Monday, June 29, 2015

MOSCOW 2 - Lenin's Mausoleum

                 Lenin's portrait -  wall of metro station Biblioteka Lenina

The mausoleum  is situated in the Red Square, opposite the big, expensive GUM store. The father of communism in the same area with a symbol of capitalism !  Ironical. Across the mausoleum, people  at GUM (General Universal Magazine) are drinking coffee, licking ice-cream and... looking at the tomb of Lenin. A somewhat  weird scene.





Before entering  the mausoleum, you have to stand in a long queue; when you're in,  you start descending  narrow, black stairs you can hardly see because of the darkness around.  No handrail available. If it weren't for a japanese tourist couple who held me by my arms, perhaps I wouldn't have made it to the ground area.

Finally, a spot of light - it's Lenin. He looks quite well, like he is just asleep, with one fist clenched , the other open. The maintenance of his body is a combination of great art and science. Kudos to the russians for their skill and perseverence!

You are not allowed to take pictures or to stop; you have to keep moving  around the glass structure he's laid in, and then climb up and... out ( to the Kremlin wall necropolis where you pass by the graves of other prominent russian figures: Stalin, Brezhnev, Andropov, Gagarin...).
  
I felt an urge to raise my hand in a salute both outside the mausoleum and inside ,while watching his embalmed body. Great Man, a real statesman, one that had shaped russian and world history.



There have been debates on the possibility of his burrial, after 90 years of display.  My personal opinion is that they won't do it, they can't do it. It has become a major "attraction" to the world. Each year, millions of people come to see him. The Red Square will not be the same without him. A visit to Moscow is meaningless without a visit to the mausoleum. I suppose, he will eventually be buried when his body will no longer properly respond to the preserving procedures.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

MOSCOW 1 - Avtozavodskaya metro station





The little hotel I stayed at in Moscow some ten days ago, was located in a nice neighborhood, near the metro station called Avtozavodskaya. The name rang a bell, but I thought it was because lots of russian words have the suffix ..'.skaya'.


The next day, however, I noticed on the inside wall of the station a granite plaque with names and a date on it - and it struck my memory. I remembered that in 2004 (precisely on 6 february, according to the commemorative plaque) a bomb had exploded in one of the metro train cars killing more than 40 passengers and wounding more than 120. Survivors had to walk a long distance through the dark tunnel to get rescued or to find a way out. How horrible!

                            entering  Avtozavodskaya metro station

I stood , for a while, in silence with my head bent, in recollection of those innocent people who were on their way to work, school, market, home - and never made it. They were the victims of a cruel, despicable act of terrorism.


Sunday, April 5, 2015

The Young Ones



A 27- year old german  co-pilot , Andreas Lubitz, was left alone in the cockpit of a jet for a few moments, and that had a tragic outcome : 150 dead bodies scattered over a mountain in the French Alps. It has been confirmed that he was suffering of severe depression, which probably led him to deliberately smash the plane into the mountain.

At the helm of North Korea  ( an east asian, isolated, impoverished nation) - the 30 year old Kim Jong- un. He looks and acts like a spoilt boy; the problem is,  his "toys" include missiles, nuclear weapons,  and he's constantly threatening his neighboring country of  South Korea, and the USA. He runs his country like a stalinist dictator; human rights are almost non-existing there.


Since his election, the new, charming 40 year old PM of Greece,  Alexis Tsipras, is shaking Europe, and has dragged his lovely country to the edge of an economic abyss. Greece,  ancient cradle of democracy, is fast running out of cash, unable to pay its debts. Only God knows what will become of this nation.


The world we live in worships youth. Perhaps, wherever and whenever possible, we should have second thoughts on appointing young people to lead the crowds above, in the sky, and those below, on the earth.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

THE DIVERS



Lately, I've been reading about the indonesian divers struggling in the Java Sea to recover pieces of the Air Asia jet and dead bodies of the passengers and crew that were on that unfortunate plane crashed on 28 December 2014.

Java Sea is a shallow sea which lies beteen the indonesian islands  of Borneo, Java, Sumatra, Sulawesi.(see the blue contour in the above Web picture).
Historically, it is known for 'the Battle of Java Sea' in World War 2,  when the naval allied forces were defeated by the japanese( on February 1942).

The divers were (still are, as not all bodies have been recovered) struggling not only with bad weather conditions, but also with the sights of disaster and death. Their task was not merely to locate and retrieve objects and bodies , but also to assess possibilities and take hard decisions on the spot.
It is easy for us to say "someone has to do the job", but it's terrible for those who actually do it. It might traumatize their whole life.

