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

Sunday, 31 August 2008

Update On Jonathan

Those of you who have been following Jonathan's progress on his blog , which is the best place to go for all details will no doubt know that Thank G-d, things are looking much better and the surgery appears to have been a total success.

I felt however that it was only right to add an update here, to keep you abreast of the situation, since I did write about it on a number of occasions over the last few weeks.

Please do visit his blog to get full details:

http://jonathanshoham.spaces.live.com/

Shira is Five

You sit there and look at your newborn baby daughter, blink, blink again and when you look she's celebrating her fifth birthday!

My wonderful Shira is five on this very day. My baby is growing up!

What can I tell you about Shira that can't be described in these six words:

I
want
to
eat
her
up.

She has cuteness down to a tee and she knows it, but the charm that oozes out of her every pore, the intelligence that she brims with every look and utterance is utterly captivating. I know I shouldn't melt, but she makes everyone around her just about do the same thing whenever they lay their eyes on her.

In three words: Shira is gorgeous. That's not to say that her sisters are any less so, but today, my eyes are firmly fixed on her adorable little cheeks.

If you know Shira, I hope you'll agree and if you don't, take my word for it, she's quite something!

Happy birthday my darling and don't lose a single iota of your delightful personality. I hope the next 365 days allow us the opportunity to enjoy seeing you mature and develop in the same wonderful manner as you have to date.

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Day 5: Michal Is 8

Yet again, I have to rub my eyes in wonder and enquire as to what monster swallowed the last eight years. My Michali, gentle, sweet, ever-smiling has hit this monumental birthday (granted the special place it holds in our family) and is thoroughly enjoying her well-deserved birthday treat.

I don't want to spoil this post by describing the events of the day (which weren't particularly enjoyable) but choose instead to marvel at how another of my little princesses has come of age in such a graceful manner. I'm definitely a little prouder than I was twenty-four hours ago.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Day 4: The "Cholent" Park

It’s been an emotional day.

We drove to Antwerp, the city where both my parents were born and made our way to the Jewish cemetery in Putte, Holland, where I was able to go to the graves of my grandfather, great grandfather (after whom I am named) and great-grandmother, who shares her name with my mother. I’d last visited in 1993 and fifteen years flows by incredibly quickly.

We came back to Antwerp and I had a need to revisit the park of my youth, the “Cholent” Park as we call it, which lies in the centre of the city.

As a small child, my mother used to take me to Antwerp about every three months and I virtually grew up in the park. I can’t even innumerate the number of times, we crossed the road from my grandparents flat at 16 Rubenslei and entered the park, past the grand statue to the duck pond, which is long gone. At the pond, I used to meet my friends as they came out of Shul (Synagogue) on Shabbat mornings.

So many memories.

I’m glad to say that the park hasn’t changed much in 30+ years. Where there used to be a green patch, there now lies a wonderful children’s play area, the type that I wished would have existed when I was young. Sand has replaced the grass, but it is the still the same skyline I remember from those bygone days. The pathway around the duck-pond (sans ducks) has been pushed back and there is more green space. In fact, it is a much nicer place than it used to be! However, the memories can’t be erased or even defaced that easily.

I found the apartment where my grandparents used to live and even managed to get into the lobby. I stood there, memories gushing back to the time when we had to empty the flat when my grandmother came to live with us in England in the late 1970’s. How strange to be back accompanied by one my daughters. Bizarre, yet wonderful at the same time.

I left Antwerp, sadder than when I’d entered. Somehow I felt that once again, I’d reburied a little element of my past life in the shallow grave of my memory.

I know it’s the not last time I’ll return to either the Cholent Park or 16 Rubenslei.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Day 3: This One's For Dad

We celebrated my father’s 80th birthday on the 26th August and I would have loved to post a blog on the day, but not being able to access the internet at the time did have it’s limitations in this department.

What can I tell you about my dad? Knowing him, he’d probably deny any praise that I’d give him, because he is one of the most modest people I know. Maybe that’s the most appropriate adjective I can use.

Modesty.

Well, stuff that! We are talking about a highly gifted individual who draws beautifully, has an encyclopaedic knowledge of just about everything and has an innate kindness that he doesn’t like to admit to. He likes to portray himself as a tough nut, but this is just a Venetian mask. A few inches below the surface, he’s a total softie!

It took a while for me to appreciate him, not least because there is a world that separates us, 39 years of catching up to do. I guess I had to be that much older to realise what a special individual he is, but it was the worth the wait, to find out.

We were sitting in the car on the way to the Dover Docks on Sunday and I was telling Michal about how much my father has lived through in his life. It occurred to me as I was going through the list that he was only born ten years after the end of World War One. He’s lived through the depression, the Second World War, The creation of the State of Israel…..13 US presidents….etc etc etc.

