The same Middle East

 Not much is new under the Middle Eastern sun.

One or another of the Gazan gangs began shooting rockets toward Israel about the time of the visit to Israel and Palestine (not the Gazan portion) of Barack Obama. So far, there are more reports of injury and damage from rockets that didn''t make it out of Gaza than from those that fell in Israel.

After a couple of weeks of protest and restraint, the Israeli Air Force has demonstrated the limits of our tolerance.

Also riling our neighbors is the death of a Palestinian prisoner, due to cancer. Israeli reports are that he received extensive hospital treatment of the kind that Israeli Jews and Arabs receive in similar situations, but that does not quiet the restive who see his death as yet another opportunity to demand the removal of Israel.

Secretary of State John Kerry is again in the area, pressing for a start of negotiations between Mahmoud Abbas and whoever he will talk to in the Israeli government. Americans are overlooking the expiration of Abbas'' term as president in 2009, and a number of other problems that make Israelis less than optimistic about beginning, or progressing toward anything meaningful.

One of my Internet friends is a Pentecostal or Evangelical Christian who rebels against all such labels and views his little church as the only one knowing how to read the Bible correctly. He curses rabbis no less than other Christians.  He views the texts composed two or three millennia ago as more instructive about current events than the New York TimesWashington Post, or anything that I write, and his conception of the Almighty is even more vengeful than any of the traditional Christian canards against what is described in the Hebrew Bible or rabbinical commentaries. He is certain that God will destroy America and well as the misguided Jewish left in the US and Israel, along the way that He will do away with all the rest who threaten His people.

I''ve pressed my friend for the estimated time of arrival for his Apocalyptic forecasts, but have gotten nothing more definite than "soon."

I, too, am guided by the Holy Book, but more by the Preacher (i.e., Kohelet, or Ecclesiastes for those who do not read God''s language), and expect more of what we have seen since Oslo in 1993, or 1967, 1948, or the 1920s.

Part of what is constant are accommodations between individuals that belie the headlines and predictions of catastrophe. Except for Arab and Jewish extremists who disturb themselves and others, life goes on, people work, shop, socialize, and complain.

Israel will not beyond punishing our neighbors..We haven''t the desire to pay the cost in lives (ours or theirs) or international politics required to do more.

Israelis are inured to what may excite others. More prominent than Palestinians is the media savvy Minister of Finance, who many agree has acquired little education in the details of economics since he left high school without passing the matriculation exams.

Yair Lapid seems heading for a page in history that will compare him with Ronald Reagan, i.e., a successful politician with feelings in tune with the voters, but without much knowledge or interest in the details of policy.

Lapid communicates via Facebook, a media unavailable to Reagan. The simplicity of Internet-bites fits with the Lapid style as it would have fit with Reagan''s, and invites the wonder of journalists and political competitors who want to know just what Lapid intends by way of detail.

The cartoonist for Ha''aretz portrayed the Finance Miniater with Moses holding the Ten Commandments, and saying, "Come on, let''s put that on Facebook." A couple of days later--after Lapid had described his program as suitable for a fictional Israeli family headed by "Ricky Cohen" whose economic situation put him close to the top of the wide middle class--the cartoonist drew an upset looking Lapid meeting one of Israel''s homeless, asking his name, and getting the answer, "Ricky Levy." 


"There is a time for everything,

    and a season for every activity under the heavens:
     a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
     a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
     a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
     a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
     a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
     a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
     a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace . . . 
Whatever is has already been,
    and what will be has been before."

All the details have changed, many times, since the Preacher wrote those words, most likely only a short distance from where I write these. Yet I find no greater guidance through the many scenarios possible.

Also useful is what Grandma told me, that "God helps those who help themselves."