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Newsletter 225: My anniversary week


Shalom Friends,

This has been a busy week. Last night, after I had spent a little time with my son Ariel, his wife, Lilach and his kids, Ophir and Alon and of course Ollie, Ettie fetched me, after she’d spent a day shopping and “clearing her head” which I doubt is a good idea, with her favorite cousin Ayala, in our beautiful Prius, that I don’t drive since giving up my driver’s license for the sake of the bus and walking, to meet our old friends Carmela and Shimon, Ettie’s friends since childhood.

I joined the party when Ettie and I got married, exactly 35 years ago, on Wednesday.

I bought her a bouquet of flowers, which I’ve learnt, from Google, are Cymbidium Orchids and you can see a picture of them on the newsletter page of my website.

It’s taken me all these years to learn to accept that Ayala is a better receptacle for the stuff Ettie clears out of her head than I am and I’m happy to be going out with my clear headed wife.

It was twilight and the sea was calm and black with shimmering glows of leftover sunbeams.

We were eating our dinner sitting outside at a small restaurant on the jetty of Tel Aviv harbor, so named because of the first Jewish harbor, built in 1936 when the Arab boatmen and porters of the old Jaffa harbor went on strike, while we nosh our evening meal,

I ordered fish and chips, an old eating habit I brought with from S.Africa, Shimon had creamed asparagus, which I love and regretted not ordering, Carmela and Ettie a fish and vegetable dish, while we discussed whether Bibi is good for Israel or not.

With Shimon, who knows the statistics by heart, we had all the facts at our finger tips. For example only 59000 tourists entered Israel in 2013 and this number dropped to 29000, unemployment rose from 2% to 6% and the average income reached only $33000 per year and the inflation was -1%, a minus inflation for the first time in Israel’s history.

My conclusion is that Bibi is good for Israel. Shimon said a little prayer that he would not have to fork out too much dough to make a coalition with the religious parties. I don’t think his prayer is going to be answered as usual.

The week started with a bang or splash, or whatever other word one uses to express a festive event, a fanfare of trumpets and drums, provided by the Israel Symphony Orchestra of Rishon Le Zion at the Tel Aviv Opera House, accompanying Puccini’s opera La Rondina, The Swallow.

As I said to, Ettie, so I say to you, there’s no better entertainment than the opera; it has everything a man could want by way of pleasure; beautiful singing, acting, colorful costumes, exciting and sometimes soul stirring stories, sometimes tragedy other times unbounded happiness. What else could a person ask for.

Actually the music in this opera is subdued and not memorable, but going to the opera was such a great event for me I felt as if a fanfare was being played for me as I entered and when it was all over I left to meet Ettie to return to Jerusalem, my head spun from the beautiful singing of the soprano, Ira Bertman, which I had just heard.

Before all that, however, I had spent the afternoon with my grandson, Eitan, a really grand kid of only 5 years but with the energy of a highly strung racehorse, chomping at the bit to get on with the race, trying his best to be still as he concentrated on the dice for a 6 in a game of snakes and ladders with his cute, little, English speaking, completely devoted to him, girlfriend, Leah, as 4 other little girls, that my daughter in law, Sigalit cares for after school until they are fetched, watched on in excitement.

It wasn’t clear who won, but it didn’t matter. I was happy that both Eitan and Leah were happy. Children at that age should not be allowed to be defeated. Their disappointment is great; they can’t handle it and eventually give up trying to be good at the activity which brought on the disappointment. This is why I’m wary of playing chess with my other grandson, Alon. I want him to win. Later, when he’s older there’s plenty of time for him to learn the lesson of “you win some, you loose some”, but 6 years old is still a little young for that lesson to be learnt.

Sigalit took me with to say hi to Tamar, when she fetched her from an outing with her friends.

I only had time to give her a big hug as the 111 bus arrived to take me on a 40 minute journey to the Tel Aviv central station, where, as I walked towards the 70 bus to the Israel Opera on King Saul Boulevard, I picked up my supper of a packet of delicious, sliced, Gouda cheese and two bread rolls.

For some lucky people the expectation of the pleasure, one gets from an opera, starts to grip them already several months before the performance itself when they fork out several hundreds of shekels for a pre-reserved ticket or a season ticket.

Several years ago I was one of those; I’d had a windfall and purchased season tickets for my son Emanuel and myself to attend all the season’s concerts of the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra in Jerusalem.

Unfortunately these days it doesn’t pay me to purchase a season ticket because, as a pensioner I get a half-price ticket if I buy it half an hour before the performance, so my excitement only begins a day or so before, when I make the firm decision to attend.

