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Archive for December, 2010

Hava Nagila

While locating videos on YouTube for my Allan Sherman post yesterday, I stumbled across several interesting versions of “Hava Nagila” (the tune to which Sherman’s song, “Harvey and Sheila,” is set).   I had no idea this song had such universal appeal, but I think you’ll agree from some of the versions I found below that it’s been adopted by anyone who has come into contact with Jews (and probably a few who haven’t).  Wikipedia says it was probably written in 1918 and based on a Ukrainian folk melody.

Just to introduce the song in its purest form, I shopped around for a totally straight version of it.  I thought I’d found it in this version by a Hong Kong choir (reassuringly entitled “Israeli Traditional”), but partway through, the percussion and harmonies started going all wonky and I knew that wasn’t it.  Then I found this version by a singer named Dalida, which starts in Hebrew at least (but then veers into French).  Nice version, nonetheless.

Beatles fans, here is the video for you, sung by a group calling themselves The Moptops.  (A skillfully edited version.  My only question is, who is standing in for George?)

Hey, everyone loves the song, though they don’t always want to stay in minor key.  Here is a bagpipe ensemble playing it (in major) while marching in a 2008 Israel Day Parade.

Exotic foreigners love it too.  Here’s Bollywood’s version (though the lyrics go pretty far afield of the real Hebrew lyrics).  And here is a delicate, Persian version from our friendly neighbors over in Iran.  This is the Trio Balkan Strings playing it—three men, one guitar.  And for something truly foreign, here is the Texas version.  (Gotta love the Latin faces getting into it.)

Think its appeal is confined to the 20th (and 21st) century?  Not on your life.  Even the (partially Jewish) crew of the Enterprise loves it.

For those who can’t hear the song without wanting to get up and dance, here is a dance to the song from the Efim Aleksandrov dance company.  (Amazing how Judaism is appreciated more for its music and dance than for its real substance.)

And for those who by now are ready to see some Yidn play their own tune, here is Bob Dylan, Peter Himmelman, and Harry Dean Stanton playing it (after confirming the lyrics with a Chabadnik m.c.).

Shabbat shalom, everyone.

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My children’s favorite CD to play in the car these days is Allan Sherman’s “My Son, the Greatest.”  It’s a compilation of some of his most popular hits pulled from albums like “My Son, the Box,” “My Son, the Folk Singer,” and “My Son, the Nut.”  What amazes me is not only what an amazing lyricist Sherman was (d. 1973; the tunes are mostly lifted from much older songs and classical pieces), but the fact that they’re so well written, I can still smile and chuckle at them after over 10 years of listening to them.  Here are some of our favorites, thanks to YouTube.  (You can ignore most of the videos as homegrown and lame, but listen to the lyrics and Sherman’s amazing band.)

“Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah” is probably the one people are most familiar with, which seems to have even made the Hit Parade in the UK in 1963.

“Harvey and Sheila,” set to the tune of “Hava Nagila,” is an utterly conventional love story coupled with Sherman’s love of American acronyms.

Here’s a version (not by Sherman) of “Sarah Jackman,” which my two youngest (yes, even Bill asks for “Jock”) request over and over and over and over again.  (I looked for one with Sherman and his female co-singer, but couldn’t find it.  This man gets Sherman’s part down pretty well, but the chorister needs a tuning fork next to her ear, and a few lessons in New York accents.)

“You Went the Wrong Way, Old King Louie” is my personal favorite, though it’s not easy to choose.  (I also love “The Rebel,” but couldn’t find a video of it to post here.  Such a shame.)  Enjoy, all you students of European history.

And finally, for those who can’t get enough of exaggeration and name-dropping, “Good Advice” should satisfy you…and then some.

Enjoy these, and tune in again tomorrow for some more video goodies I found while researching this.

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Nowadays

In my correspondence with my mother, I often hear complaints about how greedy people are nowadays, how rude, how ruthless in politicking, how violent or irresponsible.

