Monday, March 23, 2020

Politics – March 2020 Under the shadow of Coronavirus 

The triumph of humanity is to acknowledge human frailties and remain united to find solutions to global challenges.

Paraphrasing Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice:
Hath not we all have hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? Fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer? If you prick me, do we not bleed? If you inflict disease on us, do we not die? If you destroy our immune system, do we not all suffer? 
United we stand. 

I thought I could be useful by writing on three things: (1) Coronavirus, some vital information; (2) point you to a social network site that recommends books, and (3) list some of my favourite movies. 

In addition, I wrote briefly on my usual sections.

MY UCL Email is Closed

Reflections on the Last Newsletter



Israeli Politics

Great News: A swimsuit to prevent drowning


Great News: Hillel Furstenberg Won World’s Top Prize for Mathematics


Theatre - Leopoldstadt

Monthly Poem - Dignity

Light Side - English Funny Language

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Please do not write to my UCL address as it no longer valid.

Reflections on the Last Newsletter

Sam Lehman-Wilzig wrote from Israel:
Starbucks made two crucial mistakes in Israel: 1- Israelis go to a cafe to drink coffee AND to have a light meal (sandwiches, salad etc). Starbucks’s “extras” (were and still are too meager); 2- if already an Israeli will frequent a cafe just for coffee, then price is more important than taste - see “Coffix” that is succeeding in Israel because of its incredibly low price, despite not being exactly “top-rate” (understatement!).


The threat of Coronavirus to humanity requires an international effort. Humanity need to create an international taskforce to exchange information, solidify effective and coordinated ways to fight against the virus.

Health organisations are advised to probe how SARS-CoV was contained.

Which countries have zero death as a result of #coronavirusuk ? What do they do to achieve this?
We need to make tests extensive, and affordable.
Trace and isolate
Social distancing
Keep highest levels of hygiene
Keep the public well informed 
Make sure you have a sufficient number of ventilators.

The Coronavirus Tech Handbook provides a space for technologists, civic organisations, public and private institutions, researchers and specialists of all kinds to collaborate on a rapid and sophisticated response to the coronavirus outbreak and subsequent impacts. It is a quickly evolving resource with thousands of active expert contributors. 

30-minute coronavirus testing kit. Israel’s BATM has developed a diagnostics kit to detect coronavirus from saliva samples in less than half an hour. The kit already detects SARS and MERS virus infections. BATM is now busy commercializing the kit for large-scale production.

I publish regular updates on LinkedIn and Twitter (almagor35). 

Goodreads contains many suggestions for books. Readers recommend books to their followers and to the reading community. 


Here are some recommended movies for all tastes. I will publish more recommendations later on.

The Deer hunter
Great movie. The best drama. The best Vietnam movie. The best war movie. One of the few movies I saw more than once. Some of the scenes are unforgettable – the wedding, the Russian Roulette. A movie that rattles and shakes your sensibilities.
An in-depth examination of the ways in which the U.S. Vietnam War impacts and disrupts the lives of people in a small industrial town in Pennsylvania.

5 ***** on Rafi’s scale

Twelve Angry Men
Best courtroom drama with my favourite actor of all times, Henry Fonda. A tale about a person who has no qualms to go against the stream to fight for justice.

5 ***** on Rafi’s scale

Sleepless in Seattle
Great rom-com movie. Great family movie. Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan are delightful. Pure joy.

5 ***** on Rafi’s scale

Palm Trees in the Snow.


C:\Files\Photos\PALM TREES IN THE SNOW.jpg

Based on the best-selling novel by Luz Gabas, this film is about Spanish colonialism, inter-racial relationships and a greater-than-life love story between a Spanish man and a plantation woman. The movie revolves around their impossible, secret relationships as they developed until they become one. The film shows the beauty of love that can bridge between cultures and that can crystallize despite prejudices and societal barriers. 

