Sunday, October 31, 2004

Just Chicks

I said to Hubby as I was walking with him after work - Next time we're at the flower store, let's ask for plants with a lifespan like Arafat - you can throw them out of a plane, they can get sick and sick and sicker and never every die and live 300 years.

I was laughing at Hubby's kid complaints - "Did you see the Oldest daughter on the couch yesterday. Just picking away at her nose. What the fuck is she digging up there? And the other one grabbing her crotch all the time." I explained the Nasty crotch grabber is a fan of rappers and that's what they do so she's just imitating art.

I made arrangements with a friend from work to see the movie Shall We Dance. Hubby said he'd go with me last night but this is a chick flick and it's no fun grabbing ahold of his arm when you're watching Richard Gere. It's far better to see it with girlfriends and squeal away. So, another friend from work and her mother (who is my age) decided to join us as well. Just no men, puleeese.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Sabbath Guests and more

Last night's meal went off pretty well without a hitch. Of course the Complainer daughter piped up a few hours beforehand - How can you invite people when we have a disgusting salon? Aren't you embarrassed? Are they Arabs? Why do they live in Arab villages? I told her if she sticks around when they come, they can answer all her questions. My Good Daughter helped me loads and by the time the guests arrived, our place- including ourselves - looked orderly. Guests that come in three's seem sorta mystical to me. There were the 3 wise men. Before that the 3 angels that came to visit Abraham in his tent. Here I had 2 Swedes and 1 South African whose wife is a member of parliament there. I cannot tell you how high I felt having lively and intelligent discussions and how wonderful it was that Hubby came out of his cave and particpated in the discussions. He had walked through the supermarket Thursday evening embarrassing me to no end, belching twice really loud. I really hoped and prayed that everything would look normal to our guests. My kids behaved well and only eldest daughter slipped a bit when the dog was bothering her and she quipped a quick - What the fuck are you doing - at the dog, before a glance from me, stopped her in her tracks.

She told me a funny story this morning. Natan Sharansky, I think he is still a knesset member or minister of something but maybe he isn't anymore - ate dinner at the restaurant where she works. Her boss who is the manager of the place is a Palestinian. Sharansky came with a bodyguard who sat 3 tables away. Her manager was talking on the phone animatedly, in Arabic, pacing inside and outside where the outside tables were and where Sharansky was seated. The bodyguard, hearing Arabic, gets up and walks towards the Boss - slowly. The Boss notices the bodyguard walking towards him and walks back inside the restaurant, keeping well away from Sharansky with a "oh fuck - he probably thinks I'm going to kill Sharansky" attitude. And the employees inside were laughing their heads off.

Friday, October 29, 2004

The News

I walked into the grocery store this morning to buy the Jerusalem Post, which has an article about my interfaith activities in it. Raed the Palestinian worker there greets me. "Arafat is dead! Arafat is dead! Hallo, how are you!" He's smiling from ear to ear as if all his problems will now disappear. I thought maybe I missed something in the news this morning, last I heard the PA chief was being brought to France for treatment. I figured Raed was just being overzealous. For this kind of news Hubby would have woken me up at 3:00 am. I watched Suha Arafat last night visiting her man for the first time in 4 years, wearing an ugly grey suit. She gets a fortune every month from the PA, she can't wear nicer colors?

I got a call on my cell phone at 5:00 am. All my kids were home so who could it have been. At 7:00 I listened to the voice mail. Someone from "shomrei mishpat". It took me a while to figure it out. Mishpat - means a sentence, in legal terms, something to do with a courthouse. I thought what did my ex-Criminal daughter do now? Then it sunk in after a few minutes that it was a wake up call from Rabbis from Human Rights, for their Friday olive picking session. I decided not to go with them this morning. Instead I am hosting some international peace workers who work in Palestinian villages for a Shabbat meal. I needed to be close to home this weekend and I felt I've been lacking company for a while. My kids have not seen any guests since Sukkot and I missed engaging in lively conversation. We usually race through the meal and make sure we finish in time for the program "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" on channel 3. We upped our grocery bill last night by $50 - beer, extra chicken, sodas, cake - but thank God Hubby is now working and we have that extra $ to do this at this time.

