Friday, April 30, 2010

Mitzpe Ramon Dog Turns White Overnight from Fighter Fright

"Buy this rag now", scream the headlines.
"Freak of Nature Inside"

I know, you feel like you're in the checkout line at Shopright. But it's all true. Chaim's dog, Goldie, is terribly frightened of the noise the F16 fighter jets make when they fly over Mitzpe Ramon. And for the past week there have been many more low altitude flights than usual. Yesterday one even broke the sound barrier creating a huge, window rattling "boom" over the town.

An F16 flies fast and low yesterday over Goldie and Chaim's apartment. Watch carefully. This is fast!

Goldie usually goes into hiding in a closet when the jets fly. She shakes and shivers. But when I saw her today, Chaim said she had turned white from fright. I thought he was joking, but when I looked at her I saw it was true. Goldie's muzzle had become white over night, and she was still shaking and quivering in Chaim's arms. We tried to comfort her, but she just doesn't understand the jets are here to protect her. Feel better soon, Goldie!

Goldie and Chaim. Goldie turned white over night from F16 fighter fear.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Machtesh Ramon goes "Boom"

800 tons. 1,600,000 pounds. It's a big number. One million six hundred thousand pounds. Say it. And Machtesh Ramon was going to loose all that weight in 5 seconds as a huge rock face that had detached from the cliff wall was to be detonated to keep it from falling unexpectedly on Route 40 below. It's as if the entre population of Cleveland, Ohio were to loose 5 pounds all at once. (We writers like to use these metaphors to help our readers get a feel for big numbers. Like the number of times your parents embarrassed you as a teen-ager is equal to the number of pencil erasers laid end-to-end reaching from the earth to the moon.) The really amazing thing is that this rock face was pretty small compared to the size of the really big ones that overlook the crater. Another winter rainy season like the one we just had could see an even larger rock face needing to come down.

In this multi-image stitched panorama, the 800 ton rock face is seen to the left of the red balloon and just below the high tension wire tower. The shadow made by its separation from the cliff wall is clearly seen in the early morning sun. Note the giant rock pillars that dwarf the detached one and may some day fall due to erosion. We are at the command and control center, located about 3/4s of the way down the cliff face, with Route 40 snaking above into Mitzpe Ramon.

A close-up of the rock pillar that has detached from the cliff wall. It is located to the left of the red balloon and just below the high tension wire tower. The shadow caused by its detachment cleft is clearly seen. Helicopters from Tamar Explosives Labs, Ltd. closely monitored and filmed the explosion.

We arrived at the command and control center about 3/4s of the way down Route 40 into the Machtesh at about 9:00 AM, 2 hours before the scheduled explosion time of 11:00AM,  just in time to find a Lubavitcher chasid laying tefillin with those present. 

A Lubavitcher chasid lays tefillin with those at the explosion command and control center. Only in Israel!

Laying tefillin before the big blast.

Shmuel Mizrachi, the official from the government who approved the plans for the explosion. A little prayer never hurts!

A purely ceremonial detonator. Everything is computer controlled from the command center.

As time for the detonation approached, the media frenzy rolled into high gear. Cameramen surrounded the operations manager who was responsible for giving to "go" order.

Operations manager surrounded by media frenzy.

Approaching "Go" time.

Inside the command and control center as detonation time approaches.

The countdown was announced starting from "5-4-3-2-1 detonation." I counted nine blasts in all: 5 sequenced blasts to separate the pillar from the cliff and four sequenced blasts to collapse and shatter the base:

5 sequenced initial baslts separate the rock face from the cliff wall, followed by 4 blasts to shatter its base.

And now what everyone has been waiting for. Our video of the actual explosion:

The great pillar of rock separated from the cliff and came raining down in pieces onto the sides of the Machtesh and highway.

Don't forget to "click" for full size images.

See the remainder of this sequence in the slide show below.

There were F16s flying high in the sky during the operation, making a great racket all morning long. After the explosion a pair performed a great loop over the site, leaving exhaust in their wake:

F16 fighter jets perform a loop over the explosion site, leaving con trails in their wake.

The operation was successful and the great hanging rock face was cleared.

From this perspective just below where the rock face was hanging, its place is marked by the chalky column of white just to the left of the balloon, with it's white debris field trailing off below and to the left.