Anyway, the divers' struggle with the sea and weather will in its end allow a decent burial to the the victims, bring closure to their families,  make it, perhaps, possible (through the analysis of the recovered  'black boxes'), to learn ways of preventing such catastrophies in the future.


These people- the divers, deserve our highest esteem and appreciation for their efforts.


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Rotschild Boulevard





'If I were a Rotschild... if I were a richman', sings Tevye , the poor jewish milkman in the famous musical  "Fiddler on the Roof".
Rotschild is a magic name,  the name of the well-known jewish banking dynasty which has always been associated with wealth and charity.

Rotschild Boulevard, named after the french Baron Edmond de Rotschild, is a lovely and popular boulevard in Tel-Aviv . I happened to be there two weeks ago; enjoyed a stroll and  took some pictures. While there, I thought about the stormy protest demonstrations that started on this very street, in July 2011.



pedestrian zone

A few details about the boulevard. The central, middle part of it, lined by trees , is a pedestrian zone.  It has walking / bike paths, and various recreational facilities : benches, small tables, spots for hiring as well as for parking bikes, kiosks selling sandwiches and beverages. 
The usual daily views include parents and children,  dog walkers, people resting on  benches watching the world go by,  bikers , friends sitting around a kiosk for a bite, drink and chat, etc..,

 
parenta and children

dog walker

chatting, eating and drinking

The street itself, which displays a blending of old and modern architecture,   houses cultural institutions (the national theater 'Habima' and the concert hall  'Mann' at its north end), culinary establishments (fine restaurants and cafes on both sides of the boulevard), and banking offices (headquarters of israeli and foreign banks :  Bank Hapoalim, HBSC, U Bank).


old (Bauhaus style) building

HSBC  bank offices

Ironical or not, the fact is that it was on this Rotschild boulevard where 'the rich and beautiful'  feel at home, that the Protest Movement for Social Justice broke out in Israel of July 2011. It expanded in August , and then faded away in September. People who saw themselves as middle class were protesting against the high cost of living (high prices of food, fuel, electricity, housing) and calling for social justice- which would mean higher taxes for the rich, reduction of indirect taxes, and the establishment of some sort of new social order.

Now, three years later , all I remember of that event is that two of its three young leaders joined the Labor Party and got themselves seats in Parliament . In other words, the protesters became politicians.

The high prices are still here, social justice is still waiting to be rescued. It seems to me , that even the first mayor of the city sitting on his horse, looks dissappointed.


statue of first mayor of  Tel Aviv overlooking the boulevard



Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Don't be right; Be smart !





I must confess I don't feel comfortable with USA's initiative of imposing sanctions on Russia. For one thing, it could escalate to something very bad for the world.

After all, Russia is not just another country; she's a superpower. It's  insulting to act as if Russia's some kind of naughty child who has to be punished.   Moreover, there was no obvious reason for sanctions,  as there was practically no invasion of Crimea, and no bloodshed. 

All the mistakes, all the wrong moves, including human casualties, were done by Ukrainean nationalists.
The latter have almost asked for trouble. They started to talk  about covering Ukraine's territory with Nato bases. Yes, Nato on the russian doorstep!.  And of course, there were  demonstrations  which brought about the overthrow of president Victor Yanukovich.

All this took place, while Russia was subsidising the gas she was selling to Ukraine and transferring a lot of cash to help its failing economy.

The strategic Crimean peninsula on the northern coast of the Black Sea,  with its historically significant  cities of Sevastopol and Yalta, was not originally part of Ukraine; it was given to her as a symbolic present in 1954. 
Its inhabitants are mostly russians. There was no need for Putin's soldiers to invade the peninsula,  as its residents  widely opened the borders and the doors to them.

Anyway, it's a regional conflict involving Russia and Ukraine over control of the Crimean Peninsula;  that is, it was - regional , until the americans decided they want some kind of "russian spring" after the so-called arab spring.

Maybe the americans and their western  followers thought they were right with imposing  sanctions.  I hardly think they were smart.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Following The Missing Jet




"Let's go back to horse and carriage, and no black boxes, please" suggested a talkbacker who called himself  'clever guy'...
Not a bad idea, I thought, considering  the chain of events surrounding the mysterious disappearance of the Malaysian jet,  flight 370 from Kuala Lumpur to Bejing on  March 8, 2014.
A lot of speculations since then; it is believed the plane has crashed into the southern part of the Indian Ocean,  but still no wreckage found, fate of passengers and crew not known.

