On June 16 I spent a perfect day at Untermeyer Park and Gardens. I belong to the Garden and Forest Book Club and we had an excursion to Untermeyer Gardens. We took the train to Yonkers on Metro North. Our taxi driver was a proud Yonkerite who took us on a verbal and actual whirlwind tour of his city before depositing us at the park. Since I was last there three years ago, major improvements have been completed. Let’s get to the photos!
SENATE CONFIRMS FIRST MUSLIM AMERICAN FEDERAL JUDGE The Senate voted 81-16 to confirm Zahid Quraishi to a lifetime seat on a U.S. district court, making him the first Muslim American federal judge in the 230-year history of the U.S. courts.
Will we keep the out-of-door cubicles, a covet gift? Probably through the summer.
Speaking of cubicles, a friend and I had lunch at Village Taverna on University Place. It was a few months ago, very chilly. The freezing waiter cheerfully delivered the food to our cubicle. Remember BYOB? meaning Bring Your Own Blanket. Their Avgolemono, a traditional Greek chicken soup was perfect.
On 14th Street and 7th Avenue, there’s a terrific Cuban restaurant, Coppelia. The interior is charming and the buttermilk chicken is superb. As the Coppella sign says, Eat and drink because life is short.
Commencement is a busy time of year, especially this year. Congratulations to all!
Paxton Smith, the Dallas Lake Highlands High School valedictorian, had the courage to change her preapproved address and discuss a recent abortion bill. Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed the “heartbeat ban” into law two weeks previous to Ms. Smith’s graduation. It’s very moving to read how frightened and insecure the brave Ms. Smith felt as she decided to change the content of her speech. From talking about TV media and content she switched to the controversial abortion law. “I cannot give up this platform to promote complacency and peace, when there is a war on my body and a war on my rights,” Attagirl!
Isn’t Governor Abbott responsible for signing legislation allowing Texans to carry handguns in public without a license? Please tackle that law, Paxton Smith.
The children’s photos are from the New York Times 5/26/21 issue:
The latest fighting between Israel and Hamas killed at least 68 children. T These are photos of Palestinian children who were killed in Gaza. The New York Times tiptoes around accusing the Israelis so I’ll share some of the heartbreaking photos.
How many of my colleagues are willing… to stand for Palestinian human rights as they do for Israelis? Rep. Rashida Tlaib (Dem. Michigan)
This weekend is dedicated to saying good bye to the senior minister, Donna Schaper. I will remember her for her Community Ministry program and her sense of inclusion. One of her beliefs was do anything you want but take complete responsibility. Many of us heard it. On Saturday afternoon we had an outdoor party on Thompkins Street which is on the east side of Judson Memorial Church. In addition to honoring Donna, it was the first time many of us saw one another since last March.
How many of my colleagues are willing … to stand for Palestinian human rights as they do for Israeli?
Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.)
I’ve been to Palestine.
When I read that Martin Randall Travel was offering Palestine, Past & Present, 15-23 October, I decided the time had come to bear witness to this fascinating stew of history, religion and politics. Another incentive was respect for the British approach to history. Our group’s lecturer was Felicity Cobbing, the Curator of the Palestine Exploration Fund, founded in 1865. She has excavated in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, written widely about the Levant and is a superb leader. I asked Felicity about the PEF’s mission. It focuses on history. It is not political nor philanthropic. Both Felicity Cobbing and Martin Randall Travel have kindly allowed me to use information from the Palestine, Past & Present Itinerary. I took the photos.
Psychologically, I’ve been in Palestine for many years. I’m a religious fanatic, having been raised in Catholicism, joined the Quakers, breezed through the Episcopalians and now am a member of the Judson Memorial Church, adding two more religions to my brag list since Judson is affiliated with the American Baptist Churches USA and with the United Church of Christ.
