Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Satmar, Yemenites, & the UJC

On May 19th the Jerusalem Post printed an article entitled “UJC to pull 110 Jews out of Yemen, by Haviv Rettig Gur. The rescue attempt is laudable and necessary. But it may just put the Yemenites and their children in grave danger.

The article dealt with the Jews left in Yemen and how the United Jewish Communities, the umbrella organization for the United Jewish Federations, in the USA, was working with the US State Department, and other organizations, to help get out this group. According to the Post 280 Yemenite Jews are still left in that country.

The Post reports that the evacuation, which will take place over the next few weeks, will cost about $800,000. This sum will cover the evacuation, and absorption of these Jews in the United States.

The Jewish Agency for Israel strongly objected to the move of these Yemenites to the USA. The Post quoted a senior JA official as saying, “The place of the Jews is in their homeland…”.

The Agency, says the Post, is particularly upset because it was the Satmar Hassidic Sect, based in Monsey, & Brooklyn, New York, that requested that the UJC help extract the Yemenites. The Satmar Hassidim oppose political Zionism. Satmar is already actively funding Jewish education in Yemen.

The Yemen government has declined to grant visas to Yemenite Jews wanting to emigrate to Israel, which has had a Jewish Yemenite population since the end of the 18th Century. UJC president Howard Rieger reportedly sent an e-mail to UJA Federation of New York head John Ruskay explaining that the UJC will help any Yemenites immigrate to Israel once they’ve arrived safely in the USA.

This rescue is laudable. Life for Jews in Yemen has become tenuous with an upswing in anti-Semitism and violence. In December 2008 Rabbi Moshe Yaish Nahara’l was shot dead in Rayda by an Islamist who said he killed Nahara’l because the Rabbi refused to convert to Islam. Nahara’l was the leader of the Jewish community in Rayda.

So far so good. But the problem isn’t the need to rescue the Jews of Yemen. That is a given. The problem is a one-hour 2003 film “Bchazeket Satmar” a Yona Films Production, produced and directed by Nitzan Giladi, that won a prize at the Documentary Film Festival in March of that year. It aired on Israel Television’s Channel 8. The film was partially funded by the New Foundation for Film and Television, a government-funded institution. In other words, this is a serious film, done by people who are reliable and know what they’re talking about.

The film is disturbing. It tells the story of how the Satmar came to a town in Yemen and convinced a few families to come to the USA and join the Satmar community in Monsey, New York. Clearly, Monsey would be preferable to the hovels of Yemen. Or would it?

The story follows one family to Monsey, and then documents how that family is stripped of its children, forced to bang on the doors of one bureaucracy after another trying in vain to get their children back. Children that were taken away from their parents by the State authorities and placed in foster homes, in the care of Satmar families.

The accusation made by one of the Yemenite mother’s Satmar neighbors was that the mother had shaken her child, causing a trauma that needed treatment. Child Welfare Services, at the behest of the Satmar, removed the children from their parents. Given Satmar’s status in the community, the parent’s had no chance of a fair fight. That’s assuming they even spoke English, which they didn’t.

The film draws us to the conclusion that Satmar mistreats the Yemenite Jews they bring to the USA, takes away their children in order to insure that the children have a good “yiddishkeit” environment, allowing the children to grow up in a strong Satmar-oriented home, far away from the parents, who might influence the children in a non-Satmar direction.

The film was frightening, and defined tragedy. There was no Hollywood ending. The family was separated permanently. The parents forbidden to see their own children.
And this was not an isolated case.

Is there collusion between the Satmar and the State authorities? Is there a hint of corruption? Is Satmar going out of their way, crossing legal boundaries in efforts to ‘save’ Jewish children from their natural parents? Or is it simply a way to get more children into the Satmar community, much as adoption agency supplies Brazilian infants to childless Israeli families.

Whatever the reason, if the allegations in the film are true than the 110 Jews bound for the USA under Satmar protection are in trouble. The UJC may well find itself, for the best of reasons, complicit in the abduction of children from their parents, albeit in a quasi-legal framework aided and abetted by State authorities.

One recalls the tales of Moroccan Jewish immigrants to Israel in the late 50’s and early 60’s when the Ashkenazi establishment considered these people second-class citizens. The Jewish Agency archives show pictures of these immigrants using toilet bowls to store vegetables, sleeping on the floors, or outside, rather than in beds, cooking on fires, rather than stoves. For both cultures were strangers one to another.

