days to hear from his minister-friend. There was no news. He tried to call him, but his good friend, untypically, was not answering his calls. He left messages in his office and home – but couldn’t get any response.

It was only a long time later when the two old leaders met by chance… The question of returning the daughter in law to her job was not relevant any more. The Israeli minister came to his old French friend and apologized: “I really tried. I did my best. But, you know, it was a security issue. I couldn’t do anything about it!”


Haifa Poetry Night in Solidarity with Dareen Tatour

Many Palestinians are arrested and held for long periods in Israeli prisons just for expressing their views, especially if those views happen to be opposed to the Israeli occupation and racist regime. Israeli police and Shabak (the secret services) supervise all social media and especially Facebook. One girl from Akka published a status supporting the Intifada at about 2:00 am and had the police knocking at her door before 4:00 am the same night.

No wonder that the detention of Dareen Tatour before dawn on October 11, 2015, didn’t get special attention. But Dareen happened to be a poet. At the center of her indictment stands a poem that she is accused of posting in youtube, titled “resist my people, resist them”. (As a result of Dareen’s trial this poem was later translated to English). A Hebrew translation of the poem, made by a policeman with no qualification for translating or explaining literature, is fully cited in the indictment document itself.

So it was a good opportunity to call for poets and other writers to get involved and expose Israel’s complete disregard to Palestinian human rights and freedom of expression.

Poetry Night in Haifa Al-Ghad

Herak Haifa, a local activist group, is used to organize solidarity with political prisoners. Usually it will call a vigil or a demonstration in the city’s main streets. But this time we thought to emphasize the persecution of Palestinian arts – by calling for an artistic event.Picture_from_Haifa_poetry_night_for_Dareen

The Haifa Al-Ghad club is located in the middle of Wadi Nisnas, the only Arab neighborhood that mostly survived the 1948 ethnic cleansing and later systematic destruction of the Arab city. It was the Ghetto in which all the remaining Arabs in Haifa were concentrated. Now it is the center of the city for the growing again Arab population. The bare stone walls create arches and form a space well adjusted for an event emphasizing Palestinian identity.

On Thursday night, May 5, 2016, some 40 people gathered in the club, including five young Palestinian poets, Dareen’s father and some relatives and friends, local activists and poetry lovers. Dareen was very happy to hear about the even but she couldn’t attend – she is not allowed to leave the small house in a suburb of Tel Aviv where she is under house detention.

The program

The evening was opened by Muhannad Abu Ghosh, welcoming the guests in the name of the Herak. He spoke about the importance of speaking up and defending the voice of the Palestinian struggle for national and social liberation – against the occupation and against internal pressures within the Palestinian society.

The first speaker was Tawfik Tatour, Dareen’s father. He described the harsh experience of the family from the moment that the police and “border guards” raided their house before dawn. He described the prolonged persecution of Dareen in the courts and different Israeli prisons and the harsh conditions imposed on her today. He praised the solidarity campaign and the encouragement it provides Dareen and her family in their daunting experience.

The magic started when the turn came to the poets. There were 5 of them, each with his special style, reading some known poems and some new ones that were never published before. But they all formed one consistent agenda – combining the national, the social and the personal in one quest for freedom and justice, liberty and love. Some poems related to the experiences of Palestinians in the racist Israeli society, others unreservedly exposed weaknesses of the Palestinian society. They proved that the associative expressive force of poetry may go beyond many political lectures and essays. The audience was electrified.

Hazar Yousef started the poetry reading with her poem called “Gaza – the city of love forbidden from broadcasting”. It relates to the suffering of this city’s people under siege and as victims of constant wars. She continued with a more personal song named “your heart”.

Second was Mahmoud Abu-‘Arisha, reading four shorter texts: “I don’t see your hands”, another poem with a title in Hebrew (but words in Arabic) describing his feelings at Israel’s “Independence day”, “God’s laugh” and “Fluffy Feathers”.

