Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Planning ahead

There was some terrible news today of two buses blown up in Beersheva. I haven't seen the news yet, but it didn't stop me from getting on the phone and trying to figure out next steps for going in the right direction. There will be a music festival October 3rd during the holiday of Succot. This festival will be a religious-woodstock-type festival, religious straighties, hippies, etc. and will be held on the moshav of the late Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, the Rabbi who in the late 1960s founded the House of Love and Prayer in San Francisco and brought alot of lost hippies to Israel to find their roots. I figured it would be nice to have a Peace Cafe thing going which would also be a challenge since most of the festival goers usually are more radically right. I thought under right conditions - like having Eliyahu - the one with the long earlocks - help out and bringing Sufis, it might get interesting. Or having Dhyon bring his Peace Cafe together with Ibrahim. But Eliyahu will be in the States and Dhyon will be doing a walk from Jaffa to Jerusalem to promote peace and Fair Trade. Dhyon said he'd like to have about 10 kids from my suburb be in one of his and Lisa's workshops of Circassian dancing and yoga and eventually join up with their Palestinian counterparts. I donated my very large back porch for the occasion and hope we can come up with some sort of solution for the winter months. Looks like things will be moving in my area, which is where what one of my visions was going. Funny how things sometimes just slide into place.

Monday, August 30, 2004

Coworkers - can make it or break it

My daughter was complaining about co-workers at her job. She's doing National Service instead of the army and was put into a desk job at the police. She's been through a lot this year. First co-worker from hell was a secretary who was charming to her and convinced her to date her brother. She did 2-3 times. The guy was so infatuated with her, but she thought he was a bore and broke up with him. Co-worker took this real personal and made daughter's life hell at work until she had to transfer departments. Now the secretary in her present department gives my daughter all her work so the prima donna can do her personal stuff during work hours and leave early. She talks about my daughter behind her back and it gets back to her. My daughter blew her stack and told her bosses everything that went on with this woman. However, once you have permanent status in these government offices, you can't get fired no matter what, so these people become lazy and inefficient, which is why nothing gets done in this country and they want more and more $ and benefits. People feel they can treat other people like shit because what the hell, they can't get fired anyways.

Which made me grateful for the place where I work. Although I work with women who are young enough to be my daughters, the attitude is to work hard and to work to perfection. I rarely see this work ethic in Israel. We protect each other from the wrath of our bosses and no one backstabs the other. I've been working nearly 3 years at this place and though the staff changes frequently, I have never seen awful behavior like what goes on in my daughter's job. My boss once asked me - did she (his secretary) tell you about so and so's e-mail? She hadn't but I didn't want her to get a tongue lashing so I said "of course she did" and when he went to the toilet, I had her brief me on that e-mail. We do that often for each other. It's reciprocal. We all stick up for each other. And when the bosses are away, the girls make communal meals for everyone. And when one person is in tears, and we all take turns with that, there's always a comforting arm or two and coffee/tea is quickly brought to the stricken. So if there is ever a reason for me not to want to leave for greener pastures, it's because the pasture here is lush enough for me.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

tiring days

I'm absolutely exhausted. I didn't get much sleep with chanting in the dome on Friday night and waking up early so Hubby can get a peak at this wonderful place. My girlfriend from the Bronx came to visit last night and stayed until 1:00 am which is waaay past my bedtime too. We had so much to catch up on. I had no idea our mutual friend had married and divorced within a 3 month period. My daughter's boyfriend was looking at my photo album and saw real photos I had of the Beatles (late '60s and early 70s). He was mildly shocked. I told him I lived in New York and it was easy to meet celebrities. Living in Tehran until he was 10 - well, the likelihood of meeting any celebrities is - nil. We reminisced for hours about our old friends, some of whom aren't alive anymore. One of them, Janet, met Abbie Hoffman and he wrote her a check for a million dollars. Janet used to go to all the Be-Ins and protests at Columbia University in NYC. I remember walking into a head shop in 1969 when I was 13 and got insulted by the sales guy. He asked my friend "Do you get high?". I told him I get high. Of course I never even saw a joint at that age, I just thought I'd get away with it. But he could read me. "Oh with what - penicillin?" What a fuck. I'm allergic to penicillin. My friend lost her job which is why she's here in Israel. Her family thought it best for her to do something nice for herself and visit old friends and get a spiritual uplift, which she is, in fact, getting. I told her of the stuff I was into and if we have time, I'll inroduce her to Ibrahim. She reminded me of the time I had been a follower of Kach - Rabbi Meir Kahane - the very anti-Arab, rabbi. Oh yes, I did start out like that until I lived here a few years and was able to finally put a face and a soul on people who we were told were our eternal enemies.

The Deacon from the Galilee

Some of our group

Israeli-Palestinian bonding

The dome

Meditation Dome

Kabbalat Shabbat

Juma prayers

Singing rabbi

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Back from the Oasis

The weekend was at the village of Neve Shalom - Wahat al Salaam - which means Oasis of Peace. 50 Palestinian and 50 Jewish families live here side-by-side and it is a model of co-existence for the country. The place is definitely middle-upper middle class. We began with dinner, always a good start. At registration I saw familiar faces who go to all the meetings and some new faces. I got settled in my room with 3 other women, including 1 Palestinian woman from Bethlehem who was in the bed nearest to me. Geez. Should I warn them that I sometimes moan, groan and sometimes mumble incoherently (loud) in my sleep? Which I did, which probably set them all-a-worrying. Never mind. We set out to the introductory session, and introduced ourselves. We were about 40 - 50 people there. We were divided into small groups and our group headed for the grassy area outside. Our space was moonlight lit only. We each tried to keep our personal introductions short and related to prayer. I don't even remember what I said to the group because I was just so excited to be in my dream environment, that I was on a very natural elated high. But I remember it was something along the lines of being hopeful, having hope and I was interrupted by people lying on the grass - What hope? There'll never be hope. Geez. Isn't this what weekends like this are supposed to give you? I always get infused with hope after these retreats. Kamel from Um-el-Fahm in the north reiterated my thoughts and told the dubious-thinking Palestinians that they had to have hope. Without hope they have nothing and the conversation went on in English, Arabic and Hebrew. The Nablus Palestinians went off track and rather than discuss hope and prayer, told us some of their personal stories. We usually let them ride off track because they do have to get things off their chest and have not too many opportunities to do so. One of them was jailed for 8 months because he was caught in Tel Aviv without a permit to leave his city for greener pastures like Tel Aviv. Jailed for 8 months PLUS slapped with a fine of $10,000. For those of you people in the US, you know what a big sum that is. For regular Israelis, this is perhaps over 6 months in wages. For Palestinians the sum is at least a year's salary, if they are lucky enough to have a salary. But somehow it was paid, and he was released. He wanted to become Jewish - not because of a love for Judaism but because Jews have an easier life. The group was like - faggedaboutit kid. The rabbis won't convert you just like that. It's a pain for converts even if they love Judaism with all their heart and soul.

After our group dispersed I sat with the older guys from the Galilee. They had attended the Sulha gathering last week but were disturbed at the location. Jabotinsky Park in Binyamina. "Jabotinsky believed in a Greater Israel (including all of the West Bank and perhaps part of Jordan for a Jewish State)! What about us?? Where were we in the picture?" He had a difficult time being convinced that it was the right thing to go and camp out specifically in that park. I told him it was great that he did. Because you're giving Jabotinsky a message. And that message is "we have to live together and no one wants to move or leave or go anywhere except where we feel we belong."

