Friday, January 20, 2006

In Patzcuaro

It is possible to get the International Herald Tribune if one gets to the square early enough. They are always sold out by 11:00 AM. Nasty day on the stock market today!

Now in Patzcuaro, Morelia, Mx

This is beautiful old Mexico, and I write this in an internet place on one of the main squares. There are some tourists here but nowhere near the numbers in SMA. Today we went to Tzintzantzun, a pre-hispanic ruin nearby:

Tzintzantzun means `home of the hummingbirds`. It is a lovely place. We will visit Uruapan tomorrow, and walk through the beautiful park.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Where the ´mummies´ go

This is a photo from the ´Jardin´ ie the ´garden´in the center of San Miquel. There are lots of ´gringo´retirees here, gringos who came here after WWII when the prices were so cheap. They are not so cheap any longer, though. The expression ´mummies´comes from the locals in discussing these elderly (many of them with facelifts galore) who sit in the Jardin and read the English newspapers. It also refers to the ´mummies´in Guanajuato immortalized in the memorable Ray Bradbury short story titled "Next in Line."

A famous ex-resident of SMA is Jack Kerouac, famous beatnik and writer of On The Road. His sidekick, Neil Cassady, is noted here for having gotten so drunk he fell asleep on the railroad tracks and was killed. The tracks run right by the campground here, and the young caretaker, Pedro, did the same thing some years ago, but was fortunate to lose only his arm, not his life.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Greetings from San Miquel de Allende, GTO, Mexico

Visiting old haunts in Mexico and will be sporatic with the blog. San Miquel is much dustier and the air dirtier and muchas more people than last time we were here. There is twice the population as before. It is as beautiful and dysfunctional as ever, although there is a new water treatment plant down by Lago Dorado Campground, where we are camped out.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Great Jewish Kurdish music can be heard

The Jews of Kurdistan

From right to left: Abraham Iny Ben-David,
Abraham (Sa'at) Shafir Yitzhaq Sa'at
and sitting Saleh Sabha.Arbil 1935.

History of Judaism in Kurdistan

Much, if not most, of this information has been passed to me via Mizgin, whose blog about Kurdish and current events in the middle east is highly recommended. Be prepared to have your comfortable theses challenged there!

The history of Judaism in Kurdistan is ancient. The Talmud holds that Jewish deportees were settled in Kurdistan 2800 years ago by the Assyrian king Shalmaneser Ill (r. 858-824 BC). As indicated in the Talmud, the Jews eventually were given permission by the rabbinic authorities to convert local Kurds. They were exceptionally successful in their endeavor.


Jews remained a populous group in Kurdistan until the middle of the present century and the creation of the state of Israel. At home and in the synagogues, Kurdish Jews speak a form of ancient Aramaic ... and in commerce and the larger society they speak Kurdish. Many aspects of Kurdish and Jewish life and culture have become so intertwined that some of the most popular folk stories accounting for Kurdish ethnic origins connect them with the Jews. Some maintain that the Kurds sprang from one of the lost tribes of Israel, while others assert that the Kurds emerged through an episode involving King Solomon and the genies under his command (see Folklore & Folk Tales).

The relative freedom of Kurdish women among the Kurdish Jews led in the 17th century to the ordination of the first woman rabbi, Rabbi Asenath Bârzâni, the daughter of the illustrious Rabbi Samuel Bârzâni (d. ca. 1630), who founded many Judaic schools and seminaries in Kurdistan. For her was coined the term tanna'ith, the feminine form for a Talmudic scholar. Eventually, MAMA ("Lady") Asenath became the head of the prestigious Judaic academy at Mosul (Mann 1932).

Read more at Kurdistanica
Those of you into contemporary Iraqi events will note the name "Bârzâni", an old and illustrious name in the area even today!

The following excerpt of an article by Josh Goodman of Yale provides more background in relation to Kurdish Jews and also investigates the relationship between Israel and Kurdistan today:

A Fading Generation: The Jews of Kurdistan

By the early 1950s, virtually the entire Jewish community of Kurdistan—a rugged, mostly mountainous region comprising parts of Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran, and the Caucasus, where Jews had lived since antiquity—had been completely relocated to Israel. The vast majority of Kurdish Jews, who were primarily concentrated in northern Iraq, left Kurdistan in the mass aliyah (immigration to Israel) of 1950-51, which brought almost all Iraqi Jews to Israel and signaled the end of thousands of years of Jewish history in the lands once known as Assyria and Babylon.

In general, the native language of the Jews of Kurdistan was neither Arabic—like most Iraqi Jews—nor Kurdish. Instead, the Jews (and Christians) of Kurdistan spoke dialects of Aramaic—a Semitic language, similar to Hebrew. Aramaic, the language of the Talmud and parts of the Bible, was the international language of trade and commerce in the ancient Middle East with a status similar to that of English in the modern world. The Kurdish Jews spoke their own unique dialects of the language, however, which possessed many words borrowed from Kurdish.3 The Kurdish Jews in Israel, along with a small number of Assyrian Christians, are among the last remaining Aramaic speakers in the world; many scholars believe the language will disappear as a spoken language within a generation.4
Copyright 2005, Yale Israel Journal

Be sure to check out The Jews of Kurdistan --virtually everything you ever wanted to know about Kurdish Jews, including the articles about the proven genetic closeness between Jews and Kurds. Further articles on the gene connection, and also here .

