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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.
_____________

* 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.

I’ve postponed my bête noire appointments

This month was going to be dedicated to the Palestinian Authority — how they’ve done nothing helpful for their people.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s policies generally aggravate me (March into April).

On the other hand, pundit Bill Bennett (February) has cut back from being an apologist for President Trump. Listening to him has become less aggravating, sometimes not even aggravating at all.

Coverage by journalists tends to aggravate me. More of that in future months.

U.S. tax forms just aggravated me — the forms, not the tax levy.

So, let me step back to watch the star Sirius.

Let me catch up with Israel’s regional and city planning.

And let me sit back to drink a glass of hot tea with sugar.

‘President Trump’, ‘Mr. Trump’ – not ‘Trump’

This is how I try to refer to the chief officer of the United States. How I write does not reflect the required usage of The New York Times, though. (Last time I looked, The policy of the Times was to refer to all people as Mr., Ms., Dr. So-and-So, for instance.)

I respect the office of the President of the United States, if only because of respect for the U.S. Constitution. I do not respect Mr. Trump as a person. His personality, activities, and philosophy are repulsive for me.

Virtually all the activities of his administration are “not in my name.” This phrase goes back to the time in my life of the Vietnam War. I and others were determinedly clear how that war was not being fought in our names. We completely disavowed that war.

I completely disavow the prominent policies of the Trump administration.

I am now ready to brew a cup of tea and to sit back to enjoy hot tea with sugar. I really need the tea.

The ‘Two State Solution’ Died in 1949

The idea of an independent Palestinian state west of the Jordan River died when the Arab Legion invaded the West Bank in 1948. The land westward from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean was supposed to be divided into two states. One would be a Jewish state and the other would be an Arab state for those who were living there.

War was out of the question. The United Nations’ plan included the directive that both states would engage in economic cooperation – actually an Economic Union.

This plan was the United Nations Partition Plan for when Britain left the region. The plan arguably had the status of international law. The Security Council’s resolution concerned Britain. It set forth how the region that was mandated to the British to administer would look like when the British left. Britain tried (arguably) to set up the partition and to establish the outcome.

However, the Arab Legion violated this international law when it attacked Israel. Then, the Kingdom of Jordan annexed the West Bank – a new violation of international law.

The international community had helped Israel and Jordan negotiate an armistice in 1949. Since both sides agreed, the cease fire had the force of international law also.

The next time that the parties reached an agreement – negotiated by outsiders – was in 1993 through 1995. This was the Oslo Accords. These accords, which were signed by representatives of the Palestinians and of Israel, is the last word of international law.

UN resolutions passed by its Security Council arguably do not have the force of law. The United Nations is fulfilling its obligation to promote peace and security. It’s not unusual for effective parties to disdain peace and security.

Another event bears discussing. The International Court of Justice – commonly referred to as the World Court – is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations. However, it tries to resolve disputes wherein both parties agree to appear. It is out of the question for the Court to rule unilaterally.

To repeat. The Oslo Accords are the only agreement, the only law between Palestinians and Israel.

Palestinians cannot justifiably complain that they are living in cantons. Their representative signed off on this.

They have a right and obligation to regulate life in what are called Areas A and B. Only Israel has the right to regulate life and to develop new housing, industry, and parks in Area C.

If Palestinians wished to pick up where things stood in the middle 2000s everything could go back onto the negotiating table.

However, this is so unlikely that I can relax, heat up some water, and relax drinking hot tea with sugar. The ‘Two State Solution’ is dead.

Hot Tea WITH Sugar

Zeide muses . . .

We sit along a well-used, white, oil-cloth covered table. The Ein Ya’akov books are open for today’s lines.

“From the rising sun until it sets . . .” — tea with sugar. WITH — the only English word here. I’m the only speaker of English sitting on the bench, but no matter. My great-grandfather hunches over my shoulder, whispering.

His whisper swirls through the mouth of the zogger — the one who says what’s written, and I hear.

“Someone who reads the Megillah backwards didn’t go out.” Go out? Where? Why read it backwards anyway? Spoiler alert!

The table sprouts glasses of sweet tea, too hot to drink. The sun is setting, but slowly. I dovvened  this morning, and then we sat down to drink hot tea with sugar quickly.

“I heard that you’re from Chicago. The Rebbe was in Chicago.” Perhaps my Zeide Segal saw him. (Now I’m Zeide Segal.) “Do you remember whose yohrtzeit is tomorrow?”

The Chicago connection fails me. The tea connection doesn’t. The Rebbe was escorted from a wintery train platform to a hotel where they surely served him — a glass of hot tea with sugar. A glozz tay.

“Every year I go up to the Mount of Olives to pay my respects. But this year . . . it’s dangerous. Reb Boruch Mordecai of Bobruisk is my ancestor.” The Great Luminary. The Spicy, Biting Sharp. Wise but Humble. He was summoned to the Yeshivah of Above, 14 Elul 5617.

But it’s not dangerous here in Jerusalem of Above. Tomorrow afternoon I’ll go pay respects.

“Absolutely not. It’s dangerous. I take no responsibility.”

This was worn into the pavement of Mazkeret Moshe Street near Congregation Yismach Moshe. I wore my hiking boots then, and then again when a Yerushalmi bochur accompanied me to the Mount of Olives Cemetery. “Aim for the resting place of the holy Ohr HaChaim, but swerve south about ten meters before you reach his tziyun.” Believe me, I toiled and I found.

Congregation Knesseth Israel is hosting me for this evening’s hot tea and Ein Ya’akov lines. “From the rising sun until it sets . . .” — tea with sugar.

  • Ein Ya’akov
  • “From the rising sun until it sets . . .” – Psalms 113:
  • the only English word here – Tea has probably entered the English language from Ancient Chinese after several hand-offs over time. Sugar has probably entered the English language from Sanskrit after a number of hand-offs over time.
  • “Someone who reads the Megillah backwards” – Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Megillah, 17a.
  • didn’t go out – I’m having fun with the Hebrew term that means “didn’t fulfill the mitzvah.”
  • The Rebbe was in Chicago – His Holiness, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Scheersohn, the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, visited Chicago in 1942.