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Monday, August 31, 2009

I know I've probably blathered on about this before, but...

Some of you earthy crunchy people have added the following little addendum to the end of all of your emails:

P Please consider the environment before printing this e-mail. Thank you.

I have a request to make:  Please consider removing it. 

Seriously... pretty much every time I have to print out an email, that little touchy-feely tag you've added to your email template forces two pages print rather than just one!

I'm guessing that there must be over a thousand blank sheets of paper in the 'Recycling Bin' next to our shared printer at work... blank, that is, except for that heart-warming, ecologically responsible sentiment printed along the top of each otherwise pristine page.  I usually grab a few sheets from this overflowing bin for doodling and taking notes when I head out to a meeting.  But there is only so much doodling a person can do!  The rest of it gets taken away and ostensibly recycled... but I have my doubts.

Talk to the IT manager in your office and have them remove that cheery green blight on the office environment.  Not only does it waste paper (instead of saving it), but since it is also in color, pages that would otherwise be printed in black & white now require a spritz of whatever toner colors combine to make that special shade of 'tree-hugger green'.

That's all for today.

Posted by David Bogner on August 31, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Just 18 walking days left until the start of the 'fressing' season

The holidays are nearly here (at least for the Jewish folks out there) and you know what that means:  Eating. 

Oh sure, we have a couple of fast days tossed in there to keep us from actually exploding from all the rich holiday meals we consume... but the overall impact of the Rosh Hashanah-thru-Sukkot eating season on our waistlines can be, erm, dramatic.  And then, of course, comes Sufganiyot (Hannukah) season. [sigh]

So this is it, folks.  If you don't start walking now, you'll never get out ahead of those calories!  While some of us are preparing ourselves spiritually for the holidays, this challenge should help get us physically ready as well.

If you aren't yet signed up for the 'Walker Tracker' site, click here to get registered (it's free!)!

If you don't yet have a pedometer (or you lost, washed, ate... your last one), go to any sporting goods store and pick out one that fits your budget and your needs.  They aren't expensive and the presence of this tiny device in your pocket or clipped to your belt will literally change your life!  

If you have questions about what model to buy, you can email me directly or leave a comment on this post.

Once you are signed up for the Walker Tracker site, you can join the 18 day walking challenge leading up to the holidays by clicking here

Posted by David Bogner on August 30, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Thursday, August 27, 2009

I'm guessing that was the beer talking

Zahava and I went to the Beer Festival in Jerusalem this evening and had a great time.  A few dozen beer manufacturers from around the world were there with their wares on tap for the public to enjoy (for a fee, of course), and there were a bunch of local eateries with food concessions as well.

I loved being able to drink a few beers... then grab a kosher steak sandwich and some kosher Asian fusion stir fry... and then go back for more beer.  it was the kind of casual, effortless eating and drinking I hadn't enjoyed since my pre-kosher days.

BTW, the best beer I had (although I didn't try them all, by any means), was the Dancing Camel India Pale Ale.  We caught up with the owner (who made aliyah on the same flight as we did) and complimented him again on his success.

At one point we ran into our friend and fellow blogger, Benji Lovitt of What War Zone?  Benji and I spent some time discussing the whole Swedish blood libel thing; trying to come up with a workable solution to the problem.  For anyone who has ever watched people who've been drinking try to come up with a workable solution to any problem harder than the rebus puzzles inside beer caps, your expectations are probably justifiably low.

My contribution to the discussion which was announced to the group of gathered friends:  "I've decided that if a beautiful Swedish woman ever throws herself at me and tries to lure me into an affair... I'm just gonna say no.  That's right, as a result of this ugly blood libel I'm officially boycotting beautiful Swedish women!".

Zahava took a big gulp of her beer, rolled her eyes at our small group of friends and said in a sarcastic monotone, "No, no girls, hands off... I saw him first".

I'm guessing that was the beer talking.

Posted by David Bogner on August 27, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (23) | TrackBack

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

I gotta get that closet cleaned out one of these days

Memories are slippery things that get filed away in so random and opaque a fashion that we often can't remember why we went into the kitchen or what we were supposed to pick up from the market... but we can recall our address from when we were in the 2nd grade, or the smell of the infield at a particular Little League game. 

