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Showing posts from April, 2010

The Journey of a Lifetime: my grandmother's escape on the Trans-Siberian railway

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I had a chat with my sister yesterday. She lives in Rome, and tells me that a friend of hers read about my grandmother's passport (I have a copy of her Nazi-issued passport) and volunteered to help me translate the German. That inspired me to do a bout of research into my father's childhood in the Weimar republic. If you read my earlier post (my other passport is with Mossad) then you will know my father, who grew up in Nuremburg, only just got out of Germany thanks to a parliamentary question and a forged passport.
My grandmother, Betty Lowenstein (maiden name Ehrlich), caught one of the last Trans-Siberian trains before the Nazi invasion of Russia. Family legend has it that as she caught the train to leave Germany, a woman handed her a baby to take with her.
I should add that her husband committed suicide in 1932. Though there may be some question marks over exactly how that happened to him. I have his death certificate here.
Max Lowenstein death certificate
My father lef…

Traffic Jams and Motorbikes

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A few days ago I took my motorbike down to south Tel-Aviv today to get my seat repaired after someone slashed it.  There is a motorcycle upholsterer down there.  It would never have ocurred to me that such a person existed if I hadn't passed him by at some point.   His name is Sasson and he is one of the old school Russian immigrants. The new school came in the nineties, wear designer clothing and are ultra-cool but Sasson belongs to the generation that arrived in the seventies and grew up revering Stalin, wearing design-free clothes and thought gold teeth were the ultimate in cool. I once worked with a systems analyst from Bukhara (a city in Uzbekistan).  He was a charming man with a mouth full of gold teeth and we told him that if he got them replaced it would benefit his career, but he refused.  Apparently he felt taking ones perfectly good gold teeth out was too vain or something.  Anyway Sasson has a glass eye, gold teeth and motorcycle seats in various states of repair hangin…

A fine democracy: Why Israel shouldn't change its voting system

Attack the Israeli political system and no one will disagree with you. While all but a few loonies agree that democracy (pretty much any democracy) is preferable to dictatorship  (of any sort) most people who bother to voice an opinion will tell you that the Israeli proprtional representation system is flawed. All political systems are flawed, presumably because human beings are flawed, and democracies, whichever mechanism they use to take decisions, have flaws that reflect the different methods they use.
In ancient Athens everyone gathered in a stadium and the majority of decisions were taken using a one man one vote system.  If you ignore the fact that women, slaves and children didn't vote it was still problematic because large groups of people are prone to behave like football fans and get over excited or follow demagogues.  This way makes it hard to take quick decisions or deal with the kind of society where everybody has to work: you need slaves and wives who can free you to s…