That’s a lot of memory mileage. I doubt if any of us will ever witness such cataclysmic changes.

I know that I’m extraordinarily blessed to be able to share this milestone with him, as both his father and grandfather didn’t make it as far.

If you’re reading this, happy birthday Dad. I’m so proud and honoured to be your son. Be blessed with healthy, contentment and memory. Here’s to the next special birthday and beyond. 120 years is still a long way to go!

Monday, 25 August 2008

Day 2: Irritating The Flemish

Many of the Flemish people boast a proud history of hating both the Jews and the French Language in equal measure.

During the Second World War, they or their dear anscestors delighted in collaborating with the Nazis and this particular admiration for my brethren has continued into the present day, with the nationalistic Vlaams Belang party only the latest incarnation of the Flemish desire to gain idependence from Belgium and rid itself of non aryans. It's a grubby little party, made of up grubby little Flems.

You can therefore understand my sheer delight in going around the seaside resort we're staying in, on the Flemish coast of course, wearing my Kippah (skullcup) and talking French to any Flemish speaking person I could find. It was a lot of fun pissing them off, whilst noting the looks of disgust I received, particularly from the older folk, whom I am in no doubt, probably collaborated with the Nazis.

That said, Michal and I had a lot of fun in the heated swimming pool as I attempted to help her with her swimming. We visited the beautiful town of Ypres, which of course the Flemish have renamed (to Ieper) and in the evening, we met with old friends and went for a lovely walk around town (Kippah still in prominent position).

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Michali's Belgian Trip - Day 1

I want to start by confirming something that many of you already knew. I don't do boats. I really don't do them.

My parents, being the wonderful people that they are (and I write this in all sincerity) insisted on crossing the English Channel by boat. I tried my best to convince them to go by Eurostar, but I was never going to present an argument that could come anywhere near to the validity of using the ferry (it's cheaper).

Since I'm a guest, I can't really argue, but I still want it to be known that I don't do boats. I now have the motion sickness wristbands to prove it.

We reached the port of Dover early enough to catch the 11:05 ferry, despite being booked on the 12:15 one. It was a relatively calm crossing but the 90 minutes couldn't roll by fast enough as I longed to walk on a surface that didn't undulate.

From Calais, We made our way to the hotel in Belgium, which is very nice thank you and since we've arrived, I haven't done much else, aside from find my feet (ha ha ha) and getting into the holiday spirit.

The most important thing is that Michal is having a nice time and after all, this holiday is for her and her only. I'm just the chaparone. I believe that we will be visiting Ypres tomorrow, which promises to be quite an interesting experience, not least because this whole area was awash with blood less than a century ago.

Humour, Australian Style

These were posted on an Australian Tourism Website and the answers are the actual responses by the website officials, who obviously have a sense of humor

__________________________________________________

Q: Does it ever get windy in Australia ? I have never seen it rain on TV, how do the plants grow? ( UK ).

A: We import all plants fully grown and then just sit around watching them die.

__________________________________________________

Q: Will I be able to see kangaroos in the street? ( USA )

A: Depends how much you've been drinking.

__________________________________________________

Q: I want to walk from Perth to Sydney - can I follow the railroad tracks? ( Sweden )

A: Sure, it's only three thousand miles, take lots of water.

__________________________________________________

Q: Are there any ATMs (cash machines) in Australia ? Can you send me a list of them in Brisbane , Cairns ,Townsville and HerveyBay ? ( UK )

A: What did your last slave die of?

__________________________________________________

Q: Can you give me some information about hippo racing in Australia ? ( USA )

A: A-fri-ca is the big triangle shaped continent south of Europe ..
Aus-tra-lia is that big island in the middle of the Pacific which does not
... oh forget it. Sure, the hippo racing is every Tuesday night in Kings Cross. Come naked.

__________________________________________________

Q: Which direction is North in Australia ? ( USA )

A: Face south and then turn 180 degrees. Contact us when you get here and we'll send the rest of the directions.

_________________________________________________

Q: Can I bring cutlery into Australia ? ( UK )

A: Why? Just use your fingers like we do.

__________________________________________________

Q: Can you send me the Vienna Boys' Choir schedule? ( USA )

A: Aus-tri-a is that quaint little country bordering Ger-man-y, which is ...
oh forget it. Sure, the Vienna Boys Choir plays every Tuesday night in Kings Cross, straight after the hippo races. Come naked.

__________________________________________________

Q: Can I wear high heels in Australia ? ( UK )

A: You are a British politician, right?

____________________________ ______________________

Q: Are there supermarkets in Sydney and is milk available all year round? ( Germany )

A: No, we are a peaceful civilization of vegan hunter/gatherers.
Milk is illegal.

