Monday, January 30, 2012

Robert Binet - a 20th Century Life

"So do you see it as accidents or fate that shaped your life"
"Yes definitely?..[pause] well you gave it a bit of a help here and there"

Born in Hungary in 1933, when storm clouds were already beginning to gather in Europe and Hitler was beginning to crystallize ?with hysterical abandon what was alive in every German listener and reader? (Erikson, E (1963, 1977) Childhood and Society (2nd ed.). Triad/Paladin: St Albans, Herts, p 297), Robert Binet was to be shaped by some of the major cataclysms of the 20th century - the Holocaust and the Cold War, before beginning a new life as an immigrant to Australia.

Early life and childhood

Robbie was the second child, his sister had been born seven years prior. Robbie's father, Miklos Binet, lost his office job in Budapest because of legislation which excluded Jews from universities and many jobs. He had to work in a factory making bakelite electric plugs, and he brought work home and the whole family helped him in order to make money to survive, ?but life was still bearable.

Hungary entered the war on the German side, and Hungary's ultra nationalist right wing government continued to enforce increasingly severe anti-Jewish policies. Jews were used as slave labor for the Hungarian Army's Forced Labor Battalions. In 1941 Robbie's father, who had been conscripted into one of these brigades, said goodbye to his 8 year old son. "It was first time I saw tears in his eyes" recalls Robert, and that image has stayed with me my entire life. He was never to see his father again. Beaten and tortured by Hungarian soldiers, Miklos died on a forced march to the Ukraine, in the winter of 1942.

Until late 1944 the approximately 400 000 Jews in Budapest remained relatively unscathed, and it was Jews living on the periphery of Budapest who were targeted.
In 1944 Budapest's Jews were ordered to move into certain houses that were marked
with a Star of David. "For us little kids it was fun, I was 11, we didn't know what was going on"(Robbie believes it was his childish incomprehension that spared him from some of the trauma of the destruction all around him.

"Somehow my mother managed to get hold of some Swiss papers for us, that we were
under the protectorate of the Swiss government. Swiss papers were less valuable than
Swedish ones, because the Germans, who depended upon some Swedish industries for
their war effort, would not interfere with Swedish subjects." Although Robbie's mother did not have Swedish papers, she did manage to get them into a block of flats that Swedish diplomat, businessman and humanitarian Raoul Wallenberg had rented, a big apartment building that was so full there was no room to sit down in, never mind to lie down in, but to get into the building was a matter of life and death.

When the Arrow Cross party came to power in October, death squads began daily
beatings and shootings of Budapest's Jewish community. Arrow Cross thugs helped
Adolf Eichman re-activate the deportations, sending some 80,000 Jews out of the city on slave labor details and many more straight to death camps.

Robbie?s sister had married her childhood sweetheart at 19, 'a wonderful beautiful man I remember him very clearly. He was a young printer, a social democrat - and a Jew. Ten days after they were married he was taken by Hungarians who handed him over to the Germans never to be seen again. we don?t know if it was Auschwitz or somewhere else."

By December 1944 the Russians were encircling Budapest. The Germans blew up all the
bridges across the Danube and withdrew. Inside Budapest it was 'open season' and
young thugs were free to kill Jews anywhere they could find them. "The Swedish house
became overcrowded, and we had to find somewhere else to hide. She (Robbie's mother)
took the stars (of David) off us and somehow hid us amongst Christians. She was forever going out to forage for food, and whenever she heard the raids were on she moved us somewhere else. We survived by the skin of our teeth, twice we were lined up ready to be marched away, and told to wait, and twice the Hungarians never came back. My mother, who knew what awaited us, must have gone through hell."

"I watched the Russians coming in from the balcony. They were allowed to rob and rape and pillage but we were euphoric. My mother dressed my sister to make her look ugly and diseased. The Russians gave me bread, stopped me from dying of hunger. So anyway, we survived, I returned to school, but unfortunately my mother passed away in 1948."

Post War

"The losses I experienced during the war made me determined that it shouldn't happen
again, and I would join any movement that would stop it. Robert and his sister were going to immigrate to Israel, which was desperately seeking young people to come and help consolidate the Jewish homeland. However in 1948 the communists came to power and sealed off the borders, "and so - for better or worse - I never went."

