Skip navigation

A few years after my mother and I visited Krakóv , I spent some time in that city again. After seeing the Disneyfication of the old ghetto Kazimierz, I vowed never to come back. This place of remembrance and contemplation, of sorrow and grief had become a milk-cow for commercial exploiters of false nostalgia. It made me sick.

Kaddish for Kazimierz
Yitgadal veyitkadash sh’mei raba
let it rest now, it is over – don’t pretend
b’alma divrah chirutei
don’t desecrate its slaughtered body
v’yamlich malchutei b’chayeichon
don’t put its corpse on show
uv’yomeichon uv’chayei
embalmed and made up
d’chol beit yisra’el
lipstick on putrified lips
ba’agalah u’vizman kariv
kohl on empty eye sockets

Yehei shemei raba mevorach
le’olam ul’almei almayah

yitbarach veyishtabach veyitpa’ar
you have earned the right to rest
veyitromam veyitnasei veyithadar
the right to be left alone, to mourn
veyitalei veyithalal
alone, undisturbed
shemei d’kudsha b’rich hu
Eternal One, send them away

le’eilah min kol birchata v’shirata
even in death you find no peace
tushbechata v’nechemata
but are bought and sold again
da’amiran b’alma v’imru amein
your memories twisted, on display

yehei shlama raba min shemaya
killing you again and again
v’chayim aleinu v’al kol yisra’el
heartless, ruthless nostalgia
v’imru amein

osei shalom bimromav
hu ya’asei shalom aleinu
v’al kol yisra’el
v’imru amein

Advertisements

Graves

1
In a stone forest of
barely legible words
the trees whisper your greeting:
‘your unexpected existence
is without guilt –
not because, but despite
is what you are
feel welcome in our dead midst
living sprout
from a trunk presumed dead’.

2
I wanted to embrace and kiss them,
the cold sorrowful stones:
‘here I am, finally
I found you
in the maze of time’

there was no embrace
only the tips of my fingers
touched the rough hard skin
the underworld awoke
with a startled smile

after so many years, a voice!
the cool silence colours
in the shadowy depths
women with sheytls,
men in caftans shiver

my longing cannot bring back
the stones to life nor the ashes
the nameless not far from here
within the refuge of these ravaged walls

never before was I this close
each step pushes the distance along
my voice brings forth only silence
a last powerless look
I turn and leave.

3
the tender cracks sing
a long forgotten song
fear sinks deep –
in the awaiting ground
an unspoken question

how strange am I how close
to these ancestral graves –
will they mourn me or
refuse to speak my name,
still curse me?

will their curse damn me,
bring me to my knees
or make me revolt –
do I have to be like you,
because, because, because
and then?

how close am I how strange
to your perished world
but still –
our longing drives me
to this transparent dusk:
in vain?

4
While I softly caress the stone, the same
as she whose name I bear
she who died nameless
and sleeps without a name
while I softly caress this stone
the fog dissolves for a moment
time becomes transparent
then and later and now
the voice of the Eternal
sings in my head.

5
In this place
far away from the world
enclosed by walls
sprigs of ivy nurse
the stones and the dead
hidden like Your love
without beginning or end.

6
Small stone on big stone
salt tear in sweet pond
flesh of your flesh
if –
if I lay me down here, stretch
arms, legs on the soft ground
my roots will grow into the earth
reach out –
but never reach.

Ghosts

1
Standing among the speaking stones
I stare silently at the house
the scent of poverty in my nose
through the windows of time
I can see you on the porch
your pale face staring over the graves
– at me, or so it seems
but your eyes don’t see me
you don’t see me at all;
the stones become silent
the porch deserted
the windows reflect a broken sky
opaque as time.

2
shadow that enfolds me
and flees –
only patches
of boots, coat, beard
your voice hidden in time
sings in the shul nearby
your leather-wound hand
covers my eyes –
your feet dance away, away
from me –
shadow that flees
and enfolds me.

