My Word: A month of meanwhiles

Lately, I have found myself mulling over a list of “meanwhiles” and “elsewheres” as I consider what to include in this column.

A FLOCK of migrating starlings flies over a field near the southern town of Netivot on February 12. (photo credit: REUTERS)
A FLOCK of migrating starlings flies over a field near the southern town of Netivot on February 12.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Meanwhile. Elsewhere. These two words serve writers and editors everywhere as a handy device linking stories, or elements of stories, separated by either time or place.
Lately, I have found myself mulling over a list of “meanwhiles” and “elsewheres” as I consider what to include in this column.
Until now, I admit, I have been pretty focused on what’s been going on locally – not obsessing in the John Kerry way, but parochially going about my life, which, despite the attention Israel receives abroad, includes the ordinary as well as the peculiar in every sense.
This winter we have talked a lot about the weather (the freak snowstorm being followed by an equally unusual February heatwave); we have also worried about the increasing rate in major crimes (and whether it’s a real rise or just a perceived one).
Among the foreign news stories that did make it here, the death of Marius the giraffe in the Copenhagen Zoo still haunts me. Danish colleagues and acquaintances explained that killing him, dissecting him and feeding him to the lions – all in front of child visitors – made sense to the practical Danes, who have a waste-not want-not approach to life, although wags described this eugenics-based decision as “First they came for the giraffes....”
And I thought our children growing up in the tensions and heat of the Middle East are at risk of becoming desensitized! Maybe I’m being overly sensitive because my beloved 16-year-old dog died this month, and I didn’t for one moment consider inviting the neighbors’ kids to come over and watch me chop her up and feed her to my cats.
Incidentally, Denmark this month formally outlawed the kosher (and halal) slaughter of animals on the grounds that it isn’t humane.
While I was coping with the last days of my dog’s life, I was also shocked by the new Belgian legislation which removes the age limit on human euthanasia and would allow terminally ill children to ask to – well, I don’t know what terms a child would use: Be put to sleep? Be killed? Be released from their suffering? Euthanasia and euphemisms go together naturally (as do euthanasia and eugenics if you think about it).
Next door, in the Netherlands, by the way, the law already permits euthanasia for children over age 12 with parental consent.
Israelis, meanwhile, this week debated proposed legislation that would allow 10-year-olds to officially change their names without informing their parents.
Those in favor say that children often suffer from the names their parents chose for them; those against note that teenagers, let alone preteens, might choose a new name for all the wrong reasons, such as a childhood crush, peer pressure or reflecting the idealization of pop stars whose bad name (in the sense of reputation) will probably outlive their music.
Elsewhere in Europe, I got an unintentional laugh courtesy of the Swiss. When an Ethiopian Airlines co-pilot hijacked his own plane in an apparent asylum bid in Switzerland last week, it was not the Swiss Air Force that was scrambled to deal with the unplanned flight but fighter jets from neighboring France and Italy. The Swiss pilots are apparently only available in office hours and the Ethiopian would-be migrant entered their air space shortly before they had reported for duty.
While being envious of the Swiss for being so sure of their neighbors’ support – something that is impossible to imagine in this particular part of the global village – and their famous reliability when it comes to timekeeping, I can’t imagine living in a culture that rigid.
When it comes to the policy on migrants and illegal immigrants, Israel, it turns out, is no worse, and sometimes better, than countries elsewhere. While asylum seekers were marching in Tel Aviv calling for better conditions and recognition, Papua New Guinea police shot with lethal results at rioting would-be immigrants being held at an Australian detention camp on Manus Island. (The Swiss have outsourced their out-of-office hours military; Australia, it seems, has outsourced its camps for asylum seekers.) Elsewhere this week, the pope, God bless him, was moved to call for an end to the violence in Venezuela, which has caused the deaths of more than a dozen people during anti-government protests.
Eyes looked to Ukraine, where there was a violent coup developing along ethnic lines whose outcome is too early to predict, although as they say around here, “It won’t be good for the Jews.”
Not nearly enough attention was paid to troubles in Thailand.
And you might not have noticed what’s going on in Nigeria, but it is not only dreadful, it’s also another worrying manifestation of global jihad.
Dozens of secondary-school students were killed there this week as they slept in their dormitory – in an attack similar to the one that took the lives of some 40 sleeping students last September. They are assumed to be among the long and growing list of victims of the Boko Haram Islamist separatist group, which aims to literally kill Western education in the African country and also targets churches and Christian clergy and worshipers.
Meanwhile, Uganda, considered a strategic ally of the West in the fight against Islamism in Somalia, this week outlawed homosexual activity, approving a life sentence in certain cases. It’s a world away from Tel Aviv, considered a top international gay tourist destination and, without doubt, the safest place for homosexuals of any religion in the Middle East.
Elsewhere, there’s barely room to mention the ongoing bloodbath in Syria and Iraq; chaos in Egypt; corruption and unrest in Turkey; and human rights abuses in China, North Korea and Iran.
But I think the Chutzpah Prize of the Month (in fact, of the year so far) goes to the participants in a march against anti-Semitism in France who hurled insults at Nicole Yardeni, the head of the local chapter of the CRIF umbrella group of Jewish communities.
The February 22 march in Toulouse, where three children and the father of two of them were gunned down outside a Jewish school in March 2012, was organized by the gay rights group Arc-en-Ciel, following the spraying of anti-Semitic and anti-gay graffiti in the city. At a certain point, a group of demonstrators started chanting “Yardeni, get lost” and “CRIF, Fascists, Zionists, get lost,” according to the AFP news agency.
The Jewish participants were “absolutely unprepared for such a reception,” Yardeni told AFP. “Jews are now being chased away from a demonstration against anti-Semitism.”
Meanwhile, elsewhere, campuses across the globe marked Israel Apartheid Week – a title to which the editor in me automatically wants to add in parenthesis “sic.” Wait. Make that “Sick.”
The writer is the editor of The International Jerusalem Post.