DOREEN'S COLUMN
Doreen
From time to time Doreen will share happenings, experiences, thoughts and ideas through this column.

Go to Doreen and Eitan's Home Page

Column 43: Thoughts on a visit to Riga
Column 42: For Lotem on her batmitzvah (October 2017)
Column 41 - Impressions of our cruise to Iceland (August 2017)
Column 40 - A short visit to Vienna (July 2017)
Column 39 - Donkey Milk
Column 38 - Our trip to Portugal
Column 37 - Fire terrorists (26 November 2016)
Column 36 - A visit to the 9/11 Memorial
Column 35 - July 2016. The "Road to Recovery concert" conducted by Maestro Mehta
Column 34 - Our visit to Moscow
Column 33 - May 2016 A visit to Jenin
Column 32 -  Jerusalem in Rome
Column 31 - On the Glazer Family  
Column 30 - February 2016 - Why "Breaking the Silence" should not remain silent
Column 29 - (January 2016) - A tour of the Hebron Hills with Breaking the Silence.
Column 28 - (September 2015) - Doreen's Shana Tova Letter
Column 27 - (July 2015) - A visit to the North Norway Islands
Column 26 - (May 2015) - Stuffed Camel
Column 25 - (April 2015) - A visit to Prague
Column 24 - (Nov/Dec. 2014) Meeting up again with the Ogdens
Column 23 - Dalia Lamdani and the ostrich egg brunch
Column 22 (July 2014) - My thoughts on Operation Protective Edge
Column 21 (June 2014) - Doreen's 70th
Column 20 (May 2014) - A Visit to the West Bank
Column 19 (April 2014) - A Visit to Vietnam
Column 18 (March 2014) - A dive  in the shipwreck "Yongala"
Column 17 (October 2013) - some sites, family and friends in Johannesburg
Column 16 (September 2013) - Some musings on Sukkot.
Column 15 (July 2013) - My impressions and thoughts on a trip to Poland
Column 14 (July 2013) : A yachting trip to Corsic
Column 13 (June 2013): Other things to do in London
Column 12 (May 2013) - A few days in Devon
Column 11 (May 2013) Keeping in touch via recipes
Column 10 (March/pril 2013) Visits to Australia and Myanmar
Column 9 (March 2013 -A visit  to Herodion.)
Column 8 (January 2013  A trip to the Golan)
Column 7 (October 2012 in Townsville, Australia)
Column 6 (August 2012 - on volunteering)
Column 5 (late June, July 2012 in Denmark, on Friendship)
Column 4 (late May 2012 in USA)
Column 3 (late April 2012)
Column 2 (late March 2012)
Column 1 (March 2012 - Reminiscing , places and people

Column 43: Thoughts on a visit to Riga

When Eitan had to attend a bridge meeting in Riga Latvia, it gave me a chance to make a pilgrimage of sorts.

Riga synagogue
The only synagogue still standing and functioning in Riga today is the beautiful Peitav synagogue, built in the Art Nouveau style. Unlike the other synagogues which were beyond the moat of the Old Town, the Peitav Synagogue  in the Old Town was surrounded by buildings on all sides. The pastor from the nearby Reformation Church warned the Nazis that if it was burnt like the other synagogues in Riga it could lead to the whole area burning down. The pastor may also have hidden and saved the torah scroll. The building was used as a warehouse during the Nazi conquest. When the country returned to Russian control it did function as a synagogue but became much neglected as no repairs were made. Only in 2008, some 10 years after Latvia gained independence, was the building fully and lovingly restored, with the addition above the Aron Kodesh (Holy Ark), in Hebrew of Psalm 124:6 Blessed is the Lord, Who did not give us as prey for their teeth.

A relative on my father’s side, Florence Levine, has submitted Pages of Testimony to Yad Vashem giving details of the murder of my grandparents and their youngest son Avram during the Holocaust.  My father never told us anything except to say that his family had been burnt in a synagogue. Only through Florence did we learn that in fact Motel and his son Avram had been taken from the streets of Vilna and forced marched to Ponar where they were murdered and presumably buried in huge pits prepared for oil installations by the Russians. Nessie, my grandmother, ran away and reached Golshany (Olshan) in Byelorussia. News reached the family that she had been burnt in a synagogue and for years we all presumed it was in Olshan.


(The remains of the Choral Synagogue)
Riga memorialChoral Synangogue Riga
A few months ago, while trying to verify this at Yad Vashem, it appeared that there is no record of Jews being burnt in a synagogue in Olshan.  Hundreds, if not thousands of synagogues and houses of prayer were burnt by the Nazis but the only record I could find of Jews being burnt in a synagogue was in Riga.
 

On 1 July 1941 the Nazi invaded Riga and on July 4 the more than 40 synagogues and wooden houses of prayer were burnt to the ground.There is no denying that 
some 300 Jews from Lithuania, mainly women and children, were burnt inside the Choral Synagogue on Gogola Street, but how is another story. From a guide on a walking tour: “some bad things were done by some people “  then he went on to describe how Janis Lipke saved more than 50 Jews by hiding them in a bunker under a shed.  Accounts of how some 300 people were burnt in the Choral Synagogue vary. Some say there were seeking refuge there and were prevented from leaving by local Latvians, while other sources say they were forced inside by locals and burnt.


I believe my grandmother Nessie Glasser was amongst those pitiful Jews burnt to death in the Choral Synagogue on 4 July 1941. Adding to the horror is that 4 July is the date of my late father’s birthday.
Today I said kadish for my grandmother Nessie in Riga. May she now rest in peace.

Column 42: For Lotem on her batmitzvah (October 2017)
Granddaughter Lotem is very creative and sews and prepares many articles from material. Together with daughter Vered and the Ron family we gave her a sewing machine for her batmitzvah. This is what I wrote to Lotem about the importance of sewing machines in my family.

Lotem, it is with special pleasure that we are giving you a sewing machine as a present for your batmitzvah because sewing machines played a very important part in our family’s life.
My father (your great-grandfather Maurice) was brought over from Vilna in Eastern Europe by his uncle Yahne Glasser.
He said goodbye to his parents not knowing whether he would ever see them again and made the long journey to South Africa by ship. At first he worked at Peel’s grocery store in Johannesburg. My father always wore very thick dark green glasses. He claimed that he had ruined his eyes working at the store. He had to sit in a dark basement and in front of a single light pick up each egg and hold it up to the light to make sure it was fresh.
When he had earned enough money he brought his brother Mike over to South Africa. They did not earn enough money to bring Avram their youngest brother nor their parents to South Africa and they died in the Holocaust.

When he was courting my mother (great-granny Gertie) and took her to a restaurant she was very impressed how he knew the best of foods. He had learnt from selling these foods to people with money.
When they got married they opened a fish shop in Pretoria, a town near Johannesburg, and supplied the British army with fresh eggs.
Later his Uncle Yahne offered him a partnership in a clothing factory in Johannesburg.  My parents moved there and  they both worked in the factory. They knew nothing about making shirts and my father described how he took a shirt apart to see how it was made.
They were very successful and after a few years my mother didn’t have to work anymore. My father made sure that he employed his brother and other relatives as well as my mother’s brothers in the factory called Star Shirt and Clothing Factory. Eventually he had three factories – in Rhodesia (today Zimbabwe) and Windhoek (today in Namibia) and in Johannesburg
 
I have wonderful memories of that time. In the factory there was a very long table with a special roller to lay down layers of cloth which would then be cut into pieces for making shirts and trousers. I loved to run and push the roller from one end of the table to the other as the cloth was laid down. But I was a hyperactive child and ran which meant the workers had to run with me.
There were hundreds of sewing machines in the factory but my favorite was the machine that sewed on buttons.  I felt very grown up using it as they were always warning me about keeping my fingers clear and not sewing my fingers to the shirt.
I went to Windhoek with my father a number of times. The Herero women were very exotic. They were tall and wore colorful long dresses and headdresses that they wound around their heads.  I was a very skinny child (!) and remember sitting in a basin to wash myself. I must have been about five years old as this was before I could read. My father would later tell me how at breakfast I would solemnly take the menu – often holding it upside down – pretend to read and then order bacon and eggs every morning.
Eventually my father closed the three factories and moved his business to Durban where we lived until Saba and I got married and made Aliyah to Israel.
When Saba and I got married my mother taught Saba how to sew on buttons, telling him that I would never sew anything. He is very handy with a needle and cotton and can repair suitcases with a special curved needle.<see picture>  During the Yom Kippur war, when I was afraid that our whole life would change, I quickly sewed your one-year old dad two pairs of bibbed trousers. On rare occasions I’ve also been known to sew on buttons or repair a hem.

So dearest Lotem, you can now understand the pleasure that giving you a sewing machine causes me.
Mazal Tov

Column 41 - Impressions of our cruise to Iceland (August 2017)
Read Doreen's account, with pictures, of the cruise to Ireland, Scotland, Iceland and Faroe.

Column 40 - A short visit to Vienna (July 2017)

Click here to read my acount, with pictures, of a short visit to Vienna

Column 39 - Donkey Milk donkey milk
Donkey milk came into our lives quite suddenly. In February walking through the Placa area in Athens and looking for something unusual to take home, I was delighted to buy a face serum and a body lotion made from donkey’s milk!

Vered reported that although she has started laughing rather loudly of late, she is delighted with the serum.

And that was that, or so we thought, a peculiarity of Greece where donkeys in Santorini are still used to transport people up steep hills. Now that animals’ rights groups are denouncing the use of the overworked donkeys, the donkey owners are looking for another use for their donkeys

On the way to Lausanne for a bridge meeting recently, while scanning through the EasyJet magazine, I came across an article about milk made from donkey chocolate. Hmmm, new fad food I thought to myself and promptly forgot about it.

Last Sunday when friends Pierre and Francoise Collaros took us to visit some quaint villages by Lake Leman/Geneva, we stopped at Morges, just as the Saturday market was closing down. By this time we wanted a bite for lunch and after passing numerous cafes, Eitan suddenly declared, “This one looks fine.” We went in, saw that the sandwiches looked delicious and sat down. Unlike other restaurants that have pictures of scenery on the walls, this restaurant (didn’t even notice the name as we came in) had different pictures of donkeys.  While waiting by the cashier to order my beetroot bread and brie sandwich, I noticed that behind us was a table full of Easter eggs and Easter bunnies. When asked whether they had plain chocolate she said they only had donkey milk chocolate! So we bought the small expensive slabs of chocolate to take to our grandchildren back home.

cafe fornrod


After leaving the café I turned back to take a picture of the name that was on the glass front. Imagine my surprise when on the flight back home I reread the donkey chocolate article and realized that quite by chance we has stopped to eat at Fornerod Tea Room, the cafe of the chocolatier who developed donkey milk chocolate!

Of course everyone knows that Cleopatra bathed in donkey’s milk to keep her skin looking young and fresh, but so did Poppaea Sabina the Younger, the second wife of the Emperor Nero as did Pauline Bonaparte, Napoleon’s sister. I hope the donkey milk body lotion will have the same effect on me. HEHAW HEHAW.

The yield of milk from a donkey is much less than from a cow, which explains why it is so expensive. But already in the Roman period Hippocrates, the father of medicine, recommended donkey milk for various ailments. Today it is recognized as closest to breast milk, contains more omega-3 fatty acids and enhances immunity, which may be helpful for people with conditions like asthma, eczema, or psoriasis.

Donkey milk, anyone?

 

.



Column 38 Our trip to Potugal
Click here to read my account - with pictures - of our trip to Portugal in December 2016

Column 37 - Fire terrorists (26 November 2016)
This past week we are faced with a new form of terrorism - fire terrorism. It is easy terrorism; no need to confront a person and stab them. Just secretly light a match and watch with bitter glee as forests burn to a cinder, as animals unable to flee are charred and as whole lives go up in flames. Our hearts go out to all who have lost their houses. But just as we ourselves condemn the settler movement and especially the hilltop delinquents who uproot olive trees and cause damage to Arab houses and property, so we need to distinguish between the fire terrorists and the law-abiding Arab population.


Column 36 - A visit to the 9/11 Memorial
There are a few events which remained burned in memory: "Where were you when..... Kennedy was assasinated,  when Rabin was murdered,... and when the Twin Towers fell?"  We were in Maplewood NJ staying with Vered and family and actually at the local train station on our way to Manhattan, We stood in disbelief in front of the TV screen airing again and again pictures of a
plane crashing into of the northern Twin Tower. The conductor announced: "This train aint going nowhere" and we trudged up the hill back home to find a distraught Vered. Aviv her husband was on a flight and we didn't know how or where he was. Telephone communication was severely disrupted. Veerd took us up to a ridge in a park above their house and with moans and shrieks we, together with the other people watched in horror as we saw the second tower collapse. For a microsecond there was nothing and then a huge billowing cloud of smoke and dust rose. People around us were talking about this being a work of Fatah, which was obviously nonsense as they didn't have the ability of a coordinated attack, but who....?

Hours later a message arrived from Aviv. He was safe. They were forced to land somewhere and he and a few other travellers had bought a car to drive it back to New York as the only possible way to get home.

That day changed many things. Al Kaieda's attack on the financial, military and aborted attack on the US government changed all our lives. If we thought the world a violent place before that, we could not imagine how violent and fraught with terror the world would become. Apolcalyptic scenes from ridiculous science fiction movies suddenly appear prescient.

So 15 years later,
almost to the day, we did a tour of the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. Getting off the R train we entered the huge Oculus designed by the Spanish architect Calatrava that reminded me of a chiton articulated shell. Through the rib at the top we could see One World Trade Center, which is now the tallest building in the western hemisphere, taller than the Twin Towers it replaced. From the outside the spiked building is supposed to symbolize a dove's wings; squashed between the tall buildings surrounding it it loses much of its power and is far more impressive from inside the huge space of the oculus.

