Three Stories in yesterday’s Israeli Press
caught my eye:
1. A video
showing an Israeli Member of Parliament (blue shirt) - with the singing support of his orthodox backup
band - going berserk in the Arab part of Jerusalem.
2. The call of the Jerusalem’s mayor –
following various stabbing events - for people to carry arms when they leave
their homes in Jerusalem.
3. The Israeli government’s decision to farm
out its overseas propaganda work to an American advertising agency. It probably
makes sense: Advertisers that try to convince us to smoke cancer producing
cigarettes, should also be good at convincing the world that Israel is a good
tourist destination? Or just extreme adventure holidays? Perhaps even a country
Queen Rania of Jordan has just called on Europe
not to turn its back on Syrian refugees. My first thought was that the
Jordanian queen should have addressed her plea to the more logical direction of
the Gulf states. After all, they are fellow Arabs, fellow Muslims and they are
And then I remembered reading some time ago that
the Gulf states (Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar and Kuwait) had set up a US$ 5
billion fund that invests in capital projects in Jordan …
The Queen of Jordan
is perhaps not really free to talk frankly to Saudi Arabia. Much easier to tell
the Europeans what to do. And yet, we should not forget that Jordan itself has been bearing much if the burden (like Turkey), having had to take in great numbers of Syrian refugees: more than 600 thousand in Jordan and almost two million in Turkey.
There is good sturgeon to be found in many
countries, often producing the most wonderful caviar.
For some reason the Scots
are going wild over a local sturgeon: a recent poll has shown that Scotland’s
First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon’s popularity continues to rise. Sadly, there’s
nothing like blatant nationalism to boost popularity.
Amazingly, Sturgeon whines about the fact
that the Scottish electorate voted with their heads and not with their hearts: “If we’d asked people just to
vote for what was in their hearts we’d have won a majority. Where we lost was
in the head.”She toounderstands that
voting for separation is not a clever idea. But, Sturgeon and her party are
obsessed with separation and – having lost last year’s referendum – she already
is talking about a new referendum.
Just back from a short visit to Armenia and
Georgia. There is probably not much one can do to provide 100 per cent
protection from Montezuma’s revenge, which I caught in Tbilisi, on the last day
of the trip.I would, however,
wish a heavy dose of the same revenge on the Lufthansa pilots, whose union
called a strike on the very day we were meant to fly back.
Something must and can be done about the
outrageous conduct of Lufthansa pilots; This was their 13th strike in
the last 18 months. These German pilots, terrorise their employer as well as
the wide air-travelling population, by calling short strikes with extreme short
notice to prevent any planning of alternatives.
This is an abuse of the important right to
strike by a bunch of high earning fat cats, and German politicians are doing
nothing about it. At a time when Europe is cracking under the burden of an
enormous refugee crisis, the best-paid pilots in the whole of Europe want more
Do you know a Lufthansa pilot, or someone
who knows a Lufthansa pilot? Tell them how despicable they are. (No need to
invite the pilot for dinner; let them eat alone. A phone call will do.)
For the flight to Erevan, we flew with
Austrian Airlines who sometimes seem to almost monopolise the Eastern European routes. (I recently also flew with them to Romania.) If possible, this is an airline to
avoid. You get almost no food on their flights. They are an unfriendly,
arrogant lot, who probably think that Austria still owns the Austro-Hungarian
On the other hand, Turkish Airlines, which –
because of the Lufthansa strike - flew us from Tbilisi via Istanbul, was a nice
surprise. For a second, it sounded weird when the voice from the cockpit was a
rough sounding Turkish-speaking male. But, it was the pilot and not, as the lady who sat next to me thought, a high-jacker. On both flights, the planes were new,
spacious with attractive interiors. The service was very friendly; they seem to
have more cabin staff than other airlines have these days. The food was good. I
would definitely fly them again.
Today is the 100th birthday of my
mother’s first cousin, Germaine Davys. Germaine was murdered in 1944, as she –
according to an eyewitness – tried to flee from Auschwitz. She was born in
Bucharest, had apparently been an active youth leader in the communist cell in
Bucharest before leaving for Paris to study for her doctorate in philosophy at
In 1942, she was arrested by the French
police, who at the behest of the German authorities rounded up Jews and
delivered them to the SS for deportation to Auschwitz.
Her mother, my great-aunt Feli, told me how
for years, whenever she heard steps in the Garden, she would instinctively look
out hoping that it was Germaine who had survived and come back.
This portrait of Germaine
hung in my
great-aunt Feli’s small flat in Tel Aviv.
and Isolde in Bayreuth, there was Figaro
in Salzburg and last night Evgeny Onegin
(with the great Anna Netrebko as Tatyana) in Munich. The week will end with Norma (Cecilia Bartoli) in Salzburg.
BUT, someone must put an end to all these
tiresome directors who force their irritating productions on the opera loving
public. A difficult-to-pronounce and no-reason-to-remember named director
turned Evgeny Onegin into a gay plot
taking place in an unclear time and place that seemed like a workers’ holiday
resort in the Soviet Union. Netrebko was wonderful, even if you occasionally had
to close your eyes.
Back from Bayreuth, the Wagner temple, where
worshippers of Wagner flock for their annual ritual. The quality of the opera
productions in Bayreuth has been deteriorating for years – a not untypical
outcome of a family run business, in which the main criterion for leadership is
being a descendant of the founder, in this case of Richard Wagner.
There was special anticipation this year, for
the opening night was a new production of Tristan
und Isolde, directed by the now sole director of the Wagner Festival, great
granddaughter of Richard W, Katharina Wagner. In true Nibelungen style,
Katharina got rid of her co-director and half-sister Eva. Eva has not been
killed but rumour has it that she is not permitted to tread the “Green Hill”,
i.e., the temple grounds.
The production had some quirky und
unnecessary ideas. Unfortunately, most of the time, the stage was under lit,
and it was hard to impossible to distinguish facial expressions and mimicry.
This would point to Katharina’s lack of professionalism. But, all-in-all, it was
fairly safe, which should ensure Katharina’s acceptance by the Wagnerians.
The evening’s real disappointment – to my
mind - was the great Wagner and Strauss specialist, conductor Christian
Thielemann. In interviews he explained how the music had drug-like impact on
the senses, that it could in fact be life threatening. It didn’t. The second
and third acts of Tristan und Isolde,
in which one normally gets goose bumps, left my skin in peace. But, Wagnerians
love their Thilemann, who has so clearly tied his flag to the Bayreuth (“a
house to which my heart is bound”). He is indeed a very gifted conductor, whatever
his other failings may be and the singing (except perhaps that of last minute
cast change Isolde) was very good.
Thus, the druids of the Wagner Temple, had a
good opening shot for this year’s events.