Sunday, June 9, 2013

Kalimera, Cyprus!

End of May 2013. My first time on the island of Cyprus, altough this place is only an hour flight from Tel Aviv. The wave of heat outside, and the  Mediterranean  beaches make me immediately feel at home.

This little island country has lately been in the world news because of financial restrictions imposed on its citizens. Like  other western or semi-western countries, Cyprus has a lot of rich people, but the country's money bag seems to be empty. How so?

Well, the usual triangle of bankers, politicians, Media . This triangle  generates  financial manipulations which lead to corruption,  and ultimately to the country's high debt and the need for austere measures to prevent collapse. Familiar, isn't it?

There are a lot of foreigners here and  they appear to be doing well, especially the brits and the russians. It seems they have found here, most of the distant world  "paradises" : Canada without the fierce cold, USA without the tornadoes and hurricanes, Australia without its 'end of the world'  location.

Cyprus is a member of the European Union, and the old continent of Europe with all its giant problems is still considered by many the heart and brains of the world.

Cyprus is known for its fine lace and handwork,  best olive oil,  exquisite wines. Also for its beautiful songs and talented singers that participate  at the  annual Eurovision contest. 

However,its most famous icon is the late archibishop Makarios who was the first president of the Republic of Cyprus, a great political and religious personality. Major streets were named after  him, statues erected in his memory.

Nicosia, the capital city, is the last divided capital in Europe. It's divided between  turkish cypriots and greek cypriots. The 'border' crossing in Nicosia between the two parts of the city, located at the end of the pedestrian shopping street, Ledra,  looks kind of strange in the eyes of a tourist.  The impressive Monument, though, near the police station on the greek side of the crossing, is  definitely worth a visit to the spot.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Belarus, of all the places

He was in a critical condition; he urgently needed a liver transplant. He appealed , using his best connections, to hospitals in USA, Germany, India, but no luck. The first two required a long wait for a liver, and the third one , so they say, refused to perform surgery on him because of the nature of his former job .  Those in his homeland, Israel, refused to even put him on the waiting list as he didn't qualify for their age criterion (age up to 65).  

In the end, Mr. Meir Dagan, 67, former head of the israeli Secret Service ,the Mossad, was  admitted to an hospital in Belarus (October 2012) where he successfully underwent a liver transplant.

Meir Dagan after transplant

The Republic of Belarus, with its capital city Minsk, is a landlocked country bordered by five countries:  Russia (in the north and east), Ukraine (south), Poland(west), Lithuania and Latvia (north).

Belarus,  considered by many analysts "Europe's last dictatorship" has a relatively decent health  system , but is certainly not among the world's leading providers of health care.

President of  Belarus, Mr. Alexander Lukashenko has used this liver transplant case to make quite a publicity to himself, and to his country's surgeons, humanity, hospitality. Well, why not?

I've learnt two things from this dramatic story:

1.   No matter how important you once were for your country, you might nevertheless find out one day, while  facing death, that she considers you a regular citizen  and will  only  'play by the book'.

2.  Never underestimate a small, modest, country in East Europe. Belarus, of all the countries in the world  "did it"and did it well.

(* above photos - taken from the Web.)

Saturday, April 27, 2013

From Chechnya with ..Soccer

Chechnya, a small country in the Caucasus area of the Russian Federation, has been in the news lately;  the two bombers in the Boston marathon tragedy are originally from that part of the world.

In Israel, two chechen football players (Dzhabrail Kadaiyev and Zaur Sadayev) were the passive protagonists of a big drama at the beginning of this year. And this is the story:

The owner of a major football club in Jerusalem (Beitar club), a russian-israeli oligarch, decided to hire two muslim football players from Chechnya despite the strong objection of the team' s supporters.. Motive: the team needed reinforcement, and the two players , he believed, will do a good job.

 Beitar fans, anti-arab oriented, stated they would not have a muslim player wear the club's uniform. The arrival of the two chechen players (see the above photo with the two in Beitar uniform) sparked a series of provocative actions by the Beitar  hardcore fans:  harassment of the chechens, protests (including racist banners), cursing, and even torching of the club's offices.

The atmosphere became so "hot" that the PM, the President, the Mayor of Jerusalem, and other political and cultural personalities  in the country stood up to condemn the highly provocative attitude displayed by Beitar supporters  towards the two football players from Chechnya.There were also some arrests  carried out among those fans.

I don't know much about sports, but it seems football can bring out the worst in people.