November 13, 2016

Reunion with Indira Sarma and Narayan Subedi

Best people, best Bhutanese food, best time!

How I missed this wonderful couple and how joyous our reunion. True to my inherited trait, weeping when happiest, I shed many tears embracing my beloved Indira and Narayan. And we laughed, shared, and probed local, personal, and global matters; drank divine nectar and ate ambrosia they had prepared; and held closely Pritam, of blessed memory.

Ashish later joined us and shared with the Bhutanese-American couple about mutual interests (healthcare), neighboring birthplaces (Bhutan, India), common spiritual traditions (Hinduism), and exchanged thoughts in at least half a dozen languages! Then Ashish and I took off to spend the rest of the day at the Martin Luther King Jr Historic Site.

Indira, Narayan, me, Ashish

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October 09, 2016

In East Jerusalem: With Yu, a fellow at the W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research

The professional and the dilettante 

Minutes after a drive-by shooting attack at a nearby East Jerusalem light rail station, I caught up with Yu Zhang, my brilliant and adorable friend from China currently a fellow at the prestigious W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research. (At Tel Aviv University, Yu wrote a master's thesis on Canaanite Cult Behavior and the Egyptian Political Hegemony: A View from the North of Israel.)

A shout out to Yosef Halper at whose eponymous used bookstore on Tel Aviv's Allenby Street Yu and I met. Yosef and I were talking books and kvetching when Yu walked in looking for specific archeology texts. She used terms I recognized from a course I had been taking and asked, Is Dr. Omer Sergei your professor at Tel Aviv University? Yes! Our immediate deep-dive freewheeling conversation has happily continued, time- and geography- permitting.

September 25, 2016

Let the Jewish New Year and its blessings start | תָּחֵל שָׁנָה וּבִרְכוֹתֶיהָ

In Jerusalem's Makhne Yehuda shuk/market
honey for sale adds sweetness to the New Year

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, falls on Tishrei 1 and 2 in the Hebrew calendar. In 2016, it begins Sunday evening, October 2 and ends Tuesday evening, October 4. I first published this post September 12, 2007.

Dear Tamar, 

Let the New Year and its blessings start | תָּחֵל שָׁנָה וּבִרְכוֹתֶיהָ | Takhel shana u-virkhote-ha. * 

The Hebrew word Shana comes from the word li-shnot (to repeat) but it also sounds like le-shanot (to change). I think that's the main idea every Rosh Hashanah: it's our chance to repeat our mistakes or harness our thoughts and steer our actions to change. I hope your New Year will be filled with good choices. 
Shana Tova 5768

*  Shimon cites the concluding one-line chorus in the 13th century piyyut, Jewish liturgical poem, by Abraham Hazzan of Gerona (Girondi), Spain. The chorus replaces this chorus in preceding verses:

Let the year end with all its curses | תִּכְלֶה שָׁנָה וְקִלְלוֹתֶיהָ | Tikhleh shana ve-killeloteha! 

Listen to the exquisite Syrian melody in the recording (Hebrew) of this piyyut,  Little Sister | אָחוֹת קְטַנָּה | Akhot Ktana.

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September 19, 2016

In Gaza: Young scholar-leaders doing well while doing good

I am so proud of my good friend Msallam Mohammed AbuKhalil, a medical student in Gaza. Listen to him and his fabulous fellow young leaders — working against all odds contributing their massive talents and dedication to healing and empowering communities, locally and globally.

Msallam reports:

My second video participation for the Social Good Summit 2016: Connecting Today, Creating Tomorrow with other former and current students including engineers and doctors-in-making. Everybody has shared their personal vision about what they hope to become as potential leaders in their fields and how they see themselves as global citizens connecting with the outside world in this age of huge technological advances. 

September 04, 2016

London: Ismaili Center

Posing with Nymeth at the London Ismaili Center

The calligraphy conveys the Quran's opening phrase in Arabic, "Bismillah ir-Rahman ir-Rahim" ("In the name of Allah, the most merciful, the most compassionate"). Muslims recite it on beginning a task to receive the Creator’s strength and blessing, among other reasons. The phrase faces the entrance to this religious, social, and cultural meeting place for the Shia Ismaili Muslim community in the United Kingdom. Nymeth Ali guided me through the center, pointing out examples of the relationship between the architecture and design details and the traditions, symbols, history and values of her faith community. For example, the building exterior materials and colors are compatible with surrounding buildings while the interior features traditional Islamic colors — whites, light grays, and blues.

In our rapid-fire give-and-take Q&A, my new friend helped me understand more of Islam and its ethics, and of Muslim peoples and their values, among them humility, charity, and hospitality. And, I endeavored to answer her wide-ranging questions on aspects of Judaism and Jewish people. Together, we traveled the globe across centuries till and including our own lives, roots, passages, and journeys. Thank you, Ryan Makhani, for the introduction! You hinted, “I have a feeling you both will have some incredible conversations.” You did not exaggerate!