It's not that some memories are saved and others discarded.  I feel strongly that we hang onto just about every thought, feeling, encounter and experience we ever have.  But the idea of trying to retrieve a particular memory can be a bit daunting... like walking into Fibber McGee's closet; just about everything you've ever crammed in there might fall on your head...  or nothing may come out at all.

But when we involuntarily mine our memories during sleep, we often wake up more than a little shocked at what's hiding in there, and say to ourselves, "I gotta get that closet cleaned out one of these days". 

Such was my experience the other night.

I went to bed at a reasonable hour and got plenty of sleep.  But around 4:00 AM I woke up to the sound of Jordan scratching at the door to be let out.  This isn't particularly uncommon now that she is an old dog.  But often after letting her 'do her business', I have trouble going back to sleep.

However, this time after I'd let her back in and locked the door, I had a quick glass of water, dove back into bed and fell almost instantly into a comfortable slumber.

When my alarm went off a little over an hour later, I felt like I had to claw my way out of a mile-deep pit to reach the offending noise.  And even after I'd silenced the alarm, I lay there for a few minutes, still more asleep than awake thinking to myself 'So that's who Floyd Patterson is!' 

This was particularly strange since until that moment in time, I couldn't recall ever having ever heard of Floyd Patterson.  But my dream during this short bout of sleep had been all about the name... and the man who owned it.

The dream itself was as vivid as a film.  I was a little boy... no more than six years old.  I was in a supermarket with my mother, and as a teenager bagged our groceries, I stood at the end of the check-out stand people watching and fingering the neat stack of brown paper bags folded there at my eye level.

The dream was filled with the competing smells of the market... of the foods... of ladies perfumes... of cigarette smoke... of the earthy paper bags... and of underlying hint of rotting fruit.  And competing with the smells were the sounds... the tap of shoe heels, the ratchety mechanical ring of the cash registers... the occasional sound of a car horn outside.

Suddenly an enormous man in crisply pressed slacks and an open-necked white shirt passed near us on his way out of the store.  He seemed to know many of the check-out girls and nodded in greeting to a few of the shoppers.  I noticed the man, not because of his size, but because he was black... probably only the second black person I could recall seeing in person. 

Having grown up in an upstate New York village founded by French Huguenots that boasted a population in the mid-4 digits, I hadn't yet picked up any of the racial baggage that most of us acquire as we go through life.  I just found the 'differentness' of his appearance to be fascinating and didn't yet have the social sophistication to glance surreptitiously or to look away when caught staring. 

I stared at this well dressed, smiling black giant who seemed to know everyone... and as he passed us, his eyes met mine and his head dipped just slightly in what could just as easily have been a friendly acknowledgment... as the completion of his stride.

When his broad shoulders had passed through the doors of the market - seeming to nearly touch both sides as he went - my mother turned to me and I flinched involuntarily against what I was sure would be a scolding for staring at a stranger.  But instead she smiled at me and said, "Do you know who that man is?  That was Floyd Patterson.  He's a famous boxer and he used to be the Heavy Weight Champion of the World!"

This struck me as odd since I couldn't recall either of my parents having expressed any interest in boxing.   But I was glad not to have been scolded, and even more pleased to have been so close to someone who my mother seemed to think was famous.  Almost as an afterthought, my mom added "He lives here in New Paltz".  Which struck me as an even more odd thing to say, since nearly everyone in the entire world - except for my grandparents, of course - lived in our little village.

When I woke up with the name Floyd Patterson humming around in my mind, I wondered idly if my dream had been a work of fiction or if this memory was an artifact that had come tumbling out of my crowded mental closet during the night.

On a break at work, I googled Floyd Patterson and, lo and behold, not only had he been a former Heavy Weight Champion of the world... but he had lived most of his adult life in New Paltz, NY, the village where my family lived until I finished 3rd grade.

Later that day when I got home from work, I called up my parents and made chit-chat for a few minutes, wondering if I dared ask them about my dream.  Finally, as my mother was starting to hint that the phone would soon be passed to my father, I blurted out "Mom, I have to ask you something.  I had a strange dream last night and I'm having trouble figuring out if my mind was being creative or if the dream was my sub-conscious mining an actual memory from when I was a kid.

I told her the dream and fully expected her to laugh and tell me what a creative imagination I had.  But instead she was silent for a moment and then said, "You know... that sounds familiar.  I remember being out with someone... it could have been you... and pointing out someone I thought was Floyd Patterson. He was a local celebrity in New Paltz."

