Thursday, September 30, 2004

Holiday begins

We all had off from work except for Hubby who had to meet a deadline. Let me describe what a sukkah is. It is something that you construct for a period 7 days during this holiday, a rectangular, or square hut, with walls usually made of either wood or canvas sheets (when we were in canada, we used wood because it was cold outdoors - in Israel most people use plastic canvas for the walls). The roof consists of bamboo strips with some palm fronds put on top of that. We eat breakfast, lunch and dinner and snacks in that Sukkah. In fact, because of the biblical injunction of "7 days shall you live in it" many Orthodox Jews actually sleep in their sukkah. We prefer our beds of course, but when the kids were younger they all threw their sleeping bags in the sukkah and camped out there for a few nights. Most Israelis have either a garden or balcony where they construct their sukkah. If there is no balcony or garden, you just build one on the sidewalk! Hotels have communal sukkahs for their guests. Hopefully if I can get my camera working this evening, the photos are the best way to describe how they look. Christmas decorations are a big seller for this holiday. Blinking lights, tinsel, lots of tinsel are the usual sukkah decorations hanging from the bamboo strips. I supplement the tinsel with plastic hanging fruit like grapes, olives, pomegrantes. This year someone just gave me fresh dates and pomegrantes - the real thing- to hang in there. Decorating the sukkah is equivalent to decorating the Christmas tree. That's when the kids get out of bed, no matter what age, no matter if it's 3 pm and pool their interior decorating talents together. Last night when I walked the dog in the park, where everyone's backyard, porches back on to, it was like a symphony of sorts. No one seemed to be indoors. You could see the shadows inside the sukkahs. You could hear everyone singing, talking, kids playing, forks and plates clanking. It was like one giant communal festivity happening.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Sad Relief

Our interfaith group got together last night to say farewell to the person from Sweden who had been hosting our monthly group meetings at the Swedish Theological Institute. She was leaving her post because the Lutheran Church sent a new pastor/deacon over for another term. This was an incoming/outgoing party of sorts at a landmark restaurant in town. We met the incoming pastor and his wife who seemed just as warm as the former. As I was giving everyone verbal invitations to come visit my home for the Succot holiday where they will eat/nosh in our succah (photos soon to be blogged to show you all what a sukkah is), Nadia, a Palestinian from East Jerusalem was telling me how "tough" people were in my neighborhood. She has a friend living near me and when she visits with the kids, she gets stared at like "What the fuck are you doing in our nice, Jewish neighborhood, lady?" She mentioned an episode recently involving one of her kids. She asked her son to give this Jewish friend of hers a hello kiss. "I don't kiss Jewish women" her son retorted. Nadia told me her child's comment stabbed her like a sharp knife. "Where do they get it from?"she asked me. "It's not from me or from my family" she told me. I told her - honey. You don't have to explain and related the story of my kids, and their prejudices. This is the war we have to fight. The war against what the kids here pick up from their friends, from the neighborhood, from the schools, etc. I felt a sad relief knowing that it's not only my kids who make me feel like I'm draining the ocean with a strainer with all the peace work I'm doing. But as we got up to leave, speaking a mixture of Hebrew, English and Arabic,I glanced around at the other diners, who were looking at our group, wondering who the hell we are. If only our mixed group were more of a common sight.

Monday, September 27, 2004

The fast is over

No matter how many years I've done it - fasting is horrible, excruciating, painful, awful, depressing, etc. There. I've said it with no guilt feelings. Everyone asks me the next day - "Nu, so how was your fast?" "Oh it was great, loved every minute of it, I hate food and would rather live without it. Wish I could do this every day!" Before the fast, I walked into a pharmacy and they were selling all kinds of herbal pills to alleviate the discomfort of fasting. I bought one new kind of pill, "Made according to the Rambam's (Maimonides) receipe". That intrigued me. Hubby fasts lousy and my second oldest daughter gets migraines while fasting so I bought it for those two in mind. As for myself, I cut out all caffeine several days before so I wouldn't have to suffer too badly. I don't know how Moslems do Ramadan for 30 days. It's coming up in mid-October and every Moslem I speak to love it. I understand the meaning behind it and the spirituality of it all, but if it comes out in the summer and you have to work 8+ hours or so, HOW? And for 30 days! Granted you can eat in the morning before it gets light and in the evening once it gets dark, but it's not easy. Yom Kippur began the night before. It's one of the two 25 hour fasts we have a year. My son actually managed not to eat. He wanted to bow out of fasting by 3:00 pm but we bribed him with ice cream for afterwards and it worked. We figured he lasted this long he could surely suffer along with the rest of the family and last until 6:00 pm. Israeli kids are all out on the streets in their bicycles riding in the middle of the road because 99% you won't see any car on the road, unless it's an ambulance or police car or army patrol. My son went riding with the pack last year, but didn't want to this year because he was nervous he'd become thirsty and have to break his fast. Not even 13 yet and he did great! Most Israelis go to the synagogue, but we all are made of the same thread and find all the local ones b-o-r-i-n-g. I can't pray out of a prayer book these days. I don't like being told how to talk to God. I like talking to Him in my own words. I meditated alot that day, I read alot, we all played puzzles and then it was over.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

