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I’m wrapping up another trip home to Israel. I have spent the past two weeks in Tel-Aviv, Jerusalem and now up in the Galilee at Vered HaGalil – a wonderful slice of heaven that can be considered a “guest ranch” – not from from Tiberias and Rosh Pina.

I was born in Israel and have come home to the this wonderful place many times – and I look forward to the day that I come home on a more permanent basis in the near future. I was amazed as Tel-Aviv is such a vegan-friendly city (which is good for me since I am vegan myself) and even Jerusalem seems a little more vegan friendly then it was three years ago. Israel has made a lot of progress – yes, I am well aware that it has its warts but no society is perfect. As much as the BDS crowd and the Palestinians wish to portray Israel as the worst possible country in the world it is most certainly nowhere near that. All countries have their problems – Israel is not immune to that for sure but Israel has people who are working to improve their society and their country. And like all other countries Israelis are people who yearn for peace with their neighbors – be they Lebanese, Egyptian, Jordanian, Syrian and Palestinian.

As I sit here on the day before I leave back to the United States (where we also have our fair share of problems which I will not detail here) I marvel at what a jewel Israel has become over the past 71 years. There is still much work to be done but, as always, I am optimistic about Israel and her future.

I am reminded of the joke about the guy who dies and goes to be judged. It is determined that he go to Hell but he’s given options by an angel – he can go to Soviet Hell, Nazi Hell or Israeli Hell. He thinks for a moment and considers: “Hmmm…Soviet Hell – no way that is too oppressive; Nazi Hell? No…that would be like Auschwitz forever.” So he tells the angel “I’ll go to Israel Hell”. Immediately he’s transported to Israeli Hell. He opens his eyes and he’s standing on the side of the road on top of a hill and everywhere he looks there are orchards and fields of crops and beauty all around and thinks “Huh? Is this right?” A few seconds later an IDF Jeep drives up and the driver asks the man if he needs a ride to which he enthusiastically replies, “Yes”. He gets in and he says to the driver “I thought this is Israeli Hell – but it’s so beautiful.” The driver replies “You should have seen what a hellhole this place was 71 years ago!”

I’ve spent the past two weeks on business travel to Cape Town, South Africa. Given that this is my first trip to South Africa (and undoubtedly not my last) I wasn’t sure what to expect. Our office is near the Platekloof area of the city and when I arrived on May 2nd at night all I could think about was to get to the guest house and a comfortable bed. I was so tired that I couldn’t even focus on orienting myself while the driver who picked me up drove from the airport to the guest house. When we finally got to the guest house I was pleasantly surprised. I stayed at the Capo Cabana guest house and the proprietor, Dorrea Gottardo, was the model of a hostess. Essentially a guest house in Cape Town is the equivalent of a Bed and Breakfast in the US.

Well, Dorrea definitely provided excellent service and wonderful charm. The days went quickly and because I was staying for two weeks (my co-workers from the office were leaving earlier than I was – one on the Friday after I got there and the other on the following Monday) she moved me to the largest room she had – what is most commonly termed the Honeymoon Suite (if only my wife could have come with me on the trip!).

The first Sunday I had available I went on a safari to a place called Inverdoorn. This was an amazing experience – both for the scenery while driving to the preserve, the beauty of the preserve itself (and the animals in it) as well as the amazing drive back. I booked my safari through Blue Monkey Tours. The guide (and proprietor of Blue Monkey Tours), Allan Koorsman, was a wealth of knowledge on the drive both up to as well as back from Inverdoorn. I will post my pictures as soon as I can…they are amazing.

For Shabbat I made arrangements with the Villa Rosa – another excellent guest house – in the Sea Point area of Cape Town. The benefit of the Villa Rosa is that it is literally just up the street from Ohr Somayach. Lynn, the proprietor of Villa Rosa, has an amazing gem on her hands. I stayed in the self-catering flatlet so that I could have my own little kitchen for food on Shabbat and the view was absolutely stunning – looking straight down Arthur’s Way all the way down to the Atlantic Ocean. The first Shabbat was windy and sunny and I enjoyed the long walk all the way down the sea wall and further down Victoria Rd. The community around Ohr Somayach is absolutely warm and wonderful! Rabbi Abramson is warm, intelligent, and genuinely inspiring. I felt at home and enjoyed my time with this community. I look forward to spending future Shabbat’s with them and hope to bring my family to enjoy the warmth of the Ohr Somayach family in Cape Town.

