The Cabinet Puzzle

In our new home I have been looking for space to store things (such as empty suitcases) without taking up valuable space in the living area.  It so happens that there is some “dead” space between our bedroom (which is entered thru a sliding doors) and the new addition.  It seems that in Israel you cannot remove a window in a room that already has one, so there had to be a space left.  But, since the space is quite long and the sliding doors never open on the left that is a space that is never used.  I decided to fill this space with a plastic cabinet with doors.

I carefully measured the space and found that the maximum width of the cupboard could be 89 cm, not a round number.  I went to the Ace hardware store in Beersheva and looked at the plastic cabinets displayed there and there was one, the deepest they had, that was  – 89 cm wide!  If I were a believing person I would have taken this as a sign from God.  I bought the cabinet that came in a large cardboard box, to be assembled. Of course, the box was too big to fit into the back of my car, but I managed to get it in and used a bungee cord to keep the back door down.

When I started to assemble it that’s when the fun started.  There were diagrams in lieu of instructions.  I quickly found that there was only one way of assembling the bottom, the back and the sides.  Then I assembled the doors and they went together, easily, a central strip with top and bottom panels.  But I made the mistake of assuming that there was only one way to assemble the doors.  When I attached them to the cabinet, I discovered that in fact I had attached the door panels on the wrong sides of the central strips.  So I tried to remove the whole right door, but in doing so I managed to partially break a hook on the central strip that attaches to the cabinet.  Disaster!  But, after I had removed the door I fixed the hook with super glue and tape and when it hardened it was fine.  But, having learnt my lesson I instead managed to detach the upper and lower panels on the left door from the central strip that was still attached to the cabinet by the hook and then switched the panels and lo and behold it worked fine.  Then I attached the top and the cupboard was intact.

I still had to install the shelves.  There were some tiny plastic dohickeys, four for each shelf.  But how they attached to the shelf and then to the inside of the cabinet was a mystery.  The instructions showed only a fuzzy diagram.  After puzzling over this for two hours, I gave up.  The following morning I saw immediately how the dohickey fitted on the side of the shelf.  I put only one shelf in for stability.  Then I shlapped the whole cabinet into the bedroom, out through the sliding doors (I had checked that it would indeed go) and into the space intended.  It fit exactly, with barely a millimeter on each side.  Furthermore, all the large suitcases fitted into it without problem.  Now I can store some of my paintings in the place where the suitcases had been, and it’s inside the house so more suitable.  One more victory for order over chaos.


OK, So What’s Beersheva Like?

We’ve only been living here a week and I can already tell you it’s hot.  But, you know that and you also know that it’s a dry heat because it’s in the desert and not humid like in Netanya.  Today was the first day that we didn’t have help from our wonderful daughter Miriam and our equally wonderful (must be equitable) son, Simon, who came all the way from California to help us move.  Miriam did all the organization this end, with her equally wonderful husband Jeff, while Simon worked very hard to pack boxes and unpack boxes and do the heavy lifting and high work.  When he left yesterday he left us in a livable situation, almost normal.  We have paintings on the walls, a fridge filled with food, functioning air conditioners and a smart TV and wifi.  Who could ask for more?

Today I drove to the bank like any normal person and asked for money, and got it. I went to the hardware store (I know the way, been there many times) and bought some knick-knacks.  We are almost completely unpacked, only about 10 boxes left (out of ca. 120). But, these boxes are the intractable ones, the ones that have contents for which there is no known place.  I sit and look at them and sigh, but so far have not been able to unpack them.  I have developed an aversion to cardboard boxes, or cartons as the Israelis call them.  They make me feel insecure and itchy.  I can never face hundreds of them again taking over my living room, reproducing behind my back.

But, back to Beersheva.  It seems a much bigger city than Netanya, even though it probably is not.  And I notice a lot more Arabs around than in Netanya. Many of them, especially the young women, seem so modern and well-dressed.  There are several big malls here and there is absolutely no discrimination.  There are Arab shoppers and Arab servers. In the Ministry of Interior Building where we went to officially change our place of residence, there were Arabs waiting with us being served by a number system and there were Arab clerks.  The whole idea of an Israeli apartheid is rendered ludicrous by just one visit to Beersheva.

