this is the link to the video from Hadassah Hospital
jeudi 5 décembre 2013
There is no greater sorrow than recalling happy times when we are sad
Thinking about Cuba, for me is never sad, but the powerful forces that draw me to mi Isla rica are all due to the special friendships I have been surrounded with over the years.
I was still amazed when a Cuban friend said: You are not a friend, but you are a tattoo in my heart!
And in Baracoa, the little poet said looking at the stars falling into the net the tranquil sea lays out for them, the seas are there just to remind us that you are near us, so it is never Good Bye from us.
Have always valued the philosophy of MINDFULNESS, to live and enjoy the present moment to the fullest, but this feeling for Cuba is like a wound that bleeds slowly. When I am in Cuba the rest of the world disappears for me. I have been very lucky to have good friends around the world, such as you and many others, but friendship in Cuba has an urgent feeling and one thing they have abundantly that the westerners do not have TIME. The director of National Gallery stops on her way to work to say good-bye and have a cup of coffee, Cuban Ambassador to Malaysia drops in between meetings to say hello. I am not that important a person in Cuba but I realize that my friends have taught me the importance of Friendship. Make yourself available to your friends. You have heard me say: I am never too busy for my friends, and this remains true to this day.
In Cuba, whether in La Habana or Baracoa I can count on 10 or 20 people dropping by the house each day to say hello and share strong coffee or rum. We may have no biscuits or any snacks to share but we shared all that we have and improvised. What was important was that each of us had made that special effort to be with each other.
Here are some friends, young and old, holding high social positions or not, visiting the house, sharing the humble offerings and drinks. (A bottle of Havana Club White Rum is only 4 dollars, the same price as a 2 Litre bottle of Coca Cola to make Cuba Libre, ice when we have conserved electricity and lemon when it is available!) Coca Cola in Cuba is a treat, much like Champagne in France! All these people remain my friends and write to me when they can and when they know I am in town, would be knocking on the door, always something "precious" in their hands. You also see me with my Cuban mother who is standing in front of original paintings by very famous artists, Cuban and Foreign. (My financial problems would be over if she donated just one painting to me, such as a Guyasamin!)
Why such a gush of emotions? What is this connection?
Just after making this collage this morning, I received a nice video of young students from a Music/Dance academy in Jerusalem doing an impromptu concert in the waiting room of the Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem.
Watching them, I couldn't help crying.
The connection to each and every one of them was there, like elongated notes that refuse to disappear to the ether. I could recognize in their faces the hundreds of Jews I have known in all parts of the world, I thought I saw my mother, my sister, my friends and even thought that it was LB executing the dance.
I had written a blog on Spirituality and the origins of it for us, the Jewish people. It is this inexplicable connection, as if the central themes of our lives are all shared in broken bits of mirror reflecting it as a whole by all of us.
I no longer felt the pain of nostalgia for Cuba, I once again became aware of its presence, a mindfulness as I am everyday aware of the presence of all of you in my life, and also of the Jewish People and Eretz Israel.
this is the link to the video from Hadassah Hospital
Posted by cochinjew at 12:22
mercredi 4 décembre 2013
WHY DO I TRAVEL TO OMAN
WHY IS IT SO SPECIAL
When I sent emails from Salalah, Oman on a recent stopover there, a good friend of mine asked: Why do you visit Arab Countries like Oman?
My own brother, Eliyahu, will not come with me to Malaysia, why visit a country that wouldn't let our relatives (in this case Israelis) visit?
(Malaysia has no resident Jewish population; a retired Tamil labourer and his family are caring for the Iraqi Jewish cemetery in Penang!)
First of all, I am very sensitive to the insults heaped upon Jews by Moslems, directly and indirectly in various parts of the world. There is a video circulating, in which on a Public Transport Bus in Paris, a group of young Arab men are shouting Allahu Akbar, and Death to the Jews!
I want to remind you that it did not happen in Iran but in Paris, France in 2013! I would be afraid to walk to the lovely synagogue in Malmo, Sweden because of the threat of young moslems and their collaborators against the Jewish worshippers!
But at the same time, we cannot put the entire Moslem population of the world, the benign nounou from Mali who likes her bacon or the Bangladeshi slave in Malaysia or Qatar. For these people it is us Jewish people who should feel the greatest of sympathy and work towards their liberation since it was not that long time we were treated, herded, murdered for just being Jewish.
