Category Archives: World History

Tish’a B’Av

The Whole Megilla has hosted the July 2013 Jewish Book Carnival! There are a nice variety of posts to browse through.

temple destruction

The image above was found here.

Tonight is the eve of Tish’a B’Av – Erev Tish’a B’Av, the saddest day in the Jewish calendar. At sundown, the annual fast (approximately 25 hours) begins in commemoration of the destruction of the First Temple and Second Temple in Jerusalem, and all the tragedies that the Jewish people have endured.

An easy fast to everyone.

The Book of Lamenations is read in synagogue, and mourning prayers are recited.

July 15, 2013 – 8 Av, 5773

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Filed under Jewish History, Judaism, Lorri's Blog, World History

Book Review: The Almond Tree

thealmond tree2 The Almond Tree, by Michelle Cohen Corasanti is a brilliantly written novel of courage, loss and redemption in a world that constantly shatters the lives of those living on occupied land. The story is a haunting reflection on Ichmad Hamid’s family and the events that controlled their lives.

Ichmad is a brilliant boy, with a mind that is infused with mathematical genius. At the age of twelve his life and the lives of his family members are uprooted with the confiscation of their home, and with his father being jailed for terrorism. These events are the beginning of Ichmad’s emotional and physical journey to try to improve the condition of his family, although the odds are against his succeeding.

In a world where the Palestinians have no stronghold over their homes, their belongings and their lives, Ichmad’s father directs him, through correspondence, to take the more peaceful route, and not to harbor hatred in the face of extreme adversity. His mother, on the other hand, holds resentment for everything inflicted on the family, and never fails to verbalize her feelings. His father’s strength, even though he is behind bars, shines through, and his words of encouragement lead Ichmad down the path towards self-fulfillment, not only for himself (Ichmad), but also for his family’s welfare.

Ichmad is a survivor, a power of mental strength within the confines and restrictions set before him. His sense of selflessness is the force that binds him to his goals, and binds him to his family. He strives to overcome the adversity set before him, and works himself to the bone in order to provide for his family, while at the same time committing himself to his university studies.

His studies lead him to an Israeli teacher, a man who is consumed by events of the Holocaust. His hatred for Ichmad is apparent, yet Ichmad perseveres through all of the anger, and shows not only his strength of character, his brilliant mind, but also his desire for peaceful solutions within the realm of both sides of the border. His genius in the area of physics helps him complete his goals, and accomplish what nobody thought he could, including his teacher.

Corasanti is a Jewish American, and a person whose sensitivity to both sides of the Middle East conflict is obvious within the pages of her beautiful prose, and with her presentation of a story which is usually told from the Israeli perspective, and not the side of the repressed Palestinians.

She puts a compelling light on the events of the daily lives of the Palestinians who struggle to survive under harsh and often cruel forces. The book is a painful read, a poignant read, and an inspirational read. The messages are clear, and Michelle Cohen Corasanti vividly paints a picture of a family in limbo, and within the family, a son, named Ichmad, who strives for peaceful answers and for forgiveness under the umbrella of boundaries in constant conflict.

I was caught up in the struggles and events that the family went through. There were times that I was in shock over situations that were so graphically depicted, I couldn’t believe what I was reading. The book was gripping, and the pages consumed me with a deeper understanding of the human factor involved with the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East. Humanity, at its worst, is portrayed, as well as human nature at its best.

The Almond Tree will stay with me for a long time…the story is so compelling and left me with so much to ponder regarding the human condition and regarding loss (in all of its forms) and regarding dignity and redemption.

Michelle Cohen Corasanti is masterful with her word-images. I highly recommend The Almond Tree to everyone.

January 31, 2013 – 20 Sh’vat, 5773

All rights reserved © Copyright 2007 – All Rights Reserved – No permission is given or allowed to reuse my photography, book reviews, writings, or my poetry in any form/format without my express written consent/permission.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Novels, World History

Book Review: Flower of God

flowerofgod Flower of God: A Jewish Family’s 3,000-year Journey from Spice to Medicine, by Herbert Ausubel is an incredible book, which takes the reader on the paternal ancestral road of one family over a 3,000 span.

The book holds a wealth of information regarding Dr. Ausubel’s family, which has been researched in depth, not only by him, but by others, including historians. The extensive research and familial stories take the reader around the world, literally. During times of Israel being conquered by Assyrians, to several places in Europe, to Australia, China, Siberia, back to Israel and to America, the tapestry of time is woven with extremely beautiful prose, prose that is almost poetic.

Dr. Ausubel’s research is intricate, and the stories reflect three millennium, generation upon generation of family members who lead peaceful and productive lives. But, within each situation, they had to flee their environment in order to survive, due to antisemitism.

