samedi 20 décembre 2014

YALDA IN IRAN, ISRAEL LOVES IRAN, STONEHENGE, CARNAC, CHICHEN ITZA, DZIBILCHALTUN ANDהילדה הקטנה שלי

December 21st, 2014, it would be the night of YALDA, celebrated in most of the Persian Speaking Middle East and Central Asia, also spilling into the Indian Subcontinent.
But one usually associates YALDA with Iran. It is the longest night and it also signifies new life and optimism, and symbolically escaping from Darkness (of time and thinking or narrow-mindedness as you want to interpret)
It is also the Winter Solstice
It is an universal phenomenon, observable from all parts of this planet and obviously there would be celebrations or suspicions or superstitions on the parts of the descendants of the indigenous people. Also the "modern man" may have incorporated some of these ancient beliefs into the modern symbolism, Yalda is one of them. Most people celebrate Christmas as the day of the birth of Jesus, but it is a symbolic incorporation of pre Christian European celebration of the birthday of a God, into the Christian Europe. Its proximity to 21st, itself an ancient celebration of the symbolic arrival of light is significant.
Pomegranate, Watermelon and the Colour Red are all symbolic, perhaps of the redness of the rising sun? Whilst the ancient Iranians noted the occurrence of the Solstice the Zoroastrians may not have celebrated it because of the Length of the Night signified for them the longer presence of Evils to be afraid of.
The association of Night with Bad Spirits is seen in many cultures. I see this significance of it among my medical practice with the HoCank, UmonHon and Lakota Indians. They tend to finish their dinner very early and are very reluctant to eat at night. When asked, an elder told me: In the darkness, you do not know who are you are eating with, since you do not know who is present.
While there are fewer archeological remnants of the builders of ancient north America, some are well preserved, such as in this serpent, which signifies the passage of sun through heavens on solstice and equinox
 A very well known Road Man of the Native American Church, a Hocank, playfully referred to himself as Your Humble Serpent. He authored a book by that same name, which is a good introduction to the Hocank ways of thinking. ( a good anthropological description of Hocank is by the Jewish anthropologist, Radin written nearly 100 years ago)
I was told of this phenomenon whilst visiting Chichen Itza, from Miami ( a short plane ride) during my university days. I have always remembered the story on my repeated visits. Lately it has become a social phenomenon with thousands of people congregating on Dec 21st the KukulCan temple (The Castle or El Castillo) at Chichen Itza
 
The ancient structure is so constructed that on the day of Solstice the shadow of a Serpent appears on one of its sides.
The prehistoric sites of Stonehenge has also an alignment to the Sun and attracts visitors on these special days.
The archeological site at Carnac in France is older than Stonehenge but I don't know about the alignment with the sun, even though the parallel rows of stones stretch out for miles.
( I hope to be there in a few days time, passing by, on my way to Quiberon)
Whilst the one at Chichen Itza was impressive enough, the smaller archeological ruins at Dzibilchaltun left a more lasting impression. (thanks to Nicte-Ha currently of Cologne, for accompanying me there). There was a heavy spiritual connection to the world around here, as one could feel the subterranean waters of the Yucatan peninsula bubbling a few meters away.

While some of these ancient customs have been trivialized by modern day travelers, the seriousness of Yalda in Iran has never faded. The Diwan Hafez, the beautiful poems of Hafez, which most Iranians read on a regular basis and there are no houses in Iran without a copy, will be present while the various sweets and food are tasted in the company of family and friends.
Yalda is of Syriac, proto Aramaic origin, thus it is a foreign word to Farsi. Interestingly enough in Hebrew, Yalda, means a girl but also means birth, or giving birth.
I am including here a link to a site called Israel loves Iran, which lets the citizens of each of the countries to communicate peacefully with each other. I thought it is good to remember these souls on the spirit of Yalda.
A symbolic message to all those who harbour any sort of hatred towards other groups because of differences in belief, ideology, religion or politics: The True Morning will not come until this Yalda Night of Darkness has gone!

when I sent this message to an Iranian friend, this was the reply:
Yes, we believe that days becoming longer than nights is a sign that the life becomes better.

https://www.facebook.com/israellovesiran/photos/a.401026863258378.107525.400704776623920/556351894392540/

Today is 20 December 2014
This is how I plan to celebrate YALDA
First of all, read Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, take the book given to me by my yoga teacher, YMC in KL, and adivinate by reading a page at random and trying to absorb the meaning. This is what many Iranians do with the book of Hafez. But one must not do it more than thrice, lest you make the Master angry!
Since Yalda also means food and celebrations, but with whom else but my dearest friends in Miami, Mordecai and G, an Italian resto has been chosen and at least two of us would settle for a Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough.