 

This is a cycle of poems I wrote in 1989 after a visit with my mother to Krakóv – where my family on my mother’s side came from.
I recently found them among my mother’s papers and I corrected and edited them. I do not pretend this is great poetry, but it reflects my thoughts and feelings upon visiting this emotionally charged city where my grandparents – and, for a couple of years, my mother – lived. My grandfather grew up in the Jewish ghetto Kazimierz, in a building that looks on the cemetery where the famous Rabbi Moses Isserles (writer of the Shulchan Aruch) is buried. My mother told me about the poverty and unsanitary circumstances in the ghetto; she saw it every time they visited her grandparents there. I visited the other cemetery, where many of my relatives (the ones who were lucky enough to die before the nazi occupation) are buried. I found graves of some of them.

I dedicate these poems to my Mother’s memory.

Intro
Two halves united
like Persephone in ancient times
led by your hand I enter
the land of shadows
as a bride – the gloomy king
forges in vain
chains made of Then

Outside new life beckons
the eternally young Queen
the sun caresses your hands, my skin –
then, underground chains rattle
me back in a soft whisper

Summer here, winter there
my life is split
since you gave me both
the gap closed
the Styx navigable
and me – a fragile bridge.

Streets

1
Buildings die slowly
grief shatters stones
skin bursts in nameless pain
doors as open wounds
never closed
walls mould feverishly

to die like this –
among strangers
listening, shivering
doorsteps wait for a beloved foot
life remembered in vain
in this emptiness
full of Then.

2
No flowers for empty streets
filled with decay and disgust
let the end come quickly now
body without a soul

buildings degraded to bricks
housing nothing but slimy rot
nothing will bring back together
what was separated by man.

Let us carry you to your grave
under a clear sky, in the light
of a cold, cold day
our eyes without tears.

3 Uprising in the ghetto
to stay to look to see
nameless courage in vain
streets covered with bodies,
warm, pierced – everywhere
you stand or walk
here they lay
feel the warmth of their blood
feel the softness of their strength
feel the harshness of their deaths
feel the unknown names –
etched in every stone.

My mother’s last breath was a sigh of relief. She was relieved to leave this world that had murdered six millions of her kind, including hundreds of members of her large extended family: the people she loved, the ones she hated; the relatives and friends she liked as well as those she despised. She was also relieved not to have to go through the ever advancing stages of Alzheimer’s disease, a demon that had haunted her even before it touched her.

There were only 36 kilos left of her, a tiny, frail old lady. Still she fought like a lioness when we tried to sedate her; I think she was afraid we were going to prolong her suffering, but we weren’t. My sister Caroline and I had finally convinced the doctors to sedate her because she was suffering from a delirium, something that often happens to people as old and weak as she was when admitted to hospital. I tried to tell her we were only helping her and she wrapped her arms around my neck and broke the silence she had retreated into for one last time as she said: “Mijn kind, mijn kind.” (My child, my child.)

Eventually she was sedated and calmed down. The screaming and flailing stopped. She just lay there, sleeping. My sister and I took turns sitting at her bedside, stroking her hand. The next evening, my sister went home for a short break, she was exhausted. I was alone with my mother. Her breath was already superficial, but there was no sign she would die soon. As I sat there, I spontaneously started to sing the hymn Adon Olam (Lord of the Universe) for her. She always liked my singing and I hoped the familiar voice would be soothing. There was no visible response, but when the last note of the song died out, she exhaled and stopped breathing. No struggle, no fear, she just stopped. It was over for her. I said sheimes for her, the last words every Jew should say before they die: Shema Yisra’el, Adonai Elohenu, Adonai Echad (Hear Israel, the Eternal is our God, the Eternal is One) and called my sister, who obviously was very distraught she hadn’t been there when our mother died.

