dimanche 31 décembre 2017

GRATEFUL FOR 2017 WITH ITS WONDERFUL JOURNEYS

I am recuperating nicely from the last trip in the tranquility of my sisters home in Miami, while she is away with her family on Caribbean cruise.
This last trip was typical of most of my trips in 2017.
Left USA on Japan Airlines F to Tokyo, connecting with Japan Airlines J to Singapore. Stayed at the Lounges till I could catch a Malaysian Airlines J flight to Kuala Lumpur. Welcomed as usual at the Double Tree Hotel at KL. a nice lunch with some friends. Facial by Anna and this time a hair cut by a bearded Chinese by the name of Andy. The trip from KL to Brussels was a bit tiresome, even though I tried to break it at Doha. KL to Doha on Qatar Airways J and then about 13 hours in Doha which I spent at Marriott Marquis Hotel and it was good to see my friends. The flight to Brussels was too short on Qatar Airways J. Brussels was very cold usually in the -2, -3 range and I couldn't get warm. I can't say I enjoyed being there. Was eager to get to Cochin. Leaving Europe felt like lifting a huge weight of your shoulder as if some cumbersome and unwanted burden was pushing you down. Cochin was delightful, spending time with friends and enjoying the food. Met some new people as well. Flight from Cochin to Doha was short on Qatar Airways J. Once again a short stay at the Hilton Doha, saying hello to some friends and the next morning a very long flight on Qatar Airways J to Miami.
Now waiting for the Big Moon, the Wolf Moon, the first of the two Big Moons of January 2018. To me, tonight is a continuation of the good year past so there are no new decisions or resolutions, just a prayer of thanks to my friends who have kept in touch with me and made this journey through life a pleasant one.
Some of my thanks for this wonderful year 2017 were due to :
Airline of the Year without any doubt Qatar Airways. I took about 30 long and medium haul flights on QR in 2017
The best convenient/comfortable/city visited was Doha (9 times, never as a destination but as a stop over )
Other cities visited more than FOUR times 
Cochin, India 
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Paris. France
Brussels, Belgium
Miami, Florida  which has always been close to my heart.
Remote places visited in 2017 include 
Easter Island  Rapa Nui in the Pacific 
Leticia  along the Amazon in Colombia
Iquitos along the Amazon in Peru
The country I most visited in 2017 was USA, because of my project with the American Indians 
Nebraska Iowa Oklahoma South Dakota Florida Wisconsin Minnesota Michigan 
Countries visited in 2017 most of them more than once 
USA
France
Belgium
India
Singapore
Malaysia
Cambodia 
Colombia
Brasil 
Chile 
Peru

The best country for me still remains CUBA.

samedi 30 décembre 2017

LISTS FOR 2018 TRAVEL AND MUSIC AVOID THE FIRST AND EMBRACE THE SECOND


Towards the end of the calendar year, popular travel magazines and websites begin to predict or adivine the best places to travel for the coming year, predicting that they would be the popular .
to me there is only one use for such list, it helps me avoid those places.
Here is one such list :
  • Mauritius. ...
  • Marrakesh, Morocco. ...
  • The Bahamas. ...
  • New Orleans, Louisiana. ...
  • Egypt. ...
  • Fiji. A beach at sunset in Fiji. ...
  • Archipelago Sea, Finland. An island near Helsinki, Finland. ...
  • Greenland. Homes on the island of Uummannaq, Greenland.
  • Copenhagen
  • I would miss not visiting Marrakech the coming year, but then again Marrakech was always a popular site and this year more so. 
I am sure the pundits at Lonely Planet would conjure up their own list, which I could use to avoid more places.
My plans for travel in 2018 would include 
Israel
Colombo 
Melbourne
Easter Island
The Amazon
and the other usual culprits which cannot be considered as Travel but rather than homecoming! 
But when the papers, journals and websites publish lists of music to listen to, I pay close attention as this is the time to learn about great musicians from other countries.
This past year, I discovered Revivo Project from Israel and today I downloaded a video of Yasmine Hamdan, a Lebanese singer who lives in Paris.
Some new artists I am hoping to listen soon are:
Oumou Sangare  Mali, I have listened to her music but she has an album, Mogoya

Songhoy Blues from Mali
While listening to Iceland Symphony Orchestra, I discovered a group called Hjaltalin.. just amazing. It shows how much more music to discover!

ah! the pleasures of living..
Talking about travel, my last trip to Cochin was absolutely the best, I cant tell you what happened, I did not do any sightseeing except walk around the familiar streets, but did spend an exceptional day with Friends from Cochin.

