Now we are an open book

It’s taken a few weeks to do it, but Amazon have finally processed the book so that you can now preview it online and sample various passages. ‘Search Inside!’ is a great idea for those who like to try before they buy. You can see the full cover and flap blurbs; Contents; an extract from the first chapter; the full index; and best of all there’s a ‘Surprise me!’ possibility. (Of course, diligent visitors to our website will have already discovered our own ‘Sample passages’ section.) Follow any of these links: or and

Where is this?

OK, so I’m an architect-manqué. But tell me if you don’t also find this inspirational: the towering fluted columns appearing from great holes in the ceiling as though they’ve just been drilled down from the skies; the vast height creating such a sense of space; function and form in perfect harmony. Wow.

Yes, I’m back at Ben Gurion airport Tel Aviv again. I can’t get over how uplifting it is (no pun intended) after the miseries suffered by the travelling soul when passing through the pits of Heathrow and the likes. Inevitably, we’ll be seeing so much more of LHR on our TVs in the next few days as the new Terminal 5 opens for business. Keep this image in your mind as an example of how it should be done. (My thanks to Todd & Mary Rose whose photo can be found on…/9SVwuSPGIs0XJiTMfvwepQ)

Upwards and onwards indeed. Here are some more snaps I pulled in from the web. What’s your best/worst airport – architecturally speaking; we all have our horror stories about delays and discomfort?

Tom Segev

Breaking news from Israel: Tom Segev, who is a historian and a columnist for the respected daily paper Ha’aretz, has just written an interesting article about the book in the issue dated 20 March. (About Tom it has been said his opinions are so controversial that he is probably the most often quoted journalist in the Israeli media today). He calls the book ‘captivating’.  Thank you, Tom!

Read what he wrote here


So, Terminal Five is about to open at Heathrow, eh? Like the architecture? Friendly, is it? Warm, comforting… relaxing? Richard Rogers does some nice industrial pirouettes which make you feel you’re walking through a car assembly plant and get all the architectural  attention from those clever people who impose their minimalist values on us. Meanwhile, back in the real world, there are some comparatively minor players in the international airport league who deserve to be dragged into the spotlight.

Step forward Ben Gurion International, Tel Aviv. Take a look at this picture of the scene in Terminal Three, which Mira and I passed through on our way home just now.  To arrive here, the holding point for final call to your flight, you have to have cleared some pretty impressive (and polite) security checks that are an object lesson in crowd management. BAA’s lackadaisical system and rude staff  take note.
This central hub with its high roof and departure spokes leading to the gates is a masterpiece of planning. At floor level, departing passengers can relax in individual armchairs scattered around the circular pool, above which water cascades on a computer-timed irregular frequency (so the noise is of rain, tempered by bouts of silence). Calming.  The duty-free shops, bureaux de change and snack bars are all there, but discreetly positioned out-field.
Now look up. Arriving passengers have to pass through the rotunda at first-floor level. You can see them – and more to the point they can see you, through floor-to-ceiling glass walls. Fabulous!  We were able to wave to Mira’s nephew Robin, arriving on a BA flight from London, just before we were called to our gate for our flight home to Nice (via Zurich). You don’t have to know somebody up there just to appreciate how user-friendly it all is.
And then there is another masterstroke: a long, high hall where arriving and departing passengers cross over as in an X formation, separated by a massive glass wall. Something on a heroic scale, worthy of the best museum design. 
I must stop. Do you have a favourite airport?  It’s a funny question these days as everyone seems to hate them. But we’ve been using Nice for the past quarter of a century and I could tell you something about that, too, which is almost as good as Ben Gurion.  Orange trees in the car park?  Where else?

Israel – PS

I forgot to say, there was another VIP present – none other than Eli Sawdayee, the artist whose works bring alive the story of the Jewish community in Iraq. Eli has been very kind in allowing us to use his paintings in the Gallery section of our website.  I particularly like this one of the boys flying kites from the rooftops of Baghdad.  Remind you of anything?

