Sunday, September 12, 2010

Tracing Jewish Roots in Sicily

It may seem like an esoteric topic (perhaps it is), but an increasing number of Sicilian descendants around the world are seeking their Jewish roots in Sicily. Considering that the island's last Jews were expelled or converted in 1493, that's not a simple line of research. It's really a question of "pushing the envelope" of genealogical research and exploiting the slightest clues.

But our article on Sicilian Jewish genealogy offers some pragmatic advice.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Hail in September!

Here's a follow-up to our recent report on the first rain of late Summer. As I write this, at 10 PM Friday evening, Palermo is experiencing a thunderstorm. It's hailing and the flat hail stones are a centimeter wide. In the second week of September! An unprecedented event...

Monday, September 6, 2010

First Rain!

It may seem difficult to imagine if you live in a rainy place, but the beginning of Sicily's "rainy" season is a much-awaited event. For at least two months there's no rain in most parts of Sicily - except perhaps for an occasional drizzle on Mount Etna. Then, usually around the beginning of September, there's a legitimate shower.

Last year (2009), it was on August 31st. This year it was on Thursday, September 2nd or, more precisely, the early morning hours of September 3rd. That meant droplets on the plane trees, and the beginning of cooler nights.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Operating Room Fight!

"Only in Sicily!" That was the response of many disgusted Sicilians. It was almost too incredible to believe. Even in Sicily!

A few days ago two obstetricians at Messina's general hospital got into a fist fight (literally) during a delivery, leaving a newborn with possible brain damage and a mother without a uterus. The Italian health minister made a trip to Messina to decry the lack of professionalism - to say the least! - and to assure the public that a full investigation would be undertaken. He also visited the mother and baby, both in improving condition following their macabre experience. That the story made its way into the international press only made matters seem worse than they already were.

Essentially, what happened is that the pregnant woman's personal obstetrician, who was familiar with her condition, entered the hospital to assist the staff obstetrician. The latter resented having his opinion challenged regarding the necessity of a c-section and other treatment. Angry words were exchanged, with the staff physician telling the private one something to the effect that he was "nobody" within the walls of the hospital. The debate and actual physical confrontation consumed precious time needed to assist the patient giving birth and complications ensued.

For now, one of the physicians, a state employee, has been suspended pending the investigation. There will probably be a civil suit as well, but in Italy suing a public hospital for malpractice is practically impossible. This is one of many flaws in the health care system Italians claim is "superior" to that of the United States - and when have you ever heard of two American doctors coming to blows during an operation?!?!

The health minister is absolutely correct to cite the total lack of professionalism - a serious problem in Italy but especially in Sicily. Incompetent lawyers, accountants, engineers and architects are the norm on our island. You can imagine the situation in less regulated fields like marketing and teaching. An unprofessional or incompetent accountant may cost you some money; a mediocre physician could cost you your life!