21 March 2017

Magen David Adom ~ מגן דוד אדום

Magen David Adom  literally translates as the Red Star of David.  It is "Israel's only national medical emergency, disaster, ambulance and blood service".  The ambulances are a frequent sight and can be seen criss-crossing the city at high speed ferrying patients to hospital in medical emergencies with their sirens blaring.  There are also mobile lorries (trucks) which are stationed at various times of the year in prominent spots throughout the city collecting donations of blood for their blood banks.

 Since June 2006, Magen David Adom has been officially recognized by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) as the national aid society of the State of Israel under the Geneva Conventions, and a member of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. MDA has a dedicated medical emergency phone number in Israel, 101.

 The Magen David Adom organization was formed by nurse Karen Tenenbaum in 1930 as a volunteer association with a single branch in Tel Aviv. After opening branches in Jerusalem and Haifa, it was extended nationwide five years later, providing medical support to the public including not only Jews, but Arabs (Muslim, Druze, and Christian). On 12 July 1950, the Knesset passed a law making MDA's status as Israel's national emergency service official; The objectives of Magen David include maintaining first aid services; maintaining a storage service of blood, plasma and their by-products; instruction in first aid and pre-hospital emergency medicine; operating a volunteer program in which volunteers are trained in first aid, basic and advanced life support including mobile intensive care units; transportation of patients, women in labor, and evacuation of those wounded and killed in road accidents; transportation of doctors, nurses and medical auxiliary forces. In the late 1960s the organization refocused its rapid trauma treatment and transport protocols due to the efforts of Dr. Nancy Caroline. Dr. Caroline's work at Magen David Adom was based upon studies she conducted with Dr. Peter Safar and the Freedom House Paramedics of Pittsburgh.

 Magen David Adom is mainly staffed by volunteers, and has over 10,000 people volunteering over one million man-hours per year. The minimum age to join Magen David Adom's basic first aid course and become a volunteer is 15. All volunteers pass a 60-hour course that covers a wide range of topics ranging from common medical conditions and trauma situations to mass casualty events. Those who pass the course are then dispatched throughout the country and work with local volunteers in ambulances to provide initial medical care on the regular and Mobile Intensive Care Ambulances.

Seeing the Magen David Adom mobile lorry (truck) collecting donations of blood made me wonder what the criteria is for donating blood?  I thought to myself, who can give blood?  Obviously there are a range of criteria to ensure blood safety so that not only is it safe for certain individuals to give blood but also that the donated blood is safe enough to be given to patients.  The following website explains Who can give blood?  Do have a read to find out if you are eligible to give blood.  I believe giving blood ought to be seen as a civic duty.  It is a selfless act which can benefit people in need.  What could be more precious than giving someone the gift of life?

19 March 2017

Philanthropy Age interview with British surgeon David Nott

This post is to follow on from another post I did last year on 23 August 2016 introducing the work of British surgeon David Nott and the David Nott Foundation 

This time, I want to draw your attention to an excellent article from the Philanthropy Age written by Stuart Matthews and Adrienne Cernigoi following an interview with David Nott who says, that he continues to work as a surgeon in conflict zones and he explains matter-of-factly, "you carry on because you're saving somebody else's life."  He describes his work as "a humanitarian surgeon there to save lives - not to be political or pass judgement."  As well as working as a surgeon himself, he runs courses to train other surgeons.  Learn more about the work of David Nott here:
The David Nott Foundation
2 Lower Sloane Street

 Twitter:  @Nott Foundation

17 March 2017

BBC article ~ The mystery of why you can't remember being a baby

Last year, I read a really interesting article on the BBC website, written by Zaria Gorvett entitled, "The mystery of why you can't remember being a baby".  I thought it was fascinating because I often wonder the same thing.  The above photo is of me aged 1,5 to 2 years old circa 1971 or 1972.  I have no recollection of being that young.  Having said that, what I do remember is that I used to sit in the balcony and secretly "graze" on a reddish pink coloured pot plant with round leaves a type of Begonia with a yellow center which tasted vaguely of lemon.  I was fortunate that the plant was not poisonous and I don't think I experienced any ill effects.  In the above photograph I had been caught in the act and had a mouthful of Begonia flowers hence the reason for the cheeky smirk on my face. 

10 March 2017

Purim ~ פורים

Shops are full of fancy dress costumes which rather resemble Madame Tussauds Museum of wax works in London

