Friday, September 13, 2019

Israel Day 4: Ein Gedi

As we headed south, the environment changed form the green Judean hills around Jerusalem, becoming more dessert-like with every mile until we were indeed in the desert.

As we went, the land sunk lower and lower towards sea level, and then below sea level.

Right at the marker for sea level, there's a camel waiting that gives rides to those who want to stop and mark hititng sea level in a memorable way.

We carried on, descending below sea level, passing the Qumran caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found.

The cave complexes where the Essene Sect set up their settlement until its destruction by the Romans around 73 CE.

The caves are cut right into the face of the mountains, and while the Dead Sea Scrolls were found here, not all caves have been explored yet, so more scrolls and artifacts may await discovery there.

Neat to drive past such history.

We then headed to Ein Gedi.

We passed by the Dead Sea. On the other side across the Dead Sea is Jordan.

Ein Gedi is an oasis in the dessert. We entered and began the hike up the hilly terrain towards the oasia.

It was getting hot, as in 114 degrees in the shade hot.

Ein Gedi is a series of small waterfalls with small pools not deep enough to swim in. Its about a 15 minute hike form the entrance to the first waterfall. A rather rocky, hot, hike.

But after the hike in, the water was refreshing.

Impressively the camera did not overheat.

On we went to the next waterfall, and interestingly enough a group of French pilgrims, led by a nun were there, sitting and discussing the history of Ein Gedi and the Bible.

We went to the third waterfall and then headed back.

On our way we came across a pack of Ibexes that were longing in the shade, including a cute juvenile Ibex. Apparently we were very lucky as they're rarely openly about during the day and rarely so close to people.

The next stop: The Dead Sea.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Israel Day 4: Two Museums

The morning of Day 4 was our last morning in Jerusalem.

We got up and headed to the Theodore Herzl Museum located on Mt. Herzl.

Theodore Herzl was the founder of Zionism. As an Austrain journalist, watching the frame-up and trial of Jewish French military officer Alfred Dreyfus, and the outburst of anti-semitism surrounding it, he decided that instead of his previous assimilation beliefs, that the Jews needed their own homeland. He then wrote the book Der Judenstaat, the Jewish State.

The museum is very well done and a fitting tribute to his memory and historical contribution.

It's not just a set of static displays but it tells the story via a video presentation where they tell the story of Herzl through vignettes and the idea of putting on a modern play about his life and educating the actor cast as Herzl on how Herzl would have acted, and a live guide who takes you through the museum:

Theodore Herzl's desk where he wrote Der Judenstaat is on display at the museum.

They also have a collection of the various editions and translations of the book.

Herzl's dream came true after his death, and

After the museum we visited his grave located just outside the museum.

Then on to what was the most emotionally difficult parts of the trip: Yad Vashem. It had changed a lot since my last visit some 25 years ago.

Yad Vashem is the Holocaust Museum.

First you enter the garden of the Righteous of the Nations where the many non-Jews who acted to save Jews during the Holocaust are commemorated.

Then you head into the museum itself.

As you enter, you head into a main corridor, triangle shaped that begins showing footage of Jewish life in Eastern Europe prior to the outbreak of World War 2.

You turn the corner and the triangular corridor leads you to different exhibit halls, each one progressing in time from the rise of the Nazis and loss of Jewish civil rights, through ghettoization and through the final solution and the aftermath. Sobering to say the least. People were weeping openly at parts. In one room they had lists of the various ghettos and the number of dead from each region. I recognized the name of the place where the majority of the family on my mother's side were wiped out. Luckily, her father had left prior to the war, much of his family didn't leave -- and they never would.

In short its not a particularly joyful experience.

The museum continues to wind around the main corridor, ending with the end of World War 2 and then it leads you to the exit:

As you walk through the grey corridor and the dark rooms of the exhibits to the final triangle of the exit, you walk out into the greenery and can see the city of Jerusalem, and if you hadn't before, you understand why Israel must exist.

Then there's perhaps the most sobering exhibit hall remaining - the Children's Memorial. A dark room lit only by a few candles that are reflected with mirrors to appear as millions of points of light and with a sound system that reads the names of all 1.5 million children that died in the Holocaust, their name, age and country of origin are read.

As you leave the memorial, you pass by the Janus Kolchak Memorial:

Janus Kolchak a famous Jewish author and doctor and ran an orphanage in Warsaw for Jewish Children.

When the children were rounded up at the Orphanage to be taken to Treblinka he refused offers to flee away from them and even refused the Nazis offering to have him treated separately but again refused and he and the children boarded the train to their deaths.

A very sobering time and emotionally challenging, but certainly worth visiting and learning.