I still miss her more than I can say. Our relationship had always been complicated, but I loved her fiercely. So much so that I haven’t been able to write about her since her death on November 24th last year. Last week, though, words all of a sudden flooded my mind and I wrote them down on the back of an envelope. What unblocked me, was the image of a Syrian toddler lying dead on the beach in Turkey. Or rather the thought that flashed through my mind when I saw it: I’m so glad my mother doesn’t have to see this. That she doesn’t have to be ashamed of her adopted country, The Netherlands, for its harsh and unjust policies towards refugees.

After the war was over in 1945, my mother and her parents stayed in The Netherlands. There was nothing to return to: no relatives and a country that was occupied by the Soviet Union. She married the love of her life, a much older German Jew who was an art historian. The marriage was not a happy one: her husband turned out to be gay and neither able nor willing to consummate the marriage. She divorced him in 1951, when her husband announced he wanted to return to Frankfurt, Germany.

Two years later, she met my father, a journalist who’d been involved in the resistance against the Nazis, was betrayed, and had spent years in camps as a political prisoner. He was both physically and mentally broken after the war. The way they met was very romantic: they both were members of a club for artists and intellectuals, and one night, when my mother was sitting at the bar and maybe had had a little too much to drink, she fell backward and was caught by my father. He was in every way the opposite of her first husband: tall and ruggedly handsome, down to earth, straightforward and extremely principled.

They had two children: me and my younger sister Caroline. Both our parents were severely traumatised by the war, and also had very different, often clashing personalities. Little by little their marriage deteriorated, through no fault of either of them. When I was seventeen, they finally separated. I was relieved, but my younger sister was heartbroken.

My mother had arrived in The Netherlands as a refugee in the late 1930s (“Just in time for the party,” as she always joked), destroyed her Polish passport, and remained a displaced person until she married my father and received the Dutch nationality, something that had always filled her with pride, until recently. Despite her advanced age – she was 93 when she died – she was acutely aware of the deteriorating political situation in this country. The inhumane treatment of immigrants and especially refugees by the government and many citizens alike made her cringe. The fact that nothing seemed to have changed since the war, made her despair of humanity.

She had spent almost three years in hiding during the war and used to say she didn’t have the right to complain about it, considering what others, who were deported to concentration camps, went through. But still I gathered from the few words she ever spoke about that period in her life, it hadn’t been a picnic. She was in a relatively safe place in Amsterdam, where she was in hiding with four others in the home of two German ladies. The others were her future first husband, his brother, his mother and a friend of his mother’s. Apart from having to live with so many people in a relatively small space – without the option to go for a walk – the German ladies weren’t very friendly to put it mildly. My mother refused to elaborate: after all, they’d saved her life. To kill time, they played endless games of bridge. After the war, my mother never played another game of cards. But of course there were more serious matters: every now and then there would be a razzia in the neighbourhood and my mother and the other hidden Jews would have to clamber into a space behind a closet and keep still for as long as it lasted. Things always ended well, after all, these ladies were Germans and they greeted the soldiers with “Heil Hitler” to suggest they were Nazis. Still, it must have been very scary there in that dark, cramped space behind the closet.

Before my mother came to Amsterdam, she was in a Jewish boarding school in London, where her parents had sent her. This was the second time her education was interrupted. Before she went to London, my grandparents and their daughter had returned to their native Cracow in Poland. It was early 1934 and living conditions in Berlin – where they had lived since 1923 – had become unbearable as well as dangerous. So they moved back to Cracow, where my mother of course had to go to a Polish school. She already spoke Polish, as they had spend every vacation with her grandparents in their native Poland. But in 1935 the Polish government introduced anti-Jewish boycott laws, which made earning a living next to impossible for my grandfather. He made his way to The Netherlands, as he thought this neutral country would be the safest place to be in the next war he knew would break out soon, and after his arrival had his wife and daughter join him. They travelled by train. It took them a very long time, because my grandfather had judged it prudent to avoid travelling through Germany, so their route went via Switzerland, France and Belgium to Amsterdam. Shortly afterwards, my mother was sent to a Jewish boarding school in London. The only thing she liked about it was being able to visit the British Museum as often as possible in her spare time.