Tarek Khatib was third, but I don’t have a list of his poems. Hopefully I will get them later. ‘Alaa mhana came forth, reading section from a new poetry book that he is expected to publish soon.

Last was Ali Mawasi, who volunteered to do double role. First he read several poems from Dareen Tatour’s book “the last invasion”. Later he read two of his own poems, “Haifa” and “Roles”, which he dedicated to “the stones’ kids”.

A video of the whole event is expected to be published soon.

One of the enthusiastic audience finally commented: “We should really appreciate the bravery of these poets. Judging by the experience of Dareen they might fear to speak up. Reading such poetry may put you in prison for years.”

Sometimes the best defense is to show that nothing will deter you and you will go on speaking your mind.


How technological progress made me like everybody else?

Travelling along the streets of the occupied West Bank in the seventies and the eighties, there was a pastoral view that caught my imagination. Many kids of all ages were walking to school along the narrow roads. Apparently they had to walk like this for many kilometers. The view was even more surrealistic due to the eye-catching unified school dress that painted each section of the road with different colors and unnatural designs. But what really impressed me at the time was that many of the kids, boys and girls, used the opportunity to read, probably rehearsing their studies.Read_Walking

Like so many other things, I tried to learn this virtue from the West Bank kids. It worked for me very well. Mostly I was reading “The Economist” to keep myself updated with world affairs.

Over the last decade I’m using my dinner break at work to go to the sea shore, walking and reading. Sometimes with long white hair blowing with the wind – I made a strange figure.

Once a police patrol stopped near me and I heard one of them saying: I know this man, he ran away from Tira. Tira, originally Tirat Al-Louz a Palestinian town to the south of Haifa, ethnically cleansed and renamed to Tirat Ha-Carmel, a poor Jewish suburb, is the location of the main local hospital for the mentally ill. I succeeded to make myself calm and normal enough to pass this encounter and go on walking my way.

Read walking became such a central feature of my life that I even wrote a short story about it.

The problems started as the economist’s distribution network in the area stopped functioning. I would make the extra tour from the road to the beach to the books’ shop only to find that the last issue didn’t arrive yet. Try tomorrow, they would say, day after day. Finally I made a subscription to get the magazine by mail. But it didn’t really work either. After an initial grace period the issues were arriving four at a time, three weeks late by average.

Being deprived of my drug, I started reading the paper from my smartphone. It worked wonders. For the first time I could read the paper before readers in London…

Walking and reading my phone completely transformed my public image. As I was walk-reading along the beach, some guy looked at me, saying: Well, these new phones are really indulging… He smiled at me, sharing understandable human weakness.

Finally I became like everybody else.


Young ill-disciplined comrades

There are two historical riddles from Romania’s history between the two world wars that I wanted to throw some light on…

A nice house in front of the King’s Palace

Just in front of the king’s palace, a well-to-do and respected citizen built a nice house. The idea was that, in such a neighborhood, there is no fear that the police will crush in unexpected in the middle of the night. At most, they might come and knock politely on the door.

The house was specially planned and built to contain a secret room, with no visible door. For years this was the refuge of the general secretary of the Romanian Communist party. Even the kids that grew up in the house didn’t know they had another dweller.

I met one of these kids in the seventies in Haifa and heard the story from him. So, if the “Siguranța”, the fearsome secret police of that period, is still looking, they may better close this file.

Some background

In the days after the First World War, the Soviet revolution was still new and aroused great

Massacre of striking workers - Romania 1919

Massacre of striking workers – Romania 1919

hopes for a future of freedom and equality among poor workers and oppressed people all over the world. In May 1921, as the congress of Romania’s “Socialist-Communist Party” decided to join the Comintern (The Third, Communist, International, based in Moscow), 271 of the delegates were arrested. Some of them were executed without trial. Others were tortured and sentenced for “terrorism”.

