Friday, August 19, 2011


I wonder what this poster is all about...

Sabonim - Sabra mistreatment of Holocaust Survivors

I have heard of the problems the Sephardi/Mizrachi community faced in Israel during the early days of the state but this is complete news to me. Apparently during the early days of the state, there was a lot of mistreatment of Holocaust survivors in Israel at the hands of the sabras. I am amazed that I've never heard of this before...

A couple of things I found so far on the Internet:

Moshe Sanbar, chairman of the Center of Organizations of Holocaust Survivors in Israel - an umbrella organization for 29 groups and 300,000 survivors - links the lack of interest to the survivors themselves.

"Israeli survivors did not want to have anything to do with these issues," he says. "They wanted to close the book on the Holocaust."

Sanbar traces this attitude to survivors' experiences just after their liberation from the death camps and arrival in the nascent Jewish state. "They called us the sabonim," he says - using Hebrew slang for "cowards." But it also sounds like the Hebrew word "sabon," or soap, which survivors perceived as a reference to the soap the Nazis made from Jewish corpses.

With some justice, survivors arriving in Israel felt stigmatized. Israelis were creating a "new Jew," symbolized by the suntanned kibbutznik working the fields or the fearless underground fighter. They looked down on the passivity of European Jews, who they felt went like sheep to the slaughter. Eager to fit into Israeli society, Sanbar says, many survivors tried to shake off their Holocaust experiences.


Here is another:

“It’s all lies,” she shouted. “They didn’t want us, any of us, didn’t matter where we came from, what we had been through. On the contrary, it was precisely because of what had happened to us that they wanted nothing to do with us.

“They even discussed building a second dining hall so they wouldn’t have to eat with us, the sabonim. That’s what they called us: sabonim, nothing but bars of soap. Because the Germans are supposed to have made soap out of Jewish corpses.”

I was shocked into silence. It seemed beyond belief, such a level of hostility, such cruel contempt. Perhaps she had misunderstood? Edith shook her head. I had never seen her look so grim.

“In a way, I wish they had put us in a different dining room. As it was, the sabras, the old-timers, always kept themselves to themselves, joking in Hebrew. They would glance across at us from time to time, so it was obvious they were talking about us.”

“‘Us’? So you weren’t quite alone.” “Yes and no. There was a woman from one of the camps who had lost her husband and two children. She didn’t last long: hanged herself in the kitchen one night.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Hodja Nasreddin and a Good Cow

Hodja Nasreddin had a good cow which gave lots of milk. Suddenly she got sick and died. Hodja was beside himself with grief. His neighbors began talking that when a month ago Hodja's beloved wife died he did not grieve so much.

"Of course," answered Hodja, "when my wife died, everyone consoled me and said 'Don't cry, we will find you a new wife that is even better...' It's been two days since my cow died and nobody is coming to me and consoling me - "Don't cry, we will buy you a new cow that is even better...' So what else is left for me to do?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Love Odessa Style

One of my favorite old songs - a young man proposing to his beloved...

(Translation mine - UPDATE: looks like he is singing a slightly different version than what I know so it is not an exact translation, but pretty close. That's how it is with folk music, I guess)

One day, along the avenue, Man'ka and I strolled.
A half burned out street lamp was lighting us the way.
And to make our walk a bit more fun
Into Bendersky's pub we decided to drop in.

I walk into the beer joint,
Sit down at the table,
And throw my hat down on the floor.
I ask Man'ka "What do you want to drink?"
And she tells me "My head hurts!"

I am not asking you which part of you hurts;
All I am asking is what you want to drink -
Pilsner beer, moonshine, wine,
A "fragrant violet" or nothing at all!

We each drank a beer and then another hundred,
And started chatting about this and that,
And when the pilsner completely messed up my head,
About my tender feelings I began to speak to her:

Stupid woman, what are you waiting for?
A better lad you won't find in the whole world!
Am I not clever, am I not handsome?
Or perhaps you don't care for the contents of my bank account?

Ugh, you prostitute, go and love yourself!
I will find another, lah lah lah lah lah
I will find another on Deribasovsky street
To hell with you lowlife, to hell with you c*nt!

Understanding the Germans

Great article in "Vanity Fair":

Perhaps because they have such a gift for creating difficulties with non-Germans, the Germans have been on the receiving end of many scholarly attempts to understand their collective behavior. In this vast and growing enterprise, a small book with a funny title towers over many larger, more ponderous ones. Published in 1984 by a distinguished anthropologist named Alan Dundes, Life Is Like a Chicken Coop Ladder set out to describe the German character through the stories that ordinary Germans liked to tell one another. Dundes specialized in folklore, and in German folklore, as he put it, “one finds an inordinate number of texts concerned with anality. Scheisse (shit), Dreck (dirt), Mist (manure), Arsch (ass).… Folksongs, folktales, proverbs, riddles, folk speech—all attest to the Germans’ longstanding special interest in this area of human activity.”

He then proceeded to pile up a shockingly high stack of evidence to support his theory. There’s a popular German folk character called der Dukatenscheisser (“The Money Shitter”), who is commonly depicted crapping coins from his rear end. Europe’s only museum devoted exclusively to toilets was built in Munich. The German word for “shit” performs a vast number of bizarre linguistic duties—for instance, a common German term of endearment was once “my little shit bag.” The first thing Gutenberg sought to publish, after the Bible, was a laxative timetable he called a “Purgation-Calendar.” Then there are the astonishing number of anal German folk sayings: “As the fish lives in water, so does the shit stick to the asshole!,” to select but one of the seemingly endless examples.

Dundes caused a bit of a stir, for an anthropologist, by tracking this single low national character trait into the most important moments in German history. The fiercely scatological Martin Luther (“I am like ripe shit, and the world is a gigantic asshole,” Luther once explained) had the idea that launched the Protestant Reformation while sitting on the john. Mozart’s letters revealed a mind, as Dundes put it, whose “indulgence in fecal imagery may be virtually unmatched.” One of Hitler’s favorite words was Scheisskerl (“shithead”): he apparently used it to describe not only other people but himself as well. After the war, Hitler’s doctors told U.S. intelligence officers that their patient had devoted surprising energy to examining his own feces, and there was pretty strong evidence that one of his favorite things to do with women was to have them poop on him. Perhaps Hitler was so persuasive to Germans, Dundes suggested, because he shared their quintessential trait, a public abhorrence of filth that masked a private obsession. “The combination of clean and dirty: clean exterior-dirty interior, or clean form and dirty content—is very much a part of the German national character,” he wrote.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Boby Lapointe Monday - Ta Katie t'a quitté

Boby Lapointe was the master of the tongue twister...

This is a very cute song about his encounter with a Russian dancing girl...
An interesting snapshot of history - after losing the Russian Civil War in the 1920's, most of the "White" Russians came to Paris where they formed a large community - but as often happens to immigrants, those who used to be refined and important wound up taking jobs as barkeeps and dancing girls.