(Ra’anana. )October 21 2005

Nathan Szajnberg

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Stopping power is a matter of physics: mass times velocity. A .45 caliber has greater stopping power, but is slower because of its greater mass. The Berretta uses a .22; faster, perhaps more accurate, but less stopping power. The 9 millimeter FN (Fabrique Nationale of Belgium), which I also trained with Friday, is in-between in stopping power.

All this I learn within three hours of my first fire arms training Friday. We are locked and loaded before Shabbat in Ra’anana, where each shul has its own armed citizen guard greeting worshippers.

In fact, this almost first time I have every shot. (Once decades ago, a neighbor in West Hartford hustled me down to his secret, sound-proofed gun gallery, where I learned that I could hit bullseyes on first efforts. Both of us are shocked.) Training for the citizen police force I am doing before leaving Ra’anana for Jerusalem next Tuesday. Went with Russell, who was a firearms instructor for the Jewish community police force in South Africa. Before his Aliyah, when living in a multi-gated, Johannesburg, his house surrounded by fencing and electronic alarms, men terrorized his family: his mother was tortured with a blow-torch while his wife and two children were visiting. Thieves got through the back patio, as the maid opened the doors. The torture was gratuitous, just for the helluva it, as they had already robbed the house. He recalls the burnt wooden matches trailing through the house; they had to relight the torch repeatedly as they chased his mother. After this, Russell and his family moved to Israel. …


  1. “‘Somova Bitch’ vas mein ferst Aenglish vords”

On the phone, a ring, a voice in Yiddish, and I know just to listen to my father.

Just listen.

“‘Somova Bitch!’ vas mein ferst Aenglish vords,” my father insisted. “Vee vus on Ellis Island, from docking de big ship from Deutschland. Vee vus tree veeks on de Ocean. Everyone vus sick: your mama, you two kinderlach, all de Jews vus trowing up and under de deck. But, I vasn’t sick. Big vaves camed und svept on de boat, almost svept me into de Ocean. But, I vent on top from de boat.”

“Oif Ellis Island, I bent over de boat to hear some Aenglish. Enough Yiddish, Enough Deutsch, Poilish! Enough! I vanted Aenglish. Hob ich gehert — I heard — de men verking on de docks, unloading de boat, talking Aenglish: “Somova Bitch!” dey hollered. …


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Perched on my knee are two shrapnel, a gift from Yovel, the six year old I interview Friday in Kiryat Shemona during rocket fire. Two of three he found in his back yard, after the Katyusha hit the bright pastel rose painted kindergarten, catty corner from his house. One is a sphere fragment, fits my index finger tip. It has an organic-looking or geological studded convex surface, ragged edges; its concave side has a single ridge. It feels unfriendly even as I try capping my finger with it. The other, perhaps four by one cm, looks like a modern steel sculpture, a miniature fragment from something by David Smith, from inside his polished globes, with nefarious, studded innards. It has two sharp edges, striated with glistening, brass striations and a central ridge on each side, like some postmodern arrow head. …


April 6, 2006

N. Szajnberg, MD Copyright 2020

I arrived in SF in 1995, taking a position at the Family Mosaic, a modestly paid position, which I had recommended to one of my residents in Wisconsin: he forsook the SF job for big bucks in Arizona. Having talked-up the excitement of working in an innovative program for 200 children in the African-American Bayview and the Hispanic Mission neighborhoods, having started working on the 30-year study with Hank Massie, and having been tempted by him over several weekend visits including walks along the Berkeley marina, dinner at Chez Panisse, even a month-long summer in his house with my two daughters, I took the job. Dr. D., now dead (of his own hand), maneuvered the half-time position with the Family Mosaic, into a position at UCSF, the other half-time to be the only child psychiatrist at the Department of Psychiatry’s new multimillion dollar HMO contract, a poisonous position that I fulfilled, fortunately, for only a year. Dr D. was proud that he got a city psychiatrist appointed to a joint job at UCSF. I learned later how big a victory this may have been for him: an SF local, DR. D. had been rejected by UCSF for residency; and I was the first City child psychiatrist to have passed the National Boards. …


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(The only windmill in Jerusalem is the restored in Mishkenot Sha’anim, one of the first neighborhoods outside the Old City. A hidden motor moves it lazily.)

First the visit to Misrad Hap’nim, the Office of the Interior. Professor Sofer needed a new ID card — te’udat zehut — to get his University money from Cheshbon Gemel, which is…what, he wasn’t certain. Not his pension, they insisted, but money set aside from his salary and possibly some supplement from the University, which he could collect at sixty-five. For the next three years, after sixty-five, after the terrorist bombing that hastened his retirement, after returning to recuperate three years after returning to Stanford, Sofer got periodical messages from Kupat Gemel about how much money it — or he — had earned. …


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After two weeks abroad, I am back in the orchards.

