The Secretary Of State’s Security Screening

On Tuesday U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who is in the Middle East trying to arrange for a cease-fire in the Israeli-Palestinian fighting in Gaza, met with the Egyptian President.  Prior to the meeting, Kerry’s aides had to go through a metal detector, and Kerry himself was scanned with a security wand.

Reuters reports that such a security screening of a high-ranking U.S. official is “unusual.”  I’d say it’s unprecedented.  I cannot remember any instance where the American Secretary of State was screened, or wanded down, prior to meeting with a foreign dignitary.  And, it’s hard not to feel a certain sense of schadenfreude at seeing a guy who is usually ushered from meeting to meeting by limo and subject to elaborate courtesies have to undergo a security scan like the rest of the masses. 

Obviously, though, there’s a more important issue at work here.  We know the Middle East is a place where symbolism is important and people are deeply sensitive to perceived slights; showing the sole of your shoe can be viewed as a deadly insult.  I’m confident that the security screening was an intentional effort to send a message; no one could reasonably believe that the Secretary of State was packing heat or posed a security threat.  The message therefore has to be that the Egyptian government doesn’t view representatives of the American government as needing special treatment, and they wanted Kerry and his aides to understand that new reality in a very tangible, personal way.  With the incident being widely reported, and with the groupthink mentality at play in the Middle East, the Egyptian view may well be shared by other governments in the region, too. 

If American diplomats are treated like security threats by governments in countries that we hope will help to keep the peace in that deeply troubled region and American power and influence in the Middle East in fact is waning, it is bad news for America and bad news for the world. 

Avoiding Egypt

Going to Egypt to see the sights in the Valley of the Kings has always been a “bucket list” item for me. The beauty and awesome antiquity of the remnants of the Egypt of the Pharaohs exerts an irresistible attraction.

Sadly, I now question whether I’ll ever scratch off that bucket list item — and apparently I’m not alone. Since Egypt has fallen into a crisis involving the military, the Muslim Brotherhood and other groups, with leaders being deposed and jailed and street clashes and deaths at demonstrations often in the news, governments have warned about travel to Egypt and tourists have avoided it. In September, tourism was down almost 70% from 2012, and in October — the most recent month for which statistics seem to be available — tourism was down 52% over the prior year.

Tourism is one of the largest segments of the Egyptian economy and one of the largest producers of foreign currency. I am sure that there are many people in Egypt — cab drivers, tour guides, street peddlers, and others — who are suffering due to the sharp drop in tourism. So why would prominent Egyptians be making public statements that simply exacerbate tourist concerns about safety and security? Recently, for example, an Egyptian editor speculated that the United States government might try to assassinate General Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, the general who ousted the Mohamed Morsi government last summer, and helpfully added that if such an attempt were made, Egyptians would rise up in a “revolution to kill the Americans in the streets.” Not surprisingly, the editor later tried to backtrack from his inflammatory statements and said that his remarks were about terrorism and that he bears no hostility to Americans.

American tourists aren’t idiots, and a half-hearted explanation isn’t going to cure the fact that such bloody rhetoric was used in the first place. If you like to travel, your bucket list of destinations probably is a long one. There are plenty of interesting faraway places to visit where you don’t need to worry that your visit might put your life in danger. Right now, the prevailing sense is that Egypt isn’t one of them.

Last Visit To The Louvre

Today Richard, Russell and I visited the Louvre. I think it will probably be my last visit. If you’ve been to the Louvre, you may understand what I mean. If you’ve never been there, you won’t. You’ll read the guidebooks, and they will tell you that you absolutely must visit the Louvre, and you will go — because you absolutely must visit the Louvre if you come to Paris. I’m betting, though, that you probably won’t enjoy it.

Today we bypassed the long line for tickets because we had a museum pass, which is crucial — otherwise, you could wait for an hour or more just to get a chance to buy a ticket. Once inside, we headed to the wing of the museum that houses the Mona Lisa and thousands of other paintings from the Renaissance. When you get to the room that houses Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece, prepare for a scrum. The room is a wild melee of people elbowing to get close to the painting and taking “selfies.” It’s not a positive reflection of humanity, and it’s simply impossible to enjoy the painting in anything approaching quiet contemplation. The experiences in front of the other famous items at the Louvre, like Venus de Milo, are similarly unpleasant mob scenes.