So there it was.  A memory I didn't know I even had came tumbling out of wherever memories go, and played a starring role in one of the most vivid dreams I've ever had.  Even now, I can almost smell the market and hear the rhythmic cadence of the check-out girl's pounding on the cash register.

I have no idea why my mental closet occasional disgorges an avalanche of memories and on other occasions stays obstinately locked,  But one day if I ever come into some serious money, I'm going into therapy for a couple of years to find out if this means anything.  After all, 'I gotta get that closet cleaned out one of these days'.

Posted by David Bogner on August 25, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (16) | TrackBack

Monday, August 24, 2009

Just when you thought it couldn't get any better

Update on yesterday's rant post :

So basically up until yesterday the Swedish paper that published the blood libel saying that IDF soldiers were harvesting organs from dead Palestinians were defending their claim. 

However, according to a report published today:

He [The editor of the Swedish Daily] described himself as "a responsible editor who gave the green light to an article because it raises a few questions." He did note, however, that the paper had no evidence that such horrific practices were being carried out.

On Sunday, Aftonbladet published a follow-up article, defending the offending report written by freelance journalist Donald Bostrom. The second article maintained that the organ-harvesting matter "should be investigated, either to stop the relentless Palestinian rumors, or, if the rumors prove to be true, stop the trade in body parts." 

Now, I didn't go to journalism school or anything, but isn't it sort of against all the rules to publish accusations of wrongdoing without having some evidence to support the claim?  I mean seriously, isn't that the textbook definition of libel???  Can a newspaper really print anything they want with the goal of "raising a few questions" and then defend the practice by saying that their goal was to put a stop to the very rumors they are spreading... essentially placing the burden of proof on those they have smeared?

Someone please tell me why our Prime Minister hasn't summoned the Swedish Ambassador to explain his government's support of this anti-Semitic blood libel?  This is not protected journalism.  It is hate speech!

Afterthought:  There is an excellent discussion of the issues over at this group blog published by Pro-Israel bloggers in the SF Bay Area.

Posted by David Bogner on August 24, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Settling scores

Blood Libel

Definition: False and sensationalized allegations that a person or group engages in human sacrifice, often accompanied by the claim that the blood of the victims is used in various rituals and/or acts of cannibalism. The alleged victims are often children.

To be clear, Jews are not the only group that has historically fallen victim to blood libels.  Other vilified minorities that have also been the target of such baseless allegations include homosexuals, Gypsies, Wiccans, Mormons, Communists.  But for some reason Jews have the longest and 'richest' track record of having been singled out for these vicious accusations, and the pogroms/attacks that quite naturally followed on their heels.

Before we go on, here's a little history: [source]

The first recorded instance of a blood libel against Jews was in the writings of Apion, who claimed that certain Jews sacrificed Greek victims in the Temple of Jerusalem. After this, there are no known records of the blood libel brought against Jews until the 12th century legend surrounding William of Norwich, first recorded in the Peterborough Chronicle. The accusation became more common afterward. In some subsequent cases, antisemitic blood libels served as the basis for a blood libel cult, in which the alleged victim of human sacrifice was venerated as a Christian martyr. Many Jews have been killed as a result of blood libels, which continued into the 20th century, with the Beilis Trial in Russia and the Kielce pogrom in post-World War II Poland.

Probably the most recent high profile blood libel is that from December 1984, when the Saudi Arabian delegate and President of the World Muslim Congress Dr. Ma'ruf al-Dawalibi, speaking before the UN Human Rights Commission conference on religious tolerance, stated:

"Jews have indeed been the victims of discriminations throughout the centuries. But why? Let them answer this question themselves. The Talmud says that any Jew who does not drink every year the blood of a non-Jew will be damned forever."

I normally rely quite heavily on Wikipedia when researching data for my posts, but I think their assertion that the outrageous 1984 blood libel quoted above is "Probably the most recent..." example of this ongoing vilification of the Jews might be a bit out of date.

The most recent Blood Libel was actually the claim published last week in the Swedish Daily 'Aftonbladet', that floated the incredible accusation that IDF soldiers were killing Palestinians security prisoners in order to harvest their internal organs... a story that was lent the veneer of plausibility by the recent arrest in the US of a Jew for allegedly trafficking in human organs.

