All that you have is your soul (Tracy Chapman).

Wednesday, 28 March 2007


I think I've just had the most fulfilling experience yet, in my short teaching career - and it didn't even happen in school.

A student who is beavering away at his GCSE coursework has been plagued with bad luck in relation to his falteringly constructed Access databases. He's already screwed one up and yesterday, whilst working on the the replacement, he somehow managed to corrupt the mdb file he's been working on since his last disaster. I just couldn't open the damn thing to repair it and I told him that I would do my best to get it back for him.

I came home this afternoon and spent nearly two hours trying to find a downloadable demo that could sort the problem out. After numerous attempts, I came across an application that did the job and to my delight, reinstated his file, with both tables intact. I can't wait to see his face when he realises he can work on it again.

I really can't describe how great I feel right now because there's no other job that can give you such a high - albeit once in a (very) blue moon.

Monday, 26 March 2007

It's About Time

It looks like the world is finally waking up to the Iranian threat, if the latest news about the UN sanctions is anything to go by.

Iran is also burning her bridges by holding onto sixteen British marines, although I think this little skirmish will be dealt with quietly over the next few days/weeks.

More importantly, the message is going through to the Iranians that no-one with any sense believes their laughable reasoning for building nuclear power stations. Additionally, the withdrawal of the Russians has left Iran in a pretty vulnerable position. Let's see what the Chinese do next.

I wonder - is this the beginning of the end for Ahmadinejad?

Sunday, 25 March 2007


A man comes home and finds his wife in bed with his friend.

He shoots his friend, instantly killing him.

His wife then says: "If you behave like this, you will lose ALL your friends".

In The Mood (Or Not)

It's Pesach (Passover) in just over a week and I'm still struggling to get into the spirit of the thing. Maybe the gravitas of the festival will overtake me after this afternoon when we do the annual shop, but I'm getting worried about the fact that I'm not worried.

Should I be panicking as per each year? Probably. The truth is that I'm so stressed out about school right now, that I don't think I can be bothered to add any more SOP's (stress-out points) to my tortured psyche.

I know that the bug will hit me mid-week and I'll realise how much I still need to do cleaning-wise at around the same moment that the brevity of time left, dawns on me. Unfortunately (or not), I am still living in a state of self-imposed ignorant and totally irresponsible bliss.

This is the last week of term and the students are going to be horrendous. Do I really need to worry about anything else right now?

British Summer Time = Oxymoron

We moved the clocks forward an hour this morning to accomodate British Summer Time (BST). I'm beginning to wonder whether it's not time to change this strange title, since there's nothing summery about the weather whatsover. In fact, it's bloody freezing.

A rumour hit the streets that we'd passed the 21st of March sometimes last week, which in "normal" countries means that spring has finally declared herself to the world. I for one haven't been aware that winter's ever left. Aside from the usually depressing grey skies and lack of any other colour, the air is stuffed with anything but spring.

I think Al Gore's onto something. It might be the "official" start of spring, but the inconvenient truth is that we're freezing our nuts (or any other part of the anatomy) off here in the disunited kingdom.

Saturday, 24 March 2007

England v Israel

I've been waiting for this match for ages. After 93 minutes, I was none the wiser with the 0-0 score.

I can't remember a more boring match in recent history.
Still, it was nice to hear the Hatikvah on Sky Sports as well as seeing the different animations using the Israeli flag.

Bring on Wembley in September for the home game - hopefully, it will be a more memorable match (and Israel wins!!!)

Thursday, 22 March 2007

Lego Beatles

Some guy got this great idea to re-create some of the Beatles' most famous album covers using Lego and Photoshop.

Have a look here.

Tuesday, 20 March 2007

The Guns, The Dog And The Navigator

This is apparently a true story, heard on a Wisconsin Radio Station.
You can decide it's veracity, but even if it isn't true, it very much appeals to my sense of humour:

A guy buys a new Lincoln Navigator for $42,500.00 (with monthly
payments of $560.00).

He and a friend go duck hunting in upper Wisconsin. It's mid-winter;
and of course all of the lakes are frozen. These two guys go out on
the ice with their GUNS, a DOG, and of course the new NAVIGATOR.
They decide they want to make a natural looking open water area for
the ducks to focus on, something for the decoys to float on.

Now making a hole in the ice large enough to invite a passing duck,
is going to take a little more power than the average drill auger
can produce.

So, out of the back of the new Navigator comes a stick of dynamite
with a short 40 second-fuse.

