Star Trek. (Real Star Trek).


We’ve begun to introduce the boy and the girl to the original Star Trek, because: Tradition! And they have to know their roots! And like that!

And when I say “we,” I mean “I,” because the husband could probably go the rest of his life without seeing another episode and be just as happy. Happier, maybe.

The thing is, he was never into Trek to begin with, and only kind of got into it with Next Gen. He’s both four years younger than me (nearly a generation, in pop-culture terms), and not American-born, so though he is for-sure-and-for-certain a geek — with all the Douglas Adams/Whovian/Babylon 5/LOTR/Game of Thrones/oh-and-he’s-a-software-engineer bona fides to prove it — he has no real working knowledge of just how unusual Trek was in its day, how many gates it opened, how hard they tried with what little they had. All he can see is the corny scripts and the ridiculous old-school FX, and William Shatner’s teeth, doing too much of his acting for him.

But he loves me (and you know. He doesn’t hate it!), and so for my birthday, he found a list of Top Ten TOS Episodes, and figured out how we could start catching the kids up (it involves Amazon Prime and my son’s brand-spanking-new-for-his-bar-mitzvah-PlayStation3), and off and on since my birthday (the 21st, since you’re asking, and I’m 48, since you’re quietly not asking), and with much fanfare (and literal clapping of hands and squealing [again, literal]) on my part, we began the journey!

We’re working our way through the top ten list (by airdate, since I know you know that matters), and the kids are digging it! Kinda. I mean, they’re enjoying it, but let’s face it — it’s a little old-school. And their actual introduction to Trek was the movie reboot, and honest to blog, it is simply hard to top JJ Abrams, even if you’re Gene Roddenberry. So one night, I took the trouble to assure them that it’s ok if they don’t love Mommy’s “favorite TV show ever,” and the husband almost visibly blanched.

“Oh c’mon,” he said in a tone of some horror. “Your favorite? Even you say that you like Next Gen more!”

And it’s true, reader, I do. I like Next Gen more.

But Star Trek has been, and always shall be, my favorite TV show. Ever.

Because their is no Next Gen without it. There’s no Picard, there’s no Data, there’s not even Wesley’s sweaters without it. There’s no Abrams reboot, there’s no Galaxy Quest, there might not even be any Star Wars. There’s no “live long and prosper,” there’s no “the needs of the many outweigh…” “…the needs of the few.” “Or of the one,” there’s no “I have been and always shall be your friend” (and if you’re noticing a pattern as to the source of my favorite Trek quotes, you get to go to the head of the class).

And I don’t care what you think or say: William Shatner can ding-dang act. Sometimes, he just got a little carried away, is all. It was 1966, for God’s sake. Everybody was acting with their teeth.

So yes: My favorite TV show. Ever. Possibly my favorite pop culture artifact, across all the years and all the genres. Ever.

When we’re done with the Top Ten of the Original Series, we’ll move on to somebody’s Top Ten (or, I don’t know: Twenty? It lasted a lot longer!) of Next Gen. And then maybe The Wrath of Khan. And then the reboot again. If the kids’ spirits flag, we’ll spread it out a little! Just because I was clapping my hands and squealing doesn’t mean they have to, too. And we’ll squeeze Galaxy Quest in, too, while we’re at it.

But if I share nothing else of my internal world with them, I have to share this. Because it really kind of is who I am.



PS Just a reminder: Another Jewish holiday will be underway as soon as the sun sets here in Middle America, so I won’t be posting on Monday, and if your comment gets caught in moderation, I’ll fish it out as soon as I can. A happy and healthy Sukkot/Monday to one and all!



I <3 Zac Efron & you can’t make me not.

Yes, that Zac Efron, the guy from High School Musical uno, dos, y tres. He is not only a very talented young actor/singer/dancer (yes he is!), he is clearly adorable.

Exhibit A:


PS I’m working on a tight deadline. I might get a somewhat more substantive post up later, but then again I might not. And then on Monday I’ll be gone again, for yet another holiday (Sukkot, if you’re wondering). Things should get a bit back to normal around these parts next week. Pinky swear!

h/t BuzzFeed

Open thread – for all your jealousy needs.

On the one hand, here’s an open thread.

On the other, I won’t be around for a while — because I’m going to have coffee with socioprof.

You may commence to haz a jelus.

Standard FYI clause: I generally wait about 2 hours after Ta-Nehisi would typically open a thread (roughly noon, EST, back when such a thing was typical…!), and if none is forthcoming, I put one up here.

Yom Kippur 2012.

Yom Kippur in Tel Aviv, on what is usually Israel’s busiest highway. I miss home.

In my effort to get All The Things done, I have not managed to write a Yom Kippur post. Given that I didn’t manage to write a (new) Rosh Hashana post, I suppose I can at least claim consistency!

