Hasmo Legends XXIX: The Sweet Sixty Reunion

Having been privy (dead brother’s society) to every detail of the most widely anticipated reunion since Bucks Fizz – and with participants even creakier (though none, thankfully, who planned to rip off each others’ trousers) – it seemed logical to invite melchett mike disciple John Fisher, who to my surprise was flying to London just for the evening, to guest blog on it.

Now, previous guest bloggers here – even notorious troublemakers like Nick Kopaloff and Daniel Marks (see Hasmo Legends VII) – had been willing to accept the, admittedly finicky, requirements of their host. I knew that Fisher, however, would be a different proposition altogether. I have spent the worst part of the past decade striving to get him to use punctuation – I even gave him a secondhand but apparently functioning (apt, I thought) copy of Strunk and White – and to cut his sentences down to a maximum 400 words. And I have repeatedly proposed a joint writing venture – the equivalent, I felt, of Bob Dylan asking Rick Astley to let him co-produce his new album – to preclude Fisher’s, no doubt amusing, ideas ending up as Raanana coffee mats. All to no avail.

With that generous build-up out of the way, I give you Fisher Just Lightly (when some of those sentences had me recalling that point of Seder when it’s past your regular bedtime but you’re still 17 pages from food) Cut, with the odd aside from his blogging mentor and guru . . .

_____________

The omens were not best – I received the exploratory email from our Deputy Head Boy David Levenson on September 11 – but, with the Class of ’69 (to ’76 in many unfortunate cases) finding itself tottering either side of sixty, the proposal seemed irresistible. And so it proved.

Ex-Hasmos flew in from four continents for an evening in a dank NW4 restaurant cellar [mm: “the banqueting suite under the White House Express on Brent Street” – from the invitation email – can hardly be said to have misled] and to be catapulted back five decades, to a time when most had yet to meet either Triumph or Disaster (let alone to treat those two impostors just the same).

There was a genuine buzz of excitement in the room – which, to a stranger, would have looked like it was hosting a mass speed dating event for ageing Jewish males – as former classmates rolled up, inviting curious, penetrating stares that attempted to peel away the years of hard or soft living (if not hair) that concealed teenage faces (and heads).

Wretched creatures: Fisher, Bloomberg & Marx

Recognition invariably brought a hail-fellow-well-met response, even when the abiding memory of that person was somewhere on the ambivalence-to-contempt continuum and, in other circumstances, may have prompted the recogniser to cross the road more quickly than Willy once used to upon spotting a disgruntled mother. And secure perhaps in the knowledge that he carries the most famous Hasmo name of them all (see Hasmo Legends III and XXVIII), Joe Bloomberg, grinning innocently, turned up fashionably late, the wretched creature [mm: “that he is”].

There were those who hadn’t seen each other for 42 years, and those who hadn’t seen each other for 42 minutes (several “boys” came straight from a funeral, though Moshe Arieh Kiselstein had found time to change out of his black hat and suit into a pink shirt and puffer vest). [mm: There were also those you hadn’t known you had seen: to my continuing amusement and amazement, David Marx has somehow succeeded in living in blissful anonymity on Golders Green Road – a paving stone’s throw from Reb Chuna’s, no less – for the past 27 years without even having been recognised, never mind roped in for a minyan (David tells me he is happy to be on permanent tenth man duty from now on, whatever the time).]

Uninhibited: John Gertler in full flow

The ‘reception’ Glenmorangie was a masterstroke: by the time everyone had sat down to dinner – in true Hasmo tradition, there was no seating or other plan for the evening (it would just flow, like the boys’ education, either out onto the high seas or down the nearest drain) – they were sufficiently uninhibited to make a nonsense of the organisers’ greatest fear, of a frum/non-frum divide. Indeed, Rabbi Baruch Davis did not so much as blink when the fellow – of redundant final “e” fame – sitting opposite him casually mentioned that his wife was not of the faith (fortunately, said fellow recalled enough of Jewish Studies to omit that he had tied the knot on Shabbos Shuva).

Another pair – who had been next-door neighbours, shared a classroom, and lived their entire lives in the same post code, but who (for no apparent reason) had never had a proper conversation – ‘discovered’ one other . . . though, as Ari “Pedro” Krieger will be permanently departing England’s shores next month, his newfound bromance with Alan “Hubert” Kahan will be cruelly short-lived.