These notes on Yalda are dedicated to מאמר זה מוקדש לילדה הקטנה של.
 ייתכן שהיא תגדל להעריך את
 
התרבות של איראן וכמובן ישראל


































































































 

mercredi 17 décembre 2014

HAPPY HANUKKAH, A MIRACLE FROM CUBA, MAZELTOV TO OBAMA, CASTRO AND ALAN GROSS

Today, more than ever, I am proud to say, Soy de Cuba, I am from Vedado! in La Havana. The above collage is from my neighbourhood of Vedado in Havana.

a house in Vedado.
Today is the first day of Chanukkah 2015, a festival of Miracles, and a miracle did happen today. I am not the same person that i woke up to hear the historic news, the courageous decision taken by President Barack Obama to normalize relations with Cuba. 
and that Alan Gross, would return home after five years of captivity in Cuba. In the spirit of Chanukkah, he had this to say: The majority of the Cubans have great hearts and I support the President.
In fact, the entire world supports the President in this courageous action, except some clever politicians who have something personal to gain, by hiding behind democracy and human rights (as they do when it comes to Gun Control, for example)
I congratulate President Raul Castro who is trying to negotiate a difficult path, in face of the Globalized economy, the best chance for the Cubans, and at the same time be generous with Cuba's gift to the health of the poor in many countries. As Obama mentioned: Cuba and USA can cooperate when it comes to the World Health, as seen with the Ebola epidemic.


I am happy for the Jewish Community of Cuba.
What does this mean to me, at a personal level. First of all, I would be more than ever closer to my Cuban friends. Whilst i have had no trouble travelling between Cuba and USA ever, now the processes would be even easier.
It is amazing, this world of capitalism. Within hours of Obama's announcement, I heard that Airlines executives are already in conference about flights to Cuba! in 2015, I would imagine, hourly flights to Havana from Miami. I look forward to showing my Cuban friends, the sights of Miami and also the plight of American Indians! And certainly, my good friends from Dept of Psychology, some of whom can be seen below, would help me with my work with the Indians. Now I can invite them to come!

amigas de meu coracao 1
amigas de meu coracao 2
Two Cubans, one A Cross Cultural Endocrinologist and the other in the first year of her studies to become an Endocrinologist. She also happens to be my daughter. She is at the National Institute of Endocrinology INEN in La Habana
Medical Students in Havana 
I will not forget this Chanukkah. Mazeltov to Alan Gross, Barack Obama and Raul Castro.
If you can come to La habana, let us go to this Persian Resto, in Vedado.
I want to remind my brother no 1 in Portland above, and 
Brother no 2, also in Portland, that it has been a full 3 years since we have had a Sabbath meal together!
What about Freedom and its responsibility, mayn mischpochah?
My brother at a famous monument in Rio de Janeiro, Brasil
I am very grateful to Papa Francisco for the role he played not only in the release of Alan Gross but also in the normalization process (the negotiation) between the two republics. Whilst it was not reported widely in the US media, both Chile and Canada also helped, as the secret meetings were held in Canada. It is very significant and symbolic that a Catholic Pope helped free a Jewish American from a Communist island on this day of Fiesta de los luces, Chanukkah

So, if you want to find me, 
look for me amidst the elegant buildings with memories
in san cristobal de la habana
in the island which is a moveable feast!
Every minute I am away from La Habana, I miss the tenderness and genuine affections without strings attached
I will wait for you, my dear friends and family. with the winds from the ocean touching gently those elegant buildings with memories
which can teach you the meaning of the word tenderness.
Hasta La Victoria Siempre..
This note arrived from the younger Endocrinologist in la Habana.
ESTOY REALMENTE MUY FELIZ!!! HOY ES UN DÍA HISTÓRICO PARA NOSOTROS LOS CUBANOS, CON LA LLEGADA DE NUESTROS HEROES A LA ISLA TAMBIEN HA LLEGADO UNA LUZ DE ESPERANZA PARA NUESTRO PAÍS. YA ERA HORA DE PONER FIN AL BLOQUEO ECONÓMICO, YA ERA HORA DE PONER FIN A TANTO RENCOR SIN SENTIDO, YA ERA HORA DE BUENAS NUEVAS PARA CUBA. ESTE 2015 SERÁ SIN DUDAS UN AÑO PROMETEDOR!!! FELICIDADES A TODOS LOS QUE COMO YO, HOY SE SIENTEN MÁS QUE EUFÓRICOS POR ESTA NOTICIA, A LOS QUE NOS SENTIMOS ORGULLOSOS DE HABER NACIDO EN ESTA TIERRA Y A LOS QUE SIN NACER EN ELLA SE SIENTEN IGUAL DE CUBANOS. VIVA!!!