Kilian is a young man who in 1953 travelled to the island of Fernando Poo to work in a cacao plantation alongside his father and his brother. There he meets a local nurse whose beauty and character touch him, move him, startle him. They connect immediately and allow themselves to fall in love despite great difficulties. 

Mario Casas as Kilian and Berta Vázquez as Bisila are the anchors of this enchanting and passionate film. Their presence on the screen is magnetic. It is a long film, 2:45 h long so my advice is to watch it when you are fully alert and have time. Allow yourself to immerse in the love story as it is developing slowly. Enjoy the long shots of the gorgeous scenery. Appreciate the tender and the physical love scenes. Relish the lovely music. Understand that this is a slow, epic film, with many layers to unfold. The last 90 minutes of the film will compensate for the long start.

4 ***** on Rafi’s scale

Mother and Child (2009)
The stories of several mothers are interwoven in this drama about motherhood: The longing to become a mother; the pains of motherhood; the heart-wrenching suffering of those who wish to evade motherhood. It is a sad story. The joy of motherhood hardly features in this film. It is about women. They dominate the film. Men play a secondary, most of the time flat and unassuming role. Men can be thoughtful, kind and sensitive, but they have nothing to say in motherhood. This film is about the hard, lonely world of mothers.


Karen (Annette Bening) gave birth to her only child when she was fourteen and gave her for adoption. This momentous event ruined her life. Consumed by guilt, she was unable to establish any meaningful relationships with men. She lived with her mother until her death. Karen knows she is “difficult”: judgmental, stubborn, opinionated, uncompromising, determined, strong-willed, and very lonely. Although her daughter plays very important part in her life, she never tried to look for her.

Everything changes when Paco (Jimmy Smits) enters her life. It was not easy for him to penetrate the stubborn walls that Karen built around herself but he finds a way, to Karen’s surprise. “Where did you come from?” she asks him. Karen’s opened to his abundant kindness, and quickly marries him. Paco “leads his way” to persuade her to look for her daughter, Elizabeth.

Elizabeth (Naomi Watts) had much difficult life. From a very young age, she had to live alone and to force herself way in the world. Ambitious, unflinching, smart, selfish with many qualities of her mother (judgmental, stubborn, opinionated, uncompromising, determined, strong-willed) she leads a lonely life in which she finds satisfaction. Happiness would be a big word to describe her condition and constant mood. She moves around in and out of cities for unclear reasons but we can guess this constant move were due to her difficult personality and the way she treats others, especially men: Use and throw. Men are attracted to her like flies to light. Incapable to love anyone, including herself, people are for her mere means to an end. Stubborn and fearful like her mother, Elizabeth never tried to look for her roots until she becomes pregnant at the age of 37. At about the same time, not knowing of one another, both Karen and Elizabeth deposit letters for each other in the adoption offices.

The third story is about Lucy (Kerry Washington) who is unable to conceive. To satisfy her husband’s yearning for a child, she turns to adoption to make the family they desire. Joseph, her husband, encapsulates the role of men in this film: he hardly speaks, with a flat personality and simple desires. Lucy does not really need him. Indeed, the road to adoption is especially difficult for Lucy but once she is able to have a child, she fails to understand that motherhood is indeed “all about her”: her child’s wishes, her milk, her sleep, her quality time. Lucy’s mother has to open her eyes to tell her that she is not special. Yes, this is motherhood (parenthood).

The film is built around two wonderful actresses: Naomi Watts and Annette Bening. Kerry Washington, Jimmy Smits and Samuel L. Jackson are in the supporting roles. It is very dense and very sad. There are no moments of comic relief and only seldom we see the magical, beautiful, joyful moments of parenthood. There is only one striking episode of family life, to which Elizabeth enters astonished as she never experienced such a playful gathering in her life. The movie, in many respects, is one sided as it highlights the pains of motherhood, not the joys. For many of us, luckily life is far more complex, with many shades of grey and pink, not only grey. Yet the film is captivating, complex and well-done. 