We left while two giant front-end loaders cleaned up the debris from the blast, loading some into trucks, and pushing others to the side of the road or off the cliff into the Machtesh. There were a few huge craters in the road where larger boulders had come down that would be repaired later that day.

Front end loaders clearing Route 40 after the explosion

Tamar Explosives own video of the blast from several angles:

Slide show of explosion

Slide show of command and control center

Setting Up for the Big Bang Over Machtesh Ramon

Due to this winter's unusually heavy rains, water erosion caused a large rock face overhanging Route 40 in Ramon's Crater (Machtesh Ramon) to break loose from its connection to the crater's wall. This rock face, sometimes referred to as a "boulder" in the Israeli press, weighs 800 tons, that's 1,600,000 pounds, and was in danger of breaking completely free and plummeting to the road below. The Israel National Roads Company, a branch of the government, hired Tamar Explosives Labs, Ltd., a quarrying and controlled detonation and explosives company, to remove the rock face via a large controlled implosion.

The 800 ton loose rock face on the cliff  above Machtesh Ramon, seen just below the high tension wire tower. (As always, click for full size image.)

This was big news in Israel and made all the news papers and TV news, although an official of Israel Roads told me there are many much larger excavation explosions in Israel every day. I guess the prospect of a huge rock face explosion and the accompanying landslide of rock down the picturesque face of Machtesh Ramon was a big draw, together with the closing of the main road between the rest of Israel and Eilat.

I had read about the explosion in the newspaper, and since the site was just a short distance from where we live, decided to drive over the day before and see what would obviously be a very blog-worthy event. The site of the boulder was about a quarter mile down the JNF Forrest road off Route 40 in Mitzpe Ramon. It was a gorgeous yellow-sun, blue-sky afternoon as I drove up to the site.

View off the cliff face next to the explosion site over looking Machtesh Ramon

As I drove up I saw a collection of support vehicles and workmen in white overalls and Day-Glo vests. There was an ambulance, support tent, commissary and command and control center, which would move below to control the explosion the next day.

Explosion work site on top of Machtesh Ramon cliff. Hanging rock face is just in front of the high tension wire tower.

I introduced myself to one of the workers who then led me to Dorin, one of the PR women working for Tamar. Everyone was very helpful and gracious to me, especially Dorin, who I'm sure had bigger fish to fry with the professional media who would descend the next day. But she was still happy to work with a small-time local blogger.

Support vehicles at the explosion site                                                               

Dorin working PR for Tamar

Support center for explosion set up on top of Machtesh Ramon

Dorin introduced me to Yoni, the Tamar project manager, who, much to my excitement and surprise, offered to walk me out to the explosion site at the boulder. The wind was blowing strongly out over the Machtesh cliff, so it was with some difficulty that I managed to keep from being blown off! He showed me the robotic drilling machine that had been used to drill into the rock face to set explosives at different depths, up to 100 feet down the overhanging boulder. The idea was to create a controlled implosion, rather than a big explosion, that would cause the rock to shatter and collapse down the cliff face, rather than blow to bits everywhere.

Yoni, the project manager, gives me my first close-up view of the loose rock face, seen here to his rear left. Click on the image to see the wire cables used to secure the rock to the cliff while they work on it. Note the high winds (flag behind Yoni) threatening to blow us off the cliff. Mt. Ardon is at the top right. Route 40, endangered by the loose rock, snakes below.

The robotic drilling machine used to place explosives in the loose rock face, to the right of robot. Note the flag blowing in the strong afternoon winds, common on the Machtesh.

800 tons of rock face threaten to fall on Route 40 below. Note cables used to secure the rock while Tamar installs explosive charges.

Tamar is no bunch of kids with fireworks. I asked Yoni what kind of training one needs to be in this business. He told me that the company had been in business for 12 years and does controlled explosions all over the world. Most of their people were trained in the Israeli military and had been involved with explosives "all their lives." I wish I had friends like this when I was growing up!

The company also takes a very scientific approach to their work. They use computer modeling to simulate the effects of the explosion and create a model of how it will work, and set up many scientific instruments to monitor and measure its results.

Strain gauges monitor movement of the giant boulder while Tamar works on it.

