News Snippets

'A pity there isn't a united coalition encompassing all sectors of society to protest against the unwise use of violent police behavior.'

Sivan Rahav Meir ,

Sivan Rahav meir
Sivan Rahav meir
צילום: עצמי

1.

This hasn't been a week for concentrating on the news. In between listening to the children fighting in the back seat and preparing breakfast for them, although it somehow felt more like brunch or even lunch, I did manage to catch a few snippets. That's how most of the country has been this past week, so I was in good company. Here are some of my thoughts about the events of the past week, heard through the filter of vacation with the kids.

* Of course it was a huge mistake to arrest Eldad Yaniv and Meni Naftali, turning them into freedom fighters on par with Nelson Mandela and Natan Sharansky. How much did they pay the Israel police force for this entire debacle?

* What hypocrisy! Those who protested against the arrest of these two, were the same ones who didn't utter a word of condemnation in other cases of police violence. It's a ritual: when the police use violence against journalists, protest is heard from journalists; when the Arabs are the victims, they are the ones to protest and when it's the settlers or haredim who bear the brunt of the violence, only they protest. So now it's the turn of the left-wing protesters. These protests against violence are so predictable, it's a pity there isn't a united coalition encompassing all sectors of society to protest against the unwise use of violent behavior by the police.

* It was so refreshing to hear all about the solar eclipse. Throughout the year, the media tells us about eclipses of another kind, ones generated by human beings. Last week we were treated to hours of prime-time, live discussions about science, space and planet earth. How refreshing to know that the news can sound so completely different. Let's have another eclipse, soon, please!

It would be a mistake to ban gender separation for haredim in higher education. Where did academia's identity politics suddenly disappear to? What happened to all the narratives of inclusion and multi-culturalism? When it comes to the haredim, these values suddenly disappear into thin air. In their opposition to the Minister of Education's pragmatic policies, those opposed to gender separation often sound like secular Neturai Karta, the anti-Zionist religious Jewish sect.

* We don't yet know details of the meetings about Iran, but we do know that Netanyahu was warmly welcomed in Russia. We have almost got used to his visits to one superpower after another where he is received with great respect and we tend to take them for granted. In his present term in office, Netanya was warmly welcomed by Trump in the US, followed by an equally warm reciprocal visit. He has also met Macron in Paris and was the first Israeli Prime Minister to pay an official visit to Hungary, where he also signed agreements with Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. His visit to China was a success, as were the ones to Australia and the highly-publicized one to Africa, and of course Indian PM Modi's successful visit to Israel. Next month, Netanyahu will make a historic visit to Latin America to Argentina, Mexico and Colombia. It is worth mentioning these visits because sometimes Yair Netanyahu's Facebook posts get far more media attention.

2.

Ever since I wrote in this column about my dream to set up the "Movement for Cellular Sanity," many people have contacted me, mostly to describe their distress in this technological era and their feeling that something has gone wrong with our listening abilities and relationship skills. For example, Adv. Rivka Schwartz told me about her four-year-old daughter who was playing with her doll. She put the doll to bed, covered her with a blanket and then placed a bottle beside her… and a cellphone. "It was both so sweet but also absolutely shocking. Is this how our children see us? That we are available at all times, that we have to sleep with our phone? This was a wake-up call for me and I am going to do some soul searching about it."

Evidence abounds that people are changing because of the cellphone. The question is, what are we going to do about it? Several schools, yeshivot and army units sent me pictures of their "Cellular Box" where phones are deposited during an activity or class. This is an important step in the right direction but too simplistic because it is easy to control the (non)use of cellphones in a closed environment. But what about in real life? How do we make it the culturally acceptable norm to close one's phone for a certain period? Will people change their status to 'unavailable' not because they were forced to but because it is the thing to do? Or are we doomed to spend our entire time (except for Shabbat) reacting to each notification and alert? Are we always going to give a positive answer to the question 'awake?' whatever time of day or night it is?

Then a family from Jerusalem sent me this picture of a decorated shoe box. The caption reads: "The movement for cellular sanity. This family is not available." Karen, the mother wrote that everyone is busy at work, studying or volunteering and whole days can pass when phone in constantly in use. So I prepared this box and I hope that we will rise to the challenge and deposit our phones in it every evening. This cursed machine holds so much power over us."

If you think about it, one of the major problems with the phone is that it does not have a designated place in the home. Silverware has a special drawer in the kitchen, clothes are hung in wardrobes and even the computer and television have furniture designed specifically for their use. But where should we place our phone when we choose not to be available? First, we have to designate a specific place (make no mistake, our hand is not an option!) After all, it is always with us, or next to us in the same room where we can easily see it or reach out to it. I have yet to see a specially-designed holder for a cellphone. I am throwing out the challenge to design one, there may even be a marketing potential. The very fact that we designate a special place for the cellphone forces us to make an effort to reach out for it when we need it, and that in itself is an important step on the way to creating a more balanced relationship with our phone.

3.

You didn't hear about it in the news, nor was it the main headline of the newspapers, but something dramatic did happen this week, the start of the month of Elul, the month of mercy and penitence, of change and of mending our ways. Time has its own beat and pulse and during this month, it beats in a different manner. I came across three very contemporary definitions to describe the essence of this ancient month.

"And now for something completely different." A friend suggested this phrase which I have used this on numerous occasions in the television studio when moving on to a new, unconnected item. Elul is "something completely different." We move away from the summer month of August full of trips, sand and ice cream to something completely different, a month of spirituality, soul searching and existential thoughts.

Moti Karpel defined this month as "Open Skies." This expression is commonly used to describe agreements between countries and airlines which cancel tariffs and other taxes. However, this is exactly what Elul offers us. Under the open skies of Elul, many obstacles are removed and we have more direct access to God, He is closer and more available. It is a time of change and an opportunity to change ourselves for the better.

I also heard Elul described as an "Escape Room." Like a modern-day city of refuge, Elul is a time to flee from the pressures of day-to-day life, to challenge ourselves and to try and solve the problems that bother us. Have a great month and a Shana Tova, a Happy New Year.




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