dimanche 6 mai 2018


It is sunny outside  nary a cloud but haze over the multiple modern buildings that surround this bay in Doha, Qatar.
this is my view from where I sit, 96 F or 36 C outside.
I cannot help thinking of this landscape as it looked a few years ago and perhaps hundreds of years ago.
At the advent of Islam, there were Jews in what is now Saudi Arabia and I have seen documents about Jewish presence in Oman. It is easy to imagine a jewish presence or at least a trading presence in these parts, since the travel routes from Babylonia to India must have passed through these parts.

This is the presumed route taken by Benjamin of Tudela who had travelled to visit various Jewish communities in the East. If you look carefully, Qatar peninsula was right on his route.
Iran is just across the Gulf and there had been a jewish presence there for millenia (currently 20 000 Jews live in Iran, the largest jewish community in a Muslim country, where as in the 1930s that claim would have gone to Baghdad. Nearly 1 000 000 jews lived in Arab countries at the dawn of Israel in 1948, most of them made refugees)
I am drawn to Qatar not for the usual reasons (employment, sightseeing, desire to know the culture), but because of the large Asian workers with whom I can have an anthropological conversation about their origins (today I met someone from Loikaw, a Kayin, from Myanmar), their dreams and their life here. (without exception, they are happy to be here).
It also gives me time to contemplate, ensconced as I am in comfortable accomodations with view (see above). Also there is no conflict being in Qatar, after a few days in KL (elections) and India (mindless bragging without discourse). My main interest is the Cuban Medical presence here but this time I decided not to get in touch with them, as I wanted to think about Mind, Body, Food and Philosophy..
and of course about Jews. I remember a sentence from a novel by a French author (Michel Foucault had quoted him, about madness) in which the character says  I, said the man, am a Jew 
I rather say I am Jewish, which has an all encompassing meaning, the universality of our people, the collective consciousness and fidelity to the ethics and morality.
So in this Arab country that I like, now cordoned off by their neighbours Saudi Arabia and UAE, along with Bahrain and Egypt, it was so gratifying to read and listen to music of moroccan-Israeli origin paying tribute to Shimon bar Yochai.
It is from a blog called 

Point of No Return: Jewish Refugees from Arab and Muslim Countries

with thanks to the blog, I reproduce it here in full:
Last week, observant Jews across the world marked the Hillula, or anniversary, of the death of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, one of the greatest teachers of Jewish law and ethics. Bar Yochai lived in Palestine at a time of religious persecution by the Romans. Pilgrims flock to his grave at Mount Meron in the Galilee.
The former Chief Sephardi Rabbi of Israel, R. Shlomo Amar, composed the lyrics to a piyyut in honour of Bar Yohai, which is performed in the video above by the great contemporary Moroccan-Israeli payytan, R. Maymon (Meni) Cohen. Below, a contrasting version by Itsik Eshel

I will upload both videos when I have a faster connection