This is the same way the Satmar, and probably the New York State authorities look at the Yemenites. Primitive people who can’t take care of themselves, or their children. This paternalistic attitude changed in Israel, slowly. But the suspicion of some insidious Satmar plan to remove children from their parents cannot be ignored.

The UJC should make certain the Satmar Hassidim take good care of these Yemenites.
Satmar neither supports Israel nor the UJC. Once the Yemenites are in this Satmar community, any chance of falling prey to the vices of Western Civilization will be lost, for good or bad. Satmar, it should be remembered, spawned the Natorei Karta, the very people who not only deny Israel but also meet with enemies like Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

It is questionable if the UJC is doing the Yemenites, or the Jewish people, a favor by placing them with the Satmar. But once done it is the UJC’s responsibility to make certain a fundamentalist sect doesn’t take advantage of these hapless immigrants: a sect intolerant of anyone who disagrees with them. And willing to do something about it.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Yogurt & The Two-State Solution

Why are the Jewish people so successful, as a group?
‘Innovation derived from restless energy,’ speculated one philosopher.
Why is Israel so productive?
‘Work has more meaning when one is involved in problem,’ said the same pundit.
than engaged in routine tasks.
Jews apparently have a restless energy. When confronted with
a task as, many Jews will find a way to make the task more interesting by adding or subtracting from it, modifying it, streamlining or encumbering it, all with the goal of creating a better product, document, procedure.

This takes the boredom out of the work since every day is another challenge. This may also explain why so many Jewish people have been awarded the Nobel Prize for various things, from Science to Literature. This restless energy, perhaps even the arrogance of thinking that something can be done differently, better, may well be the cause for the much envied Jewish success.

This week the man who developed Dannon yogurt passed away at 103. The Carasso family was originally from Spain but fled the Spanish Inquisition in the 15th Century and wound up in Thessilonka, Greece. Around 400 years later, in 1916, they migrated back to Spain Daniel Carasso was born in Barcelona where his father Issac named him Dannon, a Catalonian nickname for Daniel. The Carasso family began to manufacture yogurt, then only known in Greece, the Middle East, and Asia, at the beginning of the last century.

In 1929 Daniel moved to Paris, where he opened the family’s French branch.. He also studied business management and even attended the Pasteur Institute to study the microbes in yogurt.

When the Nazis came to power the Carasso family fled to New York, in 1941, and went into business with Swiss-born Spanish businessman Joe Metzger and his son Juan. Together they purchased the Bronx based Oxy-Gala company and founded Dannon Milk Products. The yogurt didn’t sell well until they added some jam to appeal to the American sweet tooth, and then the business took off. The Metzgers were reportedly marketing masters, and the Dannon Yogurt brand became a popular snack and health food. Beatrice Foods eventually bought them out. But the Carasso family moved to Paris in 1951 where Daniel opened up the European Groupe Danone Yogurt brand. Today sales are in the billions of dollars.

Needless to say, Daniel liked to go to work. He took an old product, yogurt, and improved upon it.

Israel has become a hothouse of ideas, producing thinks like the disk on key also known as the jump drive; Israel is home to much of Intel’s R&D, designing a number of the original Pentium chips. Israelis also improved on the idea of drip irrigation, and their system is now used around the world. Israelis are also responsible for developing some of the anti-cancer drugs, like Gleevec used for Lymphatic cancer. Two Israelis won the Nobel prize for their work in Chemistry developing processes that lead to cancer drugs.

Challenge keeps the mind busy. Tinkering makes things better, and staves off boredom.

As simple as that.

Dr. Yair Paz, a professor of Geography at the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem recently gave a lecture, replete with maps, showing the division of Jerusalem, and the “Two State Solution,” prepared in the greatest secrecy back in 1937 by the Jewish Agency for Israel.

The map the agency prepared behind closed doors was in response to the British Peel Commission that was looking to establish a working plan for what they thought would be post-mandate Palestine. Pragmatists who kept their ideology within manageable bounds drew up this map. The Jewish population of pre-State Israel was barely 400,000, with the Arab population numbering nearly 350,000. If one State would be created the Jewish people would have a hard time keeping a majority. Therefore the pragmatists were in favor of a two-state solution.

