Prometheus and Pandora XIV

In our  featured image above, we show Prometheus looking out at the world and wondering if giving fire to humans was such a great idea.

The Charity Corner has found a home on the Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights Action site. Prometheus and Pandora hope that you will visit there, take the actions and make the donations.

IN MEMORIAM Milos Forman 1932-2018

Born on February 18, 1932, in Čáslav, Czechoslovakia, Milos Forman was a New Wave filmmaker before immigrating to the United States, later earning a directing Oscar for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. He returned to his homeland to film Amadeus, an acclaimed venture that  won eight Oscars, including another directing prize for Forman. Among his other works are The People vs. Larry Flynt, Valmont and Man on the Moon.

 

Milos Forman

Forman died on April 13, 2018 in Hartford, Connecticut at Danbury Hospital after a brief illness, according to his wife Martina who told CTK, Czech’s news agency. She described his passing as “calm, and he was surrounded the whole time by his family and his closest friends.”

A detailed obituary can be found in the NYTimes.

Rest in Peace–you enriched the lives of all of us.

RANTS OF THE MONTH

This month in Israel is marked by three national secular holidays, Holocaust Memorial Day, National Memorial Day and Independence Day. Prometheus and Pandora will rant about them in this blog.

 

RANT FOR MEMORIAL DAY/INDEPENDENCE DAY/HOPE FOR PEACE

We have a strange custom in Israel, Memorial Day is the day before Independence Day and since Jewish holidays begin and  end at sunset, we have a discontinuity that jars some of us every year. Others approve saying that we should appreciate the cost of independence before we start to celebrate it. After 70 years we have achieved much, even peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan, but real peace and security are still out of our reach. We may have peace with a few governments, but we do not have real peace yet with the people whom they rule. In truth our government today does not seek true peace with our Palestinian neighbors nor is most of our public willing to make the concessions needed for such a peace. Thus we ride the hobby horse to nowhere as expressed by the late cartoonist Dosh.

dosh_srulik

Prometheus and Pandora wish now to turn away from the “big picture” and focus their attention and yours on two bereaved families, Rami and Nurit Elhanan and Bassam and Slawa Aramin. Their bond  is grief for their daughters, Smadar Elhanan who was killed by a suicide bomber at age 14 and Abir Aramin who was shot by an Israeli soldier at age 10. As Avi Oz, the theater director wrote on Facebook–never mind Memorial Day, just look at the eyes of these two lovely girls who fell victims to the blind hatred that pollutes our world and weep.

abir

Who are we to say anything? We   quote verbatim the Facebook post of Rami Elhanan. We can say no more.

“I do not need a Remembrance Day in order to remember Smadari. I remember her all the time, 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, 60 seconds a minute. Without a pause, without a rest, for 20 long and accursed years now, and time does not heal the wound, and the unbearable lightness of continuing to exist remains a strange and unsolved riddle …

But Israeli society very much needs Remembrance Days  .From year to year, like clockwork, in the week after Passover, it is drawn into the annual ritual: from Holocaust to the Rebirth of the nation, a sea of ceremonies, sirens and songs – an entire people is swept into a whirlpool of addictive sweet sorrow, eyes tearful and shrouded; mutual embraces accompanied by “Occupation songs” and sickle and sword songs (the sword and sickle songs of the singing company of the Nahal (a brigade in the Israeli army)),  against the background of images of lives that were cut short and heart-rending stories … and it is hard to avoid the feeling that this refined concentration of bereavement, fed directly into the vein, is intended to fortify our feeling of victimhood, the justice of our path and our struggle, to remind us of our catastrophes, which God forbid we should forget for a single moment. This is the choice of our lives – to be armed and ready, strong and resolute, lest the sword fall from our grasp and our lives be cut short.

And when all this great sorrow is dispersed with the smoke of the barbecues, (it is customary for Israelis to celebrate with barbecues on Independence Day) when Israelis return to their daily routines, I am left enveloped in great sorrow. I miss the old good Land of Israel that never existed, and I have feelings of alienation and estrangement that keep increasing with the passage of years, from war to war, from election to election, from corruption to corruption.

