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lundi 25 avril 2016


On the day he decided to become a vegetarian, he arrived at the dilapidated International Terminal of the airport at Buenos Aires. The American Airlines from Miami had been staffed with Argentine grandmothers who could joyously use their time better with their grandchildren than playing Sudoku, checking their Facebook pages, while them and their bored passengers, patiently awaiting service which never came, counted the hours to the touchdown. The terminal was full of Jews returning to celebrate the austere holiday where many of the foods that made Argentina famous are forbidden. He knew immediately that the timing of his arrival was inconsistent with the desires of his palate, so asked G-d for forgiveness as he dug into the plate of Lomo Salteado accompanied by a full bodied Malbec.
This rich country of immigrants has been successfully exploited repeatedly by its elected leaders, including a thief from Aleppo. Now this most European of all Latin American countries is sinking under its own illusion, the running inflation cutting deeply into their dreams of exporting the country’s wealth to Miami Beach.
I just had lunch at a restaurant in Palermo. I don’t think there is any other city with such concentration of a variety of restaurants, as long as you understand that Argentina is famous for its steaks and its Malbec. Long lines formed at the parilladas, most people were well dressed and lean, despite the portions of meat they are about to devour, some of them the size of a flat screen TV. Red wines at the ready (only the feeble drink white wine, they told me), these trendy portenos would not be out of place in Madrid or Barcelona!
I had come here to relax, after hectic days of clinical work with the Indians, preparing diligently to give an anthropologically oriented talk about Health Care to the Indians, before departing for that movable feast that is La Habana, Cuba. Buenos Aires is one of the nicest cities to visit, I plan to visit no tourist sites.

I am content in Palermo, the very same streets that had felt the footsteps of that great essayist, Jorge Luis Borges


lundi 18 avril 2016

Cuba sends medical personnel to Ecuador following earthquake

Cuba sends medical personnel to Ecuador following earthquake

I am immensely proud of the Humanitarian Medical Solidarity Cuba has demonstrated to our sister countries in times of their need. 
Last Saturday disaster struck on the mountainous part of northwestern part of Ecuador also affecting the big city of Manta. Poverty, isolation and mountainous terrain has already marginalized the inhabitants of this region and now they have to bear the burden of the wrath of nature.
Within 12 hour of the earthquake a team of Cuban specialist doctors who are trained for Disaster assistance had been assembled and  left Cuba!
It is amazing how wonderful a news this is and I wonder how quickly they organized the departure, to get together these specialist doctors who must be on call in case of such disasters. I remember 1500 doctors including some of my friends from Santiago de Cuba left for Pakistan when they had an earthquake and quickly set up a field hospital. Even in case of the neighbouring Haiti after the devastating earthquake, Cubans were the first on the scene, arriving there a little before the arrival of an Israeli field hospital.  I am so happy to be associated with two such countries with magnanimous hearts to assist the poor and the devastated! Americans arrived much later and were surprised that Israelis were communicating with their coordinating medical centre in Israel and getting help electronically!
I read this article on line in Granma International on 18th April

dimanche 17 avril 2016

When I woke up this morning, my good friend MC from KL had sent a discourse about Planning your Life by the south Indian sage, Sadhguru. 

The same feeling of Déjà vu as I have found that many of the Yogic Philosophical thoughts resonate with what Indians in USA has taught me. I realize that most people, think of the present time and look at their plans with that prism but if you have studied or belong to a group of people who have distilled the knowledge of centuries, then plan that appear ACUTE all of a sudden become CHRONIC, that has been plaguing your mind or lying dormant trying to protect your personality.