At breakfast I sat with Suleiman who runs another dialogue group. The same group my Bethlehem roommate is in. I needed to begin with - Well, did I talk in my sleep? She told Suleiman I didn't talk in my sleep but insisted all the lights go off, which may have disturbed her somewhat. I think she's used to sleeping with some light on. I told him about our Jerusalem group and wanted to know if he could introduce Palestinians living in the Jerusalem area to it. When I told him where I was from - over the green line, he was asking me why I live there? I get this question once every retreat. I told him I'd be more disturbed at living in a place where an Arab village was destroyed to make way for a fancy Tel Aviv suburb, like Ramat Aviv Gimmel. But I believe Jews and Palestinians should have open borders and not have restrictions on where to live. He seemed to agree with me but said he wouldn't visit me where I live because he didn't want to give it legtitimacy. I explained that he's creating artificial borders by making these decisions. I'm trying to get my community to be more open to Palestinians and if you don't visit, they'll only think Palestinians are here to work in grocery stores or maintenance or constructions, not as friends. That's the barrier I'm trying to get through. But we agreed to meet somewhere, somehow in the very near future.

That morning we heard a lecture from Rabbi Baruch Brenner of Jerusalem who explained that only with prayer will change happen. He told the story of Maimonides who was very close with the Sufi community in particular. Maimonides' son even took out the seats in his synagogue to be able to pray similar to Moslems - in that they prostrate themselves on the floor during prayers because Jews prayed that way a thousand years before too. We broke up in individual groups afterwards and I gave our small group a talk on when everything feels hopeless, the grateful list has to come out. Think of 20 things to be grateful for and list them and write them down for God. I think it was appropriate because the Nablus men usually find themselves believing everything is hopeless because the hardships seem endless. That's when you get the suicide bombers who just don't give a shit - because to them the situation is simply hopeless.

In the afternoon we discussed the Moslem perspective and a young woman visiting from Turkey joined us in an animated discussion on prayer. We had seen the Juma prayers and it is always fascinating to watch others praying to God. Some of it was familiar and some of it was not, but the direction is the same and I felt an even greater intimacy with my Moslem brothers and sisters watching them pray.

Hubby decided to join me for Shabbat and came right before the Shabbat Jewish prayers. We gathered on the grass to pray. I decided to be a spectator because there was no light outside and the print was too small in my prayer book. But it was nevertheless a highlight. I never know what to expect on these weekends, because it may start off slow in the beginning or I may not have connected to any one in particular, but there is always someone or something that makes it THE highlight of the weekend, and it's always something I hadn't experienced before. After dinner we celebrated Ida's daughter's 3rd birthday and danced for a few hours. Unfortunately, the batteries in my camera went on the blink as soon as the lively debkas started. Figures. I going to have to have an extra batch of batteries on hand, if I'm going to photograph fast and furious.

At midnight after the party came to a halt, a group of us left for the Dome. I had been to Neve Shalom perhaps 4 times previously, but never saw the Dome because I could never find it. There we were - a group of some funky Jewish hippies and the older guys from the Israeli-Palestinian town of Umm-el-Fahm sauntering down the quiet lanes of the village, making the local dogs howl. We went on to a gravel path for quite a way until I saw a domed building in the distance. I held on to the person in front of me, one of the older guys who seemed to see everything in the dark. "That's an olive tree above you, and be careful, don't bump into the fig tree!" he warned. We got to this space-ship like structure with stone floors, carpets and wicker benches with a breathtaking view of the countryside from the floor to ceiling glass windows and sat in silence. Someone lit two candles. Another person began playing a Halil - a Middle-Eastern flute with haunting melodies and the entire mood seemed other worldly. We sang, we chanted, and I led some Shalom/Salaam chantings for a bit though I felt self-conscious about it at first but everything was spontaneous. After about an hour, no one really wanted to leave but we did. I would have stayed until dawn but Hubby would have worried and it wasn't so easy to find the way by oneself. The flute player told us a story about King Solomon and 2 brothers who were fighting about contested land. He listed to what the earth had to say about the conflict and told them what he had heard - "The earth laughed and said it doesn't matter because in the end "I" get both of the brothers!"

I woke up at 6:00 am and the sun was new and I urged Hubby to see this magical place I had been to during the night. We walked slowly, looking at the fig trees and pomegrante trees whose fruit was ripe. It was almost as magical in the quiet early morning.

The sessions ended with Deacon Gerius from the Galilee doing the Christian perspective on prayer and I took notes for the Interfaith Encounter minutes. The Deacon invited us to visit him when we're in the north, and I would love to visit him if only to find out what a Deacon is. Our group for the discussion after the lecture had Karmela the nun in it. Were we lucky. Hubby began a lively discussion on celibacy and the Church and everyone really perked up, especially Karmela. "She's hot" Hubby mentioned later on to me. "You're calling a nun HOT?" thinking how scandalous it is to think of a nun as Hot. But I knew what he really meant. She's learned and interesting and knows how to run a group discussion.

We left each other with hugs and kisses even though we were strangers more than 48 hours ago. We bond quickly because we want to. The quicker we bond, the quicker peace will come.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

The darbuka man - Shevet Yehuda

The audience

Drummers at street festival

Middle Eastern band - Shevet Yehuda

Funky Orthodox Jews - the new/old biblical look

Interfaith stuff

Jerusalem was bouncing last night - I've had quite a lot of fun at the Crafts festival and looking (but not buying) at every booth, much to the annoyance of my soon-to-not-be-a-criminal daughter. I thought she would love to look at all the colorful stuff, but she was more interested in waiting for her boyfriend who was getting a haircut nearby. I have photos of the street festival in Jerusalem and if my camera and computer decide to make peace together, you will see them shortly after this post.

Meanwhile, I'm rushing this blog. There won't be one tomorrow. I'm going to Neve Shalom (the community that has Jews and Arabs living together in a rural setting not too far from Jerusalem. I love these retreats. I get to meet new people and the group of Palestinians from Nablus get to meet with us. They're a great bunch, although a different group comes every time. So I'm rushing because I'm off to pick up 2 passengers and hopefully everyone will be in one piece when I come back on Saturday like my kids, the dog and my garden. Saturday's blog will be quite long, I am sure, and will make up for tomorrow lack of blogging.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Old friends and explaining the Criminal

My friend whom I hadn't seen in 3 years and before that, whom I hadn't seen in 15 years called me yesterday. She's in Israel and will be coming to Jerusalem this weekend. I am going to an Interfaith retreat Thursday and Friday but Saturday night may be a possibility. Although we need a week to catch up on things. I can't wait to see her. She is one of my nicest friends. We've been friends since we were 14. We both loved the Beatles (before the Stones came into my brain) and knew all the words to Help and A Hard Days Night because we'd see it 50,000 times when it would be re-released in the theaters. We were lucky enough to meet each of the Beatles separately after their breakup when they were in New York City because we didn't act like teenyboppers - asking for autographs and taking photos (although we may have been alot richer had we asked for those autographs then), so older girls in the know gave us that top secret info. She loved George Harrison and related to him because he was spiritual. She would speak to every one kindly - even if they were annoying - and never in a rushed manner, which used to drive me crazy if I was in a hurry to get somewhere. She never argued with her parents. She was just a good kid. She married a guy who looks like Jerry Garcia, who is as equally as nice as she (although my dad didn't care too much for him because he looked like a hippie - and still does). And they ended up with 5 nice kids. They're vegetarians and were that way before it became trendy to be vegetarian. And I'm thrilled she's here.