Thursday, October 28, 2004


Two newsletters I've seen recently disturbed me. One was Ideas in Action - Keeping the work of Rabbi Kahane Alive. Every article was that transfer of the Arab population is the only option for keeping Jews safe. So I wonder if there weren't any terrorist attacks - what would they write about? I feel it's akin to watching Fox News - with it's "terror alert - elevated" sign flashing in the background every day. These people thrive on the fear.

The other was Gush Shalom newsletter - boycott settlement products. Why? Jew against Jew drives me nuts. It makes my stomach sink. Because they think if there weren't any settlements there wouldn't be any conflict? That's also untrue. The conflict has been there ever since we stepped back onto this country.

Perhaps getting to learn, understand and respect the local Arab culture and people, and for them to learn, understand and respect our culture and history and getting them to understand why we are here, might just do the trick. A harder road to travel indeed, but one which might just make this peace thing happen.

I got an e-mail via my Interfaith group from a German woman who read about me in a newsletter (Gush Shalom - yes that newsletter). "Dear unknown peace activist from Ma'aleh Adumim". Like the unknown soldier.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Send me to the Moon

Amoun, my Gypsy friend, picked me up in her car, an old BMW, but a BMW nevertheless. She was complaining - "People look at my car and think we don't need any money. It's only worth $5,000 now. It's nothing. I think everyone would be happier if we were just riding on camels or donkeys." She always puts me in stitches that woman. We could not find a parking space in her lot so she blocked someone and just handed the keys to the parking lot attendant. It was almost like a second home for me along the via Dolorosa where she lives. I saw Sheikh Bukhari dressed in Western clothing for a change, with a pelephone tucked into his pants. Everyone was running home to break the fast of Ramadan. I heard the voice from the mosque saying "Allahu Akbar" 3 times as we were running up the alley to her house, and then a loud cannon-like noise marked the end of the fast. A second later we were at her home where the men in her family had already lunged for the food in another room and the women, her sisters and sisters-in-law had prepared food for us -loads of stuff I've never seen before. Technina with roast potatoes, a spinach dip for the rice, techina with some spice in it, home-made humous, ful (fava beans) with chickpeas, majadra, kebabs, stuffed grape leaves - a feast indeed. In walks her new friend, an African-American whom I had met at Ibrahim's house a few weeks ago with 2 people from Taiwan. The man was wearing a tie. Why? Other than lawyers, no one wears ties here. Bobby is a Unification Church member and so were these other two. They seem to have made Jerusalem their base these days. But Moonies should have travel guidelines to the Holy Land that say - wear no ties, it scares the natives. Bobby is only 25 years old with a maturity beyond his years. I grilled him about Moon.

We all sat around after dinner watching Candid Camera in Arabic. We laughed as we watched something like looked like an Arabic version of the Jerry Springer show. Bobby asked for soup, tea, and desert and I saw a familiarity there - the food obsession. "Are you sure you are not Jewish" I asked him.

While walking down the side street onto the Via Dolorosa, 2 teenagers tried to engage us in conversation. They kept on saying "hello" to us in English trying to get our attention. They asked us where we were all from. When Bobby said he was from the US - I heard something I never thought I'd hear from a Palestinian young woman. "I love America." "Excuse me", I had to hear this again. I did. "I love America. I want to visit and learn Karate there. I love Sylvester Stallone." Her friend piped in "I love Van Damme". Hmmmm - so action flicks are popular here. I tried out a few sentences and phrases in Arabic and they clung to each other excitedly "SHE SPEAKS ARABIC! SHE SPEAKS ARABIC!" Rare for a Westerner I guess. But I certainly loved the reaction it sparked. I can't wait for my second class!