But the ten years she and her parents lived in Berlin had been the most formative of her life: before the Nazis came to power, this city had been a heaven for culture lovers. Her father – an art dealer – took her to museums, the opera and concerts. She was immersed in the world of art and literature and would remain an avid reader and art and music lover for the rest of her life. Life in Berlin was exciting, but it had its downside: German Jews in general despised “Ostjuden” (Jews from Eastern Europe) and they made them feel it. Some girls in her class weren’t allowed to be friends with her, for one thing. The stock market crash of 1929 caused financial insecurity for most people, and her father was no exception. At the same time, the political landscape changed noticeably. Some teachers in her school wore swastika bands all of a sudden; they made Jewish kids feel unwanted, even before the Nazis came to power and they had to sit apart from other pupils in the classroom. Towards the end of 1933 my grandfather discovered that his German, non-Jewish bookkeeper had stolen a significant amount of money from him. When he confronted the man, the bookkeeper threatened him and told him not to go to the police, because he had friends in “the party”, obviously referring to the NSDAP, the Nazi Party. My grandfather decided to move back to Cracow with his family. My mother’s two much older brothers had already left in 1929, when they moved to Chile to build a future for themselves in a place where they hoped they would not be discriminated against.

My mother was born two years before her parents moved to Berlin, in 1921, in The Hague. When the First World War broke out, her father was in London on a business trip. As a citizen of an “enemy country” – the southern part of Poland was Austrian at the time – he had been arrested and put in an internment camp. It’s hard to miss the irony here. After the war, he travelled to The Netherlands and had his wife and children join him. My mother was the fruit of their reunion. Her father, though, soon found out that The Hague really wasn’t the place to be for an art dealer. As Berlin was quickly becoming the cultural centre of Europe, he once again packed his bags and moved to the capital of Germany with his family, hoping to become a successful art dealer, but also because he wanted to be in a place with a vibrant art and culture scene.

I often wondered what it must have been like for my mother to move from one place to another with her parents, forced by the economic and political eb and flow of Europe. On the one hand, it made her a cosmopolitan who spoke many languages fluently. On the other, the reasons they had to move and the treatment they received in most places must have robbed her of any sense of belonging.

Tehi nafsha tseror bitsror hachayim: may her soul be bundled in the bundle of life, and may her memory be for a blessing. Mama, my dear mother, Hadassa bat Mendel Meir, Felicitas Rössler [pronounced Ressler], you will always be a part of me.

In his beautiful novel Dis, Dutch Jewish author Marcel Möring takes the reader on a journey with Jakob Noach, a Jew who survived the Shoah in a hole in the ground near his home town Assen, a sleepy provincial town in the eastern part of The Netherlands. The novel is inspired both by James Joyce’s Ulysses and Dante’s depiction of Hell in his Divine Comedy. The five hundred pages of the novel tell the story of one night: the night before the annual “TT-races”, motor-cross races. On the night before the races, thousands of bikers descend on the little town, drinking, fighting, fucking and passing out in the usually quiet streets. Jakob observes the spectacle which could have been taken from a painting by Hieronymus Bosch. But the night of loud music, leather and vomit is only the surface of the hell that the town of Assen has become to Jakob Noach. His parents and brother were deported and murdered by the Nazis, assisted by the helpful population of Assen. Jakob wanted vengeance after the war; he took back his father’s shoe store from Nazi collaborators who had turned it into a National-Socialist bookshop and turned it into a successful business in ladies’ lingerie, little by little expanding until he owns the largest department store of Assen. But neither his success as a businessman, nor his marriage with the daughter of the farmer who saved him by hiding him on his land, nor his three daughters can fill the void in his existence. Author Marcel Möring and director Manon Barthels  adapted this complicated and rich novel for the stage and the result is an impressive dramatic monologue, also because of actor Bob Schwarze’s excellent performance.   Until October 12, 2014 at Literair

Theater Branoul, Maliestraat 12, The Hague. Dutch spoken.