I arranged to meet Dorin the next morning at the set-up base camp and accompany the team below to observe the explosion. I could hardly sleep that night...

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Thoughts on the Occasion of Turning 13 - a Guest Post by Spot the Dog

Today I turn 13 and become a Bark Mitzvah. I wish I could say the famously trite line, "Today I am a man." But, alas, today I am but yet a dog. It is true that I am the reincarnated soul of a Misnagid (I won't say whom, but you would know the name well), forced to return to an earthly existence to repent for my sins against the Chasidim. I sit below the Shabbos table and relish the challah and gefilte fish I am fed which elevate my soul and help atone for the sins of my past life. And I am even included in the brachos that master gives the members of the family on Friday night. He holds his hand above me and intones:

May Hashem make you like the dogs of Egypt,
Who barked not at the Jews,
In their flight from Egypt by night;
And to no Jew may you ever give a fright.

But still and all, I remain trapped in the body of a dog. It is a terrible thing to be on the wrong side of history.

I remember well the day I was brought to my new home in Palo Alto from my place of birth in San Jose. In the car I met my new family and my young step-sister, Chavie. She had always wanted a dog. "Wanna dog. Gonna call him Spot," she would say. She wanted a Dalmatian, all of the children do after seeing "101 Dalmations", but there was no way that was going to happen. Dalmations are too dumb to even come in from the rain (it's true), and they shed on everything. Ush, such goyishe cups.

My first afternoon at home in Palo Alto with step-sister Chavie. I love Israel, but I will always remain a California dog at heart.

They decided to finally get me after a prowler broke into the house one Friday night on Memorial Day weekend. My master beat the tall, thin prowler with a chair as he ran for the door that had been locked behind him, and he had to dive through the glass to escape. Such a commotion. Police everywhere. Now Chavie was going to call me Spot. "I always told you I wanted a dog and his name would be Spot." Why "Spot" people ask after seeing my all blond self. "Whatever he's on, that's the Spot!" became the answer.

As I got older I stared to put on a little weight. All the vets lectured master about my weight, and tried to get me to go on a diet. But, look, I've lived thirteen years, keinehura, already, so a little weight obviously isn't going to start hurting me now. Everyone's a Vet!

My Vet, Dr. Groskin, in Englewood, NJ. A good man, but w-a-y too fixated on weight.

Now I have made Aliyah and live in the desert in Israel. My bones will be laid to rest one day with the bones of my ancestors. It comforts me to know that. But they still won't allow me to go to the Western Wall to celebrate my Bark Mitzvah. I thought about forming a new group, "Dogs of the Wall", to protest. But you know what, the Jews have enough tsoris already. Let sleeping dogs lie.

Instead, my Bark Mitzvah project will be to visit every fire hydrant in so-called "East Jerusalem" and claim it as my own by marking there. What is this nonsense about dividing the eternal, unified capital of  Israel? Does the world not know that the Arabs used the Jewish grave stones from the Mount of Olives to line their latrines when they controlled that part of the city!? Not even a dog would do that!

Tombstones from the Mt. of Olives line a Jordanian army barracks latrine

After 13 years on this Earth, I still do not understand it. But that's just my opinion, and you are welcome to it.

My point of view, and welcome to it.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Celebrating Yom Haatzmaut in Mitzpe Ramon

Yom Haatzmaut (Israeli Independence Day) is a combination of small town and big town festivities in Mitzpe Ramon. We are the largest town by far south of Be'er-Sheva, but still only about 4700 people, so this is where most people in the area come to celebrate Independence Day. The celebration here reminded me of the small New England town patriotic celebrations of Memorial Day and July 4th, but with a smidgen of big name performers thrown in.

The evening of Yom Haatzmaut a big celebration is held in the town's large Greek-style amphitheater. I had never seen this before, although it is located right next to the town's main shopping district. I would love to hold a summer theater festival here. The amphitheater has a large number of stone seats in a semi-circle around a large stage, sloping steeply up to a grassy hill above the seats.

Mitzpe Ramon's Greek-style amphitheater, capacity ~1,000 on the stone seats alone

The night's performance was mostly local children in Madame Veronica's dance school. They streamed into the dressing rooms below stage nervously awaiting their performance to begin. 