He finished four years of high school, then went to trade school and became a turner and fitter (in that system your chances were better if you were a worker?). At 19 he went into the new Hungarian army, and became a 'communications and politics? officer, the 2nd in command of 120 people. "I loved it, the girls loved the uniform, it was hard yakka (= work in Australian slang) at first, the basic training, I thought about girls and I wanted to serve communism. I thought it was a fair system, that would create an equal world where there would be no more wars. I was very young. I thought I liked the idea of everyone sharing everything"

This might have been an idyllic period, or at least one of relative happiness, but Robert had to use his army pay to support his family. His sister had remarried and his brother in law was sent to jail and did a year's hard labour, accused of undermining the communist economy." After the brother in law was released he had to work in a steel foundry, where he got horribly burnt. By then the young couple had a son, and Robert maintained all three of them.

Stranger in a strange land

In 1956 the Hungarian Revolution broke out and Robert was able to leave the army. The Voice of America was urging to come to the West, although Robert, who had seen the excesses of the communist system, needed no urging.

There were hundreds of thousands of Hungarian refugees who flooded into Austria.
Robert wanted to get far away from Europe and its wars and cold winters and Australia seemed about as far away as one could get. It was a good fit, because Australia wanted emigrants - at least white European ones? - and so Robert and his wife (he had married in 1955 aged 22) immigrated to Australia.

The young couple knew no-one, neither friends nor family, but a chance meeting at the airport with a Hungarian man at the airport who was waiting for someone else led to that man (a more veteran immigrant) "adopting" them. This man took them to a Jewish hostel for new immigrants in Crows Nest, and over the next few weeks helped Robert and his wife find employment. The families became friends, shared picnics, walks, even holidays, and Robbie watched his benefactors daughter - seven at the time - grow into a young woman, little guessing he would later marry her.

Love and all that

Robert always had an eye for the women. He describes a Quantas staff member on the
plane which first brought him to Australia (55 years ago!) as a "dinky di ozzy girl pretty, freckled, red head." Clearly something in him resonates and responds strongly to the feminine/female archetypes.

His first marriage lasted 16 years. The struggles of emigration kept them together
although "we weren?t really suited." He married her because she was beautiful - "the root of all evil." But she turned out to be an alcoholic, was depressed, and attempted to commit suicide several times. "I'd be called home and she'd be flat out on pills. Eventually they performed a lobotomy on her. They half-cured her. She calmed down, but never 100%. It was a difficult time for me. We had huge clashes. I think in the back of our minds we still loved one another. We cared about each other and stayed in touch even after she left."

There were no children from his first marriage: "We were too busy trying to make a life for ourselves here, get established." And anyway, as it turned out, his first wife was infertile.

His second marriage was to someone much younger than he, who he had known since she
was seven years old (see above). She had had an unhappy first marriage, and she divorced at the same time as Robert did. They decided to get married, and she converted (via Reform) to Judaism. His relationship with his own Jewishness was rekindled during this second marriage. And suddenly, already in his forties, having children became enormously important. Two girls were born, one in 1977 and one in 1979.

This second marriage lasted for ten years, and they separated in 1984. "I didn?t notice anything, that she was unhappy. She said she had missed out on the experience of being a single adult person. But my version was that the age gap began to be significant."

"The separation was peaceful, cultured, because of the children?.but I held a grudge for a long time. The girls unanimously said they wanted to spend half the time with each of us, so they were three days by me and three days by her and we shared all the child rearing and all the expenses."

Erica is Robert?s current partner. She is 9 years younger than him, also a Jewish ?
Hungarian. They have now been together for ten years. He says he is very content in the

Working Life

Robert worked briefly as a fitter and turner in Hungary before going into the Hungarian

When he came to Australia he found employment as a worker in a Holden factory,
assembling cars. After a year or two he went to ICI chemicals, also as factory worker, and
enjoyed the job. He would have stayed there, but his wife, who worked in the same
factory as lab assistant, was lonely. She worked day shifts while Robert often had night
shifts and on weekends. When he was at home with days off she was at work. As a result
they hardly ever saw each other. She pushed him to leave the factory and become a taxi
driver. He enjoyed driving, and agreed.