"Look that plane up in Somalia"  came a suggestion in the first week after the disappearance.
Right. Maybe the somalians have switched roles  from ship pirates to plane hijackers.
"You better look it up in Yemen" wrote another.
Right again. Yemen, the birthplace of Osama bin Laden, founder of Al-Quaida fiercest terror net, seems quite a plausible location for a hijacked plane.

"The plane is sure in one of the -an suffix countries: Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, getting ready for some huge terror mission, style 9/11"-  that's the prevailing theory so far.
Very tempting to agree to that, judging by the troubling background  of these countries.

" Bermuda Triangle strikes again" remarked some reader.
Could  be, could be that the notorious Bermuda triangle that had "swallowed up" a lot of ships and planes in the past, has a twin somewhere between the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean.
It would sound like a more reasonable possibility than the one of muslims hijacking a plane from their malaysian muslim brothers,  which happens to have on board a lot of chinese, and... one doesn't do this sort of thing to China.

I approached the world map trying to look up all  the places mentioned in the news,including the american military base Diego Garcia which has become the theme of wildest conspiracy theories.


Sad way to learn geography; too tragic a situation to learn at all, as all thoughts are focused on the tragedy of the passengers and their families. 
There's one thing though I'm sure of - I'll always stick to my prayer to God for a safe journey before, during, and after flight.


Sunday, June 9, 2013

Kalimera, Cyprus!



End of May 2013. My first time on the island of Cyprus, altough this place is only an hour flight from Tel Aviv. The wave of heat outside, and the  Mediterranean  beaches make me immediately feel at home.

This little island country has lately been in the world news because of financial restrictions imposed on its citizens. Like  other western or semi-western countries, Cyprus has a lot of rich people, but the country's money bag seems to be empty. How so?

Well, the usual triangle of bankers, politicians, Media . This triangle  generates  financial manipulations which lead to corruption,  and ultimately to the country's high debt and the need for austere measures to prevent collapse. Familiar, isn't it?

There are a lot of foreigners here and  they appear to be doing well, especially the brits and the russians. It seems they have found here, most of the distant world  "paradises" : Canada without the fierce cold, USA without the tornadoes and hurricanes, Australia without its 'end of the world'  location.

Cyprus is a member of the European Union, and the old continent of Europe with all its giant problems is still considered by many the heart and brains of the world.

 
Cyprus is known for its fine lace and handwork,  best olive oil,  exquisite wines. Also for its beautiful songs and talented singers that participate  at the  annual Eurovision contest. 



However,its most famous icon is the late archibishop Makarios who was the first president of the Republic of Cyprus, a great political and religious personality. Major streets were named after  him, statues erected in his memory.


Nicosia, the capital city, is the last divided capital in Europe. It's divided between  turkish cypriots and greek cypriots. The 'border' crossing in Nicosia between the two parts of the city, located at the end of the pedestrian shopping street, Ledra,  looks kind of strange in the eyes of a tourist.  The impressive Monument, though, near the police station on the greek side of the crossing, is  definitely worth a visit to the spot.




Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Belarus, of all the places



He was in a critical condition; he urgently needed a liver transplant. He appealed , using his best connections, to hospitals in USA, Germany, India, but no luck. The first two required a long wait for a liver, and the third one , so they say, refused to perform surgery on him because of the nature of his former job .  Those in his homeland, Israel, refused to even put him on the waiting list as he didn't qualify for their age criterion (age up to 65).  

In the end, Mr. Meir Dagan, 67, former head of the israeli Secret Service ,the Mossad, was  admitted to an hospital in Belarus (October 2012) where he successfully underwent a liver transplant.

Meir Dagan after transplant

The Republic of Belarus, with its capital city Minsk, is a landlocked country bordered by five countries:  Russia (in the north and east), Ukraine (south), Poland(west), Lithuania and Latvia (north).


Belarus,  considered by many analysts "Europe's last dictatorship" has a relatively decent health  system , but is certainly not among the world's leading providers of health care.

President of  Belarus, Mr. Alexander Lukashenko has used this liver transplant case to make quite a publicity to himself, and to his country's surgeons, humanity, hospitality. Well, why not?

I've learnt two things from this dramatic story:

1.   No matter how important you once were for your country, you might nevertheless find out one day, while  facing death, that she considers you a regular citizen  and will  only  'play by the book'.

2.  Never underestimate a small, modest, country in East Europe. Belarus, of all the countries in the world  "did it"and did it well.

(* above photos - taken from the Web.)