Skyscrapers rise on all sides of the renewed Trade Center but not where the Twin Towers stood. Two black square pools with water rushing down  into a large pools and then into what looks like a bottomless black hole, symbolizing absence and loss. The theme is the Reflection in Absence. The veils of rushing water must symbolize endless tears but also serve to drown out the noises of the bustling city around, making it a place of reflection and sombre meditation. Around the rim of the pools are the names of all the victims of that horrific day cut out into the bronze rims surrounding the pools - the  victims who died in the Towers, the airplanes and the first responders who died trying to help trapped victims in the conflagration as well as the names of the 6 people who died in an attack on the Towers in 1993. Here and there are white carnations inserted in the cut out names, honoring the birth dates of the victims.  The area is surrounded by Swamp Oaks, trees which grow in New York State, Washington and Virginia where the planes crashed. Of  the 2,977 victims,  1,115 unidentified remains are at the base of the Memorial,  in the space between the bottoms of the reflecting pools.

We were moved by the simplicity of the memorial and the stories of the many who gave their lives to help others.  If you visit New York please go on a guided tour of the Memorial and Museum; it will add immensurably to your understanding of that dark day that changed our history.

There are some pictures here and one here.

Column 35  July 2016 - The
"Road to Recovery concert" conducted by Maestro Mehta

We have all attended concerts that were wonderful, inspiring or delightful; not often does one have the privilege of attending a concert that moves people to tears. Such was the benefit concert held at the Elma Arts Complex in Zichron Yaakov with Maestro Zubin Mehta to raise funds for Road to Recovery, an organization that transports very sick children from the West Bank and Gaza to hospitals in Israel for treatment. Like all the organizers and volunteers in the organization, everyone donated their services for the success of the evening, including Mehta, the orchestra, comperes, singers, choir, the Elma Arts Complex hotel and the list goes on.

Mehta Concert

The convert was relayed live on facebook. If you go to this link you will hear the soprano Nur Drausha sing O Mio Babbino Caro from Gianni Sicci by Puccini, a rousing three-horn piece by Leroy Anderson, and a girls’ choir from the Emek Yizreel composed of  both Jewish and Arab singers. Playing in the orchestra were young musicians from Nazareth. But perhaps the highlight of the evening was the young children themselves. Roni Porat, who together with Mira Awad compered the evening, called four young children to the stage. The children were given tambourines, a horn and a whistle and with the help of the medical clown Sirhan Mahmid were instructed how and when to make music. We the audience had to clap three times on cue. The orchestra played Mozart’s Toy Symphony without the help of a conductor because Mehta was busy playing the recorder while we all made the appropriate sounds.

When the orchestra played John Lennon’s Imagine a young girl, Hamsa Masari, was called to the stage. Mehta had helped bring her from a border crossing to Tel HaShomer Hospital for tests to ascertain that her cancer was in remission. When she sat on Mira Awad’s knees and sang, it truly was an emotional and magical moment.

As I was walking out I was delighted to spy Tamar and Jimmy Rabinowitz together with Frankie Jaffe and her husband. They too are volunteers, as is old Dubanite friend Issy Levitan from kibbutz Yizreel.

I am always proud to be a volunteer to an organization that really makes a difference to so many people who otherwise could not afford to come to the hospitals for treatment.Road to Recovery works toward building bridges of trust between Jews and Palestinians and offers hope to parents and their children for a better future.

Click here to see a video of Zubin Mehta and Hamsa Masari and about Road to Recovery. Highly recommended.
Readers of hebrew can read an interesting article and  interview that Zubin Mehta gave to the newspaper Yediot Aharonot.

 See also Column 6 and Column 33 and Archives of This Week's Picture



Column 34 - July 2016 Our visit to Moscow
We had a most interesting visit for a few days to Moscow. Read my account of the visit (with pictures) here.

Column 33 - May 2016 A visit to Jenin

I am a volunteer for the non-profit "Road to Recovery", an organisation that transports Palestinians needing special medical care from the West Bank Territories to Israel hospitals.You can read about the organisation, which now transports 80-100 patients each day, on their site  and see a CNN featurette about Yuval Roth the founder of the organization.

To show appreciation for the work of the volunteers, Ibrahim Ramadan the Governor of the Jenin District (Area A of the West Bank) invited them to visit Jenin. We were delighted,  as Jewish Israelis are not usually allowed to enter Area A which is under total administrative and security control of the Palestinian Authority. Before the Israeli side agreed to our leaving Israel we each we had to fill out forms weeks before and were warned that without our Israel Identity Cards we would not be allowed in. Usually a driver's licence is sufficient identification in Israel.  We gathered at Jalame checkpoint, where Alexander, the civilian in charge of the checkpoint, warned us that Israel has no presence in Area A and we were entering on our own responsibilty. In addition to telling us about the workings of the checkpoint he informed us that all cucumbers pickled in Israel come from this area of the West Bank! Our group, shepherded by Alexander, crossed over without going through any security checks.

Jenin
In contrast to our having to wait weeks for our security clearance, non-Jewish Israelis only have to present their ID's to pass and they do! In fact Alexander told us that about 10,000 cars pass every Saturday. Evidence of the importance of this economic exchange could be seen in the many garages and related shops, shops selling household furnishings and sanitary equipment. The houses in Jenin area were nice and the areas  in front of the shops were clean. However we noticed that there was a lot of dumping in open spaces - not unlike areas of Netanya! - and the refuse collection is obviously not of premier importance  The cars seemed in good condition and not too old. I seem to remember hearing that used cars were not allowed to be imported from Israel.

The women in the street wore head covers but we saw no-one with the ra-alah covering their whole face. In the municipality building there were women working there with uncovered heads and revealing clothing.



Jenin meeting
In the  municipality we sat around a large table which included at its head Governor Ibrahim Rahamin, Yuval Roth, the head of the Jenin hospital and Yaziz the Israeli co-ordinator of Palestinian patients at Rambam hospital. Ibrahim Rahamim spoke about the need to transform the tears of children into laughter.  He said that while Peace is made between governments Road to Recovery is working towards that goal by helping people in need. It is a bridge to peace. He echoed the cry of all us us when he said that it is so easy to make war; with the same effort why can't we bring about peace. He commended Road to Recovery on their efforts in working towards this goal by helping people in need and thus recognizing each other and preparing the road to shalom.

The planned visit to the hospital had to be cancelled as it was extremely busy there and there was some unrest at the refugee camp next to the hospital, so unfortunately after lunch (a shwarma in a baguette) we returned to the checkpoint; a quick check on our ID card, and we were back in Israel.



See also Archives of This Week's Picture.

Column 32 -  Jerusalem in Rome
We visited Rome for a few days. While Anthony was busy with a bridge seminar I did some touring and found the connections between ancient Rome and the Holy Land fascinatin. You can read my impressions in Jerusalem in Rome.

Column 31 - On the Glazer Family
                                                                     

In response to a request from my cousin Vanessa (Glasser) Tarazza in Johannesburg, I sent her some information about the family. I have slightly changed what I wrote, to make it easier for our grandchildren to understand. My father always insisted that ‘Glazer’ was the correct translation of the family name from the Yiddish and not ‘Glasser’ and that the rest of the family had got it wrong.

The Glazer/Glasser family came from Lithuania. Saba does a lot of research for the family tree with input from some relatives. I only remember a few stories from my childhood and am so sorry that I didn’t pay more attention.

The furthest the Glazer family can go back is to Hessel Gordon who married Elka in Lithuania in the early 1800’s. That is all we know about him.  His son Itzik Ber Glezer was born in 1844 in Malat near Vilnius, part of Russia, now Lithuania. The village was overwhelmingly Jewish. We don’t know why Itzik Ber had a different surname from his father. (Glezer has the same meaning as glazier in English – a person who works with glass.)  He married Feige Blume. They had an inn (pundak). I remember stories that although he was Jewish, most of his customers were Christian and they liked to drink which was very profitable. He was supposedly a religious man and not supposed to touch money on the Sabbath. He solved the problem by having his customers put the money on a knife and then dropping it in the draw! He moved to Vilnius at beginning of 1900’s. They had 7 children including Mottel, your great-great grandfather, and Yaine or Joe who was the youngest son. Itzik Ber died in Vilnius in 1938 a few months before the outbreak of WWII.

Vilnius was the center of Jewish life in Lithuania. Everyone spoke Yiddish (the revival of Hebrew was just beginning). Over 40 % of the population was Jewish. In addition to the many synagogues and yeshivot it was an important center for the Bund, a socialist party that worked for equal civil and political rights for Jews with the rest of the population. There was a movement called The Enlightenment that offered Jews a secular alternative to the life of study in the yeshiva; it offered an entry to the sciences, literature and art. We don’t have important people in our family but it was at this time that Einstein, Marc Chagall, Freud and many Nobel Prize winners were active.

Because of the deep poverty and anti-Jewish riots (pogroms), there was a large emigration of Jews to South Africa in the early 1900’s and most probably that is when Joe, my father’s uncle, moved to South Africa.  <>
Mottel your great-great grandfather married Nessie Schank who came from Tartu in Estonia, possibly when he was a soldier in the Russian army. They had three sons, Morris, (my father) Michael and Abrashka. They lived in Vilnius. 
We have cousins who live in Kfar Meishar, Gedera area. Yaffa’s grandmother was Nessie’s sister. Yaffa told us that Mottel and Nessie also had a roadside inn. Travelers would change their horses, sleep over and eat there. Whether this was the same one as their father Itzik Ber’s we don’t know. Both Denise Braverman and my cousin Vanessa in South Africa are named after her. 

Why Joe chose to send money to Morris my father to emigrate we don’t know, but Morris left his family for South Africa. There is a picture of the family in Vilnius taken in 1929 when Joe returned for a visit.
You can see the picture at http://www.eitanlevy.com/Vilna1929.htmlMy Dad is not there but you can see the rest of the large family.  Except for the grandparents none of them look particularly religious. There is a branch of the family called Gordon and they were religious. Not all the family members are in the picture. Some emigrated to South Africa, America and Australia before the war. Those that didn’t died during the Holocaust.  <>The Jews arrived on a Union Castle ship sailing from Southampton England to Capetown South Africa. My dad made his way to Johannesburg and worked at Peel’s Cold Storage. He always wore very thick green glasses. He said he ruined his eyes because he had to sit in the basement and had to hold eggs up to a candle to make sure they were fresh. In Johannesburg he met my mother Gertie who had come as a young child from Belorussia with her parents and siblings. After they got married they moved to Springs and opened a grocery store where they also sold fish and eggs. This was just before the outbreak of WWII. They won a contract to supply the British army with eggs. When the price of eggs dropped they made their first real money. My mother Gertie worked in the office, but also did the deliveries. My sister Louise remembers going with them to the army base to make the deliveries. Later they moved to Johannesburg. 

When my dad had saved enough money, he sent for Mike his younger brother.  Although the brothers worked hard, they didn’t manage to save enough money to bring out their youngest brother Abraska, let alone their parents before the war reached Russia. My Dad begged relatives to lend him the money to bring them out, but they wouldn’t or couldn’t. The Nazis invaded Russia in 1941. Lithuania was then part of Russia, with Vilnius made up mostly of Poles and Jews. German troops entered Vilnius on 26 June 1941, followed by the Einsatzgruppen or death squads. Over the course of the summer, German troops and Lithuanian collaborators killed more than 21,000 Jews living in Vilnius, in a mass extermination program.

Mottel, Abrashka and their cousin Elke were among the first to be rounded up off the streets of the Vilna ghetto in August 1941 by Lithuanian collaborators and marched to Ponar, under the pretext of going East to work. Ponar or Ponary was a Russian oil installation site where deep pits had been dug for oil tanks. The Jews who were rounded up were forced to give up their belongings and then forced into those pits and shot.
(http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/einsatz/ponary.html). Nessie Glezer managed to escape the Vilna ghetto and made her way to Olshan – possibly trying to return to Estonia. Whether she did it alone or with others who were fleeing it was a brave and dangerous act. In Olshan (Belorussia) she was herded into a synagogue with other Jews and the synagogue was burnt.

After the war Yaffa’s mother Riva made her way to Vilnius to look for her aunt Nessie. Living in their house was a strange Polish family. Riva said that all the original furniture was in the house including the mezuzah on the doorpost. Riva was horrified and ran away.
She and her husband Avram Bortenstein came to Israel as did her parents and both her sisters, Mussi who was married and an accomplished pianist and Hanna, who was single and crippled. Their brother who was a film director was never allowed to leave Russia, and we have contact with his son, Heinie (who lives in Estonia). Mike and his wife Betsy were the first from South Africa to visit their Israeli relatives.  Both Morris and mike corresponded with the grandmother and felt very close to her as she was their grandmother’s sister. My Dad, who was doing well in South Africa, helped the family in Kfar Meishar to buy a fridge and other things which were considered luxuries in Israel then.

My Dad always said that his whole family was burnt in a synagogue. A cousin, Florence Levine in America says she remembers how my Dad would sit with her mother Riva and cry as he talked about his family. He must have known the details of the death of his family, but for him his whole family had been burnt in a synagogue.  It was Florence who registered the names of our grandparents with Yad Vashem Holocaust Names Project and supplied us with the sad details, because my father never did.,

Back to Johannesburg. Uncle Joe sold my Dad a partnership in Star Shirt and Clothing Factory. What we were told is that the factory was bankrupt. My dad started by undoing a shirt to see how it was made. My mother worked in the factory until they had made enough money and then stopped working. My Dad employed many family members both from his side and my mother’s in his factories. After the war when my uncle Mike came back from the army in northern Africa, he worked as a travelling salesman for Star Shirt. After he married Betsy they moved to Bulawayo where Mike ran Leonard Clothing. In 1955 we moved to Durban after my father closed his factory in Johannesburg and moved it to the Durban area.