As my Aliki is a Cretan Hound mix, I wanted to find out more about this breed. It turns out to be almost 4,000 years old and was probably introduced on Crete in the Minoan age. Like most Mediterranean breeds, they originate in Africa. Their close cousins are breeds like Podencos (Spain), Sloughis/Berber Hounds (North Africa), Pharaoh Dogs/Kelb tal Fenek (Malta), Kelev Kna’ani/Canaan Dogs (Israel) and the Spanish Greyhound (Galgo). These breeds are called ‘primeval dogs’, probably because they aren’t as far removed from their wild cousins as most European and American pedigreed dogs.

A great source of information about dogs in Antiquity are images like you can find on ancient Greek pottery and Egyptian artifacts. It’s quite amazing how little these breeds have changed since ancient times. I guess they were lucky to be bred as work dogs, not for shows and kennel clubs. In that case they would have become mere caricatures of their original selves, like so many breeds that used to be wonderful.

Greek vase -- warriors with horse and dogAncient Egyptian Dogs1

Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean they are treated well. Not at all. Cretan hounds are ruthlessly killed if they don’t have what it takes to be great hare or rabbit hunters. The same – or worse – goes for podencos and galgos. They are tortured, maimed, hung by their necks to slowly asphyxiate if they don’t perform as well as their owners want them to. But even if they do their jobs, they are often kept in filthy shacks, chained to the concrete floor and hardly fed.

130814-podenco1-590x440

The way these wonderful dogs are treated, is not just inhumane. It’s also a far cry from their standing in ancient times. Judging from the ways they were depicted, from the fact that there were burial grounds for dogs, and from the fact that they were sometimes embalmed to join their owners in their journey to the next world, it’s not a stretch to assume they stood in high regard. Especially in Egypt, where one of their gods, Anubis, was a desert dog (not a jackal!), these dogs must have had a certain status in human society.

anubis_dog

The classic authors praised the Cretan Hounds (Kressai Kynes) as the best hare-hunters known to man and in ancient times they were exported to the Greek colonies and other countries in Europe, reaching as far as Spain and the British islands, to mix and improve the local hounds. The dogs are evidently an ancient species, probably the oldest dog breed in Europe.

CretanHound6

Cretan Hounds are rare; only an estimated 400 of them exist. Their owners guard the breed even to the extent that a pure-bred Cretan Hound is never sold to an outsider. They never leave the island. They are, like their cousins around the Mediterranean, hare and rabbit hunters. They have excellent scent, speed, agility, and durability. Cretan Hound mixes, like my Aliki, are often adopted by foreigners. They are popular in Germany, where their owners organize agility contests, which the dogs themselves seem to enjoy very much. It’s a great sight to see these slender yet muscular dogs run and jump gracefully. Cretan HoundIMG_3175

Above a Cretan Hound, below Aliki. I noticed early on that Aliki has no problem with jumping fences that are at least three times as tall as she is, or with climbing complicated obstacles. Whenever she sees a rabbit or a hare, she will stand on her hind legs and follow the prey with her eyes. Of course only if she is on the leash, if she isn’t she’ll just go after it at an amazing speed. So far, luckily, she hasn’t caught anything. My impression is she doesn’t care if she catches her prey, the fun seems to be in the hunt itself. After all, she is never hungry anymore. Or maybe she just isn’t very good at hunting. But I doubt that. I witnessed her twice with a potential prey: one time it was a little mouse she had caught between her front legs; she just sniffed it, then pushed it with her nose and let it go. The other time there were some young waterbirds she went after (she’s an excellent swimmer as well). It was extremely funny, as these little birds dove every time she got near, and Aliki would look around kind of flabbergasted, not knowing where the fuck these birds had gone. Eventually, one of them emerged next to her, and again she just looked at it and then let it go. But I digress… It is likely that the Podencos and Galgos were taken to Spain by their mostly Berber (Amazigh) owners during the conquest of Spain in the period between the 8th and 15th centuries. But even before this, in ancient times, the Phoenician sailers whose trade routes covered all of Southern Europe, must have taken their dogs to places like Greece, Malta, Southern Italy and Spain. Malta is a case in point: the Kelb tal Fenek may have been named after the Phoenicians, as the meaning of the word Fenek is not completely clear. It could also mean “furry dog-like animal” or“fox”. Of course, all of this is speculation until there is solid DNA evidence. canaan dog