Today I took my Criminal daughter to an appointment with the probation officer. She has 8 - count them - eight police files since 2002. But since April she's had none. Thank God. She sat for an hour listening intently to the young probation officer tell her about the differences between adult courts and juvenile courts. About the fact that she now has a framework. She would listen and if he took too much time to explain - she'd interrupt him with an impatient "Nu?" a sign for him to get on with it. But I was surprised to see her interact with him on a much more mature level than I'd seen before. The probation officer was impressed that she made the initiative of going to the local head of the education department where we live - on her own - and she's only 14 - back in May - to say she needed to be in a school and could they please find her somewhere which would be good for her. All other schools could not handle her and she was pretty much without a school for most of the year. Well they found a place which is great for her. There would be no delinquents in this country if all the teachers were as loving and caring and as wonderful and patient as they are in this school. There's a court case coming up in October because she (together with 3 other kids) stole money from a friend's home back last January. She began school the beginning of June of this year. So we're all hoping that this school will bring miracles and a decent framework to keep her out of harm's way. And if she keeps this good behavior up, I'll have to get her another pseudonym.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Shopping with daughters

I knew it would be a hectic early evening. Fortunately getting out of work on time is not a problem since they've loaned me a laptop and I'm able to edit at my leisure at home. So by 4 PM I'm out. Instead of doing the nice wifey things like going straight home to do laundry and make dinner, I was out having iced tea with my Gypsy friend who needed me to print out her e-ticket for a flight to the US. She had never seen an e-ticket before and was highly agitated. Is it real? she asked? I told her a friend had sent me one 3 years ago and I used it. "But you're Jewish, so you'd have no problems with it." Well, hopefully her being a Palestinian Muslim Gypsy will cause her no problem with her e-ticket. (But of course she will have problems before check in because of who she is - so she has to get to the airport quite a while in advance) You've come a long way baby. She began her life by begging on the streets, as many Jerusalem Gypsies do. And this year she's studying at Bethlehem University for a degree. So we're going to have to deal with this new experience of e-tix!

At 6:00 pm I was to meet my eldest daughter to buy a gift for her boyfriend's birthday. The gift is from Hubby and myself but I needed her along. Or did I? I hadn't done shopping with her in 5 years and then I realized why. We're awful together. We went into every store, tried on shoes, pants, blouses, bras, smelled every scented candle and imagined every beautiful decorative item in the fancy housewares store in our home. "We need this" "We need that" This went on for 3 1/2 hours and I was pooped. In the end just before stores closed at the mall, we managed to grab something for her boyfriend. I hope he likes it and I hope it's his size!

Monday, August 23, 2004

the locals

Yesterday I saw an elderly man near my car feeding an orange cat. The car was parked near open garbage bins and the man thought nothing of digging his hand into the piles of garbage to retrieve some food for the cat. It was absolutely disgusting and at the same time so beautiful to see how much he loved the animal. This morning I went to the local grocer where I pick up my milk and bread each morning. This fly kept on landing on my arm, no matter how many times I shooed it away. The cashier told me "Oh he's such a nudnik. He's been here all morning." Calling a fly a nudnik? That was pretty funny.

I ended my day with our coordinator's meeting of our Interfaith group. For people who think these meetings just "happen" - think again. we were there from 4:30 - 7:30 going over what will be next month's meeting. Will we go on an outing? A museum? Which museum. What are the costs? What are the hours? On which day? Who will volunteer to be a tour guide? Will we insult people by picking one over the other? In the end an outing seemed too tedious and we decided instead to meet on the eve of September 21st to mark International Peace Day and we set out a format for the meeting. What food, what opening greeting, what theme, who will present what, what should participants bring. I'm exhausted. But once we were set on that date, the rest just flowed.

Sunday, August 22, 2004


I spent the afternoon yesterday de-cluttering my closet. It felt good to declutter even though it was a chore and a disappointment. Two pairs of pants are small on me and unfortunately had to go to either the charity pile or the 2nd hand store pile where I sell them on consignment. Today hubby was double Hitler and came to find a spotless house but the dog had chewed up the battery cover of the DVD remote. Hubby tried to throw the dog bone outside but it missed and ricocheted off the window and back onto the tv and down to the floor. He was about to take the dog out but decided to terrorize my son instead. GET OFF THE COMPUTER, YOUR FUCKING FRIENDS HAVE TO LEAVE AND YOU TAKE THE DOG OUT. I couldn't reason with him. There's no way kids are going to listen if you're going to look like and sound like Golgotha - the three headed monster or whatever the hell Golgotha looks like. But you know it ain't pretty. I always pray because this sounds like an illness and I don't know what it is and he doesn't know what it is but the anger just piles up at times and he starts tongue lashing at anyone in his way. YOU SLUTS! he yells at me and the daughters for no apparent reason other than because we're within his eyesight. Any pleading from me or the kids results in an icy "FUCK OFF". Sometimes I think I'm the one who is crazy because I've stayed in it 20 years. I don't know if depression. I don't know if he just needs to smoke pot, I don't know what the hell it is, but usually by the morning, the dybbuk leaves and he's all nice and peachy offering me a ride to work. He's tried anti-depressants on and off but to no avail.... And when the going gets tough, I have to laugh or need to laugh, because if I don't I'll go insane myself. And then I hope and pray my children marry anything that resembles normalcy.

My daughter who went to Eilat last week, was invited this week again by her best friend. I think they're really going to spy on their boyfriends who are there now and they want to see if the boyfriends are cheating. My daughter hadn't given out her number to anyone last week because she's "taken" although at times she feels her guy would rather hang with his friends than be with her. She's been with him 2 years. To me it sounds like it could be a comedy movie. One with Reese Witherspoon and some other blonde actress. The girls said they'd hide if and when they see their boyfriends. The guys don't know the girls will be coming down, but the girls know they're there. It could be a comedy or a tragedy. "What if he's snuggling up to someone and smooching with her. Do you really want to see that?" She needs to know what he's up to. But she was unsure of going because if he sees her it will "ruin" his fun. I told her to write down the pros and cons of going and whatever comes out with the most points - wins! She took my advice and promptly took her pad and pencil to start writing. I love when I can have that motherly advice moment with my kids.

I bought 2 crystals to hang over the window in the bedroom and livingroom to see if they bring some good energy into the home! Let's see if this darn things works.

Talking about laughing, I read an article over the weekend about a bear in Washington State who raided a camping site and drank 35 beers of Rainier. He preferred that brand over the others. I wondered if he had a bear belly (groan).

and someone sent me this:

A handsome elderly white-haired man walked into a jeweler's shop
late one Friday, with a beautiful young lady on his side.

"I'm looking for a special ring for my girlfriend," he said.

The jeweler looks through his stock, and takes out an outstanding ring
priced at $5,000.

"I don't think you understand. I want something very unique," he said.

At that, the jeweler went and fetched his special stock
from the safe. "Here's one stunning ring at $40,000."

The girls' eyes sparkled, and the man said that he would take it.

"How are you paying?"

"I'll pay by check, but of course you will want to contact
the bank to make sure that everything is in order, so I'll
write a check and you can phone the bank, then I'll fetch
the ring on Monday."

Monday morning a very pissed off jeweler phones the man.
"You jerk, you lied to me there's no money in that account."

"I know, but can you imagine what a fantastic weekend I had?"