My moonie friends drove me home in their rented car because Bobby offered to and because I figured oh what the hell - it's on Rev. Moon's account and he certainly could afford it. These people were staying at 5 star hotels! So getting down to the nitty gritty as we were talking and walking, they look up to the Rev. as Jews looked to Moses when they received the Torah at Mt. Sinai. They believe he has the message direct from God. They want everyone to break down the barriers of their religions, and if everyone believed in the same thing (i.e. that Rev Moon is the Messiah) then there would be peace in this world. But that's really far fetched for me. I asked this guy - why can't people be different, believe in different things, and be respected for them. Sure it's harder but so what. I watched the Old City by the Lion's Gate come alive with vendors and people and the entire mood was festive. "Why should they give up Ramadan? Why should I have to give up my beliefs, Passover and Sukkot? Why can't we just stay different but with respect for one another?" I felt his long-term aims or the church's long term aims were as futile as the beliefs of the guy from my interfaith group who tries in vain for us to learn - Esperanto - believing that a single, universal language will bring peace to the world. I did find one thing where the Moonie's message was similar to the Jewish message I heard from the late and great Lubavitcher Rebbe - Moon told his followers that they are all messiahs. The Rebbe had told us that we have to live each day as if the messiah is already here - this in order to bring about the redemption. After listening to the news today and fearing the worst in the Jew vs Jew battle regarding disengagement from Gaza - a redemption is surely what we can use.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Arabic Lessons, Gypsies and Pastors

I stuck around work yesterday instead of trekking home. My Arabic class began 8:30 at night - a bit late for me but the other alternative was having it in another place on Fridays, which means screwing up my day off. So this was the lesser of two evils. The teacher was astounded at the amount of students piling into the small classroom at the bilingual school - the only one in Jerusalem. I think we needed a mini-auditorium. "This is history!" he told us rather excitedly. In all the years he has been teaching he'd never had such an enormous class of at least 40. He needed to separate us into two classes, because it was just too huge. I was thrilled for him, thrilled for Palestinians who had no idea that 40 more Jews in Jerusalem were interested in their language and thrilled for the class who were eager to learn. The teacher taught fast. Too fast for me. I'm getting on in years and won't pick it up like I would have 20 years ago. But I bought my book and I'm going to plus through it. I didn't learn too many words, just things like "my house, your house, I'm sorry, Hello, thank you, please, their office, our office, etc." But those are useful. I can't make too many sentences out of any of this yet.

Today the reporter called me and read me what she wrote. That was nice of her. Some of it sounded so rough and I had to correct her on a few things. I hope she goes along with it. Then she wanted a photo. Shit. Good thing I carry around my digital with me. I had 2 co-workers take various shots of me - outside by the garden (too sweet and kitchy), by my computer, on the phone. They took about 40 shots and I didn't like any of them except for one. The reporter also interviewed Ibrahim at his home at my request, and of course, he plied her with lots of food.

This evening I attended the Jerusalem Gypsy board meeting. yes, I'm on that board. A pastor who is also a donor, came in from the States. He wanted to see what the non-profit org of the Gypsies is all about and to know where his money is going to. He's part of the Calvary ministries. I took the Board notes, since I'm doomed to type up these things probably until my dying day. It's tough for my Gypsy Queen Amoun because with my full-time job and family and other assorted activities, I find little time left for the Gypsy community in Jerusalem. I need to find her an intern who can write grant proposals for her. Without that, it's difficult and there will be just less than a handful of donors for this tiny organization. The pastor and I engaged in religious conversation. He kept on talking about the mysterious Daniel, Chapter 9 which got him to be a Christian and the books he read and how the Messiah is coming real soon. I admired his faith. He seemed so sure of his faith. It was enviable. There was no room for any doubts in his mind. The Jews at the Board meeting were all going to a protest for Sharon to implement the Gaza disengagement plan. He looked at me and I knew he disapproved of this protest. He didn't say anything other than - if you believe the Bible is true, then you know who this land belongs to. And that there'll be alot of turmoil yet to come in this region. What a soothing thought.