Dancers await their entrance below stage in Mitzpe Ramon

The celebration began around 8:15 when a short volley of fireworks announced the beginning of Yom Haatzmaut. Then each dance class appeared to do their choreographed number. It was really quite sweet.

Mayor Flora Shushan handed out the annual town service awards, after which the headliner for the evening appeared: Dana International. Dana won the 1998 Eurovision song contest representing Israel with her song Diva. The Eurovision contest is huge everywhere except in America, where it is hardly known at all. Dana was born Yaron Cohen in 1972 to a Yemenite Jewish family. She is one of the most famous pop singer transexuals in the world. And here she was in Mitzpe Ramon.

Dana International performs in Mitzpe Ramon

I didn't find out that Dana International was a transexual until a few days later, but it did help explain the rather androgynous backup group that danced with her. Pam had seen them about town with hulking arms and warm-up suits. One of the very precocious young dancers got up on stage and outdid Dana with some amazing moves. Dana was gracious enough to share the stage with her for a number of songs.

One of Mitzpe Ramon's own cuties gets on stage with Dana

The show was clearly going to go on for a long time, so we left after the fireworks show that began when Dana International finished her set.

The show continued on well into the night. There was another big display of fireworks again around 11:30, which I think marked the end. There was a festive and carnival-like atmosphere throughout. There were many food and tshatchke vendors set up around the amphitheater selling various eats and led-light toys, and children had foam fights throughout the night.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Obama Becomes a Satmar Chasid - Accuses Zionists of Violating the "Three Oaths"

This just in. We have received word that President Obama and wife Michele have converted to Judaism and become members of the ultra-orthodox Satmar chasidic sect. Unnamed sources reveal the following details:

President Baruch Hashem Obama and First Lady Sheinah Meidel Obama were married in a secret ceremony in Williamsburg, New York.

President Obama and his wife were secretly married by Satmar Grand Rebbe Zalman Leib Teitelbaum in Williamsburg after converting to Judaism under the Rebbe's supervision. When asked about his new name the President said,

I used to be Barry, then Barack, but now I am Baruch, Baruch Hashem Obama. I want to be a blessing and light to the entire world, as the Jews have always been, and of course, as a politician, I want my name on people's lips as much as possible. What better way than by becoming "Baruch Hashem" Obama? Look, I know they're not saying my name with kavanah (intent) when they bless G-d this way, so I have to settle for b'dee'eved. And yes, I will be working on my problems of gaiyvah (arrogance and haughtiness of spirit) with my mashpiah (spiritual advisor).

The President said his wife, Michele, will be changing her name to Sheinah, Sheinah Meidel Obama.

Commenting, First Lady Sheinah Obama had this to say,

I am a beautiful, proud, black Jew. But I will no longer be able to put my buff body and ripped upper arms on display.  'The King's daughter is all glorious within' (Psalms 45:13), so I will be dressing according to the standards of modesty of my people. But I still want everyone to remember, that underneath it all, I am still a 'Sheinah Meidel' (a beautiful girl).

President Baruch Obama saved his sternest words for his maimar  (chassidic discourse) at his first Sheva Bracha in Kiryat Joel, New York. Already showing the deep learning that so impressed Grand Rebbe Teitelbaum, he intoned with a talmudic sing-song in Yiddish (here translated),

The first Grand Rebbe Yoel Teitelbaum, may his sainted memory be for a blessing, taught that we must not violate the three oaths mentioned in the Gemorah in Kethuvos 111A, which cites a passage from the 'Song of Songs' saying that the Jews must wait for our holy 'Maschiach' before the redemption and return to 'Eretz Yisrael' can come. And what have the Zionists done but stormed the Fortress of Heaven with their unclean hands to redeem our Holy Land before its time. King Solomon in Song of Songs thrice adjured the 'daughters of Jerusalem' not to arouse or bestir the love until it is ready. The Talmud explains that we are bound by three strong oaths not to ascend to the Holy Land as a group using force, not to rebel against the governments of countries in which we live, and not by our sins to prolong the coming of 'Moshiach'. And the Zionists among us have caused themselves as well as 'K'lal Yisroel' to sin by violating all three oaths. And with this all the woes of the Jews have come upon them including the death of the six million martyrs in World War II. And now these same Zionists are bringing disaster upon themselves and the United States, causing the death of our soldiers and bringing the enmity of the world upon themselves and the United Sates, by continuing to hold Jerusalem and the Land of Israel before the coming of 'Mashicah Tzidkenu'...