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Saturday musings

I began my day by walking our dog early this morning, before anyone in the city was up. He was so happy, just walking and running and chasing birds. He's half bassett hound and half golden retriever. He's smart as a whip. He knows commands like "Sit" "Get the cat!" "No pulling" and best of all "No humping!" which is usually accompanied by a slap. Our friends daughter was here from Sweden and is leaving tomorrow. A very bright 20 year old, we sat down and had a wonderful conversation about religion, the interfaith work I'm doing, music, etc. She's a student of Philosophy in education. Meanwhile, my children in the background, were boisterous. My son was doing karate chops and practicing on the dog, my 16 year old snarled at us all muttering "fuck" alot, and my 20 year old was on the couch with her boyfriend, giggling loudly while he was plucking something from her teeth. I was wondering what this bright young girl thought while all this is going on. Then Hubby comes around with his pearls of wisdom. "Wanna know why dogs lick their nuts?" Why do they, our guest politely asked? "Because they can!" and off he went howling with laughter. Oh Jeez. Will I ever be able to invite anyone over to the house without feeling like hiding in embarrassment. Why do I feel like I've living in Dogpatch with L'l Abner? Even the Flintstones seem more civilized that us.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Feng Shui

I took the plunge and invited a certified Feng Shui consultant to my home after wanting to do this for years. She was the most reasonably priced as others I called were nearly $1,000 and she was less than $100 for 2 hours. As soon as she walked in we shook hands and then she looked glum. "You want to know what I think?" she asked. Of course, I'm paying you for your thoughts. "This place makes me very unhappy." and then proceeded to walk around the house pointing out things and colors making her unhappy. I'm paying money for someone to criticize the way I live. Am I insane? I have Hubby and all the kids do it for free! "What's this?" she pointed to my undies hanging on the railing. I put it there so the dog won't chew them, I told her. The piles of laundry in everyone's room is bad energy. Plus the clean laundry basket in my room was an absolute disaster I figured from looking at her face. So I took it out immediately and took the communal sock bin and tossed it into my closet. It always was a sore spot with Hubby who, when in a foul mood, would yell - I can't stand this fucking laundry in my room!!! What more could we do for our bedroom? "Do you really like these sheets? These colours? What is this? This purple color is dead." I wrote down her ideas to energize the bedroom and bring prosperity and abundance into my home but nixed her idea of taking down my Indian lamp cover. "Then you have to put it on right with none of the wires showing." A compromise was reached. On to the livingroom. The back of the couch faced the entrance. "It's unwelcoming" she said. Immediately we shifted to couches to how she saw to improve and immediately felt better. It'll take us a few months to get all her ideas into place and then I'd like to have her in for other sections of the house. The kids were nonplussed and after she left made their own observations. "Look at the way she dresses. Like a nerd." said the Complainer. "Look" I pointed a finger at her "she's not here for fashion designing, sweet pea, so chill." "And you're not getting red couches like she wants" she continued. "You're getting BLUE! That's what we want." As the saying goes - You can't always get what you want....

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Rama's Kitchen

Rama's kitchen

I worked a gruelling 6 hours straight on the computer. It's easy for my boss who paces back and forth while he thinks. But I have to sit still at my computer while he's thinking. And for 6 hours, that's alot of neck ache. I booked an appointment with my chiropractor whom I hadn't seen in 2 years. He put me on a table and pulled on my back muscles - to stretch them - perhaps I thought the Roman Rack wasn't so bad after all. Then he cracked my neck and afterwards my face, which I never had done before. His treatments are a full hour and he does 1/2 hour chiro and 1/2 hour acupuncture. I love the acupuncture feeling the energy loosen up inside my body. Then I had Hubby pick me up to have a relaxing dinner in the country. We both needed it. The kids were all back home from their week in Tiberias or Eilat. It was so quiet we felt WE were on vacation. The Iranian boyfriend asks me if I missed the kids. Not really. That's not right, he says. Of course it's not right, but that's the way I feel. It was quiet and peaceful. The place we chose for dinner was in Nataf. It's only open for a few months during the summer season. Nataf is 15 minutes from Jerusalem and is extremely mountainous and foresty with views to the West Bank and its barren hills and views out to Tel Aviv. Incredibly beautiful. I have photos I took, but this stupid Laptop doesn't have a USB outlet. Or if it does, I can't find it! So the photos will have to wait until Sunday. The chef makes an ambience of ancient Israel, in the surroundings, and in the food. There were many different kinds of lamb dishes and salads using wild herbs and vegetables picked locally. We lingered for hours watching the sun set over the mountains and no one chased us away even though the place was crowded, mostly with people from the Tel Aviv area who wanted a change of scenery. I could imagine shepherds in the distance with their herds. Around us were ponds and a plant nursery. The floor was pebbles and the roof was bamboo. Kids were welcome too, although I didn't find anything on the menu suitable to anyone under 18. I did find a few photos online.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Jerusalem Weddings

I noticed a new blog in Blogs of Note - PrisonPete. Intrigued by the name I read his blog - some of it and looked at his profile. Under music he lists the Rolling Stones. "Oh" I shrieked to Hubby engrossed with Fox News, "this PrisonPete likes the Rolling Stones," happy to find a kindred soul, even if he lives in prison. The response was immediate. "Are you gonna write him now?" he bounded over to me in the other room. He's peering over my shoulder as I'm beginning to write this blog. "You're gonna write him, aren't you? And then he's gonna come to Israel and kill us all." And with that, he returned to his favorite position in front of the TV.

Last night my friend's daughter got married. You know you're getting old when... I'll upload some photos tomorrow from the wedding. It was at Kibbutz Ramat Rachel which is the only Kibbutz within Jerusalem. It overlooks the Bethlehem area. My friends live in a Jewish settlement in Samaria and Marty said to me "We've got 400 people here, 30 from Canada and some from France, England and 1 from Jordan." "I assume he's the guy not wearing a kippah (Jewish headcovering for males)?" Since my father passed away recently, I'm not r-e-a-l-l-y supposed to go to weddings and other similar celebrations. However, if you are "put to work" there are some opinions which give leniency to this rule. My work consisted of taking photos and getting them out before the official photographer gets his out, which usually takes a month. I managed to send 30 photos to them already today. I usually dance at thee event, but I had to maintain some semblance of mourning and I didn't feel like dancing - even though the music was great. They had this very Orthodox Jewish guy with long peyot (sidelocks) singing Mustang Sally and Louis Armstrong. That was strange. Could you just imagine that scene? I knew these people because 9 years ago we all ended up in the same absorption center, and we all became like family. It was like staying in a bungalow colony for a year. So I hung out with the Man from J.U.N.G.L.E. our South African friend, some Chassidic friends and the children of our Swedish friends who had since gone back to Sweden for lack of work - but their kids stayed on. The "kids" - one of them is in the army and is married with a kid - even though he looks 17. And his sister was there. Hubby kept on begging me to take photos of her cleavage, much to J.U.N.G.L.E. man's amusement. Sick fuck! The soldier boy lives a block from our home and we hadn't any idea how close he lived to us. So he now has "son" status with us and hopefully he'll show up with his wife and child for a visit soon. This Swedish family was difficult to figure out. We tried to figure them out when they were at the absorption center with us but couldn't. Are they Jewish? Did they convert? I was over there at Christmas time when they moved to our area while they all were still living in Israel and noticed green and red tableclothes, plus other assorted Xmas-type decos, discreetly placed throughout the room. Then the pastor at the Swedish Institute found out where we lived and asked us if we knew that family. The kids' grandfather is Jewish, but he is a Messianic Jew and lives in a Messianic old age home (!) in Haifa. Their mother isn't Jewish, and I don't know if the kids converted or not but it is a bit of a mess when you want to do simple things like get married. So the soldier boy got married to his Swedish girlfriend who had some sort of conversion but not Orthodox. When they tried to cirumcise their son last week, no rabbi would do it. They finally found one mohel (cirumcisor) who would do it but he wasn't available so they got a Moslem circumcisor. That's a switch!

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Dancing by Jaffa Gate - Jerusalem

The Sulha Way

There is a Sulha festival going on in the beautiful Galilee this week. I don't know how many people are going but probably a few thousand will be there! I wish I could have gone, but I've already had my holiday and can't ask for any more (safely that is). They're having a live web broadcast of events. I think those festivals are very inspirational. The Galilee itself has a peaceful charm to it. I think people are cashing in on this peaceful energy coming from there as many spas have opened up recently and hundreds of wooden cabin/jacuzzi bed and breakfast places have sprouted.