I must admit that up to now I have not actually engaged in any social activity in Beersheva.  I know the tourist sites (the Tel, the Negev Brigade Memorial, the Air Force Museum) and so on.  But, actually I am happy to live a quiet, retired life (yeah, how long will that last?) Meanwhile life goes on and we are enjoying it.  Best to all our friends in Netanya and elsewhere.



The Sixteenth Move

According to statistics the average person in the US lives in 11.4 places during their lifetime.  In the UK, I expect this number would be smaller, because people are less mobile than in the US.  Of course, the moves people make are not equally spaced during their lifetime, we tend to move most in the years between ages 18 and 30.   Since I have lived in 16 places that makes me somewhat above average.  Also, I have lived in three countries on different continents for long periods, the UK, where I was born and grew up, the US for thirty years, and Israel for over 20 years.  The move we have just made from Netanya to Beersheva, my sixteenth move, is probably the last move I will make in my lifetime.

Why move from the salubrious climes of Netanya, with its beautiful views of the Mediterranean Sea and its bustling city center, to Beersheva, in the middle of the Negev Desert.  Frankly the major reason was because our daughter Miriam and her family live here and we are getting to an age when we need her help, especially due to my wife’s Alzheimer’s disease.  But, also, we moved to a slightly larger one-story row-house.  This gives us more privacy, easier access (no elevator or stairs) and is a lot quieter being on an alley (mishol in Hebrew).  Miriam has been visiting us in Netanya every Tues, traveling for 5-6 hours.

How did the move go?  On the morning before moving day, the movers were supposed to come at 7.30 am and take all the boxes we packed (my son counted 83).  But, they failed to show up.   When I called, the mover told me that it was because his Arab (Palestinian) crew had told him they could not come due to a Muslim festival.  It turned out to be a valid excuse, but he should have known in advance.  He said he would get an Israeli crew and come later, about 12-1 pm.  They actually turned up at 2.30 pm.  They loaded all my paintings (over 100) from my studio first and then all the boxes from the apartment, then drove to Beersheva (a 2-3 hour drive) where my daughter let them into our new house.  Each box had a number 1-6 on it to indicate which room to put it in.  They did not finish until 10 pm.

On moving day they came just after 8 am, and worked for hours moving things into the truck, but the large items, sofas, bookcases, cupboards, they prepared.  Then the elevator truck came and quickly everything was lowered down to the ground and into the truck. It was a real jigsaw puzzle, and the truck was absolutely filled, but they got it all in.

Now 5 days later it seems impossible.  With my wonderful son Simon ‘s help, who came especially from California to help us move, almost all the boxes (over 90%) have been opened and emptied.  With my son-in-law Jeff and grandson’s help the empty boxes were discarded and furniture was moved into its final position.   We are already settled and now taking care of bureaucratic matters (more of that later) as well as fixing things and making final adjustments.  We are in our new home and returning to life itself.


A Moving Experience

As some of you may know, we are moving to Beersheva next week.  Our apartment is full of boxes waiting to be taken.  Many have asked “why Beersheva?” after all Netanya is a pretty resplendent location.  We will be giving up the Mediterranean sea, the beautiful beach and the magnificent cliff-top for –  the Negev desert.

Could it be that we are moving there to become more complete Zionists, to follow the example of our erstwhile leader and guru, David Ben Gurion, who retreated to the rigors of Sde Boker, a kibbutz just south of Beersheva in the Negev Desert.  That is the ideological premise.  But, alas it is not true, that is not the real reason.

Could it be because we are moving from an apartment to a larger one-story house where we will have a more private and comfortable existence.  Yes and no.  It will certainly be nicer from the point of view of daily living.  But, that is not the real reason either.

The main reason we are moving to Beersheva is our daughter, Miriam.  She is a wonderful daughter and a caring person and she happens to live in Beersheva with her husband, Jeff, and two children (another is married).  Now that we are getting older and have some health problems, it turns out to be far better to live near her.  We will be about 30 seconds away, just down the alley (mishol).  That’s another good reason, we will be living on an alley where there are no cars, and that will be nicer and quieter for us.

