August 30, 2016

In London: The Threepenny Opera at the National Theater

Selfie with Kidane Isaac Tikue and
a Threepenny Opera poster

“This is an opera for a city that has gone beyond morality. A cheap opera. A threepenny opera.”

With these spoken lines, opens London's National Theater production of Bertolt Brecht's and Kurt Weill's dark masterpiece (1928), "The Threepenny Opera" (TPO), a play with songs about the devastating consequences of naked self interest, bourgeois decadence, rampant corruption, and the pernicious effects of poverty. The German duo's adaption of John Gay’s 18th century "Beggar’s Opera" hasn’t dated at all. Sadly.

I was thrilled to sit beside Kidane Isaac Tikue at his maiden experience of the great tunes and wordy lyrics, mini-dramas in their own right. We dissected the work over lousy cappuccino in the Theater cafe and later at Whole Foods (amazing cappuccino!).

Outside the theater at Southbank Centre — sunny, cheerful, people, pets, food, art, and Modified Social Benches.

On the ground, a plaque about Festival of Love 2016
 and the Danish artist's winning entry 

On this Modified Social Bench, a boy climbs
while a woman sits reading a book

London: Burqa and bra strap tranquility

Hyde Park Serpentine Lake
A Muslim woman wearing a burqa and a Jewish woman whose bra strap is showing. Easy, chill, gracious London.

August 28, 2016

London: Holland Park Kyoto Garden

Kidane, me, Zeeko

This formerly private playground estate now for the 99% features a stunning Japanese garden with a waterfall and koi fish pond encircled by leaping squirrels, strutting peacocks, Pokemon addicts, and a rule-breaking peacock feeder. Zeeko (in the photo, right) approached the offender and spoke gently while pointing to signs: Please do not feed the animals.

While Zeeko is staff, he did not press the non-stopping offender, and I soon understood the reason. I asked why the shabby peacock feathers (mating season ended) and whether the eggs hatched (no, local wolves dine on them). And then, not recognizing his accent, from where did he immigrate. A few sentences, a brief Q&A, a lifted shirtsleeve and pant leg exposing a scarred leg and arm. Suddenly, Zeeko's first-person testimony and physical evidence supplanted grotesque reports and images of civil war, torture, and dismemberment in Sierra Leone.

When Zeeko recently visited his homeland, he met the madman whose machete dug into his arm; and, about to sever it, was suddenly called away. When the madman asked forgiveness, Zeeko replied, I have left behind the past and what you did. But the ones you killed, how will you ask their forgiveness?

August 23, 2016

Tel Aviv to London: דרך השלום | The path of peace

Flight seat neighbors

After decades' traveling, going from Tel Aviv to London was the first time I sat next to one of my heroes, a rock star for peace. Shared geography, histories, and values led to our first meeting in 2002, when I was living in Jerusalem. Ibrahim Abu El-Hawa was born on the Mount of Olives where my father is buried in the Jewish cemetery.

On this flight, the renowned Sufi Muslim known as the "ambassador of goodwill" was accompanying his grandson Akhmed to New Orleans; there, the teen will live with his uncle's family several months learning English and life beyond his native East Jerusalem. Ibrahim and I yakked nonstop and howled laughing (fully understanding) when first-time international traveler Akhmed frequently asked, "Are we there yet?"

A fresh 'do for adventures in New Orleans.
"Are we there yet?" 

Ibrahim showed me the papers he carries, including a laissez passer travel document (no passport yet for him and fellow East Jerusalem residents), copies of articles in the Hebrew, English, and Arabic press on his work, travels, and close relationships, including with the late Ravi Shankar and (Orthodox settler) Rabbi Menakhem Froman.

"דרך השלום" [Hebrew, The path of peace]

Ibrahim has logged millions of miles carrying his message that peace is possible among neighbors, whoever they are, wherever they live. Next stop: China.