Now our two Rocket Scientists, afraid they might slip on the ice
while trying to run away after lighting the fuse (and becoming
toast, along with the Navigator), decide on the following course of
action: they light the 40 second fuse; then, with a mighty thrust,
they throw the stick of dynamite as far away as possible.

Remember a couple of paragraphs back when I mentioned the NAVIGATOR,
the GUNS, and the DOG...???

Let's talk about the dog: A highly trained Black Lab used for
RETRIEVING; especially things thrown by the owner. You guessed it:
the dog takes off across the ice at a high rate of speed and grabs
the stick of dynamite, with the burning 40-second fuse, just as it
hits the ice.

The two men swallow, blink, start waving their arms an d , with veins
in their necks swelling to resemble stalks of rhubarb, scream and
holler at the dog to stop. The dog, now apparently cheered on by his
master, keeps coming.

One hunter panics, grabs the shotgun and shoots the dog. The shotgun
is loaded with #8 bird shot, hardly big enough to stop a Black Lab.
The dog stops for a moment, slightly confused, then continues on.

Another shot, and this time the dog, still standing, becomes really
confused and of course terrified, thinks these two geniuses have
gone insane.

The dog takes off to find cover, UNDER the brand new Navigator.

The men continue to scream as they run. The red hot exhaust pipe on
the truck touches the dog's rear end, he yelps, drops the dynamite
under the truck and takes off after his master.

Then " "" "" "" "" " BOOOOOOOOOOOOM "" "" "" "" "" ! ! ! !

The truck is blown to bits and sinks to the bottom of the lake,<>leaving the two idiots standing there with "I can't believe this
just happened" looks on their faces.

The insurance company says that sinking a vehicle in a lake by
illegal use of explosives is NOT COVERED by the policy. And he still
had yet to make the first of those $560.00 a month payments.

The dog is okay, doing fine.

Monday, 19 March 2007

Intimidated But Not Cowered II

On Friday, the student who had threatened me, turned up to school, having worked out his exclusion. We saw one another and pretended not to, if you know what I mean.

Later on, whilst going to the front office to get patrol for another unruly student, I saw him on the couch in a pretty precarious position. In fact, he looked almost unconscious.

Of course an ambulance was called and a number of strongly suspected that he'd taken or smoked something he shouldn't have All of a sudden, my antipathy towards the child disappeared as I wondered whether I would ever see him again.

It turns out that he'd been having some sort of epileptic fit, unaware that he had this condition. I saw him today, right as rain and cheerfully asked him how he felt. He looked slightly taken aback by my concern, but smiled nevertheless and told me he was OK.

Now I'm feeling somewhat guilty for wanting to have him excluded from my class. I know I shouldn't, but would it be correct to take this course of action, granted his condition? I am aware that there is no connection between the different strands of his being, but what if he misbehaves again and my actions lead to him having a seizure?

Moral dilemma looms large.

Yet again.

Ralph And I

About two weeks ago, I reprinted an article from the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles (which you can read here).

If you can recall, it related how my grandparents hosted GI Ralph Goodman for Purim 1945 in newly liberated Belgium.

Fast forward over half a century and Mr Goodman (who insists that I call him Ralph and who comes over as a wonderfully spright octogenarian) used the newly minted link in the left hand column to contact me. Since then, the two of us have developed a lovely correspondence which one day might lead to our meeting up.

I am continuously amazed by the unexpected delights that spring forth from this blog (and in this case, from Jane Ulman's great article).

Who could have imagined that I would be in contact with a gentleman who has such special memories of my immediate family, from so very long ago - when my mother was roughly the same age as my second daughter?

Saturday, 17 March 2007


A husband and wife are in bed together.
She feels his hand rubbing against her shoulder.
"Oh honey, that feels good.", she says.
His hand moves to her breast.
"Gee, honey, that feels wonderful.", she says.
His hand moves to her leg.
"Oh, honey, don't stop." she begs.
But he stops.................
"Why did you stop?" she cries ???

"I found the remote..."

Friday, 16 March 2007

A "New" Start

Looking at my postings, I've come to the realisation that it is unfair of me to label them all under the heading of "teacher". Yes, I am a teacher and yes, I do share my thoughts and experiences with you whilst sometimes wearing my teaching hat.

Then again, I also have ideas about the many different strands of life, whether they be political, cultural or religious. I have therefore gone back to the roots of this page and retitled it with its original moniker.