Joe was not a Zionist, and belonged to the Bund and worked for the revival of Yiddish. My father always felt a great debt of gratitude to his uncle Joe for bringing him to South Africa and supported him in everything he did. My Dad helped Joe to buy a van to pick up children, including me, to take them to Yiddishe Folkshule to learn Yiddish. I hated it because my friends were learning Hebrew. One day I even jumped from the wall around our house into rosebushes to get out of going to Yiddish lessons. How sorry I am today that I didn’t make the most of that opportunity. When we lived in Cyrildene I remember that I hated to wear shoes. However, when the word got out that Uncle Mike was about to arrive I would run and put on my shoes as I was afraid of his disapproval.

My Dad never lived in Israel but visited often after we moved here. He died in Tel Aviv two weeks before Moran was born in 1973. My mother came to live in Tel Aviv; she used to look after our children when we went away – even then we liked to travel! - and we visited her often. She died in 1984.

You may be interested in some things I have written on Eitan’s site:

www.eitanlevy.com/Poland Impressions.html#forest
www.eitanlevy.com/picofweek_archive.html#21apr07
www.eitanlevy.com/picofweek_archive.html#ponar

Should anyone have anything to correct or add, please do so.


  Column 30 - February 2016 - Why Breaking the Silence should not remain silent

Most of my friends who learnt of my support for Breaking the Silence (see previous post) either ignored it or expressed support for what the organization is doing. However, they were critical of the international airing of the reports  about what really is happening in the occupied territories, politely known as the West Bank.
No one suggested that their reports were fallacious, exaggerations or slander. But you know, these unpleasant things shouldn't be for publication; it is a family matter, best dealt with ourselves.
 If we knew that the Israeli authorities were interested in exposing and preventing illegal land grabs or concerned how they embitter the lives of innocent people by unprovoked violent intrusions into their lives and houses at night, then I would agree that Breaking the Silence should remain quiet to enable ongoing investigations. But we know from regular exposures in the newspaper (Haaretz) that this is not happening.
Are we aware that by our very silence we are condoning what is happening in the occupied territories? Our silence does not distance us or protect us from those immoral and illegal acts; we are encouraging them to continue.
Do we condone those who remain silent when they hear of priests abusing young boys; or those who agree to the suppressing of reports on marital and child abuse amongst the haredi community; or those who did not protest the divestment of the Jewish people from their livelihoods, their property and their very lives?.  But somewhere, sometime, one must choose to take a stand.
And in Israel, who will ignore Mahsom Watch; who will choose to gag the mouths of soldiers who have done unmentionable things in the West Bank in our name; and who will turn the other page when we see democracy being twisted, when valid criticism is seen as traitorous.
I can no longer remain silent and have chosen to cautiously feel my way back on the hard path to my conscience and values, to my humanity.


Column 29 - January 2016 - A tour of the Hebron Hills with Breaking the Silence.

LAST Friday I joined a tour to the southern Hebron Hills with Breaking the Silence. About 10 people, including an Israeli woman who makes documentaries, gathered on the bus, with Nadav as our guide. (http://www.breakingthesilence.org.il/about/organization). Nadav, a veteran soldier, explained that while serving (he was in Hebron) the soldiers are not aware of the overall picture. Only when piecing the testimonies of soldiers together does the bigger picture emerge of the cost in money, effort of the army and what our soldiers are forced to do to the civilian Palestinian population in the name of the occupation.

My main impression was amazement that when we read about ‘maahhazim.’ We imagine a few caravans on some hilltop, which we did see, but we also saw big housing schemes, extensions or ’neighborhoods’  of existing ‘Israeli consensus’ settlements. By the way under international law all settlements in occupied territory are illegal and no settlements were to be added after Oslo so ‘consensus’ settlements are expanded and expanded. We learnt that after a few settlers put up scattered caravans, the army must make a dirt rack to enable it to come and protect the settlers. This then expands to a hut for the soldiers. A proper road, electricity and water…. and suddenly there is a housing settlement.  But Nadav explained that the big land expropriation of Palestinian property is done in a different way.  <>

Two different law systems are in place in the West Bank. Israelis are under civilian law, the same as in Israel, while Palestinians are under martial law. The latter is a mixture of Jordanian, British and Ottoman regulations. One of the most important is that under Ottoman law, as long as you work the land it is yours. If for some reason you don’t work it for three years, you lose the right to the land. The next person who works the land for 10 consecutive years can claim it. Palestinians are systematically denied access to their land, by limiting physical access to their land and wells, or through poisoning of the wells, burning of crops or uprooting of trees, until the economic and physical price becomes untenable.  The settlers then take over. There is no need for them to actually work the land. What they do is place a number of old oil barrels on the land, ostensibly with trees inside and after a number of years claim the land as their own! There is no updated planning committee; the military use old outdated British Mandate plans; so virtually all Palestinian expansion or seasonal agricultural land is deemed either illegal or unrecognized. Even when electricity lines run over Palestinian villages and they ask to have a meter and pay for the electricity the answer is that because they are unrecognized they can’t be joined to the electricity grid.

Unfortunately planned visits with Palestinians didn’t work out but we had an interesting encounter at Mitzpe Yair. Situated on an isolated hilltop, supposedly a neighborhood of Susiya a number of kilometers away, it was founded as a price tag for the murder of Yair Har Sinai. Today it sits off road 317, unfenced, and consists of about 16 families in caravans and stone houses. It is a religious settlement, regarded as illegal by the Israeli regional administration, with plans on the internet to expand the ‘neighborhood.’  Our bus driver was guided to stop at the beginning of the dirt track that wound between some caravans. Within seconds men appeared and demanded that we leave their property immediately; if we wouldn’t comply “it will end badly.” When Nadav asked for 2 minutes to explain, a van came and blocked our exit.  The army was called, but there was nothing they could do. The soldier in charge asked the settlers to let us go. The army has no jurisdiction over Israeli civilians who are ‘accountable’ only to the Israeli police. And the settlers wanted us to know who on whose land we were and who the boss was. They refused and for about 30 minutes we waited in the bus, until the driver of the van sauntered over and moved his van just enough for the bus to squeeze past. The army jeep followed us for a while – to protect us or to see what we were doing?

There is an ongoing legal battle for ownership over Susiya. It was declared an archaeological site and the Palestinians who dwelt there, some in caves, were prevented from continuing their traditional livelihood of sheep farming and vineyards and were expelled. See http://www.btselem.org/south_hebron_hills/susiya for a broader discussion of the battle. There is an Israeli farm right next to the ancient site today.

Many people say that a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is too late. When you see the massive building, expropriation of Palestinian land and pushing the residents to give up their farming practices and permanently remain in the urban centers, concentrating its people to a small band of land, there would seem to be no way to get the settlers to relinquish their settlements. At one point while we were standing next to the bus while Nadav explained something to us, a woman settler who was driving by stopped and demanded to explain things to us. When she wouldn’t wait for Nadav to finish she walked off loudly exclaiming that if we want peace we should leave it (peace/control?) to them.  With much pain, to me the future looks bleak even hopeless.

Nadav our guide exhorted us to be active and says things can still change! 
Column 28 - Doreen's Shana Tova Letter - 2015

Dear Family and Friends,
As the Jewish New Year 5775 draws to a close and Rosh Hashanah nears, it is with mixed feelings that we greet the year 5776. A New Year is a time for renewed hope and fresh starts, but the present with its troubles cannot be shaken off. 

On a family level we are well and busy. All our children and their spouses are in Israel and not only working hard but succeeding in their fields.
 
Vered works for Landa Labs as Vice President Business Development. Landa Labs (link) is working on alternative energy solutions and  nano-technology in new materials. She has completed her international skipper’s license and loves it, and we are always happy to be invited for a sail. Her  husband Aviv is Vice President of Business Development and Strategy works at Kramer - a large development and manufacturing company of  technology products for commercial audio and video (link).  He is a very keen photographer and has had photos shown at a number of exhibitions in Israel.

In Eilat, our son Aviv is the Scientific Director of the Underwater Observatory and highly regarded in his field. A huge shark aquarium has recently opened to international acclaim; Aviv was instrumental in its realization and smooth running. (link).  Daughter in law Limor was recently appointed as Vice President of  Tamar Tavor Corporation in Eilat.  She is working very hard in her new job

Moran and Mikhal have settled down in Midreshet Sde Boqer (link) after 5 years overseas in California and Townsville Australia. The family enjoys the friendships and desert life of the Negev and the special involvement in community life at the Midrasha. Moran works as a Land and Water Researcher at regional Research and Development Centers in the Negev desert. (link) Mikhal has been appointed a lecturer in Ecology at Ben Gurion University, with her laboratory at Sde Boqer. (link)

Dani, our eldest grandchild has a very well-developed social conscience. After finishing high school instead of enlisting straight into the army she spent the year volunteering as a counselor at a school for underprivileged children near Jerusalem. Now she has a high-pressure and interesting role at an Air Force Base and finds the army both challenging and frustrating. Lior, her younger sister has just started 11th grade. She still finds time to be highly involved as a madricha (youth leader) in Scouts. We hope she finds it as rewarding as we did in our youth.

Itamar our eldest grandson has started high school at the same school in Eilat that our three children attended – we hope with better success than they had! (But that is for another time.)  His sister Amit is an excellent student; in addition she is a great help to her mother and takes on many household duties. Her younger sister Ilai is to be commended on enduring the discomfort of wearing a brace for her back in the heat of the Eilat summer, while maintaining her sunny personality. 

In Sde Boqer, Maayan loves reading and has recently shown an interest in cooking.  He and cousin Itamar get along very well and have a magical relationship maintained mainly through games on the internet.  Lotem, who had a hard time adjusting to a new school and surroundings on the family’s return to Israel is now well settled, has friends and loves school. Zoe, our youngest grandchild, is very excited that she is now attending a kindergarten that has a common fence with the primary school in Sde Boqer and she will be able to see her siblings during break.

During the summer holidays we hosted six of our grandchildren at our apartment in Netanya. Keeping them busy and entertained while cooking for them and cleaning up after them was our challenge and delight for the summer.

 Eitan didn’t stand for re-election as President of the Israeli Bridge Federation after he was voted on to the Executive of the European Bridge League. As chairman of a number of committees he finds it fulfilling and it helps to keep him busy, very busy.  My perk is that I can accompany him to many of the tournaments and meetings in Europe. In fact he spent a month in Tromso Norway; I was with him for part of the time and we played in a staff tournament in the midnight sun and saw reindeer and whales on a short tour of the islands. 

I continue to guide, but not nearly as frequently.  A special day was guiding a student from a Moslem country with which  we have no diplomatic relations. It was a most rewarding day. Bridge and babysitting keep me busy much of the time. I continue to volunteer to Road to Recovery (link), transporting seriously ill Palestinians from the occupied territories to hospitals in Israel for treatment. All the cases are heartbreaking, but I was especially moved when driving a family with two small children burnt in the face and hands by an exploding gas balloon. Years later their faces are still covered by Jobst, special pressure bandages and their hands are bandaged up. The last time I drove them to Tel HaShomer hospital, the little boy, who lost four of the fingers of one hand was going to have a toe removed from his foot to be transplanted on to his hand so that he would have the ability to grasp things between his thumb and transplanted toe! The reason these children so touched me, is that our Aviv at the age of 16 had a terrible accident when hot tar spilt on his hand and arm. He spent a month in hospital for treatment including skin grafts and fortunately regained full use of his hand. Traumatized to this day by that horrible period, I feel that the long hours driving are my way of paying back a debt of gratitude.

One of the highlights of this year was a 50-year Habonim Reunion at Tzora.  Some 200 Habonim members from South Africa, Israel and around the world gathered for a magical 2-day experience, renewing friendships and sharing memories with much joy and much laughter. On a more serious level we also evaluated how Habonim shaped our lives and values, with a sobering look at the reality of our lives today.

Israel continues to amaze with its high tech inventions. There are many inspiring NGOs/volunteer organizations that are doing wonderful things for people with different needs where the government has fallen behind.  The problem lies in life around us. The cost of the continuing occupation of the West Bank in terms of ethos, moral compromise and actual financial burden continues to be horrendous. The spectre of finding ourselves in an Apartheid situation is most distressing.There is a tendency by some orthodox religious cirlces to bypass the restrictions of the rabbinate in matters of kashrut and life cycle events. The rabbinate is fighting these more liberal trends with all the power and authority it can bring to bear. In addition, the present government is trying to enforce religious constrictions on the whole of the country even though  the majority of Israel’s citizens are secular.  

The mass immigration of people from Africa and the Middle East to Western Europe is most worrisome. One on hand we understand the people’s desperate need for a better life and on the other hand we wonder how this will effect Western civilization as we know it. We also fear the extreme rightwing parties that are rising in reaction. 

And we haven’t even touched on global warming, depletion of fish in the seas and ….. and ….

This year Eitan and I celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary. When we got married I suspect we foresaw that there would be tensions and arguments, but we never foresaw that after living together for 50 years the deep love that brought us together would still be alive, as well as a meaningful friendship, mutual respect and support for each other's success in all endeavours. We are very fortunate to be alive and relatively healthy with so much sickness and death around us. It is something we fully appreciate.
As we look back on our lives we are so privileged to have been able to exercise freedom of choice and movement, enjoyment of wildlife and beaches and open spaces. It is with grave concern that we wonder what the future holds for our grandchildren.

Although we are not religious, I’d like to end with a quote by my friend Rosie who lives in Berghaus in Germany: “In the words of my mother, if the dear god closes a door, he opens a window.”

May we all be proactive and help open that window wide!

Shana Tova
Eitan and Doreen


Column 27: A Visit to the North Norway Islands
Click here for a link to pictures and Doreen's account of the visit.


Column 26: Stuffed Camel

This evening we ate camel stuffing and it was delicious. An event. Of course this requires elaboration:

Nof and Dalia




Our friend Dalia Lamdani, a food historian and writer, recently remarked in an newspaper interview (see Doreen's Column 23) , that although she had eaten many unusual dishes (including ostrich omelette at our house in Eilat), she had never eaten stuffed camel, and she “
would like to try an ancient dish. I found the recipe in a book of Saudi recipes: A medium sized camel is stuffed with 4 lambs, which are stuffed with 10 chickens, which are stuffed with 40 kg of tomatoes and 150 boiled eggs.” 

