We had an earlyish start on Tuesday morning of last week in Tel Aviv. Our flight was at 10.15, so the taxi picked us up at 7.15 on what was an already steamy Tel Aviv morning. [We had joked the previous evening that we’d get up at 5.30 provided out bodies hadn’t adhered to the sheets during the night—and that was with the ceiling fan working full time.]
Nine hours later at Heathrow Airport in London we emerged to what was a noticeable difference in temperature—and humidity—yet with the sun beaming through the living room window later in the afternoon/evening, it seemed almost as hot and humid as Tel Aviv and the following day had us running to extract our solitary fan and turn it up to maximum and proceeded to get through our “zombie day”, which is how we refer to the day after travel. It wasn’t quite Tel Aviv but still quite disagreeable and we braced ourselves for an uncomfortable few days.
However, nil desperandum. This is London, and of course Thursday brought one of those true, really true, summer days that we’d been dreaming about for weeks. Obviously, the tee shirts I’d been wearing comfortably in Tel Aviv for weeks were no longer appropriate and the big questions of the morning became whether I should wear a long-sleeved cotton sweater or go straight for a woolly one, should I wear a shirt (a real shirt, that is, replete with collar and sleeves) under it and should I take a raincoat with me on my walk? There’s nothing like some little British uncertainty to sharpen the brain and brace the body for what might or might not come!
However, it’s not just the weather that marks the distinction between the country at the eastern end of the Mediterranean whence I had come and this one, the last but one most westerly large island off the coast of Western Europe. Listen to the news on the radio or television or read the newspapers and you might well think you’re on a different planet. (And here, for those of you who usually read the text that appears in this blog and don’t just look at the pretty pictures, I give due warning of a forthcoming fulmination by a grumpy old cynic. This shouldn’t be taken too seriously but things like this happen from time to time and I feel better when it’s over and done with!)
In Israel we have a Prime Minister who has been in office on this watch over eight years already. It’s now 21(!!!) years since he first became Prime Minister. In a democracy such a length of time as this strongly suggests that he is well past his sell-by date. Two decades is time enough even for a gourmet cheese to begin to rot and reek!
[Yes, I know that Winston Churchill first entered the Cabinet in 1911 and stayed around for 44 years on and off. I also know that Mr. Netanyahu likes to compare himself with Churchill so that in his worldview Iran ≠ Nazi Germany, Israel ≠ Great Britain and Bibi ≠ the voice in the wilderness. However, although Churchill made many errors in his career prior to becoming Prime Minister, when his time came, he was the great unifier whereas unification is hardly Bibi’s strongest suit.]
Bibi has never exactly been a noble from Gruyère; I prefer to think of him as a piece of industrially-produced plain-old American mozzarella in a vacuum-tight plastic bag, eminently stretchable and malleable when melted and something that goes with anything one can think up — hamburger and steak (each with two differing kosher certificates), roasted vegetables, the lot. Moreover, we also know that plain old mozzarella is stacked on shelves like white bricks, which it pretty much resembles. Most commercial mozzarella is desiccated to give it longer shelf life; however, the corollary of this is that with less moisture, there’s less taste. In fact, it’s tasteless, just like you-know-who. Nevertheless, bags of pre-grated mozzarella are extremely popular with consumers in America and elsewhere even if they’re only fibrous strings of some remotely dairy-like substance that has been dusted and injected with preservatives. But it’s what culinarily backward consumers have been led to enjoy, what they’ve been told is good for them, so why not give it to them—even if it’s potentially lethal and makes them ill? Comme-çi Bibi and the Israel electorate.
Surrounded by one scandal after another if not yet engulfed by them (“They’ll find nothing because there’s nothing there.”), all dreamt up by a cabal of leftist journalists and others who have engaged in a prolonged witch-hunt to discredit him (does this sound familiar?), he soldiers on, unleashing his attack dogs, his poodles and his common or garden mongrels to decry the false accusations against him and berate the press. And the more threatened he perceives himself to be, the more irrational and unpredictable his decisions and the more potentially detrimental to the country and the wider Jewish population as when he signed up as an honorary Republican in the last two American presidential elections, or when he consorts with neo-fascists in Hungary (to engender their help in changing EU attitudes to Israel), or created an unnecessary crisis with Jordan, or calls for the execution of terrorists and so on and so on. (All irrational except when you realise that he’s competing with others over his core supporters and then it becomes rational.)