Then we headed out of Jerusalem towards the south.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Seriously New York Times? Really?

If one thought no one could top Ilhan Omar's remark that 9/11 was a matter of "Some people did something", the New York Times was up to the challenge.

Tweeted by them today:

From "Some People" to "Some Airplanes".

That's a quite a way for the NYT to mark the 9/11 attack in its own hometown.

It's interesting to see how the left view Islamic Terrorists as having no agency, even as they committed the worst terrorist attack on our soil in history, nor being responsible for their actions.


Sunday, September 08, 2019

Range Day - One Day It May Grow Up To Be A 92

A couple "new" pistols came to the range with us yesterday.

First to come out after the P30SK was done, and Leah had shot her M&P Compact .22, to her heart's content, was the Beretta 81.

You can definitely see the Beretta design of form and function and it does look like a small Beretta 92.

Unfortunately, it is not C&R eligible, so I had to get my friendly local dealer to transfer it for me, so that added a few more bucks, but I'd say its worth it.

Originally an Italian law enforcement pistol, this one was one of the many that just came in as surplus recently. It looked like it had been fired little, and taken out of a holster even less. Darn nice condition with very little visible wear for a $210 surplus pistol.

Disassembly proved very easy, and quite 92-like, and the pistol showed very little to no wear on the inside either. A quick cleaning and light lubrication showed a lack of any build up from firing.
The officer who carried this likely left the gun and took the cannolli on a regular basis, not that there's anything wrong with that, as I got a very gently used pistol out of it.

Reassembly proved somewhat harder, as the take-down level would not rotate back into position with the slide placed back on it. After multiple tries, realigning the recoil spring by micro-millimeters, and some choice vocabulary, it did finally come back together and off to the range we went.

Firing the little .32 ACP, also known as the 7.65 Browning cartridge, here shown beside a 9mm for comparison, it offers 12+1 shots of a very low recoil cartridge in a compact and relatively svelte-looking firearm. .32 is more expensive than 9mm these days, and is pretty universally acknowledged to be far less effective, but it was most certainly a lot of fun to shoot.

There's noticeably less recoil from the little cartridge than the 9mm, and Leah liked the lack of recoil and happily and rapidly blasted down poppers and a chucky with aplomb in fine Italian style:

In short, she pronounced it very good, and liked the looks and feel of it. She shot it well enjoying the negligible recoil and easily put front sight on target, hit target, and moved on. I similarly enjoyed shooting it and it really is just a fun pistol to shoot.

100 rounds of .32 FMJ flew by and no malfunctions or hesitations of any kind were experienced, just a reliable and fast-firing pistol that is fun and very easy to shoot well. Loading the magazine is also very easy, with no sharp edges or massive amounts of force to get the cartridges to load. It's a very easy handling pistol.

If you want a light-recoiling, center-fire pistol that's easy to teach someone to load and shoot without much recoil to help them develop good habits without flinching, it's not a bad option.

Again, it's also just plain fun to shoot and one heckuva bargain for the price.

Saturday, September 07, 2019

HK P30SK - 2,001 And Done

With a beautiful day expected this morning, Leah and I headed to the range. It was high time to finish off the P30SK 2,000 round test.

251 rounds fired through the P30SK with zero malfunctions or issues of any kind. This include 201 rounds of Remington 115 grain FMJ and 50 rounds of Winchester Ranger 147 grain hollow points.

So that's 2,001 rounds fired through with one malfunction due to an ammunition defect, not to the pistol itself, and no lubrication or cleaning since the shooting of the rounds began.

In short, it's a nice compact carry firearm, and nicely accurate.

The hammer allows you to safely holster it while appendix carrying by putting your thumb on the hammer while holstering, preventing any mistakes while doing so.

The LEM trigger does take getting used to compared to a striker-fired pistol, but once you figure out the trigger pull you can hit your targets nicely.

Friday, September 06, 2019

One Way To Resolve A Self-Defense Incident - With A Plea Bargain

So you're innocent and accused of a crime. Say in this case felonious assault after you drew your firearm to protect yourself.

Felonious assault in Michigan is, as the name suggests, a felony with a penalty of up to 4 years in the clink if you're found guilty, plus restitution, plus an additional sentence for use of a firearm in the commission of a felony.

In short, it's not a pleasant prospect to be facing.

As described previously, I was retained and helped my client get bailed out. On to the next steps.

First, there's the probable cause conference where you meet with the prosecutor and discuss things with them and the court. I have a nice discussion with the prosecutor in this case, explain my client's version of things and that we have an additional witness to back up the story. She notes the other party also has a witness to back their side of events. Very civil chat and it ends with her offering my client to plead to attempted felonious assault, which is a 2-year high misdemeanor.

