Saturday, September 3, 2016

Say What?

Monday, August 29, 2016
I think an inevitable attribute of being a Jew is suspicion.  It may be genetically transferred to us, or merely acquired by keeping our eyes and ears open to the world around us.  In either case, hypersensitivity, exaggerated responses to stimuli, a tendency towards melodrama and, at root, a highly ethnocentric view of human affairs seem to be our burden.  

While this subject is never far from my mind, a little comment in a published interview this weekend hit me right in my J spot.  A successful, young Gentile author, praising a fellow author, said "I was just in Palestine with [him]."  You don't have to be travel agent to know that you can't get off the plane in Palestine today.  Interestingly enough, for decades before 1948, Jews generally referred to Palestine as their elusive homeland.  I just found mention of a Zionist cookbook from 1936, "How to Cook in Palestine," published in Hebrew, English and German.

The Balfour Declaration of 1917, British policy for their newly-acquired mandate, named Palestine as the site of a prospective "national home for the Jewish people."  After 1948, the land was named Israel and after 1967, I would guess, Arabs resident in the occupied territories became distinctively identified as Palestinians.  The literature until then spoke of Arabs.  

So, what's going on here?  The author is certainly allowed to name her destination without strict regard for cartographic and geopolitical realities.  Offense intended?  This comes on the heel of the much more serious libel included in the platform of the Movement for Black Lives asserting that Israel is practicing "genocide" against the Palestinians.  I'm not sure which is worse, the distortion of language, or the unique demonizing of Israel while ignoring all other notorious human rights abusers.  Offense taken.   

When you go to a baseball game today, you can often expect to receive a premium, a gift for your attendance.  Whether to distract from the high ticket prices, the poor play on the field or the ugly, loud music heard at every interval, T-shirts, little bobbleheaded figures, key chains and the like are handed out on the way in.  This has become more than a minor diversion. A quick look on ebay shows 28,653 listings for "bobbleheads," connoting a serious market. Well, you can't expect shrewd Jewish merchants to ignore this opportunity.

Temple Emanu-El, the massive reform synagogue on Fifth Avenue, maintains the Skirball Center, a large auditorium devoted to educational and cultural activities. On December 11, 2016, it's presenting two performances of Golda's Balcony, a play tracing the life of the Israeli prime minister, starring Tovah Feldshuh. Tickets are $45, "Includes a Golda Meir mini action figure." Imagine the possibilities -- a David Ben Gurion T-shirt, a Moshe Dayan sun visor, an Abba Eban rubber wristband.

Tuesday, August 30, 2106
It's becoming rarer that my US postal mailbox contains any real mail, apart from catalogues, advertising circulars, and appeals for money. So, I was delighted yesterday for several reasons to get a summons for jury duty, a follow up to the questionnaire a few weeks ago that established that I was alive and well, at least well enough to answer a questionnaire. It summoned me to New York Supreme Court, my recent employer, late in September. This will give me the opportunity to see some former colleagues and lunch in Chinatown, a reason to hope for a really long, drawn out trial. However, there will be delayed gratification, because the date for my appearance conflicts with a firm travel commitment. I was given a 60-day deferment without hesitation, which is totally satisfactory since hot and sour soup goes down better in colder weather.

Wednesday, August 31. 2016
I met Nate Persily, professor of constitutional law and political science at Stanford University, this morning for breakfast. I've known him since his birth and I recollected that I joined his parents when they took him to a Chinese restaurant for the first time, age 7 days. By the way, that record was eclipsed in 2010, when grandson Noam went to a Chinese restaurant at 4 days old.

Nate was on his way to give a talk on the US presidential election to officials at the Chinese consulate here. While I admit that I would like to have such an audience, the best part of the gig is the promise to bring in one of their finest chefs for lunch. Unfortunately, Nate never expressed the need for a food taster.

Thursday, September 1, 2106
I never doubted that birds of a feather flocked together, but I never realized how old the expression is. According to Wikipedia, "Bentvueghels (Dutch for 'Birds of a Feather') were a society of mostly Dutch and Flemish artists active in Rome from about 1620 to 1720." What has been common sense for centuries has now been confirmed by science regarding featherless bipeds.
According to the referenced survey of over 2,000 American voters, our friends tend to share our background, education and politics.  In fact, I thought the affinities would be more pronounced.  Just how many couples like James Carville and Mary Matalin do you know?  Or, would you want to know?

I had lunch with the polylingual Ittai Hershman today at Takahachi, 145 Duane Street (May 23, 2103).  It seems to have remained the same from my earlier visit, simple decor, friendly service, very fresh sushi, with only a slight rise in the prices.  I had the Sushi Mix ($19), four pieces of sushi, including salmon and tuna, and a yellowtail roll.  Also served were miso soup, two 1" fish balls and and maybe kelp in two different colors.  We were also given black sesame ice cream gratis because we had moved when asked to make room for a larger party.  In all, the food was very good, but there was not enough to make you want to skip dinner. 

Friday, August 2, 2016
Speaking of baseball game giveaways, I went to the Mets game tonight with Max the former Wonder Boy, who started to accompany me to Mets games when he was in junior high school, quite a while ago.  Not only did we receive a Mets T-shirt at the gate, I got another Mets T-shirt outside at a radio station's booth. 
Of course, after the poor performance on the field, I may be wearing these shirts inside out.  


  1. Visit Seattle and get one of their team's tees!

  2. The daughter of a dear friend works for an NGO closely affiliated with the UN. Not only do she and her organization refer to where she is assigned as Palestine, that is her mailing address as well.

  3. Correction: our friend works for US AID and her address is Palestine.

  4. I would not refer to the occupied territories as Israel, but I am suspicious (per the opening of this essay) of the use of Palestine as a way to delegitmatize Israel.