It’s hard to get away from the crowds, and it’s hard to appreciate the artwork when any movement is likely to insert you into a picture taken by another tourist. And there really is too much to see — room after room after room of Egyptian antiquities, or Roman statues, or Greek busts. I found myself thinking that, if I were an Egyptian visitor, I’d be upset that my cultural heritage has been taken and warehoused in faraway Paris, in a place where countless riches from other countries are on display.

005If you want to focus on one area, such as Flemish and Dutch paintings, you could fill an entire day. And be prepared to walk through room after room of hundreds of Madonna and child and Biblical paintings, still life paintings of gutted animal carcasses, landscapes and sea paintings, arranged in rooms where dozens of pieces are on display cheek by jowl and even the ceilings are painted masterpieces. It’s just too much. At the end of our visit I searched for a room that was quiet and suited for enjoying art, and found a room of beautiful medieval tapestries that would have been worth a separate visit if they had been located in virtually any other museum in the world. In the Louvre, however, they are an afterthought — as the picture included with this post indicates.

After a few hours we departed, having walked for miles on marble floors until our feet ached and our necks were tied in knots, and I swore that I had had enough of clustering, clamoring tourists, and walls crammed with paintings, and bustling guides. I think this will be my last visit to the Louvre.

Losing The Pyramids And The Sphinx

Egypt is the latest Middle Eastern country teetering on the brink of chaos.  Each day brings fresh reports of battles between the military and the Muslim Brotherhood and dozens of new deaths on the streets of Cairo.

I can’t fully appreciate the religious, political, and social issues that are playing out in Egypt.  I can understand, however, what a loss it is for the world that Egypt has become a place that is not safe to visit.  It means that many people will never see the Great Pyramid, the Sphinx, or the other relics of the ancient Egyptian civilization along the Nile.

That loss is a terrible tragedy.  The Sphinx, the pyramids, and the temples of the pharaonic era are the greatest surviving sites of our ancient past.  They are not merely historical sites, but a tangible link to the early development of human culture.  Their very existence shows what our forebears were capable of, even if we don’t quite understand how they were built thousands of years ago.  Their immense age, and their equally immense significance, are the reasons why standing in their presence on the Giza plain is such an awesome experience, and why so many people, myself included, have long dreamed of making the journey to Egypt to have that experience some day.

But not now.  Although the pull of the pyramids and the Valley of the Kings is enormous, it is not irresistible — not when a visit puts you at risk of finding yourself in a mob of angry, screaming men or confronting soldiers ready to fire at any moment.  That means, for me at least, that the pyramids and Sphinx are lost for now, and I don’t know when, or even if, they will ever be safe to visit in my lifetime.  That reality makes me very sad.

Air Out Of The Balloon

The story about the crash of a hot air balloon near Luxor, Egypt — an incident that killed 19 people and seriously injured several others — is one of those odd, faraway stories that nevertheless hits home for me.

I’ve never been in a hot air balloon, nor have I ever been to Luxor, where the fabulous Valley of the Kings is located.  But, I could very easily see myself visiting Egyptian antiquities and being tempted to take a balloon ride that would allow me to get a bird’s-eye view of all of the sites.  Such tourist options — like the opportunity to go parasailing in the Caribbean, or go skydiving, or engage in similar kinds of novel vacation activities — are so commonplace that we tend to assume that they are extraordinarily safe.  But, of course, things can go wrong, and if they go wrong when you are in an unsupported balloon a hundred yards in the air the consequences are more likely to be devastating than if they go wrong when your feet are on the ground.

The Luxor balloon was close to landing when a rope got wrapped around a fuel tube and severed it, causing a fire.  The fire produced heat that rose into the balloon, causing it to shoot up into the air.  Some passengers jumped out; others remained helplessly on board as the balloon rocketed skyward, the gas canister exploded, and the balloon then plummeted to the ground.