The Israeli contingent, on the other hand, kept well apart . . . from each other, that is. A well-known addition to every ex-pat’s tefillas haderech is not to encounter another Israeli until check-in for the return flight. (Last, Shapira and yours truly suffered the ignominy of having to make that journey in cramped proximity to one another on a Hungarian 240 with wings, while Brazil, Citron and Head Boy Felsenstein larged it up on the national carrier.)

Eavesdropping conversations, one would have thought that not a single event worthy of mention had occurred since June 1976. Interesting, too, was the apparent total irrelevance of our former ‘teachers’ (there had been a suggestion that an invitation be extended to any still alive, but it was nipped in the bud). They were hardly mentioned, in fact, only popping up in supporting roles in tales of classmates’ derring-do. This made sense, as it was universally agreed that, while much was learnt at Hasmonean, none of it stemmed from formal education.

While the food was still as poor as in the days of Mrs. B (some achievement), the cost of dinner tickets had gone up a tad – 1/6d was now a hefty 35 quid – and there was no return to be made on your afters . . . because there were none! [mm: I am curious as to the veracity of reports, from later that week, of a silvery-long-haired fellow attempting to shift 44 parev chocolate Rice Krispies squares on Stanmore Broadway, all the while chortling under his breath: “It wasn’t my bloody year anyway!”] Moreover, the famished could not now assuage their hunger with the overpriced wares of illegal tuck-hustlers “over the bridge”, having to make do instead with the great self-deception of the middle-aged man: “Just one more chip.”

Not a chip in sight: Hinden, Cohen & Kon

After four hours of camaraderie, animated tales, hilarity and general high spirits, and with not a chip left in sight, Oberführer Levenson decreed that every person state his name, abode and an incident for which he would be remembered. Tales of sand-dumpings, ear-boxings, canings and general anarchy abounded.

Poker was clearly so rife at the school in those days that it might as well have been on the syllabus. One favourite tale – featuring Aminoff, Giles Cohen, Davidson, Feiner and Gertler – was of a game under the hall stage being rudely interrupted by an unexpected school assembly. Fags had to be hastily stubbed out, with the miscreants spending the next hour in monastic silence. The contrasting ways in which religious and secular teachers dealt with these ‘illegal’ sessions best illustrated that well-documented divide (see Hasmo Legends II): while getting copped by Jerry Gerber and Co. brought wild threats of burning at the stake, the legendary Woody Harrison is alleged to have bust a game by nonchalantly walking up, picking a card at random and tearing it in two. Brilliant!

It was the soft-spoken, mild-mannered Arnold de Vries, however, who got one of the biggest laughs of the evening. As a 10-year old, he sat in the same row at Hendon Adass as Mr. Stanton. One Shabbos, having asked to squeeze past one too many times, Willy informed him coldly that “One more time and I won’t let you into my school.” So much for the Class of ’69 being the first Comprehensive intake (it was also, incidentally, the first with a Yeshiva Stream).

״לשמור משפטי צצצדקך…״

Rather than rounding off the evening with the traditional God Save The Queen and Hatikva, there was a spontaneous, raucous rendition of Ner Leragli (clip). While nobody in that room would have been able to recite more than a stanza of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (some might have struggled with the Shema), everyone remembered every word of the school song, which only goes to prove that if you make education fun . . . [mm: or choose a Psalm with “Sid” in it.]

On a sobering note, six of the 46 or so ex-Hasmos absent on the night were no longer with us at all. Eli Bowden, Zvi Davis, Jonny Isaacson, Gary Price, Abba Stein and Mark Ward, zichronam livracha, were all remembered fondly, and the plate went round for a charitable donation in their names. [mm: A Surviving Siblings Fund, perhaps? Just a suggestion . . . ]

Parting at the evening’s end was indeed sweet sorrow, and it came with promises that we would do it again at seventy. And the greatest testament to the wonderful time had by all is that we really meant it.

Wishing everyone a kosher, or at least enjoyable, Pesach!

Attendance Register

1AB: Ray Antian, Robert Citron, David Druce, Norman “Nussi” Feiner, Andrew Frankel, John Gertler, Philip Glass, Malcolm Granat, Aaron Hammer, Michael Kleiman, Doron Korn, David Levenson, Paul Ogus, Benjy Schwab.

1BB: Gabriel Aminoff, Jonathan “Yoini” Apter, Joe Bloomberg, Giles Cohen, Stephen Cohen, Ahron Ebert, Kenneth Jason, David Jay, Moshe Arieh Kiselstein, David Marx, Jerry Schurder, Moshe Stimler, Danny Tannen.