Indians have taught me that Chaos and Ambiguity is what is normal and the European concept of Certainty brings additional conflicts. Only if you have centuries of understanding can you accept ambiguity in the present as being part of your life. For most people, the chaos or ambiguity in their present day life is seen as a failure to plan or a failure in their individual personality, not take into consideration the universal aspect of their individual sensation.
In the discourse my friend MC sent me, there is a famous sentence by Sadhguru: You can plan for tomorrow but you cannot plan tomorrow. Look at the political events, thirty years ago, the romantic image of the Arabs as portrayed by Omar Sharif in the movie Lawrence of Arabia did not predict that the very same image would be seen as murderous and barbaric!
I have to do a presentation in Nebraska, USA in two days’ time (Culture, Technology and Culture) and then begins an eight week long wandering. Only the dates are written in the agenda, but I know that things that are supposed to happen will happen and that the people I need to meet, I will be meeting them.
Reminded me of what my Meskwaki teacher said to me: Stop looking for people, those who need to meet, would come your way
Immediately after the talk, I will leave for Buenos Aires, and as the name implies, to breathe the good air once again and perhaps walk along the streets of Jorge Luis Borges. The fact that that fascinating city has good food and wine, is not omitted. I am hoping to see some good friends but relive some memories of past attachments, I am expecting nothing. A short stop in Panama, once again hoping to see a Jewish colleague of mine from Medical school days and then on to the moveable feast of my life: La Habana, Cuba. Alas a short visit, I have a mental picture of who I would like to see but I will let it happen. A brief stop in Bogota, the high city where mosquitos are not a threat!, museum of Gold and the old part of town and a nice meal and it would be time to go to Nantes in France via Madrid in Spain. A three days stay at the seaside town of Quiberon, reciting poem of Pablo Neruda to a curious mind and savour crepes de ble, the local cuisine with the abundant sea food. It is the long road back to the Indians, with one night in Madrid, one night in Bogota and one night in Miami. After the usual time with the Indians, I look forward to my Etihad flight from JFK to AUH and then on to CMB, only to take a connecting flight to COK.. Cochin where I feel emotionally at home. A hello to the last Jew of Cochin, a nice Malayalee meal with the local foodie, with the possibility of working with him on a humanitarian mission in South Africa and greeting my good friends RN and CW.. And saying hello to the tea wallahs, waiters and receptionists and perhaps even a drink as the sun dips on the Arabian Sea at the Old Bristow Hotel? On to another city close to my heart, Kuala Lumpur and stay at the usual hotel at Jalan Ismail (Double Tree). Two Omaha Indians would arrive and I will play the tourist guide to them for the next three days, take them to Cambodia to introduce them to the fantastic Peer to Peer Programme of my good friend Maurits van Pelt and of course be their guide at the Angkor Archeological site..will be staying with my Burmese hotelier brother, Ko Maung Maung. Malacca and Salalah to follow.. what route I will take to get back to Miami where I look forward to days and dinners with my sister and my good friends MG is any ones guess!
Coming back to Sadhguru, his words are condensation of millennia of philosophy, one has to listen carefully and understand what he is saying

You can plan FOR tomorrow but you cannot PLAN tomorrow…
PS this is the tea wallah I am hoping to greet in Cochin