Whew, strong stuff there. There may be considerations in the President's unprecedented turn against Israel that have not entered into the analysis of the political pundits and cognoscenti yet.

Rahm Emanuel served as one of the witnesses to the wedding and was in close attendance on the President throughout the day. Obama was over heard to say to Emanuel, "Listen, tell those Lubavitch emissaries that they are always welcome in the White House, but there will be no Lubavitch shechita served as long as I am president, I don't care what the First Amendment says."

After wishes of peru u'revu ("be fruitful and multiply") on the newlyweds, the First Lady responded, "tu, tu tu...from your lips to G-d's ears." President Baurch Hashem Obama just blushed.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Negotiating with Pathological Liars

I used to work for a guy who was a pathological liar. He was the kind of person who could insist that it was midnight in the middle of the day and could get quite a few people to believe it. The bigger the lie, the more likely people were to believe it. How could someone make up such an outrageous thing, if it weren't true, is the state of mind people would go through with him. Of course, if you checked and found out it wasn't true he would find some excuse that explained away your finding as an aberrant exception or would simply deny your finding to your face.

From what I read about the "peace process" = "war process" the Arabs want Israel to undergo, this seems to be their method as well. The latest most outrageous point was a report in the Jerusalem Post about Israel achieving peace with its neighbors in which King Abdullah of Jordan is quoted as saying:

"In the Arab-Islamic peace proposal, it’s not just opening trade offices, it’s full diplomatic relations,” Abdullah explained. “They’re looking at Israel being integrated into the region, not just having embassies so that it looks good for the cameras, but having relations with the Arab and Islamic world. Fifty-seven nations is a third of the United Nations; that’s a third of the United Nations that does not recognize Israel today,” he said.

“Indirectly, what the Arabs are saying is, we will be the ones to ensure the security and the survival of Israel,” he continued. “You don’t need to have those walls, you don’t need to be Fortress Israel because you’re one of us now.
Can you imagine anything so absurd as Abdullah's highlighted quote? The Arabs will insure Israel's security?!  You mean the way the Arabs protect Sunni's from Shi'ites in Iraq or vice versa? Or the way they protect Hamas from Fatah or vice versa? Beware of practitioners of the Big Lie.  They actually do take people in.

And this just in from the Simon Wiesenthal Institute, another pack of lies from the Palestinians, Muslims, and their fellow travellers on Yom Ha'atzmaut:

Today, Yom Ha’atzmaut, Jews the world over celebrate the 62nd anniversary of the creation of the State of Israel. But it seems that at the United Nations, everyday is Israel-bashing day. One of the latest attacks, Resolution A/HRC/13/L.29, passed by the infamous UN Human Rights Council last month, accuses Israel of “grave human rights violations” in Gaza and “occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem”. But this time, the Council, which has never once condemned terrorist organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah, has now criticized the Simon Wiesenthal Center for building a Museum of Tolerance in the heart of West Jerusalem. The UNHRC, contrary to a unanimous decision of Israel’s Supreme Court, falsely claims that the Museum of Tolerance project is being built “on part of the historic Mamila Cemetery ... excavat[ing] ancient tombs”.  Nothing could be further from the truth. The Museum of Tolerance project is being built on the former municipal car park of Jerusalem, where for nearly 50 years, Jews, Christians and Muslims parked their cars. As the Supreme Court stated, "For almost 50 years the compound has not been a part of the cemetery, and it was used for various public purposes ... This area was not regarded as a cemetery by the general public or by the Muslim community ... No one denied this position." (Bones between 200 – 400 years old were found and re-interred in an nearby Muslim cemetery. No markers or tombstones were ever found on the site).
An article, in the Palestine Post, dated November 22, 1945, exposes just how outrageous and cynical the current campaign is – for three years before there was a State of Israel, the Supreme Moslem Council authorized the building of a commercial center, including a bank and factory on the actual Mamila Cemetery itself. But those seeking to demonize Israel and all supporters of Zion are not deterred by the facts. With the help of the well-oiled anti-Israel machinery at the UN, a new front in the war against the Jewish state has been launched.
Consider the list of regimes who voted for this travesty; they were led by Pakistan (on behalf of the 57-member states of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bangladesh, Cuba, Angola, Argentina, Bahrain, Russian Federation, China, Jordan, South Africa, Mauritius, Kyrgyzstan, Madagascar, Qatar and others. We consider it a badge of honor to be condemned with Israel.