Click here to see some old photos of Jewish Kurds including the great one at the top of the page.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

The End of an Era in Israel

Whatever happens with Ariel Sharon over the next days and weeks, he will clearly not be returning to Israeli politics. It is the passing of an era.

I first became a fan of Sharon when he exercised his right to go to the Temple Mount as a Jew, showing Barak and the world the intolerance of those people, the so-called 'Palestinians' who would (not) share space with the Jews of Israel.

These self-same 'Palestinians' dance with glee and pass out candies over the hopes of Sharon's death. This is no surprise. They would do the same for Netanyahu. They do it with lesser glee over the death of any Israeli, passing out the sweets after a suicide attack. That is one of the things that differeniates them from us.

Netanyahu handed over cities to control of the PA. Sharon took the settlers out of Gaza. Both were actions the Palestinians and virtually the rest of the world, were 'demanding'. Hey, but to quote the late great Rodney Dangerfield "I don't get no respect." The Israelis 'don't get no respect' for their sacrifices for peace. They certainly don't get peace.

Well, anyway, Ariel Sharon has always had my respect, even if I haven't agreed with his vision about everything. He has been a strong and determined leader and always put his people first. Sharon has been a great guardian of the Israeli people. His entire life was dedicated to public service. Our prayers are with him now.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

The Kurds from Kurdistan

Until recently, much of the world really knew very little about the Kurdish people. I was one of them. Perhaps that was because the Kurdish have not had a universally recognised country with boundaries called Kurdistan; but to the Kurdish, Kurdistan is very real indeed. This map of the Kurdish people shows where they are mostly located, and what is called 'Kurdistan':

Map of Kurdistan ----------------- Flag of Kurdistan

I won't tell you much about Kurdistan, but on the grounds that pictures are worth a thousand words, here is a gallery of photos that is not to be missed: . You will be amazed at the beauty of the ruins, the land, and mostly the people. They are a very old people, perhaps among the oldest in the world, and certainly among the most neglected.

Politically they are more important then the average American realises because they are a tolerant and fiercely democratic people in one of the most intolerant neighborhoods in the world.

You can find some exciting Kurdish music here:

I never realised that there were also Jewish Kurds, and tomorrow I hope to do a story about them.

Monday, January 02, 2006

More Photos from The Face of Islamic Terrorism

Another photo of the burning of the Netzarim Synagogue

This is the beautiful Yamit Yeshiva/Synagogue in Neve Dekalim.

These are Palestinians destroying it. On this day the Palestinians burned 25 Synagogues! They have NO SHAME.


The Face of Islamic Religious Intolerance

I had read about the burning of the synagogues of Gaza, but I had never seen the pictures before. How very distressing! Paula Stern has a lot to say at her site

Sept 5 - Today, as I knew they would, crazed Palestinian mobs are desecrating 25 synagogues in Gaza, setting them on fire and destroying what it took years to build. I have visited almost all of these synagogues, prayed in many of them. I cannot even begin to put into words the pain I feel today, the anger, and the sadness.

The world, as I expected, is silent. The UN’s Kofi Annan was asked to protect the remaining synagogues, but we hear nothing. Empty buildings, they will protest quietly, and what did you expect? Unspoken is the silent Message that while the Christian world and the Jewish world would respect places of worship, the Moslem world cannot be held to the same level of accountability. Did you expect any different? No, I did not, though it would be a mistake to assume that knowing they would destroy these holy places in any way lessens the pain.

We can’t say that we expected no better, of course, because that would be deemed racist and wrong. It would be insulting to the honorable religion of Islam, even though it is the truth. It would imply that their values are different than ours, even though they are. It would suggest that their culture is one that lacks respect for other religions, one deeply embedded in violence and one that cannot tolerate and respect the beliefs of others. We can’t say all that, and so the lie will live on, the destruction go unpunished, the truth left unsaid.

Read it and Weep

This is one of the beautiful synagogues, built by the Jews of Gaza, torched by the Palestinians!

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Alleged al-Qaida Aide Said to Fake Death

from AP by way of JihadWatch

ISTANBUL, Turkey - An alleged al-Qaida operative accused of serving as a key link between the group's leaders and suicide bombers hid his tracks so well that even fellow militants thought he was dead.

Loa'i Mohammad Haj Bakr al-Saqa, wanted by Turkey for 2003 bombings in Istanbul that killed 58 people, is said to have eluded intelligence services by using an array of fake IDs, employing aliases even with his al-Qaida contacts and finally faking his death in Fallujah, Iraq, in late 2004.

The Syrian radical didn't surface until last August, when an accidental explosion forced him to flee his safehouse in the Turkish resort of Antalya, police say. Officers reported finding bomb-making materials meant for an attack on an Israeli cruise ship as well as fake IDs and passports from several countries. Police eventually cornered al-Saqa in southeastern Turkey and he is awaiting trial on terrorism charges.

His story is an example of how al-Qaida militants operate in the shadows, changing identities, moving from country to country and covering their tracks to help the loosely organized terror network carry out attacks. Read here or go via Jihad Watch.

I always enjoy a good mystery story. For a great opinion & fact piece on Turkey, US and Kurdish intrigues see Blood Money at Rastî's blog .