I feel that this "new" name will be more inclusive and will therefore more accurately represent the ramblings, or indeed scribbles, of yours truly.

Who Loves Us?

By Rabbi Jeremy Rosen.

So the BBC World Service took a poll and discovered that more people think Israel is a danger to the world than any other place! Forgive me for an ironic laugh! The World Service reaches and is avidly listened to by billions of Muslims and an odd million Jews, if it’s lucky (who anyway by now know to take BBC polls with a pinch of salt, even the BBC children’s programme ‘Blue Peter’ admits it fiddled its polls). Hey, imagine a poll in Stamford Hill on favourite colours. Any betting it would be black? Big Deal. It’s like asking in English soccer grounds beyond Stamford Bridge whether they love Mourinho or not.

There are billions of unemployed Muslims with nothing better to do than phone in to straw polls. Of course they’re going to knobble their favourite whipping boy or vote for a humungous mosque in your face when most of the rest are busy earning a livelihood. It’s not just them. Just think of the millions who vote for Big Brother or American Idol, and they’re actually paying to swing the results! Besides, we Jews are never united on anything, even on the things we hate. After all, Israel itself divides pretty equally on those of its citizens who want it to survive and those who don’t. And Jews are divided, perhaps not so evenly, on whether their religion ought to be phased out altogether or turned into a monastic order. And if you log on to the myriad of anti-Semitic websites you’ll find the repeated message that we must have done something to deserve being hated. Sorry we’re still alive, boys! And don't we always say 'The Almighty weighs His faithful, He doesn't just count them.'

I was asked this week to help deal with a Swedish Anti Semmitic site that quotes Talmudic snippets out of context to show how wicked we Jews are: How we have sex with girls under three years old because under three their virginity returns. How we can pick up innocent gentile women in the street, have sex with them, which means they are married to us by law and trapped, and then drink their blood once a month. How we are commanded to kill all non-Jews and it is permitted to steal from our non-Jewish neighbours. Any idiot can take any law and hold it up to ridicule. On the contrary, ignorance helps! Imagine condemning all Brits on the basis of what the Domesday Book of 1086 says, or the English penal system on hanging Judge Jeffrey’s era three hundred years ago, let alone two thousand.

So should we be taking hatred seriously or not? You could argue that we are not always a loveable lot. But should that matter? We try very hard to succeed and, dammit all, we do a bloody good job in almost every single sphere we set our minds to. Proportionally we are way ahead of the game in every area, academic, commercial, industrial, financial, medical, even literary. We win more prizes and accolades for our numbers than anyone else and we tend to rise up the ladder in every society we find ourselves in, pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps instead of moaning and complaining and begging for handouts (and certainly not bombing innocents to gain attention). Of course they’re all jealous like mad.

To make matters worse, they all know that it’s only thanks to us that their religions are around altogether. Neither Islam nor Christianity would have got off the ground had we not laid the foundations and done the spade work. So they have to rubbish us to reinforce their insecurity by claiming we blew it but now they got it! The essence of their religions all com from us, ethically, even ritually. The differences are really either cosmetic, or that they go for softer, watered down options. They both have this neurotic preoccupation with trying to ram their religion down everyone else’s throats and claim that theirs is the only way to Heaven and everyone else is doomed. Whereas we more reasonable guys actually think others can be good and right and can get to Heaven their way too! Sheesh, as they say in the USA, who’s the normal one here? And please don’t accuse me of generalizing. I’m not suggesting that ALL non-Jews are like that of course, only the irrational, prejudiced ones.

Then they are so pissed off with us they keep on going on about how we think we’re better because we’re the Chosen People, when it’s obvious that that doesn’t mean we’re better, just picked to do a job. My father always use to say that the people you do most for resent it the most and are the last to show any appreciation. Of course they all hate us, because they 'd would have no religion without us.

I’m not blind. I know the Israelis are a tough lot. You can’t go anywhere on the globe (or even in space) without bumping into them doing deals, selling arms, stealing the bed linen from hotels, monopolizing mountaintops, ashrams, and beaches, or doing the plumbing and decorating for less and more efficiently than the lazy local contractors. Yes, they are a prickly, arrogant bunch and they’re buying up all the real estate and making money out of idleness and apathy of the locals. But it’s hardly surprising, living under constant tension, unceasing pressure, cooped up in a little country with so many bloody Jews.