I spent my last day in Cape Town hoping for better weather – unfortunately most of the day the fog was pea-soup thick and made it very difficult to justify a trip up to Table Mountain (or to Cape Point for that matter). So, I took a chance and decided to go to Robben Island – the former prison where Nelson Mandela and many other black South African political prisoners were incarcerated. I was lucky, I walked up to the ticket booth and asked for a ticket to the 11AM ferry to the island and fortunately for me someone had canceled…otherwise I would have been stuck. The island itself is 5km long and 2km wide (about 3.1 miles long and 1.2 miles wide). The pictures I got were good (and I’ll post them and make them available when I get back home) and the place was very moving. I had no idea what a role that place played in the overall story of the struggle against apartheid. I left with a desire to learn more about Mandela and those who helped inspire him – notably Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King. Our tour guide, Yasin Mohammed, was both funny as well as a fountain of information about that time – as well he should be seeing that he spent time on the island as well and was the first General Secretary of the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC). I learned so much from Yasin about the struggle against apartheid – particularly that while Mandela was the most well-known outside of South Africa, there were many more inside that the world did not know about. Men such as Robert Sobukwe who was the a founding leader of the PAC and who spent time in Robben Island in isolation for so long that his vocal cords atrophied since he had no one to talk with. It is a sad chapter in South Africa’s history. For the actual tour around the Robben Island prison complex where Mandela and many others were held the guide was a former prisoner as well (unfortunately I did not catch his name…I do have a picture of him and will add it to this post when I can). I was enthralled just listening to him relate stories of his experiences at Robben Island.

On the way back I got pictures of Signal Hill, Lion’s Head and Table Mountain all in the distance behind the Victoria and Alfred (V&A) Waterfront. I can’t wait to come back here next time and find time to go up to the top of Table Mountain…preferably by hiking!

Windows 7 is quickly becoming the bane of my existence. I travel quite frequently for business. As such I figured I would install Skype in order to keep in touch with my family at home and to provide myself with the ability to do video calls with them (it’s nice to be able to see one’s family and not just hear them). It took me a while to get my Lifecam NX-6000 (which is, allegedly, compatible with Windows 7 according to Microsoft’s gospel) installed and working both with the Lifecam software and with Skype. However, for reasons I CANNOT fathom, whenever I plug the webcam into a different USB port (and my laptop has 4 of them) Windows 7 wants to reinstall the driver. Well…today, it tried to reinstall the driver (I couldn’t remember which port I last plugged the webcam into) and failed – repeatedly. This for a product that is considered COMPATIBLE with Windows 7 (the Lifecam NX-6000 is only 2 years old at most!).

So, now, I cannot use the webcam and Skype crashes when I try to do a video test. This is utter BS on the part of Microsoft. I have tried looking up the help for this problem only to get some ridiculous crap about a) making sure that automatic updating is turned on (HELLO! This is a corporate system – they are only pushing patches that they approve!) or b) manually updating the drivers (tried that…no luck) or c) installing the software for the device from the manufacturer (uh…Microsoft…YOU ARE THE MANUFACTURERS OF THE FRIGGIN DEVICE AND THE OPERATING SYSTEM!!!!!). I’ve even done the usual uninstalling and reinstalling of the driver (Several times in fact – all to no avail). I’ve even done the sane thing of rebooting Windows. What I can’t understand is that Windows won’t provide for me any detailed information as to WHY the driver is failing (the only thing I can surmise is that the driver being used for the 1TB USB drive I got yesterday is the culprit…however, I’m not sure which one it is). This is beyond stupid and represents a truly, phenomenally crappy operating system. I’m starting to think that I will be looking to get a second laptop to travel with just so that I can stay in touch with my family with hardware that actually WORKS!)…perhaps a MacBook Pro…if only I can swallow the fact that I will be selling my soul to “The Steve”!

April 2020
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