Ghost Train Rails of the Holy Land and To Ukraine With Love and Tooth Loss May Affect Ability to Carry Out Everyday Tasks - Neuroscience News and historical Jerusalem landmark to be lit up at night By ARIELLA MARSDEN
Yehuda Lave is an author, journalist, psychologist, rabbi, spiritual teacher, and coach, with degrees in business, psychology and Jewish Law. He works with people from all walks of life and helps them in their search for greater happiness, meaning, business advice on saving money, and spiritual engagement.
Six Jews from Lod have had their licensed personal sidearms confiscated by police recently, for no clear reason, according to a report in Makor Rishon.
The citizens were asked to come down to the police station to deposit their guns and were told the guns would remain there for around a month. After inquiring, some of them were told it was part of a murder investigation.
The residents said they hope this isn't the beginning of a quiet attempt by police to disarm the Jewish citizens of Lod, or was based on false accusations by their Arab neighbors.
"We do not know if this is a blood libel of the Arabs against us as a continuation of the riots, or if the police just want to show that it works and that there is symmetry," one of the Lod residents said. "We hope that there is no quiet plan here to collect weapons from Jews. We do not want to wake up to a situation where, God forbid, [Arab] riots arise again in the city, and people here are incapable of defending themselves, their children and their neighbors."
Lod was recently the scene of Arab pogroms against Jews, in which Jews were attacked and murdered, and cars, homes and synagogues were torched.
One of the citizens told Makor Rishon that he knows that when the police confiscate guns, it often take months and lawyers to get the gun returned.
Most of the citizens live in the Ramat Eshkol neighborhood, which suffered from the worst of the Arab pogroms.
In response to the report, the police stated the confiscation is part of an investigation and they can't provide any more details.
MK Bezalel Smotrich tweeted in response, "Once again, the Israeli police have abandoned the residents of Lod and are preventing them from defending themselves against riots and nationalist violence like the one we saw only three months ago. It is not a matter of luxury – the weapon is completely legal, and is in their hands according to law. immediately!"
MK Ophir Sofer tweeted in response: "The Israeli police simply take good law-abiding citizens and abandon them, their families and their personal security to a group of rioters who did not hesitate to lynch, throw stones, burn and destroy houses and vehicles. Minister Bar-Lev and the police commissioner must recalculate the route and understand who is good and who is bad, at the moment their path is very dangerous for the good."
The chairman of Im Tirtzu, Matan Peleg, responded: "The Minister of Internal Security [Bar-Lev] continues to work for rioters and against the citizens of Israel for whom he is in charge. The current move by the police under his leadership is literally abandoning the Jewish residents of Lod to their deaths. Instead of immediately ordering the police to step up enforcement in Lod against the Arab rioters, the Palestinian Defense Minister [referring to Bar-Lev] claimed that the violence was caused as a result of inequality and even said that some of the Arab families who own [illegal] weapons are 'normative'. If he is unable to ensure the security of the citizens of Israel, he should resign immediately.
MK Itamar Ben Gvir, responded: "We have reached the height of the absurdity of the failure and laxity police. The police have failed to protect the residents of Lod and now also want to take from them the last line of defense left to protect their lives. This is instead of confiscating the tens of thousands of illegal weapons that roam the area. The commissioner responsible for failure and default must lay down the keys and go home before there is any discrimination here."
Historical Jerusalem landmark to be lit up at night
By ARIELLA MARSDEN
The facade of the Talitha Kumi building lit up (photo credit: JERUSALEM MUNICIPALITY) Advertisement The Jerusalem Municipalityhas finished a project to lighten the Taitha Kumi building façade on King George Street.As part of the project, the façade was installed with a hidden electric cable to light it up at night, and olive trees and other greenery were planted in the vicinity. Additionally, a "mythological clock" on the façade will be set. The façade of the historical building stands on King George street. The building functioned as an orphanage for young girls in the 19th century. The building was destroyed in 1980, and the façade was rebuilt on site. "Talitha Kumi" is a phrase in Aramaic, which means "little girl, rise," Jerusalem's Mayor Moshe Leonsaid: "The Jerusalem Municipality works hard to illuminate buildings and improve the city's face, while taking into account its historical, mythological and authentic elements. We will continue to beautify the city that is unparalleled in the world."
Tooth Loss May Affect Ability to Carry Out Everyday Tasks
Summary: Older adults with more natural teeth are better able to carry out simple everyday tasks like cooking and cleaning compared to those who have lost their teeth, a new study reports. Researchers found a causal link between tooth loss and functional capacity in older adults. Tooth loss was also associated with a decline in social activity.