The Israeli event

We are back from our whistle-stop tour of Israel, pretty whacked after six days. Mira’s family there are marvellous and kind, but it was a constant round of visits – alternating between business and cousins, eating and talking, seeing sights (the Druze village of Carmel) and schmoozing. Horrible word. 

The main event was the book launch at Or Yehuda, of course. It went so well, with over 60 people present including nearly all the relatives and no fewer than five professors from the Hebrew University, led by our dear friend Prof. Shmuel Moreh. He was mediator/MC, and there were some unexpected guests too who had read the blog – hey, it works!  We thought the whole thing wouldn’t last much more than an hour; in fact it went on for two and a half.  A great success.
I was especially pleased to have had the opportunity to meet Israel’s celebrated film-maker Salim Fattal who honoured us with his presence. I’d like to talk more to him about the possibility of  doing something together in the hope of getting something on British TV.

How to buy ‘Memories’ in the USA

We are being asked by US visitors how and where they might be able to purchase the book. While we have a good distribution service in the UK – ‘Memories’ should be available at any good bookshop, as well as via – we are still working on the question for North America in general and the United States in particular.  

In the States we have to rely for the moment on But here’s a funny thing: if you click on their main site:

the book is quoted at $29.81 and shipping can take ‘from 4 to 7 weeks’.  HOWEVER, by going to ‘Used and New’:

you can find it listed at very advantageous prices, with speedy delivery. For instance, a brand new copy is being offered by the Book Depository – a widely-respected UK outfit – for $22.33 with $3.99 shipping: a total of $26.32. Delivery? ‘Usually 5-8 working days from order’.

That’s a wow. Convert the dollar price to sterling at today’s rate and it comes to £13. Look at’s selling price in Britain and it is £14.24 before shipping costs.

Americans, you have a deal! 


Event details again

For those emailing us with enquiries, here are the details again of the launch in Israel:

Date: Sunday, 16 March, 2008
Time: 18:00 for 18:30
Place: The Babylon Heritage Center,
George Elias lecture room
83 Mordecai Ben-Porat Boulevard.

From 6pm-6.30 there’ll be a reception with a background slide show of old Baghdad – some pictures you can already see on the website + many more.

Prof.Moreh will introduce us, and then Mira will speak about her mother’s book and probably give a little reading; then I’ll talk a bit about the British role in the Farhud, and how the decision to keep the army out while the pogrom took place was all down to one man.

I hope it will spark a lively debate.

As I said, the artist Eli Sawdayee will be present. If we can get the DVD problem sorted it would be lovely to have show of his artistry too and ask him to talk about the book (which he’s just read having bought it through Amazon)

Babylon – breaking news!

Just been in touch with the artist Eli Sawdayee – whose work adorns our website – and are so happy to say he will be present on Sunday, so it’s absolutely vital we get that DVD projector thing up and running. Help, anyone?

Eli is an Iraqi from Baghdad, whose pictures are quite famous in Israel but lesser known elsewhere. We think they deserve a wider audience, as they depict the everyday style of life which Violette’s memoir describes so vividly… a lifestyle long forgotten.

Take a look at his website:

And don’t forget: our launch event is this Sunday, 6pm, at the Babylonian Heritage Center, Or Yehuda. Admission FREE!

Sunday in Israel

We’ve had a great response from family and friends in Israel to our invitation to come to the presentation on Sunday – just hope the room’s big enough. One big problem though is they don’t seem to have any DVD equipment, so the disc we’ve made looks like being unusable. That’s a shame as it’s a half-hour slideshow with about 160 images of old Baghdad.

We’ve people working on the case and hope to find a solution. But if anyone can help, please shout.

Reminder: It’s at 6pm this Sunday, at the Babylonian Heritage Center, Or Yehuda, Tel Aviv.