A puzzle for the Muslim world

I liked this story in the Jerusalem Post which reveals:

A think tank on Middle East affairs in Jordan has for the first time published a translation of the Babylonian Talmud in Arabic.

This part – a quote from Dr. Mordechai Kedar, the director of a new center for Middle East and Islamic Studies at Bar-Ilan University, and an expert in Arabic literature and Middle East affairs – is worth highlighting:

“Israel is a puzzle for the Muslim world,” Kedar said. “It’s a small country made by refugees who built a successful Western-style state, with high GDP per capita, which has won wars and where Arabs enjoy a much better lifestyle than most other places.

“They don’t understand how this can work; it looks like some kind of satanic enterprise to them when most Arab states are more or less failures, so they want to understand the cultural and religious roots of their enemy, to maybe solve this puzzle one day and perhaps in the end defeat Israel.”

So, in a clash of cultures, because the Muslim world cannot understand a different world, that different place is “some kind of satanic enterprise“. I’m unsure if that is an observation which is politically incorrect, or one which is astute, accurate, and very important.

Losing your way

[Also posted at the Raanana Boardgames Group Site.]

We had eight at this week’s session. One foolhardy group of four – Abraham, Laurie, Ofer, and Yehuda – played the Martin Wallace game Automobile. I was in the other group, so all I can report is: (a) Abraham won; (b) it took a long time; (c) the players seemed to prefer (two of Martin’s other designs) Steam and Age of Industry; but (d) Laurie liked it.

Meantime – in the same time it took for one game of Automobile – Peleg, Rochelle, Susan and I played Ticket to Ride Marklin Edition, Pueblo and Dominion. Peleg was the runaway winner of the railway game. I won Pueblo, and Susan won Dominion by one point from Rochelle (who was playing this for the first time.) Pueblo was the least popular game of the three, though that doesn’t make it a bad game. Certainly, everyone seemed to have a good time, and we are building up useful playing experience of some games that will probably keep appearing on the games table for a wee while yet.

Black and white

Follow this link for a BBC story about an exhibition of photos (black and white) by Judah Passow on the Jewish community in the UK. Glasgow features several times.

At 0.03, the picture is of the Chabad Rabbi in Glasgow – Rabbi Jacobs – getting out of his car.

At 2.00 minutes, the featured barmitzvah photo shows Rabbi Rubin of Giffnock & Newlands Hebrew Congregation, my old spiritual home. Yes, it’s an orthodox shul, so the event must have been a Monday or Thursday one.

At 2.38, the piper is one of my brother’s contemporaries. And he’s a mean player of the instrument, I assure you.

At 2.41, the man with the tartan kippah is Henry Wuga, at one time the kosher caterer in Glasgow.

At 2.51, the cemetery is Glenduffhill, Glasgow, where my late mother and other family are buried.

At 3.32, the man is Sam Leckie, card player extraordinaire and Glasgow resident. Unfortunately, I do not know the lady’s name.

If I lived in the UK, I would go to the exhibition. Black and white pictures have a strange, extra appeal for me.

PS: Thanks to my Uncle Frank for the tip-off!

Man in the middle

Shock! Horror! Probe! The Guardian prints a sympathetic article about Israel an Israeli. Can you believe it? This person must be something special, surely? He is.

If you have the slightest interest in football, or, if you are simply interested in reading the fascinating true story of an unsung Israeli hero, do not hesitate and just click on this link. You will not be disappointed.

Unbelievably – for, remember, this is the Guardian – not only do the words “Palestinian terrorists” appear, but there is not a single dig or criticism of Israel in the entire (long) piece. Is this a first in the modern era?

Steaming along

[Also posted at the Raanana Boardgames Group site.]

At this week’s session, the fab four (Abraham, Laurie, Ofer and Yehuda) started off with another game of Steam.  Judging by the table talk, things were fairly tight until near the end, when Yehuda moved into the lead and stayed there and won. Ofer got some revenge for the past misdeeds of others by claiming second place. Just.

However, even with only four players, it was not a fast game, and I am not that excited about it to have to play it again. Certainly I would avoid a five or six player outing at all costs. It’s not only the length of the game I dislike, but the amount of downtime.  Funnily enough, I think I prefer the complexity of Age of Steam over Steam, but doubt it will be faster. Maybe it’s the extra auction in Age of Steam which gives the impression of more player involvement.

Meantime, the top trio of Peleg, Rochelle and I played Ticket to Ride Marklin Edition. This is a neat variation on the TTR base game, with the addition of Passengers. Each player gets three Passengers and they can score points by travelling along routes to pick up points from cities. It’s an easy mechanic to pick up, and the game rattles along. I built a good network and scored the first Passenger with a mountain of points. Unfortunately, Peleg and Rocehlle ignored my strategy, followed their own, and crushed me. Rochelle – who was playing this for the first time – beat me by a barrow load of points. Peleg, did just that little bit better to claim the win.

As the fab four were still steaming along, Rochelle and I played Lost Cities and Battleline (several games) to keep ourselves occupied. Again, these were new to Rochelle, but she seemed to enjoy them. Surprisingly – to me – she preferred Lost Cities, though she had more success with Battleline.

Border troubles

Since the Arab Spring sprang, I have been waiting for a change to the Egypt/Gaza border arrangements. Why hasn’t the border been opened up? The issue is more complex than it first appears, with several hidden factors at play.

This article from Haaretz is a reasonable primer on the present position. For more background on the fuel situation, Mr Reliable – the Elder of Ziyon – has this and this.

How this unravels may have a material effect on Israel’s security planning over the next few years. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely any change will be to our benefit.