The Six Days of Yad-Mordechai – BONUS POST

The Bonus Book of the Week is “The Six Days of Yad-Mordechai” by M. Larkin, originally published in 1965.

Passionate, mostly Polish Holocaust survivors who were able to make their way to the Gaza Strip in Palestine in late 1943 worked tirelessly to establish a new kibbutz called Yad-Mordechai. The socialistic ideal of their farm collective was this: “Since economic dependence upon the father was what gave him power, such dependence was abolished in their society.”

Still, the community fell short of total gender equality, as the males did the hard manual labor on the infrastructure; an all-male militia except for one female fought against attacking Egyptians, and females did all the food preparation and childcare.

In November 1947, a majority of United Nations (UN) members voted in favor of partitioning Palestine between an Arab state and a Jewish state. The situation was to become official in mid-May 1948, when the British were to withdraw its officials from Palestine. Arab countries broadcast propaganda that gave their fellow tribesmen the impression they were only temporarily evacuating their homes by that same deadline, and would eventually conquer the Jews and return to take over the entire strip of land that was slightly larger than the state of New Jersey.

The Yad Mordechai kibbutz just happened to be located in the Arab state. The Arabs refused to recognize the UN vote, and decided to fight the Jews for the entire territory. The villains of WWII– ex-Nazis and Italian Fascists, plus Lebanese, Egyptians, Syrians and Trans-Jordanians fought on behalf of the Arabs. The Jews had poorly equipped militias and intelligence cells called the Hagana, Palmach, Irgun and the Stern group.

Nevertheless, as of this writing, Wikipedia says this kibbutz still exists today, and its population is 737. It might be recalled that pure socialism thrived for a short time when the State of Israel was born. That was an extremely special exception, for the following major reasons; the kibbutzniks:

  • were forced to work together in order to survive in the desert, geographically surrounded by enemies;
  • were like-minded– oppressed for their religion– seeking a safe place in the world;
  • had a common goal bigger than themselves– building a country for themselves from the ground up– creating the political, social and cultural systems and infrastructure when everything was simple and their population was low;
  • had in common the shared, traumatic experience of WWII and/or the Holocaust; and
  • had substantial financial and military help from the United States.

Lo and behold, Yad Mordechai has since turned to capitalism to survive, selling certain brands of foods. However, the dangers of capitalism become apparent when financial scandals and crashes plague the nation due to EXCESSIVE DEREGULATION.

As is well known, there was consolidation through the 1980’s and 1990’s of the corporate auditing industry, and “Big Six” became the “Big Four” eventually, prompting businesses across the country to become even more incestuous (corrupt) in their relationships with their auditors.

In 1994, the big-name auditor Ernst & Young fired their in-house legal department and hired outside legal counsel. They must have been hiring employees from the competition, who brought a certain corporate culture to their legal department. In 2002, the Enron / Arthur Andersen scandal broke.

Certain wise folks can see a scandal coming. Like Ernst & Young. They don’t know exactly when it will hit the fan, but they know they don’t want to be there when it happens. James Baker of the Reagan administration was one of those sharp individuals. He switched positions with Donald Regan so that he would be far away when the Iran-Contra scandal became publicized.

In 2019, BB&T, a government bond broker, merged with Sun Trust Banks. Excessive deregulation can do wonders for the bottom lines (when they go hog-wild) of any profit-making organizations in the short term. BUT– it seems as though as the decades pass, financial-industry-players gain more and more experience in preventing lawsuits brought against them from their customers and clients by:

having the latter sign legal documents they never had to sign before, and placing disclaimers galore on all of their communications. The latest disturbing trend is for (previously low-risk) government-bond(!) brokers to do this.

Anyway, read the book to learn of the spirited beginnings, independence-warfare death toll and traumas suffered by the Yad Mordechai kibbutzniks, and their eventual fate. [And stay tuned for more traumas in the government bond market.]

Open Skies – BONUS POST

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The Bonus Book of the Week is “Open Skies, My Life as Afghanistan’s First Female Pilot” by Niloofar Rahmani with Adam Sikes, published in 2021.

Born in December 1991 in Afghanistan, the author deserves major bragging rights. For, she possessed the courage to serve as a liberated female role model (given her culture) by risking her own life and her family members’ lives in serving her beloved homeland. She joined the air force in December 2010. According to the book (which appeared to be credible although it lacked Notes, Sources, References, or Bibliography and an index) this was at a time when the Americans and NATO were running the show.

The Taliban and other devout Muslims were less than thrilled that she was the first Afghan female ever to learn to fly a fixed-wing aircraft. Pursuant to the Koran, a female’s priorities were: submissive girlhood, wifehood, motherhood, and womanhood (and usually, the first three were forced on females simultaneously), and taking care of a household; only then, might she work outside the home if her oldest living male relative allowed her to.