And I think about the stations of my life, on the long journey that I have taken on my way to a redefinition of myself, of my Israeliness, of my Jewishness and of my humanity. About the light-years that I have traveled, from the young man who 44 years ago fought in a pulverized tank company, on the other side of the Suez Canal, from the young father who 35 years ago walked the streets of bombed Beirut, and it did not at all occur to me that things could be otherwise. I was a pure product of a cultural-educational and political system that brainwashed me, poisoned my consciousness and prepared me and others of my generation for sacrifice on the altar of the homeland, without any superfluous questions, in the innocent belief that if we did not do it, they would throw us – the second generation after the Holocaust– into the Mediterranean Sea.

Nearly 40 years have passed since then, and every year this armor of victimhood continues to crack. The self-righteousness and the feeling of wretchedness keep dissipating, and the wall that separates me from the other side of the story keeps crumbling.

When Yitzhak Frankenthal recruited me to the Bereaved Families Forum 19 years ago, for the first time in my life I was exposed to the very existence of the other side – to this day I am ashamed to say that for the first time in my life (I was 47)  I encountered Palestinians as normal human beings, very much like me, with the same pain, the same tears and the same dreams. For the first time in my life I was exposed to the story, the pain and the anger, and also to the nobility and the humanity of what is called “the other side.”

The climax of that journey was the meeting between me and my brother, the “terrorist” who spent seven years in an Israeli prison, the peace-warrior Bassam Aramin, who wrote to us, among other things, the following moving words:
“…Dear Nurit and Rami. I wanted to express my identification with you
as a brother on this sad day, the anniversary of the death of your
beautiful and pure daughter, Smadar. There is no doubt that this is
one of the saddest days, and from the moment we met I did not have
the courage to write to you about it, for fear of adding more
sorrow and pain to your hearts. I thought that time would likely
heal that deep wound. But after I myself drank from that same
bitter cup that you drank from before me, when my daughter Abir was
murdered on 16 January 2007, I understood that parents never forget
for a moment. We live our lives in a special way that others do not
know, and I hope that no other human beings, Palestinians or
Israelis, will not be forced to know …”

Today my perception of the two sides is completely different from what it was 40 years ago. For me, the line that separates the two sides today is not between Arabs and Israelis or Jews and Muslims. Today the line is between those who want peace and are ready to pay the price for it, and all the rest. They are the other side! And today, that other side, to
my dismay, is the corrupt group of politicians and generals that leads us and behaves like a bunch of mafia dons, war criminals, who play ping-pong in blood among themselves, who sow hatred and reap death.”

Let us add the speech of another bereaved father,  David Grossman, the famous writer. He speaks in Hebrew with English subtitles:

INDEPENDENCE–AFTER 70 YEARS

Back to the big picture. For 70 years we have lived here as the State of Israel and we are still not integrated politically into the region. Most of us in the peace camp have supported the idea of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and economic partnership. The continued expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank has probably voided any chance of success of this vision. The writer A. B. Yehoshua proposes an alternative solution, which some may regard as visionary or deluded. Read his essay and think for yourself.

NATALIE PORTMAN AND BOYCOTT

natalie

The actress Natalie Portman who was chosen as the 2018 Genesis Laureate has announced that she will not come to Israel to accept it from the Prime Minister Netanyahu. The reaction from the establishment in Israel borders on the hysterical. even calling her antisemitic. She also has her supporters, such as Gideon Levy in Haaretz and Amy Spiro in the Jerusalem Post. Prometheus and Pandora agree with the sentiments she expressed in her Instagram statement . One might argue that she could have done what the writer Ian McEwan did when he received the Jerusalem Book Prize. He came to Jerusalem and spoke hard truth to power, about the occupation and the wholesale violation of human rights. Nonetheless, she took a positive step and we salute her for it.

We append her statement in which it is clear that she is not a BDS supporter.

“My decision not to attend the Genesis Prize ceremony has been mischaracterized by others. Let me speak for myself. I chose not to attend because I did not want
to appear as endorsing Benjamin Netanyahu, who was to be giving a  speech at the ceremony. By the same token, I am not part of the BDS movement and do not endorse it. Like many Israelis and Jews around the world, I can be critical of the leadership in Israel without wanting to boycott the entire nation. I treasure my Israeli friends and family, Israeli food, books, art, cinema, and dance. Israel was created exactly 70 years ago as a haven for refugees from the Holocaust. But the mistreatment of those suffering from today’s atrocities is simply not in line with my Jewish values. Because I care about Israel, I must stand up against violence, corruption, inequality, and abuse of power. Please do not take any words that do not come directly from me as my own. This experience has inspired me to support a number of charities in Israel. I will be announcing them soon, and I hope others will join me in supporting  the great work they are doing.”