Saturday, April 27, 2013

From Chechnya with ..Soccer



Chechnya, a small country in the Caucasus area of the Russian Federation, has been in the news lately;  the two bombers in the Boston marathon tragedy are originally from that part of the world.

In Israel, two chechen football players (Dzhabrail Kadaiyev and Zaur Sadayev) were the passive protagonists of a big drama at the beginning of this year. And this is the story:


The owner of a major football club in Jerusalem (Beitar club), a russian-israeli oligarch, decided to hire two muslim football players from Chechnya despite the strong objection of the team' s supporters.. Motive: the team needed reinforcement, and the two players , he believed, will do a good job.

 Beitar fans, anti-arab oriented, stated they would not have a muslim player wear the club's uniform. The arrival of the two chechen players (see the above photo with the two in Beitar uniform) sparked a series of provocative actions by the Beitar  hardcore fans:  harassment of the chechens, protests (including racist banners), cursing, and even torching of the club's offices.

The atmosphere became so "hot" that the PM, the President, the Mayor of Jerusalem, and other political and cultural personalities  in the country stood up to condemn the highly provocative attitude displayed by Beitar supporters  towards the two football players from Chechnya.There were also some arrests  carried out among those fans.

I don't know much about sports, but it seems football can bring out the worst in people.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Iron Dome


iron dome *

It's effective, it saves lives, it's almost humane.

The iron dome is an israeli patent, created and developed as a pure defense  measure against the triple rocket threat:  Qassam, Grad, Fagr5  rockets, fired by  terrorists from Gaza strip into Israel. It detects the rocket and monitors its trajectory until it shoots it down.

(The encounter of the incoming missile and the one launched by the iron dome battery - seen on the TVscreen - is a breathtaking sight).

At present, there are only five iron dome batteries ready to intercept and destroy incoming rockets :   four are deployed in the region  up to 40 kilometers from the border with the neighboring Gaza strip, and one in  Tel Aviv area.

Gaza Strip *

This anti-rocket mobile system has its limitations: high-cost, short range (up to 70 Km), people might  become careless - ignore missile alarms and not look for shelter during emergency, although they know the iron dome's success rate is only about 80%.


Anyway. this counter-rocket is seen as a life Savior by the israelis that undergo daily rocket attacks.   In the hebrew language, the word 'dome' is of feminine gender, so I strangely find myself thinking about the iron dome ,which is a military device, in terms of  heroine, queen, princess and other such flattery words.

* the two above pictures -courtesy of Wikipedia


Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Cracked Violin



It completely  dominates the little green corner called Coltea Park, located in the very heart of Bucharest city .

Coltea Park is near the busy University Square metro station, the Coltea Hospital (oldest in the city), and the Ministry of Agriculture building. It is a very relaxing little place which stands in contrast to the hectic atmosphere around it.

The little green spot  has some benches, a stage for artistic performances, and... a cracked huge bronze violin ( I'm a bit confused as to the difference between violin, viola, fiddle. I'll have to check this up).

Anyway, I stayed at a nearby hotel, and so everyday , on my way to the metro station I stopped to contemplate the violin. Upon return at the end of the day,  I stopped again to have a look at it. It fascinated me; the size of it, the idea behind it - which is : 'the sound of music is so powerful that it  can break even hard matter'' . 

The giant cracked violin representing the spiritual power of music as against the fragility of tough matter (bronze),  was created by a romanian artist after a draft of the  sculptress  Domenica Reggazoni (the daughter of an italian violinmaker).

Attached to its piedestal is a bronze plaque with the inscription "violino spaccato" (broken violin) The violin was erected in 2009 , and since then classic musical concerts are held in this park every summer weekend. I attended such a concert and it was ,of course, a delight to the senses.

evening concert at the Coltea park

Sunday, July 29, 2012

To Expect the Unexpected


Colorado (USA) and Norway (Europe) are known as two western ,modern, democratic, rich states.
The horrible shootings - recently in Colorado, Aurora, and last year in Norway, Utoya island - pose at least two questions besides the one about the easiness of gun acquisition .

Both gunmen had no previous violence record. How does a mainstream guy suddenly turn into a mass killer?

Well, we get some answers  from Anders Behring Breivik's testimony in court. The norwegian killer who left 77 dead at a youth camp in the little island of Utoya (including the eight dead in the preceding explosion at a government building in Oslo) - declared, that he was actually a nice, caring, sane person, not a psychiatric case at all.