dimanche 14 décembre 2014

GREETINGS TO MY MALAYSIAN, INDONESIAN, AMERICAN INDIAN FRIENDS AND FAMILY, ALSO TO MUSLIMS EVERYWHERE IN THE WORLD


DEAR FRIENDS
I send these greetings to you because I consider my relationship with you to be important.
This long winded thoughts put down on paper is my way of wishing you a 
MERRY CHRISTMAS, BEST WISHES FOR THE SEASON, AND FOR MEMBERS OF MY TRIBE, HAPPY CHANUCCAH. FELIZ ANO NUEVO 2015 BONNE ANNEE FELIZ ANO NOVO

GOOD WISHES TO CHRISTIANS, MOSLEMS, HINDUS, BUDDHISTS AND JEWS
MERRY CHRISTMAS. HAPPY NEW YEAR  HAPPY CHANUCCAH
TO MY GOOD FRIEND JOE; THE BUDDHA OF BOGOR, GRATITUDE AND THANKS FOR YOUR FRIENDSHIP

Peace in the world, in our villages, at our work, in our families, begins with us. What works?
Whatever works to free the soul from suffering?
Whatever works to allow the heart to have compassion?
What works to awaken our minds from ignorance?
Love Compassion Peace
In all the ancient philosophies, Compassion is repeatedly mentioned as the source of Happiness, compassion towards others, compassion towards oneself.
When I was in Burma, I repeatedly heard the word Mitta, which is the Pali word Metta or the Sanskrit word, Maitri meaning  Loving Kindness.
Attitude of Friendliness
Good Will
Generosity of Heart
   My good friend Joe from Bogor with his friends.

Who does personify better than our own Joe, the loving kindness of a human being?
Our wish, to take it from Joe: May all beings be happy.
I asked him when I met, on a flight from Omaha to Los Angeles in the USA, why are you doing these things for your workers? Is it to increase their productivity?
No, sir, he said emphatically, I do it because I want them to be happy. If they are happy their families are happy and their villages are happy.
May all being be happy.
American Indians would include in ALL: not only human beings but also Animals and Birds and Trees and all living things
They would wish: May all living beings be happy.
Yoga sutra would speak of a love that does not seek self benefit.
In the business circles, whether Asian or European, networking is an artificial show of affection in which self benefit is sought. It is much more prevalent among Asians than Europeans.
Whereas, unusual individuals like Joe in Bogor, or enlightened Europeans would not seek self benefit in their actions. I have witnessed this personally among the Native Americans, for whom, networking means, what can I do for you, rather than what can you do for me?

If I were to say to Joe, I will be in Singapore early February 2015, he would ask: What can I do for you?
Loving kindness arises from the purity of the heart not associated with anything harmful.
Let us wish, May you be happy, now and in times to come
Issa, the Japanese poet had said:
In the cherry Blossom’s shade, there is no such thing as a stranger.
This is very reminiscent of what Joe would say:
Smiling is a must.
On that misty early morning at OMA airport, I saw this oriental gentleman smiling at me and I returned the smile. Just that exchange ended up in such a good friendship.
If we consider other people as strangers, then we can hide our prejudices. If we smile at them, it is difficult to have inferior feelings about them. You can try this when you are at the Abu Dhabi or Dubai or Doha airports, full of indentured workers from all over the world, and give a bit of yourself by smiling at them. They would be happy you smiled at them, so would you be.
I was thinking of the Buddhist concept of Mitta, loving kindness towards others, when I entered the Inipi ceremony of the Indians, where you subject your body to very high temperatures and at the moment of extreme suffering you pray for the welfare of others, without sacrifice of some sort, one cannot wish successfully for the good of others, just thinking about it alone is not sufficient.
Recently at the SFO airport, I wanted to experiment on myself how I would feel if I were to ignore every one that was present there. I realized then, shamefully, that I do not wish to have “neutral” feelings towards people around me, even if I don’t know them. When I do that, I feel that somehow I am denying them their status as human beings, as if I am insulting their presence by ignoring them.