Ever since I went snowmobiling without knowing what I was doing, and realized that I could easily kill or seriously hurt myself as a result, I’ve been very stodgy and boring about such activities.  There is risk in everything we do, of course, but some risks have to be assumed, whereas others are only optional.    I’m sure that, if I were one of the unlucky tourists on that ill-fated Luxor ride, as the doomed balloon was falling downward I would be thinking:  “Why in the hell did I ever decide to do this?”

How To Respond To Muslim Lectures, Edicts, and Bounties

The Muslim world has been giving the United States a lot of advice and information lately.  No doubt we’ll hear more thoughtful recommendations and guidance in the next few days, as Muslim leaders come to New York for a meeting of the U.N. General Assembly.  America needs to decide how to respond.

In Egypt — where only days ago raging mobs stormed the U.S. embassy and ripped down our flag — the new President, Mohamed Morsi, says in an interview with the New York Times that the United States needs to fundamentally change its approach to the Muslim world and show greater respect for Muslim values.  In the meantime, the head of the largest fundamentalist Islamic party in Egypt, which supported Morsi, is calling for U.N. to act to “criminalize contempt of Islam as a religion and its Prophet.”  And in Pakistan — a supposed ally — the government Railways Minister has offered a $100,000 payment to whomever kills the makers of the YouTube video The Innocence of Muslims and called upon al Qaeda and the Taliban to help in murdering the videomakers.  (Fortunately, the Pakistani government says it “absolutely disassociates” itself with the comments of its Railway Minister.  Thank goodness!)  And we haven’t even heard yet from the likes of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who will be speaking to the U.N. General Assembly, too.

It’s heartening to hear from the enlightened leaders of a region that is widely recognized for reasoned discourse and thoughtful consideration of opposing viewpoints.  But I’d like to see whoever speaks for America at the U.N. General Assembly share some of our views with the assembled Islamic leaders — and do so in pointed terms.  We should say that we relish our First Amendment, and we’re not going to change it no matter how often Muslims go on murderous rampages at some perceived slight.  We should say that will fight any effort to criminalize speech and will veto any ill-advised U.N. resolution that attempts to do so.  We should emphasize that we think that the world needs more freedom, not less, and that we stand with the forces of liberty.  We should tell the Muslim leaders that their real problems are not with freedom of speech and freedom of religion, but with tribal-based, anti-female societies that crush individual initiative, medieval economies that leave huge swathes of the population unemployed and ready to riot at any moment, and corrupt leaders who are more interested in amassing their own fortunes than helping their people realize a better way of life.  Oh, and we should make clear that we won’t do business with government where ministers are offering bounties on the heads of filmmakers.

I’m tired of our simpering, whimpering approach to defending our fundamental freedoms.  It’s high time that we stood up for what we believe in and told the Islamic world that they can riot all they want:  we aren’t going to back away from our liberties.

Let’s Not Forget About The First Amendment

Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, a man who allegedly was involved in making The Innocence of Muslims — the video that the Obama Administration says sparked riots in in the Middle East — has been picked up by police in California.

The stated reason for the pick-up is that Nakoula, who has served time in prison on fraud and identity theft charges, may have violated the terms of his probation.  Those conditions barred him from owning or using devices with access to the Web without prior approval.  Although Nakoula apparently is not under arrest, as he left his home he was accompanied by a large number of uniformed deputies.  In pictures taken of the event, he is wearing a floppy hat and has his face wrapped in a towel; he says he fears for his safety and that of his family.

I’m not defending a convicted fraudster who may have violated the terms of his probation, but I am concerned about the First Amendment.  Consider the message sent by this incident:  An inflammatory video is posted on the internet; Muslims in Egypt and Libya storm our diplomatic outposts and, in Benghazi, kill the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans; members of the Obama Administration repeatedly express their disgust about the video; the Egyptian government says the creator of the video should be charged with a crime . . . and then the man is picked up for questioning about a potential parole violation.  Is that sequence of events really conveying the message we want to send to radical Muslims who, before The Innocence of Muslims was created, found many other reasons to engage in angry anti-American protests?

