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

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Thrilled But Saddened

What happened to the fresh face that beamed from the cassette cover?

I'm of the generation that remembers the impact of the release of Thriller. I remember going into Oliver Crombie in Golders Green Road and buying the tape. I had to. I just had to get it for myself. Everyone else I knew was listening to it. It was all over the news.

I still remember sticking it my first Walkman, a metallic red cage, probably one of the first models which still works today. I recall hearing the songs, this being before I had got into The Beatles and wondering when I would hear the Thriller song, not realising that Michael Jackson was not singing "Driller" but indeed "Thriller" - hey I was 14, I was allowed to be stupid at that age.

I instantly fell in love with Billy Jean, I mean, how could you not get taken in by that entrancing beat? I loved Beat It and PYT and yes, even Human Nature. This was the first real album that I'd bought into, my virginal album experience. So for me Thriller has a very special significance. This was 1982 and there was nobody cooler on the planet than Michael Jackson.

When Bad came out, I'd already lot enough interest to avoid buying the album, although I admit that I'd copied it from the vinyl onto cassette. It was MJ do his thing again, but without the sheer sweetness of Thriller (although I Just Can't Stop Loving You was and is an absolutely gorgeous number). I eventually went out to re-bought Thriller on CD, as well Off The Wall- and I still remember shaking the house as I danced in my room to Don't Stop Til You Get Enough!

I could never have guessed that the face on the cover of my special album would become so unrecognisable over time and that this icon of the 1980's would end up being involved fronting such sordid headlines.

Over time, my so called love affair with MJ turned decidedly cold, not unlike that of others in my generation. Thriller transmogrified into more a chiller and now, so 27 years later, I stand confused at what's exactly happened to this ultimately tragic figure.

I want to play Thriller again and marvel at the talent who, along with others introduced me to a different musical experience. I just hope that I can erase everything that I've learned about Michael Jackson since the moment I pressed play on that trusty old Sony Walkman, in my mother's car, in Hodford Road, Golders Green, back in 1982.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Talking Essex

The following will be totally lost on anyone who doesn't know the way people in Essex talk. If you do, prepare to smile...

alma chizzit - A request to find the cost of an item

amant - Quantity; sum total ("Thez a yuge amant of mud in Saffend")

assband - Unable to leave the house because of illness, disability etc

awss - A four legged animal, on which money is won, or more likely lost ("That awss ya tipped cost me a fiver t'day")

branna - More brown than on a previous occasion ("Ere, Trace, ya look branna today, ave you been on sunbed?")

cort a panda - A rather large hamburger

Dan in the maff - Unhappy ("Wossmatta, Trace, ya look a bit Dan in the maff")

eye-eels - Women's shoes

Furrock - The location of Lakeside Shopping Centre

garrij - A building where a car is kept or repaired(Trace: "Oi, Darren, I fink the motah needs at go in the garrij cos it aint working proper")

Ibeefa - Balaeric holiday island

lafarjik - Lacking in energy ("I feel all lafarjik")

OI OI! - Traditional greeting. Often heard from the doorway of pubs or during banging dance tunes at clubs

paipa - The Sun, The Mirror or The Sport

reband - The period of recovery and emotional turmoil after rejection by a lover ("I couldn't elp it, I wuz on the reband from Craig")

Saffend - Essex coastal resort boasting the longest pleasure pier in the world. The place where the characters from TV's, popular soap opera, Eastenders go on holiday

tan - The city of London , the big smoke

webbats - Querying the location something or someone is. ("Webbats is me dole card Trace? I've gotta sign on in arf hour")

wonnid - 1. Desired, needed. 2. Wanted by the police

zaggerate - To suggest that something is bigger or better than it actually is. ("I told ya a fazzand times already")

Monday, 22 June 2009

A Letter to Barack Obama


Machon Ohr Aaron and Betsy Spijer

Thoughts to Ponder 240

Nathan Lopes Cardozo

President Barack Obama

I am a Jew.
I stand at the Western Wall.

How long do I stand here?
Nearly 4000 years,
since the days of my grandfather Abraham
when he nearly sacrificed his son
at Mount Moriah.

I see the Wall with its frozen tears,
and passing clouds with many sighs.
I read millions of names:
Born in Egypt, Babylon, Rome, Poland,
Spain, Hungary, America and South Africa.

But that was only in a dream.
In reality
we Jews were all born in Israel, and then exiled by Titus.
Although most of us began our childhoods
in foreign countries,
we merely camped in these places, but never dwelled in them.

And at the end of our lives,
Though our tombstones may stand in Exile,
our bodies are buried in the dust of Israel.


The return to Zion is unprecedented.
It is sui generis.
The State of Israel is a surprise,
a shock,
for it is the story of a nation in exile
which never had to return because it never left.
It lifted its Holy Land from its native soil,
transformed it into a portable homeland,
carrying it to all corners
of the earth,
only to replant it again in its native land
when the students of Titus can no longer prevent it from doing so.

