Sunday, 28 February 2010

Learning from Experience or Egyptian Entrepreneurship

1. A well-dressed and friendly man approached J and me as we were walking towards the entrance of Cairo’s Egyptian Museum. He introduced himself as a director of the museum, Dr. A, and we chatted for a few minutes. Unfortunately, he said, during prayer time, some tills were unmanned and the museum was now and for another 45 minutes open to groups only. We could walk about in the surrounding streets, he suggested. There was much to see, he said. He recommended a visit to the “government bazaar” that was right opposite the museum. Both his wife and his mother, he added, liked to shop there.

I knew that there was no way out once J heard the word bazaar. The friendly Egyptian showed us where we should cross the very busy road. I actually enjoy negotiating the crazy Cairo traffic but our friend insisted on crossing the road with us. We were, by now, accustomed to the friendliness of the Egyptians although I became somewhat suspicious as he continued to the point of handing us over to the man at the entrance of the shop. The “government bazaar” turned out to be an ordinary souvenir shop that like all such shops in Egypt has a government license.

An hour later, as we made our way to the museum, I suggested to J that not only had this been a ploy to divert us to the store but that there was actually no break in the opening hours of the museum. I was right; J was full of admiration for Egyptian entrepreneurship.

2. A couple of days later, as we were walking towards the Sultan Hassan and Refa’i mosques, another man approached us. The mosques, he said, were closed to non-prayers in the coming hour. He suggested that we might want to visit another mosque just around the corner. He was a music teacher, he said and was neither a tourist guide nor did he expect us to tip him. He simply enjoyed practicing his English and would gladly accompany us to “his” mosque.

We thanked him for the information but decided not to accompany him. Instead, we continued on our way to the “closed” mosques. The mosques were open to visitors and – not to our surprise - had no prayer breaks at all.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Sins of the Fathers

It has recently been revealed that Bettina, Hermann Goering’s great-niece had herself sterilised so as 'not to pass on the blood of a monster'. This, I believe, is unusual. Many descendants of senior Nazis did not seem to feel uncomfortable enough about their heritage to prevent them from procreating.

Should they have?

Moreover, genetically untainted spouses were found who were not worried about this genetic input. They may even have gotten a kick out of marrying the son or daughter of a Nazi perpetrator.

Are all judges "honourable"?

A man from Gaza who needs surgery that is not available in Gaza has applied to enter Israel in order to be operated in a hospital in East Jerusalem. An Israeli expert has confirmed that surgery is crucial and that the man might suffer irreversible damage unless operated on. Israel denied the man’s request. Israel is worried that the man might use this as an opportunity to join his wife and four children who live in the West Bank.

A senior Israeli judge, Mrs Rachel Barkai, first took time to address the court, the world and posterity and call their attention to Israel’s medical aid effort in Haiti, pointing out that Israel was one of the few countries in the world to grant medical aid to foreign citizens.

The judge then explained "In balancing the values on both sides of the scales - on one hand, the need for medical treatment, and on the other hand, the concern that he will take advantage of his entry permit in order to relocate, the respondents' refusal to permit the petitioner's entry to the territory of the State of Israel does not justify judicial intervention."

Judges have this wonderful arrangement that demands we all refer to them as “honourable”. Has the law allowed for a situation in which a judge is not so honourable? Or is it enough to deny Mrs Rachel Barakai medical assistance should she need it some day?

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Holy Alliances

Two stories that have recently appeared in the press:

Theophilos III, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, has intervened with Israeli President Peres to grant amnesty to an Israeli in jail. Curiously, the Israeli in question is not a member of his own Church but a Jew: ultra-orthodox Shlomo Benizri, a former Israeli cabinet member, is serving a four-year jail sentence for taking bribes and for breach of trust.

Is Theophilus just a particularly nice man or is this somehow connected to the fact that the Greek Orthodox Church owns very much land in Israel (including the land on which the Knesset, Israel’s parliament is built) and that Shas, Benizri’s party, is a very potent power broker in the country?

The Catholic Church has condemned the French government for attempting to prohibit the wearing of Burqas in public. The Church explained that retaliation on Christians in Muslim countries might follow.

File note for future reference: in dealings with the Vatican - blackmail works.

Berlusconi and Israel

I have just received the following email:

Hi David,
Why does Israel, why do Israeli politicians get on with a major crook like Berlusca so well? “He’s our best friend”… Huh???

I remember a similar situation when in June 1974, less than two months before he was forced to resign, President Nixon - a pariah in his own country - visited Israel. It was the first time ever that an American President had made a visit to Israel.

Beggars can’t be choosers.

However, if there is a chance that Israel might listen to Iran-condemning, Jewish-People-hugging Berlusconi then I don’t care about the rest: Berlusconi has suggested to Israel that she ought to give up the Golan and go for peace with Syria and that Israel’s Settlements in the Occupied Territories are an impediment to peace.

Sadly, Israeli politicians are more likely to take Berlusconi’s advice on media control, the joys of power and wealth and perhaps even the advantages of dying one’s hair than give up land for peace.