The "contraband" photo

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Contraband photos

The day before yesterday I went to the photo store to frame a photos. I had been thinking of this project - having an exhibition of my "peace" photos and had never gotten around to framing the photos that I thought should be in the exhibition. I don't know whether I'd have this exhibition in coffee shops, galleries, or even at my home, but it's something that had been on my mind. The photo I framed was of an Arab woman in a white head covering putting her arms around an elderly Jewish woman who was holding an olive branch. They were looking at each other with such love and when I saw them I said "HOLD THAT" and snapped the photo. The guy in the store asked me if I'd like him to put it in the frame on the spot. For an instance I felt self-conscious. What would he think. What would the customers think in the store. I felt on the defensive but no questions came my way, just curious smiles. Back home Hubby placed the photo on exhibit on the diningroom table. Last night after the terrorist attack in Jerusalem my 16 year old Complainer yelled at me in the street "Why are you putting that fucking photograph of that Arab in the house. You give us bad luck! You put mezuzot on the doorposts and you check them to make sure they're ok (the inscriptions put on doorposts in Jewish homes - are checked to make sure the writing on the parchment hasn't faded - if it has, it has to be replaced). You see what happens." Like the terrorist attack was the direct result of my placing this photograph on the diningroom table. She's stupider than I thought, I thought. I let her scream on with every second word "fuck this and fuck that and if you ever fucking....blah blah blah." Then I made her apologize to me. If all people living in this country had photographs like mine in their home, perhaps there would be no terrorist attacks.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

I feel cheated

No one told me that they were changing the clocks back. Hubby watches the US Fox News and they could give two shits about time changes in Israel. So Hubby woke ne up at what he and I thought was 6:15. I showered and ran off to the grocers to buy the daily bread and humous and whatever-else-is-missing-in-my-house. I had to leave by 7:00 or I'd be late for work and the Professor would not be too pleased. I walk out - streets are empty. A little too empty for 6:45 am. Then it dawned on me that it just might have happened without my knowledge. I thought they turned the clocks back today and bluntly brushed off one of my kids when she thought it was last night. Of course at what was really 5:45 am the store was closed. I felt like a fool. My first thought was I should really go back to bed, but on the other hand, I had time for a decent breakfast. I opted for waiting 15 minutes until the store opened. This store only takes cash. I only had a check because there was a strike yesterday and all banks, post offices, airports were shut down. People emptied out the cash machines at the banks. "Do you mind taking a check from me today because of the strike and I can't get money out" I asked the cashier. "Is the check good?" she asked. They all ask me if the check is good. All stores. What should I tell them. "No. It's a bad check, but can I write a bad check? Oh please, please PLEASE!" You write a bad check in this country and they come after you with a vengeance. It happened to me years ago and I ignored paying them back. So the sent a lawyer's letter and tacked on tons more money and then it can go to debtor's court and quadruple in amount. So it really does NOT pay to write bad checks here.

I just heard from my son that there was a terrorist attack in Jerusalem in French Hill. It's not at any route where my kids would have been travelling. My daughter just set out by bus to meet me downtown to buy some shoes. This is what people do here when there is a terrorist attack. You get on the next bus and go.