I have to chuckle.  I remember a class of seniors I once had for English saying that people nowadays aren’t as polite or well-mannered as they were hundreds of years ago.  It’s such a beguiling thing, but is it true?  Let’s examine some of the facts.

Greed

Yes, Henry VIII had his reasons for departing from the Church of Rome in the 16th century.  But those reasons did NOT exclude the benefit to be derived from dissolving the Catholic monasteries and confiscating their property and assets for the Crown.  Why were the Jews shuffled off from one location in Europe after another in the Middle Ages, slowly pushing them eastward?  For their wealth, of course.  This precedent was in place long before the Nazis confiscated their houses and looted their art collections in the Second World War, or the Arabs did the same with their homes and possessions in the 1950s (which led to the house of Suzy Eban’s family becoming the Saudi Arabian embassy in the 1970s).  Hawkeye Pierce (of the TV show “M*A*S*H”) claimed that the three basic human emotions are “greed, fear, and greed.”  Nothing new in that.

Rudeness

In the eighteenth century, the authors Alexander Pope and Lady Mary Wortley Montagu were fast friends and admirers of one another’s writing.  Until one day they weren’t.  Then began the public sniping, rude caricatures drawn about each other, and generally public animosity they harbored for the other.  Pope was particularly bad to cross, since booksellers, publishers, and critics ended up portrayed in his long poem, The Dunciad, as competing in a race where they met the most appalling misfortunes, not least that of slipping on human waste and falling into it afterwards.  And remember that Pope wasn’t the first to go after his enemies in his writing, sentencing them to the most appalling tortures; the greatest literary executioner of all time was Dante.

Ruthless politicians

Thomas Jefferson hired James Callender, a Scottish-born pamphleteer and one of America’s first yellow journalists, to defame President John Adams.  According to David McCullough (in his 2001 biography of John Adams), during the presidential campaign of 1800, when Adams and Jefferson were running against one another (the first and last time a President ran against a Vice President), “Callender … was now working as a Republican propagandist in Richmond, Virginia, with the encouragement and financial support of Jefferson, who, at the same time, was actively distributing a variety of campaign propaganda throughout the country, always careful to conceal his involvement. …That Adams was never known to be involved in such activity struck some as a sign of how naïve and behind the times he was.”  Active campaigning was considered beneath a gentleman’s dignity in those days, but it seems that behind-the-scenes campaigning, mud-slinging, and character assassination were not, as long as the gentleman’s name was never “connected with the business” (Jefferson’s words).

Then, to put our current crop of Western politicians into some kind of global perspective, there are the antics of Ukrainian politicians who poison their enemies, Palestinian politicians who murder their fellow parliamentarians, and Iranian politicians who simply ignore election results, hire gangs of thugs to bludgeon and shoot those who demonstrate against them, and thumb their noses at the rest of the world as a daily ritual.  Kind of makes American politicians look tame, don’t it?

Violence

There is too much violence in society today, we often hear.  (To which I’ve also heard the response, “Well, how much is just enough?)  In raw numbers, it can be shocking to see the number of murders that occur in a given year.  But let’s look for a moment at the recorded homicide rates for the last several centuries in Europe (considered by many to be the cradle of über-civilization):

Homicides*

(per 100,000 People)

.                        England      Neth/Belgium      Scandinavia       Ger/Switz       Italy

13th and 14th c.   23.0               47.0                    n.a.                 37.0            56.0

15th c.                   n.a.              45.0                  46.0                  16.0            73.0

16th c.                   7.0               25.0                  21.0                  11.0            47.0

17th c.                   5.0                 7.5                  18.0                    7.0            32.0

18th c.                   1.5                 5.5                    1.9                    7.5            10.5

19th c.                   1.7                 1.6                    1.1                    2.8            12.6

1900-1949             0.8                 1.5                    0.7                    1.7            3.2

1950-1994             0.9                 0.9                    0.9                    1.0            1.5

*not including wars

(source: Freakonomics)