It is pleasant beneath the Persimmon leaves and the early green furled buds that to my eye look like leaves, but instead are fertilized ova, becoming embryonic beneath the sun.

Moishek always greets me with a broad smile, his bony-muscular grip. His ancient, cracked leather belt barely holds up sagging work trousers. I load my bike into the back of the dieseled trucklet and we’re off. In a different direction: we leave the kibbutz, travel across the road, past the train station; here are orchards also. The kibbutz was transected by the Herzilya road that enters the Coast highway, or continues to the high-tech Herzilya Pituach. “Pituach”, “developing” has an ironic meaning here: it usually applies to the dusty desert towns where immigrants are placed in the hope of both the immigrants’ and the land’s development, often with disappointing results for both people and land. …


Persimmon orchards continues to get the writing into me.

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Today, despite a partially severed Achilles tendon, after ice packs, much anti inflammatories and Linus Pauling dosages of Vitamin C, I am off. The bus is beaten by my favorite, the Sheirut Monit. Pronounced as in the Old West term for stogies, “Cheroot,” these are legal 8–10 seater vans that stop at or near bus stops for the same fare. You step in, get seated, pass the fare to the person ahead, who chain-gangs it to the driver, who reaches back, hand cupped, turned upside down, like a flamingo feeding. Change is sent back the same route. I hop on (hopping being a current mode of travel on my left foot) and sans newspaper, sans reading glasses, sans full wakefulness, daydream the route to the kibbutz. The woman just in front of this 10-seater van is making herself up. I wonder of this, as I see her wedding ring. But she is careful, with mirror balanced on two fingers, she works with concentration. …


Something about working in the persimmon and avocado orchards gets the writing into me.

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Today, despite a partially severed Achilles tendon, after ice packs, much anti inflammatories and Linus Pauling dosages of Vitamin C, I am off. The bus is beaten by my favorite, the Sheirut Monit. Pronounced as in the Old West term for stogies, “Cheroot,” these are legal 8–10 seater vans that stop at or near bus stops for the same fare. You step in, get seated, pass the fare to the person ahead, who chain-gangs it to the driver, who reaches back, hand cupped, turned upside down, like a flamingo feeding. Change is sent back the same route. I hop on (hopping being a current mode of travel on my left foot) and sans newspaper, sans reading glasses, sans full wakefulness, daydream the route to the kibbutz. The woman just in front of this 10-seater van is making herself up. I wonder of this, as I see her wedding ring. But she is careful, with mirror balanced on two fingers, she works with concentration. …


Today is Kibbutz Friday. Pruning — gozmim — the very limbs from which we were picking — Kotfim — persimmons in the last few weeks.

A lonelier day: the Bedouin families have packed up, back to their Kfar; the limbs are shorn of their colors, although the leaves cling to some green; the sky is a Chicago gray, threatening or promising rain. It is colder.

Late, too late to bike over, I hail a cab; something about cab-hailing that does not “become” kibbutz work. I get out of the cab a few meters from the kibbutz entrance, not to be spotted as bourgeois. I phone Moishek who trucks me over to joining the two Thai regulars. Later, Moishek gives me some quick demography of foreign workers and their experiences, at least on kibbutz. My best remembrance of numbers is some 200,000 foreign workers in Israel: the Thais in fields; the Phillipinos in the homes for elderly; the Chinese, in construction. The Chinese are well-regarded as efficient, hard workers, with only occasional complaints. The Phillipinos, mostly women, leave behind family, even children for one, two years, are dedicated, quiet, shy. The Thais, well, I have told you a bit about Shai; laconic, face wrapped in a T=shirt, family in Thailand, not to be discussed. Lonely, quiet, hard-working. …


Kibbutz Lop-idary

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Lop-idary, I have chosen to call it, this lopping art, pruning by any other name. The kibbutz persimmon orchards are 8,000 souls with naked limbs akimbo. My work among them I call “Lop-idary,” lopping branches, limbs, plain and simple. Yet, it has a topiary quality to it, sans the fanciful, artful outcome and the aim of good topiary to make imaginary forms, imaginary beasts — unicorns, Sphinxes — so that the underlying tree-being loses its character, gains the imagination of the gardner to become another being. …

About

Nathan Szajnberg

Born in a German Displaced Persons' Camp, I grew up in Rochester and attended the University of Chicago College and Med School.

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