Mr. President,

Israel was not built on the ashes of Auschwitz.
It is founded on the Bible,
a divine text rooted in the Jewish experience of nearly 4000 years.
A "Heilsgeschichte", a Redemptive History
for all of mankind.

Israel was not created because of the Holocaust,
but rather despite the Holocaust.



Only the Jews, for thousands of years, prayed and continue to pray for its rebuilding.

No other people.

Only the Jews mourn its destruction of nearly two thousand years ago.

No other nation.

It is only they who weep, sitting on the floor on the date of the Temple's desecration
in the month of Av, year after year.

No other people.

It is only they who for two thousand years break a glass under the marriage canopy, an expression of sorrow for Jerusalem.
(How many millions of glasses were broken throughout exile?)

No other nation.

It is only the Jews who for thousands of years build their houses but leave a part of the wall unplastered because of the loss of their Temple.

No other people.

It is only Jewish women who do not wear all their jewelry at once, in deference to the destruction of the House of God.

No other women.

And it is only the Jews who cover their dead with the dust of the land of Israel even when they bring their dear ones to their final resting place outside the land of Israel.

No other burial society.

Neither Titus' offspring,
nor Saladin's descendants,
nor Godfrey of Bouillon, the crusader, nor his children,
ever mourned, prayed or buried their dead in the Earth of the Holy Land.

This, dear President, you must learn.

For without this knowledge,
there will be no way to make peace.

Nathan Lopez Cardozo

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Getting On...

Monday, 15 June 2009

Netanyahu Raises His Game

I don't envy Bibi.

After Obama's speech, there was very little he could say that would invite the kind of platitudes that his erstwhile but exceedingly naive predecessor garnered on his Cairo outing.

That said, I don't think the man did half as badly as many thought he would.

I believe that he stepped up to the microphone and delivered a speech that we as a Jewish nation can be justly proud of.

Bibi knows that whatever he says, he's going to put himself in the line of the fire. The rightists will never concede an inch of land and ideally speaking, they really shouldn't need to.The real world though says that we don't have much choice, not as long as the occupant of the White House is breathing down our necks waiting for our move.

The Palestinians of course rejected his offer of a demilitarized state and came up with the frankly ridiculous argument that we would be sticking them inside a ghetto. If anyone has the slightest knowledge of what constituted a ghetto like Warsaw or indeed Venice, they would know that this is a fatuous and indeed facile response. Then again, the Palis have never lost an opportunity to lose an opportunity as Ebba Eban memorably stated.

I think that Bibi's speech was brave, forthright and on the mark. The truth is that, whether we like it or not, the only view that really counts is the one that emanates from inside the Oval Office. The BBC, Sky, CNN and yes, even the "wonderful" Europeans can talk as much rubbish as they like and dissect the ideas as though they were engaged in a Year 11 science project (frog included) - but this is all for nought.

Obama liked the speech and at the end of the day, we have no choice but to go along with what he wants, irrespective of whether or not we like his views.

You know me. I am a rightist. I believe in the entire land of Israel belonging to the Jewish nation. If I had my way, I would kick the Arabs (including the Israeli ones who wholeheartedly sympathise with the "Palestinian Cause", whatever that might be these days) into Jordan and give them their due heritage. I don't have an issue with our taking back our land. I also know that this is an impossible ideal which won't ever happen, at least until the arrival of the Messiah. So we have to deal with the next best thing - which is what Bibi and everyone else has admitted needs to be done.

I'm also wise enough to know that the Palestinians themselves are too divided and hell bent on destroying anything that is ever given to them - to agree to Bibi, Obama or dammit, every other well-wisher's proposals.They have a long history of, for want of a better phrase "shooting themselves in the foot". They have been offered a state on numerous occasions and failed to rise to the occasion, which is of course something they are repeating yet again with their rejection of the speech (unless of course this was a ploy on Abbas's behalf to pacify any of the Palestinians who are still listening to him).

Obama did make a valid point about future steps needing to be discussed in the dark recesses of the limelight's shadow. With the posturing over, Abbas might be interested in showing that he is the true leader and statesman his people are crying out for. History has shown that they have been short-changed time and time again - and if their continued love and admiration for a terrorist like Arafat is anything to go by, they're not going to get very far in their desire to prove themselves as an entity that Israel or the rest of the world will be bothered to engage with.

The ball, as they say, is squarely within their court. My feeling is that it is now lodged in a pit, halfway between the gateway and the door to the outhouse. The issue is whether the Palestinians have anyone in their ranks who is brave or indeed strong enough to kick it over the wall into Israel or indeed the West itself.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Hate Does Not Disciminate

It breaks my heart.
It truly breaks my heart.

