Cheese, canals, and prayers

We went to Alkmaar today for their Friday cheese market.
Alkmaar cheese market tradition started in 1365. There is still lots of pomp and circumstance surrounding it. Cheese guild members are dressed all in white except for the bow ties and straw boater hats of matching colors that represent their positions in the guild. Ancient traditions of cheese inspection and purchasing are carefully followed. The cheese is weighed on enormous antique scales using huge and heavy weights to match. I tried to lift one weight that must have been made of solid lead- couldn’t even move it an inch!
The cheese is carried to the scale by a pair of cheese carriers in a wooden hand barrow matching the color of their hats. They carry 8 large loaves at a time, which must be heavy. They walk with a funny gait, more like two horses doing a trot on their hind legs all the while screaming something in Dutch. And everybody, the cheese men and the crowd, are making merry. It’s like a party, which it must have been in the Middle Ages.
The town of Alkmaar is tiny and cute. The residents probably get a day off on cheese market days because after the market’s closure at 12:30 pm, the streets around teemed with people, the cafes were full, and the shops opened wide to customers.
It’s an easy trip from Amsterdam, which takes less than an hour.
In Amsterdam, we went on a treasure hunt for hofjes, the hidden inner courtyards behind (not-so-)secret doors, discovering the new parts of the city on the way.
Several times, I was almost run over by a biker. They think they own the streets and are worse than the cars! They don’t obey traffic signs and ride on sidewalks if they so desire.
Whenever once oppressed elements of any society get rights and gain power, they promptly become oppressors in their own right.
In our search for the hofjes, we stumbled upon a long line snaking around several buildings. We were baffled – we hadn’t seen any lines in Amsterdam until now. Since it was almost 5 pm, we thought it could have been a line to a hot nightclub. Hell, no. The line was for Anne Frank’s house!!!
What is it, this fascination with this girl, one of the million children killed in the Holocaust?! What is this odd fixation all about? None of those standing in line read or would ever read her diary, never read Night, never heard of Primo Levi, and don’t know nor care to hear stories of other Holocaust victims?!
In today’s day and age, with rising anti-semitism and Israel-bashing for something as little as sneezing at a terrorist brandishing a knife at an old woman, why is Anne Frank’s house a #1 attraction in Amsterdam, with Van Gogh, Rembrandt, and even pot paling in comparison???? Why is she compared to the”refuges”, most of whom are young, male, and able-bodied, who chose to escape to the prosperous West rather than stay and defend their country? How did she become a symbol of wrong things?
On a slightly different note, in the city that Anne Frank used to call home, tonight, at Friday night services in the historic 17th century Portuguese Synagogue, there was barely a minyan, which only came about owing to the few tourists who came here more for the sake of checking it out than praying.


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