Quote of The Day - Theodore Herzl, June 11, 1901

Do not rely on the help of foreigners nor on that of benefactors; do not hope that stones will become soft. Because benefactors give humiliating donations at most, and stones do not soften. A people that wants to stand upright must put all its trust in itself alone. -- Theodore Herzl, as quoted by Benjamin Netanyahu on Yom Ha'atzmaut, 5770.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Back Online

After being disconnected from the rest of the world for almost three days Mitzpe Ramon phone and Internet service was restored sometime on Monday morning. It had been out since Friday evening. According to word on the street ("The Jewish Street"? "The Arab Street"?) the word was that some Bedouin youths had broken into a Bezeq switching station and tried to steal some fiber optic cable to hock on the black market. Instead, they managed to steal some worthless (to the black market) fiber optic router, which took Mitzpe Ramon off the grid. The authorities have aprehended the youths.

But still, why were we down for almost three days? All Bezeq land lines were down, including emergency services; merchants were unable to process credit card charges since they were unable to dial out to get authorization; the medical centers were unable to retrieve any patient records or patient information or test results. And Bezeq considers this an acceptable response? If this had happened in any large Israeli city it would have been fixed within the hour. This is just another example of the short shrift and lip service given to small Israeli communities in the desert. The Ministry of Communications needs to look into this, and if appropriate, fine Bezeq for their misbehavior. And while on the topic of misbehavior, exactly what were Mitzpe Ramon officials doing during these three days to rattle Bezeq's cage and get us back on line?

If I ever get the answers to these questions I will report back.

Israel Memorial Day Began Tonight

Yom Ha'Zikoron, Israel's Memorial Day, began tonight. It is immediately followed by Israel's Independence Day, Yom Ha'Atzmaut, which celebrates the creation of the third Jewish Commonwealth on the 5th of the Hebrew month of Iyar in 1948. It is no accident that Yom Ha'Shoah, commemorating the Holocaust, is exactly one week before Yom Ha'Zikoron.

The day commences with the solemn sounding of air raid sirens at 8:00PM throughout the country and again at 10:00 11:00AM. All traffic and work halts then as Israel remembers those killed in battle and those murdered by terrorists.

I had planned on being outside at 8:00, but as I was walking Spot earlier I heard music and walked toward it as others did in the gathering dark. I found myself in a small park by Mitzpe Ramon's only police station where about 160 chairs had been set up before a stage area. To my surprise I realized that a memorial service would soon take place.

Memorial service park in Mitzpe Ramon

Soon a crowd of about 500 people appeared as the 8:00 siren sounded and everyone stood in somber silence. The police had closed Route 40 at both ends of town, and no traffic would enter or leave for the next 45 minutes.

After the sounding of the sirens a military honour guard marched in to the sound of the drill sergeant calling Left-Left, Left-Right-Left, but in Hebrew. Coming to attention before the Israeli flag, they lowered it to half staff as a bugle sounded a mournful call. A family who recently lost a son came forward to light the memorial lamp which would burn for the next 24 hours watched over by a military guard detail that would change every hour.

A military honor guards watches over the memorial flame in Mitzpe Ramon

Israel has mandatory universal service, so each has his and her life literally on the line in defense of the country. This creates a great sense of unity and cohesiveness but also a sense of universal loss since there is hardly a family that does not know another family who has suffered a loss to war or terror.

Mitzpe Ramon has lost 13 soldiers in Israel's wars, and each name was displayed as someone said a little about their lives, some quite tearfully.

As the memorial service came to a close Kaddish was recited together with Kale Molai Ra'chamim. At the end all stood and sang the Hatikvah (The Hope), Israel's national anthem with sadness yet also with hope for the future...And Spot was the only dog there.

Spot observes the memorial service

-- Post From My iPhone
Related Posts with Thumbnails