Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Transnistria - The Unrecognized State

I have some strong personal reasons for wishing to visit this place, but I'm advised not to do so, as it's considered dangerous zone - result of its political instability.

If you look it up on the internet you'll come upon expressions such as "improbable state","break away country", 'phantom nation", "nobody's land", "the Cuba of Europe", "frozen conflict zone", "self proclaimed republic", "illegal state", "separatist region", "disputed sovereignity".

I must say, it all sounds quite intriguing and even....thrilling. Good stuff for writers and movie makers , especially with all those rumors about activities such as smuggling, drugs, arms and human traffic going on there. Besides, it is said to have excellent ...cognacs.

Transnistria, or more accurately, Transdniestria , a strip of land beyond the Dniester River, is bordered by two ex-USSR countries :Ukraine (east) and Moldova (west), On the map, its shape is that of a snake (see the top picture with the stamps), 400 km long, 20 km wide. There is indeed something 'snaky' and obscure about this territory and its history.

The capital city is Tiraspol ('Tyras' being the greek name for the river Dniester). Transnistria has a population of some half a million people and the languages spoken are russian, ukrainien, and moldovan (a dialect of romanian but spelt in cyrillic ,not latin script). Russian, is the official language of the government.

Transnistria and its borders (Web map)

De juro,Transnistria is part of Moldova; de facto, it is an independent state since 1990 , though not recognized as such internationally.

It should be mentioned that in summer 1941 , Transnistria, was conquered by German and Roumanian troops and its territory used as concentration camps for jews residents of north Romania and Ukraine. It was the land of atrocities against thousands of innocent people. This lasted until 1944 with the arrival of The Red Army.

Peace talks and negotiations have been going on and off since the brief war between Moldova and Transnistria in 1992, the participants being representatives of the relevant sides: Transnistria, Moldova, Ukraine, Russia, Eu. It seems nobody's in a hurry to solve the problem , the present situation probably suits their interests. Transnistria is pro-Russia and has russian military protection. Moldova is pro-Romania and pro-EU (European Union), and although she wants her honor and piece of territory back, the Transnistria issue might confront her with Big Mother Russia and interfere with her own aspirations of possible integration in the EU .

My wild guess is Tranistria snake will stay like this, and eventually be accepted by the UN and its members. Nowadays, a tiny , breakaway, independent country is no longer considered a curiosity .

Moreover, I think the future belongs to small countries with more or less homogenous population. We're ,perhaps, going to witness a fragmentation of the world's bigger countries into smaller entities as a result of the constantly deterioration of world economy and rising of social tension.

In the meantime, my advice to those participating in the peace talks is: keep talking people! "Talk more - No war" is my slogan .

Friday, January 20, 2012

Africatown in South Tel Aviv

The central bus station of Tel Aviv , considered the biggest or the second biggest passenger bus terminal in the world, is a huge complex dominating the southern part of the city. It has seven floors (three out of them used as bus terminals), entrances, bridges, excalators, elevators, shops, eating places. (I share the view of many people, that architecturally, this central station is badly designed and difficult to navigate).

exterior of the central bus station- partial view

The neigborhoods surrounding the central bus station are relatively crowded and poor. Here is where thousands (it started as hundreds, some four years ago) of africans from Sudan, Eritrea, Nigeria and other african countries find refuge. They come through Egypt, travel along the Sinai desert and illegally cross the border entering Israel - tempted by the freedom and economic possibilities here.

Once in Israel, they call themselves 'asylum-seekers' and 'refugees' who have escaped persecution in their native countries. The local population , on the other hand, sees them as 'foreign workers', 'illegal immigrants', 'infiltrators'.

There's much tension in the air, and lately there have been serious demonstrations in the above mentioned neighborhoods; residents in these neighborhoods, alarmed by the increasing numbers of migrants and the social problems created by their presence, demanded the expelling of the later back to their continent or at least to the neighborhoods of those who employ them.

Anyhow, there are humanitarian organizations that help these foreigners in many ways. On one of the floors of the central bus station, for instance, there's a medical clinic offering them health services. They can also get legal advice given by volunteer lawyers.

waiting at the medical clinic for refugees

It's one thing to read about the african "invasion" in the newspapers or watch the phenomenon on TV, and another thing to experience it in reality. I visited the area several times in the last two weeks as I was interested in buying a sewing machine at an importer's shop located on the same street with the central bus station. Well, I felt like I was in an african town. It was a strange feeling, hard for me to define it.

cute park with jobless africans hanging around

bycicle - popular vehicle among the migrants

african shoe vendor and prospective buyers

.As long as there are shopopkeepers and other business owners or rich families willing to employ the africans - there's little or no chance that they will leave. So, one should better get used to the idea that in the future the city might have an african Mayor.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Of Beauty and Separation

My New Year 2012 has started with a positive, happy event . On the evening of January the first, I attended a 'Bar Mitzva' - a boy's 13th birthday celebration. Bar Mitzva means that the boy has reached the age of responsibility for his actions (from the jewish religious point of view).

The above event took place in a beautiful banquet-hall located in the city of Netanya. This israeli major city , on the Mediterranean Sea, is known for its fine beaches, limestone cliffs with gardens among them, long promenades facing the sea. Netanya , a center for tourism and for diamond trade, is rightly nicknamed "the diamond on the med".

tree and flower pot in front of the building

way to the Reception Hall

relaxation corner

It was cold and raining outside on that evening, but warm and colorful inside ,with beverages at the entrance bar and plenty of appetizers on tables lining the Reception Hall.



This was not an usual kind of occasion , the immediate family of the boy being religious (they became religious some 10-15 years ago), whereas many of the guests- secular.

In the Reception Hall we were together men and women, mingling, eating, chatting. However, in the dining/entertaining Hall, men and women got separated by a partition. It was a rather peculiar sight- that of men and women performing the activities of sitting , eating and dancing, separately. There was a male photographer for the men section and a female photographer for the women section.

The bar mitzva boy's two elder sisters drew a lot of attention. Even in Holywood it would be hard to find such beauties. One of them ,23, married and with 2- kids; the other one ,21, single. The beauty and grace of the two sisters, and that of a 12 year old blonde angelic- looking guest girl , "stole the show" from the bar mitzva boy and from everything else , and definitely brightened up the whole atmosphere.

the married sister with the two kids

the single sister with the two nephews

I would even dare say, the blonde little girl (accompanied by her grandmother), consciously or unconsciously, defied the religious atmosphere by taking off her coat and remaining in a non-modest dress (non- modest according to religious standards). None of the women present around her said anything about it or tried to cover her shoulders with a scarf.

G.mother and G.daughter dancing by the partition