Friday, August 29, 2014

Hard To Digest

Monday, August 25, 2014
One of the most disturbing aspects of the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the animus that many responsible (Jewish) people are showing towards the New York Times. I have not been aroused by a perceived imbalance of coverage, and have generally defended the integrity, if not the impartiality, of the words and images published daily. Today, though, I tilted. Here is a copy of the letter that I sent to the editor this morning (that went unpublished):

"A Palestinian youth’s ordeal, last month, that ‘could not be independently corroborated,’ is given prominent display in today’s paper. If true, it was a bad thing. However, by any measure, it falls far below the level of outrageous behavior by military and police forces displayed at almost every spot on the globe. So, what’s the point? Were you swimming in open column inches that needed filling? Why not a follow up on the murder of 18 alleged Palestinian informants? That’s 18 dead people, not just one abused teenager. How disappointing."

Yesterday’s newspaper had an article with the unpromising title "Rethinking Eating." It describes how "a handful of high tech start-ups are out to revolutionize the food system by engineering ‘meat’ and ‘egg’s from pulverized plant compounds or cultured snippets of animal tissue." Chew on that.

While I can still eat real food, I went to Grand Harmony Restaurant, 98 Mott Street, for dim sum (April 21, 2010, November 25, 2013, March 19, 2014). As usual, the place was very busy, mostly with Chinese patrons. I chose, from the many offerings being wheeled around, shu mei (twice), shrimp dumplings, fried spring rolls and pork buns. Each plate was apparently $2.25, so I made it into the two digit territory.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014
Gary Berger was born in Shanghai, China, two years after his sister, my ex-wife. He left the country as a small child, when Mao expelled almost all foreigners in order to sanitize his new revolutionary regime, even though the Bergers, along with thousands of other Jewish refugees, were victims of fascism. Since Gary left China when he was barely eating solid food, his later devotion to Chinese cuisine evidently was not rooted in his birthplace. After all, while he may have been my match in consuming Chinese food, I was born 7,399 (air)miles away.

I just learned that he died of a sudden heart attack 10 days ago, one day after returning from a European vacation. We stayed in touch after my divorce, and, on an occasional business trip to New York (from California), he would have dinner with me. I recall that, at least once, he stayed in my fun-filled, Turtle Bay bachelor pad. We last spoke after the death of his sister, almost exactly one year ago. However, on July 28th, I wrote him a note about Ten Green Bottles, the memoir that broadly paralleled the Berger family’s Shanghai experience and on August 23rd, unaware of his fate, I asked "What’s up?" without a reply.

With my parents gone, 4 of my 7 first cousins dead, and the passing of so many good friends and interesting acquaintances, I’ve reflected briefly on loss. I say briefly, because giving proper regard to the many that I now miss would leave me little time for anything else, or room for any emotion except sadness. Instead, I delight in Boaz, Noam and Eliane, our buoyant grandchildren, and the on-going friendships that began in boyhood, high school, college and graduate school; then, I consider a few special people whom I first knew as work colleagues, the diverse array of West End Synagogue folks, a wonderful next door neighbor, and a few other random souls that I’ve met along the way. I can’t expect a one-for-one replacement of the lost, but, I hope, I can appreciate and enjoy those who are with me now, and maybe a few more aiming in my direction.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014
As almost a perfect example of my point of view expressed above, I was fortunate last night to have the company of William Franklin Harrison, my candidate for president in 2036, when he reaches the age of eligibility, his delightful father Peter and beautiful sister Francesca, at CitiField, as the Mets beat the Braves 3-2, in a surprisingly well-played game. The Mets provided the tickets in recognition of my foolish devotion to them over the years. The evening was balmy, the seats were very good, and there was no sign of sibling rivalry. In sum, a good time was had by all.

With the temperature at 89 degrees today, much hotter than we have been experiencing lately, I thought that cold sesame noodles was the right dish for lunch. So, I was surprised that Noodle Village, 13 Mott Street (February 6, 2010, August 9, 2012, October 31, 2013), did not have as many noodles as I might have imagined. Instead, I ordered Shrimp Wonton, Shrimp Dumplings, Cilantro w/Black Egg Dumplings Lo Mein ($7.95). That sounds like a full plate. While not overflowing, it held very narrow, flat noodles (more fettuccine than lo mein), a few pieces of Chinese broccoli, and six lumps that I could only divide into two groups -- shrimp won tons and shrimp dumplings -- without a visible trace of black egg dumplings. Additionally, I was served a small bowl of a bland, clear broth. The food was satisfactory, but not satisfying.

Thursday, August 28, 2014
The Boyz Club met for lunch today at Jing Fong, 20 Elizabeth Street, probably the best place in Chinatown for such a gathering. The space is so big that there will always be room for you, and the vast number of dim sum carts circulating will offer something for everyone (with a few notable rabbinical exceptions). We had 13 discrete items. Since the items were 3 or 4 to a plate, we actually had 22 plates so that each of the six of us had almost everything. Bottom line was $14 a pop (or grandpop in some cases).

Friday, August 29, 2014
Besides being a Mets fan, I belong to another beleaguered minority, liberal Zionism. This is a bit of a vaguely defined position, centered on the belief in a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine. Until the regime of Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli leaders left and right (hard right in the cases of Begin and Sharon) moved in that direction, often fitfully, reluctantly, awkwardly, but recognizing that We want to be with Us and They want to be with Them. While just shy of explicitly denying the possibility, Netanyahu has consistently taken steps to frustrate any efforts, especially those taken by our current president, to move towards a two-state solution. By the way, the movement of Jewish settlers into territory likely to be incorporated into a Palestinian state, possibly the most difficult issue to be resolved, began and continued under the most liberal of Israeli regimes. It would be unfair, therefore, to lay the entire problem at Netanyahu’s feet.

The dilemma for liberal Zionists now is the nature of the enemy. Hamas is a movement that destroys life and freedom wherever and however it chooses. (I marvel at how European intellectuals, especially, ignore the brutality and primitivism of Hamas in their haste to condemn Israel). Its hard to conduct a civilized examination of geopolitical options while faced with the existential threat from such an inhumane source. Under those circumstances, revenge and punishing instincts emerge too easily, and nuance is eliminated. What Israel needs is to be at war with Minnesota. War is always hell, but, somehow, I imagine that a nicer enemy would allow room for the exercise of Jewish ethical values even during hostilities.

No comments:

Post a Comment