So you see, England’s murder rate, which at its worst was less than half that of the Dutch for the same time period, has dropped to almost nothing.  Even Italians, with their fiery tempers, have dropped to only one-and-a-half murders for every 100,000 people.  Considering the rise in the population of these countries, it’s worth noting that crowded conditions, economic downturns, and industrialization haven’t significantly slowed the tapering homicide rate.  More recent statistics (found online here) show slightly higher figures for the new millennium, with the US showing a higher rate than most of the above countries.  While Germany shows a homicide rate 0.9 per 100,000 souls, the Netherlands 1.0, Norway 1.2, and the United Kingdom 1.4, the US has 5.4 homicides per 100,000 people.  (There have been plenty of explanations for this which I don’t want to get into right now, though I did find the explanation in Levitt and Dubner’s 2005 book Freakonomics compelling.)  The US makes a sorry showing here, but hey—at least they’re still ahead of Russia (20.15), Jamaica (32.41), Colombia (33.9), and Venezuela (49.2).

Poor manners

Confused by the number of forks fanned out at the side of your plate when you sit down to a fancy dinner?  Don’t know which glass to use for what kind of beverage?  Think all this is the result of hundreds of years of high-class frippery?  Not on your life.  What did Henry VIII eat with?  A knife.  That’s it.  Oh, and his fingers.  Three hundred years later, they’d got as far as a two-pronged fork (or, if they were fancier, a three-pronged one).  How did they eat their peas?  From a knife, of course.  In the 17th century, while forks were common in Italy, they were considered by the English to be an “unmanly Italian affectation.”  The Catholic Church opposed fork usage as “excessive delicacy”:  “God in his wisdom has provided man with natural forks — his fingers. Therefore it is an insult to Him to substitute artificial metallic forks for them when eating.”  Fork use only became common in Britain in the 18th century.  The curved fork design used today was developed in Germany in the 18th century, and the four-tine fork in the 19th century.  (source)

So rather than claim that the greater delicacy in eating belonged to the ages, one should rather argue that modern cutlery is gone off the deep end of gentility.  The greatest advance in cutlery to my children’s minds?  The spork.  It allows them to stab their chicken in their favorite kebab restaurant AND eat their beans and rice without it falling off the fork.  Now THAT’s progress.

The takeaway message?  The good ol’ days may not have been so good.  Or they may have seemed that way when the nostalgic were too young to know what they were really like.  Or the bar for what is considered “good” is set too high.  All I know is, things are rarely as bad as they seem.

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A new discovery

I once had an argument with a student over the origins of modern man.  Clinging to the Leakeys’ discovery of Lucy in Africa, and espousing a creed that maintains that civilization began with people of color, this Latino lad reached the same conclusion that many have for decades: that modern man originated in Africa.

As I told this kid, there is nothing wrong with believing that—as long as it still holds true.  But I warned him that continued archeological discoveries may come along that challenge that, and he’d better be prepared to accept another continent as having an even greater claim to the origin of the human species.  (He jutted his chin out and said there would be no other legitimate claim to that title.)

Well, it’s been 14 years, and I’ve finally been proven correct.  Jameel over at the Muqata had a post yesterday about the discovery of the oldest Homo Sapiens remains—right here in the Zionist paradise.

Despite the modern anthropological thesis (“Out of Africa“) that mankind originated in Africa, the world’s oldest Homo-Sapien remains found so far have recently been uncovered in the Kessem Cave near the Israeli city of Rosh HaAyin. To date, the oldest examples of skeletal remains from Africa are carbon dated at about 200,000 years, while the remains from the Kessem Cave are dated approximately at 400,000 years. This discovery could completely change modern science’s theories about mankind’s evolution.

Cool.


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Facing the oldest hatred

The Cap’n and I were chatting the other day and, as we often do, surveying the world stage and Israel’s role on it.  I was marveling at how credulous the world is when it comes to nonsense spoken and carried out by Palestinian Arabs engaged in an active campaign to destroy Israel (something that most people a) don’t care about, b) don’t believe is really happening, or c) wholeheartedly support).  It’s mind-boggling, the stuff people will believe (e.g. that the Mavi Marmara was on a mission of peace, that Israeli soldiers harvested organs from Arab civilians during Operation Cast Lead, and that those Palestinian Arabs I see driving Mercedes Benzes and Volkswagens on Route 60 are poor and oppressed), and the stuff they won’t believe.

