Tea and Sympathy

This time of year is when I began a pivotal life journey in 1971. I left my Chicago home for a junior year abroad at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Let me sit back to reminisce over a cup of hot tea with sugar.

My Bubbe Fischer * had passed away a short time before, on 29 Tammuz. It was then almost three weeks later.*

To proceed to my arrival in Israel, I was hosted by residents of the village Kfar Chabad on the first night when I arrived. A distinguished seatmate on my overseas flight invited me to a relative’s home. As interesting as this is, it warrants an entire account on its own.

Before I left Kfar Chabad, a resident gave me a pair of tefillin. I have been putting on tefillin ever since.

On the next afternoon, I reached Jerusalem’s Central Bus Station. From there I was supposed to go to the Givat Ram campus of the Hebrew University where I would be staying.

Virtually everything that I owned was loaded into an unwieldy duffle bag. In my stubbornness, I was determined to walk by following my tourist map. I refused to admit that I needed help finding a bus. Besides this, I was too stubborn to admit that I was barely able to carry the bag. (It would still be some time before I saw anyone wheeling a bag along.)

I remember the salt of sweat in my eyes and how my muscles were growing more and more tired. Shuffle along in the summer sun and rest. Shuffle along and rest. I don’t remember any more of that day.

We began the summer ulpan * the next day. The university placed me in the most advanced level of the ulpan because I had studied enough Hebrew, actually from fourth grade on. All students from abroad would receive instruction in Hebrew to help us begin the academic year.

I recall studying a modern Hebrew poem about teh v’sympatia – “tea and sympathy.” I lost interest in the course since we were learning Hebraicized Greek words that had also found their way into English. What is the Hebrew word for ‘sympathy’?

Our dormitories were surrounded by a lush lawn. We could have been in any university surroundings. The path to the university’s front gate and bus stop was wooded, and it skirted the botanic garden. I regret not having visited the garden, but thirty-two years later I would visit the university’s botanic garden on Mount Scopus.

I attended services on Shabbat – Friday night and Saturday – in the campus synagogue. They called me up to the Torah * on a regular basis. I don’t remember the Shabbat meals except for the light Shabbat third meal. We all sat in the synagogue to eat and sing. Where did we eat on Friday night or on Saturday noon?

My cup of tea has run dry as have my reminisces. I’m looking forward to another cup later on.
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* Bubbe – grandma; Bubbe Fischer was my mother’s mother.
* three weeks later – June/July
* ulpan – study of the Hebrew language
* called me up to the Torah – to say the blessings before and after the weekly Torah reading.

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“Mr. Trump is a seedy man”

“Government often is the disease for which it pretends to be the cure.” – a conservative theory

George F. Will

Conservative columnist
Interviewed by Lawrence O’Donnell on MSNBC
July 24, 2018

Embarrassment and sadness in the U.S.

I don’t think … that the American people, by and large, are angry. I think they’re deeply embarrassed, and I think they’re sad about what has come to the country. And I think, at the end of the day, embarrassment and sadness are more explosive than anger.

George F. Will

Conservative columnist
Interviewed by Lawrence O’Donnell on MSNBC
July 24, 2018

From the Quran: giving and taking away power

From the Surah “Family of Amram” — Chapter 3
Verse: 3:26

Say, “O G-d! the L-rd of all power, You grant power to whomsoever You will and take away power from whomsoever You please, and confer honor and dignity on whomsoever You will and disgrace whomsoever You will. All good lies in Your hand. Verily, You are the Possessor of full power to do all You will….”

(I misplaced the source for the above translation.)

This verse is cited at the end of the Palestinian Declaration of Independence. The Declaration of Independence was ratified by the Palestine Liberation Organization’s legislative body, the Palestine National Council, on November 15, 1988.

An English translation of the declaration that is attributed to Edward Said reads:

[In the name of G-d, the Compassionate, the Merciful:]
Say: O G-d, Master of the Kingdom, /
Thou givest the Kingdom to whom Thou wilt, /
And seizes the Kingdom from whom Thou wilt, /
Thou exalted whom Thou wilt, and Thou /
Abasest whom Thou wilt; in Thy hand /
Is the good; Thou art powerful over everything.