It was difficult for him to learn his way around Sydney, but he enjoyed the flexible hours
and freedom that this new job offered. During his second marriage being a taxi driver
allowed him to fetch his girls from school, and then fetch his wife, who worked at
Readers Digest in Surry Hills. All in all he worked as a taxi driver for some 25 years,
eventually owning his own cab. But this part of his working life was brought to a sudden
halt in 1990, when he had a stroke. After the stroke he could no longer remember how to
find his way around Sydney, and had to look for other work.

He worked as a cleaner in a building for a year or so, and then as a salesman in a shop
seeing Opals. He worked there until they closed the shop and then he retired.

"I never thought about money. My sister told me we were bad business people and I
believed her. I ignored any business opportunities that came my way. I would have
gone into business earlier, it would have made my retirement easier, less worries now, I
might have been able to give my girls more, fly Erica (his current partner) to see her son
in Israel once a year."

Concluding thoughts

How did the war impact on him?
It turned me from a kid who did not eat a lot to someone who eats a lot.[laughter]

Fears for the future?
Anti-Semitism is back again in many places ? including Hungary - and it makes me sad,
I've been there and seen the terrible results it produces.

Did he get wiser as he grew older?
I'd like to think so but its not for me to judge.

"By July 8, 1944 437,402 Jews had been deported in 151 trains, according to German
military governor, SS-Brigadefuhrer Edmund Veesenmayer?official German reports. One
hundred and thirty six trains were sent to Auschwitz, where 90% of the people were
exterminated on arrival. For most of this time period, 12,000 Jews were delivered to
Auschwitz in a typical day, among them the future writer and Nobel Prize-winner Elie
Wiesel, at age 15. The devotion to the cause of the "final solution" of the Hungarian
gendarmes surprised even Eichmann himself, who supervised the operation with only
twenty officers and a staff of 100, which included drivers, cooks, etc."

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Modern Hebrew Primer

A text book to teach children Hebrew was recently published by Dvir Eitan, a publishing house which specialises in educational material. The authors have tried to make the texts relevant, and to reflect current Israeli realities, while also covering the new mathematics syllabus. For those of you who don't speak Hebrew, I have translated a few paragraphs, so you can see where current Israeli pedagogy is heading:

Here is Avraham. Avraham is a settler.
See Avraham throw stones at Ibrahim.
How many stones does Avraham throw at Ibrahim.
One stone. Two stones. Three Stones. Four.

This is Avikam. Avikam and Avraham are friends.
Today they have decided to cut down some olive trees.
Whose olive trees will they cut down?
Why Ibrahim's of course!

This is Yitzchok Elchanan. Yitzchok Elchanan lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.
Yitzchak's family belong to a group called the charedim.
This is Ayelet. Ayelet lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh. Her family belongs to a group called dati-leumi. In Israel different groups all get on well because evn though they have nothing in common, they are still all Jews.
See Ayelet going to school in a pretty blue dress.
See Yitzchok Elchanan shouting at Ayelet. See Yitzchok Elchanan spitting at Ayelet. See Yitzchok Elchanan and his brothers Pinchas and Mordechai and Dovid and Shmueli and Yisroel spitting at Ayelet.
What a lot of children!
By counting the spit on Ayelet, can you work out how many children there are in a Charedi family?

This is Ahmad Maloun. When Ahmad grows up he wants to be a suicide bomber, just like his dad, and four of his older brothers. When his oldest brother Shahid blew himelf up, he killed seven Israelis. When his younger brother Osman blew up, he only managed to kill three Israelis. Ahmad's dad, Abu Kasim, blew up while he was still assembling his bomb. That means that the average score for the Maloun family is 3.3 Israelis. If there are 6 million Israelis, and 4 million Palestinians, how many Palestinians need to blow themselves up in order to get rid of all of the Israelis?

This is Tom. Tom is a secular Israeli. By mistake, on the way back from a casino, Tom has knocked over an 80 year old Holocaust survivor who was trying to cross the road. Unfortunately Tom needed to get home so he did not have time to stop, but he did make a mental note to be more careful in future.

Look. Now Ibrahim has thrown a stone through the window of Avikam's mother's car and she has crashed into what used to be an olive grove. And look now Avraham and a few of his friend are burning down Ahmad's house, because Ahmad's village was easier to get to than Ibrahim's.