mardi 12 avril 2016


My brother who was born in Bombay but grew up in Kobe and now lives in Portland, Oregon and I share a great love for Mizrachi music. We were happy when Putumayo Records began bringing out Middle Eastern Music (such as Cairo to Casablanca).
Nearly a million Jews were expelled and made refugees when the State of Israel was founded, and especially after the victory in the War of Independence. Those who know the history of Jews who lived in the Orient would know that they were well integrated into the Levantine and Asiatic societies, dressed, ate and dressed like the local people.
Literature of the Mizrachim (in, through and at transition from their homelands to the new ones in Europe, Asia and USA) were easily available in translation, as many of the Mizrachim were educated in French
Albert Cohen  Le Livre de ma mère    
Corfu to Marseille to Genève.  Belle de Seigneur is his best known work
Albert Memmi Tunis to Alger to Paris who has written about growing up Jewish in Tunisia.  His best known work is Pillar of Salt
I made a mental note of the fact that Albert Memmi ended up in France which in Hebrew is Sarfat. His mother’s name was Marguerite Sarpathi…a lucky coincidence or a deserved return?
Just two examples, above.
There are many of a younger generation of the Arab Jews who have become activists and journalists and writers among other professions. (
But thousands like my brother Eliyahu and myself remained faithful to the music and food of our ancestors. Years later I formulated the theory of Genetic Food, that one must eat ones ancestral food however far removed you may be, even after multiple migrations! Needless to say, this can now be scientifically proved by the fact that the microbiome within our bodies have a memory of their ancestors as well and don’t like it very much when they are fed food not to their genetic taste!
I remember arriving in Israel to visit family in Haifa I noticed that the reception to my Mizrachi tastes were not enthusiastic, Yael and Zahava were not the music they listened.
Baruch Hashem, all that is changing. Not only the young Israelis listening to Mizrachi music in Hebrew, it is very popular among Palestinians from the Territories!
Today I was reading a story about Daoud and Saleh Al-Kuwaiti, famous musicians from Kuwait (of Iraqi Jewish origin) who were made refugees by the regime. They were popular with the King of Iraq (Faisal) and throughout the ranks of the Arab citizenry of Trucial States of the region. I can imagine that their music did not find a place in the struggling society of Israel which was far more concerned about just survival from the five powerful Arab neighbours...
Now Daoud’s grandson is a well-known Israeli musician Dudu Tassa and I have been watching videos of his group on YouTube… Dudu started as a rock musician but now has combined the Mizrachi elements and now popular not only with Israelis but Arabs as well.
What happened to the great Jewish musicians who lived in the Arab and Persian world before 1948? From Casablanca to Kabul? Why is their exile and suffering not documented and publicized? Equal numbers, more or less, of Arabs and Jews were exiled from their lands of birth, but are there any Jewish refugee camps? Why are there Palestinian Refugee camps, paradoxically even within Palestine? Explain to me.
A tragic irony of the Palestinian refugees who lived in refugee camps in Syria and now made homeless by their brethren, arriving in Europe, are not accorded the same rights as Syrians who are accepted with open arms as refugees.. Bizarre turn of events of history..
Shiraz, in Iran once boasted of large number of Jewish orchestras?  What happened to them? Where are their grandchildren? Jews lived in Iraq and Iran longer than the Moslems, yet were forced to become refugees. In Israel there are no Jewish Refugee camps under the direction of UN High commission for Refugees!
Coming back to music, it warmed my heart to watch the video of DUDU singing. I am very interested in the fate of Jews from very small outlying communities around the world and have been fortunate to visit many of them. So the Israeli grandson of a Kuwaiti Jew (no Jews left in Kuwait but there are some Jews including an ambassador in Bahrain) is singing Mizrachi music (Mizrachi refers to the east, like Maghreb refers to the West, even though those familiar with the Haggadah will recall Mizrahim as Egypt) popular in Israel and Arab countries. The despots of the Arab countries including Nasser suppressed music by Jewish Arab musicians in the aftermath of their losses to the Israeli Defense Forces, so that Jewish writers and musicians and intellectuals are forgotten in Arab lands but many of their descendants survive in France (Jacques Attali, Bertrand-Levy, Patrick Bruel, Enrique Macias among others, also the DJ that I like to listen, Claude Challe of Tunisian Jewish origin)
Here is Dudu singing the song Wayak with a video made with another artist Borgore
Wayak an old song by the Egyptian great, Farid El Atrache
Here he is singing the song WAYAK
An anthropological observation.
This video was long before the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo, you can see the women were treated much better and they were free to dress the way they wanted. For comparison you can also watch videos pre Radical Islam occupation of Iran, the women were not forced to wear hijab and cover themselves up, as they have to do now.
Secondly, a fond memory of a lovely man, Monsieur Maurice W, who despite being made stateless and forced to leave his beloved Egypt by Gamel Abdul Nasser, from whom I first heard about Farid El Atrache.
Many years later I came across the music of El Anka and Chaabi of Alger and I as so captivated. Checking into the history of the music, it was heartwarming to note that it was a point where both Arabs and Jews living in Alger. Much like the Buena Vista Social Club brought together, by Ry Cooder, the old musicians who had been out of fashion, old Jewish and Arab musicians (almost all the Jewish musicians living in France) got together in Alger and the get together, Orquestra El Gusto directed by El Anka’s son Abdel Hadi Halo was phenomenal. You can listen and watch In YouTube. That led me to discover Lili Boniche and Maurice El Medioni.
We have almost toured the entire world of the Arab Jews!
This is the music of the land, which was Zoroastrian, then Bedu, then Arab, in the Maghreb Amazigh long before the Arab conquerors came, but always with a strong presence of Jews, made homeless by the tyrants most of whom are wiped out of the collective Arab memory joining the Jewish refugees before them.
So it is warming to the heart that one of the popular Mizrachi singers in Israel is actually an Arab, Nisrin Qadri who seems be well accepted for her musical talent and given respect and equality denied to most women in Moslem societies.

the song she has chosen with the Andaluz orchestra of Israel is the one we associate with the great Umm Kulthoum,
Enta Omri  You are my Life 
Umm Kulthoum was the greatest female singer in the Middle East until her death in 1975. She was the compatriot of Farid El Atrache.  When I was a child I was told that the song lasted 40 minutes!
here is a translation of this song into English

You are My Life

Your eyes returned me to the days that had gone by
They taught me to regret the past and its wounds
That which I experienced before my eyes saw you
What is the wasted life to me?
You are my life whose morning began with your light
How much of my life before you has passed and gone by
My darling, how much of my life has gone
My heart never experienced one bit of joy before you
And had never tasted in this world anything but the flavor of injury
I've now just begun to love my life
I've now begun to fear for the passing of my lifetime
Every joy that I longed for before you was fantasy
My heart and mind meet find it in the light of your eyes
Oh life of my heart, oh you who is more precious than my life
Why didn't I meet your love, my darling, sooner?
The sweet nights and the desire and the love
For so long my heart carried them for you
Taste love with me
Taste love with love
From the feeling of my heart whose desire extended to your feeling
Give me your eyes they reflect my eyes in their world
Give me your hands their touch calms my hands
Oh my darling come on forget about that which has passed us
Oh you who is more precious than my days
Oh you who is sweeter than my dreams
Take me to your longing take me
Pull me away from the universe
Far, far away you and I
From the love that awakens our days
From the desire than sleeps our nights
I've reconciled time my days with you
I've reconciled time with you
I forgot my pains with you
And I forgot with you my woes
Your eyes called me to the days that have passed
They taught me to regret the past and its wounds
That which I experienced before my eyes saw you
What is the wasted life to me?