1L: Avi Brazil, Anthony Davidson, Barry “Baruch” Davis, Arnold de Vries, Danny Felsenstein, John Fisher, Michael Greene, Allan Kahan, Ralph Kon, Victor Korman, Aryeh Krieger, Benny Last, Eli Perl, Alan Rubin, Perry Shapira, Eran Winkler.

Class of his own: Mike Hinden.

Original draft: John Fisher

Revised & edited: melchett mike

[Your observations and recollections are, as always, welcomed as comments below.]

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The Curious Incident of the Indian with the iPad

We worry and worry, but it is always the problems we never foresee. Four and a half month old Mika, flying for the first time, was on her best behaviour. Instead, it was her father, four and a half months shy of fifty, who was cause of all the trouble.

A first trip to London was some kind of compensation for Avivit, Mika’s mum. Her utter selflessness since my fifteen seconds of glory towards the end of last March had rendered my very existence all but pointless.

Some half an hour into our Luton-Tel Aviv return flight, following a lovely week in the Smoke, and with the fasten-seat-belts signs extinguished, I unbuckled and stood up, eager to parade – under the thinly disguised pretense of attempting to quell some mild whimpering – our beautiful daughter up and down the easyJet (even generosity has its limits) aisle. But, after squeezing past Avivit and picking up Mika, I was at once confronted by the suddenly psychotic Anglo-Indian female who had hitherto been seated mouselike in the window seat to my left.

‘You cracked my iPad! [And more loudly] You cracked my iPad!’

I had no clue what she was on about, and was seriously nonplussed – the serious nature of the accusation on the one hand; my always being tickled by hysterical Indians (all that politeness, all that pent-up rage) on the other.

‘You threw your seat belt onto the screen!’

‘I didn’t throw anything,’ I responded in mock calm, keen not to allow the growing hubbub at the rear of the aircraft to escalate. I am no good at scenes – the usually unflappable Avivit had by now snatched Mika back from my clutches and was herself parading her up the aisle – and, in spite of some experience, even less good at furious women.

The to-ing and fro-ing of accusations and denials clearly not getting her anywhere, the thirty-something – well dressed, spoken and seemingly educated (though clearly not in dispute resolution) – chose to play her Joker: the male friend in the window seat opposite.

‘He smashed my iPad! [I had preferred “cracked”. And, again, more loudly] He smashed my iPad!’

Having removed his Sennheisers, friend stared back blankly, and as fortune would have it – he was a large friend – returned at once to his Coldplay (spinelessness my yardstick) without so much as a word. A joker, indeed.

What you always want and need, I find, in such situations is for a religious female American settler to be seated in the row behind. ‘I’ll tell you what you can do,’ the busybody, having sprung to her feet, very uninvited, proffered. ‘Give her 250 shekels and have done with.’ I thanked her, when what I really wanted was to tell her what she could do and then gag her with the tablecloth on her head.

Then the squeeze of shame back into my seat. The iPad was still functioning, though I could see The Hindu e-Paper having read better with the screen fully intact. I gave affability my best shot, enquiring of the woman – visiting Israel for a Jewish wedding (I spotted the invitation out of the corner of my eye later in the flight) – as to whether she had travel insurance (she did) and providing her with my contact details (12 Edgeworth Crescent, Hendon NW4). I also tried explaining to her – as if that was going to help – what I could only imagine must have happened (my standing up had flung the seat belt buckle, resting on my left leg, onto the iPad on her lap).

But my schmoozing was to no avail, failing to trigger any symptoms of humanity. Indeed, for the remainder of the flight, her expression remained one of a woman biting on a Naga chili that had mysteriously found its way into her Chicken Korma (though that may also have had something to do with the charedi kids climbing and swinging on the back of her seat).

Guilt feelings ever to the fore, I checked with Avivit as to whether I should just hand over some cash. ‘No,’ came the unhesitating reply: the woman had not been very nice or shown any understanding – shit does happen (Jonathan Sacks, I believe) – and was operating an Apple Store out of an easyJet seat (she was working with a MacBook Pro and two iPhones on her tray table, and an iPad on her lap). ‘What had she expected?!’ (I love Israeli simplicity when it suits me.)

I resisted the strong urge to hand over the offended iPad every time flight attendants walked past requesting ‘any rubbish,’ and the remaining four or so hours passed without further tumult. A few specks of Similac did end up on the MacBook keyboard as I was preparing Mika’s bottle. Some splashes of milk, too, as I was shaking it. Nothing too bad, though.