Amoun invited me to break the Ramadam fast at her home tomorrow. I hope nice chocolates is a good gift for her family.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

The army patrol watches us curiously - they were cool here

Dangerous weapon used for clipping olive branches

The FENCE - Zeita village

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Olive Harvest - part II

It's Saturday. I had to weigh my choices for the Day of Rest. They were to spend it with my cranky complaining family or go olive harvesting with Palestinian. Which would be more day-of-rest-like. I opted for leaving 7:30 to go olive picking. What a surprise. It was a sign from God anyway, I thought, if I woke up at 6:30 am on my day off. Had I not woken up that early, like at a normal hour for a day off like 8:00, I would have taken it as a sign from God not to go. We were a full bus from the start. At mid-point all the people gathered together from Haifa and Tel Aviv at Kfar Qasem and it seemed were we were about 150 people. There were a change of plans as the villages near Nablus/Shechem were berefit of olives. It was useless to go and now we had to find alternative places. We ended up at a place called Zeita - just over the green line. Their fields are over the green line and they had to finish by 2:00 pm today. They had permits to cross over, but the curfew back wasn't good. They needed help. We got off the main road and some began to harvet at a field. I thought how boring this is. I like a village, I like to see the people, I like action, etc. Soon, Hasoun asked for people to help another family. Young people. I went over there to see if I could pass for "young." He didn't throw me out of the line. We were 20 people that I thought would help a family nearby. No. We went off for a 45 minute walk through fields, ravines, saw the barbed wire fence and at one point we overlooked a beautiful valley. We kept on walking and I wondered where the olive groves went. I looked down. Way down the cliff. That's where we were going. No wonder he asked for young people. This was tedious, although the Palestinian woman who wasn't eating or drinking in the heat because of Ramadan made it there without a problem. Don't know how they do it. With helping hands, I, too, made it down the cliff. The whole atmosphere was different. Soldiers watched us from the cliff, but later on they were smiling and chatting with the harvesting villagers, even shaking hands. Apparently they don't have the stress that the other village I went to on Sunday has with the Jewish settlement nearby. Their neighboring Jewish village has good relations with them. so at least that. When we got there to help, the men got on the phone with either friends or relatives and as I understood a bit of Arabic, I understood what they were saying - "Jews had come to help them! From Tel Aviv and even from Jerusalem!" He said "from Jerusalem"
like he was astounded people would come from there to help. Perhaps he thought the Jews in Jerusalem were all religious fanatics who hated Arabs. Who knows. But at least we made them all happy. The women sat with me at one point and said had they known we were coming, they would have brought us food and drink.I'm sure they were embarrassed that they hadn't. "It's ok. It's Ramadan. We brought our own drinks." I told her in a mixture of Hebrew, Arabic and English. But I got through. One of the Palestinian women was holding a very sharp cutting tool. I thought how many Jews would like to see that picture? They'd be scared shitless. It looked like a murder weapon and if she were a wild, Taliban-Jew-hating person, she could have easily hacked away at the 20 of us. But she was just fulfilling the biblical prophecy - and they will beat their swords into plowshares. All the time while she was hackig away at thick branches - very close to me - I thought of that verse. While picking and climbing the olive trees, some of the Israelis were singing a cool mixture of Americana songs - Brother Can You Spare a Dime. And they knew all the words. I was totally impressed. When we were done harvesting we were driven back to the main road by a tractor instead of walking up that monstrous cliff, and I felt like I was on a kibbutz work camp, with everyone laughing and singing. What were they singing? Ukelele Girl. Never heard of the song, but it was cool. We stopped off to pick wild figs and ate them immediately. I was pleased at myself for coming better equipped this time. I wore my hiking boots, brought 2 liters of water, put an ice pack in my thermal bag and wore sunglasses. OK, the shiny socks and makeup were a bit out of place, but I didn't care.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Rainbow gatherings