__________________________________________________

Q: Please send a list of all doctors in Australia who can Dispense rattlesnake serum. ( USA )

A: Rattlesnakes live in A-meri-ca which is where YOU come from.
All Australian snakes are perfectly harmless, can be safely handled and make good pets.

__________________________________________________

Q: I have a question about a famous animal in Australia , but I forget its name. It's a kind of bear and lives in trees. ( USA )

A: It's called a Drop Bear. They are so called because they drop out of Gum trees and eat the brains of anyone walking underneath them.
You can scare them off by spraying yourself with human urine before you go out walking.

__________________________________________________

Q: I have developed a new product that is the fountain of youth. Can you tell me where I can sell it in Australia ? ( USA )

A: Anywhere significant numbers of Americans gather.

__________________________________________________

Q: Can you tell me the regions in Tasmania where the female population is smaller than the male popula tion? ( Italy )

A: Yes, gay night clubs.

__________________________________________________

Q: Do you celebrate Christmas in Australia ? ( France )

A: Only at Christmas.

__________________________________________________

Q: I was in Australia in 1969 on R+R, and I want to contact the Girl I dated while I was staying in Kings Cross*. Can you help? ( USA )

A: Yes, and you will still have to pay her by the hour..

__________________________________________________

Q: Will I be able to speak English most places I go? ( USA )

A: Yes, but you'll have to learn it first.

Saturday, 23 August 2008

Michali's Moment

Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while will be aware of the special treat that is bestowed upon my girls, from my parents, when they reach their eighth birthday.

Dassi got to spend a week in New York. Tali hit Eilat and Michal, who reaches her milestone on Thursday will be visiting Belgium for the very first time in her life.

I like these holidays, not least because I get to tag along, which is not something you will hear me complaining about. This trip, however, is very special as I have Belgian blood flowing through my veins.

OK, maybe that didn't sound as good as it did when I thought it up, but since both my parents are Antwerp born (or in the general neighbourhood of the city), this is tantamount to my returning to my roots.

I spent a lot of time in Antwerp as a kid, since my mother used to take me there on a regular basis to visit my grandmother. I wouldn't say that I grew up in Antwerp, but damn near enough to feel particularly excited about sharing the city with one of my offspring.

That said, we won't be spending a lot of time in the city, since we are staying elsewhere, but a holiday is a holiday nevertheless and I'm looking forward to leaving Britain's shores, if only for a few days.

I can't quite believe that my little Michali is about to smash through her eighth birthday, but, as they say, time stops for no man (read that as women, child etc).

I'm taking my laptop with me, but I doubt if I'll manage to get a wireless connection. Maybe I'll just write my blogs up and post them when I get back....assuming that some smarmy Belgian doesn't walk off with it.

Liking the country, doesn't necessarily entail liking the people....

Friday, 22 August 2008

Movie Review: The Dark Knight (IMAX)


I positively had to see this film at the IMAX, although I was under the impression that it had been entirely filmed in this process. That said, the opening and closing scenes, as well as all the aerial shots were absolutely eye-popping to behold and this made the exorbitant entry fee (a gift from my wife) worth it.

The film is very very dark and unrelenting. Heath Ledger's performance is in one word, unforgettable. He not only chews up the scenery, he spits it out with a venom that even the world's deadliest snake could not muster. Maybe you feel it more because he's not around to repeat it. His joker is a nasty piece of work, with no sense of humour. Ok, maybe a little bit, but not the kind that we would laugh at.

The story is grim but magnetic and I didn't feel the generous length at any time. This might have been due to the fact that I was gawping at the IMAX effect. I must tell you that when you see Batman flying through the air peering at the ground, zillions of feet below, you are right there next to him and I did experience my vertigo kicking in (I kid you not).

This is definitely NOT a kids movie and I'm pretty surprised that it didn't get a 15 rating. If you can, see this at an IMAX, because it's worth the trip, but I would recommend booking your seat now. I booked mine on the 27th July, with yesterday being the first date when a decent seat was available.

****

Liverpool, Three Ladies And A Man

I was hoping that this blog would have been written up by my two eldest daughters, but it looks like this is not going to happen, as they don't seem to be as keen as I am to share their experiences of my adopted city.

My mother, Dassi, Tali and I went up to the city on Sunday. If you recall, I had promised Tali that she would go to Chester Zoo, accompanied by her oldest sister and grandmother...oh yes, and me.

The journey north didn't start too well as I managed to forget the free entry vouchers at home. A quick call to the zoo from the service station sorted the problem out. I would pay the full price and they would reimburse me the cost of two children's tickets. I suppose it was cheaper than turning around and going back home.