And yes, Jews control the world, don’t you know (so does the Royal Family, ask Mr. Fayed); that’s why Madonna has become a Kabbalist. There you have it Hollywood, God and Cash all in bed together. And no doubt you’ve all seen the Memri tape of the Iranian ‘academic’ who claims Walt Disney was Jewish and really ‘Tom and Jerry’ is about Jewish mice controlling the non-Jewish cats of the world (

Yes we must take hatred seriously! And no we don’t help ourselves. It’s very worrying that there is so much corruption in Israel and that it has not always dealt as honestly or as fairly as it should be. It is sadly true, that Jews around the world are too busy gazing into their own bellybuttons, that our religion is taking on some of the less attractive characteristics of other religions’ fundamentalism. But when all is said and done we must not let the bastards get us down. We are pretty good. We have a fantastic religion that encourages us to enjoy life, delight in God’s gifts, no celibacy or monasticism. We can be party of society without having to withdraw. We have a religion that is overwhelmingly focused on good deeds rather than right theology, and if things aren’t always as they should be, it’s the fault of the all too human rabbis rather than the religion itself! We are charitable way beyond our numbers and more than other supposedly charitable traditions. We have come back from the death camps and built a strong, financially productive state that, despite some glitches along the way, can take care of itself even in a sea of hatred that surrounds it. The picture is not that bad.

We know our own failings, hypocrisies, inadequacies and sins. But our religion encourages us to get them out of our system and go forward. Who else escapes the clutches of their enemies and then says ‘but we gotta be nice to them nevertheless?’ Our religion did that three thousand years ago, as we’ll remember this Pesach, and we’ve been doing it ever since. I’m prepared to bet Israel will end up doing more for the Palestinians than their co-religionists or hard line left wing bandwaggon jumpers on.

We’re good! It’s not so bad to be a Jew. It isn’t easy, but it's rewarding. And if they don't like us, they have a far bigger problem than we do.

Thursday, 15 March 2007

Poor BBC....

Here's a question for you:

Do I give a damn that a BBC journalist has been kidnapped by Palestinians in Gaza?

What do you think....?

Re-Owning My Classroom

Since the incident last week, I have set myself a new target - to retake ownership of my classroom from the students.

As you can imagine, this is no easy task. The kids feel that they can say or do whatever they want without serious repercussions and so, I am finding myself in daily (sometimes hourly) conflict with many of them, including those I don't even teach.

In the last forty eight hours, I have been called a c*** by two Year 11's and a d***head by a Year 10 boy. All because I am unsubtly enforcing my presence in situ and reminding them of who is really in charge.

My campaign to re-assert my authority is obviously having an impact on my "popularity" amongst the student body. I really don't care what they think of me, as long as they show some respect and do what I say. I am also on a personal mission to become the most hated teacher in school, something that I think I might achieve if I continue driving my agenda through.

I will succeed because I've had enough and I know that I'm leaving.

I don't think I could have been this ballsy last year - but then again, I don't recall the students ever being as out of control as they are right now.

The classroom will be mine.

Wednesday, 14 March 2007


The following are excerpts of an interview with the children of Palestinian suicide bomber Rim Al-Riyashi, which aired on Al-Aqsa TV on March 8, 2007.


"How Many Jews Did Mama Kill?"

Interviewer: "Let's talk with the two children of the jihad-fighting martyrdom-seeker Rim Al-Riyashi, Dhoha and Muhammad. Dhoha, you love Mama, right? Where did Mama go?"

Dhoha: "To Paradise."

Interviewer: "What did Mama do?"

Dhoha: "She committed martyrdom."

Interviewer: "She killed Jews, right?"

Interviewer: "How many did she kill, Muhammad?"

Muhammad: "Huh?"

Interviewer: "How many Jews did Mama kill?"

Muhammad: "This many... "

Interviewer: "How many is that?"

Muhammad: "Five."

Interviewer: "Do you love Mama? Do you miss Mama?

"Where is Mama, Muhammad?"

Muhammad: "In Paradise."

Interviewer: "Dhoha, what would you like to recite for us?"

Dhoha: "In the name of Allah the Merciful the Compassionate: 'When comes the help of Allah, and victory, and you see people entering the religion of Allah in troops, then celebrate the praise of your Lord, and ask His forgiveness, for He is ever ready to show mercy.'"

Interviewer: "What else would you like to recite? You have read the surah, 'When comes the help of Allah, and victory.' What would you like to recite for us now?"

Dhoha: "'Mama Rim.'"

Interviewer: "Recite the poem 'Mama Rim' for us. Recite anything. What would you like to recite?"