Older adults with more natural teeth are better able to perform everyday tasks such as cooking a meal, making a telephone call or going shopping, according to researchers from UCL and the Tokyo Medical and Dental University.
The study published in the Journal ofAmerican Geriatrics Society, analysed data from 5,631 adults from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) aged between 50 and 70.
Previous studies have shown the link between tooth loss and reduced functional capacity but did not establish a causal link. In this study the research team wanted to investigate the causal effect of tooth loss on someone's ability to carry out daily activities. After considering factors such as participants' socioeconomic status and poor general health they still found there was an independent link between tooth loss and the ability to carry out everyday tasks.
For the study, participants were asked how many natural teeth they had, with older adults usually having up to 32 natural teeth that are lost over time. Then, using data collected in 2014-2015, the researchers measured the effect of tooth loss on people's ability to carry out key instrumental activities of daily living (IADL). The activities included preparing a hot meal, shopping for groceries, making telephone calls, taking medications, doing work around the house or garden, or managing money.
Senior author, Professor Georgios Tsakos (UCL Institute of Epidemiology and Health), explained: "We know from previous studies that tooth loss is associated with reduced functional capacity, but this study is the first to provide evidence about the causal effect of tooth loss on the instrumental activities of daily living (IADL) among older adults in England. And this effect is considerable.
"For example, older adults with 10 natural teeth are 30% more likely to have difficulties with key activities of daily living such as shopping for groceries or working around the house or garden compared to those with 20 natural teeth.
"Even after taking in factors such as participant's education qualification, self-rated health and their parent's education level for example, we still found a positive association between the number of natural teeth a person had and their functional ability."
The team of researchers note that having more natural teeth is associated with delaying the onset of disability and death and that tooth loss can also hamper social interactions which is linked to poorer quality of life. They also suggest tooth loss could be linked to having a poorer diet with less nutrients.
The researchers say the results must be interpreted with caution because of the complex design and further studies are needed to investigate the casual relationship between tooth loss and functional ability.
First author, Dr Yusuke Matsuyama (Tokyo Medical and Dental University) said: "Preventing tooth loss is important for maintaining functional capacity among older adults in England. Given the high prevalence of tooth loss, this effect is considerable and maintaining good oral health throughout the life course could be one strategy to prevent or delay loss of functional competence.
"The health gain from retaining natural teeth may not be limited to oral health outcomes but have wider relevance for promoting functional capacity and improving overall quality of life."
Funding: Funding for ELSA was provided by the US National Institute on Aging and a consortium of United Kingdom government departments coordinated by the Office for National Statistics.
About this dental health and neurology research news
Source: UCL Contact: Rowan Walker – UCL Image: The image is credited to UCL
It was our last day in Kyiv. Soon I would return to the life I had always known in New York before moving to Ukraine three months prior—but on that day, rather than seek respite from the smoldering heat, my partner and I were in the Jewish section of the city's municipal cemetery, navigating a small jungle of poison ivy in a last-ditch effort to find my great-grandparents' graves.
Two hours and many mosquito bites later, still no luck. I was ready to order a taxi and call it a day. But despite coming up empty on an earlier visit due to confusion over surnames, Vlad insisted we try the archives once more.
The archivist responded to our request gruffly, affirming what needed no affirmation—that she had better places to be. But a job is a job. She pulled down a dusty record book from the shelf and began to search, her fuchsia nails dragging down rows of names that likely hadn't been read, much less pronounced, in decades. Then suddenly, the unexpected happened.
"Itsekson, Aleksandra Berkovna," she said. "Section 12A, row 16, spot number 4. That'll be 50 hryvnias."
I couldn't believe it. We found my great-grandmother.
Nowadays I refrain from blanketly referring to all Russian speakers as "Russian," even for convenience's sake. But all my childhood friends did it, and they called me Russian Sam.
I was born in New York and had always identified as "Russian" on the basis that we spoke Russian at home. At some point I learned that my mother's side of the family had emigrated from Ukraine, but it was irrelevant at the time: Growing up in our Soviet immigrant enclave, the specific country origins of friends and neighbors were nothing more than basic trivia. Despite my Ukrainian roots, the Ukrainian language was entirely foreign to me; I spoke Russian, therefore I was Russian. Or at least that's how Americans identified me.
I felt comfortable among Russian speakers and frequently sought community among them, even taking a course for Russian heritage speakers in college. From the moment my parents forbade me from spending a semester in the Old Country, I was determined to find a way to practice my Russian language skills abroad, eventually landing a job at a Kyiv-based NGO. But I did not expect to end up surrounding myself there with Ukrainian speakers, harboring doubts about speaking Russian—my heritage language—for the first time.