A RANT ABOUT ASYLUM SEEKERS

The following is a quote from the web site of the UN agency that deals with refugees.

“The world is witnessing the highest levels of displacement on record. An unprecedented 65.6 million people around the world have been forced from home by conflict and persecution at the end of 2016. Among them are nearly 22.5 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18. There are also 10 million stateless people, who have been denied a nationality and access to basic rights such as education, healthcare, employment and freedom of movement.”

Israel has tens of thousands of refugees, mostly from African countries. It has been trying to get rid of them by whatever means. A deal was set to stop the forced deportation to Africa from Israel of asylum seekers, resettle 16,000 of them in
Israel and the same number in Western countries. Netanyahu hours later decided to suspend the deal, even though he had already signed it, following pressure from within his party and from coalition members.

Netanyahu announced the cancellation of the deal at the start of a meeting he held with residents of south Tel Aviv.“I listened closely to many comments about the agreement,” Netanyahu said. “After reevaluating the advantages and disadvantages [of the deal], I decided to cancel the deal.”

Bradley Burston, writing in Haaretz in English deplores the cancellation and takes issue with the racism involved in the actions of the government. There was popular protest against the mass deportation plan and now all seems to be back at square one, alas.

Israeli protest against the expulsion of African asylum seekers, in March 2018. Israeli protest against the expulsion of African asylum seekers, in March 2018. credit-Meged Gozani

 

A BIT MORE ON LIES FROM HIGH PLACES

In a previous blog Pandora and Prometheus ranted loud and clear about mendacity in the public sphere. They traced the history of the imperial lie from King Shalmaneser III of Assyria in the ninth century BCE down to Kellyann Conway and her “alternative facts”  in our time. We somehow overlooked the comments on the Pentagon Papers by Hannah Arendt in the New York Review of Books. She raises an interesting point, that the lies emanating from high places may be caused by the fact that many leaders live in a delusional world of their own making or created for them by their underlings.  We   strongly recommend that you read her article–it is as relevant today as it was in 1971. If the NYRB proves inaccessible, you can find the article here.

 

BOOK REVIEWS

Pandora and Prometheus  point you at the NYTimes editor’s choice in which Geoffrey Cowles, a Senior Book Editor, recommends 11 books and provides reviews.  The list includes fiction and nonfiction, original English and translations, and should keep you out of mischief for a while.

A BIT OF SCIENCE

Refining the fine-structure constant

The fine-structure constant, α, is a dimensionless constant that characterizes the strength of the electromagnetic interaction between charged elementary particles. Related by four fundamental constants, a precise determination of α allows for a test of the Standard Model of particle physics. Parker et al. used matter-wave interferometry with a cloud of cesium atoms to make the most accurate measurement of α to date. Determining the value of α to an accuracy of better than 1 part per billion provides an independent method for testing the accuracy of quantum electrodynamics and the Standard Model. It may also enable searches of the so-called “dark sector” for explanations of dark matter.

The answer: The fine-structure constant is approximately 1/137.035999046.

If the new measurement disagreed with the earlier one, that might be an indication of new particles. But the two agree reasonably well, which confirms that the electron is probably not composed of smaller particles and disfavors the possibility of dark photons. These hypothetical particles are similar to run-of-the-mill photons, or particles of light, but unlike normal photons would have mass and interact very weakly with known particles. Big news in geekdom/nerdsville–the rest may yawn and skip.

 

Weicheng Zhong

CONSTANT QUANTIFED A team of physicists, including Weicheng Zhong of the University of California, Berkeley (pictured) has performed the most precise measurement yet of the fine-structure constant, which governs the strength of electromagnetic interactions.

 

SILLY TIME

What If–?

If you did fall into Jupiter’s atmosphere in a submarine, what would it actually look like? What would you see before you melted or burned up?

—Ada Munroe

Interesting discussion

Bring up your kids to be ready for the real world:

It leads to this:

NICE TO HAVE A CHOICE

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