In 1924 “Mârzescu Law” officially banned the communist party and assigned the death penalty for “communist propaganda”. At the time people were taking their commitment to communism deadly seriously. I heard of comrades that were hiding their party membership card in their houses, knowing what will be the consequence if they were exposed.


The respected citizen from the nice house near the palace didn’t tell his sons about his party affiliation, but he cared for them to find the right path. My friend was a member of a local chess club. One day a member of the club suggested on him “to meet someone” that was interested to know him.

He didn’t know the name of the comrade that came to see him. In the first meeting all that the guy told him was that it was very dangerous to be a communist in Romania. He suggested on him to take care and not get involved. But in case that he was really interested and insisting to put his life in danger, he can put him in contact with some activists. The young man was stubborn and insisted.

Organization and education

The young activists that formed the party cell were from different neighborhoods of Bucharest. They were not allowed to know each other’s real names, so that they will not be able to give up names under interrogation and torture.

They were engaged in the deadly crime of communist propaganda. For example, they would go to football games and at the moment that the local team scored a goal and everybody jumped in joy, they threw out party leaflets, hoping that nobody will notice who did it.

To make them more conscious of what may happen, they were taken to meet a comrade that was released from prison after suffering hellish torture. He told them his story in detail.

Breach of discipline

My friend and another young comrade decided to act for themselves, disobeying party discipline.

There was one “Siguranța” interrogator that was most famous for his sadistic cruelty in torturing the comrades. They followed him and learned his regular path from work to his home. One night they killed him.

They couldn’t even tell the other comrades, as such acts were strictly forbidden.

Sad end

Bad discipline didn’t end there. The young comrades were not following the strict instructions that forbade them from knowing each other’s names and addresses. My


Romanian Poster: The struggle continues!

friend told me of such incidents, for example, when he wanted to get a book from another comrade. Instead of waiting for the next meeting to get the book, he would accompany the comrade to his house, coming to know his address.

After some years of activity, one of the comrades was caught. Subsequently most of them were caught and killed.

My friend went to the mountains and didn’t come back to the city until Romania was freed at the last stages of the second world war.


Jelemeh (Kishon) “Detention Home”

Translation errors on public display are always a joy…Kishon_Detention_HOME

It bears more meaning when it is connected to a place so full of memories and associations like the Jelemeh (“Kishon”) detention center – where political activists from Haifa and all the north of Palestine are used to spend nights after lively demonstrations. Not to mention the Shabak interrogation center that is hidden in the same complex, and is well known for its abuse and torture of detainees from all over the country.

Now, as they work on the new railway from Haifa to Bisan (“Beit She’an”, after ethnic cleansing and Judification), which will soon trade again on the legendary route from Haifa that used to go to Der’aa in Syria to join the Hijaz railway from Damascus to Mecca, they also renovated the entrance junction to the infamous detention center.

So they added this new bold road sign in three languages.

Reading the sign at first, it hit a sentimental cord. I sometimes felt as if Jelemeh was my second home – I didn’t really spend so much time there, but it is the only place in Haifa where, if I happen to be there, I will not go to sleep at home at the end of the night.

Thinking more about it, you tend to blame the low level of the Israeli educational system. Even if you finish “book home” (Beit Sefer, “school” in Hebrew) – you don’t really learn anything except for the Bible and Zionist propaganda.Google_translate

Some deeper analysis led to the conclusion that the problem lies with Google Translate. Sure the sign’s contractor simply put the words in Google and got it out to print…

But checking with Google proves that it is not so dumb… it just must know the full context to set it right… So it is the Human Factor after all.

The Arabic text is not less weired. I don’t speak about the names of places, as the name of the Arabic village that used to be there, Jelemeh, was replaced by the Hebrew “Kishon”, after the river that passes nearby. The “detention center” became نقطة – “Nuktat Tawkif” – sort of “detention point”. Even Google couldn’t explain this. But “Nukta” (نكتة) in Arabic is also “a joke” – which the detention center is not – but its sign surely is.