Monday, September 20, 2004

International Day of Peace

Well I walked the meditation walk. The film guys were stuck in traffic and wouldn't make it in time. This is a small meditation group of about 5 people walking in silence for 40 minutes or so according to meditation of Thich Nhat Hanh - I don't know if it's a movement or a person. But whoever leads this movement is a Vietnamese person living now in France. I came across their movement's website. I'm not a quiet person and would rather dialogue than have silence for peace. I saw a group of Arab women with their kids - "Hey want to join us?" I wanted to ask, but couldn't on our silent walk. Apparently they knew what we were about because they saw it before and I heard them say to each other "Oh it's those peace people." Like we were the neighborhood idiots. After the walk one woman asked me if I'd be interested in a 4 day silent retreat. Silent for 4 days. I don't think so lady. It's nearly as bad as not eating for 4 days. No can do. Off I went to plan for today's Interfaith meeting where I get to TALK. Unfortunately, Souliman and his group from the West Bank could not get their permits to enter Jerusalem so they didn't show up at our meeting, even though I sent them their invites. It was a really nice and crowded meeting. If we get any bigger, we'll have to move out of the nice salon to the upstairs lecture room. We each put down symbols of peace that we brought from home. The Jewish artist Nathanael brought his piercing art - on olive wood, with symbols of Christianity, Islam and Judaism on it saying that Jerusalem is not whole unless all the symbols/people are united. I brought in my photos of the retreat at Neve Shalom showing affection and friendship between Israelis and Palestinians. Suhair brought an olive branch and explained the significance of it from the Koran, Hadassah brought in a poem called the Grapes of Peace and an interesting photo of the day after the first Gulf War ended. Outside her house was a cloud formation of a white dove and she photographed it. Eerie and beautiful. We had our festive meal to celebrate the Day of Peace and then lit candles at the end in the beautiful garden as we shared what we hope to achieve peace-wise individually from now until the next month. I shared the fact that a few years ago, I was a witness to a Palestinian on a bus being bullied by a much older and taller man. For nothing. I didn't do a fucking thing. I was scared. I didn't want to get involved. The Palestinian ran off the bus with the bully following him. I thought maybe I'd get off the bus and intervene but in the end did nothing. It haunts me to this day. God knows what happened to that man. Maybe the bully told the police that this guy tried to hurt him and they may have arrested this innocent young man. Who knows what the result of this was. So I made a resolution not to let fear get in the way and to do the right thing. I remember too many stories of Jews during WW II, who were bullied (at first) by the natives and some Germans were upset by it, but did nothing. I pray to God not to let that happen again - to anyone.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Ancient sea wall - Akko

Akko seafront

Old boys club - Akko

Akko store selling god knows what

Akko - closed marketplace

Another view of Hamam

View of Turkish Hamam - Akko

Belly dance belts - Akko

The open market

Pomegrante juice man

Akko - looking alot like Turkey

Walls of Akko


Kibbutz pool - what can be so bad about this?

Kibbutz guest house

back to basics

I had to take my loaned laptop in today for repair or virus erasing. Seems I did tell Hubby NOT to download the porno on my work laptop and he did exactly what I told him not to do. Shoulda known not to even bother to mention it. Getting back home yesterday nothing was out of control, except the kids that remained behind for the holiday told me the dog was crying every night and from 6:00 pm just sat by the doorway waiting. What a wonderful wuss. My 16 year old daughter and her boyfriend fought over closing the porch door and as one opened it, the other one closed it and closed it right on daughter's finger. She had to go to emergency and bandage it up. Seems like the four day holiday of doing nothing was meant to be totally relaxing as the rest of this month probably won't be. Already the schedule is getting hectic. At work today, the Professor left for the day and I was left to my own devices which meant I was able to catch up on everything I hadn't been able to in weeks. My old classmate left me an e-mail and my musician friend from Berlin may be traipsing in for three weeks, plus there's a farewell dinner next week for a Swedish colleague, a Gypsy Board meeting, etc. etc. Tonight should be interesting though. There's a meditation walk for peace on the Haas Promenade and PBS (Public Broadcasting) will be there filming it and talking to people involved in different groups. So I will be there, perhaps taking photos myself while being filmed. This meditation walk crops up on my e-mails each week and each week I tell myself to go and never get around to it. But the lure of the film camera and publicity for our Interfaith Group is too much for me to ignore.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

New Years in Israel

With the big news that Madonna was in Israel for Rosh Hashana festivities in Tel Aviv, I was actually feeling sorry for her that she could not enjoy the simple bliss and peace and quiet I enjoyed at our friends' kibbutz in the North. What a simple place it is. I remember celebrating New Years in Toronto 10 years ago. We used to rush out and buy everyone new clothing to wear to synagogue and everyone paraded around in their new, expensive duds - and it felt more like a fashion show than a day of reflection for the year to come. This kibbutz is the only kibbutz which follows the Conservative Judaism movement (others are completely secular, some Orthodox and there a few Reform ones). The service was run by a French female rabbi, at a very informal pace. At one point towards the end we stood in pairs and each one meditating on what we would like for ourselves this year. We had to stand firm so our partner would not be able to push us off from where we stood. People dressed informally, kids ran around in roller skates to talk to their parents briefly then scooted out. Others ran around in beach shoes. Hubby was proud of himself at withstanding the 4 hour morning service and even made it to the afternoon. "I don't know what it is - but I did the entire service." Of course you did, honey, I told him, explaining the mystery of his staying power. "The rabbi is single and female and pretty and French. Why shouldn't you stay for the entire thing?" I'm surprised she even allowed him in the service towards the end because he is a prehistoric caveman. "Why don't you just concentrate on having kids, getting married. Why must you be a rabbi..." But she smiled and I don't think she minded his upfrontness.

