Grumpy old man

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems the world is getting crazier and crazier.

Also meaner and meaner, thanks to all the great technology that is transforming the world and the way we live our lives, the result of which is that people are just less and less caring.

What, I wonder, happened to how we were feeling after 9/11 when we all said how that had changed everything, how it had given us a new appreciation for what mattes in life, what’s important. And what, I wonder, happened to how we were feeling after the great financial collapse of 2008, when we all said we saw how much we had become obsessed with money and with things, how we now realized what really mattered, how greedy and self-centered we had become, how we needed to get back to the values that are eternal and precious.

Seems to me instead of being changed for the better by 9/11 and 2008, we have changed much for the worse. We all know it and experience it. How robotic and uncaring customer alleged service people are on the phone, once you’ve endured the gauntlet of the endless voicemail prompts, all designed to make you go to their website and not bother them.

I recently called a credit card company whose customer I have been for more than 20 years, having always paid on time every month, and told them I was a bit squeezed and could I have a few more days to pay this month only. “No,” they said. I must admit I was a little taken aback. “Isn’t there anything we can do, any way you can help me out?” “No,” they said. That was it.

I have a doozy of a story about Microsoft and how they abused me, along with other such stories in just the last few weeks, but what’s the point. Things are getting crazier, people are getting more callous, we all obsess about our smartphones and our Facebook pages and our twitter accounts and less and less show or even seem to have compassion or understand basic human decency.

If all that makes me sound like a grumpy old man, I will plead guilty. I am not happy with how things are and I am well aware it’s only going to get worse. No more cashiers in stores, fewer stores as Amazon can sell everything online, people incapable of relating to other people but perfectly capable of shooting off nasty tweets and leaving ugly remarks in the comments section of their favorite websites. People who don’t agree with you dismissing you and dumping you like yesterday’s garbage. I really know how that feels.

Okay, enough. I got other things making me grumpy. I’m grumpy that so many right wing Jews love how tough the Donald is, believe he loves Israel, think he is allegedly so much better than Obama. Even though he’s given them nothing he said he would. But beyond that, in just the last week, we saw this.

The State Department has a special envoy to combat anti-Semitism. But when the Trumpies took over, the new secretary of state said he was going to get rid of that position. When Jews and Jewish organizations protested, Rex Tillerson did what any good Trumpeter would do. He lied.

No, he wouldn’t get rid of the position, he said. Well guess what. Just recently, Tillerson retreated from his department’s commitment to fill the post of envoy to combat anti-Semitism, saying the effort may be more effective without one.

“One of the questions I’ve asked is, if we’re really going to affect these areas, these special areas, don’t we have to affect it through the delivery on mission at every level at every country?” Tillerson said. “And by having a special envoy, one of my experiences is, mission then says, ‘oh, we’ve got somebody else that does,’ and then they stop doing it.”

Which is total horse manure. Trying to justify the unjustifiable by spewing baloney.

The role of the envoy has been to train career State Department officers and diplomats in identifying and combating anti-Semitism and to encourage embassies and bureaus to more closely monitor anti-Semitism. European Jewish community officials have said that having an envoy has delivered a message to their governments that the United States is focused on anti-Semitism. But Trump sees no need for it.

And then we have yet another dumping on and belittling of the Holocaust by the Trump administration. First, the White House put out a statement marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day and did not mention the Jews in it. Did not mention the Jews. Then we had the president’s press secretary tell us Hitler was more humane that Syria’s Assad since he didn’t use chemical weapons in the “concentration centers.” Tell that to my gassed to death bubbie.

And now Trump’s new budget proposal denies a funding increase request by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. The museum asked for an increase of $3 million, which is nothing in a budget of more than $4 trillion. It needs the money in order to cover rising costs, maintenance, equipment support and security. But Trump said no.

Correctly, the ADL pointed out the outrage that is. “The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum is the most important American institution preserving the memory of the six million Jews who were murdered by the Nazis and educating future generations about the importance of combating hate and bigotry. In these divided times, with increasing numbers of hate crimes against Jews and other religious minorities, this museum’s mission is as critical as ever.”

There is one good thing I will say about Trump. In the absolute worst case scenario possible, we will be rid of him in about seven and a half years. He won’t be there forever. I wish I could say the same about the Bibi. I truly believe he will be prime minister of Israel at least until he’s 120, and who knows, maybe even beyond that. I truly don’t know what it says about the Jewish state that absolutely no one but him seems capable of being elected prime minister.

And so I’m not going to say much about him, since what’s the point anymore, but I must admit I’m a bit grumpy at some real assaults on what we think of as democracy, courtesy of Bibi’s government.

The most recent is the effort introduced by Minister of Education Naftali Bennett who wants to impose a code of ethics for institutes of higher education, which would bar the expression of political views in classrooms. Anyone who knows anything about Israel knows that it is impossible for Israelis not to express their political views.

Which is why the heads of Israel’s universities have said the code “severely and fundamentally violates the concept of academic freedom.”

As one Israeli news service put it, “Israel’s current government has sought to reshape various Israeli institutions in its image, leading some to accuse it of undermining democratic values.” To his great credit, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin appeared to condemn the code of ethics, and perhaps other recent government actions.

“The freedom to express a different opinion, different thought, requires protection,” he said. “The voices of the minority are essential to scientific research, to art and the humanities and social sciences.”

And yet, the Israel Broadcasting Authority was recently shut down after 70 years because Netanyahu felt it was too critical of him. Culture Minister Miri Regev has threatened to cut off funding of any arts groups and any artists who are critical of Israel or refuse to perform in the settlements.

No one in the American Jewish community pays attention to any of this, but these are real assaults on Israeli democracy, are real dangers to freedom of expression.

I got a lot of other reasons I’m grumpy, including this insane notion that Trump and Bibi share that they can work with Saudi Arabia, and that it can be a force for good. Saudi Arabia, which gave us the 9/11 masterminds, Saudi Arabia, which does not allow women to drive, Saudi Arabia, which funds and spreads the most radical form of Islamic extremism there is. To be embracing them, to sell them $110 billion in sophisticated weapons, as Trump is doing, to say they are interested in peace, as Bibi is saying, is insane.

But what has really got me grumpy is the death of Israeli Border Police officer Hadas Malka, who was stabbed to death in Jerusalem by a Palestinian terrorist just before Shabbat near the Damascus Gate in the Old City.

Malka was 23 years old. She was killed as she responded to a Palestinian shooting attack at the nearby Zedekiah’s Cave.  “You cared for everyone, always lent a helping hand; your joy for life swept everyone away,” Police Chief Roni Alsheich said at her funeral. “You loved everyone. You stayed away from gossip and speaking ill of others. You were a fighter who loved people.”

Malka is survived by her parents and five siblings.

Just moments before being stabbed to death, Malka sent her close friends a final smiling selfie wishing them a good Shabbat. “Shabbat Shalom to my loving friends,” she wrote.

Malka, who served in the Navy, joined the Border Police after deciding she wanted to protect Jerusalem from terrorists. “She didn’t want to be in the Navy, she wanted more meaningful service,” her uncle, Yaakov Abutbul, said. “She wanted to contribute; she was patriotic like no other. For Hadas, her army service was when she began to blossom, and our flag symbolized a lot to her.”

When another border police officer, another Jewish woman, Cpl. Hadar Cohen, 19, was killed in February 2016 at Damascus Gate by three Arab terrorists wielding machine guns, pipe bombs and knives, Malka posted on her Facebook page: “We are all Border Police guards. In memory of heroine Hadar Cohen.”

May the memory of another young Israeli heroine, Hadas Malka, be for blessing.

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