Lots to update on, which I will do in my next post. Now, I'd like to mention some worthwhile reading.
First is Daniel Levy's commentary on Obama's speech in Cairo.
Second, my high school friend Reid, who is an artist/graphic novelist, mentioned to me in an email that he did a drawing for the New Yorker about a playwrite/performer, David Hare. I found a fascinating article by him in the NY Times Book Review, about a month old. He apparently performs a monologue, comparing the Israeli "Separation Wall" to the Berlin Wall. Below is the drawing he did for the New Yorker.
Now, some particularly interesting tidbits from Hare's article, link above:
"Professor Sari Nusseibeh of Al-Quds University puts it most pithily:
It's like sticking someone in a cage and then when he starts screaming, as any normal person would, using his violent temper as justification for putting him in the cage in the first place. The wall is the perfect crime because it creates the violence it was ostensibly built to prevent"
"The evening before, in a suburb of Jerusalem, I've been taking tea with an Israeli intellectual who outlines what he regards as the defining paradox of Israel: to the world it seems powerful and aggressive, yet to itself it seems weak and frail."
Quoting that intellectual: "We feel our being is not guaranteed. You might say we have imported from the Diaspora the Jewish disease—a sense of rootlessness, an ability to adapt and make do, but not to settle. After sixty years, Israel is not yet a home."
"The socialist idealism in which Israel was founded is long gone. In its place, a hardheaded practicality. But if it's hardheaded practicality you want, if it's beaches and machine guns, you can find those anywhere in the world. What will make the young choose to live in Israel?"
"One evening not long ago we'd been at a party in Ramallah. A guest told me about a Hamas torture technique against citizens of Gaza suspected of being informants:
The victim is shown a wall on which a staircase is drawn, and at the top is a drawing of a bicycle. The victim is told to go and get the bicycle. He says he can't get the bicycle because it's a drawing. He is then told if he doesn't bring the bicycle downstairs he will be beaten. "I can't get it. It's a drawing."
"Am I just a decadent Westerner who can't help thinking spirituality must have something to do with beauty? Jerusalem used to be beautiful. Now it isn't. As far as I'm concerned, Jerusalem is spoiled—How can it not be spoiled? It has a great concrete wall beside it—but then Jerusalem was never intended for me. It was intended for believers."
"Coming into Ramallah now. Raja Shehadeh, a lawyer who lives here, says that it is Ramallah's greatest good fortune not to be mentioned in the Bible. For that reason Ramallah is left alone, of no interest to fanatics, because its religious significance is precisely nothing. Nothing divine happened in Ramallah. What a stroke of luck for any town that wants to survive! Not to be named in any Holy Book"
"What is so shocking about Israel is that these days it doesn't even have a protest movement. In the old days, there were peaceniks on the streets and long-haired students. Now they have almost no peace movement at all. What can you say? A country which loses its hippies is in deep trouble."
"This [Nablus] could be Marrakech: row upon row of raw meat, and fresh fruit, and flies and umbrellas and clothes and perfumes and spices, and dogs wandering, and children, and bubbling pans of kanafeh, of which the locals are famously proud: layers of Nabulsi cheese boiled with sugar, dyed dayglo-orange and scattered with crushed pistachios. Too rich for my blood. Even the smell sticks my tongue to the roof of my mouth. Up to 80 percent of the citizens of this town are unemployed. So there are few customers, and the prices are half what they are in Jerusalem. In the corner, a biblical hammam, up a short alley, nothing but steam and stones."