Now, I have no knowledge of the U.S. organ trafficking case that is supposedly pending, and have no intention of allowing today's topic to be sidetracked by it.  But I will take this opportunity to state that such cases have been cropping up more and more in recent years around the world; not because people are actually being kidnapped and waylaid for their organs (as has been the subject of many urban legends), but because the disparity in laws (and enforcement) around the world dealing with transplantation and organ donation issues has given birth to an entire industry of medical tourism and gray-market compensation for kidneys and other high-demand organs that have been voluntarily donated/sold.

But getting back to our current blood libel... I find it hard to imagine that Sweden has no slander or libel laws on the books alongside those laws that guarantee a free and unimpeded press.  It stands to reason that in any free society such checks and balances would be required. 

Yet despite the 'journalist' or newspaper who published the blood libel not having presented a credible source or a shred of corroborating evidence, the Swedish government has refused to condemn (or even criticize) the outrageous accusation on the grounds that their Constitution forbids the government from interfering with free speech and a free press. 

The more the Israeli foreign ministry protests the Swedish government's silence, the stronger the Swedes declare that "No one can demand that the Swedish government violate its own constitution."  Would it be that they and their Europeans neighbors held Israeli law and internal policies as sacrosanct.  The trouble is that they all feel that they can meddle in the minutiae of Israeli daily life down to the level of how many housing units can be built in our own capital and what security measures we may and may not impose for our own safety!

The truth is that Sweden has always been a big talker about things like neutrality and fair play.  Yet it is now fully documented that throughout WWII the Swedes continued to sell vital war materials (including iron ore) to Nazi Germany, allowed Nazi troops and arms to be transported through the country and enacted draconian immigration laws to keep those trying to flee the Nazis from reaching their soil.   They also also had a thriving pro-Nazi press and the Swedish scientific institutions were leaders in the fields of race biology and eugenic research. [source]

Personally, I have stopped being shocked by both passive and active European / Scandinavian anti-Semitism.  It is deeply ingrained in their culture and is openly tolerated even in circles where political correctness in all other matters has been taken to crazy extremes.

But trust me, there will be a reckoning within our lifetime... a settling of scores.  It will not be done by us, but rather by the very people they have chosen to champion in their mock-neutrality: Radical Islam.  Just as with the UK, Belgium, Denmark and France, Sweden is being swamped by wave upon wave of Muslim immigrants who will soon teach their hosts a thing or two about tolerance and freedom... and will put to rest the myth of Sweden as a neutral/non-aligned country. 

Posted by David Bogner on August 23, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Friday, August 21, 2009

Color me less than surprised

 [A guest post rant by Zahava]

Having just returned from a well-deserved vacation up north with my family, I have been catching up on non-urgent email, blogs and... yes, the news

[commence: rant]

Seems that while we were up north, Scotland caved and decided to release the only person convicted in connection with the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing

That would have been bad enough.  But it seems that even though Scotland said 'pretty please', Libya chose to ignore the request to keep the mass murderer's return to his native land a solemn and toned-down affair to respect the 270 victims’ families’ on-going grief.

I for one am shocked! Shocked, I say!

What is more disturbing to me than the hero’s welcome this monster is receiving, is the naive global response to it.  I mean really... did Scotland (and the rest of the civilized world) really not see this coming? Because, ya know, there have been signs – lots of ‘em -- that the Islamic world (the one you insist Israel should be able to make peace with), doesn't exactly play by the same set of rules as the rest of us. 

Oh, I know... this release was intended to show compassion for a man who is terminally ill with an estimated 3 months left to live.  Well, I say that's tough for him.  Where was his compassion for almost 300 innocent people he erased from the world? 