After arriving at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport, we were introduced to our local Palestinian guide. Our first four days were spent in Bethlehem, about thirty-three miles from Tel Aviv. The Jacir Palace Hotel is enormous. My friend and I walked through the hotel’s vast marble enclosures figuring out where the lobby and dining room were. Was the air fresh because of the lack of cars? The soft early morning light and the endless evening sky were a treat to my New York eyes and ears. From our hotel room window, we could follow the curve of the wall erected by the Israelis to separate themselves from the Palestinians. When completed it will be a total length of 440 miles. This ugly structure was made more glaring by the messages of encouragement on the Palestinian
side. The English artist, Banksy, has a hotel near the wall, The Walled Off Hotel. We had several breakfasts there. Returning to the Jacir Palace we would pass Palestinian men eking out a living by selling fresh pomegranate or orange juice that they squeezed individually for each customer. Their accounts of their fractured lives was heartbreaking. Why one of the men’s fathers was shot by the Israelis was never explained. Instead, the son was wounded.
Photos of The Wall and of The Walled Off Hotel
The first day we went to Herodion, a palace complex built by King Herod, 24-15 BC, to visit the reservoir system, Solomon’s Pools. It’s being excavated by a joint Palestinian/American group. The American group is the W. F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research which has hosted studies in the Levant since 1900. Herod crops up constantly. From my childhood religious classes, I remember he had been accused of the Massacre of the Innocents, assuming the image of a monster. Monster or not, like so many leaders, he was a great builder.
There was an afternoon excursion to Mar Saba Monastery, an Eastern Orthodox monastery halfway between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea. Women were not allowed entrance. The real surprise came when the men were also forbidden entrance because they were not members of the church. Welcome to Middle East religion. In fairness, one of our group said that visitors would disturb the monastery’s life work. That evening Felicity began a series of talks about Pilgrims and Pilgrimage.
The next day, modestly dressed, we went to Hebron, celebrated for its association with Abraham. At Haram Al-Khalil (Tomb of the Patriarchs) we visited the tombs of Abraham, Issac, Jacob and their wives. Muslims, Jews and Christians all venerate this site. The church within Haram Al-Khalil is now divided between Muslim and Jewish areas. It can be a volatile place but wasn’t the morning we visited. In the afternoon we went to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. The grotto within is venerated by Christians as the birthplace of Jesus. The original church was built in 339 A. D. and is the oldest church in the Holy Land.
That evening my friend and I, both weary and stimulated by the day’s events, had a delicious supper surrounded by political art and Victorian lighting in The Walled Off Hotel’s charming lounge.
Photos of the young Palestinian and the lounge
Sometimes we would dine as a group in the hotel and sometimes we’d be taken to a Palestinian restaurant. We would be offered delicious and ever present hummus and olives. innova8ion is a restaurant on the top floor of a Bethlehem establishment. It has breathtaking views of the city. Near us, both men and women were smoking, in leisurely fashion, the hookahs.
Day 4 was In Jerusalem. We walked around the Ramparts entering at Jaffa Gate. It was wonderful weather for scampering up and down stairs and staring down at the community: 70 degrees, a blue sky and the city revealing its secluded places.
Photo of Map and Ramparts
We descended from the Ramparts at the Damascus Gate and went to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre has fragments of the original Constantinian church. Today most of the structure is a Crusader Romanesque building. It is one of the most sacred sites in Christendom because, according to tradition, it contains where Jesus was crucified and Jesus’s empty tomb. In addition, within the church are the last four or five Stations of the Cross. To say it’s a major pilgrimage destination is one way of explaining the vast crowds and prostrate people on various sites. Done once. Never again.
Photo of worshipping pilgrims
That evening Felicity continued her talk about Pilgrims and Pilgrimage. Fired up by the check points, by the Israeli settlements overlooking Bethlehem and by Palestinian freedom of movement being dependent on the whim of the Israeli government made some of us feel we were on a pilgrimage.
In the Levant many celebrities are at least two thousand years old. I’ll wager you haven’t thought too much about John the Baptist’s head. However, it’s been a hot topic in religious circles for thousands of years. King Herod, who built Herodion, had John the Baptist beheaded. Moslems claim his head is in a Syrian mosque. Christians claim it’s in a Roman church. Felicity was told by a church custodian that his church had John Baptist’s head. Felicity pointed out that other religious institutions claimed that honor. The custodian said, “We have the young head.”
