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Culture

January 9, 2004

• One of the elderly residents of the Minsk home for the Jewish indigent didn’t show up for lunch when called. When his fellow residents went to check on him, they determined that he was no longer among the living and quickly sent his body to the cemetery. Since, according to Jewish law, a corpse cannot be left alone before it is buried, the body of the old man was left with the venerable “Yoyne the Meshugener,” who spends his nights sitting with the bodies of the dead and reciting Psalms over them. After a few hours, Yoyne saw the body move. Then a groan came out of it, followed by the words, “It’s cold! Why is it so bitterly cold?” Yoyne, frightened out of his mind, ran out screaming. In the end, it turned out that the old man hadn’t been dead, simply dead drunk.

75 YEARS AGO

• Jewish farmers plowing their fields in Hadera were attacked by a band of Arabs. The Arabs, who farm plots adjacent to the Jewish farms, destroyed the fences between the plots and claimed that the Jews were on their land. The Arab sheepherders, who in the past had been given permission by the Jewish farms to herd their sheep on the Jews’ land, evidently had been incited against the Jews after a recent visit by Wadia Bustani, a local Arab leader. In the end, the British police arrived and arrested the Arabs, who were set free after their bail was paid.

• It is being reported from Jerusalem that an expedition led by the director of the British School of Archaeology has discovered graves belonging to an ancient Hebrew royal family. Last year, the same group found an underground entrance leading to the towers of Jerusalem that are mentioned in the book of Nehemia. The recently discovered graves are not far from the Western Wall and have yielded fragments with writings the archaeologists believe stem from the time of King Solomon. The same group also discovered a street leading from the Western Wall and a number of homes with mosaic floors.

50 YEARS AGO

• Poet Julian Tuwim, perhaps the greatest poet of his generation, has died at the age of 59 in Poland. The half-Litvak, half-Polish Jew from Lodz was one of the best Polish literary stylists; some liberal Polish critics regarded him as their generation’s “Polish national poet.” Tuwim distanced himself from Jewish life, however, and even wrote poems praising Jesus, as well as material that could be construed as antisemitic. Yet when Hitler took power and Polish imitators began aping the Nazis, Tuwim had regrets and began to support Zionist causes. Tragic Jewish themes could be heard in his poems of the late 1930s.

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