We had our monthly interfaith meeting last night. We could hardly fit into the room, it was so crowded. I was thrilled that our group is growing. I did my visions workshop and everyone wrote down how they pictured their family/government/city/schools - would be like in times of peace - or, rather, how would it look and what actions can we do NOW so that it looks like this in the future. I think the response was overwhelmingly positive about this type of workshop. We usually read texts - which I don't find terribly exciting or we pick a theme (usually religious) and discuss it. But since we're trying to find a commonality through the 3 religions living in the Holy Land, why not just get to the point for once. We all wrote down what we all felt and what we wanted and wished and hoped for were basically the same. It didn't matter what religion you were. There was an interesting new fellow there who was originally American and called himself a "Hidden Jew". His family were Conversos and they came from the New Mexico/Texas area. Conversos are people who were forced to convert to Catholicism in Spain in 1492 - either that or be victims of the Inquisition. So his family converted and practiced aspects of Judaism in secret. He discovered his dad printing in Hebrew, using an old method of printing, once and figured Cathecism isn't for him. But it was tough finding his place within US Jewry. He is more comfortable among the Spanish-Portuguese congregants in Jerusalem - some of whom are also from Converso families and some who never converted, just originated from there but were able to escape 500 years ago. Absolutely fascinating stuff.

Summer of Love - Jerusalem

Flower children dancing with Arab child - Jaffa Gate

The Green Sheikh in Jerusalem

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Spa Day and Drug Dealers

Well my boss regretted his decision to let me go Spa-ing. I haven't got a clue why because I came in to work at 7:30 so we can get things done. He had 1 1/2 hour where he would have been able to work with me, but nothing was pressing. So I have no guilt pangs. And I hate lying, and could have called in sick. But I'm the type of person that if I ever do lie, I'm the one that gets caught. I'm an awful liar. His voice boomed over the conference table "Never Again". Yeah Yeah and off I went like someone off on parole after 3 months doing time. I was curious to see who these mothers were. This was a spa day for mothers at my Criminal Daughter's school. My daughter is one of 2 girls at this school for 70 kids. A small city bus picked me up a half hour late. The women seemed nice but hard living-looking. And they were all smoking on a non-smoking bus. The driver probably was petrified of them. I moved to the back and they probably thought I was unsociable, but I did tell them politely the smoke irritates my eyes. I don't want to spoil all their fun because they particularly enjoyed smoking on the bus, one cigarette after another. I just couldn't wait to run into the spa because I KNEW there'd be non-smoking rules there. I had my swedish massage. I think I last had a massage 2 years ago. I could have had a 3 hour massage but alas. Then I checked out the Turkish Hammam. I walked in on 2 Arabs soaping each other down. They were in great moods, singing and laughing and sudsing each other. Some Israelis in the Hammam got annoyed that they were using soap, and told them not to use soap. But it was Revlon! I know that is what people do traditionally and I told my neighbor let them be. So they walked out and I enjoyed the scene, as they took the metal bowl used to scoop cold water and splash it on the seats and floors (no water shortage here), and used it as a darbukah. But I left after a man sitting next to me kept on winking at me a little bit too often. So I opted for the jacuzzi and dry and wet saunas in the For Women Only section. Everyone seemed so chilled and the talk was mainly about recalcitrant husbands not paying child support, single mother supplements, etc. One women looked at me in the Jacuzzi and said to her friends - look at her, she enjoys everything. Until I get home and my Criminal daughter tells me she's on her way to Eilat with 15 friends and her 15 year old boyfriend never touches drugs (I smile) he only SELLS THEM (smile vanishes)!!! Oh my! Did she actually think I'd be relieved? I quietly got on the phone with her counsellor and told him my concerns and he spoke with both myself and Hubby. He managed to speak with her at length and told us he has contacts in Eilat and he'll keep tabs on her. Meanwhile the Good daughter is in Eilat with a girlfriend and I called her to have my other one stay with her instead of with her friends. Thank God, God is never too busy when I call on Him to please please watch that she doesn't get into any trouble over there. I hear the place is swarming with teens for the last two weeks of summer vacation!

Saturday Guest

There seems to be no respite from the heat and sun. The only escape I had today was in my air-conditioned home. It was a lazy day today and I had a choice of reading, doing nothing, going to a movie at my favorite theatre, sleeping, laundry, etc. But I couldn't even figure that out. Until Ibrahim called. "I"m coming over now to pick up the business cards I gave you in Barcelona. What should I bring you?" - "Nothing - just yourself" I told him. OK, I showered and cleaned the bathroom. While most Arab women stay home and don't work and clean their homes spotless all day - including Ibrahim's wife, I felt if he walked into my bathroom and saw the chaos that reigned there, he'd have extra cause to be smug over his wife not going out to work. Look at those women who do and look at their bathrooms. Feh. He came over 1/2 hour later and I expected him to eat lunch by us. He showed us his 20 documents he had to take with him every time he goes overseas and told us his jail story. He had a visa for Europe and when he left Europe to go to the States, his visa was cancelled (even though it was for 6 months!). So in Portugal, upon not having a valid visa, they locked him up for a night with all these young men. He gave the prisoners gifts from his travels. I bet he could do work in rehabilitation. Ibrahim didn't take my "no" for an answer and brought delicious laffas (bigger and softer pita-like breads), still hot from the oven, a couple of kilos fresh figs and some sweet Arab pastry with sesame, coconut and peanuts coated with honey. I tore open the package, much to his amusement, like a kid getting a Christmas gift. After I felt embarrassed. Why couldn't I be like all the other people, when they get gifts, even food, they unwrap it after their guests leave. I'm overenthusaistic. He had to rush home though to his visiting grandchildren and nixed the lunch offer. But at least I've got a clean bathroom - which probably would have never gotten cleaned up had he not called.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Sales tax

Hubby re-opened up his small renovations business last year after struggling through various low salaried jobs, which didn't offer any perks whatsoever and hard work for $1000 a month didn't quite make ends meet. He figured he could face the corrupt bureacracy again for trying to make more than he could on a salary. So he goes into the sales tax office - he had to pay off old sales tax in 2000 when he tried to close the previous business. They tacked on thousands of dollars in penalties, but when I had social workers write to them that this is totally unfair, they said to pay them in 12 installments a few hundred dollars a month. It was an agreement for us to pay them in 12 installments. Of course, at the time it was a heavy burden on us. Then my high tech job in 2001 folded and we hadn't gotten paid for 4 months. I walked into the Sales Tax office and said - even though this is Hubby's debt, my salary certainly assists with this payment. The fact that I'm having trouble right now paying you hundreds of dollars a month because I'm unemployed - please take that into consideration. The head of the office there said it was fine. We hadn't paid them anything in 4 months then lowered the payments by a smaller amount. Eventually, we paid them everything in full, but didn't go EXACTLY according to the agreement because of our circumstances. We kept on getting these penalty notices even afterwards, would walk into the office and they'd say, ignore it, we have to take it off the computer, which they never did.

So Hubby re-opens his business and for that you have to have a CLEAN slate in sales tax. They say they see a penalty amount for a few thousand dollars. He walks into the office and they say, they have to take it off the computer, it's a mistake. He's allowed to register his business with Sales Tax. Now we get a notice - We broke the original agreement and all the penalties are back. It's going to court. The accountant says no lawyer will help in this case. The accountant wrote them a letter reinforming them that I had been at the time unemployed with no salary or unemployment for 4 months and didn't have much of a choice to break the agreement, but it was with their permission. They didn't give much of a fuck. Which is why people in business are constantly telling us to work off the books. The government assumes you work off the books anyway - so they shoot themselves in their short feet and force you to either leave the country, work in black or suffer the consequences of this craziness. Why can't people who want to work honestly, not be able to?