In Roman Catholicism there are three Gods in one God: God the Father, the Holy Ghost and Jesus Christ. Don’t ask. I’ve always preferred the Holy Ghost but In the Jerusalem Christian quarter Jesus is king. To wit: hearty Midwesterners with t-shirts that have Jesus printed in bold letters; people sobbing under the stations of the cross; women lying prone on Jesus’s burial site.
We, along with everybody else in the universe, including their motorcycles, walked along the Via Dolorosa to the Ecce Homo Convent where there is a portion of a Hadrian arch. Like King Herod, Hadrian was a great builder. Remember the Pantheon?
Our last stop of the day was at the tranquil 12th Century Church of St. Anne. On our final night in Bethlehem, Felicity gave a talk on the Canaanites to Israelites.
Photo of Armenian plaque
Next day we moved to Jericho. On arrival we took the cable car to a 13th-century Greek-Orthodox monastery. Afterwards we had lunch at a Bedouin camp. We sat on soft cushions in a large tent hung with colorful rugs while the men in the camp laid the table and brought in food. We had glimpses of very small children and several pregnant women but were not introduced to them. The lunch was tasty and ample. There were different kinds of chicken, falafel, hummus, pickled vegetables and pomegranates. Nearby was the Bedouins herd of goats. These Bedouin have been informed by the Israeli government that their camp will be shut down.
Afterwards we visited an 8th century Umayyad palace. Umayyad is a member of a Muslim dynasty that ruled the Islamic world from 660 to 750. The dynasty claimed descent from Umayya, a distant relative of Muhammad. We then went to the lowest site in Jericho, Tell es-Sultan. Over lovely gin and tonics the talk that evening was a continuation of Canaanites to Israelites.
In the morning, dressed chastely, we went to Qumran caves where the Dead Sea scrolls were discovered, then on to a Muslim site of pilgrimage, Nebi Musa. The coach took us to a baptismal site on the Jordan River. It reminded me of Judson baptisms in Ivoryton, Ct. Whether in the Jordan River or in the Incarnation Center lake, the wet bodies revealing underwear under their white sheets have an Elmer Gantry quality.
Photos of Baptism
On Day 7 after taking the coach to the Nablus area, we went to Samaria-Sebastyieh to visit the Samaritans. Their ancient synagogue is still in use. A young woman and a young man explained their religion and its ties to Judaism. The Samaritans follow the first five books of Moses. They also explained that there were about 800 Samaritans, fewer women than men. Ukraine women are brought into their community like war brides to marry the young men. The young man took us to the Teper Nacle, a design of different fruits arranged on a ceiling. There was a feeling of peace. My facile impression was that the Samaritans had carved a niche between the Moslems and the Israelis. In addition to Samaria-Sebastyieh, the Samaritans have a small settlement in Tel Aviv. The young man in the photo is a polyglot. He told us he’d learned his English from watching American cartoons.
Day 7 we moved to East Jerusalem to stay at the American Colony. It was founded over 100 years ago by Swedes and Americans fleeing the Chicago fire. Today it is a charming hotel in luscious green gardens. Our last day was spent visiting the Temple Mount/ Haram ash-Sharif, the El-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock. The evening was spent at a dinner given by the Albright Institute. The next day most of us returned to the U. K.
Photos of the American Colony, the Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem
Every month on a Saturday the Guggenheim is free. A friend and I went on May 1 The sparse African videos and the Swahili cartoons were fortuitous. We walked up and down the ramp, close to 10.000 steps! I love the Guggenheim architecture so its mostly barren walls surprised me but didn’t bother me.
Let’s honor May with Richard Topper’s photo of his luscious violets.
And Jack Lawrence’s Maypole photo. When I was a kid I had a Maypole until I was seven.