For their part the Arabs firmly rejected any two-state solution. The right-wing Jewish Revisionists, also rejected any talks of a two-state solution.

Their Peel Commission’s proposal divided Jerusalem, scooping away the Old City from the Jewish people, putting in a corridor from Jaffa to Jerusalem, ostensibly to be controlled by the British, and handing Jordan and the West Bank over to the Arabs. Jerusalem would be an international city. Founding Jewish Agency chairman Chaim Weizman was reported to have said he didn’t want the Jewish people to be in charge of the Old City since the sensitivities of the Moslems and Christians would be too much for a fledgling State of Israel to handle.

Back then the neighborhoods of Beit Vagan and Beit Hakerem were distant settlements, while today they are nearly in the center of town. Back then the Jews drew up their own map in response to the Peel Commission, knowing that some counter proposal had to be made.

The Peel Commission gave the Jewish people Tel Aviv and Haifa, and West Jerusalem, sans the Old City.

The Jewish Agency plan countered with a link between Tel Aviv and Haifa with the land reaching to Jerusalem, and including the Galilee. The Jewish Agency plan gave up the Old City and the Holy Sites but demanded to keep Mt. Scopus, with a view of the Old City.
According to Dr. Paz this was because one of the Jewish Agency planners thought that in the future the Jewish forces could use Mt. Scopus as a staging area and flow down into the Old City. In those days according to Paz the philosophy was that history was fluid, that was a fact today could become another fact tomorrow,. Pragmatism and flexibility was the key. Stay in the game, keep up the dialogue, because things change all the time.

The Peel Commission’s plan and the Jewish Agency counter proposal were never implemented because of the rise of the Nazis in Europe. The British had more on their hands than worrying about a territorial problem in Palestine. The Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939 put all talks of a partition on hold, and nothing was done again until after the end of WWII. By then pre-State Israel was already preparing for a war with the Arabs, and Independence, which came in 1948.

It wasn’t until 1967 that the plan to swoop down on the Old City from Mt. Scopus was put into action. The talk of a two-state solution is still on the table, with Jerusalem as an international city.

Over seventy years since the original idea was discussed talks are still going on.
Given these facts it is unlikely that any solution can be hurried, or even reached, simply because a new U.S. President has come to office.

But one never knows. As the Chairman of the Jewish Agency in 1937 said, “History is fluid.” Given the Jewish penchant for tinkering with things, restlessly looking for newer variations on the theme, much as Daniel Carasso decided to filter his yogurt and make it lighter than the original Greek recipe, and then even adding jam, perhaps some new thoughts will be able to tweak this two-state solution idea and make it into a palpable reality.

Clearly Jews don’t have a paten on innovation. It is just possible that President Obama has an idea that works better than the rest. And to prove the ‘fluid history’ idea, one can merely accept that the Peel Commission isn’t gone, the decision was just postponed. Perhaps now is the time when it will be revised and implemented to everyone’s satisfaction.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Jerusalem Day 2009

Uzi Arad, chairman of Israel’s National Security Council, hinted last night on Israel Television that the Obama demand for a two-state solution was more rhetoric than substance. Arad was part of the Netanyahu government’s group meeting with their U.S. counterparts in the first visit of Israel’s PM Netanyahu to the USA. Arad diplomatically hinted that Obama was naïve thinking such a solution was possible in the near future.

Since June 2007 Arad was forbidden from entering the United States, according to a March 2009 report in the Washington Times, since he was considered a ‘security risk’ for his suspected involvement in the Larry Franklin affair. Franklin, the former Pentagon analyst, was sentenced in 2006 to more than 12 years in prison for giving classified information to an Israeli diplomat and members of a pro-Israel lobbying group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III said he gave Franklin a sentence on the low end of federal guidelines because it appeared Franklin was trying help the United States, not hurt it. The US government removed its objection to Arad entering the USA once he was appointed chairman of the Israel National Security Council.

Arad told Israel Television’s Channel 1 that a peace agreement including the West Bank was possible, but how could the same agreement include Gaza. “Gaza is the elephant in the room,” he said, stressing Gaza couldn’t be ignored. In his opinion the two-state solution had become a slogan not a real demand. “There are people in the Obama government who know what is going on,” he said. “Some are friends of Israel.”