(almost the entire jewish community of Thessaloniki or Salonica were murdered by Nazis. They had escaped the Inquisition in Spain 440 years earlier)
I am reminded of a quip from the Professor of Kidney Transplantation at Medical School. When asked where he as born, he replied
I was born in Saudi Arabia, but had had the sense to escape very early. I also occasionally feel about the place where I was born which was not Moslem at the time of my birth but later came under Moslem Semi-Dictatorship which would never allow me citizenship, not that I want it, of that particular country. I can also say: I saw the light very early in my life and left at the age of 2 ½ for a better upbringing!
I always want to keep an open mind, however difficult it is becoming in Europe now crowded with anti Semitic chants and the gullible Asians imitating their Sunni Brothers from the desert. I want to pray tribute to my friends from school in Sweden, Hadi al-khalaf from Bahrain in particular who taught me that friendship can transcend the vitriolic of the day!
So it is a pleasure for me to write about Oman, an Arab country in the volatile Middle East where greater peace and tranquillity exists than many countries in Asia!
Oman had been in my mental horizon ever since I can remember, since it is the only one of two legitimate Sultanates in the World. I was on holiday with my parents in the other one, Brunei, when my father, olav ha shalom, may have alerted me to this fact. Sultan of Ternate or Sultan of Jogjakarta do not count, because Sultans of Brunei and Oman are hereditary rulers and both have oil reserves and both are moderate even though Oman is less conservative in its approach to Islam than the converted Malays of Brunei.
I arrived at Oman from Zanzibar, literally and figuratively. The Sultanate was one of the poorest in the region and the riches of Zanzibar which attracted them, moved their capital to that lush island in the Indian Ocean. To this day, the cultural and genetic exchange between Zanzibaris and Omanis are apparent everywhere. The Stone Town of Zanzibar is full of ornate doors which will not be out of place in Nizwa in Oman and Omanis accept without problems the miscegenation with non Arabs that happened for decades in the island and most of the Omani-Zanzibaris and their descendants now make Oman their home, while maintaining a strong link to their ancestral past.
This also must have set the foundation for tolerance of the other that is not usually found in any of the Arab countries and most Moslem countries of the world.
The other factor for the tolerance and acceptance of the Other might lie in the fact that Omanis follow Ibadi Islam rejected by other Arabs are heretic and shunned by Shias. So for centuries they had known isolation and oppression, the common fate of Asian immigrant workers in the other Gulf States.
There is no doubt the open mindedness of British educated Sultan Qaboos is evident everywhere, He took over the Country, at that time one of the least developed countries in the region from his father who was under the influence of his advisors and deemed incompetent. Today he is universally revered and has brought Oman a general prosperity and modernity without loosing its cultural links with the past and history.
The improvements in Oman since the ascension of Sultan Qaboos is impressive indeed!
"I promise you to proceed forthwith in the process of creating a modern government. My first act will be the immediate abolition of all the unnecessary restrictions on your lives and activities.
"My people, I will proceed as quickly as possible to transform your life into a prosperous one with a bright future. Every one of you must play his part towards this goal. Our country in the past was famous and strong. If we work in unity and cooperation we will regenerate that glorious past and we will take a respectable place in the world.
"I call upon you to continue living as usual. I will be arriving in Muscat in the coming days and then I will let you know of my future plans.
"My people, I and my new government will work to achieve our general objective.
"My people, my brothers, yesterday it was complete darkness and with the help of God, tomorrow will be a new dawn on Muscat, Oman and its people.
"God bless us all and may He grant our efforts
And so began the reign of Sultan Qaboos on 23 July 1970.
The gains made in the country are impressive, from no roads to paved highways that connect various towns in the Sultanate. Modern airports of which the new Salalah airport would be up to International Standards connecting Dhofar directly to the world.
I have visited Oman three times, twice in the last two years.
On my first visit, which was not that long ago, I had to get a visa from the Omani Embassy in Washington DC and when the flight arrived from Zanzibar at 3 AM, the immigration officer was quite puzzled.
Purpose of your visit?
I said, Tourism
How can it be, we don't have tourists here!
A poor doctor attached to the airport had to be woken up and brought to the airport so that he could verify that I was a doctor!
Now it is visa on arrival for Australian citizens, 5 OMR (1 omr is about 2.6 usd).
It is also common to see Omanis working along side the contract workers from Asia! A sight not often seen in other Gulf countries.
I saw Omani drivers, bus boys at the hotels, shop assistants, and airline agents.
(Bellboys at Marriott Beach Resort at Mirbat,two Bangladeshis and one Omani)
Without exception they were friendly. On my recent visit I was in Muscat, Salalah and Mirbat and at each place I was greeted with great enthusiasm.