Nof Atamna, winner of Israel TVs Master Chef Competition also had this dream. She gave a speech at the inauguration of Dalia’s food library at the Haifa University and decided to make a dinner in honour of Dalia and prepare Stuffed Camel. She explained that killing a camel today was not only very expensive but that various animal rights movements would be on to her. But what she would do is prepare the stuffing.


stuffed 'camel'




So some 50 family and friends were invited to Nof’s parents’ house in Baka el Gharbiya and Nof and Mussa her helper prepared dinner. A sheep was stuffed with a lamb which in turn was stuffed with chickens and they were stuffed with stuffed vineleaves, stuffed baby marrow and wheat grains. It was all wrapped in aluminium foil and cooked over a fire for 10 hours. Since they didn’t have a spit, turning it over was most difficult and parts of the sheep were still too pink. It obviously needed a few more hours for it all to be cooked through. But everything was delicious. There was enough food for another 50 people.


Nof’s mother Wijdan Atamna took us around her thriving vegetable garden and we sat in their garden on a cool summer’s evening, eating stuffed “camel” and enjoying ourselves.
 


I was asked to make a dessert and my original plan was to make a custard tart and a chocolate mousse, but opted for profiteroles instead as they were finger foods.Click to see the recipe.

Column 25: A visit to Prague

Initially I didn’t want to write about our trip to Prague. After all, just about everyone I know has visited the city.  This account is more for us: we have visited so many countries and places that after a time things become blurred. So this is to jog our memories.

Eitan had to plan an  international bridge tournament directors seminar to be held at the beginning of 2016 in Prague; I joined him and we extended our visit. We stayed at a simple Ibis hotel in the Smichov area. Although I usually like to be in the centre of a town, the tram and metro services were so frequent and wide ranging that it was not a problem.
On the first day while Eitan and Josef Harsanyi were busy with meetings, Rosie Kuntz from Berghausen Germany and I went to the Jewish Quarter. We took a tram into town and walked to the Jewish Quarter or Josefov. Prague




But after 10 minutes was it obvious that we were walking in the wrong direction. After a few attempts to get help from passing people, we stopped by a van that was delivering equipment and asked the woman driver for help. Yes, we were totally wrong and far from the Jewish Quarter, which was too far and too difficult for her to explain.

When we suggested that we take a taxi Mirka was horrified because she said they were very expensive (which they were) and insisted to taking us to the Quarter herself, although it was totally out of her way. She flatly refused to accept money for the trip. She recommended the Lavanda  restaurant owned by her good friend, and we had lunch there one day and gave the owner a small gift for Marika. 


Rosie and I visited the Altneuschul (Old-New Synagogue), the cemetery and the Jewish Burial Society Hall. The members of the Burial Society were volunteers who performed the mitzvah of washing of the dead and burial in the ghettos. They also distributed alms to the children and widows. Their annual banquet to raise money for their activities was a lavish affair attested to by the silver and glass objects on display. It was interesting to find out from Rosie that similar customs are also practiced by Christians.



The next day, when the meetings were over and our German friends returned home, Eitan and I began to explore Prague. On our first day we took trams and then walked up to the Prague Castle. In retrospect a bad choice as it was a bitterly cold and windy day and walking around was not much fun. Waiting in line to visit St Vitus’ Cathedral was miserable. But the interior was so lavish and of interest that it was worthwhile. St Vitus dance is the uncontrollable jerking that used to be caused as a complication of  rheumatic fever; St Vitus is the patron saint of epileptics.
In the Church is a bronze ring said to be the one to which St Wenceslaus clung as he was murdered by his brother. Wenceslaus is also the patron saint of the Czech Republic and the main square is named after him. I’m sure that like us many vaguely remember the Christmas carol "Good King Wenceslas." It describes the king who goes out to give alms to a poor peasant on the second day of Christmas.  During the journey, his page is about to give up the struggle against the cold weather, but is enabled to continue by the heat miraculously emanating from the king's footprints in the snow.
If all this wasn’t enough in a church it has gorgeous stained glass windows, especially a modern one in Art Nouveau style on painted glass, giving the window a most luminous effect.

PraguePrague

  Our next project was to visit the Jewish Quarter. We had rented an apartment in Prague just over 15 years ago that overlooked the Jewish cemetery. We wandered around the quarter eventually working out where we had stayed in Brehova Street. We visited the Old-New Synagogue. As we looked at the tiny peepholes through which women could peer into the synagogue, I couldn’t help recalling how a few weeks ago in Eilat at a relative’s barmitzvah I was incensed that there was a separate women’s section that was separated from the body of the synagogue by a curtain. I guess we have come a long way. 
Our most meaningful visit in the Jewish Quarter was to the Pinkas Synagogue. On the walls of the synagogue in the different rooms are inscribed the names of some 71,000 Czech Jews murdered in the Holocaust. The names are inscribed in row after row by place of residence and it’s very difficult to find specific names. Son in law Aviv Ron’s mother Tova Ron-Lederer made aliyah from Czechoslovakia with her parents. Some siblings remained behind and were killed, either at Terezin or at Auschwitz. We were able to locate the names of three of Aviv’s family, Ernst, Emile and Wilma Lederer from Volhyn, but couldn’t find the others.
 
It is always surprising to compare what Eitan and I remember of our trips – sometimes it’s as if we did not experience the same holiday. Eitan remembered a clock with Hebrew letters that moved counter clockwise. We found it on the clock tower of the Jewish Town Hall, below a clock with Roman numerals, moving clockwise.
 
PraguenamesPrague
Of course we passed through  the Old Town Square numerous times. A jolly place with the astronomical Clock drawing visitors at all hours of the day and night, the buskers, sausage stalls, bagel bracelets that looked far tastier than they actually were. The square is always fascinating. 

Clock in PragudePrague

Under a cloudless blue sky with a bitingly cold wind we prepared to visit the famous Charles Bridge.
We first stopped at the Church of St Nicholas in the Little Quarter, noted as one of the must see sights in Prague, and rightly so. There was also an interesting exhibition of Pope Francis’s 2014 visit to Israel, the Palestinian territory and Jordan. 
Then we stopped for coffee “At the Three Ostriches” just before the bridge.  Today it is a hotel and restaurant but previously it was owned by a Jewish man Jan Fuchs who imported ostrich feathers (most probably from South Africa) and made his fortune supplying the feathers to the army and fashion designers. He had the front of his house decorated with paintings of ostriches, three of which remain.

The Charles Bridge has many interesting statues of saints, many of them familiar to us by name. Intriguing was a statue of Jesus on the cross with gold Hebrew letters “kadosh, kadosh” encircling it. It appears that a Jewish man accused of blasphemy had to pay for the inscription. Eitan was happy to see a statue of his namesake, Saint Anthony.
 
PragueSt Anthonyon Charles Bridge
I also went to the New Town to the Church of St Cyril and St. Methodius. Yes, I am fascinated by churches and their art, but this visit was different.  I recently read the book “The Killing of Reinhardt Heydrich: the SS Butcher of Prague” by Callum Macdonald. A rabid anti-Semite, Heydrich was the ruthless Nazi governor of Czechoslovakia and architect of the Final Solution.  In 1942 two agents, a Czech and a Slovak, assassinated him. Afterwards they hid in this church together with other members of the Czech Resistance. Surrounded by the Nazis they all chose to commit suicide rather than be captured. A plaque and bullet marks on the outside wall of the church point to the place where they hid. In retaliation the Nazis obliterated two villages.  
Prague
We also attended an opera, Verdi’s Il Trovatore. The tickets were very cheap, but the singing was excellent. The production had one prop and was very static but we enjoyed the opera.  We also saw another opera, not quite conventional. It was Mozart’s Don Giovanni performed in a delightful puppet show where you saw the hands of the people activating the marionettes, which was fun. We saw a fascinating Black Light Theatre performance with really good effects, based on the story of Faust.  

Prague
Terezin


On our last day Milan Macura, President of the Czech Bridge Federatrion took us to Terezin.

The first time we had visited Prague we went on a tourto Terezin and visited the Jewish Museum there. This time we visited the small fortress where Jews and Czechs were imprisoned and tens of thousands died of torture and disease; survivors were sent to Treblinka and Auschwitz death camps.

In June 1944 The International Red Cross was brought on their infamous tour of the Ghetto to show how well the Jews were being treated. The ghetto had been beautified beforehand, a football match was staged and ill people were told to remain inside. The Red Cross never thought to look beyond what they were shown.



Food? Czech food is heavy on its sausages, pork, duck, and fallow deer, and meat in general, usually accompanied by some form of dumpling. . Between us we tried everything. Also some good pizza! And Chinese too!
Eitan and I also ate an excellent dinner at U Modre Kachnicky (http://www.umodrekachnicky.cz/en/nebovidska), which serves Czech specialties in a wonderful atmosphere in a delightful building in the Mala Strana area.  

pragueprague

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit and look forward to going there again in February next year for the bridge seminar.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            
Column 24: Meeting up again with the Ogdens
Ella and Archie Ogden are friends from our first days in St Thomas. The last time we saw them was just after the September 11 terrorist attack when we flew to St Thomas, one of the few places we could visit then.  Although many years have passed the warmth and shared interests have not diminished and when they visited Israel in November/December 2014 we had a wonderful few evenings together. (This Week's Picture Archives)
I remembered that in my cookbook I had written about the Ogdens, and what I wrote is reproduced here:


ELLA'S INEXPENSIVE ROAST
 2 k inexpensive cut of rolled roasting meat                   1 bottle Heinz Chili Sauce
1 bottle club soda                                                         1 packet dry onion soup

Place meat in a baking pan. Mix Chili Sauce, club soda and onion soup mix; pour over meat. Cover tightly with aluminum foil.

Preheat oven to 170°C/325°F. Roast meat for 25 minutes per ½ kilo (1 lb). For rare meat cook at 180°C/350°F for 22 minutes per ½ kilo. Let rest 10 minutes; skim off fat. Slice the meat. Reheat pan juices and serve as gravy with potatoes, rice or noodles.

  Ella and Archie

Ella and Archie Ogden were lifesavers in St Thomas. Not the swimming kind, but the friendly, caring kind; they saw it as their duty to befriend all Israelis (and other strays) on the island and we were fortunate to be encompassed by their warmth and help.

Life in St Thomas was far more formal than in Israel. No-one would drop-in unannounced, despite our constant urging. Finally a short while before we left St Thomas the first time there was a ring at the bell. Dad opened the door and there was Archie, red faced and beaming. Pumping his arms he exclaimed, "I did it! I just came."   <>
At my surprise 50th birthday party, arranged by Nina, Ella said she also wanted a surprise birthday party. I rashly promised to make her one. Rash it was, because how could we then surprise her? Varda and I decided on a joint surprise party, for Ella who wanted one and for Marilyn Blackhall who didn't even want to celebrate her birthday that year.

For weeks Varda and I planned and organized: who to invite, food lists, decorations, music, presents. Since Nina and family were away in Maryland for the summer, I called and ordered a birthday verse. Despite her protestations that she couldn't, she could and did, sending a delightful birthday verse which was read out during the evening.

The party was to be at the Pineapple pool. The problem was how to get the Ogdens and the Blackhalls there. When they arrived at our house the dining room table was set and  Varda and Hanan were there. I pretended to be completely flustered, claiming the air conditioning had broken down and the  food wasn't ready. When Marilyn suggested we just go out for dinner I had to say the dinner was in the oven, I just needed a few minutes to rest by the pool. Ella was delighted, put on her bathing suit and off we went to the pool. Imagine my surprise when no-one was there! The guests had hidden, and we were all surprised when they appeared. It was a memorable evening.


Column 23: Dalia Lamdani and the ostrich egg brunch
Dalia Lamdani
Dalia Lamdani, a very good friend of ours since our first days in Eilat, is an internationally recognized food historian. Our similar political views and shared love of good food  have woven close ties between us during many meetings in Eilat, St Thomas, New York and Tel Aviv.  Eitan loves to recount how early on in our relationship Dalia wanted to know from what fish ‘kosher lobster meat,’ new to the Israeli market, was made. She told Eitan the name in Japanese. He had no way of knowing its Latin name but opened a book on Pacific fish  with aplomb and looked at the page that fell open…. And disbelievingly looked again. With a flourish he gave Dalia the book and said: “Here it is!” 

Earlier this month (July) Dalia published a book "A Journey Around the Table": It has no recipes but is about the part that food plays in our culture. We were delighted to see that she had included a brunch that we had made.  Haaretz  newspaper  published a review of the book (calling Dalia “the Queen Mother of culinary writing in Israel”) and included a box featuring our ostrich egg brunch.
 ostrich brunch

This how the brunch appears  in “A Potpourri of Memories”, the cookbook I wrote.

It is said that an ostrich egg equals 24 chicken eggs, so one Saturday morning we had brunch for 12 people. Opening the egg was difficult. It had to be drilled and Anthony did a wonderful job of flipping this enormous omelet over in the air, and with muffins, smoked fish and corn fritters we had a wonderful time.
Dalia Lamdani wrote about that memorable brunch in the magazine "La Isha", November 1994, under the title ‘An Egg for Eight People’. Here is a free translation of  what Dalia wrote:

"The omelet that I ate many years ago at the home of Doreen and Eitan Levy in Eilat will always be remembered. Saturday brunch; relaxed, simple and Israeli: eight people sat around the table to eat salad and an omelet from one egg. Not one egg per person, but one egg for everybody – and that is something one doesn’t forget.

"We started by weighing the egg. Afterwards Eitan drilled two holes through the shell and blew vigorously into one hole until the contents of the egg were expelled from the other hole. The shell now weighed 250 grams, so that the net weight of the omelet was over 900 grams.

"Two days earlier, Doreen had bought the egg at an ostrich farm in South Africa. She also brought ostrich biltong which also played a part in the omelet, after being shaved into paper thin strips.  <>
This experience was recalled when I found a recipe for an ostrich omelet in one of the books of Alexander Dumas, the author of The Three Musketeers….”