How we feel about other people, whether at Sentul City or at the crowded airport in Doha, full of indentured labourers going home with huge bags, depends upon us.
A smile is full of good will and you reassure your heart that your heart does not harbor ill feelings about the humanity so removed from your daily life.
In our lives we have noticed that love with attachment or desire can turn into ill will or anger or irritation. But loving kindness does not fill our hearts with ill will or anger or irritation, exactly opposite.
What are the moments of distress in our lives?
Each of us has different sources of distress.
As Kahlil Gibran had famously said: the source of sorrow was once the source of pleasure.
How can you deal with distress? If a loved one is causing this distress in you?
See the situation that caused it in the larger context.
Remember, before you condemn anyone, that they have 10 000 reasons to behave the way they did, and we don’t know all the 10 000 reasons and until we do, we shouldn’t react in a negative fashion.
See the difficult people in our lives including our enemies as human beings. With loving kindness you expect to have Peace, to find happiness and not to suffer, in the same way they too have their claim to the very same things in their lives. They also have the right not to suffer, they also have the right to find happiness.
The third insight also reminds me very much of my friend Joe, it is about humility. While many Chinese businessmen around that part of the world, parade their wealth or accomplishments, our humble friend from Bogor, is exactly the opposite. You could easily mistake him for anything you wish to mistake him for when you see him at the airport but very quickly his true self would be revealed to you, if you take the time, if you decrease your own pride. Pride leads to a sense of self importance and that creates suffering for others which would end up as your own suffering.
(Just this week, the daughter of the CEO of the Korean Air, sitting in First Class, wanted the Chief Flight Attendant off the aircraft because he did not serve the macadamia nuts to her in a plate! Think of all the sufferings caused, to the poor soul as well as other passengers as well as her father, her company and in fact, she cast a bad light on all Korean people, behaving in such a way of entitlement)
Get rid of self-righteousness! This is truly a bad characteristic to have and I am amazed, whether educated or not, how prevalent it is in our societies whether it is Asian or American or European. No one race seems to be harbor this characteristic any less than the other. I have seen this in all continents where I have travelled, much less so among the Indigenous peoples of all continents.
(The best example of this self righteousness, Cornell West, a Black Academic in the USA, calling Barack Obama all sorts of names, very insulting, saying he is righteously indignant at Barack Obama because of Obama’s lack of courage.)

Hatred never ceases through hatred, it ceases only in response to love.
You can apply this in your own lives or in the conflicts, big and small in the geo political arena.
Native American Indians have a concept of Harmony and Balance, which are related. Your mind is in balance when there is harmony in your life as well as you live in harmony with your environment, connected with the universe.
You can do that only with humility, with an open heart towards to all not only those you know but also strangers. Once you consider all living things as part of your large family, your own self importance would decrease. Man is not the superior creation of the Great Spirit, Indians would say, but only one fo the superior creations of the Great Spirit.
Yoga Sutra of Patanjali lists
Five structural defects of the mind, which needs to be under control if one has to lead a happy, philosophically content, spiritually fulfilled life. He stresses the importance of ignorance which aggravates our need to be Egoistic, and the other defects such as attachment, fear of change and aversion to things or people.
As you can see, all the above philosophies concur on  what needs to be done to be happy. It does not matter whether you are a Buddhist, Hindu or Yogic or American Indian, all the ancient cultures thousands of years old stress these essentials facts about life of happiness, without suffering and in peace.
In Tibetan Buddhism, this concept is Bodhi Chitta , an awakened heart, to awaken from the depths of ignorance.
Dalai Lama says: I cannot pretend I always practice Bodhi Chitta but it gives me tremendous impetus. His thoughts on this are explained by Tsoknyi Rinpoche.
“Bodhicitta is your acting, your thinking, your selfless thinking for others,” says Tsoknyi Rinpoche.
As His Holiness the Dalai Lama always says, promote human values: love, compassion, tolerance. We have human intelligence. Use that intelligence inside as well, not always outside. Make it happy and healthy. And then within that intelligence, then you operate or connect with the outside world.