To be able to attain his goal - which was to alert his country Norway and the whole of Europe to what he saw as the dangers of immigration (loss of culture and identity), he realized that he would have to undergo a process of de-humanization and de-emotionalizing. It took him five years to train himself before the bombing and shooting attacks.


(We don't know yet about James Holmes's motives for killing 12 people and injuring 58 at a premiere of the latest Batman movie in Aurora theater. It appears that like the norwegian, he has also thoroughly planned his rampage if not for years, probably for weeks ).

Both gunmen were shooting freely and uninterrupted until the police arrival at the scene of crime. Nobody in the crowd had made any attempt to immobilize the shooter. How come?


That kind of attitude is sad, and throws a certain light on education in western countries.  Apparently, modern, liberal education fails to instill in youngsters values such as courage , bravery, inventiveness in a life emergency ; the consequences are often tragic.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Hamei Gaash - Hot Springs and Spa


Health, health, health - that's what you get at Hamei Ga'ash . Here, in the water coming from the dephts of the earth, everyone is a gymnast. The body does whatever you wish it to do and it feels good.
In addition, the overall atmosphere of recreation, fun, even...romanticism highly contributes to one's well being.

romantic couple in  hot pool (mist is from the vapors)

The place is located in a  charming,  pastoral setting, between two major central israeli cities :Herzelya and Netanya,  and is operated by the nearby kibbutz Ga'ash. The hot springs were discovered by accident when excavating for gas deposits.

 Hamei Ga'ash offers the visitor three hot thermal mineral pools (of different temperatures 37-40 degrees ) - one of them with lots of jacuzzi jets (which I'm sure is of great help to people with low back pain), dry and wet sauna, sulfur pools, showers, lockers, water coolers ,an outdoor swimming pool, a toddlers'  pool, professional massages, a cafe, a restaurant, a tiny shop , a  lecture hall, and many green spots , chairs and tables, for resting between the treatments.

pools'  hall

women taking a shower(before and after dipping in the pools)


pool with  jets

shaded cafe garden

On the day of my visit, there was a group of arab men at the Spa,  who were engaged in dancing and producing music on  a  percussion instrument. One of the men, a young arab dressed in a red shirt, bald and chubby, exhibited an impressive dancing ability.

drum beat and  dancing men

the 'red shirt' man in action

The elegant Spa with its thirteen (13) treatment rooms and  a trained staff ,offers a great variety of massages, among them; reflexology, massage with hot stones, swedish massage , thai massage etc..


 Spa reception room

In case one doesn't have  the time to take a professional massage, it's possible to get a- six minute automatic one, for less than a dollar coin, while sitting  on one of the two special, comfortable  armchairs , in the main area , close to entrance, exit and pools. The more coins you insert the more minutes of massage you get. I tried it;  not bad at all. Of course it cannot be compared with a massage done by human touch.

armchairs for automatic body massage

I think it's  important for us people to go  now and then to places such as Hamei Ga'ash which offer a good opportunity to recharge our energies, to relax our body and soul.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Zamenof - Esperanto and Real Estate


There's nothing special about Zamenof street , except its location - in the very heart of Tel Aviv city, close to every spot and attraction - and this location makes it greatly valuable in terms of urban real estate.
The above street is named after Dr. Ludwig Lazarus Zamenof, the creator of the universal language Esperanto.

Dr. Zamenof   (Web picture)

The tel- avivian Zamenof street is just one of many streets (as well as parks, buildings, cultural centers) in the world, named after Dr. Zamenof, the polish jewish physician (oculist) and linguist who has dedicated most of his life to the creation and promotion of Esperanto. The latter is not a widely spoken language, but it's still learned and used by a few million people around the world.

Zamenof was born in the town of Bialistok (now Poland, then part of Russia).  There were at least four languages spoken in his native town (russian, polish, german, yiddish) and he attributed the quarrels among the various ethnical groups to their different linguistic and cultural backgrounds. Hence the idea of a common international language.

Zamenof street in Tel Aviv is a side, quiet, street tucked between the famous Dizengoff square and Shderot Hen boulevard, and crossed by the lively commercial street King George. It has various types of residential buildings , some of them old Bachaus style houses with round balconies; it has  a Post Office branch, a health Clinic, two modest hotels, an indian restaurant named "Tandoori". Everyday needs can be met here by walking and biking despite the proximity to public transport. 

Bauhaus style old building 

Hotel Cinema

two bronze cats at the entrance of Unique Hotel


There's a certain irony in the fact that a street where only those with a lot of money can buy a home , bears the name of a person who strove for removing barriers among people ( language barrier, class barrier) and help make a more egalitarian world.