4 ***** on Rafi’s scale

Sarah’s Key (2011)

This is a story about a key that affected the lives of two families across two generations. It startled them, moved them and changed them forever, bringing darkness, destruction and death but also light, redemption and life.

Sarah’s Key is based on a novel written by Tatiana de Rosnay ( The novel was rejected time and again by many publishers until one accepted it. The book became a best seller, was translated to dozens of languages, and made into this film.

Sarah and her little brother Michele are playing in their bedroom. They are joyful and happy. Their mother is in the living room. This is a normal episode that takes place in many homes. The period, however, is anything but normal. It is Paris, July 1942. The serenity is interfered by loud knocks on the door. “Open the Door. Police”. The mother hesitates. Sarah (Mélusine Mayance), a curious ten-year girl, steps out the bedroom to see what is going on. Her mother opens the door. Two French officers enter the living room and order the mother to pack some essential things and to come with them. They have a list of all occupants of the home. They ask where the father and the little child, Michele, are. The mother, who understands that this cannot be good, says she does not know. Sarah quietly withdraws to her bedroom. She tells Michele that they need to play a game. She asks him to hide in the closet, gives him some water, asks him to be very quiet and promises him she will return, soon. Both Michele and Sarah know that Sarah takes her promises very seriously. Michele quietly enters the closet. Sarah closes the door behind him and takes the key with her. 

Sarah and her mother are taken away. Soon the father joins them and with thousands of other Jews they are taken to the notorious Vel' D'Hiv ( Sarah is determined to return home to rescue Michele. She promised him. She holds the closet key close to heart. This is the key to her future.

Sixty seven years later, Sarah’s story intertwines with that of Julia Jarmond (Kristin Scott Thomas), an American journalist in Paris who takes upon herself to investigate the Jewish roundup and discovers that she and Sarah have something in common. In her research, Julia stumbles onto a trail of family secrets and, as a devoted journalist, she is determined to unveil the truth no matter how painful the truth might be. Sarah’s key would change her life, and the life of Sarah’s child who knew little about his mother’s identity and past.

  Mélusine Mayance and Kristin Scott Thomas are credible, sensitive and incredible. This is nothing unusual for Scott Thomas. It is the first time that Mayance comes to my attention. She has a great future.

Sarah’s Key is the best movie I have seen in 2011.

4 ***** on Rafi’s scale

Great Love Story , 08/10/2011 
  • Closing The Ring

Closing The Ring on DVD (2007)
Starring: Shirley MacLaine,  Christopher Plummer,  Mischa Barton
Director: Richard Attenborough
Certificate: Certificate: 12
This is a wonderful love story, powerful and tragic. A young man and a woman fall in love. The man has to go to war. The woman is left behind. The man, Teddy, commits his friend Chuck to take care of Ethel if he won’t return. Chuck loves Ethel. She does not love him. There is a third man, Jack, who also loves Ethel but is too proud to tell or to admit. Teddy does not return. At the tender age of 21, Ethel feels her life is over. Ten years later, she finally marries Chuck. Jack marries another girl, and another, and a third. He keeps an eye on Ethel.
The film starts when Chuck died. Ethel does not mourn. Chuck was a good man, but she never loved him. At the same time, a young man who is fascinated by airplanes and loves the word “fantastic” finds in Belfast a ring that belonged to Teddy. He searches for Ethel, and finds her. He wants to close the ring. Ethel needs to close the ring. So does Jack. Both need redemption. Both need to confront their deep, hidden feelings. Both need to overcome the huge shadow of Teddy.
This is a moving film, with great actors (Shirley MacLaine, Christopher Plummer and Martin McCann), great story, sensitive director (Richard Attenborough) and a great song (“Lost without You” by Amy Pearson). One of the rare movies I watched more than once, and enjoyed both times equally. 
Your rating: 4 stars out of 5 from 4,443 members 

**** on Rafi’s scale 

  • Skin

on DVD (2008)
Starring: Sophie Okonedo,  Sam Neill,  Alice Krige
Director: Anthony Fabian
Certificate: Certificate: 12
It is South Africa under Apartheid. An Afrikaner couple has a dark skin daughter. They insist she is white. She thinks she is white. Everything is fine until she is sent to a school, a white school. Then the problems begin, shaking their little world which the father worked hard to protect with pride.

