Ahead of the Field: “People look at me as if I was from another planet,” laments Ahmad Rezkallah in the February 18 issue of Arab News, an English-language Saudi daily. It’s hard to know why, since Rezkallah is described as “a pleasant man with a broad smile” who earns a decent living hacking off people’s heads.
Rezkallah, Saudi Arabia’s most senior executioner, describes the rigmarole of his Beckett-like profession in vivid detail. “The sharpness of the sword and bodily strength are the most important things,” he observes. Rezkallah also reveals this tidbit, which might surprise some in the male-dominated Saudi Arabia: Of the 300 people to fall victim to his sword, 70 were women. “People here have the impression that women are soft and weak,” he opines. “But at the time of execution, most men collapse… However, women in general have nerves of steel.”
Rezkallah says that no one expected much from him when he first drifted into the executioner profession. “I was 20 years old at the time, and the youngest in my group,” he recalls. “But I rose to the challenge.”
The job has its downsides, though, notably in the public relations department: Rezkallah says he is badly misunderstood by his peers. “I love to meet people and I love to attend events. But sometimes people don’t feel comfortable around me, so I leave” he says. One gets the feeling that somewhere in Saudi Arabia a mother is beating her breast: “Couldn’t he have been a nice doctor?”
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Say It Ain’t So, Joe: Browsing through the infomercials on the PAX cable television network, Hartford Courant reporter Eric Ericson was stunned to see three giants of the Christian right — Christian Coalition founder Pat Robertson, convicted Watergate felon Charles Colson and Moral Majority leader Jerry Falwell — fundraising with Joseph Lieberman.
Ericson, writing in the January 16 issue of the Courant, reports that the Jewish Democratic presidential hopeful appeared in a January 2 broadcast along with the trio in a half-hour appeal for a program called “On Wings of Eagles,” which brings Russian Jews to Israel through the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. The Chicago-based nonprofit organization, run by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, advocates an improvement of relations between Christians and Jews and receives considerable support from right-wing Christians. “‘On Wings of Eagles’ is a modern-day fulfillment of biblical prophecy,” Lieberman says on the infomercial.
The Hartford Advocate reports in its February 14 issue that Lieberman asked that his endorsement be struck from the infomercial. Eckstein told the Forward that Lieberman’s wishes are being respected. “We’re spending money to take it out of the video,” Eckstein said, adding that the incident was, “a non-story, [a] stupid story… It seems like a liberal newspaper essentially trying to get at Lieberman through one way or another.