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Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Eating Soul Food!

"I will … talk with you, walk with you … but I will not eat with you, drink with you, nor pray with you”.

(Shakespeare -The Merchant of Venice (I, iii, 35-39).

Mauro.MartinoMauro Mevlud Martino is not Jewish. But his quirky novel, No Ballyhoo* serves up the biggest tzimmes of traditional Jewish cuisine I’ve read outside the pages of any much-thumbed family recipe book.

Paragraph after paragraph in his odd modern fairy tale provides loving, often repetitious descriptions of popular Sabbath and festival fare as a gallery of  New York eccentrics gather to accept the generous hospitality of a well-heeled Jewish doctor and his 'cookaholic’ wife.

As a person of mixed Canadian, Italian and Turkish stock, Martino’s thesis must be viewed as  sincere: When people from diverse ethnic or religious backgrounds meet to eat, they’re bound to forge an understanding and then love one another forever.  As his fictional Grandma Desta says, it is about “people sharing their food and what they know”. No.Ballyhoo.Cover

Indeed, swapping food notes may be as much a comfort as eating stodge! I publish this review just as a group of bereaved Israeli mothers from the One Family Fund  has produced a recipe book, Cooking To Remember, filled with favourite dishes once enjoyed by children who were murdered  by terrorists or killed in battle.

So while Martino’s scenario may be whimsical, I know his book bears a very serious message which should be sent loud and clear to people of all faiths: Each of us must make an effort to understand other backgrounds and beliefs without actively persuading new friends to apostasy - or maiming – even murdering them in the attempt.

But I suggest that when intermarriage happens – as it does increasingly – it should not be an opportunity to display mutual hatreds by parents on either side. Those of one generation should not coerce those of the next to live in a certain way long after they have died by using concepts of false family ‘honour’ or religious-cultural  ‘tradition’.

Indeed dietary restrictions aside, there are many ways that people on different sides of enduring hatreds may start to demolish suspicion and hatred and replace them with friendship – sometimes love.  There are examples - even in Israel – of young people meeting then marrying across the Muslim-Jewish divide and of their parents deciding to accept the situation rather than to tear the fabric of their family asunder.

Perhaps less emotionally complicated but of  potential great physical danger is the work of peace activists like Egyptians, Noha Hashad and Ahmed Meligy and Meligy’s  UK-born Israeli counterpart, Kay Wilson.  

Hashad is a Muslim nuclear scientist who fled to Israel in 2011 as a refugee after being tortured for expressing pro-Israel views.  Her story has come to light partly because of her efforts to found a centre promoting peace in the Middle East.

Meanwhile, the video clip below shows Meligy and Wilson in Egypt together and  in messages published earlier this month, Meligy stated first  that peace may start by “putting aside the stereotypes and the media propaganda by reaching out to one another and seeing the truth … about the other side. The most amazing thing that happened to Kay and me”, he wrote, “was … that the building we ended up in had a restaurant in it named ‘Moses’. For me it was a sign from God that we are on the right path”.

A day later he added: “The former President of my Egypt, Anwar El Sadat after years of wars and bloodshed with Israel, all he did to make peace was simply by reaching out to Israel offering his hands with peace and friendship. Now we have had 36 years of peace between our countries”.

* No Ballyhoo, a finalist in the fiction category for the 2015 USA Regional Excellence Awards category Northeast is published by L'Aleph  and is available from Amazon in paperback or Kindle. 

© Natalie Wood (22 April 2015)

Saturday, 18 April 2015

PerfectlyWritePoetry: ‘This Ghastly Masquerade’

PerfectlyWritePoetry: ‘This Ghastly Masquerade’: I guess there’d have been something akin to a nuclear fall-out if the fictional Thomas Gradgrind had met the real-life poet Percy Shelley ....

Thursday, 16 April 2015

PerfectlyWritePoetry: She Will Never Be Silenced!

PerfectlyWritePoetry: She Will Never Be Silenced!: No-one is sure of the exact date of Anne Frank ‘s death. We know only that the young diarist died 70 years ago - shortly before the liberat...

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Holocaust Day - Yom Hashoa 2015

For the remainder of today, April 15 2015 and tomorrow, April 16 2015, my cover photograph will be in remembrance. This year I will think most especially about those Shoah victims whose lives were made even worse by sexual molestation. Another sort of murder.

Friday, 10 April 2015

Still Alice – and Richard, Too!

I was wrong.

Still.Alice.CoverI could have sworn that Iris – the biopic of the British novelist, Iris Murdoch – was released after Away From Her, a film version of  Canadian Alice Munro’s short story, The Bear Came Over the Mountain.