Given that several people close to him have not only been interrogated by the police but also held by them—in separate cases potentially involving bribery, corruption, the giving of favours and such like, his multiple paranoias have been fertilised so as to cause them to blossom into their full splendour—and it’s only just beginning.
In a democracy, we have to give the benefit of the doubt to those alleged to have been dishonest or who have been accused until s/he is found guilty, so perhaps they’ll find nothing because there really is nothing there to find. But given that in recent years the police have recommended, the prosecutors have acted and the courts have sentenced, among others, a former President, a former Prime Minister, a former Finance Minister, a former Interior Minister (who, believe it or not, after having served out his sentence and banishment from public life, is once more the Interior Minister and has again come under scrutiny), nothing is impossible. (But then the Ministress of Justice seems to think that the courts are also controlled by a [different] junta of leftist jurists!)
Compare this with the news from Britain, where apart from the continual reports about the Brexit negotiations, the talk is not about how to be rid of a Prime Minister who has been around for two decades but whether the incumbent will last out the calendar year. After a year of indecisive decisions and famously flamboyant flip-flops, Mrs. May has gone away to break loose from the drudge of decision-making and to engage in one of her favourite pastimes — walking. Not in Brexit Britain as you might imagine but in Italy and then Switzerland where she hopes, I suspect, that she might be able to escape the madding crowd (i.e., the tabloid press and other nosey-parkers). She has avoided trekking in the UK this time round possibly because of the bad memories and the nightmares it invokes, as on her last walking holiday to North Wales in the spring she had this great idea of calling an early election and winning a large parliamentary majority. As the Hungarian proverb so aptly puts it: “As one makes his bed, so he sleeps his dream.” Or in this case, her cot and her cauchemar.
The big news since our arrival in London—and for weeks and months before—has been the harrowing story of Charlie Gard, an 11-month old baby dying from a rare form of mitochondrial disease.
The child was being treated at Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital, a world-renowned institution. He had suffered seizures over half a year ago and as a consequence, the entire team treating him concluded that he had suffered irreversible neurological damage and that his life-support systems should be withdrawn. However, the parents refused to believe that his brain was damaged and demanded that the child should be transferred for experimental treatment to the United States. The hospital refused, noting that no animal or human with the child’s precise disease had received this experimental treatment and because the neurological damage was irreversible, the chances of benefit were nil.
The parents wanted what they wanted and the case went to court and it became public, very public. The media took hold of the situation with relish and do what the media often do and worked the story up to fever pitch. People demonstrated; people attacked medical staff at Great Ormond Street verbally and physically. “Who were the doctors anyway to make decisions about a child’s life?”, they said. “The decision to end it must be taken by the parents and the parents alone.” People took sides and had opinions—without knowing, let alone understanding, the facts.
Finally, after the child had been examined and tested by the American doctor whose experimental treatment the parents had wanted for little Charlie, they relented and agreed that life support systems should be withdrawn. But that wasn’t the end. They wanted Charlie to die at home; the hospital and the courts said: “Impossible”. They compromised and agreed to end his life in a hospice as the mob screamed “Murderers!” at the medical staff. The judge in the case decided that the stay in the hospice should be as short as possible and the tale came to its sad but inevitable end on Friday afternoon.
The media have a lot to answer for, having blown up what should have been a private tragedy into a pandemonium! If anyone wishes to read a more complete version of this story, there’s Melanie Phillips’ blog. Normally, I’m not a great fan of Melanie but she gets it right here.
And à propos the media, on Wednesday, there was a story about the publication of a UK government plan for tackling roadside nitrogen dioxide. This includes banning the sale of all new conventional petrol and diesel cars as of 2040 with the goal that by 2050, almost every car or van using UK roads should be emissions-free. 2050 is 33 years from now. A noble intention, indeed.
However, on Thursday morning, the media were doing what they usually do and the story was played out in all its glory on radio and TV and in the papers. I mean if cars are all going to be electric, how on earth will the power grid cope? Will there be enough charging stations all over the country? Good grief, if I’m cooking dinner for my family and all the neighbours are charging their car batteries, will my family have to eat their dinner cold? Maybe this means that we’ll starve?! Once more (but this time at least only for one day) near alarm and hysteria prevailed until the next inane story came along. And it’s not even August yet, the usual month of Silly Season.
Well, there you are. This little rant is over and done with. But goodness gracious! I almost forgot to post some photographs! So here are some from the past week.