Just in case there are any readers who still think Scotland did the right thing, please read a small section of the information revealed in the crash investigation:

All 243 passengers and 16 crew members were killed.  Eleven residents of Lockerbie also died. Most of the passengers were from the United States.  A Scottish Fatal Accident Inquiry, which opened on 1 October 1990, heard that, when the cockpit broke off, tornado-force winds tore through the fuselage, tearing clothes off passengers and turning insecurely-fixed items like food and drink trolleys into lethal objects. Because of the sudden change in air pressure, the gases inside the passengers' bodies would have expanded to four times their normal volume, causing their lungs to swell and then collapse. People and objects not fixed down would have been blown out of the aircraft into the −46 °C (−50.8 °F) outside air, their 31,000-foot (9,400 m) fall lasting about two minutes.[12][page needed] Some passengers remained attached to the fuselage by their seat belts, crashing in Lockerbie strapped to their seats.
Although the passengers would have lost consciousness through lack of oxygen, forensic examiners believe some of them might have regained consciousness as they fell toward oxygen-rich lower altitudes. Forensic pathologist Dr William G. Eckert, director of the Milton Helpern International Center of Forensic Sciences at Wichita State University, who examined the autopsy evidence, told Scottish police he believed the flight crew, some of the flight attendants, and 147 other passengers survived the bomb blast and depressurization of the aircraft, and may have been alive on impact. None of these passengers showed signs of injury from the explosion itself, or from the decompression and disintegration of the aircraft.

And even more disturbing to me is that, by the time the next news cycle rolls around, any of you who had the decency to be outraged by the release of this mass murderer will have calmed down and 'moved on' 

Color me less than surprised.

 [/ rant]

Posted by David Bogner on August 21, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (23) | TrackBack

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The right soundtrack can enhance the experience

While wandering around five Indian cities in ten days, I kept my trusty iPod shuffle with me; cued up to the entire Beatles collection... with a heavy emphasis on the George Harrison oeuvre from the point in his career where he became heavily influenced by the religion and culture of the Sub-Continent. 

For good measure I also had John Lennon's 'Across the Universe' in heavy rotation (even though he wrote it after having become disenchanted with his Indian experiences).

I still find most real Indian music interesting but unapproachable.  But for some reason, hearing music written by westerners who were heavily under the influence of eastern religion and culture offered an amazing new level to the way I experienced India. 

Highly recommended.

Posted by David Bogner on August 19, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Here's your big chance to be a giver!

I'm usually the one sharing little tidbits of information and local lore about the area where I live... but today you might be the ones who get to be 'the givers'.

Since we moved to Gush Etzion in 2003 I have been trying (albeit in a very unsystematic way) to locate and visit as many landmarks of the Gush's modern history as possible.  There are actually several excellent narratives of this region's history (which mostly agree with one another), but only one or two (very grainy) maps that give general locations of the landmarks exist as far as I can tell.

I actually sent emails to one or two people I know in each of the local towns and kibbutzim asking for help... but I figured it never hurts to give people a chance to contribute.  Heck, the last time I asked for information here on the web I got a private email from someone who had actually done her masters thesis on exactly what I was trying to find out.

So without further ado, here's what I'm looking for:

In an effort to educate our kids about the history of Gush Etzion, I have been researching the location of the original settlements, the critical battles and other important landmarks here in the Gush.

One of the landmarks I've been trying, without success, to identify is the exact location of the ambush/battle of Neve Daniel that is described in this link.  Obviously the ambush/battle would have taken place along the old road (Derech Hevron) which has mostly been torn up when the new Rt 60 Tunnel road was built to bypass most of the hostile Arab villages.  But I am trying to find out if the section of the road where this battle took place - and the house that is mentioned in the linked account - are still extant... even if they are isolated in the middle of some farmer's vineyards.

Also, if while you are asking around someone should say "Oh, Trep should speak with __________ because he/she knows everything about the history of the Gush", I would love to know who such a person might be.

Here is a list of other bits of information I am looking for (just in case you stumble upon someone who is an expert on the area):

1.  The exact location of the original Migdal Eder (the first settlement in Gush Etzion) that was abandoned after being attacked and overrun by Arabs in 1929.  I think it was probably on or near the present-day Kfar etzion, but haven't read or heard anything conclusive.

2.  The exact location of the airstrip that was constructed by the Jews of Kfar Etzion during the Arab blockade of Gush Etzion on which small planes could take off and land.  One would assume that something like this would leave a trace on the landscape.

3.  Is the 'Rechov Zerubavel' that is found in many of the Gush Etzion settlements named in memory of Zerubavel Horowitz who died at the ambush of Neve Daniel?  If so, it would be nice to be able to tell my kids to have him in mind when they pass 'his' street.