This is obviously better than a 4 year felony but he's still looking at jail time and BATF would consider that disqualification from owning firearms as the sentence potential is over 1 year. Not a great offer at all, and my client understandably doesn't want to accept that so we fight on.

Next comes the preliminary exam.

The preliminary exam is where the prosecutor must prove: 1. A crime was committed and 2. The defendant more than likely was the one who committed the crime. Not a high bar to get over, and darn few cases are dismissed at the preliminary exam. It is however often worth using to test the prosecutor's witnesses and see what they have and lock in their testimony. In a self defense case, there's an additional burden the prosecutor has - to show my client most likely did not act reasonably in self defense.

So we do the preliminary exam. Good news - while the "victim" is available to testify, his witness apparently has refused to appear, including disobeying a subpoena to appear for the prosecution.

The prosecutor takes the witness, the prosecutor's victim and in our side of it the aggressor, through the event including the argument between the parties that led to the altercation.

I then get to cross-examine and establish that it was the "victim" that started the argument, the "victim" had threatened other people (who weren't there) with being shot if he saw them, setting the stage for willingness on his part to threaten deadly harm.

He stated it wasn't a heated argument, unlike what my client stated occurred.

I also got him to admit that: 1. During the argument my client appeared visibly afraid during the altercation; 2. My client had asked him to leave multiple times, and he had refused; 3. That he, the "victim", (who was open carrying) had his hand near his firearm, but he claimed not on his firearm, during the argument before my client drew his firearm. My client then drew and pointed it in his general direction, telling the victim he was going to shoot him, which the "victim" happened to catch on his phone video, but he conveniently caught none of the events precipitating that. The video didn't make my client look great and he wasn't exactly using his words in a beneficial matter and wasn't quite perfect. But, the aggressor then left and my client put his gun away.

This is right when my client should have called the police, because the "victim" sure as heck did -- claiming my client pointed a gun at him without any good reason and the witness that failed to show up had backed his statements at the time, leading to the charges being pursued.

Overall, there was some pretty good and some useful testimony for our side, and some for their side. Some other evidence entered with another witness called and some testimony taken, arguments made, and we're done. At this point I've definitely done some damage to the prosecutor's narrative of the case, not to mention locked in the testimony of the prosecution witness.

In short, we've got a He Said - He Said situation with some serious differences in testimony as to what happened and whether it will amount to a reasonable act of self defense or not.

The judge then says: I'm going to take a break and decide how to rule on this matter. I'd suggest the parties talk and see if something can be worked out. If I rule that there is sufficient evidence the case goes forward up to Circuit Court, and it is a low burden for the prosecutor to meet to have this happen, but if I rule against the prosecution then it will be dismissed so you may all want to talk before I make my decision.

In short the judge just gave both sides an impetus to try and resolve it short of his making a decision. He told us to talk, and so we do. I will say the judge had a rather excellent poker face at that point.

The prosecutor and I then talk.

The prosecutor makes one heckuva offer: Misdemeanor brandishing, with a controlled conditional plea that there's no jail, no probation, and only a $100 fine and that is it. In short, aside from my client being unable to have a CPL for 8 years, it is close to the equivalent of pleading to having been caught spitting on the sidewalk.

I then explain the offer to my client.

He understands that he could continue, go to trial and win, but if he lost at trial he'd be looking at jail time and a felony record. He states his boss is also annoyed with the times he's had to take off for work for the case already, and the obvious expense and time involved in going to Circuit Court and all the stages and mandatory appearances that have to happen before trial would add to the fun he's been having from this incident.

He also understands that he can end it now with paying $100 and not having a CPL for 8 years, but not otherwise risk losing his firearms rights and his freedom.

He decides to take the deal and move on with his life.

In short, not a bad result.

While I would have liked to take it to trial and think we would have won, I'm happy to have been able to get him such a good deal. It is always the client's decision to accept or reject a deal. A fine of $100 with a minor misdemeanor on his record, and in return getting rid of a felony charge and all risk of jail, fines, with no further court appearances, and no further problems is not a bad way to resolve the matter.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Israel Day 3: Ammunition Hill

Leaving Tel Maresha, and heading back towards Jerusalem, we stopped for lunch at a food court of an Israeli mall.

We didn't eat at the McDonald's but instead we ordered food from the falafel place to the left of it. Very tasty stuff.

Then back on the road towards Ammunition Hill.

Ammunition Hill is a strategic location that dominated the road to the Old City of Jerusalem and Mount Scopus. Mount Scopus was an Israeli enclave inside Jordanian controlled territory that contained both Hebrew university and Hadassah Hospital, and when the Six Day War broke out and Jordan entered the war, and needed to be immediately relieved by Israeli forces or it would be overrun.

