Friday, August 8, 2014

Give Peace A Chance

Monday, August 4, 2014
I don’t want to talk about Hamas. They are vile, without allies among the many Arab states in the Middle East. I have no sentimental attachment to their preservation or the maniacal bloodlust that pretends to be their religious doctrine. I am a Zionist and I believe in the need for a vital, safe and secure Israel. That’s why, these days, when I think about the current Arab-Israeli conflict, I think back to my divorce. No joke. I don’t mean the discord and discontent that engulfed my first wife and me over several years. It was the problem with me.

I filed for divorce because of how I dealt with the stress and strain of a failing marriage. I realized that I had changed for the worse. I did not like the person that I became. It didn’t matter who treated the other worse. I was conducting myself in a manner that I could not reasonably justify. That did not necessarily result in my abandoning my legal rights, or make excessive concessions to my wife, who, in fairness, asked for little that I was unwilling to provide, clearly not a parallel to the professed bargaining positions of the Palestinians and the Israelis.

The lesson is that it’s about Israel, Jews in the Diaspora and the Jewish values that we have maintained in spite of a tragic history, longer, wider and deeper than any other group has ever faced. I think that we have demonstrated remarkable virtues over cruel centuries, and, even under extreme duress and provocation, we must not falter now.

The Pianist of Willesden Lane, at 59E59 Theater, is a thrilling work. Go get tickets right now, before you even finish reading this, if you are within commuting distance of 59th Street. It ends its current run on August 24th, and should not be missed. It is the story of Lisa Jura, a Viennese Jewish girl who went to London on the kindertransport, at age 13, never to see her parents again. Through chance, devotion and pluck, she pursued a musical career and trained at the Royal Academy of Music in London. What makes the work thoroughly compelling is the one-woman performance of Mona Golabek, Jura’s daughter and a concert pianist herself.

We saw the performance yesterday, and with the backdrop of the renewed vigor of European anti-Semitism (let’s not kid ourselves, it’s not about geopolitics) and my reading of Ten Green Bottles, a memoir of a Viennese Jewish family fleeing to Shanghai in the face of Nazi terror and brutality, akin to the story of the Bergers, my former in-laws, I was especially moved. Please see The Pianist of Willesden Lane.

59E59 Theater is one of four theatrical companies that we now subscribe to, attending 3 to 6 works a year, Off-Broadway and beyond. In addition, I regularly receive discount ticket offers, by electronic and ordinary mail, for works, usually in advance of their opening or late in their run. As a result we see a lot of theater, but usually not the "hot tickets," at their popularity peak. So, I was jarred a bit by regular ticket prices for It’s Only A Play, a limited-run revival with a cast headed by Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, at $147 each, which I purchased for a friend, and The Lion King, the giant hit, at $154 each, for us to entertain a special guest in the Fall. By the way, I could have spent more in both cases, but I managed to stay within the realm of the extravagant without crossing into the absurd.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014
James Brady died yesterday. He was Ronald Reagan’s press secretary and the most seriously wounded person when a demented young man shot Reagan, a Secret Service agent and a District of Columbia policeman in the hope of gaining the attention and affection of Jodie Foster, the young actress, in 1981.

Brady, who was shot in the head and suffered paralysis, speech impairment and loss of memory as a result, went on to lead the battle for gun control. Reagan took a bullet in his chest, puncturing a lung, and requiring surgery. Yet, Reagan found no reason to support gun control laws that, if in effect, might have spared him a near-death experience. There are heroes and then there are heroes.

At least I’m not working in the Orleans County Courthouse, outside Rochester, containing state Supreme Court, Surrogate and county courts, which is closed for the second day because of an infestation of fleas. Even troublesome litigants might look good by comparison.

On the way home from work today, I intend to go to the Modell’s Sporting Goods store one block from Madison Square Garden, which is having a big closing sale. So, if you are on my Hanukkah gift list, don’t be surprised if you receive a hockey puck.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014
If you happen to have an empty courtroom to eat lunch in all by yourself, you might consider Mulberry Meat Market, Inc., 89 Mulberry Street, which contains a butcher shop, grocery and prepared food counter (August 31, 2010). You need the courtroom because the store has no seating of any sort. I ordered 4 pieces of fried chicken ($3.14 @ $3.79 lb.), all meaty thighs, and a portion of fried rice ($2.25), called small, but generous. The rice had peas, carrots, corn, scrambled egg, pork and pineapple, but wasn’t really fried the way I like it, brown and greasy. Instead, it was young chow fried rice, white because it was not cooked with soy sauce. Still, it was a good deal for just over $6 (including the traditional Diet Coke) and I was satisfied.

Thursday, August 7, 2014
Beans & Leaves, 105 Canal Street, is a new joint, standing on a corner, with lots of light from the large glass windows on the two exterior walls. The color scheme is white, with lime green trim, adding to the brightness. The menu is almost entirely devoted to beverages, hot and cold. 5 sandwiches and waffles are the only food items listed on the menu, but the wall above the order taker/cashier lists about a dozen dishes, mostly Japanese. I had teriyaki chicken over rice ($5.50), a large piece of dark meat, cut into strips, coated with commercial teriyaki sauce. It was good enough. While I sat at one of the three small tables (6 chairs), several people walked in, saw the limited non-liquid offerings and left. Only two adolescent Chinese boys bought drinks and sat on 2 of the 4 stools at a counter under one of the windows. Under those conditions, it was near ideal for doing the crossword puzzle.

Friday, August 8, 2014
In spite of my opening sentence this week, I have to talk about Hamas. It was announced this morning that the current cease fire in Gaza was broken, inevitably, by Hamas. While I lament the collateral damage done by Israel in response to Hamas’s attacks, there is no doubt that Hamas deliberately seeks to place its own people in harm’s way. While family and friends of the killed and wounded in Gaza express their pain, Hamas apparently makes no attempt to focus its dispute with Israel in a manner that might lessen its own casualties. Anti-Israeli voices speak of the disproportionate casualty toll, which, in most cases, only disguises their yearning for more Jewish deaths. Consider that Israel takes pains to protect its civilian population, certainly one of the basic organizing principles of civil society going back to Locke, Hobbes and Rousseau.

Hamas, as with so much of Islamic thought, trapped in the Seventh Century, states in the preamble to its charter: "Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it."  In case you try to find a bright side to the word "obliterate," consider the charter’s Article Thirteen: "Initiatives, and so-called peaceful solutions and international conferences, are in contradiction to the principles of the Islamic Resistance Movement."

I can understand the antagonism for Israel held by Arabs, who feel a kinship with their fellow Arabs facing hardships in the occupied territories, and still bristling from their military defeats. However, my loathing only grows for those Westerners who, unable to distinguish Boko Haram from a Boy Scout troop, remain silent about Syrian-on-Syrian violence, Iraqi-on-Iraqi violence, among other lethal intra-Islamic disputes, while continuing their centuries-old practice of demonizing Jews.

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