4.  The exact Location of Kibbutz Revadim (and if any remnants of the old kibbutz infrastructure remain).  This was the only non-religious settlement in the 'original Gush', and I suspect that it may be because of its 'HaShomer HaTza'ir' origins that not as much attention has been paid to it as some of the other original settlements in local history lessons.  If this is so, I would like to do my part to set the record straight as a pioneer is a pioneer is a pioneer in my book, regardless of religious or political affiliation.

5.  The location of any original infrastructure from Kibbutz Ein Tzurim.  Kibbutz Rosh Tzurim was established mostly on the original site of Ein Tzurim.  But even during the time I volunteered on that kibbutz milking cows and exercising horses, I never came across any remnants of the original kibbutz.

6.  There are several mentions on the Web of the fact that the Deheisheh refugee camp near Bethlehem was built on land owned by the Jewish agency.  I would love to know if proof of this is available in the public domain or if the Israeli government has ever publicly mentioned this.

Thanks in advance for your help.  I know... you're all givers.  :-)

Posted by David Bogner on August 16, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Not ready yet

Every day I wake up and think that today will be the day I'll be able to write about my feelings of going back to Mumbai... sleeping in the same hotel that was attacked just days after I left... eating in the temporary Chabad house (Nariman House is still sealed off by the Indian security establishment) with the new Lubavitch 'shlichim' who have just arrived in India to pick up where Gabi and Rivki (OB"M) were forced to stop their holy work.

I really thought today would be the day.  It wasn't.  Maybe tomorrow.

Posted by David Bogner on August 13, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Flying with the 'shanti-shanti' crowd

I usually take the Thursday evening overnight flight from Mumbai to Tel Aviv at the end of my India trips.  However this time I was able to wrap up earlier in the week and return by the Monday evening overnight flight.

One would think that these two El Al flights - identical in time, duration and designation number - would be indistinguishable from one another.

One would be wrong.

The Thursday night El Al flight is filled with tired business travelers, many of whom arrived in India the same week on the Sunday night flight heading east.  I've come to recognize many of the 'regulars' on these two flights, and I've come to expect a quiet, commuter-like experience where the lights go out and everyone is asleep within minutes of the dinner and drink carts being locked back into their niches in the galley

However, the Monday evening overnight El Al flight from Mumbai to Tel Aviv is nothing like that.  Apparently this is the flight that the young Israeli back-packer set takes home at the end of their multi-months-long post army sojourns in India.  

They converge on the Mumbai airport from the mountains in the north of India... from the beaches of Goa... from any of the many ashrams that cater to the young Israelis who seek to recapture an inner peace/youth that was taken from them during their stressful army stints.

They arrive at the airport from their far-flung adventures attired uniformly (in their attempted non-conformity) in baggy cotton pants, sandals, loose tank tops and scarves, with their long unkempt hair (men and women alike) arranged in dreads or ponytails (kookoos) and wrapped in colorful cotton kerchiefs.  Strangely, they all seem to have lost or discarded their undergarments somewhere during their travels.

Most of these young travelers have expended their very last financial resources in reaching the airport, and the pre-boarding lounge is a hectic scene of pooling crumpled ten Rupee bills (worth about 20 U.S. cents each) to procure and share much needed nourishment and chai.  The musky scent of unwashed bodies in the lounge is augmented by the strong tang of 'burnt vegetation'; an indication that other resources were likely pooled and expended just prior to entering the airport.  Waste not, want not, I suppose.

When I described this crowd/scene to my family over breakfast yesterday, my teen-aged daughter nodded knowingly and said, "Oh, you mean the 'shanti-shanti' crowd", as if I should have known this term already.

'Shanti', it turns out, is the Sanskrit word for peace. It is often used in chanting and meditation, but it has apparently been informally absorbed into the Hebrew lexicon by the younger set as a short-hand description of anyone/anything affecting a mellow, peaceful and vaguely eastern manner and/or dress.

Once I had this working definition, I could see how my daughter had so easily pigeon-holed my fellow travelers.

Anyway, rather than going to sleep after the meal service had finished, the 'shanti-shanti' crowd began roving the plane in gregarious groups, reconnecting with friends, comparing travel stories and chasing down the harried flight attendants for any left-over meals and drinks.  Had I not been so tired it would have been mildly amusing to see many of them pretending to have forgotten the correct Hebrew words for things and 'casually' substituting the saffron and curry-flavored vocabulary they had studiously collected in their travels.

