What the Eye Will See

A friend has published a memoir of his late father. When my own father passed away I wrote a memoir and published it.
The entire process was rewarding: I had honoured my father, I had told his story ‘that a later generation might know’. And I had managed my grief.
My friend Michael Komesaroff has achieved all those things with his memoir, “What the Eye Will See”. What stands out in the personality of Willie Komesaroff  (the author’s father) is his jealous protection of his good name, his deep to the bone integrity.
In addition to this private story the author has brought to bear the meticulous research skills that he employs as a visiting professor, consultant and journalist in his professional field, which is Asian mineral investment. The result is a small book with a big story. It is a very Australian story – the story of the Komesaroffs, a Jewish clan from the Ukraine; of their immigration to Australia during the years of the Russian Revolution at a time when Australian government policy expressly excluded migrants from that area.
How government policy was waived and how the Komesaroffs responded in the host country are the stuff of unseen greatness. This country’s gentile politicians who overcame public prejudice and government policy; the Moses figure of the Komesaroff clan who plucked his family from peril and set them up here; the manner in which that clan buckled down, worked hard, prospered, multiplied and rewarded Australia; this is the story of Australian migration success, writ large – but written as it were – in invisible ink. Such is the characteristic modesty and self-effacement of the Komesaroffs (noisy scion Michael conspicuously excepted) that although the clan is Melbourne’s biggest Jewish family and its members are giants of professions, they stay away from limelight.
“What the Eye Will See” allows us all to see and appreciate elements of the greatness of this country and the hidden greatness of some of its quieter achievers.
Michael invites my readers to the launch of the book. It will be a good afternoon.

What the Eye Will See launch invitation

What the Eye Will See launch invitation

A Pogrom in Islamdom

2013 has been the year of the burning church. Throughout Islamdom churches burn. 

It started before 2013. For over a decade I have seen my Coptic patient from Egypt beside himself with grief and anxiety as he watches his relatives trapped in fear, paralysed like a kangaroo doe in my headlights, unable to resolve – to flee or to stay?
He sits, this large man, in my consulting room and nurses his ulcer. Gaps, lacunae of silence in the consulting room and his eyes fill with tears as the silence falls and swells.
At present Egyptian Copts burn bright and hot enough to hit our papers. Syrian Christians burn.
Elsewhere, in Iraq, the oldest Christian community in the middle east convulses. In 1991, Christians in Iraq numbered 1.3 million people; today they number 300,000 to 500,000. Catholic Chaldeans, Nestorians, Orthodox, almost all Iraqi Christians are ethnic Assyrians. Assyrians speak Aramaic, lingua franca of Jesus. From time to time I meet a Christian from Iraq in the Children’s Hospital where I work. When I address him and his family in my rudimentary Aramaic (which is, of course, an inherited language for any Jew who has ever opened the Talmud), their faces open in disbelief, in joy, in homecoming from linguistic exile.
(While liberal Christian groups turn a blind ear to the slaughter of fellow Christians there exists but one country in the middle east where, as Gabriel Nadaf, a priest, declares, “we feel secure”. Guess which country.)
Last week 34 Assyrians died in a church bombing in Baghdad. In 2010 a series of ‘suicide bombings’ (call sign of the hero martyr, history’s adolescent crying LOOK AT ME! LOOK AT ME!) killed 58 people. There have been 71 church bombings reported in Iraq since 2004.
So much, so normal, so historically unremarkable. So much blood: thirty four here, fifty eight there. Have you seen how much blood there is in the body of but one human being? (I have. Cain did. God called to him saying: “The bloods of your brother call out to Me from the earth.”
Why bloods – in the plural? Because, explains the commentator Rashi, no-one had seen a human die before Cain. No-one knew how much blood
there was in one human brother.)
We know now about the blood of the human person. We cannot plead ignorance.
I remember another time – it was recent, only November 1938 – when houses of worship burned, when the bloods of my brothers cried out.
I remember the shameful silence of the decent civilised world. I remember the silence of churches, governments, communities in Australia
following the great pogrom that was the night of broken glass. I remember how my people was forgotten. I remember the silence.
I remember William Cooper and his Aborigines Advancement League raising the sole protest in Australia against the pogrom.
There are pogroms occurring throughout Islamdon. There is a great silence here.
Do we need to wait for another Australian Aboriginal leader to awaken this nation, to rouse its parliaments, its churches, synagogues and mosques, its noisy Boycotters, its pious Divestors, its smug Sanctioners, to cry: “I am my brother’s keeper?”