A new recruit for radical Islam, perhaps? One thing’s for sure . . . there’s no need to coop yourself up for months studying Koran in a dodgy Finsbury Park mosque, when you could just sit next to me – and in front of some charedi kids – on an easyJet flight to Tel Aviv!

Hasmo Legends XXVIII: AHB Unplugged

I could have been forgiven for feeling somewhat less than enthused upon receipt of that WhatsApp message, some three years ago.

Yes, it informed me that there was in existence an audio recording of a Cyril lesson. But the message was from Grant Morgan – a boy of such Hasmo-honed piss-taking pedigree that I hadn’t even believed him when he told me, around the same time, that an ex-classmate had died (I am still not convinced: Sam Michaels, if you are reading this . . . ) – and the tape was supposedly in the possession of none other than Eric Elbaz, the undisputed lout of our Class of ’78.

I did not, however, heed my inner skeptic. How could I? If there were indeed extant a Room 1 recording of the Great Swansean, it would be a coup for Hasmo Legends of Dead Sea Scrolls proportions. So, for the past three years, I have been nagging and attempting to cajole Morgan to get the tape off Elbaz, and, from time to time, even called the Moroccan myself (putting his failure to ever pick up down to some unsettled debt).

I was even more persistent, however, on a recent visit to London; and, last week, I received my holy grail (converted by Morgan to MP3 format).

Considering that it was made by Elbaz – with a concealed Aiwa walkman from his single desk at the front left of Room 1 – in November 1983 (over 32 years ago), the 31:25 minute recording has stood the test of time remarkably well. No forensic examination is required to verify its authenticity – this Legend was truly inimitable – and what a joy it has been to once again hear those dulcet Welsh tones . . . even (especially?) when uttering niceties such as “Oh, what an idiot!”

The opening seven or so minutes of the fifth year class give a somewhat muffled, though still entertaining, taste of the much acclaimed Cyril & Elbaz Show that ran – with a one-year hiatus that enabled Elbaz to terrorise Marion Rosenberg as well – between 1978 and 1984. (For those who never had the pleasure, Elbaz – or “Ell-baz”, as Cyril would call him – is the creature beseeching “Can you shut that door . . . it’s getting rather drafty in here!” and who has lost, or pretends to have, his “expensive” Parker pen.) And the general hubbub of those opening minutes exemplifies the complete lack of both pupil derech eretz and teacher authority so typical – in those days at least – of Holders Hill Road.

The sound quality is even better from the start of the lesson ‘proper’ – at around 7:20 – in which Cyril reviews an English-to-French translation assignment, An Honest Woman (Une Femme Honnête), from the previous week.

The recording – discovered when Elbaz’s mother moved home three years ago – exhibits lots of lovely (and less than lovely) Cyrilisms, which I hope the reader/listener will enjoy as much as I have . . .

Your observations, as always, are welcomed as comments below (rather than on YouTube, please).

Chag sameach!

[As well as to the wretches Elbaz and Morgan, my gratitude and thanks to Daniel Greenspan, and especially to Alan Rubin for uploading and arranging the audio and accompanying slideshow.]

Next on Hasmo Legends, Part XXIX: Eric Elbaz

Careful what you wish for, Israel

In the civilized Kingdom from whence I came (up, I was always told), one’s voting preferences were very much a private matter. Indeed, any inquiry as to the identity of the political party for which even a close friend or relative intended to exercise his or her democratic right would have been as welcome as asking them whether their style was more missionary or doggy (currently, I’d take either).

Not so, however, in the jungle I now inhabit. On a par with every Israeli’s entitlement to know how much you forked out or received for your home is his right to be informed as to whether you will be assisting to put in place his government of choice. And not possessing the Briton’s finesse for small talk – NW4’s and 11’s “Who are you eating/davening byyy?”, for familiar instance – the native has no inhibition accosting even a virtual stranger with “Who are you voting for?”

My stock four-letter response these past months, “Bibi”, has raised quite a few eyebrows in my midweek Tel Aviv stomping grounds (though rather fewer in those of the Jerusalem of my long weekends).

Polling day for the 20th Knesset is this Tuesday, but I have taken little or no interest in the campaign . . . a sign, I am sure, of my (still) having one foot out the door, but also of having been relaxed in the knowledge that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would still be in Residence at the top of Rechov Aza when I return, at the start of May (coalition building in the jungle can take a good month and a half), from watching England lose its Test series in the Caribbean.