Luckily I had remembered to bring both my ear plugs and eye shades... and most important, had taken a couple of Benadryl tablets right before the flight (better by far than any of the prescription sleep aids for achieving maximum drowsiness with minimum risk of adverse interaction with the in-flight beverage service).

My last recollection of the flight was of a scruffy young couple making out noisily to my left, and a small group of what my generation would have called 'hippies' reminiscing loudly and exchanging email address over top of my head.  The next thing I was aware of was the soft kiss of the plane's wheels on the runway in Israel and the inevitable applause of the grateful Israelis; unabashedly happy to be home at last.

Note to self:  The Monday evening overnight El AL flight from Mumbai to Tel Aviv is only to be taken as a last resort. 

Posted by David Bogner on August 12, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Maybe it's just that I miss my children...

... but every time I'm in Mumbai and drive past a particular intersection, I am moved to tears by a piece of modern sculpture*.  It is a fairly abstract rendering of a mother and child which takes its title from a quote given by famous Indian Columnist, Vithal Venkatesh Kamat:

"A child gives birth to a mother"

The first time I saw it and read the quote, I didn't quite get it.  But after a few minutes of it swirling around my head (plenty of room for that), I realized that it is only the existence of the child that creates a mother (and/or father, of course).

Like I said at the outset, maybe it's because I miss my children, or maybe it's because I tend to spot this sculpture late in my travels in India (i.e. when I'm physically and emotionally drained).  But the idea that my children created me as a father (and Zahava as a mother) - and that they continue to create and improve us in those roles - always brings the water to my eyes.

I need to get home.

*  Zahava can attest to the fact that I normally loathe public sculpture... particularly modern/abstract art.

Posted by David Bogner on August 8, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Thursday, August 06, 2009

A long day

I left my hotel in Mumbai (which is located on the west coast of India) at 3:45 Thursay morning for the airport to catch a flight to Visakhapatnam (located on India's east coast). 

Meetings all day there... and a 7:30 PM flight back to Mumbai.

I just walked back into my hotel in Mumbai... and it is 1:00 AM on Friday morning.

The crazy part is that at some point two weeks ago when I was planning out my itinerary, this seemed like a good idea.

[face palm]

Posted by David Bogner on August 6, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

A house of faith in Israel

[A guest post by Zahava]

One of the customary salutations to a couple at their wedding is “may you build a bayit ne’eman b’yisrael (a faithful house in Israel)... and the 'Chuppah' (canopy under which the ceremony takes place) is representative of the home the new couple will establish together.

The other night I had the joy, honor and privilege of attending the wedding of a couple who had demonstrated the extreme power of faith long before they arrived at their chuppah.

David has written in the past about Elroi Refael Mizrachi, a young IDF infantry officer and son of our close friends and neighbors, who was critically wounded in Gaza back in the summer of 2005.  If you are new to treppenwitz, you can read about the incident and his long road to recovery here, here and here.

During that first terrible day, Elroi's family was initially told that he had no chance of surviving the shrapnel wound to his brain stem.  His injuries were just too serious.  Then they were told that if he somehow managed to survived the first day or two, that he would certainly never wake up. 

For weeks, as he remained in a deep coma, his family and friends kept faith and prayed (along with many of the readers of this site) for a miracle... and his girlfriend, Chaviva, stayed by his side day and night, refusing to lose faith.

More than a month after he was given no chance of survival, Elroi Refael opened his eyes for the first time, saw Chaviva standing by his side and began the long fight against brain injury and the resulting paralysis to join her under the chuppah... standing together in their house of faith.

During the ceremony, the voice of the Mesader Kiddushin  (officiating Rabbi) cracked as he told the couple, “Elroi, Chaviva: you two stand here tonight, together as one; finally complete.”

Needless to say, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room.  Like a sun-shower that combines the blessings of rain and sunshine, the tears that were shed were the heady mix of joy, gratitude, love and happiness.

To see this young man dance with his radiant bride was to experience a modern day miracle! 

I hope you will join us in wishing this young couple a lifetime of happiness as they continue to build their 'bayit ne'eman b'yisrael' together.