There were so many fascinating and intriguing family accounts. The family story in the beginning of the book, entitled Azuvel, about Avraham and his son Moshe journeying to the Temple of Solomon, was filled with word imagery that filled my senses in every respect. The story was told with extreme detail and magnificent prose. I was stunned while reading it, and caught myself with my mouth open in awe, as I could picture the very essences that Dr. Ausubel’s prose described. The sacrificial aspect was extremely detailed, and the fact that Avraham and his son were privy to the innermost workings showed the respect bestowed upon Avraham. His “azuv” spice, derived from the blue-flowering hyssop plant was a necessary aspect of the ritual, used for cleansing of those entering the Temple, those who might have been in the presence of the dead. It was a masterful story, a story filled with the wonder of the Temple interior and wonder of ritual within its walls.

I enjoyed every story within the pages, and reading the book was an education in itself, both historically and familial. Dr. Ausubel described each era thoroughly, as far as word descriptions of clothes, food, the towns and cities and their architecture, and daily life within each era was exceptionally documented.

The section on the family journey across Siberia, the long and arduous way, in order to avoid the soldiers and authorities is extremely gripping. Throughout the centuries ancestors died from survival hardships while fleeing for their lives, and died of disease. Persevere, the ancestors did, through every hardship and horrendous situation, they never lost their faith, never gave up, and held steadfast to their religion, their beliefs and ideals.

The hardships that the generations of ancestors faced were magnificently stated, and each generation had its own compelling quilt to add to the family tree.

Dr. Herbert Ausubel’s writing is masterful, exquisite, filled with word-images that paint a beautiful tapestry of his ancestors and their struggles against all odds. Flower of God is a compelling read and one that will leave you breathless at times. It is a stunning book that is historically relevant and one that encompasses historical importance. I highly recommend it to everyone.

January 28, 2013 – 17 Sh’vat, 5773

All rights reserved © Copyright 2007 – 2013 – All Rights Reserved – No permission is given or allowed to reuse my photography, book reviews, writings, or my poetry in any form/format without my express written consent/permission.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Jewish History, Judaism, Lorri's Blog, Non-Fiction, World History

Holocaust International Remembrance Day

Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Please take a moment to reflect and remember.

yahrzeit2

Recovered items on display at Israeli Holocaust Memorial.

Yad Vashem Commemorates International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity

Wikipedia link.

Simon Wiesenthal Center

Silale, Lithuania, where some of my paternal ancestors lived, and where some were murdered in the Holocaust.

yarz
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I have not been blogging for almost two weeks. I have had a severe case of the flu or some virus. I am almost 100%, but not quite. It has been an exhausting several days. My body is still feeling the affects and effects.

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Filed under Holocaust/Genocide, Jewish History, Judaism, Lorri's Blog, Photography, World History, World War II

Book Review: The Life of an Unknown Man

the life of an unknown man2 Although the novel, The Life of an Unknown Man, by Andrei Makine, is 208 pages long, its short length does not lessen the compelling story line.

The novel brings the reader an extremely well written descriptive of Russia, seen through two main characters. The first one is a man named Ivan Shutov, a Russian who has been living in Paris for about twenty years. He is a writer, aspiring to write that epic novel, a novel similar in style to Anton Chekhov and Leo Tolstoy. He lives and breathes the classic Russian authors, and compares his current life experiences to their writings. He is wrapped in dreams and fantasies, and the essence of life revolves around Russian Literature. He values their ideals that he reads within the pages of their books.

Shutov is approximately fifty-years old, and old enough to be the father of his former lover, Lea. After many discussions and arguments (some over Chekhov) he is brutal in his verbal attacks on her opinions. After a while, she became disgusted and fed up with him and his lack of emotional commitment. She left him for a man her own age, and Shutov has great difficulty dealing with her departure. He can not stop thinking about her, and obsesses on her. He feels a void, and decides to take a trip to St. Petersburg, Russia, to revisit his past, a past he has glorified in his memories, and one he has not viewed realistically.

When he arrives, he sees that things are not what they were in the past. Communism reared its distorted head with brutal force to the Russians. The country has gone through an upheaval, and it has collapsed. The citizens have become westernized in their thinking, and become materialistic in their approach to life. This attitude has a shattering affect on Shutov.

While there he meets up with a former lover named Yana. They had a fling while students, and she is not the same person he knew. How could she be after living through the changes and events her country has gone through. He encounters an elderly man named Georgy Lvovich Volsky, living in a room within Yana’s apartment complex. Yana and her son have told him that Volsky doesn’t speak, and is paralyzed. To make a long story short, Volsky does eventually speak to Shutov.

And, the tales he tells are incredible accounts of the love of his life, Mina, and of his experiences during Leningrad’s siege, and his military service to the country. The times were horrific, horrendous moments were prevalent, food was scarce, life was lived by barely hanging on. Volsky’s story is vividly depicted by Makine, and nothing is spared in his relaying it.

Throughout the pages, the reader can not help but grasp the devastation and the brutality of the times. One also gains a sense of the individual, as a separate being, one who has weathered all the forced events. The reader also gains insight into the philosophy of the individual as part of the whole in the connection of community, the military and the country. The title, “The Life of an Unknown Man” is very fitting, within these aspects. Makine is brilliant in displaying both modes within the pages.