There is yet another list travel magazines put out knowing fully well that 99% of the Americans would neither have the money nor the time and more tragically no inclination to do so.
Travel and Leisure had such a list, here is a sampler
Marine life in Madagascar
Humpback whales in Ningaloo Reef
Luxury train trips in Kyushu
It says then many of them are aimed at the Millenials, adding the sad statistic: 48% of the Millenials (the least interesting generation to come) do not take all their vacation days.. Such a tragedy!
At least we don't have to avoid their destinations, they just don't travel.

May our paths cross during 2018!


MASS CONVERSIONS OF CHRISTIANS INTO JUDAISM : THREE CASE HISTORIES

While there has been historical references of mass conversions to Judaism, they have been extremely rare. All of us are aware of the King of Khuzars/Khazars who converted and his courtesans who followed. There was a group of farmers who were descended from a long line of christians and reading their bibles dutifully felt that the Mosaic tradition was truest, they lived along the Caspian Sea.
I am not talking about lost tribes and their longing to return. My interest has always been jews surviving in extreme isolation and not those who "discover" their judaism. Most scientific thought would support that having Middle Eastern genes do not constitute a Jewish ancestry, such as the claims of Lemba in Zimbabwe who have their majority genes from Africa. 
I am talking about Christians who are religious who convert their practises into the Jewish one, en masse, usually at the behest of some charismatic preacher. I know of two such communities, one in Erode in Tamilnadu in India and the other in Medellin, Colombia. Their followers number in the thousands and they are fervently religious.
Jews of Cochin, like Jews of Lithuania or Arab countries have a great admixture of local genes , have an unbroken history going back at least 1100 years . The last remaining jew of that community in Cochin is Elias and he recently accepted an invitation to visit the Erode Community. He was well received by them and he was suitably impressed with the observance of jewish law among the people in the community.
In this remarkable photo, you see from left to right, the leader of the community in Erode, Tamil Nadu. Sitting next to him is Abraham Ben Hur, a Nasrani from Wayanad, Kerala who is an expert on the Jewish Origins of the Indian people and his latest book is on the Lost tribes of Israel. Next to him, is the last jew of Cochin, Elias Babu. I maintain that the Cochin jews, especially those who arrived before the 16th century have Yemeni and Iraqi origins. Just look at the man sitting at the extreme right. He is an Israeli of Yemenite Origin.
Jewish identity is a complex matter. Religion while remaining central is not essential for a Jewish identity and those new comers who are identifying with Jewish religion only will have a difficult time to understand the psychological aspects of Jewish Survival and that too with profound success.

Even in Israel only 22 per cent of the Jewish population is religious and the figures would be lower in the western countries with large jewish populations (namely USA France UK and Argentina). In the USA, only about one in ten or 10 per cent of the Jews are Orthodox or religiously obervant, as understood by non jews. Majority of Jews identify themselves as Jews but only ten percent follow the strict religious traditions.
So, the belief that being religious and being well off has no ground. Jews are the best educated group in the USA and as such are financially better off. It is interesting to note that Hindu migrants from India are much better educated than Muslim migrants from the Subcontinent and it shows in their income distribution.
I will follow with great interest the development of the Erode Community
I did not say much about the third christian community which converted into Jewish practice. They are in Uganda and their interesting history would make a blog of its own.

