Jo sóc un jueu autèntica.

September 2, 2011

Wandering around the medieval quarter of the wonderful town of Girona, peeking into the courtyards in the Jewish quarter, reading plaques about this and that bit of Iberian Judaica that vanished with the Inquisition of 1492, never to return – no Jews here now! – I felt like declaring to the curators or restauranteurs, Jo sóc un jueu autèntica!  (Catalan for, “I am an authentic Jew!)  Maybe get a free snack, or a discount museum admission?  I thought better of it.

Gerona is beautiful and fascinating.  It’s one of those medieval towns that urban planners like to rhapsodize about:  the organic growth; the variety of spaces and spatio-temporal experiences as you walk through it; the multiple uses assigned to spaces – street, square, parking lot, market all in one!  The old town sits on a rock at the confluence of rivers, and is filled with winding streets, surprising squares, a fine set of walls, and a stupendous set of steps to the cathedral.

Urban views don’t get any better than this one from the old bridge in town, up towards the ‘new’ bridge, a metal affair designed by Gustave Eiffel.  The image on the right is of a Romanesque portal to an abbey near the cathedral.   Most of the time, I only get to see this sort of thing in museums, in pieces, but here it is intact, although the paint that originally livened it up is long gone.  The shapes are weird, looking almost like diatoms.  (Click the image for a shot of the full portal.)

The cathedral itself is monumental, and a bit surprising.  I plan another post on the characteristics of Catalan Gothic, but suffice it to say that although the arch on this side portal is pointed, this is not your Frenchman’s gothic.  The church is enlivened, or ruined? by an enormous late baroque façade applied over the original sober elevation.  At that time, the steep and positively enormous flights of steps to the main entrance were added.  I imagine that before that, a winding ramp led the faithful to the door.

Drainage always and everywhere…

Again ..?

January 12, 2009


The image above shows the barbed wire fence that marked the boundary of the Krakow ghetto in WWII.  Am I alone in having the sickening feeling that Gaza perversely echoes hideous enclosures like these?

No, I am not equating the two:  there is no organized plan to exterminate the inhabitants, nor even to abuse and starve them.  But Gaza is a small, restricted place in which there is little work, much poverty, and no hope.  It is a stinking, garbage strewn place with poor sanitation, hardly any economy, and a lot of angry, desperate people.  It is pretty much walled in…the distressing irony of Israel having created a mega-ghetto is almost too depressing to contemplate.

Some unpleasant facts and questions:

  • The bloodthirsty fanatics in Hamas who launch rockets at Israelis have killed a couple people.  The Israelis have killed or injured hundreds of civilians.  Isn’t proportionality a goal of armed conflict for ethical people?
  • Knee-jerk supporters of Israel are dismayed by negative “world opinion” of Israel fueled by TV images.  Should people not get upset at the sight of civilians being killed?
  • It is not much talked about, but in the 1890’s and early 20th century, many Jews were not very enthusiastic about Zionism, at least not in Palestine.  A fancy delegation sent to look the land over famously telegrammed, “We have met the bride-she is beautiful, but she is taken,” meaning that people were living there already!  All such misgivings are forgotten now.
  • Oh well, is there a nation among us that does not have injustice, expropriation, and brutality intimately woven into its birth-history?  (Ask the Native Americans!)  Why should Israel be any different?  Six million Israelis aren’t going anyway so it’s no use talking about “what was.”  They have as much right to be there as anyone else right now.
  • Millions of Arabs and Palestinians aren’t going anywhere, so it’s no use pretending that one more kick in the teeth will send them packing.  No use talking about non-negotiable principles.  Everything in politics is negotiable.
  • Yep, simple choice.  Keep killing one another, or stop and talk.  Is talking to terrorists giving in?  What is gained by not talking with them?  Does anyone honestly believe that they can stop the attacks this way?
  • Does anyone honestly feel that firing some crummy rockets at Israeli towns is going to bring on a Palestinian state?  Yep, they’re nuts, just angry young men whose who lives have been lived through this political conflict.  Israel deals with them from a position of strength.  And those poor civilians are held hostage to the armed forces of them all.