He also makes the reader ponder about human worth. Volsky went through so much, yet he was not validated for his efforts. He went unrecognized in an environment that was not conducive to acknowledging accomplishments. The time periods that encapsulated his life achievements seemed almost for naught. Yet, Volsky did not view it that way. He saw beauty in nature, in music, in theater, and constantly saw possibilities out of what others saw as impossible. Volsky saw his life in a positive manner, and saw his participation being an allegiance to Russia.

Makine’s message was clear, his prose depicted with visual clarity. The suffering and the lives lost were a minute part of the entirety. The sentimentality of the past can hinder people in ways they can not imagine. It was a harsh lesson for Shutov. The past caught up with him, and he was able to distinguish the reality of the Russia he had left behind, and the reality of the Russia through the twenty years he had been gone, and what the country had evolved into.

I applaud Andrei Makine for his brilliance and for his magnificent writing. The novel was a fascinating look at the history of what was then known as Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) and an intriguing read. He took me back to eras of harshness, and within the story line I found illuminations of hope resonating, strongly.

I recommend The Life of an Unknown Man to everyone.

January 7, 2013 – 25 Tevet, 5773

All rights reserved © Copyright 2007 – 2013 – All Rights Reserved – No permission is given or allowed to reuse my photography, book reviews, writings, or my poetry in any form/format without my express written consent/permission.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Lorri's Blog, Novels, World History

Review – Every Day Lasts a Year

everydaylasts Every Day Lasts a Year: A Jewish Family’s Correspondence From Poland, by Richard S. Hollander, Christopher R. Browning and Nechama Tec, is an extremely profound and absorbing book, a poignant and excellent documentation of family life during the Holocaust.

Richard S. Hollander’s parents were killed in an automobile accident in 1986. After their death he was looking through their attic, and came across a trunk filled with letters. The letters were from his father’s mother, three sisters, their children, and from his brother in-laws, written between November 1939 and December 1941. Richard Hollander’s father, Joseph Hollander had emigrated to the U.S. in 1939, and had overcome extreme odds in order to become a naturalized citizen of the U.S. That he saved the letters in the trunk for all of those years might have been his way of keeping his family with him, of remembering their existence within the decades past and within the Holocaust realm. He never spoke of the letters to Richard.

The letters are written in German and Polish, while Joseph Hollander’s relatives lived in the Kracow Ghetto, and they are a moving and historic family chronicle of every day life endured during the harshest and darkest of times. The firsthand accounts in Every Day Lasts a Year are intense, desperate, loving, edged with concern and fear. Joseph Hollander’s mother, especially, was concerned about whether she would ever see her son again and ever hold him in her arms. Other relatives are concerned that mail wasn’t being delivered on either end, and so the family devised a “code” that would let them know whether letters had been received.

The book is one that everyone should read. It is divided into three sections. The first section is an essay written by Joseph’s son, Richard, pertaining to his father’s emigration, and struggle to free his family, and avoid his own deportation back to Krakow. It also explains how Joseph helped to save other Jews. The second section includes essays on Jewish life in Krakow, and the last section includes the letters, which are profoundly revealing, and an emotional roller coaster, in and of themselves. The anxiety of separation, the Holocaust looming above them, the longing and love are all apparent within the framework of the letters.

The last letter on the last page of Every Day Lasts a Year (sent to Joseph, regarding his mother, Berta Hollander) is especially poignant, and I keep rereading it, and the lines continue to stay with me, fixed in my emotions and mind.

What makes Every Day Lasts a Year and family accounting different than most Holocaust stories is the fact it is not an actual book on the Holocaust. It is a book whose content was written through letters (180 pages of the 280 pages), letters that reveal the historical context and complexities of the daily lives of the family members in Krakow, Poland, and the crisis they were experiencing.

I was thoroughly mesmerized by Every Day Lasts a Year, the historical background of Joseph Hollander’s family’s struggles to survive on a daily basis. The book is involving, and I couldn’t put it down until I finished it. The intensity of the letters, the gravity of the family situation will stay with me, lingering in the recesses of my mind. It is a beautifully written book, and a tribute to Richard S. Hollander’s family. The letters, themselves, are a firsthand accounting of their lives, and a testament to how their lives (and the lives of all Holocaust victims) should not be forgotten. The clearly written and the precisely historic accounting behind the letters are extremely invaluable in understanding the Holocaust and Jewish life in the Krakow Ghetto, and invaluable as a family history, ancestral documentation and chronology.

The poignancy is never diminished in this beautiful and extraordinary family chronicle and portrait.

I highly recommend Every Day Lasts a Year: A Jewish Family’s Correspondence From Poland to everyone.

December 13, 2012 – 29 Kislev, 5773

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Filed under Book Reviews, Non-Fiction, World History, World War II