WHY HAPPY NEW YEAR 2018, WHY NOT, GRATEFUL FOR AN EVENTFUL 2017

Some one from Cuba: I am supposed to pretend to be happy at this time of the year!
Advertisements from Malaysia to Qatar to Miami all inviting you to have a GOOD TIME on the evening of the 31st for a few hours .
What about the rest of the year 2017?
It has been such a good year ,2017, each year trying to do their best to become the best year of your life..
This has been such a good year..

Cuba firmly in my heart with some new players entering and cementing of old friendships.
A firm good bye to Europe after 12 years of uncomfortable and at times miserable, especially in France, visits. 
Firming of friendships in Miami, especially with M@G.
Closeness with UmonHon tribe of Nebraska
New countries  Qatar and some innocent friendships 
Travel Travel Travel North and South America, Europe, Middle East, Asia.
More travels within the USA meeting wonderful people in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan
Multiple visits of friends to La Habana. Meeting of Cuban scientists in Barranquilla.


December coincided with a gift of a book by Sadhguru by a close friend in KL, then enjoying reading it, a wonderful visit to Cochin, possibly the best so far and an incredible tranquility to the heart!
So the best present for 2018 came in 2017, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

All is well in the life of this wandering Jew.
Grateful for a wonderful 2017.
Learning more about our people wherever they are and listening to their history through words and songs, becoming acquainted with names like Medioni and Boniche..and of course Enrico Macias..
Je suis juif espagnol
je suis grec armenien
but we are also Syrian, Yemeni, Iranian
all those people who do not have a voice or not heard 
including the 900 000 jews kicked out of Arab Countries!

ACTIONS PROVE WHO SOMEONE IS, WORDS JUST PROVE WHO THEY WANT TO BE

ONE of the more significant events of 2017 has been the official acknowledgement of Jerusalem as Israel's eternal capital.
Most of the world agree, based on historical facts, that Jerusalem predated Islam by centuries, has been the capital of Israel for ever and it is as important to the Jews as Mecca and Medina to the Muslims. 
The Muslim world was up in arms! Remember the sophistication of the Malaysian MPs who are debating on the length of the skirts of Air Asia Flight attendants? Egyptian gunmen murdering Copts at worship? Iranians voicing their dislike of the clerics?
Why do they hate us, Jacobo Timmerman, the argentine born writer asked his mother when he was young. His erudite mother replied: They hate us because they don't know us!
Bernard Lewis has repeatedly said: Societies that do not treat women freedom and treat them as equals and those who treat the minorities among them in an oppressive and brutal fashion, are bound to lag behind in catching up with the rest of the world!
This action of recognizing tacitly what has been a fact for 3000 years demonstrated an ignorance and also the division between the educated and not so well informed. The debate about al Aqsa mosque which was built long after the death of Mohammed, on the site of a jewish holy site, was once again surfaced. It is debated and supported that the current day mosque in Jerusalem is not the mosque referred to in the Koran.
Yogic philosophy stresses that of all the structural defects that brings us unhappiness, the strongest and most fundamental one is IGNORANCE. Propaganda is not knowledge, it will be conceived as knowledge when there is no freedom of expression or intolerance to diversity of opinion.
Yerushalayim Shel Zahav
Jersualem of Gold 
If I forget thee, oh Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its cunning.
La Shanah Ha ba'ah b' Yerushalayim
בשנה הבאה בירושלים
These are millennial old prayers of the Jewish people!

May all the human beings be allowed the right to become enlightened, knowledgeable, understand intolerance and avoid it, embrace diversity
To begin with:
we are ONE עם ישראל