Ammunition Hill was then the site of a major battle in the 6 Day War. Held by a well dug-in and entrenched force of the Jordanian Army, it was taken after a serious battle by Israeli Paratroops reinforced with units of the Harel Brigade.

The site is now a museum and a memorial site.

The Jordanian trench line and fortifications are still in place.

And there's armoured vehicles that took part in the battle including:

A captured Jordanian armored vehicle:

An Israeli Haltrack With the Jordanian captured vehicle and captured Jordanian Jeep in the background):

And a Sherman Tank:

All along the trench line, there are plaques with accounts of the many acts of heroism by the soldiers during the battle.

The indoor museum has room with a large diorama and a short film that describes the background of the battle and the battle itself, with the diorama lighting up to show various details as the battle takes place.

There's also memorials to the paratroopers and Harel Brigade members killed in the fighting.

The Ammunition Hill site is a worth visiting.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Israel Day 3: The Archaeological Dig At Tel Maresha

Tel Maresha is not just a National Park in Israel, its also an active archeological site.

A settlement active at the time of the Maccabees, in the 3rd Century BCE, it was abandoned shorty thereafter.

The inhabitants cut caves into the soft limestone were used as basements of houses by the inhabitants and as workshops and importantly as columbariums. Most caves at the Tel are still unexplored, unexcavated, and many are still not even discovered yet, even after over 80 caves have been discovered at the Tel.

We first visited the main Columbarium Cave, which has been fully excavated.

We entered the underground cave through its arch leading on a descent downward.

To say it is impressively large inside would be an understatement:

What's a Columbarium? In this case its not how the word is normally defined.

In this case, it's an underground place to raise pigeons.

Each pigeon-hole was hand-cut into the rock, and yes, pigeons still live there.

Can you see the pigeons in the picture? Click to embiggen:

Pigeons create baby pigeons and pigeon poop, both important items in the ancient world - food and fertilizer.

There are over 20,000 pigeon holes in this main columbarium cave. Other pigeon holes, numbering in the thousands can be found in other caves.

Some let their photo be taken out by the exit of the cave.

Then we got to participate in an Archeological Dig.

Down into a cave we went.

The rooms were smaller, as the "floor" while seeming solid wasn't the floor at all, instead it was packed ancient dirt that had fallen into the cave over the centuries.

Now pretty deep underground in a cave system undergoing excavation, we got our trowels, buckets and after some instruction we began to dig into the ancient dirt, moving rocks and rubble out of the way.

It wasn't long before we began finding things. We were keenly aware that we were the first people to see these items in over 2.300 years.

Abby found a large fragment of an ancient plate:

All of us continued to find animal bones, pottery shards - both large and small. Leah and Abby discovered an small stairway leading down to an entry to another cave room and entrance, right where the archeologist figured it would be, which is why she had them dig there. That new found room will be excavated in time.

The dig felt much too short, and we could have spent days in there digging our way through history. If you're visiting in Israel it's a must-do.

Later, while sifting through the dirt brought up in the buckets, Leah found something amazing.

She saw a round small object and pointed it out. It was a bronze ring or possible jewelry adornment, washed off, it looked like this:

No one had seen it for over 2,300 years.

The archeologist was quite excited by the find and had it placed in the important finds bucket that is secured in the dig lab each day rather than in the loose pottery buckets that are less impressive and less prone to scavengers and site looters.

Yes, that was a real highlight of the trip.

Next the archeologist took us into we headed to a completely unexcavated cave.

Lit only by candles it was not a space for the claustrophobic.

Getting in took some wiggling.

There were tight tunnels to go through. We all went in single file with the archeologist at the head of the line and I was the caboose, very little room on any side.

This worked out well. Unfortunately one of the guys doing the dig had a panic attack underground due to claustrophobia. Natasha doing her therapist thing kept him calm enough to move and I was able to guide him back out to the outside where he calmed down. I then went back in and caught up to the group, following the trail of candles left as markers so I didn't head into any side passages.

Then we got pretty deep in to an area that widened out and we sat down to look around.

As one would expect, pigeon holes were cut in the walls.

There was an amazing structure made out of stone bricks but we were warned not to touch it or try to go behind it as there seemed to be a passage there but they didn't know if it was stable at this point or where it led to yet.

Then we headed out up an ancient stairway to the cave exit.

Seeing a cave fully excavated, participating in excavating one, and going through a cave yet to be touched were all amazing experiences the whole family thoroughly enjoyed. The experience of such closeness to ancient history was awesome.

To say it was an incredible and amazing morning was an understatement.