For example, a friend recently posted on Facebook a December 17 article written by Alan Dershowitz which states that a Hamas leader admits that Israel killed mostly combatants during Operation Cast Lead two years ago.  My friend is concerned that Dershowitz’s support for Israel (and lack of external links from the article) may compromise the willingness of the public to believe in its content.  A commenter observes wryly that even if the content were verifiable, no one would believe it.

Just to clear up any doubt as to the veracity of what Dershowitz writes, the remarks were made by Hamas Interior Minister Fathi Hammad to the London-based newspaper al-Hayat.  The Interior Minister’s comments and an analysis of them in greater context are available on the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center website; link here).  In short, the Minister’s comments included the following:

It has been said that the people were harmed by the war, but is Hamas not part of the people? It is a fact that on the first day of the war Israel struck police headquarters and killed 250 members of Hamas and the various factions, in addition to the 200-300 operatives from the [Izz al-Din] al-Qassam Brigades. In addition, 150 security personnel were killed, and the rest were from people.

I was both amused and puzzled by this exchange between my friend and his commenter.  Of course Israel targeted Hamas militants in Gaza—they’re the ones lobbing missiles into Sderot and the Negev, holding Gilad Shalit hostage indefinitely, and keeping Gaza under the heading of a terrorist state instead of a normal state.  The fact that Hamas is an enemy that embeds itself in a thickly-settled civilian population with no regard for the safety of the people they’re supposed to protect and serve, instead making it as difficult as possible for Israel to fight them without some collateral casualties, is a fact that many people either don’t know or don’t care about, and are content instead to believe whatever lies Hamas and others put out about Gaza.  I was reminded of the observation Abba Eban once made about the UN General Assembly’s pro-Arab automatic majority back in the 1970s, that “If Algeria introduced a resolution declaring that the earth was flat and that Israel had flattened it, it would pass by a vote of 164 to 13 with 26 abstentions.”  If the Arabs say it, I mused to the Cap’n, it must be true.

The Cap’n disagreed.  It’s not that everything the Arabs say is taken as the truth, he claimed.  Rather, it’s that anything bad about the Jews is eminently believable.  I hate looking at things that way (after all, we’re not supposed to believe that anti-Semitism is so widespread, are we?) and challenged the Cap’n to prove it.  It turned out to be chillingly easy.  Here are some of the lies, fabrications, and baseless accusations leveled at Jews by the non-Jewish world, accepted by the majority and used to persecute, expel, and murder Jews:

  • Jews were responsible for spreading the Plague by poisoning wells in Europe
  • Jews kill Christians and use their blood to make Passover matzo (aka The Blood Libel, raised dozens of times, including as recently as 1946 in Kielce, Poland)
  • The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the minutes of a nonexistent secret meeting of Jews planning to take over the world
  • Jews control the banks/press/government’s foreign policy
  • Jews are responsible for 9/11, and all the Jewish employees were telephoned and told not to report to work at the World Trade Center that day

No one seemed to notice that Jews died of the Plague just like everyone else.  Anyone who wanted to kill a child could just blame it on a Jew and be believed.  (And who cares that Jews are forbidden by the dietary laws to eat ANY blood, even animal blood, much less human blood?)  The Protocols continue to excite anger and alarm, even from those who seem to believe that Jews already dominate the world.  Those who accuse the Jewish lobby of undue influence should read Mitchell Bard’s new book, The Arab Lobby, which describes the influence (backed by money, and not popular support as the Jewish lobby is) that Arabs—many of them not Americans—have on the US government and use to destabilize the Middle East.  And among the thousands of bereaved families from 9/11 can be found hundreds of Jewish households.