Here is Inbal. Inbal is a leftist. She thinks Avraham was wrong to burn down Ahmad's house. She holds up a big sign. Here is a tear gas cannister fired by a border policeman.
Uh oh Inbal. I think you had better move from there.

And here is another cannister. Oh, it is a a spray can. What is Avikam spraying on the wall of Inbal's building? I think he likes her and is making a love poem for her. "Soon" he has written. Now he is writing some more words. "I will send you". Perhaps it will be chocolates? or maybe flowers? What do you think children? let's see what he's writing: "to join Rabin." I'm not sure I understand this poem children, can one of you explain it to me?

See the Hamas missile. Boom
See the Hizballah Missile. Boom. Boom Boom.
See the Iranian missi

Thursday, January 19, 2012

A night I cried

Watch the video clip and then read the memories it evoked in manofesto:

When I did this the first time I think I fainted and only "woke up" when the parachute opened. Despite the fact I was pushed out of the plane like a sack of wheat I'm still terribly proud of it, for me it helped to somehow establish my manhood.

However once we landed after a night jump near maaleh Tzeh-aylim I was so tired from nervous exhaustion (we had been sitting on a runway almost the entire day, almost immobilized by our heavy packs and parachutes, waiting and waiting for night to fall and the mind trying to avoid the fear) I had no energy left for what was to follow. Somehow I had been given the body of a Browning 0.5 heavy machine gun to carry on my back (someone else had the barrel and other people the ammunition boxes, which were heaviest of all, I think 14kgs each and I remember someone carrying two of them. My Browning weighed about 13-14kgs, and with my galil and machsaniyot (magazines) and two litres of water and helmet I suppose I was carrying around 22kgs. We began this endless walk on a plain and then reached a steep cliff like ascent which required hands as well as feet to scale. My back and shoulders were aching and it was quite clear to me i couldn't or wouldn't do it. I felt is was unfair that I had been saddled with this elephant on my back, and complained to anyone I could, although many others in the retek gdudi were busy with their own troubles - heavy tripods for the browning, mortar bases, ammunition boxes and the other unnecessary paraphernalia of manouevres and war. I decided that once again Ttzahal (the IDF) had set the bar to high. If they wanted bits of iron manhandled up cliffs in the dark, they could do it themselves.

I asked to be relived of my increasingly crushing burden, concerned at any moment I would keel over and go crashing down the mountain side. No heroic thoughts urged me to stoicly scrabble on up on all fours (which is pretty much what I had been reduced to doing) and not burden some other poor soldier with my trouble. All I wanted was for someone to take the #$%$^ thing away. As a rather soft and protected child it was hard enough for me to conceptually swallow climbing up a rocky hill face in the dark but ok, I had put my hand up for the IDF and so I'd climb the bloody hill...but not with an impossible weight on me which kept on pulling me back and down into the desert air and the plain now seemingly far below.

At a certain point, after my requests that someone else take it "for a while", (as I disingenuously phrased it) had been ignored. and I had been assigned one or two assistants to push and pull me, my legs, already trembling uncontrollably from fatigue, simply turned to jelly and I keeled over and burst into tears. How the not so mighty are fallen! If only the enemies of Israel could see who Tzahal has as their recruit they would immediately attack. I lay there on my stomach, unable and unwilling to move, quietly sobbing "ani lo yachol, ani lo yachol -I can't, I cant". A fine figure of the reborn Hebrew soldier I must have cut. Fortunately if I had been ashamed - and I don't think I was I would have used and subterfuge to get rid of the paralysing weight - it was lessened by a few problems other people were also having. Some of the retek gdudi had sprained ankles, or worse, when they landed, and so other people had had to take their packs and were struggling with them. There were lots of kus amaks and ben zonahs filling the air, and the retek gdudi/chativati seemed to fall further and further behind the main column, and even the officers were cursing the batallion and brigade commanders.

Someone organised that the Browning be taken from me, perhaps given to a "younger" (i.e 19 instead of 22) and sturdier soldier made of sterner stuff than I. I can't remember if I was given something lighter to carry - like a 60 mm mortar or something...but having the browning of my back felt like having my mobility restored and my legs and arms untied. I wobbled to my feet and began climbing again, in the dark, following the soldier in front of me.