I see that a few thousand North American immigrants recently came to Israel to live through Nefesh B'Nefesh, an organization with heavy Christian funding. Hubby says - "Poor suckers. Are they in for a fucking surprise. This government does nothing but fuck you."

So it's not only the Palestinians that get screwed, you see. They get screwed alot worse, of course, but this is pretty bad for us too. I guess if we knew someone that knew someone that had a relative in this office - we'd see how quickly the penalties would be cleared. The only "protexia" we have in this world - is God - and perhaps my daughter working in the police force - that would be for parking tickets only though. That's the way the Israeli world works and has been working since its inception.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Ups and Downs

I've been totally out of synch. At work I don't remember a thing I've done or said an hour ago. Home life is a disaster. If I could live on a planet with just women, I'd do so in a flash. If only they wouldn't be so catty at times because that drives me up a wall as well. So it would have to be a planet with non-catty women. Claws in please. Hubby's morning wake up call was so miserable I ran out without showering and it was humid as hell out there. Jerusalem is hardly ever humid, so this was freakish weather. I got downtown in 20 minutes and had a coffee and bagel to calm my nerves. (Does coffee calm the nerves?) The sweet boy behind the counter told me my coffee was ready. I looked and there was the froth in the shape of a heart with an arrow through it. That's is so sweet, I told him. Nobody ever made me a coffee with a heart on it, wishing I was 25 years younger at that very moment. I avoided Hubby's numerous phone calls at work because it gets chaotic. I have enough chaos without those phone calls complaining of this and of that. Today I got a call from my Criminal Daughter's teacher. They're having a mother's day at the Hyatt Spa on Sunday. Could I go. I first told her no because I felt guilty taking yet another day off work after my set vacation. My friend at work said - ask the boss. I did, he okayed it and called her back with my "yes" answer. This includes lunch, pool, sauna, jacuzzi, massage! Just what the doctor ordered. I had thought of going for a day at the spa while I was on vacation but the costs were prohibitive and now I'm getting a freebie through the very-well-budgeted school for would-be criminals. For this I am forever grateful. I meticulously got material ready for my boss, putting in extra heart and soul into it. One hand washes the other. I work doubly hard if they can be flexible with me. My son sweetly called me at 6 pm. I was having coffee out - certainly not rushing to get home to more dysfunction. I was enjoying the company of my bonafide Gypsy friend, Amoun, whom I hadn't seen in weeks. My Gypsy sister. We always have what to chat about - which is nearly everything in the world That also perked me up. Plus I got an e-mail that my friend Ibrahim was back home after spending a harrowing night in a Portuguese jail because of Visa mishaps. I didn't get the full story from him, but I was so happy he was back in Jerusalem safe and sound. I am grateful for the support I get at work from friends. I am grateful for my friends outside of work whom I love. I am grateful for miracles I experience when I'm down in the dumps. And I'm grateful that I have a dog who pulls me up the hill when I'm walking him so walking uphill is less strenuous. And with those thoughts, it's easier for me to go home and deal with whatever it is I have to deal with.

Monday, August 09, 2004


My last day of vacation before I become Cinderella again. It's so glorious just to be able to walk around Jerusalem. I don't need to have to go anywhere special or do anything - just walk. I was buying school books for my son and firmly told Hubby - today not tomorrow is when we are taking back the old books and I can't possibly carry them all So Abed and Hubby met us downtown with Abed toting all the books in one box. I said to Hubby - you know what this looks like? It looks like we're walking with Abed "the indentured servant". I felt embarrassed. I stopped and wouldn't go further unless we were all given books to carry. I had books from 3 kids I needed lugged to the second hand bookshop. So Hubby and Abed shared the heavy load and we were absolved from lugging anything. Hell with women's lib. I'm happy not lugging. :-)

I rushed back because a friend I met over a Rolling Stones e-mail list had come to Israel for a brief visit, and wanted to visit with me. We call those visits between Stones fans - glimmer gatherings. She had gotten me tickets to Stones concerts in the States and invited me to stay at her house in New Jersey the last time the Stones toured the US. I had never met her before. Of course Hubby was like - she could be an axe murderer. He's always the wary one. But unfortunately for him, he's married to an adventurous Jewish gypsy and I felt I had to go. She was a great hostess, and gave up her place at an art gallery showing where one of the Stones, Ron Wood, and the object of my teenage, post-teenage, and pre-menopausal fantasies, was having an exhibition of his artwork. I couldn't believe I was "in". I actually got a kiss on the cheek from him after waiting over 30 years for one. Back to the present, I waited on my street for 1/2 an hour making sure her family would find our home. I gave them the grand tour of our neighborhood, my meditation spot overlooking the desert and the bedouin encampment and a tour of my humble abode, and as much as you can do and say in two hours before they headed back to their hotel. I don't think she'll wait 10 years for her next visit, as she did this time. We plan a longer glimmer gathering next year!

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Happy Anniversary

It's been 9 years since we've landed in Jerusalem from Toronto, and a mostly happy 9 years. We've been through alot of growth and wanderings. Rabin was assassinated shortly after we arrived and I had a lot of spiritual rethinking to do, which I did and I'm where I am today, as a result. I spent the day - the next to last day of my summer vacation from work - buying 2nd hand clothing from my favorite eclectic shop in French Hill. Even if I had millions, I probably would still frequent this store. You never know what find you'll find! Then I went to a bead store to make some jewellery for myself and to restring old necklaces lying dormant in my closet for years. But it's my anniversary and wanted to do something meaningful. So off I trotted to the old city to listen to Shmuel Greenbaum whose wife was killed in the Sbarro terrorist blast 3 years ago in Jerusalem. I was intrigued because his speech was on Fighting Terror with Kindness. What makes a man not bitter, not full of hatred after his wife and unborn child were blown to bits? I had to hear for myself. Because if this could work for him, this may also work for Palestinians too who lost a loved one in this madness. He told stories about people who lost children. They were a gift from God and were lent for a temporary period after which they had to go back where they came from. He spoke about people who are angry and bitter. The antidote for which is to be grateful. I know from personal experience, if I have a very bitter-against-my-husband-relatives-children day, my friend and sponsor will tell me to write down things I am grateful for. It calms you down somewhat. When the 9/11 disaster happened, people went out of their way to help one another - to do acts of kindness. Do we need a tragedy like this for people to do acts of kindness, or can they happen naturally? Unfortunately, the media hoists up celebraties, sports idols, politicians, but where are the kindness heros, he asked. So he's got an e-mail subscription list - you do an act of kindness, you write about it and get feedbak from strangers encouraging you to continue. Without encouragement, people generally don't think about doing these things He mentioned that this fight between Palestinians and Israelis is not a political war but a spiritual one, and when it's a spiritual one, you have to bring in positive, spiritual actions that will eventually change the world to be a better place for all of mankind. I'm listing his site on my sidebar for those that want to peruse the website of this amazing person. And to put my "kindness" into action, after a friend called and said she may be stuck for a place to live after September 1st because she has to move out by then and may not have found a place to live in by that time - I offered her our place to crash for a couple of weeks until she finds a suitable place. She can handle us. Even though our house is a handful, and we relish our privacy, I certainly can give out some acts of kindness.