So, in lieu of many words, I will just say these:

If you fast: May it go easy, and may your fasting and prayers rise to heaven and seal you in the Book. And if you don’t fast, may you be sealed anyway! I believe that we are all God’s, and that the Holy One is not so small as to punish us for failing to do something that may or may not have been wholly invented by well-meaning believers.

Whatever you do tomorrow, may it bring you meaning and joy, and may we all rise the next day with a renewed sense of purpose in the role we must play in healing our world.

(And needless to say, I won’t be here to post or moderate comments. But feel free to leave them! If you get stuck, I’ll free you as soon as the fast is over).

Gmar hatima tova ve’tzom kal (a good sealing and easy fast) to all!   !גמר חתימה טובה וצום קל

Apparently, it’s bad to condemn Holocaust denial.

Writing for the Council on Foreign Relations today, neocon Elliott Abrams wrote an astonishing thing.

Taking issue with President Obama’s speech before the United Nations General Assembly, Abrams was particularly unhappy with the Obama’s statement that those who condemn slandering the Prophet Muhammad must also “condemn the hate we see when the image of Jesus Christ is desecrated… or the Holocaust is denied.”

Abrams’s response was as follows:

Islam has a prophet; Christianity has a savior, but Judaism has…. the Holocaust. The problem Jews and especially Israelis face, with apologies for having to spell it out, is not so much Holocaust denial as it the slander of the Jewish religion as a whole and the desire to eliminate the Jewish state.

Mr. Obama and his speechwriters should get over their equation of Judaism and Israel with the Holocaust.

Has Elliott Abrams, in fact, never met an Israeli? Never heard an Israeli speech? Never seen those pictures of Israeli high school groups and soldiers touring the death camps, holding Israeli flags and swearing “never again”?

As it happens, I agree with the underlying notion that we need to find a way to stop equating Israel and the Jewish People with the Holocaust, first and foremost to better honor the six million. Israel is forever trotting them out for fear mongering purposes, and the notion that the most powerful state in the Middle East (a nuclear power, no less) is somehow the 21st century equivalent of the slaughtered, abandoned masses of our forebears is not only grossly wrong, it is grossly offensive.

Moreover, Israel was not established, as we so often hear, “because of” the Holocaust. Zionism is a nationalist movement born in the same 19th century European coffee houses that gave birth to nationalism across the globe. The city of Tel Aviv was established in 1909—well before the First World War, much less the Second—and the cornerstone of Hebrew University laid in Jerusalem in 1918. Jewish nationalists were not sitting around waiting for the world to take pity, and neither did they accept the State of Israel as some kind of consolation prize for watching their people rise in smoke into the European sky.

And finally, it bears mentioning that, contra the Prophet Muhammad and Jesus Christ, the Holocaust is not the cornerstone of the Jewish faith. While we surely must remember and honor our dead in our prayers, our hearts, and our lives, too much of Judaism has been reduced to fear and the words “never again.” The study of Torah may be foregone, Shabbat forgotten, ham consumed on Yom Kippur and baguettes during Passover, but stop hounding Congress to support Israel against whoever Israel is calling the new Nazis (Nasser, Arafat, Ahmadinejad, etc.)? Then you’re in trouble.

Yet Elliott Abrams wants to suggest that President Obama is the one with the problem.

Not, of course, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said last Holocaust Day that “people who make light of the Iranian threat have learned nothing from the Holocaust,” adding that while on a recent visit around the country, “for a moment I replaced Tel Aviv with Vilna; Haifa with Białystock; Degania, Nahalal, [and] Be’er Sheva with Plonsk, Riga, and Odessa.”

Not legendary Israeli diplomat Abba Eban, who rejected a return to the 1967 borderssaying “I do not exaggerate when I say that it has for us something of a memory of Auschwitz.” (A view shared, not incidentally, by the Simon Wiesenthal Center andIsrael’s West Bank settlers).

Not the many American Jewish leaders who make Holocaust education a centerpiece of Jewish education, or, say, Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, for whom “launch Jewish Heritage Week” and “educate President Regan about the Holocaust” were largely one and the same, and, in 2010, gave a speech to AIPAC entitled “Is It 1939?”

Sure, Mr. Abrams, I’ll agree. Let’s all get over our equation of Judaism and Israel with the Holocaust.

But I’d suggest that the State of Israel and our own Jewish community might give it a try, first. Then American politicians might be able to, as well.

Crossposted from Open Zion/The Daily Beast.

Reggie Clemons update.

From the Amnesty International blog:

The Special Master hearing to review the Reggie Clemons case was halted on Thursday, but with more testimony and legal filings to come. In fact, the Special Master process looks to continue well into next year.  Given what’s at stake, and given the troubling nature of the case, taking more time is not a bad thing. 