There was a rainbow gathering beginning this week for 3 weeks. This gathering happens all over the world - for older hippies, new age types, transients, gypsies and the middle east is having it's very own gathering as it does every Fall now. Where? It's not publicized to keep out the riff raff that play electronic music loud, that bring paper plates and dogs to the gathering, that drink vodka and use LSD. So it seems that only the seasoned go-ers know where it is being held this year - deep in the Israeli Negev desert. I wrote my friend - an older hippie - a note asking him where the gathering was. Surely he'll tell me, good friend that he is. He answered me.

how many hours do you help haul stuff for the gypsies??
don't be a gyp at the rainbow (pardon the racist pun)
why wait till next weekend..if you want we can go together either tonite (thurs) or tomorrow..(friday early)
it will do wonders for you and help you cope with your bereavement
we also can make some PHENOMENAL onions in the fire..
lets go now!!!
let me know"

Needless to say, Hubby read all my e-mails and read his e-mail first thing this morning and was not too pleased at this hippie upstart trying to whisk away his wife to barbecue phenomenal onions. I don't think he wants me to make phenomenal anything with this guy and he was quite sore about it all day long. Not that it was my fault. I just asked him where the friggin' place was!! If I go places, I go with women. Yay women!!

My real problem is that I'm two months behind in rent and hope I won't be thrown on the street these days. So what does one do when one is in a despondent situation? Why have breakfast out of course with a good friend. The Friday breakfasts here are phenomenal brunches and one doesn't need to eat the entire day afterwards.

Yesterday I was interviewed by one of the two English-language newspapers in the country. The woman who interviewed me is hoping for a front page magazine thing about Arab-Jewish Co-existence in Jerusalem. I am too. The more these things are publicized and put on the front pages, maybe they'll eventually wipe out all the horrible photos of the conflict off the front pages. So before the interview I said the Serenity Prayer to not sound like a total imbecile, to try and convince others that what I am doing is sane, and what the result would be if we all tried harder to get to know the other. And we shouldn't be waiting for a miracle-working Prime Minister. That ain't gonna happen. And neither Jews or Arabs will disappear from these horizons. So it's only us - people - that can make it happen. I hope she gets it right in print. Because this place really should be a Paradise - with real rainbows.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Just another Wednesday

I decided after a thankfully non-eventful day to go to my macrobiotic support group. I noticed a few much younger people there than the usual pensioners. These were daughters of regular macro-goers. I put out my dish that I made at 6:00 am with the recipe so people could see the ingredients. It was a miso stew. What can be more macro than that! Then people saw it had garlic in it and I think that is taboo in strict diets. I heard shrieks of "This dish has GARLIC in it". Some didn't touch my dish, others dared to go garlicky. The host, a Frenchman called Pascale, said garlic makes one fire-y. I said we could all use a little bit of fire in our life. We discussed stuff for 1 1/2 hours - stuff like the head of the macrobiotic institute falling ill - seemed like people wanted to shove this kind of news under the carpet - people on this diet aren't supposed to get sick! But then they said he smoked cigarettes and drank (horrors) coffee!!! Not the barley/fake coffee kind either. They wanted to think of next week's agenda. Let's talk about death said one member. Death? That's not a very positive subject, is it. It can be, piped in another - a transition from one life to the other place. Sounds too spooky for me. I think I'll go to my Debtor's anonymous meeting next week instead. People brought in organic greens that are rare to find in this country. We don't have kale and collard greens here or watercress. You know those dark leafy greens that are supposed to carry all those minerals/vitamins. It's not easy to find them. In fact they're practically non-existent here. So people who live in rural areas are growing these greens on their land and selling them - purely organic. I bought a batch of daikon greens. I don't know what I'm going to do with them yet. They look so wonderful. Someone asked me about my blog. She was an older woman living in a senior citizen's residence. I explained that I write my journal on-line on the web, hoping she'd know what a web was.

