Sunday, August 28, 2005

Construction Issues Revisited

I never finished the sad story about our home construction. Trying once more to make a long story short, just when we were about to loose all hope, the construction company kicked into gear and things started to move so fast we couldn't keep up.

After a short period of relief I started to get really, really stressed when I saw the subcontractor for the concrete construction: The guy was soo fat all he could do was to sit on an old leather couch (!) his workers had placed into what would one day become our living room. From there he directed his crew with occasional shouts like "Don't put so much steel into the ceiling, stupid!", or "Measure? Why measure? I can see from here that this is the right angle!", or "Concrete is made from sand! Understand? Mostly from sand!" These are free translations from Arabic, which I don't understand at all, I confess. But even if he didn't actually say it this way, the effect his encouragement had on his teenage workers can not be denied. Not a single wall without a belly, not a single 90 degrees angle in the whole house. The representative of the construction company, who obviously had developed a liking of me, saw me standing in the middle of the concrete cave almost in tears and muttered the following notable words: "Never mind, it looks a bit strange now, but once you have some paint and pictures on the walls you will just forget about all those angles." I felt like drinking his blood then, but you know what? The guy was right. Four months after living in my first partly-self-owned house I almost started to like it.

Almost, until I went on vacation to Germany and came to visit the new house of my old buddy Andreas. Same kind of house, same kind of neighborhood (okay, four times as expensive, but everything is relative, right?), and not a single defect to be found under the whole damn roof! I looked for the better part of a day, accidentally sneeking into every corner ("What? Ahh, nothing, just lost a coin here somewhere..."), even krept under the stairs ("Gee, that coin must have rolled all the way in here!") and couldn't find one thing that had gone wrong. Just when I got ready to throw myself out of the bed room window ("How do you open these windows???"), I found a piece of rubber on the shutters that had softened a bit in the August sun and left a black mark on the white window seal. Ha! Gotcha! ("Ahh, did YOU see THIS?") Man, they screwed you too, didn't they? Yeap, this is how it goes, people. Everywhere! Forget about building your dream house! Ha! Haha! Haaarrrrrggghhh!

We Have Disengaged!

Or haven't we?

While the actual withdrawal from Gaza went faster than expected and was mostly free of the much feared violence, my predictions (and those of almost everybody else here) have become reality. We already had one more suicide bombing, this time in Beersheva, and rockets were fired from the Gaza strip into Israel "proper".

Remember my other prediction? This was the last attempt at progress in the Israeli-Palestinian arena for a number of years to come. I think I better stop watching the news for a while...

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Civilized Right Wing Protest?

In the autumn of 1983 half a million people demonstrated against the NATO decision to station Pershing nuclear missiles in West Germany, as a counter balance to the Russian SS20 missiles in Poland and the DDR. The protests were lead by radical left wing students, claiming to be concerned for world peace, and frequently turned violent. I was a first year student in Goettingen that year and witnessed the utterly senseless destruction hundreds of radicals would bring upon downtown Goettingen every weekend, smashing all shop windows in the pedestrian zone and battling a helpless police force with showers of stones, bottles and steel balls from sling shots. The peace loving students had no ideological problem with the outright war they were waging against people with a different opinion, the "establishment" and bystanders alike.
Fast forward to the year 2005 and the mass protests against the disengagement from Gaza and the northern West Bank. For the second time in as many weeks tens of thousand of right wing protesters gathered near the Gaza strip to demonstrate against the government's plans. They faced off against 30,000 police and army for three days and you know what happened? Nothing. Yeap, that's right, nothing. Let's say apart from some collateral damage to the environment and the infrastructure of the communities hosting the demonstrations (just image the sewage treatment facilities build for 5,000 people having to deal with 60,000). But violence? No such thing, although the issue is lot closer to the hearts of the protesters than the Pershings ever were to those brain-amputated militants in Germany.
While I still think that we have to leave Gaza, I can't help but to express my respect for the way the protests have been managed so far, apart from some hickups at the beginning (the useless road blocks). It is probably true, right wingers are law abiding citizens for the most part, except for the very extremists. I just hope that Natan-Zada's idiotic act of killing four Israelis of Druze ethnic background does not draw the movement into a bad direction via a cycle of violence and revenge. The ultimate test will of course be the evacuation of the first settlements in a week from now. Keep tuned.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

The Mayor Answered!

Surprise, surprise. The Mayor of London did indeed answer my slightly provocative EMail - not personally, of course, but at least a public relations assistant of his sent a standard letter condemning all forms of violence against civilians - whether committed by suicide bombers or the Israeli military. Thank you so much, Mr Mayor.