Of course, I couldn't help but also turn my extended stay in my mother's home city into something of a roots journey. My pandemic project had involved scouring genealogy sites to see how far I could get building my family tree. It turns out, not very far—my grandparents could recall their grandparents' names, but not much else. The fact that my family renounced their Soviet citizenship before emigrating 40 years ago did not help my case: Ukrainian bureaucracy ensured that my visa would expire before I could find a way to legally prove descent from any of my distant progenitors.
I knew a few things. I knew that my grandfather's father, Itsik, had lived on a Jewish collective farm in Crimea, and that my grandmother's father, Hershel, died while defending Kyiv in 1941 (whether he died in action or ended up in Babyn Yar, nobody knows for sure). But any documents that could substantiate my ancestral claims had long disappeared if they ever existed. My knowledge was limited to oral history and a handful of yellowing photos, including one of Itsik's grave with the death year inconveniently faded. And so, while turning my trip into an Everything Is Illuminated-esque tour felt admittedly self-indulgent, I nevertheless became obsessed with tracking down Itsik's grave, if only to serve as material proof of my family origins.
Before our departure, my aunt warned Vlad and me to avoid speaking Russian in Kyiv lest we attract unwanted attention from Banderite-nationalists. (I don't have a single living relative left in Ukraine, so news often gets filtered through the Russian propaganda machine before reaching some of my family members here.) Contrary to what she may have heard, you can get by in most big cities on Russian and English alone—but I enrolled in Ukrainian lessons anyway, both to smooth my transition and out of genuine interest.
The author at her great-grandmother's graveCOURTESY THE AUTHOR
While Russian remains the lingua franca of most former Soviet states, the movement to assert Ukrainian as the country's official language has gained momentum in recent years. Today, Ukrainian is not only the official language; it is the preferred language of young progressives, including many Russophones who made a categorical switch to speaking Ukrainian after the Russian occupation of Crimea in 2014 and ongoing war in Donbas. And so, it stands to reason that most of the people I wanted to get to know—young artists, musicians, intellectuals—were Ukrainian speakers. Sure, most Kyivites understand Russian and plenty carry out their lives entirely in Russian. But I became uncomfortably hyperaware whenever anyone—particularly anyone within our newfound friend group—would code-switch to accommodate me.
Never mind the social pressure. Speaking Ukrainian, even when bungled, was genuinely fun. It felt lighter and brighter than Russian. It also shares a lot with Yiddish, my would-be heritage language: a history of suppression, a vibrant revival culture, and perennial ridicule from a certain class of Russophone, or sovok—the derisive term for post-Soviet persons with pro-Soviet mentality. While "Russian" had been a catchall for any Russian speakers in my immigrant community growing up, I hadn't identified that way in years. When pressed about my origins in Kyiv, I would coolly respond "Moya mama Kyivlyanka"—my mom is a Kyivite—and the rest could be inferred.
Whether I could personally stake a claim to Ukrainian identity remained a complicated question. No one in my family had ever lived in the independent state of Ukraine; when they left, it was still part of the Soviet Union. That my family had lived on Ukrainian soil for generations was an inconvenient, and ultimately irrelevant, truth. Ethnically, I'm not the least bit Ukrainian or even Slavic. Historically, local authorities, first imperial Russian and later Soviet, had not been kind to my ancestors. Religiously—well, it goes without saying. So how could I reclaim any semblance of Ukrainian identity if it had never been claimed in the first place? Why should I bother?
Compounding the perplexity of these questions was the yet-unsolved riddle of Itsik's grave. We first arrived at the municipal cemetery on a foggy April morning, with only the photograph and a few hazy details to guide our search. I knew that Itsik and his wife, my great-grandmother Batsheva, were buried there separately, but their death years were uncertain. When I explained this to the archivist, she looked at me with exasperation: "1955 is impossible. This cemetery was founded in 1957. Are you sure you're in the right place?"
"That's the only information I have. And this," I said, handing her my phone. She looked at the photo of Itsik's grave and zoomed in on the faded death year, squinting her eyes in the same manner of all people we showed it to. The beguiling last two digits looked like 53, 55, 63, or 65. The longer you stared at them, the more they appeared to transform.
After 10 minutes of searching, she gave up. "I'm sorry, there is nothing. Is there another name you want to try?"
The photo of Itsik's graveCOURTESY THE AUTHOR
"Yes, Kaprova," I said, mistakenly giving her my great-grandmother's maiden name. It was an honest mistake: My grandfather had changed his surname to his mother's to sound less obviously Jewish. I had known him as Boris Kaprov, but he was born Berko Itsekson. Still, the archives revealed nothing.