Individuals or countries as a whole can be involved in lessening the suffering of others. Medicins sans Frontiers is an organization intent on lessening suffering. Cuba is a country which is devoted to decreasing the physical suffering of millions of people, they were the first country to send doctors and medical personal to fight Ebola in West Africa. We as individuals can do our bit to alleviate suffering; that impulse comes from Compassion.
The Cuban born Polish Jewish Communist told me soon after my arrival in Cuba, if you are primarily interested in yourself, then USA would be a good choice as a place to live; but if you are interested in helping others, you have arrived in the paradise, here in Cuba. His prophetic words turned out very true for me, as I consider my years in Cuba to be the golden epoch, which by the way is still continuing.


Look around our fast paced societies, you would see everything that creates suffering, the list is long enough. Just because you live in USA or Indonesia, you don’t have to be a part of it.
Here is a partial list:
Anger
Hatred
Fear
Anxiety
Boredom
Loneliness
Greed,
All of which can lead to suffering.
What can we do as individuals?
When we feel a person suffering physically, we don’t feel smug that we are not suffering physically but we try to do something to lessen that suffering.
In this situation of suffering, from causes outlined above,  in our societies where we suffer as individuals and collectives, what should we do?
Be mindful of the presence of suffering.
I was sitting on a bench at the ferry terminal at Bremerton in Washington State. I looked around and believe it or not, it was a panorama of human suffering. There were mentally ill, homeless, poor, neglected people, hanging around the pier or the bus stop. Appropriately, a warning from the nearby café stated: Please remove your hoods, your bandanas and face coverings before you enter this shop.
You have to be mindful of these suffering human beings, not to feel righteous (about those neglected or abandoned by the society) but to be aware that these are human beings, they too deserve a shot at happiness and peace and lack of suffering.
Be mindful of your feelings
Of when you see a homeless person or a mentally ill person, hanging around aimlessly in our big cities (I am proud that in Cuba there are no homeless in the streets! Even with such a scarcity of abodes in Cuba), be mindful of their presence, acknowledge them as human beings.
If any of the following feelings arise: (in any situation)
Greed, envy, jealousy, fear, enmity, hatred
Look at them with mindfulness
Remember these feelings within you cause suffering for yourself and our duty is to relieve suffering in others as well as ourselves. If we are not at peace within ourselves when  we are full of these ill feelings, no action based on them would be beneficial,  would not lead to the lessening of suffering of any one and also the peace of anyone concerned.
Instead of feeling superior in these situations, we have to acknowledge our own vulnerability, of mind, body and spirit, only then we can connect as human beings. With those people who surround us, we can connect to each other with our hearts.
It is our hearts we see, how often we have heard that, from Antoine San Exupery of The Little Prince to many of my Indian teachers, it is with the heart we take care of others and not with our minds. Those in the caring and healing and curing professions might want to take note of that, with the heart one never fails but with the minds, we may make errors.
This is what Jiddu Krishnamurthy, the Indian Philosopher had to say:
When one gives one's heart, it is a total action. And when you give your mind, it is a fragmentary action. And most of us give our minds to so many things. That is why we live a fragmentary life, thinking one thing and doing another; and we are torn, contradictory. To understand something, one must give not only one's mind but one's heart to it.
Having a series of pleasant feelings one after another may not contribute to genuine happiness, however good it may feel.
This was brought to my attention one at the clinic when my teacher came to see me as a patient. He is an UmonHon Indian.
Did you see the clear sky? On your way over here to the clinic? Did you see the lone eagle?
Doctor, he continued in his soft voice, Be happy with all the things we have, and don’t be unhappy with things we don’t have.
How often I have read about these words, from Dalai Lama to European philosophers, but here is, an Indian, sitting in front of me, at the small consulting room at an isolated Indian reservation telling me that.
I have never forgotten that.
   The Indian on the upper left is an UmonHon from Nebraska

Material things do not bring happiness. They may make your life comfortable.
Only Relationships brighten your life, of all the things, the relationships with others, in all forms, is the essence of happiness. And pay attention to those relationships and nurture them, without relationships, a human becomes sole and lonely, abandoned by all, in one way or another, now or at some other time, eventually.
This is what Black Elk of the Lakota Indians had to say about relationships:
"Peace... comes within the souls of men when they realize their relationship, their oneness, with the universe and all its powers, and when they realize that at the center of the Universe dwells Wakan-Tanka, and that this center is really everywhere, it is within each of us."
-- Black Elk (Hehaka Sapa) OGLALA SIOUX


When people ask me to define spirituality, I would tell them, remembering what the American Indians have taught me and what great Indian leaders like Black Elk had taught: It is your connection with the Universe.

