Thursday, September 16, 2010

Shongololo's African Adventure: Part 5 (Jozi-Home)

Emaweni webaba
Silale maweni
Webaba silale maweni x9
Homeless, homeless
Moonlight sleeping on a midnight lake
Homeless, homeless
Moonlight sleeping on a midnight lake
We are homeless, we are homeless
The moonlight sleeping on a midnight lake
And we are homeless, homeless, homeless
The moonlight sleeping on a midnight lake
Zio yami, zio yami, nhliziyo yami
Nhliziyo yami amakhaza asengi bulele
Nhliziyo yami, nhliziyo yami
Nhliziyo yami, angibulele amakhaza
Nhliziyo yami, nhliziyo yami
Nhliziyo yami somandla angibulele mama
Zio yami, nhliziyo yami
Nhliziyo yami, nhliziyo yami
Too loo loo, too loo loo etc


I landed back in Joburg in the middle of the night, crawled to the Avis, picked up another little runabout, and headed back to Victory Park. England had managed to come second in their group courtesy of the Americans scoring a last-minute winner against Algeria and their own inability to manage more than two goals against three pretty crap teams in 270 minutes of footy.

With my plans to have an easy trip to Rustenburg for England's last-16 match and a Soccer City quarter final match involving England on my final night now in disarray, some reshuffling of the ticket pack was in order.

A call to Bisonsbrother to offload the spare tickets and get some travel companions, a favour from the talented AJ on parking in Bloem, and a classic Jewish/Israeli coincidental encounter with a friend's brother who needed to offload his Soccer City QF tickets later, and I was back on track. We set off for Bloem and made the journey in pretty good time, other than where we hit a bit of a traffic jam due to light aircraft on the road. Seriously.

Although the result was predictably crap, and was tempered by the sense of injustice over Lampard's goal-that-wasn't, and the greater sense that England had been so shite that for them to beat the Krauts would have been a fluke and unfair on a German team that had played with huge flair (and went on to thump the Argies even more convincingly), we had a great day out, culminating in one of the funniest car journeys of all time on the return leg - magma-hot mayo in the chicken pasties, trying to stop for a pee and petrol in a dodgy pitch-dark township, general ripping conversation including a session on "if I had to go gay for one player at the World Cup", and so on. Benjy, Mark and Adam - I salute you.

So, back to Joburg with nearly a week to kill before my final game and a flight home. AJ very kindly let me tag along on a few expeditions in return for me acting as his chauffeur and assistant. This included a trip to the quite incredible Saxon Hotel, where he was supposed to be meeting Bill Clinton and heading off for a shoot with Nelson Mandela. It turned out Clinton had already gone on ahead, so AJ was chauffeured off, I finished my 4 tiny goujons for £10, picked up his spare camera equipment so I looked nice and official and had a poke around.

Seeing the sign to the Nelson Mandela Platinum Suite, and figuring that Billdog was probably staying there, I trotted up some back stairs, smiled nicely at the burly guys with dark glasses and obvious earpieces, waved my camera bits and trotted right on in.


After checking out the his-and-intern's bathrooms, sweet drawing-room, lounge etc, I was feeling a slight after-effect of those pesky up-market goujons. Unable to attack the Presidential Porcelain, I sat on the edge of Bill's boudoir bed and gave him a little air biscuit to enjoy later with his post-coital cigar.

Then I settled down to watch Italy vs. Slovakia, a real classic game as it turned out, until it was time to collect AJ, at which point I was driven in a limo from the porch of the hotel all of 50 yards to the garage where my little hire car was waiting. Elitism rocks.

During the week, AJ also took me along to see the media centres and empty stadia at Ellis Park (where I met and chatted to my new best friend and possibly in the top 5 coolest living Israelis, Modi Bar-On), and Soccer City:




I also fitted in a nice little day trip to Maropeng, the Cradle of Humankind, where I got to go on a bizarre underground boat ride, learn about evolution, clamber through some excellent stalactite caves, and potter around some decent parks. AJ also accompanied for a visit to the superb Apartheid Museum, which was moving and informative, and served to reinforce my utter indignation at anyone who dares to call Israel an "apartheid state".