Wanting to savor my pre-opera excitement to the full, even though I’d never heard of La Rondina by Puccini, on Sunday morning I used an hour of my free day, to prepare myself by reading Wikipedia’s item about the opera.

According to this the opera is about a lady who one might call a courtesan but really isn’t because she doesn’t fritter from one lover to another.

She is more like a swallow, hence the name La Rondina, the swallow. One sees many swallows in Israel in the spring time. They have nests in fixed places and always return to them after they have spent the Summer time in the southern hemisphere.

I watched one family of swallows flying, twittering in and out of their nest under the beams of the roof of the toilets at Mensa Christi, a beautiful site on the shores of the sea of Galillee, where I take Christian tourists to see the place where Jesus appointed Peter as leader of the disciples, which one arrives at after a walk beside a black, basalt stone channel, carrying water from a thermal spring away from the sweet water sea, so preventing pollution. As far as I know this is the oldest environmental protection facility in the world.

We walk on a broad tarred pathway, alongside this amazing channel, shaded by lofty, massive, dark green, leafy eucalyptus trees, on either side.

Like a swallow La Rondina (Magda) nests only in the comfort supplied by the riches of one man (Ruggero) until another man (Rambaldo), younger and apparently richer, makes his appearance.

They live a life of gay abandon for 6 months. Then one day as they sit, happily on the patio of his luxury home, he tells her of his undying love and how he can’t live without her and his intention of raising a family with her and he goes on and on about the patter of little feet etc, she’s shocked, but doesn’t show this to him, only to us the audience.

I don’t know if Puccini intentionally wanted to turn the tables on the common opera endings of the heroine dying of a broken heart. But here the hero is left high and dry and crumbles like a heap of bricks to the ground to an unknown fate, probably a broken heart.

While he suffers the heroine sings, gallantly and beautifully about how sad she is to be leaving him, but that she will always remember him. Her excuse for leaving him is that his noble family will never accept her because of her reputation.

Anyway, despite all the high-falluten words of departure, sung in a most beautiful and heartrending manner, it’s clear to us, the audience, that no matter how broken hearted she is, she’s giving him the push and is going back to the comforts and unencumbered life with her previous lover, Ruggero.

Excepting for this switch of the hero and not the heroine getting chucked, this opera is similar to other Puccini operas, like Madam Butterly where the heroine kills herself or La Traviata, where she dies of consumption.

Ettie invited me to a special anniversary treat, a play by New York playwright, Jesse Eisenberg, called the Revisionist in English but we saw it in Hebrew under the title Old New Story (sipur yashan hadash) put on by the Bet Lesin Theatre group at the Jerusalem Theatre.

The mystery of what happened in the holocaust overshadows all the scenes of the play, brilliantly and humorously enacted by an elderly Polish lady (liora Rivlin) and a young man (Vitali Friedlander) who provokes her into revealing the mystery which surrounds her life since the time of the Holocaust and brings the play to a surprising, thought provoking, tragic climax.

The final cherry on the top of my anniversary week was, however an evening of lectures at Tel Aviv University on Art in Archaeology and Archaeology in Art, in memory of the great Israeli historian and archaeologist of Israel in Biblical Times, Prof. Yohanan Aharoni.

There were six, brilliant lectures; the first given by Prof. Jean Clottes on Paleolithic art. He told us that there are more than 400000 caves containing works of art. Our ancestors were busy painting on walls already 60000 years ago. You can see some of the pictures I took during his lectures, to admire this wonderful work, on the website page of my no newsletter.

More on this subject can be found on a website:

The second lecture was given by Prof. Manfried Bietak of the university of Vienna, who spoke about the Minoan wall paintings of Tel el Dab, also known as Avaris, the capital city of the Hyksos kings in Egypt in 16th century BCE, which he has been excavating for the last 40 years.

Minoan influence on Egyptian culture at this time is very interesting but it’s much more interesting when one considers that the Hyksos were the shepherd kings from Canaan, who conquered Egypt in the 16th century and ruled over it for more than 100 years.

Some scholars identify these kings as the ones who befriended Joseph and so brought about the entrance of the Israelites into Egypt.

The 3rd lecture was given by Sylvia Rosenberg of the restorations dept at the Israel Museum. She spoke about art in Herodian times and showed some beautiful pictures of works of art from Massada and Herodion.

The 2nd part of the evening consisted of descriptions of archaeology and archaeologists in Modern Hebrew literature, (Nurit Guvrin) poetry (Nisim Calderon) and filmography (Nisim Dayan).

Wishing you a great no newsday

Yours truly

Leon Gork

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