IRAN IN MY HEART : LET US LISTEN TO THE PEOPLE OF IRAN

One of the first countries I became aware as a child for its culture and literature was IRAN/Persia. The fact that my father had spent some time in Abadan may have influenced it as well.
Over the years I had kept abreast of what is happening in Iran. As a Jew, it is not advisable for me to travel to Iran (nor to Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for that matter) and I lament the fact that I cannot enjoy Iran to the fullest. Fortunately, during a period of two years, a good friend of mine from Teheran and I met twice in KL and twice in London, and the exchange of information, information and affection was intense and mutually beneficial.
There is no hatred between Jews and Iranians and an effort to convey this message to the Iranians was very well received.
here is the video clip of every day Israelis saying I love you to Iran
It becomes all the more relevant now that Iran is engaged in proxy war with Saudi Arabia by supporting Shia militants in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen. There is a simmering rivalry between these two entities which paradoxically have benefited women as they want to show to each other who is less conservative than the other. Iran for the first time allowed women to watch a sports event. (men were barred. which centuries are the clerics living in?).. oh vow..
The Iranians are the most educated of all in the Muslim world, Turkey included and you can only suppress them by force for so long, it is amazing that the Clerics have survived so long, since 1979 as I do not get the feeling that they do not have the popular support. As my friend said to me: I am glad they taught me Islam and now I am in the west  I can honestly reject it.
The current discontent is just the tip fo the iceberg, it wont be long until Iran and its educated, sophisticated population flare far beyond military might to suppress it. The Pen and now Internet is mightier than the sword and nooses of the Oppressors!
From BBC:

What is behind the unrest?

The protests were initially against economic conditions and corruption but appear to have turned political.
Slogans have been chanted against not just Mr Rouhani but Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and clerical rule in general.
Demonstrators were reportedly heard yelling slogans like "The people are begging, the clerics act like God". Protests have even been held in Qom, a holy city home to powerful clerics.
There is also anger at Iran's interventions abroad. In Mashhad, some chanted "not Gaza, not Lebanon, my life for Iran", a reference to what protesters say is the administration's focus on foreign rather than domestic issues.
Other demonstrators chanted "leave Syria, think about us" in videos posted online. Iran is a key provider of military support to the government of Bashar al-Assad in Syria.
It is also accused of providing arms to Houthi rebels fighting a Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, which it denies, and is an ally of Lebanon's powerful Shia movement Hezbollah.
I wish all the best and good luck in the world to my Iranian brothers and sisters and I too want to join the Israelis to tell them:
I love you Iran, I love you Iranians 

vendredi 29 décembre 2017

QATAR AIRWAYS DOHA TO MIAMI QT 777 ON A BOEING 777-300 ER 28.12.2017

The sun rises early in the desert and I wanted to get to the airport early enough for the long flight from Doha to Miami, a distance of nearly 10 000 km, covered in 16 hours.


 Ms MD from Sri Lanka, whom I had known from previous check-ins, was a good omen for a pleasant journey that awaited me. It is always a calm feeling to begin a long journey with pleasant interactions such as thing one with the sweet young lady, who has a name which means Honey.
 The first ever friend that I made with QR was on my first stopover/transit in Doha in 2012. AAT is from Dimbulla in Sri Lanka and he and I have been friends ever since and as luck would have it, he was at Al Mourjan Lounge. Without my even asking, as he knew what I liked to eat, food began arriving at my table. AAT uses his position at QR and takes advantage of trips to see the world: he has been to Tbilisi, Fort Cochin in addition to visits home. 
When my younger brother joins me on my next trip, AAT would organize our stay in Sri Lanka.

