I am what Grammy Hall would call a "real Jew."
At a family bat mitzvah, my recitation of the aliya shone so brightly above the rest that my girlfriend's parents declared with pride, "That's our Jew!"
I graduated first in my Hebrew School class, and was recognized with the Steven R. Bruckner Memorial Award, named for an unfortunate lad who died on the way home from his bar mitzvah. (The top girl and boy split a $50 prize. I bought two Incredible String Band albums with my share.).
All this is to establish my Semitic street cred. I could go on--how I always know where to get the best Chinese food, the time a waiter at the Carnegie Deli whispered to me "lose that girl" when my companion ordered a pastrami with mayo sandwich, my eagerness to sue newspapers that mock the way I run my football team and run what I consider to be anti-Semitic pictures of me--no wait, that's Dan Snyder.
So you should listen from what I'm saying, even if your rabbi would give you such a look.
Watch Al Jazeera. Watch it all the time.
That's what I'm doing. Ever since the uprising began in Egypt, and I discovered that my cable system was one of three in the U.S. that carried Al Jazeera English (the other two in Burlington, Vermont, which makes sense, and Toledo, Ohio, which is just weird), I've been glued to the channel on my TV and computer.
It didn't take me long to pick some favorite correspondents, all of whom were reporting from Egypt under tremendous pressure. First there was Ayman Mohyeldin, whose name my brain first spelled in the Irish manner, Eamon, and considering he spoke with an American accent I thought he might possibly be from the old sod. He seemed to be reporting all day and all night from Tahrir Square, except when we were told that the Al Jazeera bureau had been raided and he had been detained.
Then there were the anchors from Doha, Qatar (I admit it, I just like saying Doha, Qatar) who, unlike their American counterparts, seem to be more than the sum of their carefully coiffed parts. When they interrupt their guests, it isn't to spring a "gotcha" question or show off their own agenda, but rather, to get an answer to a question about breaking news that just can't wait.
Contrast this to what passes for international news on our own cable news networks. I'm talking, of course, about Wolf Blitzer, who is reliably believed to have had a computer chip implanted in his beard that prompts him to chirp, "You're in the situation room," every 12.5 seconds. (No, I'm not, I'm in my house--and please stay away).
I like Al Jazeera's graphics. I like their theme music (OK, it does sound like the BBC's). I like the cheerful fellow who does the weather reports and tells me about cyclones in Madagascar. I've just downloaded Al Jazeera's app, so I can watch it on my iphone.
Don't get me wrong. I'm still proud of my ethnic heritage and I won't be swapping Passover for Ramadan anytime soon. But I also value the Jewish tradition of questioning, independent thinking and commitment to social justice.
I'm glad that the events in the middle east are bringing new audiences to Al Jazeera English, and that the channel's cable coverage is likely to increase beyond the pioneering markets of DC, Toledo and Burlington. I expect to be watching Al Jazeera a lot more in the future, grateful for something I never thought I'd find on cable news--information and perspective I can't get anywhere else, thoughtful, intelligent reporting and clarity about some of the most difficult issues of the day.
So nu? Don't tell Netanyahu! Watch Al Jazeera too!
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