We staggered our way to the city and headed straight for the Liverpool John Lennon Airport as I wanted to show them the Yellow Submarine as well as see the terminal building for myself. I had seen the submarine when I visited two years ago, but hadn't got further than that. This time, I wanted to tick that little box on my to-do list.

It was worth it. The terminal building is stunning and you even get to read lyrics from John's Imagine album off the walls, as well as the obligatory "Give Peace A Chance" quote. I can't remember though whether they included "How Do You Sleep"....


The centre-piece is a lifelike statue of John, which everybody flanks and stands next to, for the obligatory photo-op.


My mom called some old friends that she felt she had to visit, so we left the airport and made a quick stop at their lovely bungalow in the Allerton district. We didn't stay too long, as supper was beckoning in a restaurant that I had aimed to get to by 5.00 - fat chance of that happening!

We did manage to down some supper and made our way to Gordon and Sonja's lovely B&B in the Wirral. I'd promised the girls that I would take them to my favourite spot, a lovely walk around the lake in West Kirby and to my delight, they were as taken with it as am I. It would have been a perfect walk, had the Liverpool weather been a little more welcoming.


Day two began with a trip to the supermarket to buy some new shoes for the girls and the plimsolls they'd braved the lake with, weren't going to see many more days in Liverpool, let alone the rest of the country. We got that out of the way and made our journey through the Queens tunnel into the heart of Liverpool.

First stop was the Beatles Story which has been expanded upon and improved. I was particularly taken by the four new cubicles highlighting the individual Beatles' achievements since the band broke up.

Next, it was time to visit the Cavern Quarter and I was particularly keen on seeing the newly opened Hard Days' Night Hotel, a minor trip which didn't disappoint. Let's be honest here, walking around the lobby is probably the nearest I'm going to get to staying there, granted the inflated prices they charge! That said, there is a lot to see amongst the exhibits displayed.

We went in The Grapes pub to meet my friend Sam Leach, who was a charming as ever and sprinkled his mischievous Liverpool wit in buckets on the four of us. It was a shame that we weren't able to spend more time together, as I had only parked the car for an hour in the city centre.

Fortunately, the weather held long enough for me to take the family to see Penny Lane, Strawberry Field, as well as the exterior of John and Paul's respective homes. By this time, the girls was getting fractious and my mother was almost begging to go home, so it was time to head back to the Wirral.

The girls begged me to go to West Kirby, so I obliged and we started to walk along the promenade around the lake, but the wind was blowing and the water from the lake more than seeping into our shoes. Maybe this wander wasn't such a good idea after all.

Next best thing. The girls played in the sand, whilst my mom and I watched them, seated in the comfort of the car.....parked alongside the beach.

Their fun however didn't last long as the heavens opened and I thanked the good Lord that I'd listened to my wise mother who'd suggested bringing the car closer to the sand! It had been a full day and I'd achieved most of what I'd set out to do. At least I could say that I'd shared my experience of Liverpool with the family.

We came to the third day with a great deal of expectation and certain complications. My mother had always said she wanted to visit the Liverpool Tate as they were holding an exhibition on Gustav Klimt, an artist that she admires. This could have caused a problem, if not for the kind offer of her friend (the husband and wife are members of the gallery and the visit operates on a timed system.....except if you are members) to take her round the exhibit.

We dropped her off and made our way to Chester Zoo, the original raison-d'etre for the visit. It was worth the trip because the zoo is nothing short of fabulous. My particular favourite moment was right at the start when we were watching the Elephants! It was incredible to see how they manipulated their trunks to pick up tree branches and put them into their mouths. I wasn't aware that an elephant has "fingers" at the end of it's trunk and can use these to turn the branches around, or indeed break them into smaller pieces. Quite extraordinary.

The other highlight was my facing a long held fear of bats. Tali and I aren't too keen on the winged creatures, but Dassi wanted to go into the free-flying bat cave. I hesitatingly agreed, my stomach churning and made it through alive. The funniest point though being when Tali asked me to let go of her hand! I know who was more frightened of those horrible flying rats.

To make her point even more obvious, she and Dassi ended up going into the cave three times. I hope you will understand that I didn't follow.

We did something quite smart. Tali said she wanted to see the aquarium, which is situated across the park from the entrance, so we aimed for the spot and in the process saw the entire zoo. The weather was not pleasant, but it didn't stop us having a grand day out.

Time to go.

We went back into Liverpool to pick my mother up and then out again, to head back to London, which we reached about five hours later. I know I should have taken more breaks, especially when driving at night, but getting home at midnight was probably late enough.

I scored my third hat trick and Liverpool is still beckoning to me. Oh well, there's always next year.

