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From the Field
By Elie Seckbach

West Bank, Israel -

Elie Seckbach at the Western Wall in Jerusalem

This week I returned to the Los Angeles after spending a couple weeks in the West Bank. I was visiting the City of Efrat, 10 minutes south of Jerusalem, spread out on rocky mountaintops, which on a clear day you can see breathtaking view for miles. It's also a place that in 20 years has grown from 76 families to about 5,000 families which, in Israeli terms is a pretty respectable for a small town, as almost every family there has at least 4 kids.

Efrat is located smack between - Bet Lehem and Hevron. Hot spots that produce
more terrorists than Hollywood has actors. Everywhere you go, in those two cities you can spot posters glorifying suicide bombers, making them look like
rap stars of sorts, with an AK-47 in their hands and a bandana on their heads.

You travel to Efrat on an armored bus, equipped with bulletproof windows.
While on the sides of the road there are hundreds of concrete barriers 20 feet
high 5 feet wide. The blocks are there to protect commuters from sniper attacks.
On the same road there's also a military checkpoint, located 3 miles from
Jerusalem. Terrorists keep attacking the checkpoint, just last month 4 people
were murdered there. During the summer a terrorist armed a donkey with 90 kilos
of explosives and sent it on its way, in the direction of blockade. But given
the terrorist was a real ass, the donkey blew up prematurely and no one was
hurt. Well except for the poor donkey.

Think LA's 405 freeway during rush hour is rough? Try keeping your cool
driving through those conditions. Where you don't know what awaits you around every
mountain, every turn in the road. If that's not enough to get you jittery,
go to the center of town of Efrat, which at first glance, looks like any other
strip mall in your town complete with things like a grocery store, a pizzeria,
a post office, a boutique for kids, a barbershop, a video store and a
handyman. But as soon as you approach the center you realize you're far far away from
home. Outside the grocery store there's an armed guard who checks the bags of
everyone who enters. That's understandable. They've had three suicide attacks
in the store within the past year and half. During the second attack the
terrorist messed up, and only smoke came out of his shirt. Given that almost
everyone is strapped in Efrat (which does make you feel secure), a local resident
pulled out his Smith & Wesson and was able to shoot the terrorist in the head,
before the gentleman could "fix" his technical difficulties.

As I walked around the center I stepped into the handyman's store. It was a
small shop packed with boxes and boxes, wall to wall coverage, from picture
frames to hardware. Way above on the top left corner the handyman had a framed
newspaper clipping, with the headline reading something to the effect of:
"Family survives drive-by - van riddled with bullets. Right below the headline
there was a picture of a while minivan. "Yea I was in that van," the handyman told
me. I asked, if he was able to return fire. "Not even" came the quick res
ponse. "Are you kidding? It all happened so fast. They cut me off and just started
shooting. I was in the car with my wife and kids. We were very fortunate to
make it out unharmed."

Not everyone is that lucky. During my first night in Israel a 28-year-old
father of 5 was gunned down on his way home. Here in LA, you don't necessarily
hear about these little attacks, just the big ones, but almost on a daily basis
things go down.

The reality of the past three years has also changed Israeli shopping
habits.The streets of Jerusalem, which use to look like downtown Manhattan, just a
carpet of people with no-where to move have totally cleared up. The streets are
empty. You can park an entire fleet of semi-trailers and you'd still have room
for a circus tent. However during the trip I felt very secure in Jerusalem.
There were lots of checkpoints. Plenty of policemen and military presence.

In the old city, the shop owners kept telling me how they miss the
good-old-days when tourists would flock to their shops. Now they have a tough time
bringing food to their families. But at the same time, I noticed some of the shop
owners had pictures and gear supporting terrorists in their shops which does
not really help their cause.The masses now prefer to hit the malls. There you've
got airport like security - metal detectors and all.

Now the weather in Israel was not at all what you'd expect. It rained none
stop. Hours and hours of heavy rain with strong winds and dust turned into mud,
which ultimately kept even more people indoors.

I found myself spending lots of time watching local news. They have morning
shows and 5pm, 6pm and 9pm newscasts. They also have a brief 15-minute
headliner at midnight.

It was the reverse of news as we're used to it in Los Angeles. While in the
US we do a 20 second voice over of news from Israel - there they did a 20
second VO of what was the biggest story in California, Michael Jackson's first day
in court.