Still Arad hinted that Obama was showing naiveté if he expected a solution to the Palestinian issue to solve problems in the Middle East, including any problems with Iran.

How serious is the recurring demand for a two-state solution? Surverys report that most Israelis would agree to a two-state solution if it would bring peace, however, ‘no one wants Hamastan,” in the West Bank,” said Arad.

Arad pointed out that the Road Map, proposed by the Bush administration, was greatly exceeded by Israel when the Sharon government withdrew entirely from the Gaza strip. Arad pointed out that this withdrawal did not lower the danger to Israel from hostile forces, but rather increased it. Hamas took over Gaza. The greenhouses, schools, buildings meant for peaceful purposes were used to fire missiles and mortars at Israel.

Arad said that a new Road Map might be drawn up but until the Palestinians are willing to accept Israel as a Jewish state the talks will be fruitless. “Sure they want two-states, but neither one will be Jewish.” According to Arad the two states would be Gaza and the West Bank, controlled by the Palestinians with Israel as the room they’d use for expansion.

During their talks in Washington the Netanyahu government made the point that until the Palestinians, and Hamas, accept the existence of Israel there will be no chance of any peace. This echoes the theme espoused by Arad, and is apparently the Israel government’s official position.

The Obama government’s demand that Israel freeze settlements was honored Thursday morning in a minor gesture. The tiny hilltop outpost Maoz Esther was cleared when the Israeli army hauled away seven metal containers converted to cabins.

According to the Haaretz newspaper, a highly placed source said,“Evacuating illegal outposts in the West Bank is expected to be the Netanyahu government's first gesture toward Obama and the Palestinian Authority.

“This is part of the ‘price’ Netanyahu paid Obama in exchange for the latter's statements about Iran's nuclearization, the sources said.”

Defense Minister Ehud Barak said he would evacuate the outposts by force if necessary. Pundits believe that the 26 outposts, usually tiny with only a few families are easy to destroy, but the large settlements will be left untouched.

Observers point out that the settlement issue has been a bone of contention between Israel and the USA’s various administrations since just after the 1967 6-day war. Depending on the administration the demands were from evacuation, to a complete freeze, to allowing only natural growth. These discussions have been on-going for 42 years, and show no signs of letting up, or reaching a resolution.

Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy believes that only the evacuation of the settlements, and Israel’s withdrawal from the West Bank can save Israel from a dark limited future. According to Levy “Obama is about to save Israel from itself.” Levy continued,
“In a single move he shrank the fear mongering of Benjamin Netanyahu and his mouthpieces on Iran to its proper size. In a single move he put the centrifuges of occupation, the real existential threat to Israel, at the top of the agenda.”

Gideon Levy also wrote, “How pathetic and heartrending was the sight of the Israeli prime minister, sitting tense and sweaty, next to the new American president, confident, stylish, and impressive, without all the jokes and back-patting of Ehud Olmert and George W. Bush. The latter was in fact the least friendly president to Israel - one who allowed it to carry out all its violent madness.”

From Levy’s words it is clear that not all of Israel is behind Netanyahu and his party line. However, Levy has always taken a far left point of view out of step with mainstream Israel. But there are those who support his views.

Thursday is “Jerusalem Day,” a celebration of the liberation of Jerusalem during the 1967 6-day war. Prior to that, from 1947-1967 Jews were forbidden to enter the Old City of Jerusalem, nor get any closer to the Western Wall and the Temple Mount, the holiest site in the Jewish religion, than no man’s land on Mt. Zion.

Today Jews have repopulated the Jewish Quarter, pray at the Western Wall, and have built a virtual wall of new neighborhoods, almost all over the 1967 “green line.” Jerusalem's population currently stands at 760,800, with 492,400 Jews and 268,400 Arabs, said the report published by the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies (JIIS).

Since 1967, the Arab population has increased by 291 percent, the Jewish population grew by 149 percent and the city's population overall rose by 186 percent. A separation fence is nearly completed around Jerusalem, funneling any West Bank visitors to the city through army checkpoints.

(According to the latest data released by Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, Israel's Jewish population stands at 5,593,000, or 75.5 percent of the population, and the Arab population is at 1,498,000, or 20.2 percent of the population. A recent University of Haifa survey showed that 40 per cent of Israeli Arabs denied that the Holocaust ever occurred.)