I also found a titchy little baby lizard in the house and rescued him from being eaten by the cats:


My final 24 hours in Joburg took in a cracking game at Soccer City (Uruguay vs. Ghana),  which I very nearly missed because I could not find the tickets anywhere. After systematically searching the house for 2 hours, calling FIFA to see if they would re-issue them (not interested) and my insurer to see if they would refund them (not happening), texting my hosts to see if they were lying around anywhere and had been moved, I had only one more option. Rubber gloves on, wheelie bin inverted... and there they were. Bless Violet the maid, she thought the kitchen table was too cluttered with all those pieces of paper, so there were my $400 of tickets mouldering gently under the weight of lemon peel and cat litter.

I sped out and made it to my seat literally as the game kicked off, and was glad to have got there - a blinding match complete with two great goals, a missed penalty in the last minute of injury time, a tense shoot-out, and a generally great atmosphere, with my new friend Eddie, who also accompanied the next morning for a visit to SoWeTo, which was absolutely fascinating.

Now knackered beyond belief, we headed to the airport. A quick flit between the BA 1st lounge and SAA's own offering to get the best balance of food, drink and the Argentina vs. Germany game, and I was homeward bound.

(Pic from Cape Point)

Settling into my flat-bed seat in row 1, I polished off some decent SA wines and port, watched a film, and conked out, waking 8 hours later as we dropped into Munich. I crawled to the Senator Lounge, took a long hot shower and had a spot of Krug with a light breakfast, before taking the Lufty flight back to TLV. Another film and some more grub, touchdown in the Holy Land, brief hover and wait for Debbie to come pick me up, and I was HOME.



Strong wind destroy our home
Many dead, tonight it could be you
Strong wind, strong wind
Many dead, tonight it could be you
And we are homeless, homeless
Moonlight sleeping on a midnight lake
Homeless, homeless
Moonlight sleeping on a midnight lake
Homeless, homeless
Moonlight sleeping on a midnight lake
Somebody say ih hih ih hih ih
Somebody sing hello, hello, hello
Somebody say ih hih ih hih ih
Somebody cry why, why, why?
Somebody say ih hih ih hih ih
Somebody sing hello, hello, hello
Somebody say ih hih ih hih ih
Somebody cry why, why, why?
Somebody say ih hih ih hih ih
Yitho omanqoba (ih hih ih hih ih) yitho omanqoba
Esanqoba lonke ilizwe
(ih hih ih hih ih) Yitho omanqoba (ih hih ih hih ih)
Esanqoba phakathi e England
Yitho omanqoba
Esanqoba phakathi e London
Yitho omanqoba
Esanqoba phakathi e England
Somebody say ih hih ih hih ih
Somebody sing hello, hello, hello
Somebody say ih hih ih hih ih
Somebody cry why, why, why?
Somebody say ih hih ih hih ih
Somebody sing hello, hello, hello
Somebody say ih hih ih hih ih
Somebody cry why, why, why?
Kuluman
Kulumani, Kulumani sizwe
Singenze njani
Baya jabula abasi thanda yo
Ho

ORFTORFU: white phosphorus

BBC News report from Orla Bowen, 15th September

"Today in the Gaza Strip, occupying forces fired a barrage of mortars, over 20% of which were white phosphorus shells, at civilian targets in total contravention of the Geneva Convention and basic moral behaviour. Human Rights Watch, the UN, B'Tselem, Hizbullah, Turkey, the International Solidarity Movement and other moderate NGOs and peace activists moved to condemn in the harshest possible terms this terrible crime against innocent women and children."

Only you will never actually see this story, because the occupying force is Hamas, which has perpetuated the misery of the inhabitants of Gaza for 5 years through exactly this kind of madness, and their target was Ashkelon and the surrounding villages.