(If you're my friend on Facebook, feel free to have a look at the photos I've uploaded.)

Thursday, 21 August 2008

A Japanese View of the Palestinians

This letter written by someone with no vested interest in either side really nails it. Please take the time to read it, and if you agree with its importance perhaps you will consider distributing it to your e-mail distribution lists. It is important for people to know the truth.......

" If you are so sure that Palestine, the country, goes back through most of recorded history I expect you to be able to answer a few basic questions about that country:

  • When was it founded and by whom?
  • What were its borders?
  • What was its capital?
  • What were its major cities?
  • What constituted the basis of its economy?
  • What was its form of government?
  • Can you name at least one Palestinian leader before Arafat?
  • Was Palestine ever recognized by a country whose existence, at that time or now, leaves no room for interpretation?
  • What was the language of the country of Palestine?
  • What was the prevalent religion of the country of Palestine?
  • What was the name of its currency?
  • Choose any date in history and tell what was the approximate exchange rate of the Palestinian monetary unit against the US dollar, German mark, GB pound, Japanese yen, or Chinese Yuan on that date.
  • And, finally, since there is no such country today, what caused its demise and when did it occur?

If you are lamenting the low sinking of a once proud nation. Please tell me, when exactly was that nation proud and what was it so proud of?

And here is the least sarcastic question of all: If the people you mistakenly call Palestinians are anything but generic Arabs collected from all over -- or thrown out of -- the Arab world, if they really have a genuine ethnic identity that gives them right for self-determination, why did they never try to become independent until Arabs suffered their devastating defeat in the Six Day War?

I hope you avoid the temptation to trace the modern day Palestinians to the Biblical Philistines: substituting etymology for history won't work here.

The truth should be obvious to everyone who wants to know it. Arab countries have never abandoned the dream of destroying Israel; they still cherish it today. Having time and again failed to achieve their evil goal with military means, they decided to fight Israel by proxy.

For that purpose, they created a terrorist organization, cynically called it the Palestinian people and installed it in Gaza, Judea, and Samaria. How else can you explain the refusal by Jordan and Egypt to unconditionally accept back the West Bank and Gaza, respectively?

The fact is, Arabs populating Gaza, Judea, and Samaria have much less claim to nationhood than that Indian tribe that successfully emerged in Connecticut and California with the purpose of starting a tax-exempt casino: at least that tribe had a constructive goal that motivated them. The so-called Palestinians have only one motivation: the destruction of Israel, and in my book that is not sufficient to consider them a nation -- or anything else except what they really are: a terrorist organization that will one day be dismantled.

In fact, there is only one way to achieve peace in the Middle East. Arab countries must acknowledge and accept their defeat in their war against Israel and, as the losing side, should pay Israel reparations for the more than 50 years of devastation they have visited on it. The most appropriate form of such reparations would be the removal of their terrorist organization from the land of Israel and accepting Israel's ancient sovereignty over Gaza, Judea, and Samaria.

That will mark the end of the Palestinian people. What are you saying again, was its beginning?

You are absolutely correct in your understanding of the Palestinians murderous motives.

I am afraid however that you, along with 99% of the population of this planet, have missed the beginning of WW III (they call it Jihad) quite a few years ago. The siege of the US embassy in Tehran in 1979, an event to which the latest Nobel Peace Prize winner had so miserably failed to respond, can be very well used as the day WW III stepped out of the pages of the Koran and into the current events. I pray the United States and Israel lead the world to victory in this war.

Come to think of it, there is no choice, be you a Christian, a Jew, or even, believe it or not, a Muslim.

This letter was written by Yashiko Sagamori on Nov 6, 2002.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Liverpool Revisited

We're into the second week of August, which can only mean one thing...

My annual Liverpool trip.

Discounting my recent excursion to the city, which for all intents and purposes was severely curtailed by the pressures of work, I will be revisiting my adopted city for the third year running.

This year's trip takes on some very special guest stars, namely my mom, Dassi and Tali. I can't wait to share the city with them and create some great new memories. This trip, though shorter than the last two, has been some months in the planning and although we're only going to be there for three days, only one will be spent in the city itself. On Tuesday, we will be visiting Chester and giving Tali her Afikomen present, albeit four months late.

The weather might be interesting, but even if it pours, I can't wait to share my love of Penny Lane, Strawberry Fields and the like with my family. As wonderful as it was to visit the places with friends, nothing can compare taking my daughters and mom to the the places "I'll remember all my life...."

I won't be writing a Liverpool diary this time around, because you've probably read it all before, but rest assured, I'll try to give you a resume when I get back.

It won't be long yeah.....

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Friday, 15 August 2008

Existence

It is 1939 and I'm sitting in my house, reading a letter that informs me of the rejection of my visa by the United States. I've already tried getting into numerous countries but nobody wants to grant me access. The stateless Jew.