There’s an Alice Neel exhibit at the Met. Years ago, I went to a marvelous dinner party. Among the guests was one of these lads and his wife. When my companion, Pei Yi and I were invited, I got in touch with a friend who was the Scholastic editor of a monthly arts journal for teenagers. ”Who’s Alice Neel?” I moaned. My friend gave me one of her journals about Neel. I read all two pages and acquitted myself, I hope. In the Met photo, the Neel son at the party is on the right. He didn’t see well but made delicious cocktails. Pei Yi eyed me, guessing that I’d swatted up for the dinner party. He and the son got into an interesting discussion about the Rudolf Steiner School that the son had attended. The son was enjoying himself (fine food, lovely wine, charming hostess) and started to talk about his father’s escapades. The son’s wife called a halt to that and steered the conversation to ecology.
Michael Collins, the astronaut who flew the Apollo 11 around the moon in 1969, has died. “I have been places and done things you simply would not believe. I feel like saying: I have dangled from a cord a hundred miles up; I have seen the earth eclipsed by the moon, and enjoyed it. I have seen the sun’s true light, unfiltered by any planet’s atmosphere. I have seen the ultimate black of infinity in a stillness undisturbed by any living thing.
The New York Times claimed it published a complete list of Oscar nominated films, documentaries etc. Did I miss Farah Nabulsi’s The Present? It’s a Palestinian short film directed, produced and acted by Palestinians. The Present is both Oscar-nominated and BAFTA-nominated.
You can see The Present on Youtube.
The following information is from Farah Nabulsi’s website. Her films are based on Palestinian realities.
The Present sheds light on how Palestinians are deprived of the basic right to freedom of movement. Starring renowned actor Saleh Bakri, it won the Audience Award for Best Film at Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival 2020 (World premiere), the Jury Award for Best Live Action Short at the Cleveland International Film Festival (North American premiere), and has since gone on to win upwards of 25 Audience and Jury Awards at numerous International film festivals as well as being licensed to Canal+ (France), Pacific Voice (Japan), Telefonica (Spain) and Netflix (Global).
Farah Nabulsi:”The arts play a crucial role in changing the world and I believe film precedes them all. It gives voice to the silenced, thereby helping build the empathy and understanding needed to effect change.”
Her films have been officially selected to international film festivals around the world and her novel approach has been endorsed by the likes of Noam Chomsky, Hanan Ashrawi, John Pilger, Ken Loach and others.
Farah is currently working on her first feature-length film.
Compassionate Choices has fought for years for end-of-life options. Let’s have a shout out for Oregon. That state enacted an aid-in-dying law 23 years ago. California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico (as of March 15) Vermont, Washington and Washington, D. C. have followed suit. Come on, New York!
On Friday, Judy Woodruff’s PBS News Hour features two journalists’ expressing their opinions about the political and social scene. Jonathan Capehart is an attractive, handsome, assured Black man who works for the Washington Post. Articulate, witty, and very serious, he made me more aware once again how hard it is to be Black in the U. S. A. Mr. Capehart referred to the recent Black killings by police. He talked about Blacks wanting the justice that’s granted to Whites. He said he was afraid to leave his apartment. Driving is dangerous for Blacks. They are questioned by cops without reason. This reminded me of a Black family that lived in my building. Whenever the father and son entered the elevator, the Black father always went in front of his big Black teenager son to shield him from White eyes.
Coppelia is open! It’s a hot Cuban diner on 14th Street and Seventh Avenue. You can sit outside in the tiny enclosed porch or inside in the colorful, Cuban decor. The wait staff is efficient, friendly but not too, and the food is great.
Years ago, I made a brief trip to Cuba. Flying from Miami to Havana was like crossing a pond. Havana is a magical name and I was going there. It reminded me of Venice before it was surrounded by cruise ships and inundated with tourists and touristy paraphernalia. BUT the food was deeply disappointing. Maybe all the good Cuban cooks have moved to 14th Street and Seventh Ave.
Back to Coppelia’s menu. I have a dear crazy friend who maintains a diet of kale, fries and two ice teas. At Cappelia her detailed instructions are followed without a murmur. I go for deeply fried chicken coated in buttermilk and a Modelo.