Posted by David Bogner on August 5, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (26) | TrackBack

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Frenetic schedule punctuated by moments of calm

Late Saturday night I took a flight to Bangkok that was filled to capacity. Bangkok airport was swarming with travelers wearing surgical masks... a stark reminder that Swine Flu is rampant in Asia.

After a short layover in Bangkok Sunday, I got a connecting flight to New Delhi that got in pretty much 24 hours after I left home. 

The arrival in Delhi was even more fraught with health related drama than Bangkok.  Not only did I feel like the only person in the airport not wearing a germ mask, but there was a health screening before the immigration desk at the arrivals terminal. 

Everyone had to fill out a health form saying whether they had come from a country experiencing an outbreak of Swine Flu (Israel was on the list), but they weren't taking your word for the simple questionnaire (sample question:  "Are you experiencing any flu-like symptoms such as coughing, fever or difficulty breathing?")... because they had thermal cameras set up that would reveal anyone who had a fever so the health officials could pull them out of line and decide whether to quarantine them or put them on the next plane back where they came from.

Got to the hotel late and wanted to go straight to sleep... but there were mountains of emails to return and prep for the morning's meetings.  Got to bed after 2:00AM.

My body woke me up at 5:30 AM... Israel time that is, which was 3:00AM local Indian time.  Couldn't go back to sleep so I got up and did some prep for my day's meetings.

As the sun came up I looked up and saw some people gathering out on the grass beside the pool so I put on shorts and a t-shirt and went outside (here's a picture from when I got back to the room so you can see how pretty the pool area is in the early morning light):

Picture 001

There were tai chi and yoga classes starting by the pool at about the same time... and while it was a tough choice,  I wasn't up to trying yoga again this trip.   So I spent about 20 minutes doing as much of the tai chi form as I could remember from when I used to study... and was pleasantly surprised at how much I remembered!

After the tai chi session I took a quick swim and went to get ready for my day.

I had marathon meetings all day Monday in Delhi and then made a mad dash to the airport in rush hour traffic just in time to catch a flight to Mumbai.

Got to the hotel in Mumbai around midnight... the same hotel I checked out of just a few days before it was attacked by terrorists last November.  The tranquil haven I'd last seen in the fall was an armed camp surrounded police, soldiers and security guards. 

Passed two levels of security screening to get into the hotel and all my bags were taken for X-ray screening before being handed back to the bellman.

When I got to the check in counter I was greeted by a familiar hotel clerk who greeted me with "Welcome back Mr. Bogner...'Ma Nish Ma' in a lilting Indian accent.   This was a joke we'd shared from my last stay.  When she'd seen my Israeli passport she'd asked me how to say 'Namaste' in Hebrew.  And although it isn't even remotely equivalent, the similar three syllable feel of the casual Hebrew greeting was what popped into my head.  So for the week I was in the hotel last time, whenever I came through the lobby this Saree'd clerk would press her hands together in front of her chin and say 'Ma nish ma'... and I would return the gesture with a badly pronounced 'Namaste'.

I remember sending out a few emails once I was in my room and had gotten the WiFi working... but I have no recollection of actually going to bed.  I actually slept until 6:45 AM (Indian time) before crawling back over to the laptop and a few hours of pre-meeting prep over hard-boiled eggs, coffee and orange juice.

Tuesday was another day of marathon meetings followed by drinks and coffees... only to be followed by countless emails to be answered and reports to be written late into the night.

It is now just after 9:00 PM here in Mumbai and I am savoring a Manah Chama (Israeli cup-o-noodles) and a package of Kabanos  (kosher peperoni sticks) washed down with diet coke and bottled water (ironically exactly what I had for a late dinner last night!).  I'm going to visit the temporary Chabad House tomorrow evening. 

My first meeting isn't until 10:30AM so I may check out the health club in the morning.  Some treadmill time and a swim will go a long way towards making me feel human again.

They finally got a new Rabbi/Rebbitzn to take over for the couple who were murdered in the attack.  This was their first week here in Mumbai.  Nariman House isn't rebuilt yet form the carnage but when I spoke with the Rabbi on the phone he told me how to find the temporary Chabad house.  

Anyway... sorry this hasn't exactly been a travelogue worthy of Harpers or The New Yorker.  I just wanted to spend a couple of minutes reconnecting with the real world before going back to work for the rest of the evening.

Miss you all...

Posted by David Bogner on August 4, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (12) | TrackBack