What will happen to me?

What will become of my parents, wife, children?

Who will help me?

Who will save me from the Nazis, Poles, Ukrainians, Lithuanians?


It is 2008 and I'm sitting in my house, looking at a gentlemen, an emissary of the Israeli Government who tells me to pack my bags as soon as possible.

Gather my parents, wife and children.

Meet him by the car in 15 minutes.

Because In 24 hours, we will all be in Israel.

Safe.

And some anti-semitic/zionist bastard has the nerve to tell me that there is no justification for the existence of the State of Israel?

Sunday, 10 August 2008

My Nine(teen) Days

Those of you who know me well (and there aren't that many of you about) are probably aware that beneath my sunny, modern exterior, there lies an intensely religious individual.

I can't help who I am. I can joke, tease and have fun, but, take a moment to look behind the smile and you may be surprised at what you find.

I write all of this because I've just come out of a twenty-five hour fast and I'm probably hallucinating on an unhealthily sugar rush. After all, this is only time (i.e. after a fast) when I'm not ill that I bother to drink tea.

Two cups noch.

So where is all this coming from? Why the philosophy? Why the thoughts? I should just take it easy, enjoy the novelty of feeding and watering myself and let things lie. It has been a long emotional and exhausting day, as I wrote in my last post. Relax Mr Scribbler. Relax!

But I can't do that because my Deeply Religious Insides (TM) are bursting to let forth and I now feel the need to explain my behaviour over the last nine days - and probably to warn all of you out there that we've got another ten days for me to deal with before I can be the warm, fuzzy scribbler that some of you profess to like.

OK, here's a little secret. I don't do stress well. I really don't. It freaks me out. Always has. Always will.

There, I've written it.

So what's new?
Am I different to you?
Do you cope better?

Some explanation is required.

There are two periods of the Jewish calendar that seriously....and I mean seriously...stress me out. They are the Nine Days we've just come through, from Rosh Chodesh Av (the 1st day of the Hebrew month of Av) to Tisha B'av (9th Av) and the ten days that make up the first week of the New Year, from Rosh Hashanah through to Yom Kippur.

As long as I can remember, I've coped pretty disastrously with these nineteen days.

Is it because I dread the upcoming fasts (which nine times out of ten aren't half as bad as I'd imagined) or are my Deeply Religious Insides (TM) troubled by the seriousness of each respective period of time? In other words, am I freaking out because I fear that I've done something wrong and I will exact divine retribution during this period or beyond? Or have I developed this fear of "losing it" which makes me do it automatically?

Let me put it this way.

During the Nine/Ten days, I know that I am not myself. I withdraw into this bizarre shell; pull the metaphorical hatches down and act like someone who is out there alone in the Artic, walking into a raging blizzard.

Maybe my soul is trying to tell me something. Maybe it's that conscience - the one I attempt (pretty feebly I must add) to control or even ignore? I honestly - and I mean this wholeheartedly - honestly do not know. All I can say is that something within me switches/turns/transmogrifies my physical and mental state when the Jewish calendar rolls on to the 1st's of both Av and Tishri.

I know that this is case because of the way I feel as soon as the dates are done - or more precisely - the fasts are over. I feel the weight of the world being lifted from my shoulders and the sunnier aspects of my personality actively driving the dark - oh so very very dark - clouds away.

It could be the fasting. It might be my relief that the refrigerator's contents are once again there for my taking, without the worry of having to wait for a day to reach out and ingest them.
I would like to think that the reasons are more meaningful than that.

It could be that aspect I talked about at the start.

Perhaps my Deeply Religious Insides (TM) are reminding me that being sunny is all well and good, but at the end of the day, it means diddly squat if there isn't a little rain cloud waiting in the wings - without which, the sun would never receive it true appreciation.

Finally, am I alone in fielding these emotions?

Can you relate?

Tisha B'Av - 9th of Av

I've made it through most of the day. The fast finishes in just over three hours and it's been quite an emotional ride through the history of our suffering, which was compensated somewhat by being part of a group of friends who ran special activities for kids in our local Synagogue.

That said, spending most of the day in Shul (syngaogue) has its benefits. not least because I don't have to keep on looking at my watch, waiting for the fast to end. That's the fun kind of thing I can do now that I am back at home.

Did I mention that it's just over three hours until I can eat?.......

Friday, 8 August 2008

Awaiting Beijing

I can pinpoint the moment when I became fascinated with China. It was about a quarter of the way through watching The Last Emperor in a small cinema in Antwerp, Belgium. I used to go to the city with my mother every now and again when she wanted to visit old friends and go to the my grandfather's grave in Putte, Holland. This was around April, 1987, just a few months before I was due to leave high school.