There’s a reason why the First Amendment is the first amendment.  Freedom of speech is the core freedom we enjoy, from the newspaper reporter to the internet blogger to the person who may harshly criticize our government without fear.  I don’t think we should be suggesting, by our actions, that we will cooperate with foreign governments in cracking down on whatever speech Muslims might conceivably find offensive.  Instead, I’d like to see the Obama Administration engage in a vigorous, public defense of our free speech rights.  The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and the other governments in the Middle East, need to understand that we stand by our First Amendment rights and aren’t going to meekly submit to intimidation or demands that those rights be restricted.

Is It Really All About A Movie?

The party line from the Obama Administration is that the chaos in the Middle East is all about a cheap, crappy YouTube video.  On Friday White House spokesperson Jay Carney said, “this is not a case of protests directed at the United States writ large or at U.S. policy, this is in response to a video that is offensive to Muslims.”

Is the rioting and embassy-storming really just the product of Muslim rage at an incendiary video?  Mounting evidence suggests that the Administration story line is just wishful thinking.  The carefully coordinated, well-armed attack on the poorly defended U.S. consulate in Benghazi doesn’t seem like the spontaneous response of Libyans to a video, but rather a pre-planned terrorist act.  A writer for the Jerusalem Post argues — persuasively, in my view — that much larger forces than offensive videos are at play and that American foreign policy seems to be based on imaginative fictions rather than reality.

The Obama Administration needs to take a careful look at what really happened in Benghazi and Cairo and what is really motivating the people who brought heavy weapons to the U.S. consulate in Benghazi and seemed to good intelligence about where the American Ambassador was staying and where he would be moved.  Now is not a time for phony spin or false bravado.  Foreign policy isn’t a game; the lives of American diplomats, their families, and their staff demand a clear-eyed, careful appraisal of reality.  Perhaps it’s time to stop hunting for video makers and start looking for an effective way to deal with a so-called “Arab spring” that appears to have morphed into anti-American totalitarianism.

The Value Of In Person, Versus In Writing

The recent attacks on U.S. embassies and consulates in Egypt, Libya, and Yemen have come on the heels of reports that President Obama has missed more than half of his daily intelligence briefing meetings.  And, in the wake of the embassy attacks, The Independent, a British newspaper, is reporting that the the U.S. received warnings of attacks on U.S. embassies and consulates but did not respond to them.  The Obama Administration flatly denies the latter report.

The Obama Administration doesn’t deny that the President has missed a lot of his daily intelligence briefings but argues that missing the meetings really isn’t that important because the President can get all the information he needs from briefing books.  As the writer of the linked article points out, that position stands in contrast to earlier reports in which Administration sources contended that the daily meetings were important and were well handled by the President.

I don’t doubt that President Obama gets lots of information in writing and reads it carefully.  In addition, some complicated concepts are better explained on paper.  Still, I think face-to-face interaction must play an important role.  Obviously, you can’t ask questions of a briefing book, but there are other important elements to in-person discussions.  The act of preparing for such meetings — finishing the review of briefing books in advance, preparing questions, deciding where to focus — itself has value for the person leading the meeting.  Attending such meetings shows that you attach importance to what the other participants do and thereby encourages them; attendance also permits give-and-take, brainstorming, and free-wheeling discussion that simply can’t be replicated by a written document or an email exchange.  Finally, humans communicate a lot of information through facial expressions, gestures, tone of voice, and other methods that can’t be translated to writing.

I’m not saying that President Obama could have waded through intelligence information and pieced together clues that would have alerted him to the impending attacks if he had regularly attended the daily intelligence briefings, as President Bush apparently did.  What I am saying is that national security issues are a crucial part of the President’s job, and that attending meetings where the President participates, in person, in discussions about intelligence and threat issues is an important part of doing that job the right way.  I don’t know why President Obama has missed so many of these meetings, and what other events took priority on his schedule.  In view of this week’s events, however, I think he, and we, would be better served if he made it a point to make those meetings.

Should “Foreign Policy” Be Off Limits In A Presidential Election?

After the storming of the U.S. embassy in Cairo, Mitt Romney condemned the attack but also criticized a statement by the embassy that condemned “the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims.”  Romney called that statement “disgraceful,” and he was criticized by the Obama Administration, and others, for “launching a political attack” on that issue.  The tiff raises the question of whether criticism of an Administration’s handling of foreign policy issues is fair game in a presidential election.

