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Monday, 18 February 2019

Why Israelis Love ‘Green Bóok’

It is no surprise that Peter Farrelly’s hit movie Green Book continues to delight Israeli audiences:

The real story behind it has deep Jewish roots, not only because of Jewish involvement in the US civil rights movement but because U S Postal Service employee, Victor Hugo Green, who conceived and published The Negro Motorist Green Book, later named The Negro Travelers’ Green Book, was influenced by similar guides published for Jews, who sometimes faced similar discrimination.

So now the Internet is awash with information about the real story of Don Shirley and his chauffeur companion, Tony Lip (really Frank Anthony Vallelonga) it is odd that no Jewish website I have read has referred either to the Oscar winning Gentleman’s Agreement or to the coincidental irony of increased recent antisemitism among the African American community nor yet that holiday rental operator Airbnb coincidentally announced a stop on listing rental accommodation on Israel’s West Bank.

If I can see these links why doesn’t anyone else? “Why”, I hear myself demand, “does such injustice persist”?

But there are further, more pertinent paradoxes. First, while I appreciate why Dr Shirley’s family should be anxious to guard his artistic and personal reputation, they also seem determined that the movie be viewed as a factual documentary rather than the fine if flawed work of art that is the end result.

Then as I watched Mahershala Ali’s superb Don Shirley first help to smooth some of Tony Lip’s (Viggo Mortensen) roughest edges before physically swapping seats in their shared car, I began thinking of the present and immediate past incumbents of the White House.

They, too, have ‘swapped places’ and it struck me that despite the many tenable reasons for President Trump to be so hated, few people look at his many achievements during the past two years. That, too, is most unjust!

Of course, the real Dr Shirley was not only an enormously talented ‘cross-over’ classical-jazz pianist and composer. He spoke eight languages, was a trained psychologist and a fine painter.

One of his best known musical pieces was the version of Water Boy he played with the Don Shirley Trio. I’ve taken a brief look at the piece here.

© Natalie Wood (19 February 2019)

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

The Historian of ‘Holocaust Consciousness’

The late Anglo-Jewish historian David Cesarani not only led the development of modern ‘Holocaust consciousness’, he fairly overturned the study of the period in several ways.

These included a revision of the history of Bergen -Belsen concentration camp “showing how it had … only become involved with the Final Solution in the late stages of the war”.

More startling yet, said Cesarani’s friend and colleague Professor Dan Stone, delivering the introductory paper at a memorial conference he convened in April 2017, was his posthumously published book Final Solution: The Fate of the Jews 1933–49.

In this, he first “stressed the extent to which public awareness, knowledge and, especially, commemoration of the Holocaust had become dangerously decoupled from scholarly knowledge” and then attempted “a myth-busting exercise: the Holocaust was not an ‘industrial genocide’ but a messy and brutal affair; the Nazis were not ‘ice-cold’ and ‘rational’ (as they liked to see themselves) but behaved reactively and chaotically; the murder of the Jews was not the only thing on their minds; indeed it could be and was shaped more by the circumstances of the war than by any plan to comb the continent of Europe in a straightforward and systematic way”.

Professor Cesarani may well have felt that public Holocaust commemorations had become ‘decoupled’ from scholarship but his absence must have been felt more and more keenly in recent months.

He would surely have played an important role at recent events like the interment of Holocaust victims’ remains at Bushey Cemetery, London and would even now be giving a clear lead in the recent, increasing struggle against political antisemitism in the U.K.

As  observe  that the publication of these conference papers could not be more timely, I hear nothing but the echo of hollow laughter.

However, I feel compelled to point out in conclusion that almost four years since the death of Professor Cesarani, inter alia, the author of The Jewish Chronicle and Anglo-Jewry, that the JC’s current editor and staff daily pen the unending first drafts of the history of 21st century antisemitism. And so it goes ….
** Dan Stone, Professor of Modern History and Director of the Holocaust Research Institute at Royal Holloway, University of London is a former editor of Patterns of Prejudice and edited the journal’s issue devoted to papers delivered at the conference he arranged in Professor Cesarani’s name.