"I Want to Talk About Kindergarten"

Interviewer: "Muhammad, do you know how to recite?"

Muhammad: "Yes."

Interviewer: "Go on then, recite something for us. What would you like to recite?"

Dhoha: "I just remembered."

Muhammad: "I am in kindergarten."

Interviewer: "Are you doing well in kindergarten?"

Muhammad: "Yes."

Dhoha: "I am in kindergarten, I want to tell."

Interviewer: "Go on then, tell us. You're in kindergarten too? Are you in kindergarten, Dhoha? In kindergarten or at school?"

Dhoha: "In kindergarten."

Interviewer: "That's great.

"One should talk about the innocence of children..."

Muhammad: "I'm in kindergarten too."

Interviewer: "You're in kindergarten too."

Dhoha: "I want to talk about kindergarten, I want to talk."

"Rim, You Are a Firebomb, Your Children and Submachine Gun Are Your Motto"

Interviewer: "What would you like to recite for us? Have you heard the poem 'Mama Rim'? Go on then, recite it for us."

Dhoha: "Rim, you are a fire bomb."

Interviewer: "Go on, recite it."

Dhoha: "'Your children and submachine gun are your motto.'"

Interviewer: "Muhammad, go ahead and recite..."

Muhammad: "I'm in kindergarten."

Dhoha: "That's it, I'm done."

Interviewer: "OK, do you want to go to Mama?"

Dhoha: "Yes."

Latest Report From The Front

Same shit.
Different day.

Tuesday, 13 March 2007

The First Step

I have spent the evening filling out an application form for a new job in an inifinitely better school. I don't know if I've got a hope in hell of getting it, but I might as well try, 'cos you never know.

One of the "highlights" of my day was literally separating two year 8's this morning. I felt this was necessary as one, a normally sedate and peaceful child, was pummelling the other's head into near infinity.

Lord, I hope I get this job.

Denton's Progress

Quite a while ago, I told you about Denton Farmer, my alter-ego, whose work as a Private Investigator had unfortunately landed him in quite a bit of trouble with a mysterious (and relatively leggy) blonde.

I therefore thought it was be high time to update you as to what had transpired since then.

Denton, being the resourceful fellow that he is, finally managed to extracate himself from the said lady. However, things turned for the worst when, last month, Ms X (it is to protect the innocent, you understand) was found lying in a pool of her own blood, revolver in hand, conveniently holding a rather badly spelled suicide note, which police have now assessed to be authentic.

Denton, though understandably shocked, immediately presented himself to said officers and was quickly absolved of any involvement in the act. The "General" (as he prefers to be known) contacted Denton in order to pay his bill whilst, at the same strongly advising him to get out of town as soon as possible - so as to avoid becoming involved in a rather distasteful (and suspecious) probate investigation.

Denton did not hesitate to follow these instructions and got himself a business class seat on a flight to somewhere in the Pacific, from whence he has not yet emerged.

However (if you're still following this), he did email last night and asked me to inform you that if you wish to contact either him or me, you can do so on the newly pressed link, which can be found in the left hand column.

He also wanted me to reassure you that he is currently in the best of health and thoroughly enjoying his long earned break.

The lucky bastard.

Monday, 12 March 2007

Thank You

I want to say a special thank you to everyone who contacted me after reading of my ordeal last week. It was so much easier to have you all find out the story in the same way, without me having to relate it time and again (and therefore avoiding the dangers of embellishment).

I want you to know that I really appreciate your support and care - more than I am able to express verbally.

Talking Of Polls...

My rant against the BBC poll reminded me that I haven't updated my own little offerings. This has been remedied and eight new polls have been randomly added, so please add your votes.

As usual, I've made them a mix of education, politics and entertainment. In the last batch, Sean Connery's 007 came out on top (I would have expected nothing else) and in the event of disciplinary issues, most of you would speak to your child and then get back to the teacher (interesting reponse).

So get voting and tell me what you think!

It Takes One To Know One

According to the latest BBC poll, Israel has "the worst image in the world" and 56% of the respondents viewed the Zionist entity negatively. Only 17% had a positive opinion.

To make things even better (if you like), Iran came second with 54% followed by the good old US of A with 51%

That's that then.

The BBC, bastion of unbiased reporting (ahem), the promoter of nothing but the truth (cough cough) has obviously had the last word on the matter. Except that the BBC itself has the worst image in the world, in the eyes of at least 56% of the people both you and I know (and we know a lorra people don't we?) for its corrossive world view, shockingly biased reporting and gargantuan arrogance.