 I have ran into AAT on various occasions at Al Mourjan over the years even without making prior arrangements. Things happen for a reason, say the native Americans
 Psychologiaclly preparing for long trips is very important, otherwise you would feel anxious about the time not passing. My own way is to utitlize the time for the benefit of my mind and brain, as I have 16 hours and be as pleasant as possible to the onboard staff as well as enjoy slowly over the course of the flight various delicacies offered by QR 
Normally I begin with a glass of Larsen Champagne but I was adjusting to the Miami time and wanted the champagne later..
\\\
 Falafel wrap with Tahina, rocket salad and mint yoghurt
Selection of two indulgent individual desserts
 Most people are busy settling into their seats so they dont pay attention to the Boarding music . A few months ago QR changed it and it is now Dan Al Fardan's composition that greets you. She is a Qatari
 Good opportunity to read New York Times, which is the best newspaper in the world. An interesting article on how leading Nutrition researchers in Malaysia collude with Food companies and the result? Malaysia is the fattest country in Asia. They do not realize that in a few years time, half the population would be dying of Diabetes, a disease so easily prevented: of course there is no room for Dunkin Donuts, Krispy Kreme and Milo if you want to avoid Diabetes and be faithful to your gene and eat like your grandmother!
 Dozing on and off, reading Sadhguru's book on Inner Engineering, which is an excellent and I recommend it to one and all, so that you can learn ways to improve your inner self and find yourself happier than ever before. I enjoy when the flight is over Iceland and Greenland as these islands conjure up my imagination!
 Smoked Salmon and cream cheese roulade, caperberrries and confit tomatoes
 I really enjoyed my main meal as I am a fan of Japanese meal and it reminded me of the various visits to Japan to study their nutrition: the best in the world 
 Tofu in Panko bread crumbs with curry sauce. Japanese rice (tastes different from other asian rice) with edamame beans and mushrooms
 I normally dont eat desserts but on board QR is an exception. White chocolate and mango mousse cake.
 Passing over Greenland. The flight was windy and turbulent and when I spoke to the First officer he said it is common this time of the year. Over Greenland and northeastern Canada the turbulence was heavy. I dont enjoy reading or eating when the flight hits turbulent.
Even the Karak Cardamon tea fails to soothe me.
 Just before landing the Thai and Hungarian cabin crew offered a snack which I graciously accepted: a selection of what looked like arab savouries
I made friends with Ms J from India who is the Chef d'Cabine. Imagine how hard these Cabin Crew work to please the passengers and also to maintain the highest levels of Service QR is known for! She said she got up at 3 am to get ready to go to the airport at 5 am and by the time they get to the hotel in Miami, they would have been working for 22 hours, but they get a 5-6 hour break in between when they go to rest and refresh themselves up. It is inredible they always look their best, act their best and give their best. Kudos HE Al Bakr, the CEO, whose personal imprint can be seen in all aspects of passenger care of this 2018 Business Traveller Airline of the Year: well deserved award and I am glad that I have made many friends who are part of the reason why QR is so good!
Looking forward to my next long haul QR flight which would be to CMB!

jeudi 28 décembre 2017

QATAR AIRWAYS COCHIN TO DOHA: THE USUAL EXCELLENCE

 COCHIN has a new International Terminal and the Earth Lodge to go with it. Nice to see the airports in India getting decent lounges.
 Good Bye Kerala Good Bye Idli and Uppuma and Dosai 


 But welcome to warm towels and Champagne aboard Qatar Airways. I am becoming addicted to the hospitality of their staff
 I am very content to be alone, reading and writing and enjoying the good care of the Qatar Airways Staff
 Le Chef d Cabine was from India and the Cabin attendant was from Penang, QR will soon start direct flights to Penang.


 I genuinely felt good when the flight was over OMAN
 How do they maintain such cheerful attitudes? 






SHORT BREAK IN DOHA QATAR

Arrival at Doha is always pleasant. The immigration and customs are a breeze and soon after an Uber driver appears who brings you to your destination. At the hotel you are well looked after, if they have seen you once before, they are friendlier than ever.
 The infrastructure is very good in Doha.

 I walked over to the Marriott to say Hello to my friends from previous stay and I couldnt get over how sweet they were.
 Friends from Calcutta, Manila and Dharan in Nepal.
 Needless to say I support Sheikh Tamim and Qatar in their conflict with their neighbours. I want Al Jazeera to know that some Jews do support the Sheikh!
 It was good to catch the reflection of me onto the Shangri La hotel board, it appears double because of the light from various vehicles projected on to me.
 I had just arrived from Cochin on a Qatar Airways flight and food was not the priority in my mind but at the Executive Lounge of Hilton Hotel, the oferings were healthy and delicious
Of course my friends at the Lounge looked after me well!While I had met the three filipina ladies, it was good to meet the new addition from Uganda.

mardi 26 décembre 2017

COCHIN JEWS 2018


The Internationally known Indian photographer, Raghu Rai, was in the Cochin Synagogue (Kadavumbagam) doing what he does best, being the protege of Henri Cartier-Bresson!
He wanted to document Cochin Jews 2018!