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Showing posts from March, 2010

Spring cleaning for Passover: Ancient Bnei-Brak

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Passover is nearly here, and in Israel that means two things: first everybody is spring cleaning and secondly everyone is planning a holiday. Orthodox Jews thoroughly clean out  their homes and then burn any bread.  When I lived in an orthodox neighbourhood of Tel-Aviv every passover there were small bonfires all over the place where people burnt their bread. The entire nation's supply of bread and bread shops are sold to an Arab in a town called Abu-Gosh (famed for its Pitta and Humous). He then sells it back one (bread free) week later.

The other thing that happens is that the price of a cleaning woman goes through the roof: everybody is trying to hire one.  My cleaner last year simply disappeared for three weeks as she could make much more money working for other people.  Presumably the garbage collectors have more work too. Tel-Aviv's garbage used to go to Hiriya Hiria  which is a dump just outside the city. In the nineties when Israel made peace with Jordan I read an accou…

Life on two wheels: Motorcycle tyres and Rabbis in Tel-Aviv

Monday morning I had to go to the dentist to have my teeth cleaned. At 8:40 AM I got on my bicycle and cycled 15-20 minutes to the dentists.  They injected one half of my jaw with anaesthetic and then cleaned it with what felt like a wire brush.When I emerged slightly staggering and with no sensation in half my jaw, I realized that I had left my mobile phone at home so I cycled home (total time: 35 minutes cycling). After checking my e-mail and making sure no one had tried to rewrite my Wikipedia "history of Israel" I got back on my bicycle and cycled to the "employment office" (1 hour cycling). They should really be called the unemployment office because except for the clerks everyone there is unemployed. To get in you undergo a quick security check where they make sure you're not a bomber and then go up two escalators where they check you more thoroughly and use a metal detector. It makes for a lot of queueing and I met Neta (my partner) in the queue.  She wa…

My other passport is with Mossad

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My daughter just got her first passport and now I am faced with the decision of whether I should try and get her a British passport too.  My son has three passports: British, US and Israeli (his mother is American).  It's fine as long as they don't all start requiring compulsory military service or taxes.  At this stage he's too young for the Mossad to send his doubles (or in his case trebles) to Dubai.  I somehow avoided this fate, probably because my surname "Lowenstein" is too obviously Jewish (it isn't Jewish). 
Passports are a big deal here in Israel.  Our passports won't get you into many places.  My British passport enables me to freely trek or work round Europe and, no less importantly, it gives me visaless entry to the USA. An Israeli wanting to travel to the USA has to queue for hours at the US Embassy where each applicant is personally interviewed to check they are neither a terrorist or someone trying to illegally emigrate. On my occasional jaun…

The Olympics: The World'r foremost nationalist pagent

There are too many Olympic sports. I mean why is shooting an Olympic sport? If shooting is a sport then why not knife throwing, darts or firing a cannon?  And why is horse riding an Olympic sport but not sheep dog trials?  Why on earth is synchronized swimming an Olympic sport?  I know it looked good in the 1950s Hollywood movies but does that justify it becoming an Olympic sport?  Olympic sports should reflect what people actually do.
It used to drive me mad that the Triathlon was not a sport while horse jumping was (horse jumping but not horse racing... what's the difference?).  Triathlon has since got in.    But what about Snooker?  And why oh why is walking a sport?  It makes more sense to have a funny walks competition.  Chess is an Olympic sport but not Backgammon, Bridge has applied (to the Winter Olympics!) so why not Poker?
The Olympics have got way too big.  The so called Olympic village is now a small town and the facilities... At the end of an Olympics the host city ge…

Facebook and statistics - On the internet not everything is what it seems

According to official Facebook statistics there are over 400 million users of Facebook. And it continues to grow.  Google are sufficiently freaked to have launched the rival Buzz service without properly figuring out the implications
People are talking about the fact that soon most internet activity will take place through Facebook and apparently Facebook users tend to stay online within Facebook longer so the company has huge influence over the internet.A lot is being said about it. However I have noticed a problem with Facebook statistics.
Facebook has a policy barring children under 13 from opening an account but in fact a large percentage of  primary school children in Israel have Facebook accounts - and they are all under 13.  How do they do it?  They lie about their age.  If you ask the children how old they are on Facebook you get some very amusing answers, raging from just over 13 to over 100.  How many of Israeli Facebook users are underage?  Nobody knows. Official Statistics…