Yonit LeviBut, getting my thrice-weekly Yonit (right) fix a few evenings ago, I was rudely interrupted by her lead item: it seems that my having taken for granted a Likud victory has been more than a little misplaced, with the centre-left Zionist Union alliance now two or three seats ahead in the polls . . .

Well, I almost spilt my box of Kleenex! The thought of that spineless runt Isaac Herzog – co-leader of the alliance, but who has only been in charge of Labour for 15 months and possesses all the charisma of a lentil seed – running the country is a terrifying one, and a sure sign (if the polls are correct) that many of the natives are losing all reason. Although our late fathers were friends, the sole encounter between their sons left this one somewhat less than enamoured: see Curbing My (Irish) Enthusiasm – in just a few seconds, I had seen the ‘man’ (and my instincts in such matters are generally reliable).

In the interests of even-handedness, the following is the most flattering English-language interview with Herzog I could find . . .

“You wanna know something . . .” Dear, oh dear! Just the drone of those adenoids is enough to make one lose the will to hear. Should Herzog, heaven forfend, become Prime Minister, the ch’nun (nerd) will be exposed to non-stop media scrutiny (and bias), with every non-hearing-impaired person who cares about this country begging for their Bibi back.

Netanyahu is running for his fourth term (third consecutive). It is not difficult to see how familiarity has bred contempt (or merely boredom). And it has become über-trendy to bash him. Of course he could have done some things better. But, if you believe Israel to be “broke” merely because many of its citizens cannot afford to buy apartments in its financial and cultural capital, or that the way to go is to be more conciliatory to the Arabs, then perhaps – like the “idiots” and “lunatics” proscribed by UK legislation – you should not be allowed to vote at all.

So, come Tuesday, I will be voting along “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” lines. Bibi has steered a remarkably steady ship through extremely turbulent waters and years, during which for much of the world – cowed by and cowering before Islamofascism, or influenced by its all-pervading disdain for the Jew – Israel could do no right.

With Islamic State now on our borders and – thanks to that jug-eared nob in the White House – a soon-to-be-nuclear Iran, the security situation will get a whole lot worse before it gets any better. And, if Herzog becomes Prime Minister, Hamas and Hizbollah will be laughing all the way to their tunnels. It is not difficult to imagine the next war in Gaza. It is, however, to imagine Isaac Herzog leading us through it.

Changes, as Dovid Bowie once proclaimed (“I still don’t know what I was waiting for . . . and every time I thought I’d got it made, it seemed the taste was not so sweet”), are not always for the better. And those now pining for Bibi’s demise may, with a limp dick like Herzog in his place, have plenty of time to repent their naivety in having fussed over who owns what in and around Rothschild Boulevard. Bibi and Buji (November 2013)

Heidis, Milkies and Amalekites

It is no secret. I am not settled here. I need a change. I was originally thinking Cork (I bottled it). Now on the radar is Berlin.

MilkyAnd the brouhaha stirred up last week by an Israeli in the German capital encouraging others to join him is about far more than the price of chocolate pudding with a splurge of whipped cream (Times of Israel).

I can’t put my finger on what exactly has made me so unsettled here. The illness and passing, last year, of my lovely mum – I have now lost all three members of my immediate family (it is not quite as dramatic as it sounds) – won’t have helped, though my feet were already itching about a year or so beforehand. My aunt is convinced it is my still being single. But, while a wife and kids would not have left as much time for indulgent introspection, I don’t share her conviction that being tied to this country would have made me any more contented in it. Perhaps I am just experiencing some kind of mild, mid-life malaise.

Like “Pudding Man”, I still consider myself a Zionist. What I need, however, is some time (to draw on the Hebrew idiom) out of the Land. I look back at some of my more fervent postings here and wonder if it was really me who authored them. I recently deleted, as unrepresentative of it, “this miraculous little country” (though it is undoubtedly that) from the bullets under About This Blog. The locals now irritate me even more than they always have. The charedim appear more preposterous, the Tel Avivis more arrogant, and the working classes (I had better not get any more specific) more primitive. Tel Aviv feels ever more superficial, and while Jerusalem is more like home, it is also suffocatingly parochial. And there is little escape. The north disappoints (especially knowing the Lakes and Highlands as I do), and the south holds no appeal at all.