The Kelev Kna’ani/Canaan Dog is a special case: This breed is one of the oldest, dating back to biblical times. The caves of Einan and Hayonim are sites in which the oldest remains of dogs have been found (more than 10,000 years old). In the Hebrew Bible there are a number of references to roaming dogs and dogs that worked for humans. In ancient Egypt there were also burial sites for dogs, which were embalmed like members of the ruling class. Also other dog burial sites have been found in Israel, among which a Phoenician one where over 700 dogs are buried, all carefully placed in the same position. The Canaan dogs survived as pariah dogs until the 1930s, when Dr. Rudolphina Menzel came up with the idea to use these intelligent dogs, which by then were mainly found in the desert, as guard dogs for the scattered Jewish settlements and as military dogs. She captured and acquired wild and semi-wild Canaan dogs. She worked with semi-free and free-living dogs of a specific type, luring them into her camp and gaining their trust. She also captured litters of puppies, finding them remarkably adaptable to domestication. She began a breeding program in 1934, providing working dogs for the military and giving away pups to be pets and home guard dogs. She initiated a selective breeding program to produce the breed known today as the Canaan dog.

I found a lot of information for this article in Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Aliki is an expensive dog. She was a stray, humiliated, kicked and beaten for so long, that I felt she needed to be treated like a princess for the rest of her life. In case that sounds cheesy, here’s the translation: she gets the best organic food and veterinarian care there is; no frills, no jewelry, no fancy food bowl, just everything she really needs. And it has helped her, both physically and mentally: she is incredibly healthy and shiny, in great shape, and she understands that I take care of her and protect her, which has made her more confident.

IMG_0113

In this picture, she is in the woods in the South-East of The Netherlands, on New Year’s morning. We always get out of town for New Year’s Eve, because of the fireworks. The noise scares her so much, she ends up hiding in her ‘panic room’ (bathroom), shaking and shivering. So I decided early on that I would leave town for a couple of days with her and a friend. We go to a dog-friendly hotel or rent a ditto vacation home. It’s become a wonderful tradition.

Today was a good day for Aliki. She made a new friend in the park, even played with two other dogs, instead of trotting off to go sniff the whole area by herself. She increasingly interacts well with people, as she is no longer afraid they’ll hurt her. She also is becoming better at communicating with her fellow dogs. I still have to help a little sometimes by reminding her that I want her to be friendly and if she can’t be, to keep walking (that’s actually the command I use: ‘keep walking’) and ignore the dog she doesn’t like or is afraid of (as is more often the case). After a couple of years of training, our hard work is beginning to pay off. I can tell she understands that this new behavior keeps her out of trouble. So she is less afraid and more often wags her tail tentatively even while she is still bristling. I am always moved when I see her struggle with her ‘demons’ and I admire her for not giving up. She has come so far from the dog that jumped at every noise, snapped at almost every dog, nipped men she was afraid of in their calves, lunged at puppies…

Her friendship with Zorba was also essential; he’s a year younger than she is, also from Crete, and the sweetest, good-natured dog you’ll ever meet. They hit it off immediately and have been best friends ever since. His sweetness  disarms everyone, but especially for Aliki this was a good experience. Their friendship has mellowed her, which has helped with her behavior towards other dogs as well. I’m especially happy that she is so much better with pups now. She may growl, but does so very softly and without showing her teeth. Dogs have different opinions about education than we do: growling and snapping at pups is acceptable, but within certain boundaries. They’re not supposed to ever, ever hurt a pup. Not that Aliki ever did, but she definitely scared them. Now she sometimes plays with them, even has a few puppy friends.