When we returned to the cemetery two months later, I had learned that it had not been uncommon for grave plots to be sold if no living relatives were around to claim them. If my family left in the 1970s, who knows what could have happened since? Moreover, if the cemetery was founded in 1957, when had Itsik died? Some things just didn't add up.
But it wasn't a total loss. When we went back searching for great-grandmother Itsekson—not Kaprova—her name turned up in the archives as plain as day. I learned then that she had legally changed her first name from Batsheva to Aleksandra, likely Russifying it for the same reasons my grandfather did his.
A cemetery worker led us to her grave, and the moment I saw it, I knew we were in the right place: The photo embedded in the headstone resembled the face I had seen in our family photos. We cleaned the grave as best we could and left a pebble on the headstone for each of Batsheva's descendants.
The discovery was a fitting end to our stay, both bittersweet and open-ended. I still don't know where Itsik is buried, or what happened to my great-grandfather Hershel who died during the war. I feel solidarity with Ukrainians whose language and culture were suppressed under Soviet rule and flattened by Russification. Now that I'm back in New York, my ears immediately perk up to the sound of Ukrainian. Even my mother and aunt have started quizzing me on simple phrases and correcting my pronunciation. Maybe I can convince them to visit with me someday.
As for my Ukrainian identity, I wish I could say the trip helped solidify it, but I think it only served to complicate it further. "First-generation American of Ukrainian Jewish extraction" doesn't quite roll off the tongue, but I'll take it over Russian Sam.
Ghost Rails of the Holy Land
Following the dead tracks around Israel brings a forgotten Middle East back to life
Jan. 16, 2020
by Matti Friedman
Mr. Friedman is a contributing opinion writer and the author of "Spies of No Country: Secret Lives at the Birth of Israel."
EZUZ, Israel — Once you start noticing them, ghost rails are everywhere in Israel: tracks rusting in weeds, empty limestone stations. On the Jordan River, railway ties run across a graceful bridge of black basalt that connects nothing. Under slopes of olives and pines at the banks of the Yarmouk, a tributary of the Jordan, there's a station house used as a storeroom by fish farmers and eight abandoned rail tunnels leading to Syria.
On maps of the Middle East of 2020, the most important features are the borders — the lines dividing states in conflict, and people in conflict within states. But on the old maps, those from 80 or 100 years ago, different lines stand out: rail, the kind of lines linking people to one another.
Following the dead tracks around Israel, as I've been doing for a few years now, brings to life a fluid Middle East that used to exist and throws into relief the constricted frontiers of the present. It gives you time to contemplate other places in the world, places where people take for granted things like international trains and free movement across borders — and to consider how much is lost when the human mood turns from rails to walls.
If you take the modern train north from Tel Aviv, for example, you'll have to get off at Nahariya, a few miles shy of the Lebanon border. That's the last stop, but it's not where the tracks end, and you can keep walking north if you like. The old British line is still visible here and there, cutting past stucco buildings and eucalyptus trees before disappearing into a tunnel through the chalk cliffs that mark Israel's northern extremity. In the 1940s, you would have continued out the other side and up the Lebanese coast to Beirut. But now the border is impassable and the tunnel is cut halfway.
Not long ago, at the other end of the country, I camped out with my kids in a tamarisk grove by a Turkish military line from 1915 — a high earthen berm that still swoops through miles of the Negev desert, running over a bridge across a desolate ravine before hitting the razor wire of the Israel-Egypt frontier. The barrier was built a few years ago because of smuggling and terrorism, but when the tracks were laid there was nothing there. Following the old route toward the fence, we were warned off by the army and turned back. The line just kept going, pushing obliviously into the desert on the other side, as if there were no border at all.
The country's most storied ghost line is the Valley Railroad, built in 1905 by order of the Ottoman sultan as part of the grand Hijaz Railway project, meant as a leap into modernity for the Turkish Empire. The Valley Railroad made a connection, entirely logical and yet now inconceivable, between the port of Haifa in modern-day Israel and the city of Damascus, now in Syria. (The train got its name from the Jezreel Valley, which contained much of the route.) The Haifa train met the main imperial line at Dara'a, a sleepy Syrian junction. Dara'a became known to the world only much later, in 2011, as the site of the crackdown that helped ignite Syria's civil war, signaling the breakdown of more of the region into hostile enclaves, and also severing the vestiges of the Turkey-Syria rail link.
Israel and Syria became enemies 72 years ago, but when the railroad was built, neither existed. According to a rail schedule I found from 1934, you could steam out of the Haifa station at 10 a.m. and reach Damascus that evening at 8:02.