I remember feeling uneasy at the time, not least because I didn't quite know what awaited me, both before and after the upcoming 'A' Level exams.

The film managed to do something that very few movies have achieved either before or since.

It took me far away from the cinema and transported my entire body and soul into the bowels of the Forbidden City. In hindsight, I wonder if I ever entirely came back, because my fascination with China has endured longer than the film's generous running time. I have yet to visit the country (physically).

That's why I find myself excitedly waiting for the TV coverage of the games to begin. I haven't bothered with Olympic Opening Ceremonies in the past, but this one is different. This spectacle is happening in China, not too far away from the bits of me that are deeply embedded inside the Forbidden City.

Could this be the reason why I've downloaded a widget to inform me of what's going on in the games? Will I do something I've never done before and actually watch the Olympic Games?

I don't know. I might get bored after the opening ceremony. Everything might pale into insignificance when compared to the visual treat that I know awaits me.

Beijing 2008 has managed to do something to me that I hadn't experienced before. I guess it must be the remains of that fortune cookie, resting on the edge of my psyche....deep inside the City that has been to date been forbidden to the rest of my physical being.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

The Hiroshima "What Ifs"

There is still a debate as to whether or not the bombing of Hiroshima on 6th August 1945 is justifiable. In our home, we fall into two camps.

Dana holds the view that there can be no reason whatsoever to kill innocent people (an argument that I can't disagree with), whilst I believe that dropping the bomb was an act that had to take place to end the war. What we both agree on, is that the bombing of Nagasaki should not have taken place.

From reading some respectable research on the Internet, I see that we are not the only two people in the world who hold this view. Appropriately, historians are divided into two similar camps.

I base my arguments on the notion of what might/would have happened if the atomic bomb had not been deployed over the skies of Japan. How would history have evolved had the atomic bomb stayed at home?

We know that, as a result of Hiroshima, the world was plunged head first into the Atomic Age. The Soviet Union and The United States embarked on the Cold War that my generation grew up in. I'm not as old as though who can remember the Cuban Crisis, but from what I've heard, the saving factor was that both the US and USSR knew what would happen if they used the "N" option.

I believe that some facts are inescapable.

Had the bomb not been dropped in 1945, it would have been deployed eventually, because humans are like that. We create technology to use and to see how it operates in extreme conditions. I can't believe that the Russians would not have tried it out on someone, somewhere.

The Cold War may have taken on a different mantle, but I believe that it was inevitable in a post-war environment. Stalin was in the "expansion business" as evidenced by the Soviet desire to create an Iron Curtain, as Churchill so aptly put it in March 1946, across Europe. Let's not forget that, at the same time, the US also wanted to colonise the world and spread the concept of Capitalism (which, let's face it is much more appealing than Communism) to as many countries who were willing to listen and play along with.

In other words, you had two superpowers selling their wares and vying for global domination, albeit through a different prism.

Do we know how differently these empires would have resembled, had Hiroshima not emblazoned itself into the annals of history? No.

Then again, as we look at the present standoff with Iran, can we ignore the ghost of 6th August 1945?

Not one jot.

Maybe, that's the rub. We view the present from the experience of the past and realise that had Little Boy and Fat Man not shown us the devastation that they did - albeit at one megaton, a fraction of the power that could be harnessed today - would we be so frightened of and attuned to the kind of weapon that the Iranians are refusing to abandon?

I think not.

Today, 6th August 2005, I sit here asking questions and pondering the validity of what happened exactly 63 years ago. In Iran, I would wager that Ahmadinejad doesn't even realise the significance of this date as he checks over the last progress on his country's drive to become nuclear and perhaps that is why the bomb had to be dropped.

What took place on this date reminds people like us that there are far more important ways of making your mark on the world than constructing bombs.

Perhaps that is the only way to commemorate the 6th of August in a meaningful manner. It's not just about remembering the innocents who died on that terrible day.

I don't want to find myself thinking about the What Ifs in regard to Iran's nuclear programme.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

The Assassination Of Muhammed Suleiman

The Syrian general who organized the consignment of plutonium for the nuclear reactor (from the North Koreans) has been shot dead. He was also Assad's communication channel with Iran as well as acting as a Assad's contact with Hizbullah. What a guy.

I know that he will be sorely missed.

Particularly by any self respecting terrorist.

Monday, 4 August 2008

Cruelty In The Extreme

I'm angry to report that the doctor who was examining my friend Jonathan's results - made a mistake and as result, the news is not as positive as we had all been led to believe. I won't go into the details because I urge you to read them on Jonathan's blog.

