Monday, February 23, 2009

Guns N' Moguls

My dad came to Israel for a visit, and we decided to go up to Mount Hermon in the Golan Heights to do some skiing/snowboarding. It's only a 3 hour drive from Tel Aviv so we figured it was worth the trip. The skiing conditions weren't great. There was lots of ice and exposed rocks. There was little visibility at the top and half of the mountain was closed. We took the same ski lift up every time and basically alternated going left or right. But just the simple fact that I was snowboarding in the Middle East made this a worthwhile trip.

There is something special about skiing on the Hermon, a highly contested high point just on the Israel-Syria border. On the way up, we stopped in Majdal Shams, a Druze village, and ate a delicious Druze pita with zatar and labane.

And what other ski resort in the world can you whiz by a guy carrying an M-16?

Since it was the middle of the week, we had the mountain basically to ourselves, with the exception of a special unit of the Israeli army. They are known here as the "alpinistim." They are an extreme weather unit that learn how to ski and shoot at the same time. They probably have a better chance of using this skill in a James Bond movie than in an actual war. By the way, the guys on the mountain that day were newbies, so they weren't very good skiers yet. (Note to Syria: Now is the time to send in your elite snowboard halfpipe team on a top-secret mission!)

I invited them for apres-ski on the condition that they wouldn't being any live ammunition into the sauna

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Zimbabwean Circus Continues

In 2007, I interviewed political activist Roy Bennett after he had been exiled to South Africa. The tyrannical Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF thugs ransacked and stole his home and farm. Bennett was tortured and imprisoned. Even some of his farm animals were brutalized.

Bennett returned to Zimbabwe a few days ago as a member of the opposition MDC. He was hoping to help form a unity government, but was arrested once again by Mugabe thugs. He is currently in a Zimbabwean prison.

Roy Bennett after being released from prison the first time. He was in jail for 15 months without a trial.

Here is the interview with Bennett from 2007.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Israel's Kingmaker

The story of this recent Israeli election was Avigdor Lieberman. It was interesting to follow him around Rishon Le Tzion on election day. The man for some reason reminded me of Hansel and Gretel, except instead of leaving bread crumbs, he left heated arguments wherever he went on his campaign trail.

Here is the video I made for Time on Israel's New Kingmaker

Avigdor Lieberman on the Campaign Trail

The former Moldovan bouncer is now the third most powerful man in Israel. His Yisrael Beitenu (Israel is Our Home Party) received 15 mandates for the Knesset, an increase of four since the 2006 election. Now he will likely determine Israel's next prime minister.

The Israeli Left

In Israeli politics today, there isn't much left of the left. Almost all parties in this political bloc will need to pick up the pieces after this recent election and reinvent themselves if they ever want to influence policy again.

Deputy Speaker of the Knesset

Colette Avital from the Labor Party

Check out the video I made for NYT on the Israeli Left

It is worth noting the final election results of the four parties mentioned in the piece:

The Green Movement did not get enough votes to pass the threshold and will not be in the Knesset.

The Hadash Party gained one seat and will now have four mandates in the Knesset.

Meretz lost two seats and finished with only three mandates.

Labor lost six seats and ended up with only thirteen, and are clearly at their lowest point in their storied history as the founding political party of Israel.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Marjoe Documentary

I just saw a great doc for free on Google Video. I highly recommend it, and not surprisingly, since it won the Oscar for best documentary in 1972. It tells the story of the youngest evangelist the world has ever known. At four years old, he was preaching and officiating weddings. Of course this wasn't his own free will and he was basically being used by his parents for the cash he would bring in. The film raises some interesting philosophical questions about religion and money and humanity. It is called Marjoe and you can watch it here.