A blog gives such leeway.
Now try to imagine Barack Obama at the Kulturhuset and then later on some more preachments (AIPAC style) at the Great Synagogue of Stockholm. Like a rock star! Sure, the synagogue would have been packed to overflowing, like at Yom Kippur. And the Security!
It was Stockholm, Thursday, 26th May, 2011 / 22 Ijar, 5771. Amoz OZ was sure here in Stockholm and busy making his presence felt, first at the International Writers Stage at Kulturhuset where he tangoed with his equally brilliant dance partner Johanna Koljonen.
At the end of the show, being no rock and roll artist all he got was a bouquet; I can’t remember if he got a hug, perfunctory or not and a peck on both cheeks, but they (Amos & Johanna) got a standing ovation. A quarter of his audience then lined up, book in hand to receive his autograph and to exchange a few pleasantries, some of them no doubt, hoping to hear more kind words from him, hopefully, personally directed at them, you know, so they can say at a later date, “ As Amoz Oz said to me” etc etc.
Just as I can say but have never said, “ As Wole (Wole Soyinka ) said to me”, since I spent a glorious week with him when he was here at the PEN conference (some breakfast at the Grand Hotel, dinners, a party, viewing manuscript sheets of work-in-progress, in the day of the portable Olivetti typewriter) some private conversations, a walk through Kungsträdgården/the King’s Gardens (where someone tried to sell us some shit) – and great dramatist that he is, at some point he was heaping praise on the Drottningholm Theatre – I even saw him off at Vasagatan, on the bus to Arlanda but all that was in 1979 seven years before he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature and I was still up to date with his literary output and political activities, which included directing down-town traffic in congested Lagos where the dog (Ogun’s sacrificial animal) was still being slaughtered in unavoidable car accidents by taxi drivers who have Ogun (Shango’s like the Scandinavian Thor) but the Yoruba taxi drivers who adhere to their traditional religion are said to have Ogun, the Yorubas’ universal “god of Iron“ as their patron saint…
Just as I can say but have never said, “As Ngugi (Ngugi Wa Thiong’o) said to me”, since I hung out with him in Ghana early 1970 when he was writer in residence at Legon, and then still known as James Ngugi…in his shorti trousers, hair like virgin forest growing in a natural state, untouched by comb and unlike me his hedges not trimmed or shaped into an Afro, but watered eternally by quite a lot of beer quaffed internally and externally the same hair, said to be unkempt, weathered by the Harmattan winds and on the skin, all that sunshine….
It’s good to have known such people even if only briefly, before
“Oh, fortune and fame’s such a curious game
Perfect strangers can call you by name “…
OZ says that Chekhov is his man, his role model….
OZ was billed for 17.30 at the Great Synagogue of Stockholm the following day. The security was tight. If it had been in December Stockholm, the fateful month when that lone suicide bomber struck and all Sweden nearly died of fright, the security around OZ would have been tighter, even as the same Swedes like to pontificate about Hamas and Gaza, though they have not seen any action like the Israeli citizens of Sderot who continue to live traumatized lives ( and so would you) to have barely twenty seconds in which to run for cover hearing the siren that tells them the hooligans are at it again. Unlike Israel, in Sweden where everyone is still shivering with fear, after that lone suicide bomber blew himself up and took no one with him to paradise, they are still discussing questions such as could the big bad wolf strike again?
The big bad wolf
So, I find a young security man outside the Great Stockholm Synagogue asking me whether I am carrying a weapon or not and I ask him why and he tells me “because I’m carrying one.” It must require adherence to the boy scouts motto, “Be Prepared”: private citizen Svensson can you hear? Except it doesn’t help should the big bad wolf strike again, whether you are carrying one or two or even three weapons : the big bad wolf can take you unawares; the big bad wolf believes in his 72 virgins and that all the seven doors of heaven will open for him!
Oz spoke more intimately to his adoring fans in the synagogue, dilated on religious themes about the Almighty’s tolerance and patience with His chosen people and I suspect that many of them are like-minded among the Jewish conservative folk and less so, less Oz-like among the Orthodox faithful of world Jewry. He ( Oz) loves his people all right and he says that he supports Obama ( I heard and understood him to have said that explicitly and in plain English) but the belief in a peaceful and happy future co-existence within pre-67 borders among the Arab neighbours and even far away Iran for all future time, is rather naïve and you don’t have to be a hard-core realist or to live as an activist at the Mea Shearim to believe this.
In speaking more intimately with the audience at the great synagogue of Stockholm, I did appreciate his sense of humour , that the Children of Israel are used to discussing, even arguing matters out with the Almighty – but nevertheless, despite that being so, as things are now, platitudes however comforting, won’t help : the philosophy still has to be real : “ Trust in the Lord but don’t forget to keep your gunpowder dry.”
This is the type of talk that I would expect from a realist – even a fiction writer , in any synagogue:
this article which spells out THE REAL SITUATION and cannot be conceived of even by a cynic as the pleasant kind of things that a would-be Nobel Laureate says in canvassing for the peace prize. Next someone will be asking Israel to turn the other cheek.
I won’t waste your time any further. OZ was asked what he thought about Flotilla 2 and he opined that as long as the ships were only carrying food and medicines, they should be let through.
The truth is that Israel is facing a new Flotilla threat and as reported in this Chinese website, the commandos are being specially trained to meet the emergency that Flotilla 2 poses
He was asked about what he thought was the attitude of other Arab nations, since the Arab Spring has taken wing…..again optimism. In my opinion, about future Arab attitudes to Israel – even if by spring magic the 22 Arab States became totally democratic by tomorrow morning, in relation to Israel, with Arab/ Muslim people power in the ascendant we can only be cautiously optimistic.
Briefly about the Arab in the street these are some of my views
I do not and cannot believe in blind optimism – nor do the Muslims believe in blind Optimism.
Oz believes that it’s right against right.
Rephrasing him in the language of religion it is Bitachon – with all your heart versus Tawakul
The Sabbath is almost here, it’s Parshat NASO.
It’s a great way of counting time! The next Sabbath will also surely be on its way.
Shabbat Shalom everybody!
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