Saturday, August 07, 2004

Israeli Fashion

I've been straining my neck from looking at Daughter's jpgs - which are all sideways. On my temp laptop I can't adjust them in any way - so you'll have to suffer when you look at the test shot. I have no idea why they're sideways. Notice the drag queen eye makeup. Blue. Only a gay photographer would want blue eyeshadow. No one wears blue anymore unless you're in a drag queen show. Oh well. It's done and the rest is up to God. Now - we can always tell who the American tourists are by the way they dress. Crisp white t-shirts, caps on the men (Israeli men never wear baseball caps) - shorts on women (urban Israeli women do not wear shorts), sport socks on women and running shoes (a definite no-no for Israeli women -unless you're jogging, no one wears sneakers/running shoes). So when we arrived here nearly 9 years ago with our American/Canadian clothing, we were "spotted" a mile away. My kids didn't fit in with their US wardrobe. That had to be changed immediately. Well it took a year before they tossed out their wardrobe. Among teens and those in their early twenties, there are two types of dress. Either you belong to the "freakim" - and wear hippies clothing, anything that looks like it came from India, long flowing skirts, jeans with beads, long hair, little makeup; or you belong to the "arsim" crowd - for the boys, spiked hair, streaked blond, greased; for the girls - track suits or tight jeans with skimpy tops, very high heels or platforms, clunky looking shoes, hair blow-dried straight or curly and greased to a glossy sheen. I see most "freakim" having ashkenazic heritage - those of European background while most "arsim" come from sephardic background - those from Arab/Mediterranean countries. My daughters, although they come from a European background chose the "arsim" crowd. Why? They think it's cool. I fit in with the hippie crowd but I do my own thing, like wear crystal jewellery and enough makeup. Elegant hippie. I sometimes point out a cute guy in dreadlocks to them - "Uggh, he's a "freak", you know I don't like "freakim", they say rolling their "r's" like Israeli's speak. They're ashamed of eating gefilte fish on the Sabbath, a traditional ashkenazic food. No sephardic kid would eat it. I am sure they secretly like it, but they ask me to prepare kubeh soup, an Iraqi treat. Sure. I'm going to spend hours in the kitchen for that freakin' soup? If they're good, I buy it ready made. Usually on the Sabbath when I'm celebrating their birthdays. Or it's "why can't you cook like other mothers?" Instead, I'm making stuff from the Epicureous website. Why won't they eat chicken cutlets with wasabi dressing? (they do like other highly spicy condiments like Israeli "schug") Or salads with cranberries and peaches? Why can't you people be adventurous? In your eating. In your dress. Why must everyone dress and eat in the exact same mold?

Daughter - Tel Aviv agency test shot

Thursday, August 05, 2004

random stuff

Another day where nothing happened - just some observations from the past week. I walked into the bank this week and asked them to lower my overdraft allowance. In Israel overdraft is de riguer banking thing. Everyone does it. Only nerds and rich people don't. When we first moved here we KNEW everyone was in overdraft. They didn't give us any overdraft limit so away we went - wheeee! It was fun to spend like there's no tomorrow. Until one day they called us in. "We'd like you to put in $5,000 or we're cutting your credit." What the fuck? "Can't you call your parents to help you out?" Oh, I get it. Our rich American parents. Well, mr. bank manager, not all Americans are rich. (Here, everyone that speaks English is an American - even if you're from South Africa and have never stepped foot in the good ol' US of A). Back to the present - my bank actually does put a limit on overdrafts. You can only go up to three times your monthly salary in overdraft. Tsk. Tsk. However shall we shop? I wanted to lower my overdraft from 3 times the amount to only be able to withdraw up to equal the amount of only one month's salary. The bank dude went into a back room and I hear him talking to someone about me - "She wants to lower her overdraft to one month's salary" Other man laughing "Really? Doesn't she know her checks will bounce if she goes over that amount?" More laughter. Yes, your three-headed customer from another planet is waiting patiently to sign the forms that will LOWER her overdraft. You greedy bastards make enough money on all of us, but you will be making less money on me. So that's why you're acting funny and all that. Isn't it?

Tel Aviv - Part II

Went back to Tel Aviv today to get my daughter photographed. Everyone working there seemed to have brought their children to work because it's summer, camp is rare in August, and it's just done. Not too many people have day care in the summer either so off to work they go. My daughter sat down for her makeover. It took over one hour. I don't know why because I take 5 minutes and voila, my face is covered. After she was done she looked at me and in the mirror. We both thought "Drag Queen". Off I went to the photographer and make up artist. "Change her lipstick. She doesn't look like my daughter, she looks like a drag queen." They actually agreed to the change. The blue eyeshadow stayed, but was made softer (by a bit). "You need the color for the photographs". Why? Everyone else uses pretty natural tones, why must my daughter have drag queen colors? We had fun though. I'm sure they must have thought - there goes another interfering mother. The photographer snapped 400 shots instead of his usual 200. The blue eyemakeup looked fine for the blue swimsuit and the jeans outfit, but looked a bit awkward for the black evening outfit. The whole thing took about 4 hours and I was more exhausted and stressed out than she was watching it all - telling her "put your hands there, stand up straight, shoulders back, start dancing (this the photog liked)". But I think we've had enough of Tel Aviv for now. Jerusalem, I'm back.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Mother - Son day

I informed my son that I would like to take him this afternoon to a solidarity trip to a place just outside Jerusalem called Sheikh Saed, which borders on the Arab village of Jabel Mukaber where the residents are Israeli citizens. I told him he will be with Jewish and Palestinian children learning to play the darbuka. He was apalled. "Palestinians? I'm not going to meet with Palestinians! Arabs ok, but Palestinians no." He couldn't verbalize what he meant, but I figured it out. He's figured out Arabs are a race/culture/people but when you say "Palestinian", it's more political, it seems more dangerous, it means the enemy, the ones you are afraid of. At least to him and a few others who haven't ventured to meet the other. So, I explained I wouldn't take him anywhere where it was even slightly dangerous, so what that he's missing a basketball game with his neighborhood friends. He said to me - I'll go if you give me $5." Sorry kid, your extortion fees are way too high. He thought about it silently. I could read his mind. It probably went like this - "OK, another rare afternoon out with mom, but then we're going to be with Palestinians, and that frightens me plus I'm going to miss that game with friends, but then again I'm never out with mom while she's working." In the end going out with mom won and my silent prayers were answered. The bus was full of Jewish kids mostly from ages 8 - 12 and my son began to feel less stressed. A couple of women sitting in front of me asked if they were on the right bus, probably thinking this was a camp bus, but no we're all going there. The purpose of this outing was to be in solidarity with the neighborhood (not a person) of Sheikh Saed as the wall will separate them from Jabel Mukaber, which is where their relatives are. They were always considered part of the main town, and 97% of the people work in Jerusalem, the children go to school in Jabel Mukaber and if the wall separates them, they have no way of getting their children to school, other than a two hour walk to Bethlehem each way. The roads that were built are totally useless and unsafe. They want to move the wall to just outside their village where they will be attached to Jerusalem. They don't care what ID they'll have, what passport they'll have, etc. They just don't want to be separated from sisters, brothers, and parents. We got to the village and went to the girls school where we heard a plea from one of the community's leaders. The younger kids went to learn darbuka, but my son went off to join a soccer game with about 10 Palestinian boys his age. When I went with the adults to visit with the residents in their homes, I asked if he wanted to come along. I thought he'd be nervous if he didn't see me, being he was in unfamiliar surroundings. No, he wanted to stay and play soccer with the group. I was thrilled. Muhammad, our host, took us up to his rooftop where he showed us the roads they are allowed to travel and the roads forbidden to them. Even as of now, they're not permitted entry into Jerusalem. He showed us documents and his id where it is clearly marked Jabel Mukaber - so Israeli authorities did consider this village officially to be a part of the bigger one. His wife is pregnant and has to walk a long, difficult unpaved road to get to the transit buses to take her to the doctor in another village. It's a mess and I hope that they do move the fence so that these people can be inside Jerusalem's borders. When we got back to fetch the kids, it took me a minute or so to find my son in the soccer crowd because the boys blended together so well.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Tel Aviv Wanderings