Soon into my Tour Guides’ course (which I was anyway forced to abandon in order to care for my mother), it became very apparent that my love for this place was on the wane. The sandstone was of as little interest as the lime, and the myths had lost all their meaning. On a Succot outing last week, our (excellent) guide’s enthusiasm just left me cold. And I have long stopped reading the Israeli press.

My reasons for wanting a break are not typical. They are neither economic nor security-related (though I thank the dear lady who, on the steps of Raleigh Close on Rosh Hashana, and with a grave wink hinting at the unspeakable, assured me that there would always be a spare bedroom for me in NW4 . . . should I “need it”). Unlike the Milky protesters – and there is genuine discontent amongst many Israeli twenty and thirty-somethings – I thankfully need neither cheaper housing nor grocery bills. The missiles, too, don’t faze me. It is more the arseholes who never let you into traffic, drive with a finger on the horn, jump red lights, and don’t stop at pedestrian crossings.

On Thursday evening, a delightful Jerusalem police officer chose to curse my mother in Arabic after spotting me raise my eyebrows as he overran the red light and stopped his marked 4×4 on the crossing. And, more upsettingly (who expects anything from Israeli police?), I recently witnessed the owner of the café where I drink my morning juice eject a frail gentleman in his seventies, who could only shake his head in disbelief, because he was deemed to have been sitting with his newspaper for too long following his last sip of hafuch.

I am sometimes assured, by those attempting to assuage the recent black moods, that such experiences are one-offs, exceptions and not rules. If only. I witness similar things here nearly every day. And they are signs of a society lacking class, boundaries and respect.

I am not comfortable about publishing much of the above, and apologise to anyone it offends (or depresses). But I have always endeavoured in these pages to tell it as I feel it (what otherwise is the point?) And if Yair Lapid wishes to label me an anti-Zionist, or even a traitor, I can live with that. But there is a great big world out there, and just because we have been hounded wherever we have gone in it, it doesn’t follow that we shouldn’t wish to experience it for longer than an Israir Special.

All in all, then, fresh surroundings and challenges clearly can’t come too soon.

Berlin is a wonderful city. Resonant with history, stylish, cosmopolitan, tolerant, and, yes, affordable. It is, I imagine, somewhat similar to the city of my birth . . . before it lost its identity and soul (just sit and observe, as I did a few weeks ago, from the top deck of an Ealing to Golders Green 83). And its main downside is not that history, but the very folk I need a break from: “You got rid of the very cream of world Jewry,” I always remind Oliver, my German lawyer, “and have ended up with tens of thousands of Israelis . . . serves you right!”

Resonant with history: the Neue Synagoge at dusk

Resonant with history: Berlin’s Neue Synagoge at dusk

Even though Angela Merkel’s Germany is arguably Israel’s most loyal and trusted ally (at a time when we don’t have many), on hearing “Berlin”, many of the reactions to my proposed move fall between shock and horror, often accompanied with the expression of someone biting on a pickle that has turned.

But why are we so insistent on clinging to our former enemies? Because of the shortage of current ones? Say I have a short memory, but even if the Germans are (as I was recently informed) the descendants of Amalek, Hamas, IS and Iran all cause me rather more sleep loss than the Amalekites (whom, incidentally, I would take over the Palestinians quicker than you can shriek “Allahu Akbar” and detonate your suicide vest).

Some of the double standards I have encountered have been hilarious, from friends and family whose kitchens could moonlight as AEG/Bosch/Miele/Neff/Siemens showrooms to the elderly relative who I discovered, soon after learning that he was Berlin-broyges with me, had been nailing a local fräulein while serving King and country in Allied-occupied Austria!

Perish the thought . . .

Perish the thought . . .

Indeed, folks’ greatest dread on hearing that I might move to Berlin is, of course, that I could end up in some kind of unseemly liaison with an athletic, fair-haired female with bone structure out of a human biology textbook. I don’t even want to think about that. Much. But anyway, at 47, should I still be placing national survivalism before personal happiness? (And even if Heidi has midos like the pair nearest the camera?)

Some of the ‘caring’ souls who have provided unsolicited opinions as to why I “can’t” move to Berlin are, curiously, the very same who went entirely AWOL during my mother’s illness and the second that I got up from shiva. My oldest friend, Shuli, though, is certainly an exception to that. And, while I am loath to compliment him, I do know that he genuinely cares. After I had successfully repelled his latest attempt, last week, to persuade me to pursue a future with a couple (though separately) of completely unsuitable women – his former search criteria for me long having been reduced to a criterion (i.e., Jewish) – he threw his hands up in the air and exclaimed “Don’t tell me you are happy when you are sitting alone at home with Stuey and Dexxy!” The hard truth is, though, that most dates leave me longing to get back to them.