And in Santa Barbara California. The trial of singer Michael Jackson charged
with child molestation opened with stormy notes…
((Voice Over))
A few hundred supporters of Jackson gathered outside the courthouse. Jackson
showed up 21 minutes late and the judge was NOT pleased. Making it very clear
to the singer this type of behavior won't be tolerated. After the hearing,
Jackson addressed his fans while dancing on the hood of a car. The parties are exp
ected back in court next month.

That was it. 20 seconds on Michael Jackson. No expert analysis. No interviews
with his brother/manager/lawyer. And no carnival.

Another thing, while talking to folks on the street I learned that the
Israeli's have yet to hear of Scott Peterson. They think Arnold being Governor of
California is amusing at best. And they all kept asking me: What do American's
think of George W.? From what I gathered most of the Israelis believe Kobe
Bryant is innocent. But they have not been following the legal proceedings

When you compare the past six months of news in Los Angeles (Lord knows we've
had lots of breaking stories) to a week of Israeli news you just have to take
your hat off to the news organizations out there. I mean, lets see, here we
had the Kobe story, Davis vs. Arnold, the San Bernardino fires, the supermarket
strike, the floods, the winds, the dramatic shooting outside the Van Nuys
court house, more Kobe, the capture of Saddam, Phil Specter, Michael Jackson, the
Central California earthquake, Scott Peterson, more Michael, more Kobe, the
Paris Hilton sex tape scandal and the Southern California mountain lion attack.

While each story made huge headlines, stations all over town covered any and
every possible angle. Coverage that dragged out for days, at times justified,
while at other times it was just media hype and the fear of getting
out-scooped by another news outlet.

In Israel on the other had breaking news happens within the hour and I mean
major stories. I'm talking about the type that win people awards. But what's
so amazing there is that by the next day, no matter how big the story may be
seem, it immediately becomes old news. Not because of laziness, it's just that
there's a bigger story around the corner. In a two-week stretch here are just
some of the headlines: a first female Hamas suicide bomber (a mother of a
3-year-old), the terrorist told soldiers at the border of the Gaza strip and Israel
that her legs hurt. They came over to assist her and she exploded killing
four and wounding many others. A few hours later it was announced that Yigal
Amir, the man charged with killing Prime Minister Rabin, plans to get married to a
Russian born Israeli woman who has four kids of her own. The woman has Ph.D.
in philosophy. The reactions in Israel were split. 44% said to let him marry
while 42% of the said he should not be allowed. A few politicians are now
planing to pass a law to prohibit Amir, or any prisoner serving a life sentence
from ever getting married. But before the media could even wipe the foam off
their mouths from that hot story, another popped up. A businessman by the name of
David Appel who is accused of bribing Prime Minister Sharon is found guilty in
court. Will Sharon be forced to resign?

The next day Israel announces it will release over 400 terrorists in exchange
for an alleged Israel drug dealer and the bodies of three kidnapped soldiers.

Then there was Mordechi Vaanono who has been incarcerated for 18 years -
charged with exposing Israel's nuclear secrets. Vaanono is about to be released.
But once again before that story can even develop, PM Sharon announces he will
dismantle 7 isolated settlements in the West Bank and the Gaza strip…

It just keeps coming. If you're a news-junky you should spend some time
there, it's safe to say they never have to run credits due to lack of news…

Staff vs. dailyhire is a 2,000 year old question: One of my older brothers is
a Rabbi. Though he does not work in that field for a living, he is very
knowledgeable in the ancient scriptures. And while I was trying to explain to one
of my uncles what's the difference between a staff employee and a dailyhire
who works 5 and 6 days, he was not getting it. My brother then told us about a
chapter in the Gmara books, which was written some 2,000 years ago. In that
chapter the old scholars have an argument.
Which is better? To have a teacher that's staff, with job security, but then
may start slacking off and being lazy or to employ the teacher as a dailyhire
keeping him on his toes -- making sure he does his best to maintain his job -
while being cheaper. It's pretty amazing to think that 2,000 years ago they
were asking the same questions. I wonder what was their take on the unions?

About the Author
Elie Seckbach is a Golden Mike and Emmy award-winning writer/producer. He
works on the assignment desk and investigative unit of KTTV - FOX 11 News in Los
Angeles. For the past 7 years he's also been covering the behind the scenes
of the NBA for various news outlets in California and Israel. His unique
interviewing style has gained him the nickname - the Embedded NBA Correspondent. His
work has been seen on a regular basis in such popular papers as "Hazofe
Daily" and "Shalom L.A." His website is