04 Jun 2023

Fixing a leak

Around lunchtime, Regina called from the village office to ask if I'd tried to do anything about that leak that she'd told me about a week or two ago. "It shows 20 cubic meters for yesterday", she said "haval - that'll cost you a lot of money!"

The meters are connected to the water company's computers through the internet and Regina gets an alert if somebody's meter is reporting a leak.

Well, I did look around the last time she called but couldn't find anything. I had thought it was maybe a one-time thing.

But 20 cubic meters of water - and who knows how much previously, sounds like we are going to receive a phenomenal water bill!

I started my detective work first by pruning all the bushes that were preventing me from viewing the water meter, and then indeed, I saw the little cog wheel inside whizzing around like crazy, indicating a heavy flow, while all the taps were closed.

I circumambulated the property several times, turning off faucets here and there, but could discover nothing. So I decided to call the plumber - yes, he could come tomorrow morning. Fine. He suggested in the meantime I close off the water except when we need it.

Then, trying one more time to turn off one of the outdoor faucets leading into the house, it snapped completely. It was all rusty. Huge flow of water. I had to turn off everything immediately, further down the line.

broken tap

Broken tap

Next thing was to go and buy some parts, which I did. Came home. Decided it was easier to make an emergency temporary repair that would provide water to half of the house. Did that.

But then something else happened. I saw a patch of muddy ground. Along where a plastic pipe runs underground parallel to the patio. Started to dig. Yes! The plastic pipe was cracked. That was a comparatively easy fix, though by now it was evening.

I cleared up, then showered my muddy self. Unfortunately it was a cold shower because I'd forgotten to open the hot water pipe. But it still felt great.

So tomorrow Samir, the plumber, will come and fix the broken tap and maybe some other rusty pipes.

Samir's a great guy, from the Palestinian part of Jerusalem. He lists himself as Samir Ezra, which at first I didn't understand - because Samir is an Arab name, while Ezra is a Jewish name.

But the Ezra in the name is for Ezra Nawi, the Jewish plumber he was partnered with. Nawi, besides being a plumber, was one of Israel's best known peace activists and human rights defenders, a colourful, wonderfully controversial character. There's a ream of information on Wikipedia, that reads like a chronicle of this country's human rights movement, with people like Uri Avneri, Amira Hass, Noam Chomsky, David Shulman all crossing paths with or intervening on behalf of Ezra Nawi at some point.

Even the front runner for the Irish presidency had to drop out of the race as a result of an intervention on behalf of Ezra Nawi.

Samir partnered with Ezra in the plumbing business, but unlike Ezra, who was known to charge exorbitant fees in order to fund his peace work, Samir's prices are very reasonable. Last time he came, he asked me to pay whatever I like - but I hadn't a clue what it ought to be. It took about 20 minutes for him to make up his mind, while squinting and scratching his head.


Tags: diary
03 Jun 2023

A good citizen; hamsin; musical performance

shuttle bus, Dulles Intl Airport

Being a good citizen

Being a good citizen of the 21st century requires knowledge and awareness so that we can make good decisions on an individual level, about what products to buy, what to do and what not to do.

On the other hand, our individual solutions have very little effect, compared to those of the big companies and climate criminals. What Greta Thunberg points out in her book is that despite the relative insignificance of small individual decisions, when they join together to form a mass movement, such as a mass boycott, they count for more - so we need to be public about them.

But being public about anything reminds me of past instances of moral hypocrisy. So, when someone tells me they are flying to Prague or Paris for three days for a "short getaway", it's hard for me to say I'm not sure that's the right thing to do during a climate crisis. And I can't say I'm going to set a good example by flying less, or not at all, because that's not something I can be sure I'll do, in a country where the only way to reach Europe or the rest of Asia is by flying. So I keep quiet and don't say anything, which means again, that whatever I do has virtually no effect.

La Brasserie, with Mary's Well just behind


The hamsin is supposed to let up by this evening or tomorrow. It's currently 41°C outside. A hamsin is actually a kind of sirocco, which Bedouin colourfully describe as issuing from the mouth of hell. Yesterday afternoon, we were sitting on the balcony of La Brasserie by Mary's Well in Ein Kerem when a sudden blast of wind surged up the valley, felling huge, stone-mounting umbrellas, which in turn gave one of the diners a nasty blow to the head and toppled her to the floor. She was OK. The restaurant owner apologized profusely and offered the couple a meal on the house. He said he'd been there for 11 years and this was the first time it had ever happened.

