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Leon's No Newsletter 220

Mielie Pap Brainwash

Well it seems I’m not going to get some honest to goodness mielie pap in Israel.

Robby, Shaul and myself, as is sometimes usual were drinking coffee and eating burekas at “Burekas Haifa” in the middle of the Shuk, not out on the street, where it’s noisy but at the back where it’s less noisy. I had my wonderful hearing aid so I quite clearly heard Robby say that he’ll make mielie pap for us if I buy the mielie meal.

We marched into Roy’s health food store in Agrippa Str, and straight away I knew that something was wrong; Roy wasn’t there because he doesn’t own the store anymore, but the slim, black haired young lady and the past middle aged black haired lady, who I think are his daughter and wife respectively took my 12 shekels for some yellow colored grain. Robby told me not to worry that the black people didn’t eat yellow mielie meal because they said it was for the animals, but it’s all you can get here in Israel and I shouldn’t worry, it’s just as good.

For a change Robby was wrong; it didn’t get “styf” the way the white mielie meal gets and you couldn’t role it into a ball to dip in the gravy, which I didn’t expect anyway because I’m sometimes a vegetarian, because I’m against cruelty to animals, but sometimes a good steak ruins my vegetarian principles. I don’t give them up for chicken however and very rarely for steak. I missed the gravy, although it would have been good, but no stywe pap, that was absurd, but yellow mielie meal doesn’t stick together like white mielie meal. So now I’m waiting for Robby’s sister to come from SA and bring us some real white mielie meal.

According to my std.V history book mealie meal was the “staple diet of the black man”. That statement always bothered me, I didn’t understand why. I’ve since learnt that putting things like that into history books is brainwashing. It worked because the kids, like myself didn’t know that we were getting brainwashed; that’s supposed to be smart because brainwashing which is known to be brainwashing wouldn’t be brainwashing.

I was reminded of this last night at the movie “Dancing Arabs”, which is about the things an Arab must do to get ahead in Israel; he’s actually got to become Jewish without being Jewish and that takes a kind of dancing. Thats all because there’s a stigma when it comes to employing Arabs or socializing with Arabs, and this stigma comes from the way kids are brainwashed at school and at home regarding the nature of an Arab.

There’s a good dialogue in the movie between Iyad (Jonathan) and the teacher in which Jonathan (Iyad) demonstrates from quotations in stories by A.B. Jehosua, Amos Oz and others that Jews are brainwashed to adopt a stigma about Arabs being over sexual.

Naturally I object to brainwashing about the nature of people and generalizing, putting them into categories. This is teaching intolerance which I think lies at the basis of many problems of conflict between different race and religious groups in society.

At the same time, however I think turning a blind eye to differences in religious and social background of other people does not contribute to greater tolerance of those people. This kind of understanding, without being judgmental could actually promote tolerance rather than going against it.

For example, I don’t think I’m being judgmental when I say that one of the characteristics of Islam and Christianity is to persuade Jews to convert. In fact I’m quite sure that most people would agree with this statement.

Although I’m not being judgmental when I say this, it could be turned into a value judgment. For example a Christian or a Moslem who approaches a Jew about whether he believes that Jesus is the Messiah or whether he believes that Mohammed is God’s ultimate prophet, is in fact putting the Jew in an awkward position of having to answer negatively and so, virtually declaring his opinion that the other religion is unworthy for him. So, he ends up making a value judgment without intending to make one.

I don’t think that Christians and Moslems are aware how much Jews dread being put into this awkward position. I think that they dread it so much that they shy away from close contact with Moslems and Christians, and are then accused of not accepting them into Jewish social society.

These days, my granddaughter, Noga is full of smiles. Every day the pictures show her smile getting bigger and bigger. Everyone, grandpa, grandma etc. thinks that she’s smiling just for them, but I think she’s smiling from pure happiness at getting used to the world around her and that way she’s giving happiness to everyone. She travels twice a week with her parents to Haifa, where mama’s studying psychology. She’ll turn out to be very smart if her parents keep this up.

We have a picture of her reading her cloth book, absolute proof that she’s a genius, already completely absorbed in literature. I think she was reading about a little pink mouse hiding under a big chair.

Even though Noga is getting lots of attention I’m happy to say that I haven’t slacked off on getting together with my other grandchildren; during the Succot holidays I went with Ariel, Ophir and Alon to climb big bamboo at the Israel Museum. This is an amazing bamboo tower built by Doug and Mike Stern using 5000 bamboo sticks. The beauty about this is that, unlike most challenging experiences, it’s safe; while being a challenge of achievement, like any other adventure, and after all life is about getting satisfaction from achieving goals, it’s completely safe for kids. Kids can climb high, seeing magnificent high point views of some magnificent buildings of Jerusalem, like the Knesset, the Hebrew University, the monastery of the Cross and the Shrine of the Book, all in the midst of Jerusalem’s rolling hills and gentle valleys.

I doubt if there’s any other library in Israel where an ordinary individual, not a student or somebody like that, can be a member for almost nothing, only

₪100 per year and I think that I can take out as many books as I like; the most I’ve taken is 3. I had decided to read books about small towns in S.Africa where Jews had settled as pioneers in the 19th or beginning of the 20th century and I came across The Story of an African Farm by Olive Schreiner. It’s only about 150 pages and I loved it; it’s a real story and very absorbing, funny sometimes and sad at others.

I returned my books, the one by Olive Schreiner and two, well written but disappointing books by Margaret Atwood, Life before Man and Surfacing and hurried to the Jewish studies reading room, impatient to get back to my book, The Great Tear by Amos Frish in Hebrew about the split in the Jewish Kingdom after Solomon (IKings 12) (some books can’t be taken out), when suddenly I realized that I still had time to get to Tel Aviv in time to see The Barber of Seville at the Israel Opera. A last minute ticket for pensioners got me a good seat at half price, next to two ladies who sat in the same seats at all operas and I occupied the seat of their friend who didn’t turn up this time.

The Barber of Seville is very different from most other operas I’ve seen; nobody’s life is in danger and the love entanglement is easily sorted out amusingly by a barber. After a few minutes enjoyment of the varied music that accompanied the buffoonery on the stage of a bunch of colorful, clown like characters, Figaro the barber, Bartolo, Rosina’s guardian, Basilio, Rosina’s music teacher and Count Almaviva, Rosina’s suitor, I stopped following the plot in the simultaneous translation because I realized that the only purpose of the plot was to provide a background for the comic antics on the stage.

Wishing you a great no newsday

Yours truly

Leon Gork

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