There may have been a time when politics “ended at the water’s edge” and the parties spoke with one voice on foreign policy, but that era ended long ago.  All of the presidential campaigns I can remember — from the days of Vietnam War protests, to the Iranian hostage crisis, to the more recent debates about how to proceed in Iraq and Afghanistan — have involved some kind of foreign policy issues.  Indeed, often one of the presidential debates is devoted exclusively to “foreign policy.”  And the Obama Administration obviously feels that foreign policy issues are important; the recent Democratic convention emphasized the killing of Osama bin Laden and sounded the theme that the United States is more secure and respected abroad under the President.

The President is our Commander-in-Chief and establishes our foreign policy by appointing and instructing ambassadors.  It’s obviously an important role — and in a world made ever-smaller by technology and advanced weaponry, where many countries and groups have targeted America for harm, some argue it is the most important responsibility the American President has.  In view of that, how can anyone reasonably argue that the President’s approach to foreign policy shouldn’t be considered and debated during a presidential campaign?

That leaves the issue of whether Romney can fairly be criticized about the tone and timing of his comments.  Is it too harsh to call the mewling statement from the U.S. Embassy in Cairo disgraceful, and should he have waited until a day or two later before voicing his views?  I don’t think so, in either case.  Romney had every right to strongly criticize the official statement of an American embassy, which struck an unseemly appeasing tone that seemed to undercut the core American value of freedom of speech.  If Americans don’t stand up for our freedoms, they won’t be our freedoms for long.  And as far as timing goes, the Obama Administration itself quickly disavowed the embassy statement, too.  In view of that, and the fact that the embassy statement apparently wasn’t officially sanctioned, why shouldn’t Romney also be permitted to have his say?

I’m all in favor of robust free speech.  So long as Romney isn’t leaking state secrets or giving aid and comfort to the enemy, he should be free to voice his views about foreign policy in whatever way he sees fit — and American voters then have the right to agree or disagree with his statements and vote accordingly.  That’s how our system is supposed to work.

There’s A Big, Unfriendly World Out There

During this presidential campaign, Americans have focused on our troubled economy and other domestic problems.  Yesterday, we were rudely reminded, yet again, that there is a big, unfriendly world outside our borders.

On the anniversary of 9/11 — of all days! — an Egyptian mob stormed the walls of the U.S. embassy in Cairo, tore down the American flag, and raised instead a black flag like that used by al Qaida that read: “There is no God but Allah and Mohammad is his messenger.”  Hours later, in Benghazi, Libya, militiamen attacked a U.S. consulate, firing shots, throwing homemade bombs, and killing a U.S. State Department official and wounding another American.  In both cases the attacks were said to be provoked by a low-budget film about Mohammad produced by an American that Muslims consider offensive to Islam.

On the day of the Cairo attack, the U.S. Embassy there issued a curious statement that said: “The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions.  Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.”  The statement was condemned by many as a mealy-mouthed apology to Muslims, and the Obama Administration later indicated that the statement was not cleared and does not reflect the Administration’s views.

The United States has poured billions of dollars into the Middle East — Egypt has for years been one of the largest recipients of American aid — and supported the “Arab Spring” uprising in Libya with military assistance.  All of that is forgotten, of course, when some unknown movie supposedly bruises the tender religious sensibilities of fringe elements of the Islamic faith, and their grossly disproportionate response is to physically attack official American installations and kill an innocent diplomat who had nothing to do with the offensive film.

And, amidst it all, our embassy personnel think it appropriate to “condemn[] the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims” and to invoke 9/11 in doing so?  What “continuing efforts” are they talking about, by the way?  Doesn’t that statement send an appalling message of weakness to the radicals who mean to do us harm?

Edited to Add:  The assault on the American consulate in Benghazi was even worse than first reported.  Four Americans were killed, including the American Ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens, and two Marines who tried to defend the consulate against the attack.

The World’s Oldest Museum

The world is a very old place.  Human civilizations have been around for a long time, too — we just tend not to think about it unless something reminds us.