© Natalie Wood (13 February 2019)

Saturday, 9 February 2019

Why Anglo-Israelis Are Most Becoming!

Becoming Israeli** is a widely praised collection of essays by English speaking immigrants to the Jewish state that first appeared via The Times of Israel blogsite.

Conceived and edited by Akiva Gersh with a foreword by Yossi Klein Halevi, it is currently listed on’s ‘Free Kindle Biographies’ daily email as part of its ‘Kindle Unlimited’ package.

I fear this makes the offer misleading as, like too many other titles on this list, it is available only to K U subscribers paying a monthly fee of $9.99. It also means that customers like me are ineligible to become subscribers as we do not have the correct account!

However, I have read the ‘free excerpt’ available to casual browsers and understand why so many readers have been charmed by Gersh’s boyish ardour for Israel and the undiminished thrill he still feels as an immigrant, despite having lived here since 2004.

Some of Gersh’s observations don’t ring true to me. But as we hail from different countries, are of different generations and leapt the ‘great divide’ at different times, I suppose I must take his remarks at face value.

suggest that should a sequel be considered, that it features the founders and members of the startlingly successful Keep Olim in Israel group. This is where much unsung work is accomplished to quite wonderful effect.

**Becoming Israeli: The Hysterical, Inspiring and Challenging Sides of Making Aliyah is available from Amazon gratis via Kindle Unlimited. The cost is otherwise $9.99 (digital list) and $15.99 (paperback).

© Natalie Wood (08 February 2019)

Monday, 4 February 2019

Sad? Go Suck Your Thumb!

Ever-sceptical, I was willing to take this book** seriously until the author revealed that he advised his adult mental health patients to suck their thumbs!

This – and expensive
sessions in a sensory deprivation tank - are among techniques Dr Leonid Altshuler suggests to those suffering from anxiety, depression and related conditions.

A conventional medical doctor and psychiatrist, Florida, USA-based Altshuler turned to alternative treatments like meditation during a troubled period in his own life: He packed up and visited a Nepalese monastery where he underwent a severe, seven-day emotional self-detoxification whose adverse physical effects read like a drug or alcoholic  cold turkey.

I sense that Dr Altshuler is a sincere chap who genuinely wants people to help cure themselves using the methods he suggests. Many of them have ancient roots and should not require visiting a therapist, nutritionist or family doctor. Nor would I ever recommend anyone joining a meditation group for reasons I cannot outline here.

As I have observed of similar self-help guides: This is all about self-indulgent westerners with too much money, leisure and little sense. They believe they are unhappy. Then they meet real disaster – and suddenly they see sense!

**The Art of Emptying The Brain: Nepalese method spontaneous mental healing is available from Amazon Kindle @ $8.99.

© Natalie Wood (04 February 2019)

Saturday, 26 January 2019

Who Would Think of Such a Thing?

Time was when the British seaside town of Brighton was best known for the Royal Pavilion built for King George 1V and the ‘dirty weekends’ his antics made so popular.

Not now!

If self-styled science communicator and comedian Florence Schechter has her way, within the next 12-18 months Brighton’s liberal-progressive citizens may run amok at the ‘Vagina Museum’ she intends to build there.

Schechter, daughter of Klezmer musician Gregori Schechter, offers very plausible educational and cultural arguments in favour of her plan.

But she has a problem: I don’t believe any of them - and neither does an individual named Karl Radl – who has called her a ‘typical filthy Jew’.

The phrase appeared on a photograph caption in a column drawn from Radl’s personal blog that was published on Andrew Anglin’s Daily Stormer during January 2018. There he demeaned her by calling her a ‘jewess’ with a lower-case ‘j‘ and then demanded “Would anyone but a Jew think of such a thing”?

There are many non-Jewish pornographers whom I could cite in Schechter’s defence against this unpleasant antisemite. But I fear that not only does he make some valid points about her business interests, Schechter ignores that much of what she claims her ‘museum’ will cover is already an integral part of British schools’ Personal, Social and Health Education curriculum.