None of these time-honored libels is verifiable, yet they have all been accepted as true by a plurality, if not a majority, of the general populace.  There are other libels which are too absurd even to mention on this blog (but which some of my Muslim readers have been kind enough to inform me of).  The point is that in these situations, someone is able to make an accusation, provide no evidence, and the story will be believed, put about, spread, and acted upon.  Racism, religious hatred, and economic hardship only provide leaven for the dough.

At my final meeting with the Beit Din (rabbinical court) prior to my conversion, one of the rabbis, himself a Holocaust survivor, told me that “The Jews are not a popular people.”  And yet joining this religion (which belongs to half of my ancestors), making aliyah, and even becoming a settler, are all things I was born to do.  I don’t believe in the morality of the majority.  I don’t believe in twisting the truth to serve a political purpose.  I don’t believe in accepting a story without some provision of proof.  And I don’t believe that a small minority religion that has miraculously survived attempt after attempt to destroy it should just be allowed to die out because the majority of the world doesn’t like it.  And the only way I as one person can do anything to save it is to take part in it, to speak out, and to persevere.

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Extreme jump-roping

As a young girl, one of my favorite playground activities was jumping rope.  Much later, I discovered the wedding reception gag of tying cloth napkins together and having the bridal party jump rope on the dance floor.  (I lasted quite a while at my wedding; some things you don’t lose, I guess.)  And now my girls are jumping rope with their friends at school.

We used to kick it up a notch on the playground, using two ropes, running in-jumping-running out, and having more than one girl jump at a time.  But the video below of a group called Kings Firecrackers (performing at the US Naval Academy) is jumping rope like I’ve never seen it.    (Check out a higher resolution version from this link.)  My girls were wowed watching it last night (and so was my boy).  Find eight minutes today and watch the whole thing.  I’ll bet you’ve never seen someone jump rope on her belly before!

(hat tip: Peter Raven)

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I followed with half a brain the brewing storm over a group of anti-Israel activists who call themselves Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign (awareness? of what?) who wanted to place “advertisements” on the sides of Seattle buses accusing Israel of war crimes.  The ads were to show Arab children looking at a demolished building and the legend, “Israeli War Crimes: Your Tax Dollars At Work,” and help spread the world about the aggressive, disproportionate policies of Israel’s government, coinciding with the second anniversary of the beginning of Operation Cast Lead.

I recently saw that a friend on Facebook posted a link to an article that states that Seattle and the King County Metro bus service have decided NOT to allow the libelous posters to be placed on the side of 12 public buses.  This is largely in response to a mobilized counter-campaign by the David Horowitz Freedom Center, a pro-Israel group, which planned to take out ads on other Seattle buses showing victims of Arab bus attacks during the Palestinian Terror War (aka the Second Intifada) and the words, “Palestinian War Crimes: Your Tax Dollars At Work.”  Pictures of children and adults in Sderot and Negev kibbutzim running to shelters to escape missiles launched from Gaza were also slated for possible “advertisement.”

Seattle’s decision to ban all new non-commercial advertisements on the sides of public buses is not only wise, it’s necessary.  To allow a public service provider to get embroiled in the controversies surrounding the Middle East, and all the vitriol and ignorance that seems to accompany it, would at best be, as they feared, “disruptive” and at worst open a new forum for the insanity and stupidity that passes for public debate and discourse on the subject.

It’s also proof positive that an aggressive counter-attack against the forces of idiocy works.  If someone threatens to “expose” Israel’s “war crimes” (which have never been substantiated, proven, or otherwise dealt with in an official manner outside the court of public opinion), all pro-Israel people need to do is mobilize and offer a tit-for-tat exposure of Palestinian Arab violence.  (Canada also recently saw a counter-BSD event in Montreal with a pro-Israel “buy-cott”).  It’s a nuisance to have to deal with these stupid little attacks on Israel, but the more we care enough to make a few phone calls, donate a few dollars, and threaten to stir up the pot a little more, the less traction these nitwits who call themselves “activists” will have in getting their message out.

Well done, Seattle.

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