Remnants of this line are visible at Kibbutz Gesher on the Jordan River, where a third-generation kibbutz member, Nirit Bagron, showed me around. The basalt rail bridge from 1905 lies behind a formidable army gate topped with barbed wire; this is now the frontier with Jordan, and the bridge is in a buffer zone. Nirit just kicked the gate open with her sandaled foot and assured me the area had been demined.
In the spring of 1948, the war around Israel's creation changed the bridge's meaning from a welcome connection to a threat — a crossing point for an Arab expeditionary force from Iraq. In the battle, a team of kibbutz defenders disabled it with an explosive charge, and you can still see the damage over the second of the bridge's five elegant arches. The train hasn't run since then.
Israel has a peace agreement with the Jordanian government, as it does with Egypt, but most Jewish Israelis don't dare visit either country. For us, land travel is limited to the confines of a state the size of New Jersey. When we leave we use the airport. The country might as well be an island.
The vanished lines, and particularly the Valley Railroad to Syria, left behind a sediment of folktales, many of them jokes about the train's relaxed attitude toward schedules and speed in the days before everyone was in a hurry. There's the one about passengers in the first car hopping off while the train was moving, brewing a pot of coffee beside the track, drinking it slowly and hopping onto the last car as it passed. Another is about the Jewish pioneer who became despondent, lay down on the tracks and ended up dying of starvation.
One story I always assumed was myth concerns German pilots based here during World War I who were so frustrated by the train's leisurely pace that they bolted one of their propeller engines to a railway carriage and broke a speed record. This story is actually true: Photos of the wondrous contraption can be found, along with other arcane facts, in a vast train history published in 2015 by Yehuda Levanony, a retired intelligence officer.
Mr. Levanony tracked down stationmasters, drivers and other ordinary people who remembered the heyday of the train, like Shaul Biber, who grew up in the 1930s near the station at Tsemach (which was recently restored and now sits, lovely and useless, on the shore of the Sea of Galilee). Mr. Biber remembered the exotic comings and goings of his childhood, before the empires died and the borders closed in: the seaplanes that used to land in the Sea of Galilee carrying British ladies to India, and the colorful carriages clacking down the track from distant places, bringing with them "the smell of the great world."
Not all train memories are fond. During World War I, the Turks built a line to Tulkarm, a city now in the West Bank, and along this line, in April 1948, came the last train. So remembered Saleh Abu Raysieheh, a passenger on that train, interviewed 50 years later by a researcher collecting the memories of Palestinian refugees. He was 15 when he fled Haifa after Arab forces lost the battle for the city. The train took him to Tulkarm, which was held by Jordanian troops, and then the line was cut. A hostile frontier appeared between his old home and his new one. "Finally the train stopped in Tulkarm," the refugee said, "and never went back."
Today Israeli Jews don't go to Tulkarm, and Palestinians go to Haifa only if they brave the checkpoints and permit system. Many people don't know there was ever a train. The same goes for the line that could take you, according to the 1934 schedule, from the junction near Tel Aviv at 11:05 a.m. to Gaza City by 12:40 (and then to Kantara, on the Suez Canal, by 5:30). Today there is hardly any contact between people in Israel and Gaza.
The idea of reviving dead lines has a hold on the popular imagination and occasionally even comes to pass. In Jerusalem, for example, an unused section from the country's oldest line, the Jaffa-Jerusalem train of 1892, has been turned into a bustling park for pedestrians and bikers. There's also a new incarnation of the Valley Railroad, the notoriously slow train of Israeli folklore, that has run since 2016 on part of the original route. It no longer continues to Syria, though there is a plan to extend it one day over a bridge and down through Jordan to the Persian Gulf. Israel's transportation minister pitched the idea last year during a visit to the sultanate of Oman, calling it "tracks of peace." I believe in bridges and trains. But it's hard to know how this one will pan out.
If you hike the overgrown line up to Israel's northern border at the cliffs of Rosh Hanikra, where the tunnel to Lebanon was cut in 1948, you'll pass a little sign on which someone has composed a meditation in Hebrew. "The management of the Cairo-Jaffa-Haifa-Beirut railway apologizes to passengers," it reads. "The clock is broken, the track worn down, the locomotive tired, the weeds high, the fuel expensive, the engineer asleep, the tunnel at Rosh Hanikra blocked. And one more little detail — peace is running late. But don't give up: The train is coming. It'll be just a few more minutes." Every time I read that I just want to sit down and wait.
Matti Friedman (@MattiFriedman) is a contributing opinion writer and the author of "Spies of No Country: Secret Lives at the Birth of Israel."