Column 22: July 2014 - My thoughts on Operation Protective Edge and Peace  in our area.

I am definitely not for wars. Wars should be composed of armies fighting each other. This war is different – rockets from Gaza target kibbutzim, towns, and ordinary people trying to maintain some form of normalcy during these abnormal times. The Hamas and the Jihad Islamc  have made sure to prove that there is no town in Israel that is beyond the range of their murderous rockets.

We live in Netanya. Our sleep has not yet been disturbed by the sirens of  “Code Red”. Our hearts have not raced with fear as we run for shelter. Our bodies have not jerked to hear the whistle and thud as the rockets explode or the boom as Iron Dome explodes those rockets aimed at populated areas. Sorry, all rockets are aimed at populated areas, intending to cause as much damage to the civilian population as possible. Many, mistakenly, explode in open areas. 

Our family and friends, especially those within the borders of Israel but close to the Gaza strip, spend the day scuttling in and out of bomb shelters. Despite our offers, they refuse to leave their homes and stoutly declare they are fine. It is with great appreciation that we recognize that without scientists from Israel and America and huge amounts of money spent on the Iron Dome system, damage to property, but above all to children, women and men, would have been horrendous.

Although I am not a supporter of Netanyahu, I appreciated his restraint in that he did not immediately have the air force bomb the Gaza Strip. I hope he refrains from sending ground forces into Gaza, who will, no matter the stated aim, be bogged down there for a long period with heavy casualties. However, I do believe that that we should not have reached this stage. That the peace process should not have been ditched. That settlements,  “price tags attacks” (acts of violent retribution by hate-filled and fearful Israeli youth), fences and walls are not a substitute for peace. Ask any Israeli if s/he wants peace and the answer is always “of course.” But when they realize that peace involves compromise on BOTH sides, when peace means giving up the God-given dream of Greater Israel, many are not prepared for that. With it, they reject two states for two people, the only way to maintain some semblance of Jewishness and democracy. I read with despair as surveys reveal that an increasing number of Israelis prefer one state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean – A Jewish state that limits Palestinians rights and without the Palestinian right to vote in the Knesset – Apartheid all over again. 

Yes, I am fearful about the future of Israel; I doubt whether our future generations will know the Israel we know and love today. But I fear war more than peace. This round of fighting has made us aware that the Hamas have managed to smuggle in powerful rockets from Iran and Syria under our very noses. And how long will it take for them, God forbid, to bring in a nuclear weapon?

Peace involves great risks, many unknown elements, but to my mind it is the only avenue open for the continuation and flourishing of the Israel we know.  

I am aware of the terrible suffering of the Palestinians in Gaza. Since, as a policy, the Hamas station weapon caches in private buildings, these buildings are the targets of the Israeli air force strikes. Even though the air force calls upon the people in the building to leave, and fires a small warning rocker before the large one, the Hamas urges them to remain in their buildings with the subsequent horrific loss of life. The Palestinians have no bomb shelters, no sirens and they say they cannot sleep for the incessant bombings at night.

But peace is not to be nice to the Palestinians; peace is for us, for Israelis. We have to stop the terrible things we cause our young soldiers to do in the West Bank to maintain our lifestyle. We need to know the cost of our way of life which is maintained by might and terror. It cannot last. 

Ironically, this last week the Israel Conference on Peace was held in Tel Aviv – and yes at one stage they had to run to shelters. Tzipi Livni, our Foreign Minister stated:  ”The conflict will be solved when we understand that while we respect the historical narrative, we’re not discussing that. We’re here to forge the future.” 

May we find the leaders to lead us out of this morass, to lead us to the light, out of the tunnel of hate and revenge. 



Column 21: June 2014 Doreen's 70th
Eitan writes:
Doreen celebrated her 70th birthday on June 11th three times in two countries.
We were in Ireland on the evening of the 10th visiting Pia Zain (see details here) and the first celebration was a 5 course gourmet dinner at the Ballymaloe Hotel.
Ballymaloe hotel
drinking Irish tea

Doreen's favourite tea is Irish Breakfast Tea (it's the only tea she drinks in Israel),  so drinking Irish Breakfast Tea in  bed first thing in the morning in Ireland  was celebration number 2.


with Charles and Sheenagh


The third celebration was on the evening of the 11th at the "Fish Works" where we enjoyed a delicious dinner with Charles and Sheenagh Levy.


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Column 20: May 2014 -A visit to the West Bank

A search for a guide who could take an overseas visitor to Bethlehem and the West Bank lead me to the organizations, both Israeli and Palestinian, that lead such tours. Of course people from overseas are free to travel throughout the West Bank; Jewish Israelis are not allowed into Area A (total Palestinian control) but can visit Areas B (Palestinian municipal control and Israeli security) and C (total Israeli control).

Doreen and RuthieAlthough the overseas visitor did not go, I went. So, one day my friend Ruthie and I joined a tour of the central Shomron in the West Bank, run by Machsomwatch (www.machsomwatch.org), called Daily Life in the West Bank.

We drove to view the enclave of the Israeli Alfei Menashe settlements, surrounded by the infamous Wall that makes them part of Israel proper. The Palestinian town Qalqiliya is cut off from its hinterland by the continuation of the same wall, leaving only one narrow exit to and from the village. Since in other places (like Azzoun), the wall cuts off Palestinians from access to their agricultural land there are special agricultural gates in the wall that at best are open for a very short time three times a day and at worst twice a year. Special permits are needed even for those who pass through the gates daily. We watched as residents of  Habla - on foot, with donkey –drawn carts and vans - waited for the yellow gate to open.

We met with local Palestinian leaders and the wonder is that there are still Palestinians committed to peaceful coexistence with us!

On the tour was an Arabic-speaking couple. The woman told Ruthie that she came from Palestine, but wouldn’t elucidate. Later we learnt that the couple lived in Toronto. After the tour they took the train to Haifa - Palestine!  Earlier during a presentation of the conflict the woman said that in 1967 200,000 Palestinians were transferred from their homes. When I suggested that in such an emotionally charged subject, it was very important to use the correct terminology and that people were not transferred in 1967 (as opposed to 1948 and 1949), she said “So what do you call people who are not allowed to return to their land?” My reply of “refugees” brought her angry comment of: “Don’t you try and lecture me.”

I felt this was a missed opportunity to discuss such a painful subject and a timely reminder that there are other, very different narratives, and no matter how liberal we think we are, to others we are just part of the repressive  institution of occupation.

Carob juice sellerAt lunch time we stopped at Huwara for incredibly cheap falafel and kenafe and coffee. As we walked around people either ignored us or were friendly. A man selling carob juice from a picturesque container gave an eerie feeling of normalcy to the setting.

There were times during the day when we felt uneasy as we saw how we embitter the lives of Palestinians living in the West Bank, and yet it was peaceful and often pleasant.

It is not always so. We are told that about 30,000 Palestinians have permits to work in Israel. In the pre-dawn hour Palestinians rush to cross the checkpoint after sometimes waiting for hours. I am a volunteer with Road to Recovery, an NGO that takes sick West Bank Palestinians, mainly children, to Israeli hospitals for treatment. (see a previous column). The Palestinian Authority pays for the treatment but they have to get to the hospitals on their own account. That is where we step in, have to find them among the hundreds of workers and then drive them to hospitals. There are some very nice ‘terminals’ but the conditions at the checkpoints to where I am sent are invariably appalling and the lack of sanitary services unacceptable.

www.breakingthesilence.org.il does tours of the Hebron area

IPCRI, Israeli Palestinian Creative Regional Initiatives does tours of Bethlehem, Jericho and Ramallah, cities which are usually closed off to Jewish Israelis.




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Column 19 (April 2014) - Read about our trip to Vietnam

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Column 18 (March 2014) - A dive  in the shipwreck "Yongala"

Yongala dive


Less than 48 hours after landing in Townsville and after a sleepless night, Moran, Mikhal and I set off to dive the Yongala wreck. The dive club at Alva Beach looked Bahamian – slightly run down and disorganized, the promised breakfast wasn't ready and we saw people patching up the rigid plastic boat with superglue and then with super adhesive bands. Not such a good impression…….

But the dive introduction was good and the instructor was very professional. The boat, finally patched was released into the water and at fast speed we sailed 40 minutes into the ocean to the wreck.

Preparation for a dive is always somewhat nerve wracking; we had to back somersault into the water and I was worried I would get giddy. We were told that the current was quite strong and to make sure that we immediately grab hold of the rope otherwise we would find ourselves in New Zealand! When we all were in the water and feeling comfortable, we pulled ourselves down the rope to the Yongala wreck. The steamboat was wrecked in 1911 during a cyclone and all 121 people, passengers and crew drowned. It lies at a depth of 30 meters on a sandbank, but over the years has become a base for the prolific growth of hard and soft corals and sponges. These in turn have attracted and provided shelter to the fish.

Yongala dive


Yongala dive

Although the visibility was poor because of the recent rain we were amazed by the amount of fish around us. Aza, our guide told us that the reason the fish were so close was that they too couldn't see and so came up very close to see what we were. There were thousands of small fish on and in the hull with extremely large groupers, file fish, and parrot fish hovering or feeding on the corals.


A little further out we saw eagle spotted rays pass as shadows in the murky waters, a bull shark and sea snakes writhing on the sand floor. But for me, most amazing were the bat fish. They swam close to us in pairs but we also saw a shoal in the hull waiting to be cleaned



Yongala dive

After 44 minutes at 29 meters we hauled ourselves up the rope to the boat. As we decompressed we watched shoals of trevally and jack swim around and around us.  Climbing back on to the boat with full gear was no mean achievement. Where was Aviv to do everything for me?

The time on the boat was spent with Mikhal and me feeling seasick while the others tucked into the fruit, cakes and wraps. Aza told us about the history of the wreck.  We watched as sea snakes rose to the surface to breath and dive back to the depths, turtles break the water to breath and birds, frigates and brown boobies feed on small fish near the surface.

Our second dive was only to 20 meters so we were swimming above the wreck. Towards the end we saw a huge shoal of bat fish, many of them totally white except for their brown tails cluster around the hull of the ship. That was so amazing that it was enough and after 33 minutes we rose up the rope back to the boat.


When we neared the shores, sand banks prevented the boat from beaching so we had to wade through the water. A pleasant end to a great day!

Yongala diveYongala dive

Click here for more about the SS Yongala and dive information, and don't miss the video  showing the amazing fish  found in and around the wreck.

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Column 17 (October 2013) - some sites, family and friends in Johannesburg

On previous trips to Johannesburg we have spent our time visiting family and friends and bought peppermint crisps and biltong; nothing else to do in Jhb. From there we have gone on to Kruger, Durban and Capetown where there was plenty to do.  This trip was different. It was our final last trip to South Africa and while Eitan gave a course to South African tournament bridge directors, I played the tourist.

Sheenagh, cousin Charles Levy's wife, took me to the Mandela exhibition at the Apartheid Museum. It  was a most impressive exhibit, covering Mandela's life, his achievements, successes and failures. The exhibit showed how he was a born leader, but that he had to learn to become who he was, an incredible statesman and world leader. Surprisingly, much of this development took place in prison on Robben Island.

We then went to Constitution Hill, built on the Old Fort, where Africans were detained mainly because of the hated pass laws. The new building incoporates the bricks from the holding cells and is filled with art works. The statue below is at the entrance, depicting the enslavment of non-whites under apartheid. The wooden doors  behind have the values enshrined in the Constitution carved in 11 languages including braille on the massive entrance doors, by artisits from KwQua Zulu.

Sheenagh?
Here Sheenagh Levy stands in front  of a wall with paintings of Mandela at different stages of his life and enumerating the facets of his leadership.
.
Visitng relatives is a very important part of  our visit to South Africa.  Here I am pictured with cousin Marsha and husband Solly Krengel. ( Nochimovitz/Nickel family tree) at their home in Waverley.  Renewing ties and catching up on family news fills a need in me.

Krengels

Although Eitan and I left South Africa in the mid 60's,  schoolhood friends are still very important.  Eleanor Pines schlepped me around shopping and also showed me around.  Yvonne Heitner joined us one day and first we went to the very worthwhile Everard Read Gallery. Here we are in front of a painting of Soweto by Vusi Khumalo. The interesting thing about the painting is that when we think of Soweto we think of the poverty and miserable living conditions. The colours here are bright and optimistic, even though revealing the roofs kept in place by large stones, but the colours and scene reveal vitality and a place people call home. We all loved it.




Eleanor_Yvonne1Eleanor_Yvonne2
For many years downtown Johannesburg was thought not safe and although many parts are totally black there are pockets of restoration and rebuilding that have people of all color mingling happily together. In Bree Street we went to the Neighborhood Market.The variety of food at the stalls was impressive. We passed up the different beers, wines and champagne and instead had fruit smoothies at a stall run by a mutual friend of Eleanor and Yvonne. Although we thought the market  was absolutely packed we were told that it wasn't too bad, mainly because, I think, that the Chief Rabbi of Johannesburg had called upon all Jews, especially the non-observant ones to keep the Shabbat. The response was overwhelming and in one area more than 2000 challot were prepared in the street!  We were not part of that; even so the only place we found to sit in the market was on a bench at the entrance to the wash stands and toilets!

Issy and Elaine
When Eitan finished the tournament directors' course he was giving, he joined me and we went to Issy and Elaine Bacher. Over tea and cake by Elaine's beautiful rose garden we shared news of our children and Elaine brought out photographs when she visited us in Nassau Bahamas in 1991. It was a very intimate and meaningful time  (see Nochimovitz/Nickel family tree).