As for Deutschland, I have a few rather loose ends to tie up here first, but am already looking forward to the new challenge. I have some exciting business ideas and the feeling that my “fascination for the [former] abomination” (to quote Joseph Conrad) could be the impetus for a renewed vigour for writing (both blogging and even something more tangible). Who knows, it might even recharge my flagging Zionism.

And, to all you young Israelis who feel the need for a change, go for it I say! The experiences, culture and Weltanschauung that many of you will eventually bring home will serve this ‘island’ far better than the arrogance and hypocrisy of those who criticise and condescend from their villas in Caesarea and Ramat Aviv.

To all my readers, a very happy, healthy and gevaldig 5775!

Looking ahead (with Vladimir Ilyich, Prenzlauer Berg)

Looking ahead: with Vladimir Ilyich, Prenzlauer Berg

An open letter to Andy Kershaw (and other useful idiots)

Dear Mr. Kershaw,

My attention was recently drawn to your 12 July posting to your Facebook page [click here or search FB for “Andy Kershaw Todmorden”]. And I must admit to having been somewhat taken aback that a former Radio 1 DJ whose show I very much enjoyed in my student days – you see, you never knew you had “Zionist” listeners! – would want to label my home of 18 years “a backward, infantile, thuggish, thieving, racist, terrorist state.” Don’t hold back now, Andy.

As with most others who have had the temerity to crash the Kershaw Self-Promotional Circus, and to dare challenge its strutting ringmaster, you quickly barred me from further entry. But, having borrowed a friend’s Facebook identity, it soon became very apparent that said posting was no mere one-off, a response to the latest flare-up in Gaza. I spent Monday evening wading through your postings since 2012, and – aside from a couple of mentions of Vladimir Putin, a single one of Syria (though none of the 170,000 civilians killed there in the past three years), and another of South Sudan – it became very clear that you are obsessed with Israel to the exclusion of all else.

I am not, I promise, a member of any of “the organised Zionist Facebook squadrons”, as you imagine and call them (without any mention, conveniently, of the scores of mindless drones who “Follow” your every Facebook word). I am also, you may be surprised to hear, in favour of a Palestinian state, existing peacefully, side by side, with ours.

Andy KershawYou are clearly well-educated and highly intelligent, which makes your willful ignorance of the history and realities of this painful conflict all the more puzzling. I emigrated to Israel in January 1996, a mere two years after the high hopes of Oslo and that memorable handshake on the White House lawn, amid a spate of Hamas “suicide” – they were more homicide – attacks which blew up scores of Israelis on buses and in cafés and were aimed solely at torpedoing any hopes of peace (here is a list of them). So for you to keep trotting out the same shite about sieges and settlements is an insult both to your intelligence and to ours (if not to that of your Facebook-following fuckwits). Hamas is not interested in a two-state solution. Only in a Final one.

Today you posted: “Israel – You are an offence to civilization, a violation of humanity, and a moral disgrace.” Apart from sounding like you never really left the University of Leeds Student Union, where, for instance, is your outrage at the treatment by Hamas (and by all Islamofascist regimes) of women and gays? Oh . . . but I forgot, “[Hamas] do not rule by fear” (another one of your gems, from Monday).

Your obsession with this country is often disturbing. On 24 November 2013, you labelled Benjamin Netanyahu “a cheap thug” and “an ungracious fat wanker”. And why? Because he didn’t attend the Nelson Mandela memorial service! To your expertise on World Music must surely now be added Studies in the Overseas Visiting Habits of World Leaders. And, on 11 January this year, with real class, you headlined the passing of Ariel Sharon with “Fat Thug Dies”, later once again adding the adjective “cheap”. Interesting.

Your complete detachment from Middle East reality, however, is most amusingly highlighted by an 18 November 2012 posting in which you preface a link to Gerald Kaufman by describing the odious tosser as someone “considered to be a friend of Israel.” Perhaps like Jimmy Savile was of young girls.

You must be sorely missing the limelight since your ignoble fall from grace, being sent to prison for harassing your former partner. But how ironic that a drunken bully and cheat, who has never taken one ounce of true responsibility for terrorizing his own family, repeatedly accuses others of “playing the victim card” (here is your side of the story . . . though the subsequent comments of “Laura” and “Family friend”, I suspect, paint a rather truer picture).