Yesterday, in Washington DC, an 88 year old pathetic excuse for a human being walked into a museum and shot a guard dead.

Let's rephrase that.

A white man walked into a building owned by Jews and shot a black man dead.

The building housed the Holocaust Museum.

The Holocaust is by far the most shocking example of man's inhumanity towards his fellow creature. It represents everything that is reprehensible about human-kind and yet, the ultimate irony is that a white supremacist used this location -this very location, to demonstrate exactly what was so inconceivable, but seventy years ago.

Where do we go from here?
What have we learned?
How, in G-d's name (or lack thereof), can so little have been learned in so much time?

The only thing to say, I suppose is that for every piece of homosapien waste that walks the earth, there are (hopefully) many many others humans who use their lives for a more positive purpose.

I hope that the eighty-eight year old doesn't die. I hope that he lives and suffers long enough to see that, when it comes to it, the only message that comes out of something as horrific as the Holocaust is the destruction of the warped ideals that he obviously believes in.

At 88 years old, he won't change his views, but that doesn't mean that we shouldn't totally despise every single thing that this execrable human being believes in.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

(On The Way To) Becoming Me

Last Monday, my body went past the forty-first and-a-half anniversary of it's first encounter with the external world (why is it that only kids can get away with adding fractions to their age?).

I can't say that I noticed much change from the day before. I was too busy teaching kids, preparing lessons, trying to keep my excitable wife and kids calm and so forth. It came and went, pretty much like the previous data, six months afore.

Then again, I have marked it because I'm sitting here at 05:39, writing about it nine days later.

I was musing (as I often do) about reaching this venerable - or maybe not - age.

When I was a kid, I didn't know what I wanted to either do or be. Being Jewish, there is a lot of peer pressure to be successful. All the kids in my class were going to be either very rich, very educated and very rich or simply failures.

I suppose that I always knew I wouldn't be rich. For one thing, I didn't come from a wealthy family (which obviously helps) and for another, I wondered whether I would ever be good enough to get the kind of job that attached itself to a high salary.

To many of my said peers, it didn't seem to matter what they were, so as much as what they would become, which is understandable.

It was always a given that I would go to university, even if this vision for me was more of a mirage that actually the cold truth of fact. I didn't particularly have an interest to go to Yeshiva (Jewish Seminary), although most of my friends did indeed do so.

What wasn't ever discussed by either my teachers or friends was the aspiration to become someone of worth, without a single penny being considered. I don't ever remember being told by either my peers or teachers that the ultimate gift we could bestow on the world we lived in was by becoming menschen - decent human beings.

Now I'm not saying that any of us didn't believe that this was possible. I don't suppose you really think of things like that when you're 14. The attraction of mammon is just too addictive and overwhelming to be shoved aside by something as petty as decency, but I do wonder, after how many years of toil, how close any of use has come to that goal.

The first thing to state is that no-one can categorically state that they are a mensch. It is up to others to believe this of a person. Yes, we can aspire to attain this lofty status, but at the end of the day, how do we know if we've done enough. How many good deeds in the Bank of Life get us onto the mensch scale? If we behave in a way that is unbecoming, does that destroy all our attempts at menschkeit?

These questions are the unfathomables. I honestly don't know the answer to any of them.
What I do recognise though is my inner desire to be a mensch - not so much recognised as one, because I'm not after the kudos, but to do the very best I can to treat people in a decent and fair manner.

Speak to my wife and she'll probably disagree with me. Do the same with my children and friends and maybe even parents (and know I'm not trying to get any compliments if you're reading this), but notwithstanding all of their opinions, I'm still on that path.

I didn't make it in the money stakes. Became a teacher. Deal with as much stress as a stockbroker for a quarter of the pay. Come home and do even more work, all of it unpaid. End up being abused by obnoxious teenagers (not all, but a fair few) and teachers who should really know better (no names). It's very far from the chocolate waters of the Garden of Eden.

But something within me keeps on driving me on. I feel that I've changed more as a person in the last six months than in the four hundred and ninety two that preceded them (blimey, I'm four hundred and ninety eight months old - now that's depressing). For the first time in my life, I've made a conscious effort to work on myself, not only physically but much deeper inside my corps.

If you ask those around me, I hope they will see the difference. I am less prone to get angry and much calmer within myself. I am in no doubt that the fact I exercise on a daily basis has a lot to do with it, because I feel so much better within. It didn't hurt that I also got the job I'd been wanting to get for five years back in January.

But at the heart of it, I feel that I'm doing more to bring myself closer to the role that G-d placed me on this earth to perform (because at the end of the day, I credit everything I am and have become to Him) - I am finally becoming me, the person I always wanted to be, but have only just discovered, just as I hit my forty first and-a-half birthday.