The author spent her early childhood in a refugee camp in Pakistan. Anomalously, but fortunately for her, both of her parents believed in educating her and her siblings (mostly sisters), and encouraging them to pursue the career of their choice. The family eventually moved to Kabul. Unsurprisingly, the author’s career choice provoked angry reactions from the male-dominated air force and males in her country. The most fanatical ones began to smear, spy on, and threaten her and her family.

Nevertheless, the author’s parents martyred themselves in so many ways for their children’s futures. Her father continued to encourage the author to keep flying, even when her family was under siege and suffering many hardships due to her focusing on her dream job.

A barbaric incident that occurred in March 2015 was just one indicator that in Afghanistan, the tide was turning toward the dark side yet again: a huge flash-mob of outraged, radical Muslim men tortured and killed a devout Muslim woman wrongly accused of burning the Koran.

The victim was set upon because a mullah (a credible, influential religious leader) was her accuser. Just a few of the vicious untruths spread about her were that she was a prostitute, a blasphemer of Islam, and was an agitator sent by the Americans (perceived as the evil occupiers). The author herself was subjected to roughly equivalent, ugly utterances.

Read the book to learn how the author cheated death in this wordy, redundant yet suspenseful volume.

The Girls in the Wild Fig Tree / The Last Nomad

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The first Book of the Week is “The Girls in the Wild Fig Tree, How I Fought to Save Myself, My Sister, and Thousands of Girls Worldwide” by Nice Leng’ete, published in 2021.

According to the book (which appeared to be credible although it lacked Notes, Sources, References, or Bibliography and an index), the following is still an all-too-common scenario in a poor village in Kenya: “… it is unlikely she will finish her education [meaning– graduating what would be equivalent to grammar school in the United States]. Her father married her [off when she was] young to get a dowry. Her husband wants her home to work and raise the children.” She is fifteen years old and already has two babies.

The author’s passion is to replace the tradition of female genital mutilation (FGM) practiced by certain Kenyan tribes, with Alternative Rites of Passage. For, the culturally entrenched FGM is one major reason females in her society have been so sheltered, limited and resigned to their fate for so long.

The author grew up in a Maasai village in Kenya, near the Tanzanian border. When she was about five years old, her mother took her to witness a FGM ceremony in her community. Maasai culture dictated that when girls showed signs of puberty, they underwent the ceremony. “The cut” (of the clitoris) was extremely painful, and the presence of complications such as infection or hemorrhage could lead to chronic medical problems or even death. There were no drugs administered.

But the cut, even in the absence of physical complications, signaled the next steps of arranged marriage, childbearing and servitude for the rest of a girl’s life, usually beginning in her early teen years. Even when a girl’s mother wanted to honor her daughter’s wish to finish school and have a different lifestyle, she had no power to persuade her husband or any other male relatives to allow that to happen. The males ruled the roost.

Read the book to learn how the author escaped her almost certain dismal fate, and how she is helping other females to do the same, without their having to endure all the traumas she did.

The second Book of the Week is “The Last Nomad, Coming of Age in the Somali Desert, by Shugri Said Salh, published in 2021.

According to the book (which appeared to be credible although it lacked Notes, Sources, References, or Bibliography and an index), the author’s Muslim family was somewhat anomalous, in that her father was a multi-lingual scholar who believed in education for both genders, and her grandmother was an authoritative figure. The author was born around 1974. Her culture also still practiced female genital mutilation.

The sprawling family’s tribe was nomadic– they herded camels and goats, and seasonally migrated around the desert in Somalia, looking for water. Their religion allowed polygamy among the men. The author’s father’s biological children numbered 23 among 7 wives, 5 of whom he divorced; the author’s mother gave birth to 10 children before she passed away of malaria when the the author was six years old.

In 1988, Somalia’s government and tribes devolved into civil war. “Killing, looting, destruction, and chaos was now our norm.” The people had a complicated system of relationships in which they took care of their own family and tribe, and if their brains were poisoned by war, they became hostile to all others.

The author’s sister possessed a key survival skill– thorough knowledge of her family’s lineage so that, when questioned, she knew which tribal name to utter to quell sociopathic, armed-and-dangerous child-soldiers in the streets. When the family finally fled Mogadishu in 1991, their black-market connections allowed them to obtain provisions that kept them alive– fuel for a truck, food and ammunition. However, they braved many other life-threatening dangers, including atrocities (committed by people), harm from lions, poisonous snakes and baboons, disease and dehydration; not to mention lice and scabies.