But the day was not yet over and we rushed back to change and meet other cousins for dinner! Here we pose, totally stuffed on South African steaks:
  The Tarazza family: Giorgio, Vanessa (nee Glasser), Micaela and Cinzia (with friend Francois). (Gordon/Glasser  family tree). Vanessa is my first cousin  and although we had lost contact for many years, we now keep up steady contact and were pleased to meet up again. Cinzia, now studying to be a teacher kept us informed about her activites as a cheerleader at school and we are delighted that she has become a beautiful young lady like her mother.
Tarazzas
We left for Mocambique knowing that there was still much to be seen in Johannesburg and wondering if we could could change "final last tour" to something else.

For more on our SA trip, click here.
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Column 16 (September 2013 - Some musings on Sukkot.


The Sukkot holidays this year have turned into a long extended holiday with children off school from Yom Kippur until the end of Sukkot, and this after the long summer holiday.

After spending Yom Kippur with Aviv and family in Eilat we brought our three Eilat grandchildren back home with us. We have many friends who are dedicated grandparents and devote at least a day a week to looking after their grandchildren. Since our children are not nearby, our style is different, and we get to look after them for an extended period, day and night. It is a chance to broaden their horizons and introduce them to things that are not available in Eilat. When we lived in Eilat I never thought of Eilat as lacking in anything, but today, to me, life there does seem limited.

Looking after three children is a major undertaking and I continually wonder how we managed to bring up three children without TV, without internet or smartphones! And work, travel and have a social life in addition.It is true that our children spent a lot of time amusing themselves, riding bikes, playing on the street with the neighborhood children and reading. Today children have to be constantly monitored and managed!

Our days with the Eilat grandchildren had a definite structure. Wake up, always too early for us, and then tea on the verandah to discuss the day's plans. Bake muffins or make pancakes if I have the energy. Free time for games, reading or TV. Then make sandwiches for later in the day (Saba Eitan makes the best sandwiches ever!) A pre-outing snack and then off we go to the day's planned outing (see photos). Eat sandwiches and then the afternoon program.

After spending three days with us, the children went to Vered and family. We joined them for Erev Sukkot in their beautifully decorated sukkah and enjoyed the traditional blessings and especially the waving of the four species. Levticus 23:40; " .....You shall take the fruit of the citrus tree, branches of palm trees, boughs of myrtle trees and the willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the Lord for seven days."
Each of the four species has a symbolism:

Together they make up the people of Israel and all are an important part of the Four Species.

I once heard that during Yom Kippur, when people repent (sometimes only momentarily) of the bad things they did, they then feel cleansed, proud and very full of themselves. The very next holiday sends us to the sukkah, a hut, to simplicity, to cramped quarters and the vagaries of the weather. Puts a little perspective on things. A nice idea.

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Column 15 (July 2013) - My impressions and thoughts on a trip to Poland

I have recently returned from a journey to Poland with Yad VaShem. You can read what I have written on this emotional journey by clicking here.


Column 14 (July 2013) : A yachting trip to Corsica.
Click here to read what I wrote and see some pictures of our yachting trip to Corsica and Elba.

Column 13 (June 2013): Other things to do in London

Everybody knows that London is for shopping, theatre and good restaurants, but here are a few ideas for other things to do:

Wall art

Try and go when the weather is nice, it does make a differenceJ Warned that it was cold and rainy we were totally unprepared for the cloudless blue skies and fair temperatures. On Vered’s recommendation, Louise and I booked a walking tour through the East End with Alternative Tours. Advertised as showcasing street art it was also about the history of the area from Huguenot times, through it being a very Jewish Quarter to its present Bengali character with an influx of yuppies today.
www.alternativeldn.com

We learnt about the differences between graffiti, tagging and street art (in Israel it is still all lumped under graffiti) and were amazed that artists would willingly create something knowing that it would be defaced or drawn over by some-one else in a few months or even weeks.  You can walk down Brick Lane, unaware that hidden from sight a few meters away was some really interesting street art.

By the way, Israel too has street art, especially Tel Aviv. Start with Know Hope, who was recommended by our guide Ben.

One evening Eitan and I went for a walk down Brick Lane. Curry, tandoori and balti restaurants line the street and no wonder it is advertised as the curry capital of the world. Ignoring all the touts we went to a restaurant we had chosen (with a discount if you book over the internet). It was packed and the food was good, but we were glad that, to our taste, our little curry restaurant in the West End, tucked between all the Chinese restaurants remained our favorite.

The area of nearby Spitalfield’s market is full of a variety of restaurants and pubs with throngs standing and drinking beer on the pavement. Worth a visit.  We had booked to do a Tanach tour with Rabbi Forta at the British Museum. The tour is intended to bring to life various extracts from the bible by showing exhibits from the museum which included a visit to the museum archives. Unfortunately it was cancelled, but I will give you the address. Make sure the tour is on!
www.livingjewishhistory.com/tours 

Louise and I went to a tour of the Globe Theatre on the South Embankment. The Globe theatre is on the way walking to the Tate Modern but people often miss it. Don’t. It is fascinating with intimate bits of information about life in Elizabethan times.

Eitan: For a different aspect of street art, read about the wall murals we saw in Tasmania.

Column 12 (May 2013) : A few days in Devon

visit to Devon/Cornwall

Going to London with Louise made this trip a little different and delightful.
We started by staying at a farm in Devon. No humble stone cottage, this farmhouse was spacious and well equipped, more like a manor with beautifully tended gardens. The weather was perfect – that magical combination of blue cloudless skies and crisp temperatures that makes one happy to be alive. 
This picture was taken shortly after the deer had crossed the lawn heading for cover under the trees and the rabbits had hopped off to have their dinner at the farm's vegetable garden. Just as trying to catch a rat with cheese is hopeless as they much prefer sausage, these rabbits scorned carrots and headed straight for the asparagus and leeks!


visit to Devon/Cornwall

We went to visit the Eden Project (www.edenproject.com). We drove along country lanes lined with tall hedgerows. These were so narrow that we had to stop to maneuver around cars coming from the opposite direction. When the view opened up we were treated to expansive views of rolling countryside dotted with stone farmhouses, green fields with sheep and cattle and yellow fields of rape seed. It was such demanding driving that we were sure we would be about the only people at the Eden Project. The few cars in the parking lot confirmed this, until we later saw that we were the last of about 7 huge parking lots, all already full. The place was packed! There obviously was an easier way to get there.

The Eden Project has turned a disused clay quarry, an ugly multi-terraced scar, into a magnificent green landscape with three Biomes, one outdoor and two under cover: a recreation of a rainforest (the largest indoor rainforest in the world) and the other of Mediterranean climes. The emphasis is on renewal and bringing awareness to how we use, or misuse our planets renewal resources.


This huge monster, called WEEEman (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) is made up of the electrical and electronic waste a person discards in his lifetime. (over 3 tons).

visit to Devon/Cornwall

 

On the way back we drove through the Dartmoor Moors, recalling the setting of The Hounds of the Baskervilles and Sherlock Holmes. It is a bleak expanse of peat and bogs with granite torrs jutting out of the grass. It must be a bitter place when the cold wind howls across the open fields.  All about there were ponies grazing; they are wild but accustomed to humans and so don't run away. All the female ponies had either just given birth or about to. It was delightful.

We continued to the huge Dartmoor Prison. It was already late in the afternoon and the prison looked closed, but when we saw two women exit a door, Louise and I opened it and began to enter when a guard, behind an inner metal gate stopped us. We only wanted to visit, we politely explained. He was adamant that we couldn’t, even if we committed a felony as this was a working prison for men and suggested we visit the prison museum instead!

visit to Devon/Cornwallvisit to Devon/Cornwall

  In the evening on the way back we went to a nearby pub, the Lymington Arms, for dinner - to find it was a gourmet restaurant. The chef had worked at a fancy hotel in Barbados. The night before we had eaten an excellent curry in Chumleigh. Jenny, who served us and runs the place, told us to go to Fiona's Farm Shop for an excellent cream tea. So the next morning we rang Fiona and ordered plain and wholemeal scones which they baked on the spot  while we drove 45 minutes along single lane country roads to eat scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam. Clotted cream has the consistency of thick sticky yoghurt and although it has 60% fat (less than butter), the way one slathers it on the scone ensures you're feeling the plaque buildup with each bite. (see This Week's Picture Archives)


We then drove one and a half hours in the opposite direction to the North Devon coast and stopped at Ilfracombe. It is a picturesque coastal town with rows of tall Victorian houses. There is a big difference in the tides and we watched fascinated at attempts to extricate a car from the wet sands. After the first failed attempt and watching the rising tide, Anthony suggested the best thing was for the man to quickly change his insurance from that of a car to that of a submarine. 
The coast was dramatic with stone torrs rising out of the sea.  We had fish and chips with malt vinegar for lunch, again. Perhaps surprising on my part, as previously in London at Paddington station while eating fish and chips a fish bone got stuck in the back of my tongue and it was quite an effort to pull it out.


visit to Devon/CornwallIlfracombe

That night we ate rhubarb cut from the garden, leaving the other veggies for the gardener and the rabbits.

The next morning we left for London, feeling we could have spent a few more days in this lovely area.


Column 11 (May 2013)
Keeping up contact with grandchildren across the oceans with very different time frames is problematic. To find a time suitable to talk to Maayan and Lotem when they are not watching a DVD, not too tired to talk or not busy with homework, can be challenging!   When I mentioned that I am thinking of writing another cookbook Maayan and Lotem offered to test the recipes. In the meantime they tried the cheesecake from my old cookbook. Lotem wrote; " I would give 154 points and even when we make mistakes, it's still delicious! Love Lotem. “  A great way to keep up contact!
Click here to see the recipe, and here to see the Segoli children preparing the recipe.

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Column 10 (March/April 2013) Visits to Australia and Myanmar

Having decided to spend Pesach with Moran and Mikhal and children, we set off to the other side of the world. Our trip encompassed Hong Kong, Melbourne, where we had two seders - but neither with the Segolis – Tasmania where we did day walks and had a third seder with the Segolis,  Bangkok and Myanmar.
I have written accounts of our trip with pictures.
Click for links to : Hong Kong and Melbourne      Tasmania      Myanmar      Bangkok

I hope the vicarious reading brings to life a little of the interest and joy that we had on our trip.

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Column 9 (March 2013 -A visit  to Herodion. )
(Thanks to Susan Bell for the pictures)
With a major exhibition on Herod currently at the Israel Museum, it seemed timely to fulfill a 2-year old birthday promise to my friend Yael Paperna and take her and a group of friends to Herodion. Setting  aside the morality of visiting a site in the West Bank, questions about warrior archaeologists as expressed in James Fenton’s poem “Jerusalem”, worries about security and the weather, and despite delays, a group of eight  intrepid woman set out for the day. When the two cars stopped for toilets on the way, we exhibited the “touring syndrome” and tucked into coffee, sandwiches, shortbread biscuits and muffins.  

 herodion tripSusan Bell, Louise Kessel, Louise Braverman, Ruthie Erez, Ofra Tene, Doreen, Yael Paperna and Caroline Livneh
I was mortified that despite printing detailed instructions on how to get through Jerusalem, I got lost. The other car had “Wazes” but I had to rely on asking directions; being female it was no big deal. 

 herodion trip

Herodion is an artificial mountain, today resembling a volcano but described by Josephus in “The Jewish Wars” as resembling a woman’s breast because 2,000 years ago a tower rose above the walls. 

In 40BCE the Parthians, the greatest competitors of the Romans had placed their candidate, Mattatiyahu Antigonus, as Hasmonean  king of Jerusalem. The Romans backed Herod. The Parthians and supporters of the Maccabee-Hasmonean bloodline chased Herod out of Jerusalem. He left with his mother Cypros, Mariamne his Hasmonean princess-fiancée, other family members and soldiers. He won a major battle against the Jews near Herodion. In the chase his mother’s carriage overturned and fearful that she would die, Herod became suicidal. She lived and they all left for Massada (another story, another time).

After gaining Roman backing he returns to Judea and with Roman soldiers conquers his kingdom, becoming sole ruler in 37 BCE.

In 23 BCE he begins building Herodion. Many towns and monuments are named after his patrons , like the Antonia in Jerusalem after Mark Anthony and Caesarea Maritima by the Mediterranean after Augustus Caesar. Desert fortresses are named after family members like Cypros near Jericho named after his dear mother. Herodion is the only complex that bears his name. The striking mountain that can be seen from Jerusalem and nearby Bethlehem is a monument to his victory over the last Hasmonean prince and celebrates his building prowess, his achievements and power.

Herodion acted as an administrative center but at the bottom of the hill Herod first built a large palace. His friends followed suit and built their houses there too. On the side of the mountain he built an intimate theatre of only 200-300 seats and above it a reception hall with fascinating frescoes that look like pictures hanging on a wall, with chain and nail, but also framed with shutters. The frescoes are unique in Israel with paintings of animals and people. Herod was of Idumean origin. During the period of the Hasmonean Kings Johanan Hyrcanus conquered the Idumeans and told them to either leave town or convert. The Idumeans as a people converted.



Herod never denied his Jewishness, but was a lover and fawner after everything Roman. He changed the geography of his kingdom, building temples and towns for pagans. By building a port at Caesarea Maritima he opened the land to Roman and Greek influences. He introduced the concept of leisure time to the wealthy, building bath houses, theatres and hippodromes. He imported food and wine from Italy and Spain. We may think of him today as a precursor of a secular Jew. We have no statue of his likeness, no idea what he looked like.

At the top of the hill Herod built a circular double wall 63 metres in diameter 7 storeys high. The round wall enclosed one complete stone tower and 3 semi-circular towers. Within the walls below, resting on the top of the mountain, he built his private palace,with bath house, living rooms and triclinium (entertaining hall) - see picture below. It was this triclinium that the Zealots converted to a synagogue at the time of the destruction of the Second Temple.

 herodion tripherodion trip

herodion trip.





