Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Israel is a mistake (not)

Eight years after suggesting that Israel was an "honest" mistake, Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen's follow-up book shows that his love for Israel prevails.

Israel "is an honest mistake, a well-intentioned mistake, a mistake for which no one is culpable," Cohen wrote in a July, 2006, column. "The idea of creating a nation of European Jews in an area of Arab Muslims (and some Christians) has produced a century of warfare and terrorism of the sort we are seeing now."

Stating that there was no point in condemning the fetid anti-Semites of Hamas and Hezbollah, Cohen suggested that Israel "pull back to defensible -- but hardly impervious -- borders. That includes getting out of most of the West Bank -- and waiting (and hoping) that history will get distracted and move on to something else."

Referring to that article repeatedly in his new book, Israel: Is It Good for the Jews? (Simon & Schuster, September 2014), Cohen explains that "the word 'mistake' was itself a mistake." The mistake, he simplifies, was the "belief that somehow the Arab Middle East would politely make way for European Jews."

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Writer and Friend of Bulgaria



The first email that I received from Knigi News, a website devoted to Bulgarian books and authors, had the word "Inquiry" listed in Bulgarian as its subject, and the message it contained was simply "Do you speak Bulgarian, Mr. Shuman?"

This was the start of my correspondence with Bulgarian author Stoyan Valev (When God Was On Leave; Time To Be Unfaithful; The Bulgarian Decameron). He wrote to me in Bulgarian and I responded in English. At some point, Google Translate failed to correctly relate our messages, as Valev assumed that I was married to a Bulgarian woman who would help me with translations.

The following is my interview published on Knigi News. The questions were given to me in Bulgarian and I wrote my answers in English. I am sincerely grateful to friends who helped me with translations to enable this interview. I must admit that what pleased me most was the description of my image that accompanied the article. The caption was: "Ellis Shuman, writer and friend of Bulgaria".

Monday, September 15, 2014

From Bulgaria to the Promised Land, Brazil

Escaping from internment in a Bulgarian labor camp during World War Two, a Jewish man makes a better life for his family in the Amazon.

One of the earliest memories that Licco Hazan retains from his childhood is the assassination attempt on Bulgarian ruler Tsar Boris III, a bombing which destroyed the Sveta Nedelya Cathedral in downtown Sofia in 1925. Licco, a member of a proud Jewish family, traced his origins to Toledo in Spain, five hundred years earlier. His grandfather was the cantor at the Sofia Synagogue, a profession which gave the family their name. Life was not easy for the Hazans at the beginning of the 20th century, nor was it an easy time for Bulgaria. Things would get much harder.

In 1941, Bulgaria joined the Axis and officially entered World War II. Under pressure from Germany, the fascists who took control of Bulgaria planned to deport the country's Jews to the concentration camps in Poland. Bulgarian citizens and clergy rose up in protest, thwarting these plans. Still, Licco Hazan and his brother were rounded up and interned in a labor camp, where they were given back-breaking tasks.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Israeli Actor Moni Moshonov Stars in Oscar-Bound Bulgarian Film

Moni Moshonov
The film Bulgarian Rhapsody, a Bulgarian-Israeli production directed by Ivan Nichev, was selected by  Bulgaria's National Council for Cinema to be its country's contender in the Best Foreign Language Film category of the Oscar Academy Awards. The film, detailing the rescue of Bulgaria's Jewish citizens during World War Two, stars Israeli actor Moni Moshonov

Moshonov, who was born in Sofia in 1951 and moved to Israel with his family at the age of four, is well known for his hosting of the popular satirical TV show Zehu Ze!, first on Israeli Educational Television and then on Channel 2. In addition to his many comic roles, Moshonov has appeared frequently on the stage in Cameri, Habima and Beit Lessin theatrical productions. His film roles include Hatuna Meuheret (Late Marriage, 2001), for which he won the Israeli Film Academy Award for best supporting actor.

Moshonov's role in Bulgarian Rhapsody is his first in a Bulgarian language film.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

I Couldn't Believe What I Saw Out My Sarajevo Hotel Window

My wife and I arrived in Sarajevo in June, as part of our tour of Bosnia and Herzegovina. We were eager to visit a city rich in history, culture, and religious diversity.

Our trip to Sarajevo coincided with the one hundred year anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria - the shot that sparked World War I. Sarajevo hosted the Winter Olympics in 1984; the city suffered heavily while under siege during Bosnia's war for independence, 1992-1995. The Sarajevo Haggadah, an illuminated Hebrew manuscript dating to the 14th century and considered the most valuable book in the world is housed in Bosnia's National Museum, which has been closed since late 2012 due to lack of funding. So much history!

Before we had a chance to see the city, we enjoyed a cultural experience that took us quite by surprise. Who would have imagined that the most colorful part of our visit to the Bosnian capital would be seen by looking out our hotel window?

Read the rest of the article on The Huffington Post.