Fortunately most of them landed in fields and nobody was injured. But once again the intent is the thing to focus on - they aimed callously at civilians, as opposed to the IDF's policy of aiming at the bad guys (which sometimes results in unfortunate collateral damage and mistakes in the heat of battle, for example shooting three apparently innocent Palestinians who found an RPG launcher in a field, picked it up and pointed it in the direction of the border - tragic but what exactly did they expect the reaction to be?).

The full article on the mortar barrage can be found here. ORFTORFU!

Monday, September 06, 2010

My Rosh Hashanah message


Dear Freedmanslifers

This is my first Rosh Hashanah in Israel as an Israeli citizen, so although I have trodden an increasingly secular path, I am acutely aware that Israel is the Jewish nation, and whilst I am struggling with what I believe in spiritually, I want to share with you thirteen articles of faith in my homeland:

I believe that Israel was founded on principles of being a force for good in the world. 
I believe that Israel can be proud of the way it has created a stable, modern, thriving, democratic state.
I believe in Herzl's Altneuland; Zionism is not a dirty word and we are not in a post-Zionist era - Zionism should articulate our continued efforts to bridge the gap between Israel's current realities and that utopia - if we will it, it is no dream.

I believe that Israelis (for all they like a good kvetch) care deeply for each other on a level that goes way beyond shared citizenship; that is why we all think of Gilad constantly, as if he was our own brother.
I believe that Israel is ready for genuine peace if they have genuine partners, willing to make creative solutions that are applied equally at last (ie recognising Jewish refugees from Arab lands, allowing settlers to take PA residency).
I believe that Israeli society can and will absorb the aftershock if these talks fail, and will never resile on its dream of a just peace merely because there is no-one to take its outstretched hand.


I believe that Israelis need to take much more individual responsibility for their actions domestically, for example not littering their beaches and national parks, and ensuring a high quality education for their kids.
I believe that parts of Israeli society need to achieve a better balance of their rights and responsibilities; everyone should serve the country in some capacity at 18, even if it's as park rangers, beach inspectors or classroom assistants.
I believe that Israel will be around a lot longer than Ahmedinejad, so it's worth planning on that basis instead of the usual short-termism that prevails in too much of society.

I believe that Israel is my home.

Please, those of you who are already here, help us to fix the parts that don't work; making aliyah is not the same as being an expat, and it comes with its own set of responsibilities.

Please, Diaspora Jews who are thinking of a holiday or a long stint somewhere, choose Israel and help us; it is not your duty to complete the work, but neither should you desist from participating.

Please, non-Jewish friends, I ask that you just judge us as you would any other country in the same circumstances; if you see mistakes on our part, work with us to resolve them, and if you see that others judge us unfairly, work with us to defend ourselves.

Please, Israeli government, let this be the year that you finally understand that BDS - the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (or Blacklist, Demonise and Slander, or Bias, Discrimination and Selectivism) - and the wider campaign against Israel that involves just about everyone on the left worldwide, has subverted most of Europe's trade unions, media and academia, most Muslims (at least passively), and the tut-tutting pacifist European middle classes who support the perceived underdog, who jump on bandwaggons, convoys and flotillas at the drop of a hat - represent a major strategic threat to our country, in the long run just as important as Iran or Hamas, and require us to make a large and ongoing investment in apparatus to respond to and defeat it, just as the IDF handles military defense.


It is a privilege to celebrate the first anniversary of my arrival in Israel today, just before Rosh Hashanah. It has been on the whole an incredible and fulfilling year - everyone keeps saying it's a honeymoon period but things feel like they are getting better and better, even though (or perhaps because?) there is so much to do personally, professionally and, um, societally...

Shana tovah umetuka - a good and sweet new year to all.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Guest spot: Tony Blair

I actually miss him, now it turns out Cameron has funny ideas about penal reform (if Gaza is a "prison camp", the UKPA had better start opening malls and allowing luxury cars into British jails).