The allegations of police brutality and prosecutorial misconduct which feature prominently inAmnesty International’s report on the case were highlighted during the hearing. The alleged police abuse of Clemons, and the similar abuse of the state’s star witness Tom Cummins – acknowledged by a $150,000 settlement – are particularly disturbing and call into question the fairness of the investigation and prosecution in this case.

DNA testing, which the state argued connected one of the co-defendants to the crime, took center stage on Thursday, while Monday and Wednesday (there were no witnesses heard on Tuesday), the treatment of Reggie Clemons in police custody, and the prosecutor’s apparent editing of Tom Cummins’ statement to police, were featured.

As this process moves forward, with depositions and legal briefs, and perhaps closing arguments later this year, this review of the problematic investigation and prosecution of Reggie Clemons, and the doubt and confusion those problems have caused, will continue to provide a good example of why the irreversible punishment of death should have no place in our imperfect criminal justice system.

If you haven’t signed the Amnesty petition for Reggie Clemons yet, please do so.


In which your host brings you something sweet and funny.

No, I know! It’s almost impossible to believe!

And yet here you go, a slice of adorable in support of a good cause. If you are the kind to wear bowties, you might buy one of these:


Heh! “..and mankind’s human race.”

Friday open thread for those in need of such.

It’s yours….

Standard FYI clause: I generally wait about 2 hours after Ta-Nehisi would typically open a thread (roughly noon, EST, back when such a thing was typical…!), and if none is forthcoming, I put one up here.

On African refugees and Jewish heartlessness.

Please note: I just learned that an Israeli soldier was killed this morning in a firefight that Israel’s military says was made possible by the fact that soldiers had left their post to bring water to a group of refugees. Comments at Open Zion already reflect this, but comments that absolve Israel and we Jews of these sins because of that accusation will not be allowed in this space. 

Next week, Jews around the world will gather to fast and pray. We will hear, as we do every year, the words of the prophet Isaiah:

They ask Me for the right way, they are eager for the nearness of God: “Why, when we fasted, did You not see? When we starved our bodies, did You pay no heed?” Because on your fast day you see to your business and oppress all your laborers!… Is such the fast I desire, a day for men to starve their bodies?… No, this is the fast I desire: To unlock the fetters of wickedness, and untie the cords of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free; to break off every yoke. It is to share your bread with the hungry, and to take the wretched poor into your home; when you see the naked, to clothe him.

I wonder, as we hear these words, how many of us will bring to mind the 21 Eritrean refugees Israel recently left to languish in the summer sun—without food, without shelter, with about a gallon of water a day to be shared among all of them, until, contrary to international agreements to which Israel is a signatory, the state finally forced 18 to return to the documented cruelties of Sinai smugglers and took three (including a 14 year old boy) to prison.

I wonder how many of us will bring to mind the fact that soldiers fired live rounds into the air and tear gas at the refugees as they huddled under a scrap of fabric between two national borders, and reportedly prodded them with an iron pole, in an effort to get them to leave. Testimony from the three Eritreans who were brought to Israeli prison reveals that

None of [them] wanted to return to Egypt. They knew they were destined for torture and death. Two or three days before it all ended, five of the men, who were stronger than the rest, dragged themselves to the Egyptian fence and asked the Egyptian gunmen whether they could return; the reply was that if they did, they would be shot. But, the Egyptian gunmen added, should they attempt this, they should bring the women with them, as the gunmen wanted to rape them.

…[When the state reached its final decision], IDF gunmen cut through the fence, crossed it, pulled the two women and the boy inside, and dragged the rest of the refugees on the cloth towards the Egyptian fence. The refugees, few of whom could move at this stage, screamed and begged to be shot, telling the gunmen they preferred this to a return to Egypt…. Their fate is unknown.

I wonder how many of us will bring to mind the fact that this horrifying story—a story steeped in heartlessness and lies, from the lowliest soldier to the highest government officials—is, in fact, merely the natural outgrowth of attitudes and policies that have greeted African refugees in Israel for more than five years?

After they enter the country, usually via the Egyptian border, those who are caught are jailed without charge for an arbitrary period; when Israel needs to make way for more prisoners, the asylum seekers are dumped in south Tel Aviv and other cities.

…Once out of jail, the state either refuses to process refugees’ individual requests for asylum or arbitrarily rejects them without adequately investigating their claims [note: again, contrary to international agreements to which Israel is a signatory]. Instead, Israel gives citizens of Sudan and Eritrea group protection. So they get visas, but not work visas—forcing refugees onto the black market where they face exploitation.

I wonder how many of us will bring to mind the recent survey that showed that whilenearly 80% of Israelis have no African migrants living anywhere near them, fully 80% of Jewish respondents said that Israel shouldn’t have an “open-door policy” for refugees “who were persecuted in their countries of origin.” Eighty-three percent supported the violent demonstrations that broke out against the refugees in south Tel Aviv a few months ago, and 52% of Jews surveyed agreed with Member of Knesset Miri Regev who, speaking at one of those demonstrations-turned-riot, said that “unauthorized Africans living in Israel are a cancer in the body of Israel.”