"You can write about anything?"she asked
"Anything you want!"
"Can you use dirty words?" she asked with a giant smile on her face
"Of course you can. As much as you'd like. I use them sparingly - some "f" words and some "s" words. It gives spice to my writing."

I thought the woman would jump out of her seat and beg me to offer her some computer lessons so she could start blogging right away. I'd love to see her journal, this 80-something year old woman, peppering her daily blog with "f" words galore. It must be tough in that senior's residence. The place is probably fucked and the food absolutely shitty. She could always blog about that. Next week, the meeting is at her place.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Cheaper than falafel

I was shopping in the shuk today - things are so much cheaper today than they are on Fridays before the Sabbath. My daughter's boyfriend's family owns an equivalent of a dollar store (the only one in the shuk) and today their merchandise was selling like hotcakes or falafel or whatever. The younger brother was standing outside the store in the middle of the thoroughfare yelling - Slippers for 5 shekels ($1.25) SLIPPERS FOR 5 SHEKELS. THEY'RE CHEAPER THAN FALAFEL. THEY'RE CHEAPER THAN FALAFEL. Every pensioner headed in their direction and people were grabbing them by the dozens. I thought they were ugly and would rather go barefoot than buy something that would make me depressed.

I was supposed to be interviewed today by a Jerusalem paper interested in my interfaith work, but we pushed it off until Thursday. Got all dressed up for nothing. What a drag. Meanwhile, this guy I went olive picking with sent out a newsletter to peace groups talking about me in the newsletter. Apparently they don't get too many volunteers who live over the "green line" harvesting olives with Palestinians and mentioned that they were quite surprised by my revelation. But he wrote that I'm Australian. Usually Australians in Israel get taken for Americans, as do most English speakers from anywhere. I remember my South African friends having a run-in with neighbors who called them "You Americans." They tried to explain that although they speak English they've never even been to America. Didn't matter. They were Americans as far as the Israeli family was concerned.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Woman with no boundaries

I called up my girlfriend who lives in that "tough" settlement right next to the village where I picked olives yesterday and told her I thought of her as we were so close, but unfortunately could not meet. When I told her where I'd been she was like "ARE YOU CRAZY!!! WHAT ARE YOU DOING HELPING THOSE PEOPLE??!" I thought I'd have a morning of compassionate listening. I told her we were helping them pick olives because the groves were too close to the settlement fence. She said her adopted son was ambushed recently and beaten up by those villagers and that they come waay too close to the fence not only to pick olives but to wreak havoc on their community.

"But you guys burnt a part of their olive grove last week." Wondering what came first the beating of the kid or the burning of the olive groves. I think they each were a result of the other.

She continued "They used to come into our place and steal all the toys in the kindergarten. All the kids in that Palestinian village are playing with FISHER PRICE toys." I laughed. It did sound funny. But she was appalled at my actions.

"How can you help those people. They want to destroy us. They don't want us here. Any chance they get they'd kill us." I told her the police and army were there yesterday to protect both her place and their place.

What about the shepherd I saw yesterday who was able to go freely into their territory.
"That's because we don't kill people and ambush them and blow them up to bits. Don't you remember the lynching in Ramallah?"
Yes, I do. I told her all this hate was because they don't understand Jews.
"Terrorists in Gaza and suicide bombers do it because they don't understand Jews?" she asked incredulously.
"That's surely part of the reason."
"You are so misguided lady. By helping them you're giving them more of a reason to attack us!!!! They get strengthened by that."
"Don't you think it will change their minds about some Jews at least" I said, thinking about the 3 orthodox-looking Jews with "kippot" on their heads who were with us yesterday.
"No, don't you read the Koran where it says they should kill us?"
"I don't read the Koran but I do have some of it read to me, where it talks about peace."
"Why don't you help Jewish people who are victims of their terror?"
"I think I am helping prevent more terror by doing what I'm doing."