This is the sweet life of the Mizrachim. A glorious past striped with tears and sadness and a wonderful future to look forward to in Eretz Israel and Elsewhere..

This one written with my sweet brother Eliyahu in mind..and dedicated to our mishpuchah..

mercredi 6 avril 2016


When I left the Old Lisbon Restaurant in Coral Way in Miami today, I felt such a contentment. I was with my good friends M and W and their good friends M and S.
First of all, the food at the restaurant was extraordinarily good. 
My good friend M, a reliable foodie, had recommended

Caldeirada de Peixes e Mariscos

Seafood combination of Clams, Mussels, Shrimp, Squid and Fish Stew served with Steamed Potatoes

and I was not disappointed and savoured every morsel of it, letting it slip through the gullet on its delicious journey. The wine was a Sauvignon Blanc from Chile.
Better yet was the company, we are old friends having known each other from our medical student days.
Conversation turned to Pesach and Seder. I had spent my last seder with M and W at their home but they would be at sea on a cruise this time. M and S have a busy schedule so that they are afraid they might not be able to prepare a proper seder in time..and I might be on a flight to Buenos Aires (no shortage of Seder there!) to meet a good Cuban friend of mine!
So I thought to my self: I will consider this to be my seder for this year..In the last few years I have celebrated seder at Miami, Brussels or Paris...
and it was nice to think of some good people I had spent seder with and say a silent kaddish for them:
Cecil H London, Joel and Irena G Miami and Ian B Corpus Christi.
While our dinner was in no way justifiable as Jewish, it was delicious and I highly recommend it

 La Shanah Haba a b Yerushalayim...

mardi 5 avril 2016


It had been snowing since the morning and it was gaining strength. I had to go from the Hilton Hotel in downtown to the Convention Centre where I was attending the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society. It is a nice walk along a park and bayside but on this morning of freezing winds, it was not a possibility.
Uber to the rescue! within one minute, Abner is at the front of the hotel. Young and dark skinned, with frizzy hair, could be easily mistaken for an Ethiopian. But as it turned out, he and I shared a profound love for the country of his birth: Cabo Verde!
We immediately switched to Portugese, he was curious where I had learned it, Brasil?
Of course, Cesaria Evora was the first one, then Tavares, Jovinho dos Santos, Mayra Andrade, Tito Paris, Ildo Lobo, Bana, and the singer who is the Minister of Culture … just like Jorge Ben was in the cabinet of Lula!
We talked about Cabo Verde: sodade that incredible sweet sensation of nostalgia and longing; emigranti, which details their history of migration, Mar which is always there surrounding them, imprisoning them as well as liberating them, their lovely Mornas y Coladeras.
I wanted to show him that I had CV music in my iPhone, he connected it to his speaker system.

The first song that came out of my iPhone was Beijo Roubado by Cesaria Evora. My heart sank, tears nearly came to my eyes. Such a sentimental song and it had such a meaning for me, of evenings spent at the University of Reading!! I could hardly speak, choked as I was, while he talked about his Cabo Verde home
Be proud of being a Cabo Verdian and be proud of your culture, I managed to blurt out.
I told him of the special relationship Cuba has CaboVerde, La Habana has one of the 7 Cabo Verdean embassies in the world! He remembered his doctor being a Cuban and that he has relatives who had studied in Cuba. TACV flies twice a week from USA to CV!
I made a mental note, it would be nice to be take that flight…to recover my Beijo Roubado.
Boa Sorte, I wished him well, ate logo, see you later, Um prazer conhece-lo, it is a pleasure knowing you, he replied.

Obrigado para as islas de musica, de mornas y coladeras, Cabo Verde!

vendredi 1 avril 2016


My itinerant life has few things that are stable.. Miami is an exception. It has been continuously present since I first came here as a student..
After the carnage last week in Bruxelles, I did not witness or experience it as I was in London, I felt so relieved to be relaxing at the home of my sister in Miami. Felt very close to J and J as well as M and G
we do eat well in Miami..