Daily Archives: October 28, 2006

On “email take 2” — Moscow Take 3

There were only a couple of referrals to this blog yesterday. One came from Russia:


Which as a URL is NIGMA:email take 2.

The URL ends in “ru” which stands for Russia and when I followed the link I found the site was definitely in Russia because it was in Russian. As best as I can tell by my limited Russian, someone was searching for “email take 2” using the Nigma “Intellectual Search System.” It was started about a year ago. I think it is based on Moscow.

Oddly enough I spoke last night with an Israeli soldier about Moscow.
He was visting our Temple. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) have for some time been sending some of their soldiers to our country so we can learn more about Israel. The program started in Stamford, Connnecticut, several years and this year was expanded to Northern Westchester.

Our visiting soldier is about 22, though he shows the confidence of a much-older man. He has about 25 men serving under him, and has the unusual job of training dogs. The dogs can be used to search for explosives, to investigate a building, or even to save a life. He said that several months ago someone had attacked him and his dog had jumped in front him and by doing so saved his life, but had been killed in the encounter.

His unit was among the first into Lebanon last summer. When he goes into battle he has no rifle, just his dog. He mentioned they found extensive bunkers, much more elaborate than anything they had imagined — air conditioners, laptops, DVD players. It took them two weeks after the end of hostilities to blow them all up.

One of his closest friends was killed in the first hours of battle.

He had planned to leave the army this year but had just signed up for an additional year, simply because he could bear the thought of leaving the army when he was so responsible for so many men.

He took questions from the audience. Several were about security issues. He said he was quite comfortable traveling around Israel, and that 15-year olds would travel on their own to another city, rent a hotel room, and tour. He said later during a private conversation that he thought American children were much more limited and had less freedom.

He also said he thought that we here in the U.S. should require a year of national service just after high school.

At the end of his presentation one of our board members who had recently been to Israel spoke about how she was surprised so many Americans were afraid to travel there, that they thought it was still dangerous.

After the service I had a few minutes to speak with the brave soldier, and I mentioned that my son had spent a year studying in Jerusalem. In December 2003 I had to fly to St. Petersberg, Russia, on IBM business. The St. Petersberg airport is quite small for such a large city; it’s about the size of the Westchester County Airport near White Plains. After my business was done I flew to the Moscow Airport. It was much bigger but not particularly fancy. I was struck by how few people spoke any English — I really had to use my limited Russian.

I then flew from Moscow to Tel Aviv. [1] I left around 8:00PM and soon saw only darkness below. I didn’t see any significant lights on the ground until we neared Tel Aviv. Then I saw highways, traffic, then tankers, then parked jetliners, and finally the runway as we touched down.

I told him that as I was landing I had fully appreciated then that Israel was a complete modern nation-state, fully able to defend itself.

I also said that I had felt quite safe during the week we spent in and around Jerusalem, and that my fondest memory, aside from seeing my son, was that, as I got out of the taxi cab in Jerusalem at 1:30AM on a Friday morning, the taxi cab driver said to me, “Shabbat Shalom.”

He smiled.

The hour is late. If I had the time I would write good night in Cyrillic but I don’t recall the keyboard layout, though I once did. [2] So let me just sound it out, “spakoynee noch.”


1. This was my third and most recent time in Moscow; hence “Moscow Take 3.” I have made four trips to Russia, in 1973, 1976 and twice in 2003. I’ll write about them in future posts. For example, on returning from our first trip in 1973 my wife and I were so desperate for some real food that we had the taxi stop in Forest Hills, Queens (she grew up there) at the Knish Knosh, home of the world’s best knishes. We didn’t have any U.S. currency and store owner said he didn’t take checks, but when we explained why we were there, he cashed a traveler’s check for the first time in the store’s history. (I was there a few weeks ago and the knishes are as good as ever.)

2. I once had a Russian portable typewriter made by Olympia, and at one time knew where most of the letters were. I sold it to the astronomer Fritz Zwicky.

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