Recently in Israel '04 - Part 4: Beyond Rehovot Category


A well-worn trilingual roadsign on the road into Jerusalem. 2004:11:28 13:50:05

Busy couple of weeks, it's been. The fellowship application took me offline for a bit, of course, but that's not the cause of the more recent radio silence. This past week was mostly tied up with preparations for a collaborators' meeting in New York, at which I'll be one of a dozen or so people giving slide shows on various aspects of the EBEX design. Being funded and all, you see, it's come to our attention that we should probably get to work at building something, in which case we should settle on a design before starting to fabricate rather expensive parts. Or at least make sure we're talking about the same parts.

So tomorrow it's off to the States again.


Nearly full moon on a typically cloudy night this time of year. 2004:10:28 20:41:46

We've noted in the past that the Moon in the Mideast is said to rise and set at times in a "horns-up" orientation. My efforts to photographically document this arrangement have been foiled, thus far, by the fact that winter is fast approaching. This can be discerned by two observations: first, that long-sleeve shirts are starting to appear after dark; and second, that it is cloudy at night.

However, the good contributors to the APOD site have provided a nice illustration of the phenomenon.



So he's dead. For real, this time.

Local coverage can be had in English at Ha'aretz or the Jerusalem Post.

The BBC's story is also useful, and the reactions noted in their reporters' log are interesting to track.

On days of great calamity, legends tend to report the sky blackening. The Palestinians have taken matters into their own hands on this front, and are burning tires all over Gaza and Ramallah. It is reported to be rather dark. Ick.

No need to worry that I'm going to wander off to the Territories to investigate. They've completely sealed them off. I'll post more when I have some idea of what's going on.



Speculation about the future is running rampant. On the one hand, a leader has been retained; Bush was elected. On the other hand, Arafat is out of the country for the first time in years, and it is widely suspected that he will not recover.

The theme of the month is uncertainty. For instance, today's article on the Arafat situation is typical of the confusion regarding his condition and who's in charge in Palestine. The Israeli government is, for now, maintaining a low profile, although it's unclear what will happen if the Palestinians insist on burying Arafat in East Jerusalem, or if the succession struggle spins out of control. Or, for that matter, if it doesn't, and it begins to look like Hamas is going to come out on top.

Taken for himself, many Israelis were pleased that Bush will remain President in the US, as he is seen as relatively less likely to lean on Israel for concessions. In particular, he has been perfectly content to insist that "terror" end before Israel is obliged to do anything in particular, which is widely regarded as code for never. There has been some speculation that he would change his tune in a second term in an effort to regain favor with Europe, but the conventional wisdom was that Kerry would do the same, and probably more aggressively.

But then Arafat leaves center stage, potentially upsetting a delicate balance. On W's watch, Israel doesn't need to talk to the Palestinians in any official capacity, because Arafat has been declared not to be a "partner" in the peace process. If new leadership enters the picture, it becomes more difficult to maintain such a stance; Bush will have to either offend his Israeli supporters by insisting that the government give the new PA leadership a chance, or else reveal his position for what it is, a carte blanche for Likud to do as it pleases.

At the moment, the government seems to be working on the first theory. As best I can tell, there is some movement in Sharon's administration to make a show of working with whoever winds up in charge of the PA, to head off any intervention on Bush's part. I suspect they guess that, since the disengagement from Gaza buys them several more months during which they can claim to be too busy dealing with the settlers to worry about the Road Map, they have plenty of time to discredit the new Palestinian leadership, too. (For instance, see here in today's paper.)

Handy tip for the traveling astronomer: in Hebrew, the word for "telescope" is telescope.

Oh, Canada!

November 4, 2004, cover of the UK Daily Mirror, a popular London tabloid.

Over the past 36 hours or so, any number of friends and acquaintances have made some crack or other about expatriating, generally to Canada. Seems like a nice place, after all. Their leaders are generally reputed to be intelligent, sane, and not ideological relatives of Sauron. Many of them did the same four years ago, when faced with a far less dire situation. We learned the words to "Oh, Canada!" and everything.

Naturally, they're (you're) all still in America. You don't just quit school or a job and start over in another country because you suspect that the newly elected administration is incompetent or evil. But what if the re-elected administration manages to be both incompetent and evil? And what if I find myself already in another country, at a good school with a decent job?

Knesset Panorama

As promised, I stiched together the panorama photos taken from the Knesset helipad. There's a preview below, and if you click on it, the full image will appear in another window. For reference, the construction cranes in the image are approximately due south, and the Knesset building is in that general direction as well. The Hebrew University is in the west, invisible under the setting sun.

Don't click there unless you're on a reasonably new computer, because it's gigantic. Just be glad I scaled them down first (it started out 22,000 pixels across, which was a bit hard to work with).

A panoramic sequence taken from the helipad in the park above the Knesset. The noticable change in coloration across the image is due to the fact that the sun was setting while I was taking these. 2004:10:22 17:11:10 to 17:15:15 IST

Eye of the Storm

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Moonrise over Jerusalem. 2004:10:22 16:37:41 (IST from now on)

One of my major non-work projects is now complete, but I'm not going to talk about that right now. I have some time to post here, though.

Jerusalem. It's a name that evokes any number of associations. As can be seen in numerous medieval maps, it was once regarded as the physical center of the world. The place is steeped in faith and conflict and most of all time. Contradictions abound, and time itself provides the sharpest of them. Although Jerusalem was the ancient royal capitol of a minor kingdom when Rome was founded, and merits a mention in Egyption records centuries before the fall of Troy, the city is on the whole much younger than most old cities of Europe, never mind the Middle East. Waves of civilization and warfare have crashed over this place, and conqueroring armies have razed it to the ground at least three or four times. Perhaps because so few would want to live in such an unstable place, Jerusalem was a fairly small town from Roman times until influx of Jewish settlers that arrived with the Zionist movement.

But so far, we're relying on my knowledge of history. Now I've been there, briefly. Allow me to relate.

A Fable about Bugs

Once upon a time there lived a giant. As such fellows go, he was perfectly amiable, and if anyone nearby considered him a less than ideal neighbor, they could have done worse. Even though he had committed some altogether regrettable deeds as a younger and smaller giant, nobody seemed particularly inclined to hold it against him. After all, the local taverns, thanks to the size of his mug, and the local weavers, thanks to his abundant breeches, all found him a fantastic customer, and business is business.

One lazy afternoon, the giant found that he could not sleep. This annoyed him greatly, as recent times had been tiring. To begin with, he'd finally won a staring contest with another giant who used to live across the duck pond from him, which had stretched on for an interminable span. To make up for lost time, he'd gone on quite the buying spree afterward, and done some drinking worthy of a giant, as well. He now found that nothing seemed so pleasant as to lounge about and wait for his headache to subside. However, the mosquitoes just would not stop biting him.

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This page is an archive of recent entries in the Israel '04 - Part 4: Beyond Rehovot category.

Israel '04 - Part 3: Rehovot is the previous category.

Israel '04 - Part 5: Stateside Interlude is the next category.

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