What Israeli and Canadian War Songs Have in Common

Feb. 28 2017

Israeli war songs, and even army slang, tend to be filled with horticultural imagery. Noting something similar in the way Canadians have memorialized World War I, Matti Friedman finds something universal:

[The Yom Kippur War] was behind one of [Israel’s] best-known memorial songs, written by a woman from a kibbutz called Beit Hashittah. Dorit Zameret wrote “The Wheat Sprouts Again” after the 1973 conflict consumed eleven men from her tiny community in the space of three weeks, a blow like the one suffered by those Newfoundland hamlets that lost all their young men on the first day of the battle of the Somme in 1916.

“The Wheat Sprouts Again” talks about the resilience of nature, which the author finds amazing and not entirely welcome. . . . This [sort of] language isn’t limited to Israeli songs. When I was drafted [into the IDF] at the age of nineteen and found myself serving as an infantryman in a small guerrilla war in south Lebanon, I discovered that the army’s radio code for casualties was “flowers.” Dead soldiers were “cyclamens.” . . .

The language I encountered here seemed unique. But just a few years before, [as a Canadian teenager], I’d been standing in a school cafeteria, the gray skies of a Toronto November out the window, reciting these lines, which I still know by heart, “In Flanders fields the poppies blow / Between the crosses, row on row . . .”.

World War I poetry, at least the British variety, is full of flowers. . . . Outside Israel, the use of floral euphemisms to mask the worst we inflict upon each other seems to have faded, though echoes remain. To honor dead soldiers Canadians wear a pin shaped not like a dead soldier, but like a poppy. Here in Israel, the old pastoral language remains very much in use. It suggests a universal response to a universal kind of heartbreak—the absence of some young person that will persist long after the war, and the reasons for it, have faded.

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More about: Canada, Israel & Zionism, Israeli society, Poetry, War, World War I

Nikki Haley Succeeded at the UN Because She Saw It for What It Is

Oct. 15 2018

Last week, Nikki Haley announced that she will be stepping down as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations at the end of the year. When President Trump appointed her to the position, she had behind her a successful tenure as governor of South Carolina, but no prior experience in foreign policy. This, writes Seth Lispky, turned out to have been her greatest asset:

What a contrast [Haley provided] to the string of ambassadors who fell on their faces in the swamp of Turtle Bay. That’s particularly true of the two envoys under President Barack Obama. [The] “experienced” hands who came before her proceeded to fail. Their key misconception was the notion that the United Nations is part of the solution to the world’s thorniest problems. Its charter was a vast treaty designed by diplomats to achieve “peace,” “security,” and “harmony.”

What hogwash.

Haley, by contrast, may have come in without experience—but that meant she also lacked for illusions. What a difference when someone knows that they’re in a viper pit—that the UN is itself the problem. And has the gumption to say so.

This became apparent the instant Haley opened her first press conference, [in which she said of the UN’s obsessive fixation on condemning the Jewish state]: “I am here to say the United States will not turn a blind eye to this anymore. I am here to underscore the ironclad support of the United States for Israel. . . . I am here to emphasize that the United States is determined to stand up to the UN’s anti-Israel bias.”

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More about: Nikki Haley, U.S. Foreign policy, United Nations, US-Israel relations