SoundCloud image

Musical performance, Marwan Halabi

On Thursday evening Magdalena organized a musical performance at her photo studio in a nearby village. There was only room for about 20 people but we all squeezed in, to hear Marwan Halabi, a young Druze singer-songwriter with a sublime, amazing voice. Accompanying himself, just with a guitar, he sang some of his own compositions; some were traditional sufi songs, and one or two Egyptian. Most were in classical or spoken Arabic, with a couple in Hebrew. He can be found on Spotify and SoundCloud - I include a SoundCloud link because that's the service I usually prefer - worth a listen!


16 year-old girl murdered in Delhi street; no one even bothered to call the police

There were so many people when the murder took place, but no one helped the girl. Even if they would have shouted, maybe the girl could have survived"

Tags: music thoughts
31 May 2023


House of Jewish settlers in the Old City, Jerusalem

The Palestinians have a word, sumud that encapsulates their practical philosophy with regard to their dealing with adversity, particularly the adversity of the Occupation. It roughly means resilience. It can take the form of various forms of resistance: violent or non-violent. But it comes from a mindset or historical consciousness of clinging to the land and outwaiting every new conqueror - be it the Jews, or the British, or the Ottomans or the Crusadors, or whoever boisterously asserts their claim to be the new power in the land. Sumud is a powerful force in the face of opposition: a "we will prevail, just like we have always done" statement. Invaders will come and go: the Jews will eventually go back to their countries, with their tail between their legs, just like the Crusaders did before them.

The Jews too have a form of sumud, which is integral to Zionism. According to their narrative, they do not come to Israel as did the early colonials (or as does every new hopeful immigrant) to the Americas. They return to Israel. They come back home. In their conception, they are not colonizers. Wherever else they have attempted to live in the world, they have been reviled, despised, oppressed, enslaved, kicked-out or gassed. Now they are coming home to their own country. Of course, there are other people living here, just as when they previously returned from Egypt in the Biblical period. It is they who are the true encroachers, who don't belong here. The Arabs have 40 countries where they can live just as well. Let them go there instead.

This is the long-term goal that has guided the Zionist enterprise since Jews began to arrive in the 19th century. You obtain a little land, then another bit, and gradually you build a country. It just requires long-term, patient determination. That's the policy now in the West Bank. You use a combination of tricks; confiscate land for military purposes, then re-zone it for settlement. Claim prior ownership by Jews. Take advantage of inadequate legal claims, such as that no-one registered the land, but just happened to live there; claim that an existing settlement requires additional land for "natural expansion"; take advantage of loopholes in Mandatory or Ottoman law, or the loose provisions of the Oslo agreements. If you are a settler, make it hard for Palestinian farmers to harvest their olives - or simply steal the crops, or uproot, burn or poison them. Make it hard for their children to go to school, use every creative tactic you can think of. Eventually "we will prevail" - we will get them out from what was ours to begin with.

So which sumud, and whose resilience will prevail here? What happens when an irresistable force meets an unmovable object?

Historically, what happened to a large degree was that the people living on and working the land maintained their position by gradual assimilation. They could change their customs, religions and languages to match those of the conqueror. The Palestinians of today, are to some extent, the Jews of yesterday. Under the Byzantines they became Christian, under the Arabs and Turks they became Muslim. And who is to say the Jews of yore were not for the most part Jebusites or Canaanites? Even the Biblical narrative shows intermarriage and assimilation. And, at the same time, the Jews who "came back" to establish modern-day Israel look suspiciously like the peoples in the lands from which they came: like Russians, Germans, Moroccans, Iraqis, Indians, Africans or Chinese.

People are first people and then something else; human beings with various accretions of religious, social, linguistic or tribal identity. Why is it so hard to see that we are all essentially the same?

What human beings have in common is that they do best under conditions of peace. Palestinian villagers just want to be left alone to live their lives. Jewish immigrants want a place to settle, educate their children, and make a living.

Peace is never a stable quality or level to be attained and then done with; it's fragile and always something you need to work at. But the best way to establish peace is to allow the historical pattern of gradual assimilation to assert itself once again. Not to fight, but to integrate. Rather than trying to "liberate" the land from those who were there first, allow them the opportunity to become members or citizens in the new structure. Eventually you won't need to get rid of them because they will become just like you. And you will also assimilate some of their qualities too; that cannot be avoided. In fact, that's already happening too. Resistance to cultural assimilation is useless. Geography and climate are determining factors in themselves.

This is an unpopular story that hardly anybody; whether Jew or Palestinian, wants to hear, but given a hundred years, or a thousand, it's the one that is likely to win, even if never acknowledged. And then, this being the Levant, before we know it, the next conquering hero will arrive to supplant the previous one, and the cycle will begin anew.