Somewhere between Uzi Arad and Gideon Levy lay the solution to the Palestinian-Israeli problem, but only time will tell where that somewhere is.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Spain 09

Spain has a long history, not only with its relationship to the rest of the world, but specifically with its relationship to the Jewish people. The Jews were first alienated, imprisoned and tortured during the “Inquisition” that began in the 14th century and lasted officially until the middle of the 19th Century. Historians estimate that approximately 3,000 Jews were burned at the stake during the Inquisition. Then the Jews were expelled, many finding their way to Italy, Amsterdam, Europe and N. Africa. Estimates of those expelled range from 40,000 to 300,000, with the lower number the more accepted.

The Moors conquered Spain in 711 and most of the area around the Mediterranean in the process. The Crusades drove them back into North Africa. Jewish merchants were assigned to trade with the Moors, buying goods for sale in Spain, and selling Spanish goods to the Moors. Christian Spain was forbidden this trade. The Inquisition began officially in order to ferret out the non-Christians that were living in Spain. Originally the Inquisition was run by the Pope, out of Rome, but later Ferdinand II took over in a much more cruel fashion. Ultimately the evil Tomas de Torquemada (1420-1498) Torquemanda assumed control of the Inquisition.

Torquemada served as the Grand Inquisitor and headed an organization of ecclesiastical courts which imprisoned, tortured, and burned suspected nonbelievers at the stake. It is estimated that at least 2,000 died in Spain during his tenure.

According to Wikipedia: “The Inquisition worked in large part to ensure the orthodoxy of recent converts… It was not definitively abolished until 1834, during the reign of Isabella II.”

Historians claim that there was a long tradition of Jewish service to the crown of Aragon. Ferdinand's father John II named the Jewish Abiathar (Yehuda) Crescas to be Court Astronomer. Another Jew who converted to Christianity (A Converso) financed the trip of Columbus to the new world.

According to Wikipedia: “Jews occupied many important posts, religious and political. Castile itself had an unofficial rabbi. Nevertheless, in some parts of Spain towards the end of the 14th century, there was a wave of anti-Judaism, encouraged by the preaching of Ferrant Martinez, Archdeacon of Ecija. The pogroms of June 1391 were especially bloody: in Seville, hundreds of Jews were killed, and the synagogue was completely destroyed. The number of people killed was equally high in other cities, such as Córdoba, Valencia and Barcelona.

“One of the consequences of these disturbances was the mass conversion of Jews. Before this date, conversions were rare and tended to be motivated more for social rather than religious reasons. But from the 15th century, a new social group appeared: conversos, also called New Christians, who were distrusted by Jews and Christians. By converting, Jews could not only escape eventual persecution, but also obtain entry into many offices and posts that were being prohibited to Jews through new, stricter regulations that were enforced by both the papacy & the newly formed kingdom's Inquisitors.”

Visiting Spain is removing the reminder of cruelty and oppression the Spaniards
Inflicted on the Jewish people. This is not difficult since the evil history dates back so far as to nearly be forgotten. But not quite. Perhaps the fact that Ferdinand and Isabella also sponsored Christopher Columbus’ voyage of discovery mitigates their crimes. Perhaps.

Practicing Judaism was forbidden in Spain until after the demise of the fascist dictator Franco in 1975. It wasn’t until the 1990’s that the first synagogue opened officially. Today’s Jewish population is in flux, since so many Israelis pour into Barcelona on a weekly basis, unloading from the never ending tours so popular with budget conscious travelers.

Sitting on the steps watching the “Magic Fountain” light show in Barcelona, a beer-bellied middle-aged Israeli lay sprawled on the steps conversing freely in Hebrew with his wife and another couple.

At the base of Montserrat, peering up hundreds of meters to the famous church, a group of Israelis standing near their tour bus were receiving a lecture on the place in Hebrew by their tour guide.

On Shabat the Chabad minyan in the nicer part of Barcelona was made up mostly of Sephardi Spaniards, and a few Israelis, all led by the Chabad Shaliach, a pleasant young man originally from Mexico, and his associate, originally from Argentina.

In the town of Fornalux, 30 km from Palma on the Island of Mallorca, a native Mallorquine (one born on the island) now a commercial airline pilot, said that “Cheutas”, (conversos) are still discriminated against in Spain. “I don’t understand why? They are part of our history. If they were Jewish hundreds of years ago, so what? Today they’re Spanish.” (In 1691, during a number of Autos de Fe in Majorca, 36 chuetas, or conversos of Majorca, were burned.)