Maybe even more than 56% of the people we both know would like to see the release of the Balen report into the Beeb's biased record on Israel. So far, "Auntie" refuses to let it see the light of day.

I wonder why?

As they say, it takes one to know one and the BBC, pervayor of the worst kind of misrepresentitive reporting, should feel very much at home with the "bad image" tag.

I proudly count myself amongst the 17% who has a positive image of Israel, but I am also with the other 83% who believe that the BBC's "factual" reporting of the Middle East conflict stinks to high heaven.

So much for image, eh?

That Iran, who are building nuclear reactors to produce WMD's and threatening to wipe out half the world in the process, came second in the poll, shows how well thought out the questions must have been...

Nice one BBC.
Nice one.

Saturday, 10 March 2007

The Departed


This is probably the least surprising news you've read all week....I've made the decision to leave the school irrespective of whether or not I have a job to go to in September.

Hopefully, I will be able to secure a permanent position, but if I don't, I can always get supply work as there's more than enough going around. The assault was the final straw, even to the extent that I found myself having a nightmare related to it last night. I do want to teach but I'm not prepared to continue working in a school where I feel threatened by some students, whilst extraordinarily dissapointed by others.

Yes, I will always come across troublesome kids, but there's a difference between coping with a challenging child and finding myself trapped in my own classroom with not a single student on side. I don't ever want to feel so alone and vulnerable at work again.

I saw an advertisement online yesterday for a school that I'd like to work at, teaching the same subject. I have already been in touch with the secretary and to be honest, I don't know if I'll even get to interview stage, but whatever happens, I need to be somewhere else after the summer holiday.


I thought not.

Thursday, 8 March 2007

The Follow-Up

I came to school with one intention - to make it absolutely clear that there is no way I will ever teach "my public enemy #1" again. I would even go to the Union to get backing for my stand.

I needn't have been that militant as Senior Management showed they were in agreement by excluding him at the end of the day (why he was allowed to come in at all, is another matter).

Today was much calmer, although to be fair, my nerves are pretty shot and it's not easy being around me - family take note.

It's Friday tomorrow and the Sabbath is gracing the distant horizon.
Right now, I thank the good Lord for his gift of Sabbath.

Wednesday, 7 March 2007

Intimidated But Not Cowered

There is a group of Black Year 11 kids who subscribe to the whole gang culture crap. They walk around the playground (and also inside the building) wearing baseball caps as if they were going out of style and present an extremely menacing site to both teachers and students.

I say this, because today, I found myself as the centre of their attention - and it was not something I want to repeat.

I was teaching a Year 11 class and one student was (as per usual) totally ignoring my requests to stop eating or do any work. He brazenly left his mobile phone on the desk and as per school instructions, I got hold of it and put it into my back pocket.

He started by trying to take it out but when he realised that wasn't working (I held on to it for dear life), he squared me up and blocked my path, so that I found myself trapped against the wall, with his face a hairbreadth away from mine.

Despite my attempts to get past him, he stood (and even sat, legs spread out) firm, blocking me in. This eyeball to eyeball standoff lasted for quite a few minutes whilst I told him that I felt threatened and that he was only making things worse for himself (like he cared).

The classroom was silent. I was a gladiator in the ring.

I asked a student to call the teacher on patrol and to my horror, he abjectly refused. It was only after I screamed at him that he went out for assistance.

Another student walked in and my tormentor immediately changed tack by letting me through - and promptly going over to my desk, removing items and putting them on his seat (presumably as a bargaining hoard), before dismantling my computer, by pulling plugs out and turning the LCD screen onto its front.

To my relief, another teacher came in to remove him from the class and I carried on, shaken but unbowed (with the phone still clenched in my back pocket).

The lesson ended and the kids left. I locked myself alone in the room and thought about how I was going to get out, since a group of his friends were gathering outside the door, with the obvious intention of intimidating me into giving over the phone as I exited.

I had thoughtlessly left my own phone in the staff room, so I couldn't call for help.

I asked another student, speaking through the glass in the door to get a member of senior staff, but she answered "I can't do that as X is my friend".

I can't remember a time when I have felt so alone and so afraid.
Really afraid - stuck in a locked classroom, waiting for the cavalry to arrive.

Fortunately, the teacher who had helped me previously came to the door and escorted me out of the room, to the stony stares of the gang.