Now I really do want to believe your repeated protests that you are not an anti-Semite. But your “Lik[ing]” of comments such as the following – from an Ian Dixon, on Sunday, regarding Facebook’s (alleged) removal of a Jon Snow piece on Gaza – do not exactly enhance your claims:

“And of course it being removed all the time has nothing to do with the owner of FB being Jewish! . . . I have never seen a religion or people hold so much power over free speech as I have this country, its people and religion.”

I can just see Mark Zuckerberg fretting over his Honey Nut Cheerios because of some anti-Semite (with zero credibility) on Channel 4 News. Then, yesterday, you actually “agreed” with a delightful-sounding character named Harry Reed, who wrote (amongst other assorted bilge and filth):

“The people of Palestine will recover their land and cleanse it of the stench of thieves, robbers, rapists and child-killers. They will recover their stolen books and art, throwing the parasites into the streets. The Palestinians will have their day. Already, over 100 racist thugs from your SS have been eliminated . . . fuck off back to Brooklyn with your racist philosophy, your race-myths and the rest of your pseudo-Nazi yarn about your supposed homeland . . . The resistance should refuse – you can’t sit at a table with Nazis. The Palestinians have eliminated over 100 members of Israel’s SS so far and they should finish the job.”

Nice.

So what are we supposed to believe about Andy Kershaw the man (not, I am sure, that you care)? To my annoyance, I actually found myself quite drawn to other aspects of your page – we both have schnauzers (though Stuey is rather more bastardized than Buster) and are passionate about lots of the same things (Dylan, Neil Young, even Wasdale) – but your postings on the situation here smack of unbelievable crassness and ignorance (though I still hope nothing more).

I am continually fascinated by people like you . . . about whether their Israel-only bashing is derived from: parents (or, in your case, I understand, grandparents), an unpleasant experience at school or university, or merely bad character. History shows us that scarred types – and you don’t deny being that – are more likely to develop an obsession with all things Jewish (and you would be in the ‘good’ company of lots of other rubbish, the latest scrap being footballer Joey Barton).

At a time of the worst anti-Semitism that many of us have known, you have a responsibility as a celebrity (however faded) not to continue in this vein. Otherwise, you will go down (no jail pun intended) as little more than someone who encouraged and facilitated, through willful disinformation, the hatred of Israel and, thereby, the large majority of Jews.

I invite anyone with the time and inclination to visit your sewer of hate – I haven’t covered even one percent of it – and also invite you to respond below if you feel that anything I have written is unfair or misrepresents you (though spare us, please, the vacuous cut-and-paste Facebook soundbites).

Yours sincerely,

melchett mike

[I trust that more than one of my readers will post a link to this blog on Mr. Kershaw’s Facebook page.]

Update (1 August): Andy Kershaw, brave man and champion of free speech that he is, is deleting all comments linking to this post, and blocking the poster, from his Facebook page. He clearly hasn’t yet discovered that, due to the huge number of “hits” on this post (4,000 in a day and a half), melchett mike is coming up first on most related searches of him! So, if you haven’t yet done so, please take a minute to cut-and-paste this URL after as many of his hateful postings as you can.

F*ck you, too

I have never as yet “reblog[ged],” but this post – penned five and a half years ago at the height of Operation Cast Lead – is, with all the disgraceful hypocrisy and thinly-veiled anti-Semitism that we are witnessing in these dark days, well worth (I would modestly suggest!) a revisit . . .

melchett mike

[melchett mike, talking to his reflection in his laptop screen, after suffering a fortnight of “F*ck Israel” and “F*ck Jews” . . . ]

Well, f*ck you, too. F*ck you and this whole Jew-hating world. F*ck all the  protesters who, it seems, don’t believe Jews have a right to defend themselves. Where have you been these past eight years, while missiles have been landing on our women and children every day? And what would you have done if they were landing on yours, you self-righteous hypocrites? F*ck Bianca Jagger and Annie Lennox, and all the other has-beens, who have been trying to revive their flagging careers aboard the human rights bus (the one which doesn’t stop in Israel). F*ck Roseanne Barr and Alexei Sayle, and all the other “rent a Jews”. You are a f*cking disgrace. F*ck George “Hezbollah has never been a terrorist organisation” Galloway, the…

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