That is why  rupture in  any close relationships bring us sadness. It is sad to loose a friend.
Do you remember the paragraph from The Little Prince?

For I do not want any one to read my book carelessly. I have suffered too much grief in setting down these memories. Six years have already passed since my friend went away from me, with his sheep. If I try to describe him here, it is to make sure that I shall not forget him. To forget a friend is sad. Not every one has had a friend. And if I forget him, I may become like the grown-ups who are no longer interested in anything but figures . . .

While I was writing this my friend, the Buddha of Bogor, the humble man called me from Terminal 3 of CGK, Soekarno Hatta airport in Jakarta. He was only his way to Johor via Singapore and then on to HoChiMinh city and back home via Singapore.. He will be home for dinner the next day, it was early morning in Indonesia.
His conversation showed his concern for others, he never mentioned about himself or his business or his personal problems but all questions related to his relationships with others that we knew in common.
I made up my mind, to fulfil and demonstrate the great value I place over this friendship with this very humble man, I will make every attempt to spend a week with him in between work and travels in the new year, before the busy lives of others interrupt the travel universe, before the Chinese New Year on 19 February 2015 sets in.
more than once I have stood at this very spot, remembered my UmonHon Indian Family and Friends. We are UmonHon Indians, said the two sisters, one of whom played at a playground of tepees and kayaks at this very same site.

samedi 13 décembre 2014

JEWS OF ARABIA AND IRAN: PAST AND PRESENT AND A HANUKKAH THOUGHT FOR THEM



IN MEMORY OF ALL THE JEWS WHO LIVED IN ARABIC/PERSIAN SPEAKING LANDS, IN HISTORIC TIMES AND THOSE WHO CONTINUE TO LIVE IN IRAN AS MOST ARAB COUNTRIES HAVE MADE REFUGEES OF JEWS WHO LIVED AMONG THEM BEFORE THE TIME OF PROPHET MOHAMMED
As Hanukkah approaches, it pains me to think of Jewish people who continue to live in the Middle East outside Israel.

                                          PHOTO OF A JEW OF YEMEN EARLY 1900'S

 HANUKKIA, THE LAMP FROM COCHIN IN INDIA
Baghdad and Iraqi Jews may mean little to the Ashkenazy Jews or the Europeans, but those of us from the East, knew of Baghdadi Jewish Community and the golden era of Judaism of the East. Like Spain ushered the golden era for the Sephardim, for Oriental Jews or Mizrahim, the centre of knowledge was Baghdad.
Proportionately there were more Jews in Baghdad at the beginning of 20th century than there were in Warsaw or Berlin.
The 12th century Jewish traveler, Benjamin of Tudela had this to say:

 In Bagdad there are about 40,000 Jews[127], and they dwell in
security, prosperity and honour under the great Caliph, and amongst
them are great sages, the heads of Academies engaged in the study of
the law. In this city there are ten Academies. At the head of the
great Academy is the chief rabbi R. Samuel, the son of Eli. He is the
head of the Academy Gaon Jacob. He is a Levite, and traces his
pedigree back to Moses our teacher. The head of the second Academy is
R. Hanania his brother, warden of the Levites; R. Daniel is the head
of the third Academy; R. Elazar the scholar is the head of the fourth
Academy; and R. Elazar, the son of Zemach, is the head of the order,
and his pedigree reaches to Samuel the prophet, the Korahite. He and
his brethren know how to chant the melodies as did the singers at the
time when the Temple was standing. He is head of the fifth Academy. R.
Hisdai, the glory of the scholars, is head of the sixth Academy. R.
Haggai is head of the seventh Academy. R. Ezra is the head of the
eighth Academy. R. Abraham, who is called Abu Tahir, is the head of
the ninth Academy. R. Zakkai, the son of Bostanai the Nasi, is the
head of the Sium[128]