Ms Schechter is a fiercely proud feminist lesbian. Good for her. She also seems to be among those I mentioned at the height of the #MeToo campaign who deliver a mixed message because of their unhealthy over-preoccupation with sex. That is most certainly not good for them – or indeed for someone like me - who deeply resents other people thrusting their sexuality in my face, up my nose and down my throat. Stop it. Please.


Tonight I lit a candle marking the start of international Holocaust Memorial Day. I do not believe the publishers of The Daily Stormer will follow suit!

So I ask Schechter to cease behaving like an infant and to consider the vast number of stories about antisemitism that have been written and published this past week, especially those that have featured women as either villains or victims. All of them were fully developed human beings – much more than the sum of their private parts. One day, I sincerely hope, so will she.

© Natalie Wood (26 January 2019)

Saturday, 19 January 2019

A Life in Soap!

When Argentinians Yair and Susy Dori were engaged then married in Israel on 03 February 1972 their union was a national event attended by top government and military figures and featured widely in the media.
They had become celebrities because IDF Sergeant Dori, a paratrooper, was a war hero, who had been badly maimed then captured by the Egyptians at the Suez Canal during the 1970 War of Attrition, before being tortured and held for 10 months, finally being returned in a highly publicised prisoner swap.
But these were mere episodes in a life of unending drama for the Doris, whose union has seen the sort of great joys and terrible travails better associated with the television soap operas – telenovele - for which they have become renowned.
But Dori and his team deny they are purveyors of televisual pap. Indeed, Dori takes time and effort in this meandering, poorly constructed memoir to reflect on his value as an ‘ambassador of culture’ because his shows have helped many young Israeli viewers to learn Spanish while the actors and other entertainers he has brought to Israel have had a chance to “know and see” its reality first-hand.
I cannot argue with that although much else herein has left me less enthusiastic than unconvinced.
** Heaven and Hell : An Inspirational Biography of a Man's Victory Against All Odds is available from Amazon on Kindle ($2.99) and Paperback ($12.95).
©Natalie Wood (19January 2019)

Saturday, 5 January 2019

Gaza Kindergarten Kids Graduate By 'Kidnapping’, ’Killing’ Jews!

It may be the era of ‘fake news’, but still, I don’t consider it my duty to verify the worth and sincerity of a major Israel news site like the Israel Video Network and its satellite,Ísrael Unwired’.

But as both Israel supporters and detractors doubt its veracity I have contacted the team to request an interview. ‘Watch this space’!    

Meanwhile, under the headline, ’The most chilling kindergarten graduation you will ever see’, the team writes:

“Peace is impossible now with our Arab neighbours in Gaza, Judea and Samaria because of what you are about to see at this kindergarten graduation ceremony.

“People don’t like believing us when we say that the “Palestinian” Arab society is a death cult. They literally worship death and martyrdom. They teach their kindergarten kids to want to kill Jews!”

"It’s hard for people in the West to believe this. How could this be? It goes against all the basic tenets of humanity. We are educated to believe that all parents want the best for their children. To keep them away from danger. Why would parents want (their children)to be trained in kindergarten to murder Jews? And be motivated to die trying to become a martyr, a shahid?

“The scenes in this video are obscene. This is a kindergarten graduation for goodness sake!

”Children should be having fun. Laughing. Singing songs. Enacting a terror attack to kill Jews and kidnap them? This is a sick society. What types of parents are excited to see their kids enact killing and kidnapping people at their kindergarten graduation? Nobody who lives and grows up in a normal society.

“Which is exactly the point. The “Palestinian” Arab society is not normal. It is sick and disgusting. No peace is possible until we accept this basic premise and deal with it.

”It is impossible to make peace with people who teach that to kidnap and kill is holy.  They receive this with their mother’s milk. The truth is that  simple. Sad, but true”.

Natalie Wood (05 January 2019)