I know that this mistake was not at all intentional, but I wonder if this man gave his action a second thought before he put down the X-ray, realised that he'd not divulged the full facts and looked at the next client's results. There's an old joke about differentiating surgeons from G-d. The punchline goes along the lines of "well, at least G-d doesn't think he's a surgeon".

Jonathan is more than an x-ray and he really doesn't deserve to be dealt with in such a cruel manner, irrespective of whether or not this was a mistake. Is this the first time that this has happened? No. Will it be the last? No - and that's what I am so angry about.

Please read his blog, which you can find here.

A Farce In Gaza

I couldn't help but smile pretty smugly when I read that Fatah's Palestinians had rushed over to Israel to escape Hamas's Palestinians.

If that wasn't enough, CNN had the chutzpah to criticize Israel for sending 30 of them back. How cruel we Jews must be to carry out such an inhumane act....repatriating Palestinians to Gaza!

That Israel allowed these bloodthirsty terrorists to enter her borders and then provide them with free hospital treatment for wounds inflicted by their brethren - before sending some back to their Gazan homes - obviously wasn't acceptable enough in the jaded eyes of the world's media.

A farce indeed.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Jewish Blogging

In effort to syndicate my blog to a wider audience, I've joined a great blogging ring called Jewish Blogging. If you've got a few moments, have a look at the site and you'll find some pretty cool stuff.

Our American Cousins...

I have a genuine love for most things American, which is probably due to my dad being a citizen of that amazing country. However, one cannot but deny that some of his fellow compatriots aren't exactly the sharpest cards in the pack. If you've seen the Borat movie, you'll know exactly where I'm coming from.

Here are some "idiot sightings" as they've been referred to in the email I was sent. They literally bought tears to my eyes and I'm not kidding.

We had to have the garage door repaired. The Sears repairman told us that one of our problems was that we did not have a "large" enough motor on the opener. I thought for a minute, and said that we had the largest one Sears made at that time, a 1/2 horsepower. He shook his head and said, "Lady, you need a 1/4 horsepower." I responded that 1/2 was larger than 1/4. He said, "NO, it's not." Four is larger than two.."


We haven't used Sears repair since.


My daughter and I went through the McDonald's take-out window and I gave the clerk a $5 bill. Our total was $4.25, so I also handed her a quarter. She said, "you gave me too much money." I said, "Yes I know, but this way you can just give me a dollar bill back." She sighed and went to get the manager who asked me to repeat my request. I did so, and he handed me back the quarter, and said "We're sorry but they could not do that kind of thing." The clerk then proceeded to give me back $1 and 75 cents in change.

Do not confuse the clerks at McD's.


I live in a semi rural area. We recently had a new neighbor call the local township administrative office to request the removal of the DEER CROSSING sign on our road. The reason: "Too many deer are being hit by cars out here! I don't think this is a good place for them to be crossing anymore."

From Kingman , KS


My daughter went to a local Taco Bell and ordered a taco. She asked the person behind the counter for "minimal lettuce." He said he was sorry, but they only had iceberg lettuce.

From Kansas City


I was at the airport, checking in at the gate when an airport employee asked, "Has anyone put anything in your baggage without your knowledge?" To which I replied, "If it was without my knowledge, how would I know?" He smiled knowingly and nodded, "That's why we ask."

Happened in Birmingham , Ala.



The stoplight on the corner buzzes when it's safe to cross the street. I was crossing with an intellectually challenged coworker of mine. She asked if I knew what the buzzer was for. I explained that it signals blind people when the light is red. Appalled, she responded, "What on earth are blind people doing driving?!"

She was a probation officer in Wichita , KS


At a good-bye luncheon for an old and dear coworker. She was leaving the company due to "downsizing." Our manager commented cheerfully, "This is fun. We should do this more often." Not another word was spoken. We all just looked at each other with that deer-in-the-headlights stare.

This was a lunch at Texas Instruments.



I work with an individual who plugged her power strip back into itself and for the sake of her life, couldn't understand why her system would not turn on.
A deputy with the Dallas County Sheriffs office, no less.


When my husband and I arrived at an automobile dealership to pick up our car, we were told the keys had been locked in it. We went to the service department and found a mechanic working feverishly to unlock the drivers side door. As I watched from the passenger side, I instinctively tried the door handle and discovered that it was unlocked. "Hey," I announced to the technician, "its open!" His reply, "I know. I already got that side."

This was at the Ford dealership in Canton , Mississippi

Friday, 1 August 2008

The Soul Reason For Blogging II

It gives me immense pleasure to share with you the knowledge that my friend Jonathan has received the results of his biopsy and they are negative. I'm sure that his feet haven't quite touched the ground.

I wonder if the power of blogging had any impact (albeit minuscule) on the outcome?!