Omani government wish to decrease their reliance on expatriate workers and has an active programme to do so.
Unlike Qatar, Abu Dhabi or Dubai where western expatriates are differentially treated in professions, I could sense that the professionals from non-European countries such as Doctors from India or Pakistan were not subordinated. Unlike the other Gulf States, where the majority of the residents are expatriates from Europe or workers from Asia; only ¼ of Omani population is from other countries. Plus the plurality of Oman is seen in its languages: Arab, Baloochi, languages unrelated to Arabic such as Jibali still spoken in the Dhofar region in addition to various ancient tongues such as Bedu.
To this pleasant mixture is added the smiles of Bangladeshis, Egyptians, Pakistanis, Indians, Burmese, Philippines and Indonesians.
It was no surprise to me when I received a call from Muscat this morning from my good friend HP of Bogor. He was visiting Muscat for a few days.
Without doubt, Oman has exceeded all expectations, he exuded. Both Malaysia and Indonesia has lessons to be learned here, he added
This morning, he continued, at the Shangri La hotel the receptionist was from Myanmar who told me: I was a worker in Malaysia and I couldn't take it, so I left early and I came here and I am so happy here!(the great Chinese Navigator and Admiral of the Seas, Zheng He/Cheng Ho visited a spot not far from the beach above)
On a recent stay at Hilton Hotel in Salalah, I could sense the happiness of the staff. They were happy to be there, because they were being treated well by the Omanis and the guests. The GM was from Egypt and there were all other nationalities and I talked to many of them and not a single one complained. How unusual, I thought having seen the misery of the domestic workers in Singapore and Malaysia. Yes citizens of those countries could take a lesson in tolerance and friendliness from the Omanis! Instead of complaining about Immigrants taking jobs away as they are doing in Singapore, be grateful for the presence of the workers who are helping you live a better life, so share your good fortune with them a little bit.
It is this aspect of the general welfare of the contract workers that makes me want to go back to Oman more often since it says volumes about the generosity and kindness of the hosts, the Omani people.
Hospitality is a key characteristic of Omani culture and my friend Joe recounted the enormous feast of a dinner his Omani friend had laid out for him in his home in Muscat: Zanzibari and Omani dishes
Now you know I am already looking forward to my next trip to Oman!
The gentle and friendly nature of the Omani people that is manifested in general friendliness including the friendliest contract workers in the Gulf (or Malaysia or Singapore)!
One other thing I am looking forward is to welcome Omani students coming to Cuba to study Medicine as well as Cuban doctors coming to Oman to work as Specialists in their hospital for shorter and longer terms. Cuba has already such an agreement with Saudi Arabia.
As I was leaving Muscat airport, I stopped by to chat a south East Asian looking shop assistant who was wearing a hijab, naturally assuming her to be from Indonesia. I recognized her name to be Filipina and during our conversation, she told me that, she converted to Islam after she came to Oman, because she felt respected as a woman and treated well! Is there a better recommendation!
I also noticed that all workers at the Hilton Salalah Hotel Front Desk used the expression, Inshallah, whether they were Moslems or not! Of course, in Malaysia that would constitute a crime against the religion by the infidels!
Posted by cochinjew at 13:26
lundi 2 décembre 2013
Thoughts on Spirituality
I have thought about it for long.
One thing I can tell you what it is not: Rituals and Dogma like you mentioned in your email of organized religion. I am sure Christianity, Islam were Spiritually embedded religions once upon a time, but it must all have changed when the Crusaders sacked byzantine cities and Arabs and Moslems sacked Europe in return in 1430. I think it is good to separate Religion and State, one of the fundamental problems facing the modernization of Islam, according to Bernard Lewis.
Hatuey was a rebel Taino leader in Baracoa, Cuba.
He was captured by the Spanish and was being prepared for "quartered", that is four horses are tied to his four limbs and then driven in different directions, tearing the body apart
The priest came and said, if you convert to Christianity now, you would go to Heaven
Hatuey thought for a moment and asked: is that where you Spaniards go to when you die?
Yes of course, the priest said with glee.
If that is the place where you people go to, Hatuey famously declared, I would rather go to Hell!
Even though I am grateful for the Hassidim for keeping our scriptures alive (mainly because the 90 per cent of the secular Jews don't, unless you are listening to a rabbi like Mitch) and understand their difficult lives. Once in a flight from Miami to New York, a Hassid sat next to me who wanted to convince me that the earth is only 5765 years old and nothing existed before HShem created it! End of the story…
What is spirituality? Why do we say so and so is spiritual? Why do we say such and such place is spiritual?