Tags: palestine
29 May 2023

Jerusalem - Ramparts Walk

Jerusalem - Old City

While out on my morning walk, I had a spontaneous decision to take the bus to Jerusalem. So I walked down and got coffee at the Latroun petrol station. I then took the new minibus service bus 430 from the junction to its end stop at the National Insurance Agency.

Nachlaot neighbourhood Jerusalem - Outside Post Office

I walked from West Jerusalem through the Nachlaot area and down Jaffa Road to Jaffa Gate, the entrance to the old city. At the gate I noticed a sign "Ramparts Walk", so I paid 12 sheqels for a ticket and walked all the way around the walls to Lions' Gate, where the walkway ends.

Jerusalem - Old City

So I descended and took the via Dolorosa back towards Jaffa Gate; I more or less know how to negotiate the maze of streets by now, so that wasn't too hard. On the way I sat down for a pizza; quite a good one, in a tiny restaurant that reminded me a little of the Blue Lassi place in Varanasi.

Pizza restaurant

Once back on Jaffa Road I took the tram, or light rail back to the bus station, returned to Latroun and walked back up the hill towards home.

Jerusalem light-rail

I was not overly tired, but had a shower and a good rest. Thanks to D for hanging my laundry - I had dropped it into the machine before deciding on the day's adventure.

All along the way I was taking pictures - a couple have been included. The rest are here.

Links of the Day

Jewish settlers erect religious school in evacuated West Bank outpost after Israel repeals ban

Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank said Monday they erected a religious school in a dismantled outpost after Israel’s government lifted a ban on settlements in several evacuated areas in the northern part of the territory.

Government members praised the new construction. National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, a key government member and a settler himself, said it was “an exciting historic moment.”


The fediverse in Hebrew: a good explanation, with important links and servers.

Tags: jerusalem
28 May 2023

Afternoon in Tel Aviv

beach scene

It's raining hard, though no water is coming out of the taps due to some problem with the water supply. Rain at the end of May is unusual it unusual in itself in these parts, except at the end of a khamsin, the weather phenomenon we had yesterday, with grey skies and 33° C heat.

The warm weather didn't stop me from joining D on her trip to Tel Aviv - she had to be there for an afternoon meeting in Tel Aviv but I just hung out at the beach, taking some photos (see more of them here), then settling down to sip beer, eat pita and hummus and read my e-book.

While doing so I had a curious encounter with a writer, who was walking along the sea front hawking his books. I don't think I've ever met an author selling his wares in the street, but I guess these are hard times. He had had one of them translated into English, so I purchased a copy.

cover for

In the tradition of Richard Bach and Paulo Coelho, The Book of Arkovia offers a timeless message of hope and inspiration. A modern philosophical classic, the Arkovian journey and its unique characters teach us the importance of self-image, unity, and the pursuit of true freedom in the face of oppression."

Krishna devotees dancing

The ISKCON (Hare Krishna folks) are still around in Tel Aviv. Back in the 1970s they used be at 35 Hayarkon St, while our yoga centre was at number 45. Occasionally we would join them for an Indian meal.

The dancers put up a brave front, but the musical and vocal accompaniment was a bit raucous today; maybe they had been going at it for several hours already. None of those sweet gentle bhajans produced and popularized by George Harrison back in the day.

Woman on electric scooter passing electric scooter cart

Scooters, auto-rikshaws, cycles, bikes, skate-boards - you never know what will come flying at you.

Cat burglers in plain sight.

Epicyon's RTL problem

I'm not a big fan of browsing from the terminal, but MLTerm solves Epicyon's RTL problem by scooting RTL text to the right margin. Interesting. I wonder if there's a GUI web browser that does the same? Featherpad and most text editors get RTL text right (excuse the pun).

Links of the day

India: Official suspended after draining reservoir to retrieve phone

More than 1,500 arrested at Extinction Rebellion protest in The Hague

‘They say I should clean floors’: Barcelona’s working-class, leftwing mayor Ada Colau fights for third term

"The Gemini protocol seen by this HTTP client person"

As I believe you might have picked up by now, I am not a big fan of this protocol but I still believe it can work and serve its community.

Interesting. I have yet to read something good about Gemini from "outsiders". I still think the best approach is to use the infrastructure of the existing web but to implement it with minimum complexity. That's what I'm trying to do in my blog and website, and am pleased to receive suggestions to make things simpler still (without creating additional work). By "simple" I mean avoiding solutions that introduce complexity while trying to circumvent it. But I guess it's always a balance between what we hope to attain, and what we want to avoid.

Never-ending Naqba

Under settler terror, Palestinians tear down and flee their village "Twenty-seven Palestinian families made the devastating decision to leave their homes in 'Ein Samia, hounded out by Israeli settlers and army pressure."

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