The author and several relatives were able to cross the border and stay in Kenya temporarily. Even so, law enforcement officers in Nairobi were corrupt– arresting refugees and hitting them up for bribes just before they knew the refugees were due to legally leave the country.

Read the book to learn much, much more about the author’s checkered story.

Inside the Kingdom

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The Book of the Week is “Inside the Kingdom, My Life in Saudi Arabia” by Carmen Bin Ladin, published in 2004.

Born in the early 1950’s, the author grew up in Switzerland. Her mother was Persian. When she married into the Bin Laden family (of Osama fame; a sprawling, super-wealthy and powerful family), her husband had tens of siblings. She, her husband and baby daughter moved to Saudi Arabia in 1975. According to the author’s account (which appeared credible although it lacked Notes, Sources, References, or Bibliography and an index), four years later, Iran’s religious craziness spread to Saudi Arabia, so that fanatical Muslim males began to abusively rule every detail of females’ lives.

The author described many other aspects of Saudi Arabian culture (whose religious extremism has increased in recent decades), and how it compared to the values and beliefs of Western culture. She learned Muslim culture from her mother, but was partial to the freedoms and opportunities females enjoyed in Europe and the United States. She wanted to expose her daughters to her husband’s Saudi lifestyle (which was mildly religious compared to many of his siblings’ and contacts’), but also have the same chances to succeed that she did.

The author observed that, in the late twentieth century, Western mentality encouraged entrepreneurship; on the other hand, traditionally, Saudi Arabia’s sons had hierarchically inherited their wealth pursuant to birth order, and were expected to stay in their lane– work in their existing family businesses, and not start their own. The author’s husband bucked the trend and despite his success, his older brothers professionally and socially ostracized him for it.

In the early 1980’s, the author’s oldest daughter started school (at the time, a rare opportunity for females). The education system was all rote learning– of Arabic, arithmetic, history, and most importantly, the Koran. Her daughter wrote in her exercise book, “I hate Jews. I love Palestine.” The author was powerless to change the school’s curriculum, but at home, tried to foster critical thinking in her daughters. Even so, “… her teacher would always give a Bin Laden the best marks, whether she deserved it or not.” One other interesting factoid: the female teacher was allowed to slap a student’s face for the purpose of discipline.

Read the book to learn a lot more about how the author, her family and her (super-rich) in-laws lived in Saudi Arabia, and about her and her daughters’ fate at the book’s writing.

ENDNOTE: As is well known, the Muslim religion fosters gender inequality. And even in the United States, certain cultures of peoples have more gender inequality than others. The overturning of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision Roe V. Wade is not just about female reproductive rights or religion or rich or poor. The demographic groups who think of females as property are most affected by the changing of the law. They need to change their own cultures themselves before they trot out excuses as to why they are oppressed by society at large. They need to stop oppressing themselves!

North By Northwest / My Old Man and the Sea

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The first Book of the Week is “North By Northwest, A Seafaring Family on Deadly Alaska Waters” by Captain Sig Hansen and Mark Sundeen, published in 2010.

Born in the Seattle area in 1966, Hansen was of Norwegian ancestry. He was mentored in fishing for a living by his grandfather, father, and the Norwegian fishing community. His older male relatives had been sourcing seafood for decades. The community had been growing in the upper Midwest in the United States since the early 1800’s. It was a lucrative, male-dominated career– a subculture bearing a resemblance to military life in certain ways:

  • Teamwork was required of five or six men who lived in close quarters, doing rigorous physical work under life-threatening conditions at all times at sea;
  • There were numerous ways to: become seriously injured, and / or suffer serious financial losses rather than reap huge financial gains from selling expensive seafood;
  • The crew consisted of a hierarchy whose entry involved initiation rites in the form of practical jokes that were not always harmless; and
  • Even during the off-season, the men’s drinking fostered male bonding that allowed them to mitigate the emotional stress of their work, and maintain their relationships in the old-boy network.

After high school, Hansen apprenticed as a deckhand on his father’s boat. The men were away at sea from nine to eleven months of the year, using “pots” (large, unwieldy cages that trap the seafood) to catch: red crab in the Bering Sea and near Nome in Alaska and near Adak, blue crab at St. Matthew, and opilio crab at Dutch Harbor.

In the 1980’s, the fishermen were allowed to carry boxes of live crabs in the plane cabin on Reeve Aleutian Airways. When starting their winter fishing season, if they were extremely lucky, they could complete their flight from Anchorage to Dutch Harbor in Alaska on an icy twin-prop plane. They booked it months in advance, arrived at the airport in the wee hours of the morning, and prayed that the weather would cooperate.

Read the book to learn a little history about seafaring in general, including the context of the following quote:

“That winter he was killed by Hawaiians at Kealakekua Bay, his body torn apart and burned.”

and much more about Hansen’s life and times in his community. By the way, he appeared on the reality TV show, “Deadliest Catch.”