Conversos, also known as Morranos, secretly practiced Judaism in Spain for centuries. Today secrecy is no longer required. In the small quaint town of Torla in the Pyrenees mountains, amid the authentic stone and slate houses packed together like sardines, one comes across a Jewish star carved artistically into a wooden door covering an electric box. When asked about the star the British ex-Patriot owner of an adjacent apartment said, “My father asked the same thing. He’s Jewish you know.”

Joan Miro lived and worked just outside Palma de Mallorca in the Balearic Islands during most of his life. The Mallorcan village of Deya, once the home of British poet Robert Graves, is now rumored to be the part-time home of Hollywood film star Michael Douglas, himself half-Jewish. There are Jewish names in the tiny cemetery attached to Deya church. Aurbach, Faber, and others.

Graves found Deya on the recommendation of his friend Gertrude Stein. At the time Graves was living with his mistress. Perhaps Stein, a lesbian, knew Deya as a place that accepted different types; perhaps she found Deya through an aunt or cousin or childhood friend there, Faber or Aurbach? Whatever the cause, Graves settled into Deya, except for a period during World War II, and lived there until he died.

Graves thought of the town as sitting on a magic mound of magnetism. He established an artist colony, and formed a cult built around the worship of strange objects, among them his mistress. At one point he owned much of the town, and rented the homes to those he wanted under his wing. Then the main road was narrow and dangerous, the main street in town made of dirt, the homes lacking electricity and running water: today that has all changed. The road is wider; the main street is paved with asphalt, the homes modern with luxurious amenities, selling for half-a-million dollars and up.

The people are still nice. A woman with a typical Balearic Island straw basket over her shoulder, a recorder peeking out of the corner, smiled showing bad teeth, and tried to give directions. She wore a black beret with a red Mao star, and a black-check kafyiah around her neck. She’d been born and raised in Deya, so one assumes the odd types still populate the area. If one can find them among the tourists pouring out of busses and lining up to visit the home of Robert Graves; or sitting in expensive restaurants that are spread throughout the little village.

Pamplona has the image of an old Spanish town where every July 7th the bulls chase stupid macho types who frequently slip and are gored. Ernest Hemmingway made the town famous in his Spanish epic “The Sun Also Rises.” But the old town is only a fraction of the sprawling city, sort of a mini Barcelona. And except for a few die-hard cities, bull fighting seems to have fallen out of favor in Spain.

Madrid has a wonderful name and conjures up beautiful images, although most “hip” people today prefer Barcelona, for the Gaudi buildings, and the Joan Miro museum. Most overlook, or don’t know, that the famous Montjuic, that contains among other buildings the wonderful Miro museum, was the site of a prison where Franco’s fascists tortured their enemies, who were later buried in the nearby cemetery.

Guernica is one of the draws to Madrid. The dynamic Picasso painting depicts his anger and frustration with the carpet-bombing of the town of Guernica by Nazi planes, at the request of Franco who at the time was trying to curry favor with Hitler. Franco was also trying to intimidate any enemies who thought they could oppose him, using Germany’s might as a weapon. But the painting, in black and white, is like all great works of art, finely fitted and finished. Each part fits into the others, making the viewer thing about their integration, while accepting their place on the canvas.

In Bilbao the Guggenheim museum in the Basque country perhaps ironically rounds out the Jewish experience in Spain. Jews once tortured, imprisoned, expelled, are back: today the Guggenheim, built by a foundation originally Jewish, designed by Frank Ghery, also Jewish, is the magnet that brings visitors to the northern regions.

In the small Basque seaside town of Guetera, a Basque-born Catholic waiter at the portside Mayflower restaurant brags he has been to New York twice. “Are you Jewish?” he asks. “All of New York is Jewish.” He then goes on to tell about his favorite authors, Saul Bellow, Phillip Roth, Bernard Melamed, “And the Israelis, Grossman, Oz, Yoshua..”

Has Spain changed? “The Church, no one goes there,” said an innkeeper, a young bespectacled man, trained as an attorney. “That’s why you don’t see any priests. They’re just not important any more. Not since Franco died.” He stood at the door to his 15th century building, now a guesthouse, waved, and said, “Shalom.”