But of course it’s not all about training. It’s also about cuddling. She really, really likes to be stroked, especially her chest. It’s the first thing I do in the morning and the last thing I do before going to bed. She’ll turn on her back and act like a little puppy, licking my hands as if her life depends on it. I let her, because I know it’s how she shows affection. During the day, when I am working, she is usually sleeping next to me in her basket. But every now and then she wakes up and gives me a little push with her nose to tell me she needs affection. Which I then provide, of course.

Usually I don’t blog about private matters, but this is an exception.

Since I adopted my Greek teenage-mom/stray Cretan Hound mix Aliki (Greek for Alice), in this picture still on Crete,

Aliki op Kreta

safe but scared of almost everything, my life has changed quite a bit. She wasn’t the first dog in my life – we had dogs at home – but it was the first time I had to deal with a rescue who was afraid of men, most other dogs, cats, and most people in general. Fortunately, she wasn’t afraid of me. So we began our life together. It started with learning how to go for a walk without panicking at every noise and movement. Simultaneously, I had to convince her not to growl and snap at every dog she was afraid of or didn’t like. She hated puppies, which was strange, considering she brought up eight of them in very difficult circumstances. Whatever the reason, it was a line she couldn’t cross as far as I was concerned. If dogs could talk, they would probably say the same thing about me that I heard from little children: she’s kind, but very strict. Which turned out to be the perfect way to deal with Aliki’s fears: correcting her gently but consistently and showering her with praise whenever she did something right. Which was a lot, since she turned out to be very smart. The first thing I taught her was a command that I use whenever she ends up at the wrong side of a tree or other tall obstacle: I say “Uh oh!” and she immediately retraces her steps to “my” side of the obstacle. I only had to explain it to her twice. At home, she settled in easily. Even though she never before had lived in a house she has respect for everything that she thinks belongs to me: she never even attempted to get on the furniture, let alone the bed. Early on, she even stepped back from her food bowl whenever I got near. I helped her change that by petting her while she was eating and encouraging her to continue. The only ‘bad’ thing she did (twice) was jump on the kitchen counter, like a cat, while I wasn’t looking to get to her food that was defrosting there. As luck would have it, though, the second time she did it, I was in the bathroom and I heard the sound of pottery being moved on the counter, so I called “No! Bad dog!” and that was that. She was in awe of my ability to see her even when I wasn’t around and never tried to pull that one again. Little by little she discovered that cuddling and being stroked is fun. Nowadays, when I am working (I work at home) she will be in her bed next to me, and when she feels it’s time for some love, she’ll get up and gently push her beautiful nose against my arm. And she has to reciprocate: whenever I stroke her, especially her chest which is her favorite spot, she will lick my hand as long as I can stand it. It’s kind of gross, but too sweet to tell her not to do it.

Over the almost three years she has been living with me, she has changed enormously:

IMG_0008

Here, in August 2013, she is having fun with her best friend Zorba (also from Crete): they love to push each other in the water or keep one another from getting out of the water. She has become much friendlier with other dogs, too, but I still need to keep an eye on her. For some reason, she is scared of all short-nosed, wrinkly-faced dogs. Whether it’s a boxer or a bulldog, a pit bull or even a pug, she will bristle and sometimes growl. The good news is that she doesn’t lunge at dogs she fears anymore. Whether on or off the leash, she will now just try to avoid them generally, which is a huge improvement. She is somewhat aloof in general towards other dogs, with the exception of (Mediterranean) rescues, especially galgos and podencos. It’s as if they smell each other from miles away. I hear the same thing from others with (Mediterranean) rescues. I suppose it’s their body language, which is far more natural than that of dogs who grew up with people.