At some stage Herod decided to turn Herodion into his burial place.  He builds a belt of stone around the mountain, literally shaves off a nearby hill and packs Herodion with sand and stones up to the round walls, covering everything, including the theatre and frescoes, leaving only 200 ‘marble’ steps that lead to the mountain palace through a series of stone arches. He changed the shape of the mountain.  On top of this, next to the steps he builds his mausoleum. Inside are a number of urns and sarcophagi, one of which, carefully decorated from pink sandstone, and  smashed to bits is identified as Herod’s tomb.

The picture is of a scale model of what archaeologists think Herod's mausoleum looked like. His sarcophagus would have been placed on the second storey

Ehud Nezer is the archaeologist who dug extensively at Herodion. Only after spending 37 years looking for Herod’s tomb at the bottom of the mountain, did he notice an irregularity in the mountain side, discovering the broken tomb in 2007. The irony, (perhaps Herod’s curse?)  was that in 2010, while guiding at Herodion, Ehud Nezer sat on a wall that collapsed and he fell to his death.






Did I forget to mention that Herodion, situated in the Judean desert has no natural water source?  That wasn’t a problem for Herod who built an aqueduct bringing water from the Artas springs some 8 km away. The water was collected in a large square pool surrounded by columns, which was used for boating and also served as a water reservoir with gardens and trees around it - a country club for him and his friends..

  herodion trip

Intensely aware of the importance of water, Herod had 3 large water reservoirs carved out inside  the mountain. One was used to collect rainwater from the floor of his fortress palace and the others were filled by bringing water from the pool/reservoir into the mountain reservoirs. 

 herodion tripherodion tripThe Louises negotiate the steep steps down to the cisterns inside the mountain.

Herodion was used was a hideout both by Zealots during the Great Revolt around the time of the destruction of Temple II and by the rebels of the Bar Kochva revolt. They carved tunnels, joining the cisterns so they could make surprise attacks against the hated Romans. It is believed that the Bar Kochva rebels smashed Herod's tomb, symbolizing their hatred for everything Roman and Roman influenced.

Josephus vividly describes the death of Herod in Jericho in 4BCE and how he was laid on a golden bier and covered with the royal purple, scepter and crown. With great pomp he was born by soldiers and accompanied by family, servants and slaves to Herodion where his body was placed in the sarcophagus inside the mausoleum.

Herod was an extremely cruel king. He systematically destroyed all traces of the people’s beloved Hasmonean dynasty, including members of his immediate family. One Roman said it was better to be Herod’s pig than his son. He rebuilt the second temple, bringing glory to Jerusalem and advertising to the world his special relationship with Rome, who allowed him to do so. He built cities and temples both inside Judea and overseas. He was a loyal vassal to his Roman patrons and always lavish with presents.  Afraid that the people would rejoice on his death (and they did!) he ordered his sister Salome to slaughter the leaders of the Jewish community, saying that would make everybody mourn. Fortunately she didn’t carry out his wishes.  The boiling resentment that arose would not be quenched for decades, leading to the destruction of the Second Temple by Titus the Roman, which in turn led to the development of Rabbinic Judaism without temple sacrifice as we know it today.
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Column 8 (January 2013  A trip to the Golan)


in tne Golan
Like everyone else in Israel, we forgot about elections, wars and Iran for a week as Israel was lashed by extremely heavy rains and wind. We listened to the news and noted flooded streets and were enthralled by reports of the continual rising level of the Kinneret (Sea of Gallilee). So when it all passed we decided it was time to go look for water. So Louise, Caroline Livneh, Yael Paperna and I drove to the Golan. Although we were aware that most of the water would be flowing in the Banias-Dan area that was also where most of the tourists (Israeli) would be, so we chose to visit the central Golan.

Our first stop was at Nahal Ayit. As we got out of the car we were surprised by the wind and bitter cold – back on the coastal plain it had been a windless sunny day. Luckily we were prepared. Nahal Ayit is a perennial stream but its flow was much stronger and we could see, well above its present flow, branches caught in the bushes, evidence of the height of its flood.  The basalt columns (see Picture of the Week) were formed, like most of the Golan, by ancient volcanos, now extinct. As the lava cooled it cracked forming these fascinating columns that look as if they were hand crafted.

We continued to Gamla and were greeted by vultures circling above Nahal Gamla. Assured that the walk to the Gamla falls was straight and not muddy, we bundled up again and set out. It wasn’t muddy – in places – and we had to squelch our way over stones and clumps of grass many times.  The picture of Yael, Caroline and I expresses our delight in the long walk and we felt that the wind had blown away the cobwebs from our brains.  Gamla Falls, at 51 meters, are the highest in Israel (see picture on left). On the way back we looked at the enclosure on the edge of the cliff where young vultures are kept for a few years before their release to enable them to acclimatize and learn their surrounding before they are released.  There are about 5 pairs of vultures that are preparing to nest at the moment. The vultures are severely endangered by increased human activity in the area, farmers putting out poisoned meat to kill wolves, ecological changes, and just less available food.  The cliffs are under video surveillance and after a vulture has laid an egg, someone from the Nature Preservation Society rappels down the cliff to take the egg which is kept until it is hatched. This is because the survival rate of the eggs and young is very low; they also hope that it will cause another egg to be laid that year.  It is these young vultures, before their released that we saw in a cage on the cliff.

Finally we stopped to view Gamla. We had gone through the rousing story of Gamla a few years ago so we just had a quick refresher course and enjoyed being out of the biting wind.


altar


Our next stop was at an ancient synagogue under reconstruction at Umm al Kanatir, recently renamed Rehavam’s arches. 

Through midrashim (rabbinic commentaries) we know that there were more than 20 synagogues on the Golan during Talmudic times. My favorite story is about Elazar HaKapar. During emergency archaeological surveys after 1967, a basalt lintel was discovered on one of the houses in Dabura with the Hebrew inscription, “This is the beit midrash of Rabbi Elazar HaKapar, the Caper Maker.” This gave new meaning to a discussion in the Talmud about “dangling on Shabbat.” During Talmudic times (equivalent to the Byzantine period) people lived by Jewish law. Since they were not allowed “to dangle” on Shabbat, meaning they couldn’t carry things, the question arose when could one wear new shoes on Shabbat. Even today many of us know that a perfectly comfortable pairs of shoes in the shoe store turns into a torture instrument once outside and need to be taken off immediately. So back then to prevent dangling they would have to be walked a distance equal from Katzrin to the bet midrash of Elazar the Kapar, about 4 kilometers, before being worn on Shabbat! Although the story is not connected to Umm al Kanatir, it is too good a story not be recounted here!

At Umm al Kanatir we walked down basalt steps and entered the synagogue. Many of the stones are numbered as the floor was removed to see what was underneath, and then replaced, stone by stone. But the most striking thing about the synagogue is the two meter high arched bimah (altar), in place facing Jerusalem, with rosettes and other decorations carved into the hard basalt stone, including  two seven branched menorahs with three-legged bases, incense burners and lulavim (palm fronds) (for Succot).

We then walked over to the remains of three arches with pools where sparkling water still gushes forth. In Talmudic times the village was known for its flax production sold both to the rich and the poor. The running water was necessary for the cleaning and bleaching of the flax

After a walk back up to the car we were more than ready for lunch. We drove down to the shores of the Kinneret and went to Marinda restaurant, excellent for steaks, to celebrate an exhilarating day.

(Click here for another picture of the trip)

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Column 7 (October 2012 in Townsville, Australia)
Peace at last! The kids are at school (see picture of kids in school uniform) and Mikhal has taken Zoe to daycare for a few hours. And we are back on the internet.

Townsville, like Sydney, is a large sprawling city but mainly of single story houses. Annandale, the suburb where the Segolis live, is a quiet neighborhood. It  is a 20 minute bike ride to the university and it takes about 30 minutes to drive to the Strand beach area. There is a small shopping center within walking distance. The school is also within walking distance. Although Eitan did a huge amount of preparation - thank goodness - there is still a lot to do and some days have been overwhelming both for the kids and us! In Davis Moran did a lot of the housework but here he is usually at work long before the sun rises and comes home only after dark.

It came as a surprise how Australian Townsville is - very few non-Australians, and even less Jews and Israelis. Maayan's teacher is from Samoa and very nice. This is very different from Davis which was extremely cosmopolitan with people at the university from all over the world.

A constant delight are the different animals here.. What we know as caged birds fly around here in flocks. The house has a pool with palms trees around. (see picture). Yesterday we suddenly saw over ten lorikeets (a kind of small parrot) nibbling at the fruit of a palm tree. At sunset a few nights ago cockatoos were flying overhead and squawking as they fought in the neighbor's yard. At night if we are lucky we see possums walking on the fence or in the trees. The neighbours' kids told us that once there was a poisonous snake in our pool. That caused a lot of excitement for the family; but me, every time I enter the pool, especially at night, I make sure that what looks like a stick is actually a stick! I did lift up a small frog out of the pool yesterday. If the kids weren't there I would have done it with a container and not my bare hands. What we don't do for grandchildren!

Waterpark at the StrandLast Sunday we went to the beach. There is a free water park just by the beach with free gas barbecues along the Strand. From November to March you can't swim in the sea because of the jellyfish. All along the beaches are containers with vinegar - an antidote to the very painful stings.

Through the middle of the city runs Ross River. They tell us there are crocodiles in the river but they are very shy. Fresh water crocs are not dangerous but beware of the saltwater crocs that come into the rivers. There is a dam wall that is supposed to keep them out but I've heard they come over with the flood waters in summer. A taxi driver told me that while he was fishing, a croc took his fish. Walking along the pathway by the river was a slightly uncomfortable feeling and I was constantly planning escape routes in case we saw a croc! We did see pelicans and cormorants and lots of cyclists and people either walking or running.

It came as a surprise just how expensive things are here. Tomatoes are between $8-$10 a kilo and if there is some special you may find some vegetable for about $2.00. And the Australian dollar is stronger than the US dollar! It is cheaper to hire a car for the day than to take a taxi one way to the beach!

The weather is already warm, but later towards summer all agree that it becomes disgustingly humid. And then the mosquitoes arrive. Glad I'll be back in Israel by then.

Before Eitan returned to Israel we spent 2 1/2 wonderful days in Sydney with cousins, at the opera, walking along Bondi Beach and renewing contact with our family. Hmmm, I wonder if we can persuade Moran and Mikhal to move to Sydney,,,,?"

While writing this I'm enjoying the quiet  - even the pool pump is quiet!

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Column 6 (August 2012) - On volunteering

Volunteering is a very important value in my life. My erratic lifestyle usually precludes me from volunteering because sometime-volunteers are usually not easily incorporated into organizations. “Road to Recovery” is ideal, as one can sign up whenever one has free time.

"Road to Recovery" is a volunteer organization that transports sick Palestinians from the West Bank to Israeli hospitals for treatment that is not available within the West Bank. Doctor’s Without Borders identify the patients and the Palestinian Authority funds the treatments but the families have to pay for transportation. That is where we come in.

This particular form of volunteering is my personal protest against the government's policy of enclosing Palestinians within the West Bank as well as against our continuing occupation of the West Bank. (Some of you may remember that in the late 1980’s in Eilat I organized a local chapter of Women in Black  http://www.womeninblack.org/es/history )

I usually transport children and their parents from a West Bank checkpoint to a hospital in Israel for treatment. This past week, unusually, two older couples were waiting at the checkpoint, with both wives suffering from cancer. They had to be taken to two different hospitals in Tel Aviv. When we arrived at Tel HaShomer I was told to pull over to one side. Both husbands and one wife got out of the car  to show their papers to the young security guard who controls the entrance to the hospital grounds. The other woman was too weak and remained in the car. The chief security guard came over, said something and left. The guard then said the one couple could go in by foot. Tel HaShomer is a huge complex; I said that I would like to drive them to the oncology outpatients department. The guard said okay but the other couple would have to remain by the hospital check point. When I pointed out that the woman was really not well,  it was exceptionally hot and there was no place for them to sit while I drove the couple in, the guard replied that the first couple would just have to walk.

The obtuseness and lack of caring is not confined to guards at border checkpoints! It pains me that in order to control the occupied territories the soldiers, our children, have become, perhaps have had to become, indifferent to the suffering of others. And this diffuses throughout Israeli society.

Go to the "Road to Recovery" site to learn about the organization and see a CNN featurette about Yuval Roth the founder of the organization.

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Column 5 (late June, July 2012 in Denmark)

These last months I have had the pleasure of meeting up with old friends – well I suppose when I look frankly in the mirror I can say friends who are getting old, but the intention is of friends from old. It started my thinking about this strange bond that is called friendship.

I (and you as well, I'm sure) form many intense relationships based on shared experiences at work, in common interest groups or when volunteering. And while the activities continue so does the friendship. Stop working and you might have no driving need to be with those people again – people who had formed the essence of your social experience over long periods – and they cease to be friends, becoming fond acquaintances instead.

This last month I saw Aura (Greenberg) and Maureen (Konigsfest) in Israel, and Eleanor (Gamsy) in London. We have been friends since high school in Durban and through the bonding experience of Habonim. Maureen lives in Jerusalem and we meet quite frequently, but I seldom see Aura and Eleanor who live in Canada and South Africa respectively. But the delight in our meetings is instantaneous – we just play a little catch up and continue with pleasure, relishing in this bond, although we all have other "'best friends" today.

So why is the shared experience through work over a specific time not enough to form a continuing bond? In London I saw Shirley Poluk – she and Gordon were at Ulpan Ben Yehuda with Anthony and me. Although Gordon and I had a massive argument, the subject of which I cannot recall now, the intensity of our ulpan experience overcame that and we still meet as good friends whenever possible.  From Ulpan days our other very close friends are Hans and Lottie Reijzer from the Netherlands who, although not related, are part of our extended family with the added pleasure of our children also being close. But of course we share a passion for good food and wine… and bridge, and each other!

And how do you form friends when you are older and a lot of effort has to be invested to meet and bond. My friendship with Levia grew after Justin, her husband, died. We have Dovvie and Ziona and Hofit/Bet Herut in common. And of course we went together to Florence!

