Long before it was known to me as a place where my ancestry was even remotely involved, the idea of a state for Jews (or a Jewish state; not quite the same thing, as I failed at first to see) had been 'sold' to me as an essentially secular and democratic one. The idea was a haven for the persecuted and the survivors, a democracy in a region where the idea was poorly understood and a place where—as Philip Roth had put it in a one-handed novel that I read when I was about nineteen—even the traffic cops and soldiers were Jews. This, like the other emphases of that novel, I could grasp. Indeed, my first visit was sponsored by a group in London called the Friends of Israel. They offered to pay my expenses, that is, if on my return I would come and speak to one of their meetings.I still haven't submitted that expenses claim. The misgivings I had were of two types, both of them ineradicable. The first and the simplest was the encounter with everyday injustice: by all means the traffic cops were Jews but so, it turned out, were the colonists and ethnic cleansers and even the torturers. It was Jewish leftist friends who insisted that I go and see towns and villages under occupation and sit down with Palestinian Arabs who were living under house arrest—if they were lucky—or who were squatting in the ruins of their demolished homes if they were less fortunate. In Ramallah I spent the day with the beguiling Raimonda Tawil, confined to her home for committing no known crime save that of expressing her opinions. (For some reason, what I most remember is a sudden exclamation from her very restrained and respectable husband, a manager of the local bank: 'I would prefer living under a Bedouin muktar to another day of Israeli rule!' He had obviously spent some time thinking about the most revolting possible Arab alternative.) In Jerusalem I visited the Tutungi family, who could produce title deeds going back generations but who were being evicted from their apartment in the old city to make way for an expansion of the Jewish quarter. Jerusalem: that place of blood since remote antiquity. Jerusalem, over which the British and French and Russians had fought a foul war in the Crimea and in the mid-nineteenth century, on the matter of which Christian Church could command the keys to some 'holy sepulcher.' Jerusalem, where the anti-Semite Balfour had tried to bribe the Jews with the territory of another people in order to seduce them from Bolshevism and continue the diplomacy of the Great War. Jerusalem: that pest-house in whose environs all zealots hope that an even greater and final war can be provoked. It certainly made a warped appeal to my sense of history.
Christopher Hitchens
Advice to friends. Advice to fellow mothers in the same boat. How do you do it all? Crack a joke. Make it seem easy. Make everything seem easy. Make life seem easy and parenthood and marriage and freelancing for pennies, writing a novel and smiling after a rejection, keeping the faith after two, reminding oneself that four years of work counted for a lot, counted for everything. Make the bed. Make it nice. Make the people laugh when you sit down to write and if you can't make them laugh make them cry. Make them want to hug you or hold you or punch you in the face. Make them want to kill you or fuck you or be your friend. Make them change. Make them happy. Make the baby smile. Make him laugh. Make him dinner. Make him proud.Hold the phone, someone is on the other line. She says its important. People are dying. Children. Friends. Press mute because there is nothing you can say. Press off because you're running out of minutes. Running out of time. Soon he'll be grown up and you'll regret the time you spent pushing him away for one more paragraph in the manuscript no one will ever read. Put down the book, the computer, the ideas. Remember who you are now. Wait. Remember who you were. Wait. Remember what's important. Make a list. Ten things, no twenty. Twenty thousand things you want to do before you die but what if tomorrow never comes? No one will remember. No one will know. No one will laugh or cry or make the bed. No one will have a clue which songs to sing to the baby. No one will be there for the children. No one will finish the first draft of the novel. No one will publish the one that's been finished for months. No one will remember the thought you had last night, that great idea you forgot to write down.
Rebecca Woolf
The advantages of a hereditary Monarchy are self-evident. Without some such method of prescriptive, immediate and automatic succession, an interregnum intervenes, rival claimants arise, continuity is interrupted and the magic lost. Even when Parliament had secured control of taxation and therefore of government; even when the menace of dynastic conflicts had receded in to the coloured past; even when kingship had ceased to be transcendental and had become one of many alternative institutional forms; the principle of hereditary Monarchy continued to furnish the State with certain specific and inimitable advantages.Apart from the imponderable, but deeply important, sentiments and affections which congregate around an ancient and legitimate Royal Family, a hereditary Monarch acquires sovereignty by processes which are wholly different from those by which a dictator seizes, or a President is granted, the headship of the State. The King personifies both the past history and the present identity of the Nation as a whole. Consecrated as he is to the service of his peoples, he possesses a religious sanction and is regarded as someone set apart from ordinary mortals. In an epoch of change, he remains the symbol of continuity; in a phase of disintegration, the element of cohesion; in times of mutability, the emblem of permanence. Governments come and go, politicians rise and fall: the Crown is always there. A legitimate Monarch moreover has no need to justify his existence, since he is there by natural right. He is not impelled as usurpers and dictators are impelled, either to mesmerise his people by a succession of dramatic triumphs, or to secure their acquiescence by internal terrorism or by the invention of external dangers. The appeal of hereditary Monarchy is to stability rather than to change, to continuity rather than to experiment, to custom rather than to novelty, to safety rather than to adventure.The Monarch, above all, is neutral. Whatever may be his personal prejudices or affections, he is bound to remain detached from all political parties and to preserve in his own person the equilibrium of the realm. An elected President – whether, as under some constitutions, he be no more than a representative functionary, or whether, as under other constitutions, he be the chief executive – can never inspire the same sense of absolute neutrality. However impartial he may strive to become, he must always remain the prisoner of his own partisan past; he is accompanied by friends and supporters whom he may seek to reward, or faced by former antagonists who will regard him with distrust. He cannot, to an equal extent, serve as the fly-wheel of the State.
Harold Nicholson