Expatriate Owl

A politically-incorrect perspective that does not necessarily tow the party line, on various matters including but not limited to taxation, academia, government and religion.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Rosh HaShana 5777


The hectic pace that has been my life for the past month-and-a-half can be expected to continue.  Burn-out has begun to take a small toll, but work remains interesting and fulfilling thus far.  Commensurate with my degree of inspiration, this posting's commentary on world affairs will be terse.

Firstly, it is that time again.  In less than two weeks the year according to the Hebrew calendar will transition from 5776 to 5777.  As usual, I take this opportunity to wish all a Happy and a Healthy New Year; I may not have the opportunity to do so before.

לשנה טובה תכתבו.

Secondly, now that the series of Islamic terror attacks has hit American soil, if you are or have been given to censuring Israel for the measures it takes to protect its population and its existence, then cut it with the whining and start recognizing what you are dealing with.

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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Yesterday's funeral




As usual, lots going on here in Israel, but, as usual, I have no profound comments that have not been stated by others regarding those events.  My family's personal events have been, well, uneventful.  We live normal and relatively unremarkable personal lives -- for Israel, that is.

I went to a funeral yesterday.  The decedent, who was born in Manchester, England, had been living in Israel for almost 40 years.  Her death was somewhat of a surprise, inasmuch as she seemed to be in good health when I saw her for the last time about a month ago at a gathering of Anglos in our community here.  She had been complaining Wednesday night of pains.  Her son-in-law, who is an emergency room physician at the hospital where my wife works, did not like what he saw and got her admitted to the hospital.  She died at about 9 AM yesterday morning, and was buried at 2:30 in the afternoon.

Here in Israel, everyone has a right to be buried in the local town cemetery in whatever burial plot happens to be next on the list.  Premium arrangements (e.g., saving a gravesite next to that of one's spouse or other family member) can be made by those willing and able to foot the bill for the same.  No such arrangements were made for our friend in this case; her late husband, who has been gone about 12 years, is buried in another grave in a different section of the same town cemetery.

Unlike the practices in America and elsewhere, there was no casket.  Her body was borne on a litter, covered in a tallit, and placed into the grave.  A board was placed over the body, and the grave was refilled by the funeral attendees.

Following the burial, the family received visitors (my wife and I included) in the departed's old apartment and will continue with sitting shiva there.

In Jewish tradition and culture, death is accepted as G-d's will, and we come to terms with it accordingly.  The body is given a ritual washing, and buried as soon as practicable thereafter.  One of the greatest acts of kindness is to participate in bringing the deceased to his or her burial; any other act of kindness that is done cannot help but have at least some motive for repayment, but the decedent you escort to burial will never, and can never, repay you for your kindness to him or her.  It is a big deal!

Back on Long Island, our Rabbi had a few occasions to round up people for funerals that otherwise would have been sparsely attended (i.e., less than the minyan of ten men), including some where the decedent had little or no connection with the congregation or community.  Fortunately, such was not necessary for yesterday's funeral; the deceased had plenty of local and not-so-local friends and family.


In other cultures, death is denied and/or defied.  Fixing up the deceased's body for a viewing is a form of denial; it is, at best, a highly reluctant form of acknowledgment that our relationship with the departed will henceforth be different than it had been in the past.  The so-called "Viking funerals" where the body is placed in a boat and set afire are a form of derision where death is mocked.

One funeral practice that combines the best aspects of both denial and defiance is the Jazzman's funeral, where the deceased jazz musician is escorted to his or her burial by a band of jazz musicians.  Though typically associated with New Orleans, they have been known to occur in England for British jazz musicians, and elsewhere.  I had occasions, many years ago, to observe them as a fortuitous passer-by in Harrisburg and in Baltimore.  The practice has a certain degree of class and quaintness to it, but it is not in keeping with Jewish funeral and mourning practice and custom.

I hope to receive a proper Jewish burial.

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Thursday, August 04, 2016

Recognizing the Armenian Genocide



Been a while since previous blog entry.

Yes, I have been following the events back in the USA, as have almost all of the expats here in my social circle.  Quite frankly, I have had little to add that is new or novel to the comments in the blogosphere or the social media (or, for that matter, out on the street).

