Travel Letters

The Empty Quarter

The Empty Quarter

Oman

January 22, 2015

The Rub' al Khali (Arabic: الربع الخالي‎) or Empty Quarter is the second largest sand desert in the world, encompassing most of the southern third of the Arabian Peninsula. 

The desert covers some 650,000 square kilometers (250,000 sq miles – about the size of Texas or France).  It includes parts of Saudi Arabia, Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.  It is part of the larger Arabian Desert. 

Shall I attempt to describe the Empty Quarter?  I’ll leave that to my guide Mohammed and to my photographs.  (Mohammed also did a photo shoot of Mr. Jan.)

Duqm: The Mountains and the Sea

Duqm

Oman

January 25, 2015

Dear Fellow Drivers,

On the road from Salalah to Duqm, across mostly flat and nondescript desert, I encounter a canyon of inspiring beauty and grandeur.    

In Duqm, Abdullah, my host at the Duqm City Hotel, recommends I make a day trip along the coast to Ras Madrakah.  Ras-Al-Madrakah – a wondrous combination of jagged rocks, rough seas and vigilant sea birds.

So, fill up your tank.  Travel with me across the desert and through the mountains to the sea.

Jan

2010 Passover in Bangkok

Bangkok

15 Nisan 5770

Dear Family and Friends,

חג שמח

My best wishes to you and your family for a sweet and joyful Passover.

I will be attending two Seders here in Bangkok. The first night there will be a gathering at The Davis Hotel - 100-150 participants. The second night will be at the Shul - Beth Elisheva. Rabbi Kantor is an enthusiastic and brilliant religious leader. I am looking forward to both events where the Four Questions will be chanted in Hebrew, Yiddish (the Rabbi is a Chasid) and Thai (several members are married to Thai women).

Grodno: The Lifschitz Family

Grodno (Hrodna, Гродно, גראדנ)

Grodno Region

The Republic of Belarus (Белару́сь)

September 10, 2014

 

The Family Lifschitz: “Ich Baink Noch Grodno”

In 1902, Jehoshua Lifschitz bought a one-way ticket.  All the Lifschitz Family purchased travel tickets.  “One-way!”  Jehoshua’s brother Schmuel bought a one-way ticket as did his brother Yitzchak, his sister Lena and Jehoshua’s wife Pesha Tziril. Lifschitz nee Lubitsch.  I think she was a relative of Ernst Lubitsch, the German motion picure director who was born in Grodno.

They left Grodno, their home town, traveled overland   across the Russian Empire (horseback? cart? train?) to the Baltic Sea where they boarded a ship (more than one?) bound for the dangerous, often disease-ridden “steerage” crossing of the Atlantic Ocean to the New World.   The Atlantic crossing took at least eleven days.

The Lifschitz Family was not alone.  Between 1900 and 1914, eleven million immigrants from Europe made the crossing, 85 percent of them in steerage.  Steerage was the lowest fare and passengers sometimes were housed below the main decks of the ship.

Immigrants landed in New York, or Boston.  If they were sick, they may have been refused entry.  So some stayed aboard the ship and traveled to Galveston, Texas.

They arrived.  Most stayed.  They never looked back.

Minsk: Old Town Stroll

Minsk (pop 2 million)

Republic of Belarus (pop 9.5 million)

September 7, 2014

Minsk: “The Old Country”

So after the drama at the Belarus Embassy in Riga, what can I expect from the Immigration officials when I arrive at the airport in Minsk?   Discrimination?  Suspicion?  Paranoia? 

Belarus has five neighbors:  Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania and Latvia.  Will the immigration officer display a Russian attitude, a Ukrainian or Polish or Lithuanian attitude, a Latvian attitude?   Or a unique Belarus attitude?

I approach the Immigration counter.  A young woman takes my Passport.  She’s blonde.  She’s gorgeous.  She scans the information page, stamps my visa, and with a bright and totally sincere smile welcomes me to Belarus!  The whole bit takes about six and a half seconds.  If this is a Belarus attitude, well, gloriousky!

Tartu: Jewish Cemetery

Tartu

Estonia

August 20, 2014

Jewish Cemetery, Roosi Street, Tartu

Herr Schapiro buried his young daughter here (1898-1922) and then his wife Hinde Simon (1923).

The Bakst Family is here.  Slomo (1872-1940).  Liuba (1868-1949).  Boris (1901-1941).

Kune Lea Kaplan (1876-1926)

Aisik Grinson (1847-1924)

Ernestine Flachs (1868-1910)

Aron Liebermann (1879-1925)

Samuel Blum (1860-1913)

A.J. Sois (1886-1913)

Abram Pasternak (1864-1928) was buried here by his wife.

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