A religious festival called Purim will be celebrated in Israel starting at sunset on the
 11th March and ending at sunset on the 12th March.  As far as religious festivals go, this is definitely the most intriguing that I have so far come across.  To a non-Jewish outsider like me, it looks like a massive fancy dress party with a convivial, jolly atmosphere and merrymaking.  However, I'm sure there is more to it than that which is why I carried out research on the internet to try and find the origins of Purim and why people wear elaborate costumes on the Jewish holiday of Purim. According to Wikipedia, Purim "is a Jewish holiday that commemorates the saving of the Jewish people from Haman, who was planning to kill all the Jews. This took place in the ancient Persian Empire. The story is recorded in the Biblical Book of Esther (מגילת אסתרMegillat Ester in Hebrew).  According to the Book of Esther, Haman, royal vizier to King Ahasuerus/Achashverosh (presumed to be Artaxerxes I of Persia)  planned to kill all the Jews in the empire, but his plans were foiled by Mordecai and his cousin and adopted daughter Esther, who had risen to become Queen of Persia. The day of deliverance became a day of feasting and rejoicing.  Based on the conclusions of the Scroll of Esther (Esther 9:22): "[...] that they should make them days of feasting and gladness, and of sending portions one to another, and gifts to the poor," Purim is celebrated among Jews by: 
  • Exchanging reciprocal gifts of food and drink known as mishloach manot
  • Donating charity to the poor known as mattanot la-evyonim
  • Eating a celebratory meal known as a se'udat Purim
  • Public recitation ("reading of the megillah") of the Scroll of Esther, known as kriat ha-megillah, usually in synagogue
  • Reciting additions, known as Al HaNissim, to the daily prayers and the grace after meals

Other customs include drinking wine or any other alcoholic beverage, wearing of masks and costumes, and public celebration.  Purim is celebrated annually according to the Hebrew calendar on the 14th day of the Hebrew month of  Adar (and on Adar II in Hebrew leap years that take place every 2 to 3 years), the day following the victory of the Jews over their enemies. In cities that were protected by a surrounding wall at the time of the Biblical Joshua Purim is instead celebrated on the 15th of the month of Adar on what is known as Shushan Purim, since fighting in the walled city of Shushan continued through the 14th day of Adar. Today, only Jerusalem and a few other cities celebrate Purim on the 15th of Adar." 

Just out of interest, I am also including a link to the website of Madame Tussauds in London as for me, people wearing Purim costumes in the streets of Tel Aviv is reminiscent of an outing to this museum.

 Happy holidays חג שמח

8 March 2017

International Women's Day ~ יום האישה הבינלאומי

8th March is International Women's Day ~ יום האישה הבינלאומי and so I wanted to mark this day with an excellent video I watched on the following website The talk was given by Caroline Paul, entitled, "To raise brave girls, encourage adventure." Caroline Paul's talk really resonated with me.  I had personal experience with the different way in which parents bring up their sons and daughters.  As the youngest of three children, even though I felt loved and appreciated whilst I was growing up much to my annoyance I was always mollycoddled.  I resented the way my older brother and sister were treated differently and given privileges and freedoms which were denied to me.  Parents need to give their children the opportunity to grow, to experience new things and to trust their intuition.  For example, when I was seven years old I remember my mother saying to me, "you can play outside as long as you are within clear view of the balcony, I want to be able to see you from the balcony."  Being an obedient child, I listened to my mother's  instructions however I felt confused with what she was asking me to do.  Her request was like an invisible tether, it was very restricting and meant I really couldn't go very far at all.  So I made the most of being outdoors and occupied myself by observing a large ant's nest which was conveniently located within the confines of the garden outside our house.  It's a wonder I did not become an entomologist by profession as I spent hours watching the ants and I learnt much about their colony, distribution of labour and their behaviour.  Then later, when I was in my 30's and my husband and I were living in France, I went to visit my parents in Istanbul and I couldn't believe it when my father tried to hold my hand as we were about to cross a busy main road.  I told him, "I can't believe you just tried to hold my hand, I am not a child."  I couldn't understand how my parents chose to overlook the fact that as an adult I managed perfectly well living abroad as an expatriate but the minute I returned to Istanbul it was as if in their minds I regressed back to being a child in need of their protection.  My father has since passed away but unfortunately I still have the same discussions with my mother.

As Caroline Paul says in her talk, children and especially girls need to be encouraged.  Caroline Paul relates a story where she observed a couple who appeared to be anxious and most of what they said to their daughter when she was outside was in the form of cautionary words, such as "Be careful", "Watch out!" or "No".  She says her friends were not bad parents but were only doing what most parents do which is cautioning their daughters much more than they caution their sons.  The subliminal messages behind these words of caution were that girls are perceived to be more fragile and in more need of help.  "This is the message we absorb as kids and this is the message that fully permeates us as we grow up.  Women believe it, men believe it and as we become parents we pass it onto our children and so it goes."  My hope is that people take the time to watch this educational talk by Caroline Paul and are inspired to treat their children in a more egalitarian way.

1 March 2017

Oskar Schindler (28 April 1908 – 9 October 1974)

I first heard of Oskar Schindler when the book entitled "Schindler's Ark" was published in 1982 by the Australian novelist Thomas Keneally.  More than a decade later in 1993, the film Schindler's List was released directed and co-produced by Steven Spielberg and scripted by Steven Zaillian.  It was an unforgettable film which made quite an impression on me especially since it was based on a true story.