I have now encountered a news thread that has not been on the front pages of the MSM, nor, for that matter, has it gotten big time billing in the alternative media.  It is an international political issue, it is an action I personally applaud, and I believe that it needs to get more airing.  Therefore, it is blogworthy by my standards.

Here in Israel, the Education, Culture and Sports Committee of the Knesset has recognized the Genocide committed by the Ottoman Turks against the Armenians in 1915, and has urged the full Knesset to follow suit.

 The sentiment in the street here has long favored such a move on an official level, but political considerations have precluded it.  Since the establishment of Israel in 1948, the situation had been one of enmity with Arab neighbors (i.e., Jordan, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, etc.).  It therefore was essential for Israel to maintain political and commercial ties with Turkey, a nation which, although essential Muslim, was not Arab, and, for its own reasons, wished (and still wishes) to have influence in what had been territory under its governance.

Now that Turkey is no longer the secular Turkey as envisioned by Kemal Atatürk, and Turkey is simultaneously purporting to normalize its relations with Israel following the Mavi Marmara affair, while at the same time giving shelter, aid, and comfort to terrorist organizations, Israel can now also engage in similar inconsistencies.

I, for one, would like to see the full Knesset officially endorse this one.  The world was silent when the Turks committed this atrocity in the fog of World War I, and I believe that their allies, the Germans, got some inspiration and ideas for their own World War II atrocities from the Turks' example.

Monkey See, Monkey Do!

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Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Philadelphia, 240 Years Later





On the occasion of Independence Day ("Fourth of July" is a calendar date while "Independence Day" is the name of the occasion; even the British have a Fourth of July) my wife and I got together with some other U.S. expatriates in my town last evening.  Not like the Independene Days of the past.  We all sensed that there was a damper on things, caused by the policies of the Obama presidency.  And while it would not be fair to say that everyone at the gathering is a Trump supporter (few of us were unabashed in backing him), it would be an accurate statement to say that none of the attendees at the gathering expect a Hillary Clinton presidency to fix things significantly.  It all boils down to a "who would be the least worst" thing.

Anyway, the discussion got to the Democratic convention coming up in Philadelphia, a city with which I have more than a little amount of familiarity.  (My mom had an aunt there, and I still have cousins who live in the city and its suburbs. Business from my Long Island law practice took me there on a number of occasions.  A former business partner of mine is now there, too.  And my wife did her undergraduate studies in Philadelphia.).

The question now is whether there will be unrest of the type seen at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago.  I believe that there may well be.  Disorder has already been threatened, whether puerile or serious (i.e., the not-so-veiled threats of violence from the Sanders crowd that already was unruly in Nevada)

There will be demonstrations.  The question now remaining is how violent they will be allowed to become.


P.S.  The transit system in Philadelphia is now impaired for the summer with the removal of a significant portion of the railcar fleet on account of technical problems.

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Friday, July 01, 2016

Civis Romanus Sum





Seems that Hallel Yaffa Ariel, the Israeli girl killed by a terrorist as she slept in her bed, was an American citizen.  From the State Department, we get the usual mawkish half-hearted condolences.  President Jimmy Carter set the tone back in 1979, when some Iranian terrorists took the staff of the U.S. Embassy in Teheran hostage and Carter allowed the situation to continue, literally until the last day of his term in office.

Once upon a time, there was an international perception that America would protect its citizens abroad.  In 1904, President Teddy Roosevelt had the State Department send the famous "Perdicaris alive or Raisuli dead" telegram to secure the release of Ion Perdicaris, an American (or, as it turned out, a former American) held hostage in Tangier.  [Never mind that Raisuli's political demands were met; at least Roosevelt sent in the Marines.].

Genghis Khan had no patience for those who harassed his subjects.  And in 1850, the Don Pacifico affair boosted the political career of Henry John Temple, the Viscount Palmerston, who would become British Prime Minister five years later.  As Palmerston noted in his speech to Parliament, in the days of the Roman Empire a Roman citizen's declaration of his status as such ("Civis Romanus sum") would bring various privileges and protections not only from the Roman governmental authorities, but from the governments of other nations as well.

This questionable ability and resolve of the State Department (which, you will recall, utterly failed to protect its own Ambassador in Benghazi) is not sitting well with the American expatriate community here.


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