This is a true story about prejudice, about a young girl who is torn between the world as she knows it and the real world; between an identity her parents wish her to assume, and identity that is dictated not by who she is -- her personality, knowledge, education, upbringing, wit, mentality -- but by the sole crude criterion: The colour of her skin. In the world of South Africa’s apartheid, this was enough to dictate one’s destiny.

This is a tragic story about belonging, the mistakes people make when they think of “the big picture” at the expense of the immediate details, the “here and now”. The price of pride and prejudice can be very high indeed. At the end of the film we learn that Sandra Laing’s two brothers refuse to be in touch with her until today because she brought up two coloured children. Some people are so closed up in their own small and prejudiced world that they are unable to change.

The acting of Sophie Okonedo as Sandra and Alice Kreig as her mother who is unwilling to forgive herself for giving up on her daughter is excellent. Sam Neill is superb as always in the role of Sandra’s father who refuses to comprehend that all argumentation cannot stand in the face of one simple fact: The colour of skin. And when Sandra chooses to live in the only place where she could possibly be accepted, he burns all her belongings and deletes her from his family. 
Your rating: 4 stars out of 5 from 1,727 member 

**** on Rafi’s scale 

based on true events , 04/11/2008 
  • Charlie Wilson's War

Charlie Wilson's War on DVD (2007)
Starring: Amy Adams,  Tom Hanks,  Julia Roberts
Director: Mike Nichols
Certificate: Certificate: 15
I recommend Tom Hanks most recent film, Charlie Wilson’s War. Based on a true story, this is a shrewd film that tells the story of one influential person to rid Afghanistan from Soviet occupation. In this context, I had a lunch discussion with Lee Hamilton who verified most of the details. The script and the acting in this film are superb. 
Your rating: 4 stars out of 5 from 49,263 members 

**** on Rafi’s scale 

See the Legendary Fonda , 25/06/2009 
  • The Wrong Man

The Wrong Man on DVD (1956)
Starring: Henry Fonda,  Vera Miles,  Anthony Quayle
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Certificate: Certificate: PG
Watch now: Unavailable
At the age of 5, Hitch’s father called the police to teach him a lesson after he misbehaved. The policeman took his job rather seriously and locked young Hitch for a few minutes in a cell. This left quite an impression on Hitchcock and may explain the love/hate relationships he had with the police, evident in his films.

Hitch dealt with the theme of wrongly-accused person fighting for his innocence in Young and Innocent (1937). Here, in The Wrong Man (1956), he returns and expand on the theme. It is about a man is tried for crimes committed by a look-alike robber. This is a far better movie, with the legendry Henry Fonda who was, as ever, superb.

The Wrong Man is a serious film. You will notice that from the first moment, as Hitch presents the film in his own particular way. He stands in the dark, we don’t see his face, only hear him saying that this is a true story, based on real facts that are hard to imagine, but yet true. From then on, the focus is on Fonda who carries the majority of the film on his shoulders. Hitch even avoided his usual cameo appearances as he did not wish us to distract even for a minute from the misfortunes of the wrongly-accused man.

Henry Fonda, one of Hollywood all-time greatest actors, plays musician Manny Balestrero, a man who leads a quiet life with his wife and two boys, when one day he is believed to be a serial armed robber. Manny is arrested and charged with the crimes. He is identified by several witnesses, and his life break apart. Fonda is quiet, contained, submissive, in a place where he does not belong, playing in accordance to rules he does not understand. When he is able to somehow collect himself, his wife Rose (Vera Miles), so terribly distraught by the ordeal, losses her sanity. 
Your rating: 4 stars out of 5 from 1,151 member 

**** on Rafi’s scale 

Israeli Politics

In one word: Depressing. 