I think we walked almost the entire night, through mist and forests that appeared out of nowhere, perhaps passing a Beduin sitting cross legged and silent in front of a few glowing coals (tho this might have been on another occasion) and the gaps between soldiers grew wider and wider so that when day broke, I imagine we stretched out for several kilometers. We plodded on like donkeys (or at least I did) until eventually we came to water trucks and batashiot or whatever they were called...signs that this ordeal was over. Or perhaps we had to bed down in defensive positions and languish there in the desert sun....I remember shade netting and orders to drink so as not to get dehydrated, but I may be conflating several different maneuvers

But to return to the night jump: I could not believe that after pushing us out of an airplane in the dark they were not ready below with medals and hot chocolate. That they actually expected us to walk as well for tens of kms in the dark carrying impossibly heavy pathetic indignation was almost as great as when, in my early forties, I discovered I was supposed to earn a living.

Give us this day our daily Guru

It would be very useful to me - and possibly to "others" - if my living Gurus - for example Gangaji, Byron Katie and to a lesser extent Isaac Shapiro and Eckhart Tolle - could post videos of themselves not on the Satsang circuit, helping people during retreats and in carefully groomed contexts, but from during their daily round. For example

at the bank
in a traffic jam
dealing with a plumbing problem or a problem plumber
at the dentist (Isaac says he asks the dentist not to use anaesthetic of any sort)
interacting with very young babies and very infirm people and with mosquitoes, cockroaches and/or bad migraines
trying to find a parking place at, and in general, negotiating airports and modern travel

seeing these being handled might be even more helpful to me than helping people find out who they are, it might even point me towards what I truly am.

Also could I please see you working not just with the worried well but with psychotics, drug addicts, neo fascists, Down Syndrome and low iq people....or must they wait for another lifetime?

Monday, January 16, 2012

A Man is a Home

See also poems 2012-5772 and sulam yaakov

Above the village of Koke
sits Moimango
watching over his people
sometimes his son
now also old
comes to pay his respects
in Moimango's abdominal cavity
rodents have made their nests
on his toes and fingers
lichen goes
his head nods forward
around his people
the jungle grows



The rain forest
picabeen palms and giant ferns
perfumery of
eucalyptus woodland
and rolling coastal heaths
shimmering with wildflowers
that make soft the hardest gaze
are all the children
of mycorrhizal fungi
that send their slender threads
into the golden sand
and gently pry
from silicate fists
the building blocks of life
bubbles of regret
like soggy spears
well up, wrench me
if only I had made something of myself
if only some one had told me at 30 or 35 that money counts
more than almost anything
and that as you age no one cares about anything much
except that you pay them for services rendered

Stuck in the cellar
of late capitalist consumerism
and internal contradictions
and running in circles
to be able to look my children and wife in the eye
sometimes the best I can do
is stuff electronic notes into virtual bottles
and set them adrift
on the faceless book

Why I use the term "Nazi's"

When I refer to Germans during the second world war I call them "Nazi's". I don't use the term "Nazi's" in order to absolve ordinary Germans of their role in supporting, abetting and in many cases implimenting the slaughter of Jews, Romanys, Homosexuals, Poles and Russians, but to differentiate between the Germans of that era who were imbued with the leadership sanctioned resentments of Nazism, and the Germans who preceded them and who came after tham and have nothing to do with the Holocaust - indeed other peoples - such as the Turks who have never acknowledged or owned the Armenian genocide - have much to learn from German reparations and legislation since the war.

And on the topic of Nazi collaborators and the current upsurge of Holocaust revisionism in the baltic countries:

Does a person
falling into a mass grave
like the tree in the earless forest
make a sound so feint
that after six decades
it cannot be heard at all?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

What Hurts?

Of course thought takes you to a place of hurt, so as sages and clear see ers have always said it is our thoughts that hurt us. What thoughts about the Holocaust hurt? Not that six million were murdered in one way or another, because they would have died anyway, as must all flesh and blood, and who can say what time is right to it cannot be their dying that hurts. Rather it was the hatred, resentment, agression, madness that underwrote the shoah that hurts (me)....

the murders were just the manifestation of that blind hatred which stripped Jews and others of their humanity....a hatred which appears to be resurfacing....and what is hatred but displaced psychic energy....and what about that hurts me.....whre dos it all start from? from the notion that we are body? that what we are is woundable? that this world of discreet manifestation is all that there is?