The second Book of the Week is “My Old Man and the Sea, A Father and Son Sail Around Cape Horn” by David Hays and Daniel Hays, published in 1995. Father and son alternately described, beginning in the new year of 1985, their adventures at sea– sailing (with no motor) on a tiny yacht for fun from New London, Connecticut southward thousands of miles, and eventually, around the tip of South America from west to east (the less dangerous route). They began testing their boat in fall 1984, sailing through the Panama Canal, and the Caribbean Sea.

As they well knew, all kinds of discomforts and life-threatening dangers awaited them. That was the challenge of it. Even with all of their experience in purchasing the boat, making it seaworthy (over the course of two years), maintaining their (then-primitive) communications and navigation equipment (which required them to pack thousands of items for every possible scenario they might encounter), they still suffered injuries, seasickness, hangovers, etc. When sailing along the South Carolina and Georgia coasts, the chart warned them to watch out for “… unexploded mines, rocket casings and torpedoes, and chemical warfare dumpings.”

On their voyages, they met with visiting family or friends to celebrate Jewish holidays such as Yom Kippur. They attended a service at a synagogue on the island of Jamaica. The ark and dais were at opposite ends of the sanctuary, on a floor comprised of sand (representative of a desert).

Much later, when they arrived at a port in the Galapagos Islands, local law allowed them to pollute the water there for only three days; then they had to ship out. The authors described the area thusly: “In the name of white rice and virginity, Western man spent a good two hundred years raping, robbing, and leaving neat diseases here.” It was rumored to be a gateway to Atlantis, and the approximate population was three thousand.

The onshore entertainment consisted of the American movie “Blade Runner” whose soundtrack was poor quality, and whose reels were screened out of order, but the native people in the theater were undemanding.

The authors related that it is easily conceivable that about a hundred men could have made the sculptures on Easter Island over the course of a few decades, thus blowing speculations of alien-artists out of the water.

Read the book to: learn additional info about the authors’ adventures at sea (including their crazy pets), about previous trips made by them and others, see sample pages of their log, a diagram of their boat, and much more.

The Daughters of Kobani

The Book of the Week is “The Daughters of Kobani, The Story of Rebellion, Courage, and Justice” by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, published in 2021.

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“She didn’t have time to offer hourly updates to her family, who were tracking every moment of the battle for Kobani on Facebook and WhatsApp.”

No, the above referred NOT to an American political campaign, but a real-life war.

Violence in northern Syria resumed between Kurds (an oppressed minority in Iraq and Syria) and non-Kurds in March 2004 after tensions boiled over at a soccer game. At the same time, there was hostility over water-rights of the Euphrates river between Syria (a non-NATO member) and Turkey (a NATO member).

Turkey harbored anger and resentment toward Syria’s leader, and wanted him out. The Soviets backed Syria’s leader, as did the U.S. initially. In the 1990’s, a Marxist-Leninist activist named Abdullah Ocalan formed a violent (some might say terrorist) pro-Kurdish, pro-gender-equality group called PKK, that agitated for self-rule for the Kurds in Syria.

The decades-long cliche is: the latest terror group (ISIS) obtained modern war weaponry from Iraqi forces, who had received the equipment from America. As is well known, the region has been a foreign-policy conundrum for the governments of industrialized countries (with their strategic interests), for forever. The U.S. thought it needed to fight ISIS, but didn’t want to send in ground troops (and invite yet another “Vietnam” in the Middle East). But it did want to protect its physical diplomatic and military presence in northern Iraq– Kurdish territory, near the Syrian border. So it sent some in, anyway.

The author described a handful of females who volunteered to join one of PKK’s spinoff militias (YPK and YPG). From the city of Kobani in Syria, the females were resistant to their arranged marriages and limited educations decided on by their families’ patriarchs. Two of the females commanding troops engaged in guerrilla warfare that resembled “capture the flag” or paintball, but with real war weapons, real deaths and really widespread destruction of civilians’ communities.

During the early 2010’s, the U.S. decided to let the Kurdish militias on the ground do the most dangerous fighting. The YPG had communications devices of radios, cell phones and walkie-talkies, and U.S.-supplied guns. ISIS had rifles, rocket launchers, artillery, car bombs, snipers, IEDs, land mines and suicide bombers. In summer 2014, the U.S. launched tens of airstrikes on ISIS in and around Kobani.

Read the book to learn: the fate of the fight’s many stakeholders that included countries, groups and individuals, how ruling authorities furthered gender-equality for Tunisians and Syrian Kurds in 2014 and 2016 respectively, and much more about the tentative progress made by various parties.