Thursday, March 25, 2010


It's a letter, a dash and a few numbers ... Written in black ink.

Every time I take a glimpse at it, my stomach churns and I shiver slightly. I turn my head. Madame Sarah asks me a question, "Do you speak Spanish?" "No, I answer," as my head turns and catches a glimpse of A-24430 again. I look at her. She's almost 90 now. Still strong, still glowing of life despite her health issues. She amazes me. What a phenomenal testament to the will of man to live, to survive, to march on.

At 22, her world - as well as that of European Jewry - was viciously attacked. Torn away from her home in Rhodes and put through a journey to hell - a journey to Auschwitz. She was given a letter. A dash. A few numbers. She asks and then demands that my wife and I have a drink. We oblige as she offers a wrapped present to Nissim. His curiosity peaks and he approaches her. He gets a toy car. She looks at me and compliments me on my articles for the community's magazine. I look at it again - she's been carrying it for almost 68 years now. Why? How? Never again? A quick peak at my watch and the questions stop twirling around my head, it's time for mincha & arvit, "We need to go, we'll see you soon Madame Sarah." I pick up Nissim, and after Tals says her goodbye, I lean over and kiss Madame Sarah goodbye. A privilege and a lesson.

A few days ago, an elderly Jew started interacting with Nissim at Checkers (A large South African supermarket chain). After a few seconds, he turned to Tals and said, "I hope he doesn't see what my eyes had to see." His words gave me chills - I hope the old man was right.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Happy Passover

Another day, another really bad road sign in Israel. Oh well, at least this one isn't dirty! (h/t to Yaakov)

On that note ... I hope everyone has a happy & kosher Passover, חג שמח וכשר לכולם

... and last thing (honest) ... Big mazal tov goes out to my sister in law, Odelia, who just got engaged to Netanel over the weekend in London (yes, in London ... If you don't get the joke, you probably don't watch Friends enough).

Monday, March 22, 2010


Before today's update, here's a pic of Nissim we took yesterday with the one armed 2010 World Cup mascot, Zakumi:

Back to the present ... My cousins (Simone & Francois) took us on a road trip to Gordon's Bay, Betty's Bay & Hermanus, a prime spot to see whales. We picked a gorgeous day for the trip that even had Nissim wearing a hat, something he usually hates to do:

The first pit stop gave us the beautiful view facing Gordon's Bay. Quite magnificent really, but I'll let the pics do the talking:

As we were passing Betty's Bay, I saw a penguin sign and suggested we go check it out. We were not disappointed as we saw a handful of African penguins (while I took quite a few pictures, the below is the best one - Nissim spent a few minutes chatting up the poor penguin as it was trying to sleep) and even a few dassies (Afrikaans for Hyrax), with one trying (& luckily failing) to get intimate with my camera:

When we got to Hermanus, we were hoping to spot a few whales. Unfortunately, as is evident by the Blog's title, we were only watching. A whale never came into the equation ... Well, at least not a 'real' one.

As Nissim was none too happy about this, we decided to lessen the disappointment by giving him a few licks of a Rolo ice cream bar ... Kid was happy, parents were happy, cousins were happy ... A fun day.


Saturday, March 20, 2010

Full Circle

My first impressions of Johannesburg's airport were only positive. Helpful and friendly staff eager to help whenever approached. Lots of helpful signs & footballs and well, a clean floor for Nissim to crawl around on:


It was slightly odd to walk around Nonna's apartment again. It's the same place it was some ten years ago when my sister, father & I came for a visit to be at my late Nonnou's tombstone unveiling. I said my good bye to Nonnou Nissim that time - he was a man I respected deeply and loved. This time, I returned with my wife and my Nissim. The cycle continues.

Though I spent so little time living in Cape Town throughout my life, it's the only place I'd call home if I wasn't so attached to Israel. I've missed it. The warmth, the memories ... and the beautiful view.


On Friday morning, I took Talya for a walk on Sea Point's beach front. Talk about memories. We walked by the Pavilion (the pool where I used to fling myself off the 10 meter high diving board), the ice cream shop (where Tova & I used to get caramel dipped vanilla ice cream cones), the playgrounds (which my cousins and I used to frequent, and now Nissim can enjoy too!), the beach (sorry Tov, couldn't find one of those shells we used to go hunting for) and a quick stop at 2 Tobi Lodge on Oliver Road, where my Gramps & late Gran lived. Sheesh ... Life moves on, but at least the memories stay ...


It's been a lot of fun to see Nonna interacting with her great grandson. After a long frown at her when she welcomed us to her building, Nissim warmed up to her and cannot stop saying her name. The best 80th birthday present we could have given her! ... רק בשמחות


It's great to eat delicious chopped herring again (part of the Saturday kiddush offered by the Sefardi synagogue). Not to mention bourekitas and reshikas ... Ahhh Spangole delicacies ... Next on the craving list: Sparletta's Cream Soda!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Current Threats

From Rabbi Twerski's Angels Don't Leave Footprints:

The Chazon Ish gave a parable. A general fought a battle to defend his country from an enemy from the north. When he died, his son assumed his position. Years later, the country again came under attack, this time by an enemy from the south. The son dispatched the army to the north, because his father had done so. He was reprimanded, "You fool! Your father sent the army to the north because that is where the attack was from. This time it is from the south, and that is where the army must go."

The Chazon Ish said, "Every generation faces new threats. We must confront these current threats and not those of previous generations if they no longer exist."

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

R-Rated Road Signs

The English translation of road signs in Israel are usually terrible. I can't help but grimace when I see some of these signs (like the 'Petach Tiqwa' signs for example - it should be Tikvah). However, I now think the issue should be looked at a wee bit more urgently, especially with signs like the one below!

** if you can't read Hebrew and you're over 18, I'll translate for you **

h/t Max

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Tears & Books

I remember quite well the first movie which made me cry. I was 6 or 7 years old when my Nonnou & Nonna let my sister and I watch Raid on Entebbe, starring Peter Finch and Charles Bronson. When Yoni died near the movie's climatic end, my sister and I started crying. I was devastated. "Why Yoni?" I kept on asking my grandparents. That movie left its mark on me - and since then, I've watched all 3 Entebbe movies too many times to remember (and my "Oh no, you're not watching it again" family are my witnesses!), and read as many books about the operation as possible (From Yoni's Letters to Yoni's Last Battle).

Two years ago, I found another book on the subject, Sayeret Matkal in Entebbe (The book seems to only be available Hebrew, סיירת מטכ"ל באנטבה). The 700+ page book is interview after interview with figures, be it the Minister of Defense (Shimon Peres) or the receptionist at the Chief of Staff's office, who found themselves around Sayeret Matkal during the hectic 3 day (Thursday - Saturday / July 1st - 3rd, 1976) period that gave us one of the most daring rescue attempts history has ever known. While I'm only on the 'Friday' so far, I've learned a lot of new information about the planning of the raid (for example, the Mercedes idea was raised on Thursday evening during the first few hours of planning, and the Ugandan flags on the car were actually drawn by a few soldiers as there were no authentic ones available). What has impressed me the most so far is the incredible speed Yoni and his team developed a plan and how they continually improved it before any dry runs. Tough book to put down ...