I lived the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for 14 years and have written about it for nearly 20. I frequently call on Israelis to have compassion for Palestinians and Palestinians for Israelis, but I understand why they often fail to do so. It really is a war, and in war, compassion is often ground to dust.

I understand that countries have borders for a good reason. I understand that in a country struggling with enormous social inequities, the influx of tens of thousands of undocumented laborers is a genuine problem. I understand fear of the unknown.

But this is not that.

This is a level of inhumanity that frankly boggles my mind and makes me ill. No one treks 1300 miles across unforgiving ground in search of a professional advancement. No one leaves family and friends and chooses privation and possible torture in order to make life hard on someone in Tel Aviv. The refugees from Sudan, South Sudan, and Eritrea are fleeing barbarous repression, so anxious to never return that some have been known to jump off moving trucks to their deaths to avoid repatriation.

And to the extent that we in America do not call our Israeli brothers and sisters on this inhumanity, we are complicit in it.

This is the fast I desire: To share your bread with the hungry, and to take the wretched poor into your home; when you see the naked, to clothe him.

Crossposted from Open Zion/The Daily Beast.

Looking each other in the eye.

Damascus Gate, Old City of Jerusalem

The opportunity to report heartening news out of Israel/Palestine has all but disappeared as the decades have progressed. As walls both literal and metaphorical reach to the skies, the sides’ ability to see each other’s humanity has shrunk and shriveled, and one is occasionally left wondering why either side would even try anymore.

And yet many continue to do just that.

Haaretz reported yesterday on a Palestinian-Israeli group that recently visited Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, as part of an ongoing series of trips into each other’s worlds—and perhaps the most striking element of the tour was that it was conducted in Arabic:

Familiar with this horrendous chapter in history, the Israelis followed the commentary and exhibits mostly in rapt silence. For the young Palestinians who were being exposed to the full extent of Nazi atrocities for the first time, their attempts to grasp the enormity led them to ply our guide with questions.

“If the Jews were so assimilated and successful, why did the Germans turn against them?”

“Was Einstein Jewish?”

“Why did the Jews believe the lies about the Nazi death camps?”

Israeli journalist Nir Boms, one of the group’s founders, explains that “the idea behind the initiative is to expose each side to the other side’s narrative, and to have a very deep conversation about it.”

A similar view was voiced by [group member] Ibrahim Yassin, an activist and professional cook from East Jerusalem whose night job as a DJ is clear by his look.

“Personally, I think this trip is very interesting because it’s breaking down the walls between us: Israelis and Palestinians,” he says.

A similar motivation lies at the root of a story reported last week about Mejdi, a “dual narrative” tour company, in which tours are conducted jointly by Israeli and Palestinian tour guides in Jerusalem and beyond:

Aziz Abu Sarah, 32, grew up in East Jerusalem throwing rocks at Israeli soldiers, the only Jews he had ever met. Student Shira Nesher, 24, had toured East Jerusalem as a military tour guide during her national service, teaching soldiers about the Arab enemy.

On this summer afternoon in Jerusalem, they stood together in front of 28 tourists—Israelis, foreigners and two Palestinians—to describe what they had learned in the years since.

Abu Sarah motions toward Mount Scopus’ western slope and the Jewish and Arab neighborhoods, explaining that Holy Land history told by Israeli guides usually starts with King David around 3,000 years ago and is silent on the Muslim periods. Palestinian guides, he said, might mention King David but generally focus on Muslim history beginning 1,400 years ago, while remaining silent on Jewish history.

Now, he quipped, “two tour guides are going to try to contradict each other.”

Despite his rock-throwing past, Abu Sarah now has a long resume of working on co-existence efforts. In addition to being a co-founder (along with two American Jewish partners) of Mejdi, he is also co-executive director of the Center for World Religions, Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution at George Mason University (which is headed by one of his Mejdi partners, Rabbi Marc Gopin), and also frequently writes for Israeli web magazine +972.

“The Bible talks negatively about zeal without knowledge,” says Abu Sarah. “If people learn both sides, outsider involvement in this conflict can be positive. This model is also influencing [local people] who, observing these tours, realize that there are different narratives.”

As someone who has declared more than once that she is done hoping for anything good in Israel/Palestine, stories like these serve to remind me that the people on the ground, living with the violence and the fear, have not yet given up, and so I may not either. Dialogue is no panacea, and if political solutions are not found, will never prove to be enough.

But dialogue matters. Looking each other in the eyes matters. Our stories matter. All of them.

Crossposted from Open Zion/The Daily Beast.

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