Not much news. Not much democracy. 

Abuse of powers. Everything is in standstill but the Coronavirus. Still spreading, which lead to harsher times, more restrictions, more extreme lockdown measures, more interventions on privacy.

Government functions as an emergency government. The Knesset does not function.

Great News: A swimsuit to prevent drowning
Israeli Eyal Hirak designed the FuGuSense swimsuit after his daughter nearly drowned. The swimsuit contains sensors to monitor vital signs. If drowning is detected, an integrated, reusable airbag is inflated to bring the swimmer to the surface.

Great News: Hillel Furstenberg Won World’s Top Prize for Mathematics

Israel’s Hillel Furstenberg is being awarded a share of the Abel Prize and 7.5 million Norwegian Kroners “, for pioneering the use of methods from probability and dynamics in group theory, number theory and combinatorics.” The Abel is the Mathematics equivalent of the Nobel Prize.

Theatre – Leopoldstadt *****

Tom Stoppard biographical play is powerful and poignant. It tells the story of an assimilated Jewish family in Vienna at the turn of the 19th Century, following what had happened to its members as they entered the 20th Century, and what impact the two world wars, and the Holocaust, had on their lives. Their lot, as you can expect, was not much different than the lot of many Jewish families in Europe.

This is one of the most popular shows in London nowadays. I do not think that the majority of the audience know the history of Zionism and of antisemitism in Theodor Herzl and Karl Lueger’s Vienna nor do I think that many non-Jews will be familiar with the Jewish way of life and the nagging questions that occupy Jews when they live in the diaspora. Thus, this play can be understood on many levels. Still, it is a great play that would touch the majority of people. Its humanity is moving. Its brutality is disturbing. When I saw it, the audience had to collect itself for a few minutes after the powerful ending of the play and walked out quietly. Many tears were shed.

There are many characters in this play who have greater and minor roles. It is difficult to remember and follow all of them. I asked myself during the play why so many. I am sure that Stoppard was struggling with this issue too as he was developing the play. I understood why at the end. 

This is theatre at its very best. Do not miss Leopoldstadt when it will run again when life will return to tranquillity, calm and sanity.



***** on Rafi’s scale.


Monthly Poem - Dignity

And what, in fact, is dignity? In those
Who have it pure, it is the soul’s repose, 
The base of character—no mere reserve 
That springs from pride, or want of mental nerve.
The dignity that wealth, or station, breeds, 
Or in the breast on base emotion feeds, 
Is easy weighed, and easy to be sized—A bastard virtue,
    much to be despised.

True dignity is like a summer tree. 
Beneath whose shade both beast, and bird, and bee,
When by the heated skies oppressed, may come,
And feel, in its magnificence, at home; 
Or rather like a mountain which forgets
Itself in its own greatness, and so lets 
Vast armies fuss and fight upon its sides,
While high in clouds its peaceful summit hides,
And from the voiceless crest of glistening snow, 
Pours trickling fatness on the fields below;
Repellant force, that daunts obtrusive wrong,
And woos the timid steps of right along;
And hence a garb which magistrates prepare,
When called to judge, and really seem to wear. 
In framing character on whate’er plan, 
‘Tis always needed to complete the man, 
The job quite done, and Dignity without, 
Is like an apple pie, the fruit left out. 

Too-qua-stee, also known as DeWitt Clinton Duncan, was born in the Cherokee Nation in Georgia in 1829. He worked as an attorney for the Cherokee Nation, as well as a teacher of Latin, English, and Greek. He died in 1909.

Light Side - English Funny Language

Consider the following pairs

Clearly misunderstood
Exact estimate
Small crowd
Act naturally
Found missing
Fully empty
Pretty ugly
Seriously funny
Only choice
Original copies

And the mother of all
Happily married!!

Wishing you’ll good, sustained health. Stay safe!!

Yearning for tranquillity and blessed routine. 

Peace and Love. Yours as ever,


My last communications are available on Israel: Democracy, Human Rights, Politics and Society,

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