Today was Daughter Day and I took my 18 year old out to Tel Aviv for selfish reasons. My good friends are out of the country or are working or have babies and can't join me in my lengthy self-induced walking tours. And she has been asking if she could go to one of the modelling agencies in Tel Aviv to make extra pocket cash, since summer jobs are scarce and she can't find a thing here. Modelling in Tel Aviv is not as cutthroat as it probably is in New York or London. We'll give it a shot. We started out having breakfast at this quaint place - Cafe Birnbaum - in an older section of Tel Aviv with beautiful architecture that needs alot of refurbishing. The brick walls were painted white and the amount of food and salads were staggering. We know nothing about Tel Aviv - it's a city that's difficult to maneuver for me. I tried to buy a map but they were expensive. I'd just wing it by asking directions. Next stop - the modelling agency. The cops told us how to walk there which is what we did. Don't know if that was such a good idea. I had no head covering. Head coverings are for the religious, tourists and smart people not wanting to get sunstroke. I felt the fierce sun frying up my brain. I pointed out the architecture to my daughter and some of the history of the city. She had different observations. "The women in Tel Aviv have no boobs."

We got to the agency (a well known one in Tel Aviv) and she showed them the card a scout had given her about a month ago, while he was cruising Jerusalem clubs looking for new faces. It was even in the papers that he was coming to Jerusalem. She and I were shown in to see the director of the place and after measuring her pointed out that she could do photograpy but not runway stuff because she was short by 5 centimeters. He saw the photos I had taken of her and quickly rushed off somewhere with two of them. There's hope! He made a booking with her (with me trailing along) to be photographed professionally on Wednesday afternoon - so Tel Aviv, we're coming back. When I was a teenager, I always fantasized about being discovered and all that. I told her I feel as if I'm reliving this fantasy through her. The guy was realistic and told her very very few actually "make it", but that she'll make some money - not that much - and it will be a nice experience for her. Now it's up to God to see if she'll be one of the lucky ones. I explained that to her.

We bussed it to Old Jaffa and the port and the flea market and back to another restaurant - Elimelechs - in another old section of Tel Aviv where all around are lighting stores, for an early dinner where the beer is de rigeur there and where East European Jewish food comes to life. I was there a year ago and amazingly enough, the exact same people were sitting at the same spot they were sitting at one year ago. It was like time didn't move, except that they changed the funky old-fashioned checkered tableclothes more suited to a delicatessen for icky shiny brown ones. My only disappointment with the place.

Arabian Nights

Today was one of those days when I just let God guide me. I began the day off by taking my son on a fun day. He wanted breakfast out. His idea of breakfast is a chocolate croissant and orange juice. After we did a few errands and went bowling. He'd never gone before and it was great fun for him. There's only one bowling alley in Jerusalem. Of course, the principal of his school winds up being in the next lane. How embarrassing. I was tired and fortunately Hubby was nearby and drove us home. Thank God for leftovers because that's what everyone ate as I slept. I have a big night. I got an e-mail from Eliyahu that the Green Sheikh is in Jerusalem from London and if I'd like to meet him, I should get in touch. Do they come in different colors now? Turns out he's a Sufi Sheikh Abu'l Qasim, who was born in Jerusalem in the Mugrabi quarter which was just by the Western Wall. Before I left the house,I read one chapter of Abbie Hoffman's biography, the 1960s hippie/yippie anti-war revolutionary. In the book, I'm up to the year 1967 - when flower children/hippies converged on the Lower East Side of NYC. So I get off the bus and walk towards Jaffa Gate and see a circle of - hippies. Like they had just jumped out of Abbie Hoffman's biography. Yes. They're back. They're young. They love peace. They love love. They're wearing beads. They are dreadlocked. They're dancing and playing guitar. It looks like San Francisco c. 1967 except that we're right outside the Old City gates. The Arab children were curious about these crazy looking dancing Jews. We invited them to join us. They ran back to their mothers. I don't think they've ever been invited to join in with dancing Jews. They see me in my purple glory and suddenly the hippies young enough to be my children, open the circle to let me hold hands with them. We sit down and they begin to read Song of Songs by King Solomon. It's Tu B'Av. A Jewish festival/holiday of love and what's more appropriate than chanting King Solomon's love songs. The neighborhood children get braver and approach us. We paint smiley faces on their hands. They clamor for more. I met the crowd going to the Sheikh and we invited our new hippie friends who came along. We were 40 strong. We walked along via Dolorosa and entered Sheikh Bukhari's home. There's another city inside these walls. We walked inside his home, went on a rooftop, took steps down to another section of the complex until we finally got to where the Green Sheikh sat. He explained that we were zero, all creatures are zero and when we combine to the right with the number 1, the zero becomes a 10, which is a completeness and that God is a 10. If we don't have a connection with God, we stay a zero. Of course, the way he delivered it was much more eloquent than the way I present it but that's how I summarize. "I don't know you, you don't know me, but I'm happy you're here!" We went on to the rooftops where our host showed us the family tomb and the adjoining mosque where the Sufis where chanting over and over again - allah, allah, allah, allah, allah, allah, allah. And other chants. Like a mantra. We listened to them, while smelling the huge jasmine bush overflowing on the rooftop. He asked us if we want to meditate in the family mosque. We took off our shoes and entered. "I don't have a head covering" I whispered to the Green Sheikh. "Don't worry" he laughed. "God will cover your head." We chanted, we listened to him pray that God is light, God is the light of lights, the lights were out, we sat down, we stood up, we went around in a circle at the end and shook hands. Whatever I witnessed was very spiritual and very beautiful and we all prayed for God to do what we humans can't do - to change the air so that people will breathe differently to think differently and learn to love one another in this holy land, and especially in this holy city of Jerusalem.

Sunday, August 01, 2004

Farenheit 9/11

Things were unusually turmoil-istic yesterday. My final shopping stop yesterday was totally embarrassing. As I squatted to get a can of artichoke hearts, I heard something rip and that something was along my behind. I quickly put a shirt I had over my sleeveless shirt around my waist. Just awful. I made plans to go to the movies with my girlfriend to get out of the house today. We sat in an unusual outdoor cafe with an indoor theatre and watched Farenheit 9/11. I never heard of Michael Moore until recently when I stumbled onto his show The Awful Truth a little over a month ago. And I became a big fan. Before the movie began, I ordered a frozen margarita and got a good buzz from it. You can take your cappuchinos and beers in real cups inside the movie theaters and not have to drink out of those cheap plastic things. This is the coolest place to be in Jerusalem on a Saturday afternoon. We laughed and cried in the theater, and I wondered where Moore got all that interesting footage. The movie was so well put together, so well edited, so simply narrated with a strong message. We laughed about Bush and did our usual girl talk - "He's cute, especially so in his younger days" "Yeah, I wouldn't throw him out of bed" "He's probably no good in bed though" "You're probably right - he's probably a MINUTE man". And then we got even more hysterical. What balls this Michael Moore guy has. We wondered if he was Jewish. I see the ping pong of slurs each of the US presidential candidates says against the other, and it seems so catty and petty. Can't they think of changing the country instead of bashing each other? I'm not impressed with either candidate. Maybe we need a shlubby, truck driver-looking, ballsy, gutsy, don't take no shit, stand up to anybody guy to be president. I vote for Mr. Michael Moore.