Currently it is thought that there are 8 Jewish souls in Baghdad most of them elderly. I have seen photographs of the eldest of these, 90 year old Sasson Saleh. Israel integrated about 500 Iraqis who claimed to have Jewish grandparents but were unable to integrate 500 from Kurdistan who claimed Jewish but couldn’t integrate well into Israeli Jewish society because of their Muslim practices and migrated to Holland.
  Sasson Saleh, 90 years old is one of the last Jews of Baghdad
The Iraqi Jewish communities in Bombay (where my brother was born) and Calcutta and Rangoon all have but disappeared, migration to UK Australia and USA and Canada, and not because of Anti Antisemitism in India. After the formation of Malaysia, which is a Muslilm country, the Jews of that country who were mainly Iraqis, left Penang and other cities, mainly for Australia? Singapore and Hong Kong continue to have centuries old Iraqi Jewish communities, now bolstered by the expatriates from the west.
Apart from a very small number of Jews in Egypt and some more in Morocco, the ancient communities of Jews who were in the Arabian peninsula and the Trucial States have all but disappeared.
I think it was my father, olav ha shalom, who told me. The idea of monotheism was easier for Mohammed to preach in Medina since there were large number of Jewish tribes living in that area. Benjamin of Tudela mentions of Jews in Arabia. Currently there are no Jews of Saudi Arabia. Hardly any left in Yemen.
In Benjamin of Tudela’s description, Iran had a flourishing jewish community in the 12th century with many learned institutions and synagogues where they were allowed to practice their religion and live in peace with the Muslims. It is good to remember that in most of these countries Jews lived there long before the advent of Islam. He mentions of the Island of Kish in the Persian Gulf..
" From thence I returned to the country of Khuzistan, which 
lies on the Tigris; this runs down and falls into the Indian Sea 
[
 Persian Gulf ] in the vicinity of an island called Kish. The ex 
tent of this island is six miles, and its inhabitants do not carry on 
any agriculture, principally because they have no rivers, nor 
more than one spring in the whole island, and are consequently 
obliged to drink rain water. It is, however, a considerable 
market, being the point to which the Indian merchants and those 
of the islands bring their commodities; while the traders of 
Mesopotamia, Yemen, and Persia import all sort of silk and 
purple cloths, flax, cotton, hemp, mdsh, wheat, barley, millet, rye, 
and all sorts of comestibles and pulses, which articles form objects 
of barter. Those from India import great quantities of spices, 
and the inhabitants of the island live by what they gain in their 
capacity of brokers to both parties. The island contains about 

five hundred Jews." 1 
from the British Library, has info
on Jews of Muscat

Muscat and Oman , is one of my favourite countries in that region.
When travelling around Oman, it is impossible for me to believe that Jews did not live there.
But evidence is hard to come by. I also thought of the great Chinese navigator, Admiral Zheng He who came to the shores of Oman, along the Dhofar coast as well as passing through the Straits of Hormuz. There is no doubt in my mind that Hormuz at that time had Jews
The British Library recently released the books and papers of the military and civil men posted in the services of His majesty in these trucial regions. This was the first time I had seen a reference to Jews of Muscat. Omanis are physiognomically much different than their neighbours the Emiratis or Qatari. The documents describe most of the residents of Muscats to be Baluchis, with sizeable population of Negroid stock, with large number of Hindus. This mixture can be seen until this day in Muscat.
The interesting Jewish communities in Kuwait and Bahrain deserve a mention. Those of Kuwait is no more but until recently the Bahraini ambassador to USA was a Bahraini Jewish woman! Benjamin of Tudela mentions of Jews (ak-Kuwaiti) in Kuwait as well as in Bahrain.
In fact there was a talk of a Jewish state in an oasis in Bahrain!!!


                                                                Books from the British Library with information on Jews of Kuwait,
                                                                and Bahrain
From BBC Magazine
In 1859 Griffith Jenkins, a senior British naval officer in the Gulf, wrote to a subordinate named Hiskal.
Hiskal - or Yehezkel - ben Yosef was a minor official representing British interests in Muscat. And, like his predecessor in the post in the 1840s (a man named Reuben), he was Jewish.
Jews had been living in Muscat since at least 1625. In 1673, according to one traveller, a synagogue was being built, implying permanence. British officer James Wellsted also noted the existence of a Jewish community on a visit in the 1830s.

