January 29, 2008

A quotation

From which movie is the following quotation?

First, trust no one, whatever his uniform or rank, unless he is known to you personally. Second, anyone or anything that approaches within 200 yards of the perimeter is to be fired upon. Third, if in doubt, shoot first, and ask questions afterwards. I would sooner accept a few casualties through accident than lose the entire base and its personnel through carelessness. Any variation on these rules must come from me personally.

Answer below...

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb... Link. Quotes. Transcript.

January 25, 2008

The Last of the Just

André Schwarz-Bart's book, Le dernier des Justes (The Last of the Just, אחרון הצדיקים), received the most famous literary prize in France, the Goncourt (1959).

I have a particular relationship to this book. Because of a similarity in the name, people asked me over and over "are you in the writer's family?" What is this famous book all about for so many people to try to relate me to its author, I always wondered. But the book was not one of the four thousand-odd books in the shelves at home.

Laclos, Sade and even Alain Peyrefitte ("Quand la Chine s'éveillera") were allowed somewhere into the library, however hidden, but not André Schwarz-Bart's The Last of the Just.

It is finally in my aunt's library that I found it, in it's original 1959 edition. Along with an Israeli 1967 propaganda booklet, Mao's "Little Red Book" and a few other oddities, I saved it for later reading. When I moved to Israel, this off-white and orange hardcover was among the few books I took along.

And on a lonely evening here in Jerusalem, I start reading, finally, at the age of 27, Le dernier des Justes.

Is the style pompous or old-fashioned? Is the author cynical or whining when he tells the remarkable death of Yom-Tov Levy during the York massacre and the fate of the rabbi's descendants? I couldn't tell. I got confronted to a text I didn't know how to read. And quickly I gave up. Anyway, we know the last of the Just will die in Auschwitz, so why go on reading this lament?

But in 1959 less had been written on the subject than today. And Schwarz-Bart got the Goncourt for this book. So there must be something to this book. I dived back into it. And slowly I understood the irony, the weight of his own experience that the author conveyed in the book. Through the stages of the story - the legend of the lamed-wav, the early 20th century in Zemyock, Poland, the 30's in Germany, the war in France and the last journey to Auschwitz - the tone and writing styles constantly change, unsettling the reader. The only constant is irony. It all starts as a legendary tale. Later, realism is invited into the account of Ernie Levy's childhood under the persecutions in Stillenstadt, Germany, which sends shivers up the spine. Ernie tries to understand. He has been told the tale of the lamed-wav Just. With innocence he tries to sacrifice himself. He attempts on his life. When Ernie wanders through France during the war, his family long lost, he has given up his human dignity, he has decided he had better be a dog. Did he have anything left that the Nazis could take from him? He falls in love and they take his beloved. Ernie is a ghost, more than ever. He volunteers to to join his beloved, Golda, in Drancy and from there to Auschwitz. They die together. "And so it was of millions, who passed from the state of Luftmensch to that of Luft.", writes the author, in one of the last sentences of the book.
"Thus, this story will not end on any grave to visit in memory. Because the smoke which exits the cremators obeys like any other the laws of physics: particles gather and disperse with the wind, which lifts them. The only pilgrimage would be, respectable reader, to look sometimes at a stormy sky with melancholy."

"Ainsi donc, cette histoire ne s’achèvera pas sur quelque tombe à visiter en souvenir. Car la fumée qui sort des crématoires obéit tout comme une autre aux lois physiques : les particules s’assemblent et se dispersent au vent, qui les pousse. Le seul pèlerinage serait, estimable lecteur, de regarder parfois un ciel d’orage avec mélancolie."

The sky is indeed very gray today on Jerusalem.

Jerusalem in the fog

In the background, the walls of the Old City.

January 19, 2008

אז... מה?

רחוב רחל אימנו
Rachel Imenu Street, Katamon, near my place

ניות, פינת טשרניחובסקי והרצוג, קרוב למנזר המצלבה
Nayot, corner of Tchernichovsky and Herzog, on my way to and from work, near the Monastery of the Cross

אצטדיון טדי קולק, מלחה
Teddy Kollek Stadium, Malha - I like how both sides of the signboard were tagged...

January 05, 2008

Lifta, with which "eye"?

I spoke about Lifta in a previous post but I realize I didn't post any of the pictures I took myself...

I had with me two cameras, a digital one (Canon G9) and a film one (Leica M6). It is therefore a good occasion to compare the quality, usability and philosophy of both cameras. Should I start with the pictures or the discussion?

I actually have only three pictures from the Leica for a reason I'll explain later. Three views of the same house:

This last picture can be compared with a very similar one taken with the G9:

But the G9 let me bring you many more pictures, showing more versatility:

The setting, the colors

Early in the morning.
Through the window of an other house.
Looking up the hill, we see already the city and its new developments.

Detail of a window.
What's left of the tiling at a doorstep.


"In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth"
"We want the Messiah now"
Same room, opposite wall.
Please help me with the Russian...

Why do I have only three pictures from the M6? Because I lost the first film. Truth is also that I took much fewer with the Leica than with the G9.

What is the conclusion? The Leica is heavier, has fixed-focus lenses and is less convenient to use in general. The G9 is very versatile with its zoom, its sensibility, the preview and the adjustable white balance (including b&w of course). On the other hand, I always think about twenty years from now: who knows where the digital pictures will be, even prints get lost not to mention the digital files, but negatives stay. Also taking less pictures means each one is "worth" more: twenty years from now, who will need dozens of pictures of Lifta? The three b&w negatives of "A house in Lifta, 2007" will be something more special than that!

For me that's the main characteristic of the film camera today: each picture is more of a deliberate decision to set down on permanent media something which is worth it. The price is the use of a less convenient equipment.

With a digital camera, one has a tendency to shoot many more pictures, taking into account that they're free and that some of them will turn out to be good and interesting. There is no need to go through the lab to have the pictures developed and one can share them immediately online. But something is missing of the magic: pictures are not "worth" as much, I feel; the photographer "invested" less in each one.

So for important subjects, in circumstances when time can be allowed to "invest" in each picture, I would definitely vote for film camera, optionally with a digital one by the side to experiment!

Speaking of "investment", I like to visit a place and think about it before I go in with the Leica, so that I know beforehand what I want to capture.

Lately I have photographed a lot of architecture and urban landscapes. Maybe I should think of something new now, it's getting boring...

P.S.: I highly recommend the B&W film I used in the camera. It is the same I used in Cambodia which I came to like a lot. It's Kodak BW400CN, marketed here under the name Profoto 400BW. As a C-41 B&W film, it is developed like any color film in cheap labs but comes out in B&W. It is very smooth, and tolerant to under- and over-exposure. Enjoy!

January 02, 2008

Haaretz article on Solar Energy Bid

Hebrew version follows.

Israeli firms will not receive any preference for solar power plant

By Avi Bar-Eli

The tender for building a solar power plant in the Negev will not give preference to Israeli companies. The inter-ministerial tenders committee decided that foreign firms can participate in the tender without a local partner.

The decision was made, among other things, to avoid the impression that the tender was written for the benefit of the only two Israeli companies who could compete for the power station: Solel and Luz 2.

The cabinet hopes that this change will make the tender more attractive to international firms with experience in the solar energy industry, and that the new conditions will allow setting appropriate minimum requirements for professionalism and financial strength for the bidders on the project.

Minister of National Infrastructures Benjamin Ben-Eliezer recently announced that the first stage of the tender will likely be published next month. The power plant, which will be located near Ashalim in the western Negev and produce 250 megawatts of electricity, will be Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT). A number of foreign companies have already expressed interest in the project, including Spanish energy giant Abengoa.

The tenders committee, headed by the treasury's deputy accountant general, Avi Dor, will soon publish the first stage, which includes planning the project. The committee has already chosen the group of legal and financial advisors that will accompany the tender process. The committee intends to complete the entire tender process by the fourth quarter of 2008.

However, there are still a number of major issues left undecided, including the number of tenders to be published. There is a debate over whether there should be a single, overall tender for the total amount of power production, or two smaller ones. There are also questions regarding the timing and order of publication of the tenders.

But the real remaining question is which technology will be required for the power station: solar thermal or photovoltaic.

The solar thermal method harnesses the sun's energy to heat a material, such as oil or water, from which is then used to run a power plant and to generate electricity; while the photovoltaic system transforms solar energy directly into electricity through solar panels.

However, it also appears that even if one of the possible two tenders requires a photovoltaic system, the total amount of electricity from such a plant will not be over 50 megawatts, out of the total of 250 megawatts.

הישראליות לא יקבלו עדיפות במכרז לתחנות סולריות

10:04 | 23.12.2007 אבי בר-אלי

>> המכרז להקמת תחנות כוח סולריות באזור הנגב לא יכלול העדפה לחברות ישראליות - כך נודע ל-TheMarker. ועדת המכרזים הבין-משרדית החליטה גם כי חברות זרות יוכלו להתמודד במכרז בלא שותף מקומי.

ההחלטה נועדה, בין השאר, למנוע יצירת רושם שלפיו המכרז נתפר למידותיהן של שתי החברות הישראליות היחידות שיכולות להתמודד בו - סולל ולוז 2. בממשלה מקווים כי בכך ייהפך המכרז לאטרקטיווי יותר בעבור חברות בינלאומיות בעלות ניסיון בתחום, באופן שיאפשר קביעת תנאי סף מקצועיים ופיננסיים ראויים.

שר התשתיות הלאומיות, בנימין (פואד) בן-אליעזר, הודיע באחרונה כי השלב הראשון (PQ) במכרז להקמת תחנות הכוח הסולריות באתר אשלים צפוי להתפרסם בינואר 2008, וכי כמה חברות בינלאומיות כבר הביעו עניין בהשתתפות בו. כפי שפורסם ב-TheMarker, בין חברות אלה נמצאת גם ענקית האנרגיה הספרדית Abengoa.

מדובר במכרזים להקמת שתי תחנות כוח סולריות בהספק כולל של 250 מגה-וואט, אשר יוקמו בשיטת BOT באתר אשלים שבנגב. בימים הקרובים תצא ועדת המכרזים, בראשות סגן החשב הכללי אבי דור, במכרז למתן שירותי תכנון לפרויקט, לאחר שכבר בחרה בצוות היועצים המשפטיים והפיננסיים אשר ילווה את עבודתה. בכוונת הוועדה להשלים את הליכי פרסום המכרז לקראת הרבעון הרביעי של 2008.

עם זאת, הוועדה טרם הכריעה בסוגיות העיקריות שונות: מספר המכרזים שיפורסמו (אחד כולל או שניים נפרדים), סדר פרסומם, ובעיקר הטכנולוגיה בה יחויבו החברות - תרמו-סולרית או פוטו-וולטאית. לפי המסתמן כעת, גם אם תבחר המדינה לחייב באחד המכרזים הקמת תחנה בטכנולוגיה פוטו-וולטאית, הרי שהייצור בה לא יעלה על 50 מגה-וואט מתוך ההספק הכולל של 250 מגה-וואט.