So what do I make of all this?

I am glad I stood firm and didn't return the phone, but was it really worth the hassle? Should I have left it alone and allowed him to do exactly what he wanted (yet again) in my class?

What can I say about the student(s) who did nothing whatsoever to help, even though they could see what was going on? Particularly the one who refused to go out. When I later asked him why he hadn't helped me, his reply was "I only help those I want to help".

How interesting that came to apologise (no doubt afraid of what was going to happen to him) claiming that he'd been afraid of the consequences from the students if he'd assisted me by getting another teacher.

I've written the whole episode up in school - but to what avail? The student in question probably wanted to be excluded anyway.

Dana told me that I have to leave the school and for once, I'm going to do exactly what she says, because today, for the first time, I was frightened to be a teacher -

and that's not why I spent so much time training to get into the profession.

Saturday, 3 March 2007

The Moon Gets Purim'd!

It is the night of Purim, the most joyous day in the Jewish calendar and we are in the midst of a lunar eclipse. Fortunately, the sky is crystal clear and so the sight of the moon being slowly consumed by the shadow of the earth is truly wondrous.

I don't know if there is any significance to the combination of these two events, but, being the religious person that I am, I wonder whether such coincidences are really as they seem. Could this be some sort of celestial sign that another Purim is on the way, vis a vis our good friend in Iran? Is G-d telling us something by combining the stratospheric cycle with our special celebration?

No doubt, there are some who are reading into this more than I and a school of thought is developing as I pen these musings.

Then again, it might be G-d's way of sharing a new Purim joke with the rest of the world. After all, Purim is an ancient Persian word for "casting lots". Could this be just another random "happening"?

Who knows...

The top sequence of photographs shows Saturday's lunar eclipse as seen from Baghdad, Iraq. The sequence below is the view from Athens, Greece. ©CNN

NB: I saw the bottom sequence, although the moon also turned red!

Thursday, 1 March 2007

An American Soldier's Purim -- 1945

The fascinating article you are about to read concerns my family, in particular, my grandfather Philip Vecht and my mother Rosette. This first appears in the March 2, 2007, issue of The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles and was penned by Jane Ulman, a contributing writer. Jane has very kindly agreed to let me republish the piece in full here. I would also like to thank my cousin Just who drew my attention to the article.

You can also read the article at

The Vecht family: parents Henrietta and Philip, children Rosette and Romeo. Taken in Spa, Belgium, in 1943.

"Pardon me, sir, are you perchance a Jew?"

Ralph Goodman immediately reached for the .45 on his hip. The 24-year-old American solider didn't know what to expect from the approaching middle-aged man wearing a felt hat, one side folded up, and speaking Australian-accented English.

Goodman stopped and looked the stranger in the eye, his hand firmly planted on his gun.

"I am," Goodman replied. "Why do you ask?"

"It is so nice to be able to say aloud 'I am a Jew,'" answered the man, introducing himself as Philip Vecht.

The two stood together on a hill in Spa, Belgium. It was February 1945.

Goodman, who was on an errand for the 1st U.S. Army Headquarters Commandant section, relaxed as Vecht explained that he was Australian born and that he, his wife and two young children had fled their home in Antwerp in 1942 and spent the war years stranded in a rented cottage in this once-popular resort town. Only the Vechts' British passports had saved them from deportation.

Vecht recounted that virtually no Jews remained in Spa. And that his own father-in-law, a Belgian citizen hidden in a nearby house, had died of natural causes several years earlier and been secretly buried. The family had not been able to recite Kaddish for him.

The two men also noted that Purim was approaching.

"Sir, I have holy books buried safely in my cellar, and amongst them Megillat Esther, and my daughter has not yet heard it read," Vecht said.

"Mr. Vecht, the Megillah will be read Purim evening," Goodman said.

Goodman, from an Orthodox background in Pittsfield, Mass., was looking for a reason to celebrate. It had been a bitterly cold and nasty winter. Chanukah passed unnoticed. And the Battle of the Bulge, a surprise attack, one of the war's bloodiest battles with more than 80,000 American casualties, had ended less than a month earlier.

Ralph Goodman

Life for the Vechts was also dire. In Spa, they were required to report to the Gestapo every week. And Philip Vecht, formerly in advertising and banking, was forbidden to work; he sold his wife's jewels to sustain the family.