One reminder is the story of the world’s oldest museum, which was established in the city of Ur 2,500 years ago.  It was discovered in 1925, when an archaeologist was excavating a Babylonian palace and found some neatly arranged objects from many different times and places.  The archaeologist thought he might have discovered a museum, and he confirmed that conclusion when he uncovered the world’s oldest known label for a museum exhibit, in the form of a clay cylinder, pictured at right, with text written in three different languages.  The museum was established by a Princess named Ennigaldi, at a time when the Babylonians — whose civilization stretched back thousands of years — were obsessed with their past.

At first blush, it seems strange to think that people living in 500 B.C. would be interested in studying history — but there is no reason why they wouldn’t find the story of humanity as compelling as modern people do.  The story of the Babylonian museum reminds me of a passage I read in The Story of Civilization series of books by Will and Ariel Durant.  In the book about ancient Egypt, they quoted a passage from a world-weary Egyptian writer who lamented that the world was old and that everything worth writing had been written already.  His lament was written about 2500 years before Shakespeare.

Virgins of Paradise

I just finished reading a wonderful book called Virgins of Paradise. It is a fictional account of the Rasheed family headed by Amira the matriarch of the family and it takes place in Egypt starting in 1945 up through present day (the book was written in 1993). Amira’s son Ibrahim marries an English woman and they proceed to have two daughters Yasmina who wants to become a doctor and Camelia who wants to become a dancer. Ibrahim says to Amira “mother my daughters both belong to a new generation of women, I don’t understand them, but they are finding their voice.”

The book follows the two girls struggles to make their dreams come true in a culture dominated by men in a country with many restrictions on women’s freedoms. During their time Egyptian law executed a woman who killed a man, but rarely arrested the man because he was considered to be defending his honor, severely punished a wife for leaving her husband, but granted a husband the right to leave his wife and even divorce her by saying I divorce you three times in front of witnesses and permitted a man to beat his wife or to use any means necessary to keep her submissive.

I would highly recommend this book if you want to gain some perspective into the trials and tribulations that women face in another part of our world ! I give this book an A+.

Outdoing Indiana Jones

Modern technology is allowing for amazing advances in, of all things, the discovery of sites and artifacts of ancient civilizations.  The most recent example is found in Egypt, where the new field of “space archaeology” — which seems oxymoronic — has produced the discovery of 17 lost pyramids and thousands of previously undiscovered tombs and settlements.

The space archaeologists use space telescopes, powerful cameras, and infra-red imaging to identify materials buried beneath the surface.  Ancient Egyptians built using mud brick, which has a different density than the surrounding soil and allows the outlines of buried structures to be detected.  One use of the technology was applied to make discoveries at the ancient Egyptian city of Tanis, which will forever be recalled by fans of Indiana Jones and Raiders Of The Lost Ark as the home of the Well of Souls and the Ark of the Covenant.

You don’t need a bullwhip, a well-worn hat, and the ability to take a punch to be an archaeologist — a satellite, a camera, and a creative approach to using new technology will do just fine.  And what is really exciting about this development is the potential uses of this technology in Babylon, and Persia, and other sites in the Fertile Crescent and elsewhere.  Who knows what other evidence of ancient civilizations will be found buried beneath the sands?

The Wave Rolls On

In the Middle East, these are interesting times — which means these also are interesting times in the halls of the State Department.

With popular protests having brought down the regimes in Tunisia and Egypt, the wave of demonstrations for democracy is sweeping on to other countries in the region.  We are seeing unrest in Bahrain, violent encounters between government forces and anti-government activists in Libya, and clashes between police and protesters in Yemen.  Governments in places like Jordan are trying to implement reforms that they hope will quell popular unrest.  The wave has even reached Iran, where there have been confrontations between security forces and supporters of opposition to the government.

It is not clear yet how big, or how powerful, this wave of protest against undemocratic regimes will be.  Waves are unpredictable.  Sometimes waves that look enormous peter out, and waves also can be indiscriminate in their destructive force.  In a year, we could see a Middle East that looks pretty much the same as it does right now, or we could see an area filled with many new governments.  And if that is the result, who knows whether the governments will support peace with Israel and be favorably inclined to America, or whether we will see more governments predicated on intolerant religious fundamentalism, or whether we will see something else entirely?  In America, and in Israel, we watch with anticipation and dread as the wave rolls on.