But, whatever the reasons, the move will require that I suspend writing my daily blog postings for a while.  My son Simon arrived from California yesterday to help us with the move, so I shall be busy for a while.  Keep thinking positive thoughts until I can come back to disturb your equanimity.



Dear friends, as many of you may know we are moving from Netanya to Beersheva in early September to be near our daughter and family.   In preparation for this move, so difficult at our age, we are in the process of packing.  One collects so many things during a lifetime.  Although we pared down considerably when we made aliyah (moved from the USA to Israel), we are now doing it again.  We are ridding ourselves of much extraneous baggage, and yet retaining so much that is both necessary and of sentimental value.

Yesterday I put all my tape cassettes and VCR tapes into bags and dumped them in the trash.  Technology moves on and so must we.  I am keeping my CD’s for the moment and most of my books.  They represents so much of what we are, our music and our stories. As for the rest, my grandson Hillel came and helped me wrap my larger paintings for transfer and we are now sorting clothing and glassware, and so on.

As a result of these preparations my ability to write a daily blog has been compromised. I will try to continue to write as often as I can, but until we are resettled, I will not be able to ensure such a steady flow of articles.  In the meantime I have not been idle, I have helped my friend Eddie Bielowsky publish his memoir of the Shoah, entitled “Invisible Jews: surviving the Holocaust in Poland.” Also, I have written and just published a book on the subject of the Bnei Anousim or “marranos” entitled “The Reawakening: the re-emergence of Jews after 500 years of Spanish-Portuguese Catholic Persecution,” which will be available on

I will be busy packing and preparing for the next six weeks until the move.  But, don’t worry, I hope to continue to have some more original, interesting and even compelling insights with which to entertain you.


Dear friends:

My sister-in-law Barbara and her partner Brian are visiting now from the UK and I haven’t been able to find time to catch up with my usual schedule of writing blogs posts. This week and next week I will be busy going on trips with them.

Be in touch soon.



Genealogy from DNA Analysis

For many years I have believed, based on stories I was told from an early age, that my grandparents on my mother’s side were Dutch Sefardi Jews.  They were definitely Dutch, my grandfather Joel Kops went from Holland to England in the early 20th century and every evening he listened to the news from Hilversum in Dutch.  They were very assimilated, with essentially no Jewish practices, but they were definitely Jews (all of my grandfather’s family remaining in Holland – 51 people – were murdered by the Nazis).

In order to find out if the story of my Sefardi origin was true I had a genealogist trace my family back 4 generations, but all the surnames she uncovered were Ashkenazi names.   I also discovered that although ca. 5,000 Sefardi Jews moved to Holland from Spain after the expulsion of 1492 (Holland had been a Spanish colony and was very anti-Spanish and anti-Catholic), also soon after another 5,000 Ashkenazi Jews also moved to Holland.  So it was a toss-up.  Then I decided to do the acid test, a DNA test.

Without going into the details, one can analyze the sequence of bases in the DNA taken from almost any cells in the body (usually the oral mucosa), and compare the analysis to many others from different ethnic groups.  They can analyze the Y-chromosome to trace the patrilineal descent and the mitochondrial (mt)-DNA to trace the matrilineal descent, as well as the total DNA (genome) content.  The company called Family Tree DNA (see ) has built up a large data base of such characteristic ethnic DNA sequences, particularly with a large Jewish database, and by statistical comparison they can tell you your individual ethnic background.  The tests cost several hundred dollars.

My results were that I am 89% Ashkenazi Jewish and only 6% Sefardi, with 3% West Middle East and 2% south-east Europe (Italy-Greece).  Given that my father’s family were Ashkenazi Jews from the Ukraine, assuming they had no Sefardi origins, this means that my Sefardi origin on my mother’s side was ca. 12%, certainly less than the 50% that I was expecting.  So the story of my Sefardi origins was perhaps somewhat exaggerated, but nevertheless is real.