Daughter Rosette Vecht, born in 1937 and now a social worker in London, remembers her mother crying often and rarely smiling. Her father was gone much of the time, searching for food or working with the Resistance. Rosette Vecht was always frightened of being separated from her parents and always hungry, hating the rutabagas that were served at every meal.

The Vecht family was forced to abandon all their possessions in Antwerp, but Philip Vecht refused to leave the Torah scroll his father had given him on the day he died. Vecht kept it with him throughout war, wrapped in an old shawl. "He truly felt that by keeping the Sefer Torah close to him, God would keep him and his family safe," Rosette Vecht said.

Amazingly, the Vechts maintained an observant life throughout the war. "My father never changed," his daughter said. "He was a religious Jew. He prayed every morning and we kept strictly kosher."

But because the children were anemic, he arranged for them to eat meat at the neighbor's house.

During the war Rosette Vecht, however, was never told she was Jewish, for fear she would tell others. She thought that everybody observed Shabbat and that she and her brother Romeo, born in 1935, had dark hair because they were Italian.

The Vechts had enjoyed a brief respite from the war the previous September when Belgium was liberated by the Americans. Romeo Vecht, now a cardiologist in London, remembers meeting at that time a Rabbi Frank, a chaplain, who gave him a pair of GI-issued tefillin, which he uses to this day.

But the Battle of the Bulge, which erupted on Dec. 16, had sent the Vecht family into sudden exile from Spa, their lives endangered on several occasions. By the time Purim rolled around, the family had only recently returned, still reeling. Yet, Philip Vecht welcomed Ralph Goodman's Purim offer.

In preparation, Goodman approached his mess sergeant, Tony Seas, a former World War I Polish army captain, for whom he had done a favor.

"Tony, I need flour, oil, raisins, poppy seeds, sugar and lemons. It's Purim." "What the hell you talking about?" Seas answered.

"Tony, you owe me."

Before the holiday, Goodman delivered the ingredients to Henrietta Vecht, Philip's wife, who greeted him open-mouthed at the sight of such luxuries. He returned on erev Purim with a group of Jewish soldiers, including his yeshiva-trained buddies Paul Burstein from the Bronx and Melvin Lewis from Washington, D.C.

Romeo Vecht was not present that evening since he had already been sent to boarding school in London. And Rosette Vecht, 7 at the time, remembers it only vaguely.

But Ralph Goodman clearly recalls that Purim celebration.

The Ma'ariv service was prayed, Kaddish was recited for Henrietta Vecht's father and the Megillah was read.

"The GIs ate lovingly baked and tasty Purim pastries with coffee that Sgt. Seas provided," Goodman said.

Goodman also remembers two little girls -- Rosette and perhaps a younger cousin -- who "sat on a kitchen table with tears running down their faces and sang z'mirot [songs]."

In the story of Purim, with its unpredictable and paradoxical chain of events, "The world turned topsy-turvy," according to Megillah 9:1.

But for the Vecht family and the Jewish GIs, for a few hours that Purim night in Spa, Belgium, with Haman dead and Hitler on the run, with a Megillah reading and homemade hamantaschen, the world turned right side up.

Philip Vecht died in Antwerp in 1968; Henrietta Vecht died in London in 1985. Ralph Goodman lives in Pittsfied, Mass., and both Rosette Vecht Wolf and Romeo Vecht live in London. The Vechts and Goodman were reconnected for the first time since 1945 through the writing of this article

Guess Who?

This is the scenario:

You've got this guy in Iran who has a real problem with the Jews. He hates them and wants to wipe them off the planet. So he's devising this plan to get his way. First of all, he tries to curry favour with his powerful friends to get their support and establish his credentials. Then, he sets about building his weapon, hoping that it will be used as soon as possible to achieve his goal.

Sounds familiar? Well, it is, except that I'm talking about President Haman of Persia, who lived, oh about two thousand five hundred years ago or so.

Today is the Fast of Esther when we remember how Queen Esther of the eponymous book put her life of the line to protect our people. I am fasting, if only to beg G-d to do his thing and untangle the workings of the modern day Haman in Iran - Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The similarities between these two monsters is striking, both in their utter hatred of the Jews (compare Ahmadinejad's claims that that we made the Holocaust up with Haman's rantings about our nation) and their wish to "wipe us/our country" off the planet.

Haman constructed his gallows and Ahmadinejad is building his nuclear weapons.
Let's hope that both men share the same fate and that we can celebrate future Purims, stamping out the name of this new Haman alongside his predecessor.

I pray with all sincerity that G-d is listening this time too.