(See Benny Morris, One State, Two States: Resolving the Israel/Palestine Conflict, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009, pp. 125-6)

Also see the translation of this verse by Maulana Muhammad Ali at the website of The Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement (retrieved July 20, 2018):

Say: O Al-lah, Owner of the Kingdom, Thou givest the kingdom to whom Thou pleasest, and takest away the kingdom from whom Thou pleasest, and Thou exaltest whom Thou pleasest and abasest whom Thou pleasest. In Thine hand is the good. Surely, Thou art Possessor of power over all things.

Proposed U.S. plan to resolve the Israel-Palestinian conflict

The “deal of the century” or “ultimate deal” is U.S. President Donald Trump’s plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This plan is a purported agreement between the U.S., Israel, and the Arab allies Jordan, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Egypt to end the two-state proposal and to divide or share sovereignty over the Palestinian population in the occupied territories between Israel, Jordan, and Egypt.

Jared Kushner, a White House senior adviser (and the President’s son-in-law), has been brokering a deal with Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Kushner and Jason Greenblatt, chief U.S. negotiator for the region, visited both Saudi Arabia and Jordan in June 2018 to prepare to release Mr. Trump’s proposal which, it has been suggested, has been 18 months in the making.

A decision to release the plan comes with no indication that 82-year-old Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Authority President (and Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization – PLO), will entertain the plan. He has refused to meet with U.S. negotiators since the U.S. president recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

An unnamed senior Jordanian official said, “Arab states will not be the ones to throw a wrench ‎in the wheels of the peace process, and that Abbas’s ‎continued refusal to work with the Americans will ‎lead to a regional peace plan being launched without ‎him.”

One element of the proposal is that Saudi Arabia will control the Temple Mount in place of Jordan’s current custodianship. In addition, the town Abu Dis – adjacent to Jerusalem – will become the capital of the Palestinian Authority. Speculation has it that any Palestinian state would have limited sovereignty.

In related news, Mahmoud Abbas seeks to convene a session of the Palestine National Council (PNC) to break ties with Israel. The PNC, located in Amman, Jordan, has not met since 2009.

The council is:

the legislative body of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and elects the PLO Executive Committee, which assumes leadership of the organization between its sessions. The PNC is [the legislative body] responsible for formulating the policies and programs for the PLO. It serves as the parliament that represents all Palestinians inside and outside the Palestinian territories, and all sectors of the worldwide Palestinian community, including political parties, popular organizations, resistance movements, and independent figures from all sectors of life. (Wikipedia, “Palestine National Council“)

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Gleaned from:

Al Jazeera – beware of malware * – “Four Arab states ‘support US plan’ for peace in the Middle East.” June 25, 2018.

Al Jazeera – beware of malware * – “Palestinian National Council to discuss ending ties with Israel.” April 28, 2018.

James M. Dorsey – academia.edu, “Saudi religious diplomacy targets Jerusalem.” December 2017.

James M. Dorsey, “Trading Jerusalem for Iran.” December 16, 2017.

Goldberg, Jeffrey. “Saudi Crown Prince: Iran’s Supreme Leader ‘Makes Hitler Look Good’.” The Atlantic. April 2, 2018.

Middle East Monitor, “White House senior adviser Jared Kushner discusses ‘deal of the century’ and Gaza siege with Netanyahu.” June 23, 2018.

Middle East Monitor, “Haaretz: Most Arab leaders agree to US ‘deal of century’.” July 2, 2018.

The New York Times, “Talk of a Peace Plan That Snubs Palestinians Roils Middle East.” December 3, 2017.

The Washington Post, “Trump axes the Iran deal and creates a new crisis.” May 9, 2018.

The Washington Post, “U.S. close to releasing Mideast peace proposal that Palestinian leadership may immediately reject.” June 21, 2018.

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* beware of malware – A false Microsoft screen. Perhaps triggered by visiting the site. A Saudi cyber attack comes to mind.