The Little Engine That Couldn’t

Some people have this knack of finding ways to profit from other people’s woes and sorrows. Here’s a case in point (taken from an article in The New York Times). There were two consortiums eagerly bidding to acquire the 5,500 artifacts that have been recovered from the wreckage of the Titanic. One of the consortiums included a number of British museums, the National Geographic Society, and the film-maker James Cameron. You might have thought that with that fire-power they would be sure to win, but no, they were only able to come up with $19.2 million. The other consortium, three hedge funds that none of us have ever heard of, was able to raise $19.5 million. So they will be the proud owners of, among other trophies, “a bowler hat, the crusty leather folds of a once-sumptuous Gladstone bag and the dark, sleek curves of a bronze angel that graced the post of a staircase.” Plus a collection of marbles, the playthings of children who didn’t quite make it out alive.  Continue reading

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The Hagim — 2018

The Tiny Man with the Numbers on His Arm

I rarely use my articles as an excuse to take my readers on a stroll down Memory Lane, but once in a while, I can’t help myself.  This year, if you remember, Rosh Hashana began on a Sunday night. So you can imagine what the Machane Yehuda shuk in Jerusalem would have been like the Thursday before – probably like your market, wherever you are. I had done as much of my shopping as I could in advance, but there’s always something you need at the last minute. Right?  The main item for me was a few pieces of salmon because there’s no way we’re going to do four ‘meat’ meals over the two-day holiday. Continue reading

Four Episodes

PART ONE

(The spatula and the screwdriver)

A long time ago (at least by Israeli standards) the cranes came and deposited pre-fab concrete slabs (called ‘tromi’), which, when assembled, formed all the buildings in Klei Shir, our neighborhood in Ma’ale Adumim. Each block of buildings was given over to a different contractor, and each block has a somewhat different look to it. Whoever designed the buildings we live in had the whimsical idea of putting large picture window in each apartment, measuring about 80” by 20,” with an arched window on top of that.

The window gives us a rather wide view, just not the hills to the east of Jerusalem, which you would see from the other side of our apartment. Looking out from our dairy kitchen, we get a great view of the parking lot. There’s the decrepit block of buildings on the other side (slated to be torn down and rebuilt any moment now for the last several years), the parking lot itself with the delivery trucks supplying the few local stores, the mail boxes, and the recycling area. On a more positive note, we can see the tops of the trees outside our building, with all the birds that come and go. Down below are the dozen or so street cats that hang around our building because Lidia on the ground floor feeds them (I provide a bowl of water every morning). We are also able to people-watch, keeping tabs on everyone who comes in and out of our building or just passes by. Continue reading

Death By Garbage

Barbara and I have been to India and had the chance to see with our own eyes the misery and squalor that this article from The New York Times describes, but even so, it is almost impossible to imagine how a young man, living near New Delhi, can suffer a death swallowed up by garbage. I often try to make a comparison between their country, with its enormous land mass and population (well over a billion people), and tiny Israel (the size of New Jersey or Greater London, smaller than the Kruger National Park in South Africa), with our eight million people. What do the two countries have in common? For one thing, both were freed from British occupation at about the same time, with a lot of bloodshed, each given the chance to go its own way. Would it be wrong of me to brag a little and suggest that we’ve made a little more of our opportunity than the behemoth northeast of us? Perhaps a polite way to delicately describe some of the differences would be write about a trip we were on recently, (May 7-10, 2018) to be precise. Continue reading

The Folks Who Live on the Hill

Here’s what was written on the flyer, meant to attract the attention of anyone who might be remotely interested: “Come, join us in what promises to be yet another, very worthwhile, enjoyable & meaningful experience in this whole vitally strategic, gorgeous area in a full-day tiyul during Pesach. By our very visit, we bring chizuk and encouragement to the wonderful people who are holding on to our Precious Land, at the same time as seeing some of the “off-the-beaten-track” parts of our Beloved Land with which we would otherwise be unacquainted.” I should probably mention that the “whole, vitally strategic, gorgeous area” under consideration was the Shomron a/k/a Samaria, the West Bank, the “Occupied Territories,” depending on whose narrative you’re tuned into. Continue reading

The Remains in a Day

Another post that was aging gracefully – unpublished – in my computer.

In a number of conversations with random friends during the week before we went, the topic of our next tiyul was raised, as in: “Where are you going this time?” The answer I repeated was, more or less, “We’re going to the archaeological site in Beit Shean and then to some kibbutz whose name I don’t remember where they do something interesting with agriculture.

Beit Shean: that was supposed to be the hook, the reason we were attracted in the first place. Not the modern-day Beit Shean, a development town with little going for it, one of the out-of-the-way places where Ben Gurion dumped many of the refugees from North Africa who fled to Israel in the early 1950’s. The one you hurriedly pass through on your way north or south through the Jordan Valley. The tiyul was to the other Beit Shean, the Beit Shean within Beit Shean, the national park that contains what remains of several thousand years of civilization, most importantly, the excavations of the Roman city named Scythopolis. That Beit Shean! Continue reading

There’s No Akko-unting…

Would anyone mind if I posted an older article, one that I began over the summer, but, for reasons I won’t bore you with, never was able to complete? If not, here goes:

The late Alice Trillin, the wife of the (still-living) humorist Calvin Trillin, has never gotten the recognition she deserves for formulating and codifying an economic principle we all more or less understand intuitively. It goes something like this: Let us suppose that she had considered purchasing a new living room set, one that cost $10,000, money they didn’t have. And then she changed her mind for whatever reason. The $10,000 that she had saved by keeping her old furniture for another year was now available as actual cash, so she reasoned, for the vacation get-away that they previously could never have afforded.  What an amazing discovery! How the Nobel committee has overlooked her contribution to economic theory is a mystery to me.

What does this any of this have to do with affairs in the Casden household? Please read on and all will be revealed. Continue reading