We talked about the Kibbutz history. The kibbutz is situated near the Arab city of Kfar Manda with 15,000 people there. The population is composed of 15 families (with about 1,000 in each family). So when the people of the city asked the kibbutz founders how many families were moving in - the kibbutz people told them 15 families. "Oh my, that is just like us!" the Kfar Manda people exclaimed, probably thinking the kibbutz was going to be the size of their vast village. How surprised they must have been to see the families - each with only 4 to 7 members in each family.

Of course when we got to the kibbutz my two youngest kids were complaining. After 1/2 hour by the pool listening to some great South African CDs before the holiday began, the complaints began, and I wondered whether we did the right thing in bringing them. But on the other hand, what does complaining matter. Look at the bigger picture of not cooking the food for 3 days, not cleaning, not shopping for the food beforehand, etc. etc. So what if the kibbutz is poor and doesn't have state-of-the-art rooms. The simple accommodations is what I call "camping". Speaking of camping it really did feel like camping when I couldn't sleep because of the mosquitos buzzing around me on Wednesday night. So I went downstairs to watch a movie on Satellite TV in their lounge. I went upstairs to our room when the sun rose and found a scorpion watching me pee in the bathroom. It was still and small. But I didn't know whether its bite was fatal or just annoying and I didn't want to find out. Hubby was a bit too freaked out and ran outside in his undies trying to find a broom in the offices. He found a squeegee - that window wiper thing used to wash floors and I was given the job of "taking it out." I gingerly killed it and felt guilty at the same time for committing murder during the new year. After that episode I checked under every shoe, bit of clothing left on the floor until I was satisfied no relatives of this scorpion was left behind. I gleefully told our friends that I caught a scorpion for the first time. They hooted like I was some primitive camper. They were so used to these things. "Oh, our son just killed one the other day when it stung him in his bed." "They climb into your bed?" I shrieked thinking they stay put on the floor.

Skipping back to the first night of the holiday, there was a family from Bombay who ran the meal. They cooked some fish in curry for everyone and we kept on taking spices they made for themselves off their table for us to try on our chicken. We made traditional blessings over several foods - leeks, stringbeans, pomegrantes, fish, zucchini, each one bringing its own different blessing for us all. This tradition is basically held by Sephardic Jews, people of Middle-Eastern, North African, Southern European origin. So it was a novelty and a first time thing for me - me of Eastern European origin. Our hosts overdid it on the brandy and wine and bid us an early good night.

The kids found some friends on the kibbutz and would go to the cow sheds and watch the milking. At night, they made friends with the Bedouin watchman- who was actually 18 years old and he drove my daughter around in his tractor, which she loved, telling me she had gone to his nearby village in his tractor. That night the village had a wedding and we heard the music flow onto the kibbutz, after which there were the traditional fireworks. I think he had a bit of a crush on her because he called her on my cellphone and seemed disappointed when she wasn't with me to receive the call.

As much as I love doing nothing, I felt restless today and asked Hubby to drive to Akko to see the refurbished Turkish Hammam (steam room) which had been in use since the mid-18th century. He thankfully obliged and it wasn't in use anymore but turned into an interactive museum of sorts, with a film on the history of the place - with actors playing their parts in the hammam as it looks today. I must remember to post the photos of this wonderful place tomorrow after work. They must have thought I was crazy in that city, but I enjoyed the fact that Jews and Arabs live together peacefully there. I enjoyed the fact that there was no security at any of the seaside restaurants and they were all packed. Israelis filled up the local eating haunts and there was so much life in the marketplace. Everyone was happy and friendly.I took photos of a local father and daughter eating tiny salted fish together, surprised that that girl even looked at fish, never mind enjoying it immensely. We drank freshly squeezed pomegrante juice, in season now. In fact the entire Galilee was filled with pomegrante trees, their fruit so colorful and ripe. I longed to plant a pomegrante tree where I live, but know my garden is way too small for such a lovely fruit tree. I fantasized about retiring up there, with a garden filled with every fruit tree mentioned in the Bible. I was so grateful to be able to spend my holiday there, where Hubby and I did not fight once the entire 4 days.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Happy New Year

It's been a chaotic week and the mood in the country is very much like the mood during Christmas season out of this country. Everywhere you go there are reminders of the upcoming New Year beginning tomorrow night. Stores are packed. Drugstores are having specials galore on makeup and perfume. Grocery stores are selling traditional honey cake, prices are higher and there is even a honey cake flavored yogurt (yuk!) which I obviously won't buy. I'll stick to strawberry and peach - thank you. Employees of companies get bonuses in the form of coupons for clothing stores, supermarkets, pharmacies, appliance stores, etc. The employess of the electric company in Israel get the highest number of coupons valued at $250. We got $75. It's better than nothing. Maybe I'll buy a blender or something fun with it. I made sure Hubby went to the social worker who used to help us when we were in a financial rut and gave her an envelope with a bit of $ so a few families in a similar rut would be able to have a little bit more this expensive holiday season. I hadn't done this in years. Really. And it felt good to give charity for a change instead of getting it. Hubby wanted to know if he should give Abed a bonus. I told him, it's better if he gets his bonus during the major Islamic holy day of Eid al Fitr. He doesn't celebrate the Jewish holiday and it makes sense to wait. Most Jewish employers have no clue when Ramadan or any Moslem holiday is and most don't give a hoot unfortunately. So I hope he does so whenever Abed's holiday is - sometime in November. We're off to the Galilee to our friends who live on Kibbutz. It's not a large kibbutz and a poor one by most standards. My friends have not taken a holiday in years because they just work each day steadily on the kibbutz. But they don't have to ever worry about where their next meal is coming from because in the communal dining room, the food is always there. They pay no rent. They get a monthly stipend which is used for telephone, electricity, cigarettes and - beer. They drink lots of beer up there. My kids are all crying that they'll be bored up there. One made arrangements to be at a friend for the holidays. Doesn't anyone like down-home country livin? The smell of the cows? Hay? There won't be much to do in the city because most places will be closed until Saturday night. So they're stuck either way. To top it all off I had to have a root canal done today. I usually postpone dentists, but figured if I do that, I may have the pleasure of having to use the services of the kibbutz dentist who may be the cow milker or whatever. Didn't want to take that chance. I like my American dentist! To alleviate the kids' predicted boredom I bought a 500 piece puzzle, will take along their backgammon set, and what can be so bad to sit by the pool for 3 days every afternoon????

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Messages from God

I don't think everything just happens. I always have believed everything happens for a reason, although the reason may not be always apparent. Living in Jerusalem makes this kind of thinking come to life for me. Like seeing it in vivid color rather than in faded colors. I passed by Breslov Hassidim on the street the other day. "Righteous woman" - he called me, as he stood in front of me to block my path. I felt like telling him "You got the wrong woman, mister!" but decided to hear him out. He was collecting money for his sect, and for just $8 per month, someone will pray for me for 40 days or something to that effect - at their Hassidic leader's gravesite in Uman in the Ukraine and at the Western Wall. I told him I couldn't add more stress to my already overburdened checking account. He asked me "Do you tithe? Do you take 10% of your income and give to charity." I thought about it on the bus back home. I discussed it with Hubby. It hasn't left my mind since. I used to give 10% of my income to charity, but haven't in years. Maybe I don't have to give to his organization, but I remember what it was like for me during Passover 2001 when I was laid off my high tech job, after thinking I was going to be nearly a millionaire because of all the shares I had with the company. And then they went bust. I had no salary for 2 months and unemployment did not kick in until 2 months later. Hubby was unemployed too. I had no money to feed my family and accepted charitable donations from friends who could barely afford to give charity. I knew where the food banks were in my neighborhood and in Jerusalem, where I never went hungry because of them. It's hard to give away hard-earned money. It's so much more fun to spend on yourself - nicer pots and pans, new couch covers, curtains for the livingroom. Especially so when the government is always running after you to get more and more of anything you earn. But I should really remember those difficult times for us especially before the Jewish New Year and should plan to give something to those organizations that kept our family alive 3 years ago. For people who will find it difficult to feed their families this year. I really think this was a message from God to me.

Friday, September 10, 2004

old friends cropping up

I wrote to an old friend I had been searching for - for 10 years. Finally found her. I wrote to her expecting a reply within minutes. I waited. one day. two days. three days. Nothing. Maybe she was startled by the subject line "found you!!". It' scary, especially if you think income tax is after you. So she may have deleted it. I shared my dilemma with a mutual friend who said "See what LA does to you?" I wrote her a second time. Finally - a short reply. 3 sentences. Perhaps she hates typing. I find it relaxing. We both went - together with this mutual classmate of mine who lives in Jerusalem now too - to this ultra-orthodox school in the Bronx. I was 5 1/2 when I started first grade. It was traumatic. I had no idea what was flying. I hadn't gone to nursery or kindergarten. When I got there, everyone knew each other and I felt like the odd man out. Sitting in a classroom bored me. This Jewish school hired old Irish teachers for secular subjects which I thought was funny. Mrs. O'Neill was one of them. I fell asleep in her class, which every one of my classmates remembers to this day. We had a mixed bunch of girls - some were very orthodox - some were secular. Most lived in the South Bronx but eventually moved away in the late sixties when the neighborhood began to change into a more African-American one. I had one abusive teacher in second grade. At that time the teachers were always right. Who could complain about a teacher throwing you against a blackboard or emptying out your briefcase full of pencils and books and humiliating you. I don't think anyone complained and the principal surely did see a group of us crying nearly every day. It was awful. There was only one decent teacher in that school - our sixth grade teacher - Mrs. Leibreich, whose love of teaching us was infectious. She was strict, but not abusively so. She was blind in one eye. We had a crazy teacher, a Rabbi, who when we didn't behave would chase us around the room and would foam at the mouth. We used to ask him for open book tests, which he gladly acquiesed to rather than argue with us. We were totally abusive to this poor sod. His son ended up marrying one of my neices many years later. When we heard about that, we were all pretty embarrassed. (He had taught both my brother and sister too - and was given a difficult time by all) But the man didn't call off the wedding. His looks reminded me of Spiro T. Agnew. I had unfair teachers and didn't learn to speak up until 8th grade. One failed me consistently until I complained to the principal that she never called on me for the oral exam so how could she have failed me? It was very difficult for me to speak up on my behalf. It was so much easier to have everyone step over you. I wasn't one of the most popular kids, although in 7th grade became close friends with the most intelligent one of the whole lot. She would cry if she got any grade under 97. I was really proud of our friendship because I had felt really stupid throughout those school years. but if someone as intelligent as her could be friends with me, perhaps there was hope for me as well. Our friendship continued throughout high school, although I dropped out of the high school we went to together, as it was too difficult for me to stay up until 1 am studying. Not worth it for my teen years, I thought. I wanted to party, party, party. I opted for a more lenient high school further away in the Lower East Side. But when my friend finished college, she went to NYU law school and invited me to room with her in the dorm for the summer. I know NYU has a slew of students who have committed suicide in recent years, but that was the last thing I wanted to do then. I was elated. I was 21 years old. Happy as shit to be away from my folks and spend my summer in Greenwich Village. My parents had no problem with my friendship with her because she came from a very religious home. They still thought she was religious. At her dorm, we fried up bacon for the very first time. I poured in oil, thinking all frying had to done that way. We shrieked as we saw the oil come up to the top of the frying pan. We went to every rock concert in NYC that summer and even before that since 1975. She began dating a nice Italian guy, kept it secret from her family. I kept her secret with her. After receiving offers from many law firms, she took the one furthest away from her family in LA. I had not seen her since. But I do hope I get more than 3 sentences from her soon.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Last night

Last night I had a dentist appointment. I usually postpone these appointments because I shake in dentist chairs. When I came to Israel, I hunted out any Native-English speaking dentists because it's bad enough to have to go to one - but it's even worse having to deal with dentists who have Israeli mentality - not being sympathethic to my fears of drills and and air in my nose. So I go to a very good and respected American dentist who has all the latest toys in his office, outside of laser. I walk in expecting to find some US-type of decorum. Instead, the hygenist's assistant is flossing her teeth in the reception area by the mirror (not in the bathroom where I usually floss). I quickly consoled myself by leafing through a Good Housekeeping magazine with ads of stuff I could never get here. The dentist seats me down and works on me - painlessly - and regales me with tales of his father-in-law who is visiting from the US. "He brought me tuna fish, lots of tuna fish - because it's cheap and M&M, because it was cheap. But you know what they have now in the States? Hershey's kisses with caramel. They are Fantastic!" He nearly exploded with delight. Ah yes, straight out of the dentist and I have terrible cravings for chocolate. why not? It'll surely keep the dentist in business.

If I could have gone home and rested, I would have, but instead my son had a parents/teachers meeting. Those meetings last 3 hours. They're hell. First of all they're all in Hebrew so Hubby doesn't go because his is virtually non-existent. I sat through the teacher going through her routine of their day at school and the subjects and who the teachers will be for the subjects she won't be teaching. The everyone exploded in a yelling and screaming match except for quiet little me. The reason being was that in literature class they were going to take the kids out one by one for 15 minutes and work with them in subjects the kids themselves asked for enrichment in. "THEY'LL LOSE OUT IN CLASS, WHY DO THEY HAVE TO GO OUT OF THIS CLASS? THEY WON'T BE PREPARED FOR JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL? WHY DO YOU HAVE TO HAVE TWO TEACHERS TEACHING JEWISH LAW? WHY WHY WHY??????" There was only one man who used the modern technique of "I heard you say....and can we...." But then it went back to screaming and yelling which went on for 45 minutes until I slipped out of the classroom at 10:15 pm, much to the dismay of my son. "You didn't see my card I wrote you." "Please have mercy on me" I said to him. I had to leave and go home to watch Will and Grace. "You care about that show more than you care about me." I certainly care more about that show than I do sitting in a screaming match with parents and a teacher.

Today, feeling less fatigued, Hubby picked up Abed on the way to my work and his work. He asked where the salami was and I didn't get the joke. Hubby said his radio wasn't working but Abed had put a piece of salami on the tip of the antenna and the radio began to work beautifully. Should we publish this tidbit of info on household tips?

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Je Suis fatigues

The Professor told me in no uncertain terms that he doesn't like the way I look today. "Excuse me?" I can't put anything over him, so I may as well admit it. I'm tired, absolutely exhausted, and I don't know whether it's all the juggling I have to do at work, whether it's my difficult child whom I have no energy for, whether it's all the demands of life in general or whether I simply need a friggin' vitamin. I guess I should check it out, which I will as soon as I manage to get the time to. But it felt good that he was actually concerned. "Rest upstairs in my room", he ordered. Yeah, sure. I've got a pile on my desk to contend with among a meeting I have at my Difficult daughter's school (ex-Criminal one). So I go into the meeting and we're talking BORDERS, of which my daughter has none. If you don't give her permission for something, like going to her boyfriend's house all the way on the other side of town, she'll hitchhike there. They told us at the school that we should physically hold her down from running out, even if it takes hours. That sounds like a really enjoyable evening for me. Plus she's strong and hits and kicks as good as any tough street kid. "I want to tell you something about her boyfriend's family", said the tough counsellor at her school. "The father just came out of drug rehabilitation. He's a drug addict. But the mother is ok." How can the mother be ok, if the father is a drug addict is beyond me. I'm not ok and my husband is addicted to the Holy Leaf, nothing stronger. Great. I thought - the kid can still be ok and together, even with a dysfunctional family. Why does dysfunction attract dysfunction. My kids would never hook up with a bunch of bookish kids, of American extraction. It's too normal. I thought of something to console me and thought of Keith Richards with 2 lovely teenage daughters. Do young men not go out with them because of their dad's former addiction to heroin and present-day vodka binges? I think not. So we made a pact - the 4 of us in the room - that she can see her boyfriend and go to his house from school twice a week. She did yesterday and she has one more day left to see him. Today was the day and she has to come home at 10:00 pm, and not stay over at his house. If she doesn't I'm to get in touch with the other counsellor immediately. If she does, she gets to see him on weekends. Daughter did not like those rules and regulations one bit and frequently made the "fuck you" sign with her fingers to us and called us all drug addicts. Everyone in the room.

Monday, September 06, 2004

Eliza Doolittle

That's exactly what I felt like today at work. The person I work for is a professor of philosophy of education. I never could understand philosophy, philosophers and haven't a clue to this day what philosophy of education is about - really. It all seems to be like a waste of time and energy. To just sit there and think - and ponder. Like the skeptics society here in Jerusalem. What the fuck do you need a skeptics society here? Skeptical about peace? Skeptical about the government? Surely there's not a shortage of things to be skeptical about. You need a society for that? Sheesh! Getting back to work. The professor is an older man, from a different world than I'm from. The world of academia, a world of egos, thinkers, etc. We have to call him Professor. When I first came to work at the place, I thought Hell, I'm not calling anyone by a title. That's sick. But I tolerated it with him because he's alot older and needs and wants the honor. At least from the "lower echelon" who must address him as Professor. It took me a year to get used to Titles, Dr. this and Dr. that, Prof. this and Prof. that. The place is like an Israeli version of Ivy League, hushed elegance and order and decorum. So different from usual spaced-out and disarrayed Israeli life. So today I sat with him and someone else during a meeting, which also included lunch. I went for the tuna and salad and humous and rice cakes. Laughed when he asked the receptionist for placemats. Placemats? If we eat on individual plates in my house, I call that civilized. I took my food and began eating. Until I noticed the other person sitting there politely with food on his plate, waiting until the Professor sat down and began his meal. OOOPS! When was the last time I waited in politeness for anyone to start eating? I haven't a clue. Not in my eat-and-run world. I was slightly embarrassed. The Professor is certainly shrewd enough to notice. That's when I felt like Eliza D. - fresh from the flower market - learning her manners and genteel speech, from scratch.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Mish mash

The Jewish new year is next week and I'm not a last minute person. I'm spontaneous in some things - like if someone asks - wanna have dinner out? I'm usually always there. But generally I plan things way in advance. My e-mails consist of stuff going on in Jerusalem, which I then forward to my office for printing. Then I put all the goings-on in my calendar and hope it falls into place. There's something going on nearly every day, but if I manage one or two a week, I'm doing ok. There's a peace circle thing re-opening with different people running it than before - every Tuesday in downtown Jerusalem. It used to be in the Old City. Then there's a street fair in one of the quaint older neighborhoods where all my funky friends live. Then there's the question of which kids will join us for the New Year on kibbutz. We plan to be up north at our favorite kibbutz - a poor, tiny kibbutz, but it feels like our summer home. Our close friends run the guest house and put us up if they don't have a full house. We can't fit our family in the car so 2 will have to take a bus. Then I have to pray that my 4th daughter won't be bored up there and take off hitchhiking back to Jerusalem.

Then there's a more serious decision I have to make as Jewish coordinator of our interfaith group, and that is that I got a call from a Palestinian director of a dialogue group, who asked if I could obtain day passes for people from the West Bank who would like to join our group for International Peace Day on September 20th. I've never done that sort of thing before. Thank God I'm not the only coordinator and conferred with the others to see how to handle this. Do we take the responsibility for this. But I was glad to see that there is interest in our group from the Palestinian side because it's more difficult to get them to join our group because of logistics than it is to get Jews and Christians to join. Perhaps we should make the extra effort. I'll see what the other coordinators have to say...

Friday, September 03, 2004


I went with my Complaining 16 year old to town this morning to find out about this new project she'll be going to this year, in addition to the school that doesn't want her. It will focus on her getting her Bagrut (which is similar to SAT's) because she hadn't done any of the 5 she had to do in 10th grade. I should be doing the complaining. On the way, I pointed out an attractive woman with red hair. "Don't you just love her hair color?" I asked. "She takes care of herself, not like YOU. Look at yourself" she retorted. I think I look pretty decent for pushing 50, but she thinks I look like the Bride of Frankenstein. During the interview the head of the project said to me "you'll have to be a very supportive mother throughout this year, if you want your daughter to succeed. Alot depends on you." I'm pretty good in the supporting department. As we walked downstairs the Complainer complained - "I laughed when she said 'be a mother to me. You're not a mother. You don't do anything for me. I have to work. What other 16 year old has to work. None of my friends have to work. My friend has a mother who is a cleaner in the school and her house is beautiful. She is always cleaning. The house is spotless. I have a terrible room. You don't do nothing for me. I need sheets. You're gonna buy me sheets...." and this went on and on until my head spinned. I let her talk it out. After doing some shopping and dumping her in Hubby's car, I went to see a friend who had been in the US the whole summer. Finally, a refuge! She had these 2 kids in her house, fresh from Toronto. Daughters of friends. I was giggling with my girlfriend over photos from her trip. She went to the Hippie Rainbow gathering, drove around Seattle and Oregon and took ass-kicking digital photographs of everything, stoned and straight. The younger girl - about 10 - looks at us and tells us "You're both weird." Why are we weird? "Well, you're inappropriate" she tells my friend, whom I think is a superb mother. And she points a finger at me "and YOU!" She just shook her head. There are no words to describe me. It used to be you can't trust anyone over 30 in the 1960. I'm finding I can't trust anyone under 18. They're simply awful. Back home, the tone of the Complainer got louder and louder and she started throwing things out of the room. The reason. Hubby did me a favor and put up the 2 crystals we bought to bring good energy into our home. One in our bedroom and the other in the livingroom. "You live in a Russian home" she shouted. "Why does everything have to be disgusting? Why do I have to have the washing machine in my room (because she has a giant room)?" We hear noise upstairs as she attempts to throw the portable radiator heater out of her room to beautify her room. "You'll see" she warned. "I'm throwing the washer out next."

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Back to School

The first day of school began yesterday. Let's start from the youngest. He went off quickly in order to get a good seat for his 6th grade class. What is this a theatre? Or a Stones concert where you wait on-line for 6 hours (or overnight) in order to get a good seat? What goes on? I was proud of him though for thinking that way and being gung-ho about school. My 2nd youngest - the Criminal - left happily when the van came to pick her up. 2 hours later there were 6 calls that I missed. I called the number up. It was the van driver. "Your daughter caused me alot of trouble on the way back from school (they had school for 2 hours that day). She didn't want to get into the van and demanded I let her off in town and that you let." You did the right thing, I assured the poor, miserable van driver. I called home. "I don't want them to TOUCH me! They grabbed me and threw me in the van." my daughter complained. "Well, that is because you didn't want to go in the van in the first place. - what else could they have done?" I explained. But that was that. She wants out. She's bored of our neighborhood. She wants to go to school where her boyfriend goes to school and blah blah blah. By the time I got home from work she was gone and never showed up at school today. I assured the school that she was hanging out at her boyfriend's school nearby. It was a very strong mother's instinct. Somehow she's not getting any notion of what responsbility is. How different can kids be. The third daughter now is waiting for a special program for her to get into - we're meeting this woman tomorrow. And the eldest are back in their National Service. The 18 year old began today and people scared her with "they're horrible at that place, you have to touch used needles and urine bottles, you have to work on Fridays." I assured her not to listen to anyone and to see for herself. Sure enough, none of the horrors she heard were true. At least now everyone (almost everyone) is back into a routine, and summer is over. The downtown area of Jerusalem is back to just being a shopping area, with the festive decorations from the street festivals taken down as well as the stage area. So that was sad. And sad as well is knowing that daylight will get shorter in one week because that's how it is here. There's never a set time when to turn the clocks back, (they change the dates every year) and I wish we could have longer daylight hours just one month more! Why does it have to be dark and depressing the beginning of September?