Last month I spent three days with Nina and Mina in New York. How can I describe my friendship with Nina, first in St Thomas and later in Maryland? The intensity of our relationship had shared elements – we planned synagogue services together when we met there in the 1980's; she edited my family cookbook and taught me to be ever so careful as to not hurt anybody's feelings. Her love of poetry and especially Yehuda Amichai leads her to read the English translation of his poems while I have to read them in Hebrew (no easy feat) and explain to her how the Hebrew version differs from the English translation. Nina also introduced me to Mina the Baker from St Thomas. That auspicious meeting cemented another enduring friendship and launched me on a lifelong passion to bake good bread.

Pam and Pat from Sacramento CA are among the few people who became friends through being on a tour that I guided. It is well known that during those intense days of touring, love (usually) abounds and many wish to continue the relationship, but I never do. Pam and Pat are the exception. Meeting them this summer just heightened the chemistry and closeness we felt for each other with the strong desire to meet... somewhere, sometime.

And to my friends in Israel, Ziona, Caroline, Yael, Rachel, Dalia, and Ruthie, and the Kessel clan, and to the Davis family in New Zealand: You all form the nucleus of my meaningful relationships, giving me in turn strength and expansion of the spirit. And sometimes friends even become family, like Frankie Klaff.

So in the end I don't know what makes some people friends and others acquaintances. It seems that a shared meaningful experience cements such a strong bond that the relationship is no longer dependent on frequent communications. Perhaps it is the expectation that real friends will join me when they can, delight in my accomplishments and support me when I'm down. I expect real friends to be loyal and consistent, to be able to receive what I can give and in return offer their support when needed. I expect real friends not to use the baring of my heart against me, enabling me to be frank, knowing that the information will not be passed on. I am committed to do the same for them. Friendship, like marriage, does not demand equality but that there be a balance of each other's need.

For some I will put myself out even if it means great effort on my part; not meeting doesn't affect the intensity of the relationship and their standing in my heart.

For lesser friends and acquaintances meeting them is pleasant but not especially meaningful. In the end, when asked "How are you?" by lesser friends you reply "Fine." To real friends you share what is troubling you and what is giving you joy.

So to all those whom I call my inner friends, know that I take real joy in the successes of your family and worry when things don't go so well. You form the core of my well of love and caring and if you ever need help, call…. I hope I will be there to answer. J

And lastly to my best friend, Anthony: thank you for always supporting me, taking pride in my achievements and consoling me in my failures, and always, always being there when needed.

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Column 4 (late May 2012 in USA)

This last month was spent in the USA: first a few days with friends in New York and the rest of the month in Davis California with our son Moran and his wife Mikhal and children Maayan and Lotem and newborn Zoe Tanya Segoli.

When Zoe was about to be born Moran and Mikhal said, in the fashion of modern secular Israelis, that they had chosen the name Zoe and that we could choose the middle name. Of course our first choice was to remember Fern, Anthony’s late sister, but Zoe Fern Segoli didn’t sound a great combination, neither did the names of various ferns so we thought of Tanya, Fern’s middle name. Usually people don’t recall their middle name except on official documents but Fern always signed herself as Fern T. Levy. So Zoe Tanya Segoli she is. The grandchildren tell me that Tanya means fairy queen. The only Zoe I knew was Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger but the name is a little more popular than I had originally thought. When I arrived in Davis Maayan and Lotem told me with great excitement that the week that Zoe was born there appeared a notice in their complex laundry announcing a cat for sale named… Zoe. I thought this was a joke of Moran’s, until I read the announcement myself. If  Zoe will have only a few of the positive characteristics of Fern, determination, organizational capabilities, care for the underprivileged, love of the outdoors and concern for nature, the name will have been well chosen.
 
The custom between Ashkenazi and Sephardi families is a little different. I remember well when Aviv and Limor came to Anthony really pleased as they wanted to name their first born son after him. “But I’m not dead yet,” was Anthony’s shocked reply. In the Ashkenazi tradition only deceased relatives are honored by naming children after them, but it seems that in Sephardic families they honor the living parents. Itamar’s middle name is Raphael after Limor’s father. This is especially nice as the name also recalls Rael, Louise’s late son whose Hebrew name was Raphael. Limor’s father died earlier this year.

Names are a thing of fashion. Of our three children only Vered remains a girl’s-only name. Aviv can be of either sex while Moran is today generally a girl’s name. This caused a rumpus a few years ago. Ezra Reijzer the son of Hans and Lottie our dear Dutch friends, named his son Moran. When he visited Israel a few years later I got an angry phone call from Ezra demanding to know why I had given my son (and his) a girl’s name. Our children are all named after a relative, but sometimes only the first letter or part of the name remembers deceased relatives.

Even today we think nothing of a wife adopting her husband’s name. When a man adopts his wife’s name it causes raised eyebrows. I often have trouble when ordering something for Moran Segoli my son; people insist it is for Moran Segoli my daughter. But the Levy name continues because Maayan’s middle name is Levi.

Archaeologists can determine the date of a necropolis by the names scratched onto sarcophagii. If we look at family trees we see that in the past the same names appear from generation to generation as new babies are named after relatives. This has often been a great help to Anthony trying to trace relatives generations back, as Hebrew names are listed as “son/daughter of”,  (ben.. or bat…). Surnames among Jews (often based on locality, trade etc) were only adopted relatively late, during the end of the 18th century.

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Column 3 (late April 2012)

These months are revolving around babysitting. During Pesach Vered and family shared our looking after Aviv and Limor’s three children. At the time of writing we are looking after Vered’s girls as she and her husband Aviv celebrate 21 years of marriage in New York; On May 7 I fly to Davis California to help Mikhal and Moran with their new baby (see picture) and their older children Maayan and Lotem (See Lotem’s birthday card to Saba Eitan).  

The Holon Children's museum is a popular destination for parents with kids and one needs to book well in advance. While getting Amit and Ilai ready, Itamar sat reading a book and was adamant that he wasn't interested in leaving the house. At wits end, I told him that the museum is divided into themes divided strictly by age and actually he and Saba Eitan were going to The Aliens, a theme that the previous week, prior to his 9th birthday he could not attend. That interested him and he agreed to come. When I was at the box office he read the billboard and said the theme I had chosen was from age 8. He wanted to go to Invitation to Silence which was from age 9 onwards. I explained the problem to the cashier and Itamar and Saba Eitan got a private tour by a deaf and mute guide while I took the girls through the Magic Forest. The day was a huge success. 

One Friday night while guiding my last tour, Anthony drove up to Jerusalem so that we could take Jordan Davis out for dinner. We first met Jordan in the early 1990's in the Bahamas when he was 2 years old. Jordan who is completing medicine came to Hadassah hospital to do an internship in surgery. He is presently in Bhutan where he is doing surgery. He is the son of Lindy and Richard Davis from Auckland New Zealand.  It's a wonder we remained such good friends with his parents.  A story from my family cookbook “A Potpourri of Memories”: 
“In Nassau we often spent Friday night with Richard, Lindy and Jordan. Delightful Jordan loved to ‘make Shabbat’ and say the blessings over wine and homemade challah. Once, invited to the Davis family for Shabbat dinner, we arrived to find their house in darkness. Pinned to the door was this message:
“SORRY! Things just got too stressful…. Have taken off to Miami. Dinner’s on the doorstep” And in a plastic bag was a lump of chicken wings. Undeterred, we knocked on the door and waited patiently until they opened it and we walked in to enjoy the delicious dinner prepared for us. We always wondered what would they have done had we just walked home in a huff! The wings were a present for Chewy, our dog.” 


at aureen's exhibition



I took  time off for myself, and Yael Paperna joined me at Maureen Fain's exhibition "Color", dramatic oil paintings of African faces. Maureen is considered one of Israel’s finest water colorists. This exhibition in oils shows Maureen’s skill in bringing out shades of color in African faces where most of us would see only black or brown. It's at the Givatayim Theatre until May 5 and if you are in the area I heartily recommend a visit to the show. An unexpected (to me) visitor was Rocky Murawitz originally from Durban. Rocky heads "Tikvot" a non-profit voluntary organization that encourages victims of terrorism to recover through sport. http://www.tikvot.org.za/contact.htm      Kol HaKavod Rocky!





with Don and Linda



Although I am very friendly with my tourists I usually don’t become friends with them. Not so with Linda and Don Wisthuff from Denver. No longer arranging tours they now come privately to Israel.  Driving from Ben Gurion to our apartment in Netanya was complicated – they got hopelessly lost, but when retrieved we enjoyed catching up over some refreshments.





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Column 2 (late March 2012)

Now that I have my own computer (even though it is rather slow!) I went through Anthony’s (Eitan's) documents to weed out all my files that I had mistakenly saved under Eitans docs. The following  is part of a letter written in 2001 in Maplewood New Jersey where our daughter Vered and Aviv were living at that time. What makes it so delightful is that were I to write it today, 10 years later, the reaction of each one of us would be exactly the same.
 
“….. Dani (our granddaughter) lost her first tooth a few days ago. She was very excited. We worked hard to strengthen her belief in the tooth fairy. Dani wanted very much to keep the tooth. That caused quite a debate between the adults. Of course Anthony and I had opposite views. I told her that if she wrote a letter to the tooth fairy and put it under her pillow it was possible that the fairy would give money and leave her the tooth. The idea behind it was that even if you want something that appears to be impossible and you want it hard enough and are prepared to work for it (the letter) miracles can happen. Anthony on the other hand said that was unrealistic and that she should learn that wishes don't come true.  Vered didn't want to leave the tooth because she thought it was disgusting. She had enough trouble with the (chicken) wishbones that Dani is collecting under her pillow (later).
 
RV in 2001Dani in the upper bunk

We did take Dani on the RV. She said she wanted 3 nights and 3 1/2 days. We were all very excited, took photographs and drove off to Viv and Frankie in Delaware. I'd forgotten that an RV is like a boat and I should have packed much better.  As we drove around the first corner all the drawers swung open, the cupboards opened and many things started crashing down. What didn't fall out remained and rattled. Lopsy our dog started shivering and never stopped as long as he was in the RV. A few minutes later we stopped for gas and Anthony, mainly because of bad instructions from the gas attendants, crashed into a pole. At which point Dani started to cry that she wanted to go home. And we hadn't even left Maplewood yet! Dani eventually slept and that was a blessing because it left us time to find our way.
 
At supper, while Anthony was carving the chicken, Dani began to cry, telling us about a really frightening dream she had had. That afternoon I had read her a Dr Seuss book and it mentioned a fishbone and a wishbone. We had looked at the pictures, talked about it and she made a wish. So at chicken dinner while she was crying when Anthony carved out a wishbone, I seized it and told her it was great luck. She made a wish about ensuring good dreams, wrapped it under her pillow and slept well. When we returned to Maplewood, Dani again found a wishbone at dinner. Vered was adamant that the wish only came true when you threw it away. I was most indignant and asked her where she got her education and of course Dani had to wrap it up and place it with the other wishbone that was under her pillow.Dani behaved beautifully throughout the trip and we were very proud of her.”

  Dani in 2012Dani today

This month passed in a blur of cooking and cleaning and walking. Happily I shall be working this month as the endless hours in the kitchen are definitely telling on Anthony and especially me.
We entertained many people during the month, old friends from Durban and the early days of Netanya, from Hofit and just friends.
 

Maureen Fain's paintings

We were pleased to have lunch with Maureen and Dick Fain. Maureen, a friend from high school who lives in Jerusalem, is having an exhibition at the Givatayim  Theater. The paintings look fabulous! Here are two examples. Details of the exhibition can be found on  Maureen's site


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Column 1 (March 2012)

Earlier this month Anthony (Eitan) and I took advantage of a fine windy Saturday and drove to Netanya’s cliff promenade. It was lovely – people were strolling or determinedly running, dogs were being walked, and Anthony and I reminisced. When we made aliyah we attended Ulpan Ben Yehuda. It was near Beit Goldmintz, a soldiers’ recuperation hostel, which we regularly passed on our way down to the beach. Friday nights we would take dog, a tent, food and fishing gear to camp out the night. Early the next morning Anthony would go fishing and I would prepare breakfast. We always had sausages, as he never caught even one fish!  (Shirley Poluck who also attended Ulpan commented: "I remember Gordon and I camped out on the beach with you. Eitan caught fish and we cooked and ate them. Those were the days.”Well perhaps I exaggerated a little.  Forty seven years later as we walked along we saw Beit Goldmintz but could no longer find Ulpan Ben Yehuda in the housing projects across the way. A new road wound its way from the cliff to a fish restaurant on the shore. We decided it was too strenuous for Anthony’s repaired heart but promised ourselves we would eat fish there as a tribute to those bygone days when we didn’t even notice the huge shlep down to the beach!

This month we not only met memories but also live people from our past. At a dinner party given by the Bells we met Justin and Pamela Silver. Anthony hadn’t seen Justin for some 50 years! When we arrived I counted the seats and asked Susan who else was invited – “Oh the Smiths. Also from your country.”  And so, at a dinner given by ex New-Zealanders we met up with ex-Durbanites, the Silvers and Charles and Shirley Smith. Charles and I lived on the same floor  in Park Lane Apartments in Durban! One of the things that we as immigrants miss is contact with people from our childhood, from school days. This was a special meeting. 


Nevat and Ilana Ephratywith Nevat and Ilana Ephraty
Nevat and Ilana Ephraty are among our very first friends in Israel. Nevat and Anthony (that’s how they still call him today) met while sitting on a bench waiting to be interviewed for teaching posts at ORT Netanya. Nevat, an officer in charge of  a Druze army unit,  had just left the army while Anthony was still at Ulpan.  The Ephratys still laugh at my flowery Hebrew terms learned at the Ulpan which are never used in daily conversation. On our round the World Trip in 2001 we had cause to fondly remember the Ephratys. Today, although retired, Nevat heads the publishing unit of Wingate Sports Institute where he taught for many years,  and Ilana is a retired primary school principal. Over dinner, we thoroughly enjoyed catching up with each other's news.

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