But no!  Iris, starring Judi Dench as the ace wordsmith came five years before Julie Christie played Fiona Anderson in Sarah Polley’s version of Munro’s tale.

Both deal with female dementia and I must confess first, that I hated Polley’s film, finding it wooden, meandering, sluggish and wholly self-absorbed. This is what happens when a full-length drama is made of a tightly constructed piece of prose.

On the other hand, I considered Dench’s portrayal of Murdoch to be intelligent and compassionate and suggest that as we now know that Dench’s increasingly poor eyesight forces  her to learn her lines by heart, this must  help to ward off anything associated with memory loss.

But this piece is about Still Alice,  the latest fictionalised drama about a woman suffering dementia. However it is different from its predecessors as it looks at someone aged barely fifty who discovers she’s developed ‘early—onset’ Alzheimer's disease.

It is generally thought that fewer men than women suffer the condition as women live longer. But a patient like ‘Dr. Alice Howland’ (Oscar winning Julianne Moore) belies both statistics and warnings about maintaining a healthy lifestyle as the character has a fine intellect and is enviably fit and good-looking.

The film is based on a novel, this time by someone with professional knowledge. Lisa Genova is a neuroscientist and while cynics may observe that it was almost certain she would make her protagonist an expert in linguistics, I must remind them that Iris Murdoch’s entire professional Julianne.Moorelife revolved around words while another famous fictional example of a woman developing Alzheimer’s is in Ian McEwan’s Atonement, whose anti-heroine ‘Briony Tallis’ becomes a successful novelist who develops vascular dementia.

Still Alice is a terrific production for many reasons: The acting and direction are beyond reproach. The story is strong, never mawkish; it shows that dementia does not depend on an individual’s original intellect and it charts a firm, unyielding path through the patient’s illness. So to those viewers who may observe that it concludes too abruptly, I suggest that it is because those making the movie knew where and when to draw the line. It made me cry more than once. Enough!

Richard.GlatzerDespite that, the real tale behind the film is not the one written by Genova but the reality of its scriptwriter and director, Richard Glatzer. He was suffering from Lou Gehrig's Disease, a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that affects nerve cells in the brain and he died on March 10 2015, only sixteen days after Moore won her Academy Award for Best Actress.

After his death, aged 63, The Hollywood Reporter revealed that Glatzer and his husband, Wash Westmoreland had begun work on Still Alice soon after the diagnosis. “Still, he never missed a day of filming. At the end, Glatzer was able to ‘speak’ only by tapping the big toe of his right foot on a specially designed iPad. Glatzer and Westmoreland met in 1995 and married in 2013”.

© Natalie Wood (10 April 2015)

Thursday, 9 April 2015

PerfectlyWritePoetry: A Poetic Gift From a Shah – Fit for a Queen!

PerfectlyWritePoetry: A Poetic Gift From a Shah – Fit for a Queen!: So Queen Elizabeth II is not impressed with the present crop of royal party loot bags! While touring the the digitised archive of royal p...

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Two More Very Narrow Bridges …

"All the world is a very narrow bridge, but the main thing is to have no fear at all." -Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav

The scores of articles published about  Nesher Park, Haifa all say the same thing:


They enthuse about the two 70 metre long pedestrian suspension bridges made of steel ropes and beams that stretch across an abyss of magnificent scenery and state uniformly that swaying along them is akin to hanging midway between heaven and earth –  life and death.

The  impressive structures are the focal point of a walking and picnic route that involves crossing the canyon of the Katia River, whose waters flow only during the winter rainy season. So  anyone daring to look away from their feet as they cross the bridges may  enjoy a  panoramic view of the surrounding area that  encompasses the developed industrial and residential city and the surrounding countryside between the University of Haifa and the Nesher Forest.

The two bridges are about 150 metres apart and blend with the park’s natural features which include shrubs, flowers, oaks, pine and carob trees.

But the real interest is much nearer to the entrance where at the foot of a miniature amphitheatre and picnic spot stands an unusual memorial to someone who literally swayed and fell making a real life-or-death decision.

Uri.BinamoLieutenant Uri Binamo died aged only 21 while commanding a ‘stop and search’ patrol by the IDF’s Nachshon battalion near Tulkarem on the West Bank. The incident happened during Chanucah in December 2005 when two suicide bombers, who had intended attacking a crowded shopping centre, blew themselves up when Binamo ordered one to remove a coat in which he had secreted explosives. Binamo’s bravery  saved the lives of many other Israeli citizens and he received a posthumous IDF Medal of Honour. The memorial – created as a wooden menorah in a space  known as ‘Uri’s Way’ - was established by his family with the help of the KKL-JNF and the JNF America's Women's Campaign for Israel.

© Natalie Wood (08 April 2015)