Friday, October 26, 2012

Well-Aged Geography

You can be as old as you look, feel, speak, and think.  You can also be as old as you remember geography.

I happen (a matter of accident of course) to be in my early 50’s.  I remember when the USSR invaded Czechoslovakia and controlled East Germany, whose major enemy was West Germany, the capital of which was in Bonn.  Of course, the Soviet fleet was based in Leningrad.  Peking was the capital of Russia’s major rival, China. At the same time, there was an interesting war going down in Rhodesia, which basically produced everything internally because no one would trade with a racist regime.  As for Asia, one of the poorest countries that never got into the news was Burma.

Oh, how things change, today the Russian Federation would never think of invading the Czech Republic , not the mention Slovakia, a separate entity.  The Germanies have been reunited with Berlin as its capital.  People take cruises to see Saint Petersburg and fly to Beijing.  Myanmar gets into the news as one of the poorest and most repressive countries in the world.  As for Botswana, aside from occasional government changes, who in Europe and the United States reads about it, although I have heard that it is a beautiful country and worth visiting.

On the bright side, even if your hair is grey or non-existent and your skin is no longer baby-like, if you know that going to Croatia is not a trip to Yugoslavia and the Georgia Republic is not the home of Jimmy Carter, you are still young.  It could be worse:  you could think the capital of Germany is Weimar!  That would be a real grandfather clause.

Friday, October 19, 2012

New Words I like

On my recent family visit in L.A, I encountered two words that tickled my fancy.  They were actually incredibly sounding of combinations of common words.  Special circumstances brought these odd couples together, creating the need for a new catchy phrase.  Of course, the market provided the answer, even I don’t know who exactly came up with the phrase.

The first one appeared in this title “Teenagers who sext are more likely to get into trouble.”  The term “sext” combines text with sex.  I assume it means to send erotic messages to your chat partner.  I see the term in Hebrew is סקסמס, a term that combines לסמס  pronounced lesemes and means to send SMS messages and סקס  pronounced sex, which means what it means.  I imagine that in French would be envoyer un sexto.  By the way, nothing came up when I googled that term.  So, all of those are sexting, sexemsesing or sending sextos, you should watch out!

The other term is Carmagendon , actually Carmagendon II as this is the second time this event occurred.  Specifically, it was necessary to close a section of the main north-south freeway in LA, the 405, because of bridge destruction (no spelling error), for almost two days (a weekend).  The 405 normally resembles a parking lot from 8 in the morning to 8 at night as we witnessed from the comfort  of our hotel window.  So, the necessity of closing this pass was considered such a local disaster that the upcoming Carmaggendon was the main news item for more than two weeks. 

Of course, possibly due to the all of the talks of traffic jams and alternative ways, most Angelinos stayed home.  Disaster was avoided, with many children expected to enter this world in nine months.  Still, the combination of car and Armageddon is delightful.

I would like to hear more new hybrids arising to fill the need for the right term at the right time.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Separate But Not Equal?

What a difference an ocean can make!  Ask the British and the Americans, who formally speak the same language.   Alas, the same is for Judaism.  Israelis, even not religious ones, and Americans view practicing their religion in a different light.

For Israelis, Ben Gurion’s “temporary” status quo agreement with the ultra-Orthodox in Israel, which gave them exemption from army service, had other consequences.  The only form of Judaism that is regarded as proper is orthodox, somewhere according to the practices of the national-Religious vein.  This means keeping kosher, separate men and women in synagogues, and set standards of “modesty”, i.e. women keeping their knees and elbows covered, to mention just a few items.  Most Israelis, including the most anti-religious ones, accept this as the only way to practice Judaism if you are going to do so at all.  Only in 2012 has the government been forced to recognize non-orthodox rabbis.  So, in Israel, all is clear, even if often ignored.

By contrast, the United States is the land of skepticism and variety.   In a recent poll, the second largest religious “sect” is the group of people who have doubts about religion (but not about god, to be precise).  The Pope and the protestant preachers continue to scream at their wayward flocks for failing to toe the line.  Jews are not exempt.  The vast majority of American Jews is not orthodox, but instead conservative or reform, whatever that means.  Therefore, families sit together with koshrut being often partial, if kept at all.  (Granted, many American Jews keep kosher homes.)  As for modesty, well, during my recent trip to L.A., the second largest Jewish concentration in the United States, I happened to walk by the nearby synagogue on Yom Kippur.  The men wore suits and ties.  As for the ladies of all ages, they were tastefully dressed for the most part, but many were showing knees and elbows, if not more.  My Israeli-born partner was a bit shocked and upset by this.  She remarked:  “How can they wear that to the synagogue?”  My comment that not everybody shared her values was not comprehended.  The issue of a different but still acceptable standard of modesty was beyond her grasp.  (To her credit, she could understand why people in L.A. drive to the synagogue on Yom Kippur.)

As an American Jew who has lived in Israel for so long, I explain the difference in perspective to the general attitude of skepticism in the United States.  In my opinion, most of the people at the LA Yom Kippur services do not actually “buy” the rules of Judaism, meaning they fundamentally think they are bubbameisis (old wives’ tales), but agree to pretend on Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, and Pesach in order to maintain some form of being Jewish.  By contrast, most Israelis believe that the Halacha, the Jewish guide to proper practices, is serious business, even if many openly ignore it.   Whether the two practices are equal, I choose to take the Fifth Amendment.

P.S. My apologies for the long break in writing.  I was on a family visit and then had to recover from it.