It is possible to visit the grave of Oskar Schindler which is located in the Mount Zion Catholic Cemetery in Jerusalem. According to the Wikipedia entry, he was a German industrialist, spy and member of the Nazi Party who is credited with saving the lives of 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust by employing them in his enamelware and ammunition factories, which were located in occupied Poland and the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. He is the subject of the 1982 novel Schindler's Ark, and the subsequent 1993 film Schindler's List, which reflected his life as an opportunist initially motivated by profit who came to show extraordinary initiative, tenacity and dedication to save the lives of his Jewish employees.

 In 1939, Schindler acquired an enamelware factory in Krakow, Poland, which employed about 1,750 workers, of whom 1,000 were Jews at the factory's peak in 1944. His Abwehr connections helped Schindler to protect his Jewish workers from deportation and death in the Nazi concentration camps. As time went on, Schindler had to give Nazi officials ever larger bribes and gifts of luxury items obtainable only on the black market to keep his workers safe.

By July 1944, Germany was losing the war; the SS began closing down the easternmost concentration camps and deporting the remaining prisoners westward. Many were killed in Auschwitz and Gross-Rosen concentration camp. Schindler convinced SS-Hauptsturmfuhrer Amon Göth commandant of the nearby Krakow-Plaszow concentration camp, to allow him to move his factory to Brunnlitz in the Sudetenland thus sparing his workers from almost certain death in the gas chambers. Using names provided by Jewish Ghetto Police officer Marcel Goldberg, Göth's secretary Mietek Pemper  compiled and typed the list of 1,200 Jews who traveled to Brünnlitz in October 1944. Schindler continued to bribe SS officials to prevent the execution of his workers until the end of World War II in Europe in May 1945, by which time he had spent his entire fortune on bribes and black-market purchases of supplies for his workers.

Schindler moved to West Germany after the war, where he was supported by assistance payments from Jewish relief organisations. After receiving a partial reimbursement for his wartime expenses, he moved with his wife, Emilie, to Argentina, where they took up farming. When he went bankrupt in 1958, Schindler left his wife and returned to Germany, where he failed at several business ventures and relied on financial support from Schindlerjuden ("Schindler Jews") – the people whose lives he had saved during the war. He was named Righteous Among the Nations by the Israeli government in 1963. He died on 9 October 1974 in Hildesheim, Germany, and was buried in Jerusalem on Mount Zion, the only member of the Nazi Party to be honoured in this way.

 In case people who are unfamiliar with Judaism look at the above photograph and wonder why there are so many stones on the grave of Oskar Schindler instead of flowers allow me to explain.  I too had wondered the same thing and after doing some research on the internet I found out that leaving stones or pebbles is a Jewish custom after visiting a grave and serves as a sign to others that someone has visited the grave.  Stones are said to be symbolic of the lasting presence of the deceased persons life and memory.  
"Even when visiting Jewish graves of someone that the visitor never knew, the custom is to place a small stone on the grave using the left hand. This shows that someone visited the gravesite, and is also a way of participating in the mitzvah of burial. Leaving flowers is not a traditional Jewish practice. Another reason for leaving stones is to tend the grave. In Biblical times, gravestones were not used; graves were marked with mounds of stones (a kind of cairn), so by placing (or replacing) them, one perpetuated the existence of the site." 

24 February 2017

Exhibition: Fake? זִיוּף ~ Sam and Ayala Zacks Pavilion, Tel Aviv Museum of Art

On a bright and sunny Friday morning whilst some residents of this beautiful city where participating in the Tel Aviv Marathon, I was at my favourite haunt, the Tel Aviv Museum of Art.  I saw a first-rate exhibition which was entitled, Fake? זִיוּף in the Sam and Ayala Zacks Pavilion which is located in the Main Building.  The exhibition was impressive, not only in the way this rather ambiguous subject-matter was handled but in the way it was executed.  There were some examples of  fake works of art adjacent to the genuine works of art, there were counterfeit bank notes and coins, forged documents, imitations of designer watches and handbags, replicas of statues, a piece of music, ceramics and pottery items, ivory,  forgeries of Roman glass, photographs and even a fake passport and car license plates.  

The exhibition provided a brief history and in certain cases it gave the visitors some background into these fake items. I felt the exhibition also tried its best to educate us, the visitors not only in helping us to try and distinguish between a fake or a genuine item but by giving us a moral conundrum, that perhaps in certain, specific cases fakes can be justified if, it can be demonstrated that it is for the purpose of the common good.  This was the case when Mossad agents forged documents in preparation for the abduction of Adolf Eichmann in Buenos Aires in 1960.  

This was an absolutely fascinating exhibition which will be on show until 22 April 2017.  The curator of this exhibition is Dr Doron J. Lurie.  If you can spare and hour or two I would strongly urge you to go and see it.  Here are some photographs from the exhibition:

Copy or fake? , After Piero della Francesca, Portrait of Federigo da Montefeltro, 1979, Oil on panel, Private collection, Tel Aviv

Vermeer or van Meegeren? - Supper at Emmaus

Forgery in the manner of Jacopo Tintoretto (Italian, Venetian, 1518 - 1594) Portrait of a Man, oil on canvas, Tel Aviv Museum of Art

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