Jenkins's letter talks obliquely about the Imam (a Muslim ruler who held sway in Oman's interior) and the arrival of a man from Persia. He ends by asking Hiskal to explain the matter in private - and then, remarkably, had his letter translated into Hebrew.
In a few days time, we would light the candles in celebration of Hanukkah. On that day and days afterwards, I will remember the ancient Jewish communities of Arabia and Iran.
Over one million Jews from Arabia, Maghreb, Iran were made refugees after 1947 (when the anti-Semitic riots began in the earnest in the Arab countries, US Navy and its officers had to protect the Jews of Bahrain!) Hardly any Jews are left in Turkey, where there was a flourishing community under benevolent Sultans.( it is good to read the history of Thessaloniki which actively gave refuge to the exiled Spanish Jews, with consent from the Sultan in Istanbul)
   Jewish Shabbat Lights and two Hanukkia from Cochin at the UmonHon Indian Reservation, along with a HoCank Indian doll
It is said that the countries that expel its Jews take centuries to regain their former glory; Spain and Poland are given as examples. Reading Bernard Lewis’ History of Islamic Countries, one gets the impression that the loss of Jews would haunt Iraq, Egypt, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya for centuries to come.

   R is a five year old UmonHon Indian Girl, sister to L, who is also five years old and Jewish. R very proudly made a Star of David and decorated her Christmas Tree and said: This star is for my sister L! L refers to the star as, Our Star





dimanche 23 novembre 2014

SPICING UP YOUR HEALTH: BRING ON THE MASALA

MOGULS GOT IT RIGHT
SPICE UP YOUR LIFE A BIT
BRING ON THE ROGAN JOSH OR CHICKEN TIKKA MASALA
On a recent visit to Miami, my good friend and I shared a North Indian meal, of which Rogan Josh was the star. This dish, which is of Persian Origin, brought to Indian by the Mogul emperors, has become a staple of the Western Indian Restaurants mostly owned and cooked by Bangladeshis. The Kashmiris when they cook this dish, they use a less spicy pimiento rather than the strong chillies to the south. (Think of the goan dish Beef Vindaloo)

Zaatar is a mainstay of the Israeli condiment and I was introduced to that on a visit to Haifa many years ago by my Israeli family, who sprinkled it on just about everything and I must say, a mixture of olive oil and zaatar to dip your pita in was certainly delicious.
I am partial to a good Massaman Curry and a few years ago a Laotian refugee and his family opened a Thai Restaurant near one of the Indian Reservations, and I am always grateful that I could have at least one good meal on each of my visits to the Midwestern Food Desert.
So the health aspects of these condiments, the additional heath aspects I should say, since you have to be eating good food or nutritionally cognizant, had always interested me. I can’t imagine McDo selling a Massaman Curry Hamburger and a Zaatar French Fries!
A recent article published in Nutrition Today was of interest. Some researchers, who had been trying leech out the health benefits of herbs and spices, took six men, all of them overweight between 35 and 60 and gave them a control meal and then in their second experiment gave them a similar meal but heavily doused with herbs and spices.

They reasoned that a high fat meat diet would increase Triglycerides and an increased risk for heart disease, would they find a difference if that same meal was given with a concoction of spices?
. If a high-antioxidant spice blend is incorporated into the meal, triglyceride levels may be reduced by as much as 30 percent when compared to eating an identical meal without the spice blend. The spiced meal included garlic powder, rosemary, oregano, cinnamon, cloves, paprika, turmeric, ginger and black pepper.

And their small study showed that the Insulin levels do not rise as much, impressive enough and more impressive was the 13% increase in anti oxidant activity after the spicy meal.
Cinnamon from the above list has had some press, since it seems to help people with Diabetes, even though their effects on non-diabetic persons are not clear. Garlic comes with mixed reviews, and certainly others in the spicy melange above, especially turmeric, ginger have had good press, following research showing their benefits.

Rogan Josh might have paprika, cloves and turmeric and our beloved Zaatar in Israel is Oregano, I say this because I was given some organic homegrown Zaatar from Algeria that was mainly Thyme.
So for Lunch, I prepared Basmati with coconut oil, with hot sauce interspersed in it, with a good amount of Zaatar. The chicken was prepared in Thai sauce that contained coconut and paprika

It tasted delicious, and for the coming one month, with the exception of five days in the midwestern food desert, I will have plenty of antioxidant raising, spicy, herb filled meals.
SPICE MARKET IN COCHIN INDIA 
SOME NYONYA DISHES FROM MALACCA

AND NOT TO FORGET THE FOOD ON QATAR AIRWAYS 

(grilled chicken breast with tomato citrus chutney w/ za'atar spiced potatoes and steamed vegetables) main course, the above is the starter with salmon, crab surimi etc etc..

In the mean time Bon Appetite!
Sundanese Cuisine at the home of my good friend Joe in Bogor, Indonesia