(to be continued…)

De afgelopen maanden is de jongensbesnijdenis verscheidene keren ter discussie gesteld. In Duitsland werd de b’rit mila, de joodse besnijdenis, zelfs veroordeeld als kindermishandeling. Trouw publiceerde een vertaling van een artikel uit de Israëlische krant Ha’arets over een bizar en onhygiënisch besnijdenisgebruik van een kleine joodse sekte zonder enige toelichting, zodat bij niet ingewijden de indruk is gewekt dat het hier om een algemeen joods gebruik gaat. Ten slotte kwam de artsenvereniging KNMG voor de tweede keer sinds 2010 met een artikel waarin werd opgeroepen het besnijden van jongetjes ‘te ontmoedigen’.

Er is zo langzamerhand sprake van een patroon: eerst ging het over hoofddoeken, toen over rituele slacht en nu weer over besnijdenis.

Waarom mogen wij niet leven zoals wij willen? Waarom moeten onze tradities en religieuze symbolen vernietigd worden? Waarom beseft niemand dat op deze manier kwetsbare minderheden het leven in dit land onmogelijk wordt gemaakt? Of is dat juist de bedoeling?

Zoals de filosoof Geert ter Horst terecht opmerkte in een artikel in het Katholiek Nieuwsblad van 23 augustus dit jaar: een verbod op besnijdenis is een verbod op het jodendom. Datzelfde geldt uiteraard voor de islam. Voor joden en moslims is de besnijdenis deel van wie zij zijn.

Afgezien van religieuze en maatschappelijke argumenten is de besnijdenis ook te verdedigen om medische redenen: Uit alle onderzoeken blijkt dat een besneden penis zowel voor mannen als vrouwen gezonder is; door de betere hygiëne neemt de kans op allerlei besmettingen sterk af; in het bijzonder een veel kleinere kans op besmetting met het AIDS-virus: “…investigators discovered that circumcision cut HIV transmission rates by 55 to 65 percent.” (Scientific American, december 2008); bescherming tegen baarmoederhalskanker en de zeldzame maar dodelijke kanker aan de penis (Advances in Urology, 2011). Het is niet voor niets dat in de Verenigde Staten 70 procent van alle mannen meteen na de geboorte worden besneden om medische redenen.

Er is dus geen enkele rationele reden om de besnijdenis te verbieden of te ‘ontmoedigen’. Bovendien heeft van de miljoenen besneden moslims en joden slechts een handjevol mannen met terugwerkende kracht bezwaren tegen het als kind besneden zijn. Verreweg de meeste joodse en moslimmannen beschouwen het besneden zijn als een belangrijk onderdeel van hun identiteit. Zij dragen hun besneden penis met trots: Moos en Mo vinden het fijn dat zij besneden zijn.

Het zo nu en dan aangevoerde argument van zelfbeschikking van het kind klinkt zeer gezocht. Volgens de Nederlandse wet hebben ouders het recht hun kinderen op te voeden naar eigen inzicht, ook als dat tegen de mening van de meerderheid in gaat. Alles mag: je kind niet inenten tegen polio, weigeren je kind een bloedtransfusie te laten geven (alleen bij levensgevaar worden de ouders tijdelijk uit de ouderlijke macht ontzet), je kind naar een antroposofische school sturen, je kind homeopathische geneesmiddelen geven, je kind doodsbang maken voor de hel… Maar je kind opvoeden volgens de joodse of islamitische traditie, dat kan echt niet.

Donderdag 8 november, na afloop van de Kristallnachtherdenking in de Portugese synagoge, zal een debat over dit onderwerp plaatsvinden in Akantes, Nieuwe Herengracht 95 te Amsterdam, aanvang 20:00 uur, toegang gratis.

%d bloggers like this: