Friday, December 25, 2015

12 Things You Must Know about Driving in Bulgaria

Prologue: On my recent vacation in Bulgaria, I rented a car with manual transmission. Despite having driven a stick shift many times in the past, I couldn't get the car into reverse gear. A driver stopped his car nearby, but he didn't speak English. What was I to do?

Tourists interested in discovering the real Bulgaria should be prepared to leave the bustling cities and venture into the countryside. While train and bus service are readily available, most visitors will prefer the independence of renting a car. Agencies have offices at many locations, including at the international airports in Sofia, Plovdiv, Burgas, and Varna.

Bulgaria is an easily-navigated country and there is much to see. Even so, there are a number of things westerners should know about driving in Bulgaria.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

To Entebbe and Back

Operation Thunderbolt: Flight 139 and the Raid on Entebbe by noted historian Saul David keeps readers glued to the page in a definitive account of the IDF operation.

Mention the name Entebbe and the first thing that comes to mind is the IDF's raid on Entebbe Airport in Uganda. Following the hijacking of an Air France plane with 248 passengers aboard, the IDF staged a daring counter-terrorist rescue mission, rescuing the hostages. Lt. Col. Yonatan Netanyahu, brother of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was killed in the operation. The rescue took place on July 4, 1976.

Operation Thunderbolt, as it was called at the time, was an incredible military achievement which demonstrated both Israel's refusal to negotiate with terrorists and its far-reaching concern for its citizens. The operation was also named, retroactively, Operation Yonatan, in memory of its fallen commander.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Where is the Lady from Tel Aviv?

There is an old adage that says you shouldn't judge a book by its cover. In the case of The Lady from Tel Aviv by Raba'i Al-Madhoun, the title is a bit misleading. The lady from Tel Aviv plays a very minor role in this story, yet even so, understanding her role is pivotal to understanding the book.

The novel tells the story of Waleed Dahman, a Palestinian novelist returning to Gaza for the first time in thirty-eight years; and Dana Ahova, an Israeli actress seeking the comforts of home after the disappearance of her Ukrainian boyfriend. The two meet by chance on a Tel Aviv-bound flight and have a short, but eye-opening conversation. And then, the lady disappears from the narrative.

Before Waleed can enter the Gaza Strip, he is delayed in harsh sunlight at an Israeli checkpoint closed to Palestinians following a suicide bombing attack. This wait at the crossing extends over a number of chapters but it is symbolic of the waiting that plays a significant role in the lives of ordinary Gazan residents.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Reading in the Dark

"Lights out!"

When I was a young boy, this parental request meant an end to my nightly reading adventures, whether they be solving mysteries with the Hardy Boys or traveling 20,000 leagues under the sea with Jules Verne. In those days, I was obedient to a fault. The lights in my bedroom invariably went out at chapter's end. I never read books by flashlight because I could barely breathe under the covers.

Four decades later and my reading preferences and habits have changed. Now, the words "Lights out" declared in my conjugal bedroom signal a start to the night's literary activities. My wife and I fire up our tablets, turn off the lights, and start reading in the dark. While my wife reads a family drama set against the Congo's fight for independence from Belgium, I read fiction as well as non-fiction, having selected recently published titles that will not only give me pleasure but which I will also review for my blog.

I was the first in our household to purchase a tablet, not for its Internet connectivity or for the ability to play games and watch videos on a handheld screen, but purely for the joy of reading digital books. While I appreciate the look and feel of flipping through the physical pages of a paperback, I also find pleasure in selecting a title to read, clicking a button, and having that book delivered seamlessly and instantly to my tablet.