We are connected
To our families
By birth and marriage
And through them to a distant part
Most of us cannot recall or remember our ancestors just past a couple of generations, or know their history for perhaps ten generations,
Then it is only history and hope we were part of that history.
(TOMB OF THE YEMENITE KABBALIST NEHEMIAH MOTTA IN COCHIN, INDIA)
Then, there is our identification
Or cultural identity
We are the luckiest of all people living in the westernized world in that we have a strong cultural identity which although based on a religion has very little to do with it in that as Rabbi Mitch puts it, the religion itself is evolving and not just based on what was written millennia ago in our holy books as there are constant commentaries in every generation.
This cultural identity gives us a connection that to a non-Jew is very difficult to understand. In Cuba even professors of religion are enigmatic why and how the Jews can be Jewish without being religious.
I remember, I was still a teenager, when I first attended my international meeting of Jewish Students in Milan Italy
There were blond Jews from Sweden
A hook nosed tall Jew from Finland, caricature of course, from Turkuu
A beautiful, lithesome Norwegian girl (with whom I fell madly in love with)
And most memorably, Franco Levi from Milan
I said to myself
I know John Levi who was then the rabbi of the liberal synagogue in Melbourne
But I have never heard of Franco Levi
And I still remember a story young Franco Levi who said to me
My transistor radio always spoke in Italian to me, but when I went to Germany I was so surprised it began to speak in German!
All of us laughed!
I just goggled his name
Franco Levi Milan and just what I found?
Franco Levi si candida a rappresentare l'Associazione Radicali Senza Fissa Dimora nel comitato nazionale di Radicali Italiani -
Some of us never give up, right? And I sincerely hope it is the same Franco Levi, Congratulations, Franco!
Then something occurred to me, on that day after I said Hello to Jose Goldstein from Costa Rica, there is a connection here, which is beyond all natural and physical phenomenon!
It is that connection that I term Spirituality.
So the central anchor for any spirituality I might have (I am always dubious of people who claim to be spiritual) is deeply rooted in Jewish Spirituality. Luckily enough I began working away from the non-spiritual world of Medical Practice in the west to the American Indians (and starved for a few years because of that!) and soon a connection to a general mythical Spiritual world emerged. That the spiritual world is the same for all of us regardless of our religion or culture and that we need a particularized form of connection to that spiritual world, in our cases is our Jewish connection, not the religion or rituals but our sense of being part of the universe. (remember, when we pray melech haolam, haolam here is not this earth but this universe!)
At the level of the spiritual world, one begins to see the immense similarity between all the faiths and belief systems of the world: Yogic Philosophy, Philosophy of Jiddu Krishnamurty, Buddhism and of course the American Indian Philosophy.
And using idioms of particular expressions, they say very many things that are similar
Just let me talk about one saying
When the student is ready, the teacher appears
So far I have encountered this in Yogic Teachings, Buddhist Teachings and American Indian teachings.
And as is evident in your case, it is also true among the Jewish People.
We grew up knowing and thinking of the immense wisdom available to us at any time among our people, however small in number we may be, and still had only a flirting inclination to delve into it. How can we begin to understand The Guide for the Perplexed by Maimonides, which is usually given as a Bar Mitzvah Gift? Or Kabbalah apart from its superficialities? So we resign ourselves to the pleasant aspect of Jewish spirituality, which is mainly our solidarity with Israel and our identification, a very strong one, with our people.
And then, without realizing a teacher appears, from an unknown quarter and unexpectedly.
I had learned the Jewish rituals and some prayers in Melbourne, Australia but the spiritual aspects did not arrive until I was a regular guest at the home of Dr Joel and Mrs. Irena Glaser in Coconut Grove in Miami! Irena had become such a fount of knowledge (or is it font of knowledge, both derived from the world fountain) and more importantly through her conduct had become our teacher, instructing us without castigating us but with tenderness and thoughtfulness.
Perhaps that is why when people ask me what are the things you are grateful for in your life, I can answer without much delay, in this particular order
I am a Jew
I am an Australian because of what Australia gave me at a critical juncture in my life
I am associated with American Indians
Cuba is in my heart
All of the above has one thing in common: relationships. One of the more important phrases American Indians say is: Mitakuye Oyasin, we are all related.
And to me, that would summarize the essence of Spirituality in the modern world.
YOU ARE SPIRITUAL IF YOU HAVE TIME FOR YOUR RELATIONSHIPS
WHICH INCLUDES THE IMPORTANT QUESTION: WHAT CAN I DO FOR YOU?
Posted by cochinjew at 12:06