I told her I would love to see the head of her community meet up with the head of their community for a peace pow wow. I told her about the beautiful fresh spring and how nice it would be if they could go there just to see it. Now they couldn't. Anyone looking like they come from that community would be a target for at least a good beating. There's just too much bad blood right now between them.

I thought - why did I have to start with the toughest settlement in the West Bank and even bring up the idea of peace?? I must be totally certifiably nuts. But I figured if anything ever comes of this, the rest will be a piece of cake.

My friend continued - "My husband won't believe it when I tell him what you did yesterday. Do you want to come up to our place for this Sabbath and be our guests?"

This is a good sign folks. She did not want to excommunicate me from the Jewish people!!! She and the rest of the townsfolk will definitely want to talk me out of my "evil" ways of consorting with who she considers the devil, but I have to see if I have the strength and guts to deal with that too.

She went on about what she knew about me and sewed it all together. "You have no boundaries. This is the way you are with your husband and this is the way you are with your kids. You think if you continue on the same way, it'll all fall into place and everything will be ok, if you don't put boundaries. But you're only fooling yourself. Without boundaries it won't get any better. And this is the way you think with the Arabs."

What she was saying about boundaries is very perceptive of her. I have it tougher than most because I don't put boundaries around other people. I don't want to impose boundaries on others. I want everyone to feel free, I guess. I don't like borders and I don't like boundaries. She was certain correct with that.

Child in Yasouf

The view from the village

Fresh water spring from these rocks

Olives dropped onto the sack

Gathering the olives

The olive sacks

Harvest in action

Our host family (wish I knew how to edit that sunray from the middle of the photo)

On the way to the harvest - Yasouf

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Paradise in Unlikely Places

I woke up at the ungodly hour of 5:00 am, on MY VACATION DAY, when I really should have been shopping or getting my hair done, or going to the beach. What do I do? I'm not like other mothers, so I go to Palestinian villages on my vacation time. La di da. I actually miraculously woke up before my alarm clock rang and Hubby was generous enough to drive me to the meeting point in Jerusalem. The biggest decision I had to make today was what to wear to go olive picking. I opted for jeans and a long top since anything sleeveless is not modest in a traditional Arab village. I wouldn't be walking around sleeveless in Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods and not in these neighborhoods either. I put on makeup sparingly. Who wants to look like zsa zsa gabor in a dusty village picking olives? No matter.

I got to our meeting point and see a camera crew there, from German tv. I get into their minibus and notice I'm the only one wearing sandals. Everyone else is in sensible hiking boots or sneakers. As a rule, I generally don't wear closed shoes until it begins to pour in Jerusalem, which isn't until another month basically. I love my toe-exposed freedom. I chatted with a Dutch woman sitting next to me, telling her how therapeutic olive picking is. She told me she was going to nap. I guess she didn't want to hear about anyone needing therapy, and we shouldn't be thinking how good it feels to pick olives because we are on a serious MISSION! Our bus was packed with people sitting in the middle aisle in stools.

This was a Rabbis for Human Rights trip for a chance at Tikkun Olam - repairing the world - because the villages we were going to go to all had problems of one kind or another. Many were harassed by people living in nearby Jewish settlements - their olive groves were too close to settlement fences - and they were too frightened to go near them to harvest. Without the harvest, there would be a terrible lack of money. With roads closed to Palestinians and travel not an option for these people to work, they don't have many options to eke out a bare living. I had to help them out. We split into 3 villages and the one I went to was called Yasouf - right next to the settlement of Kfar Tapuach, where Rabbi Kahane's followers live. I mentioned I knew a family there (from a 12-step program) to another woman I spoke to telling her how convenient to know someone in case there were disturbances. So as we passed the gated entrance to the Jewish community, she says loudly so the whole bus can hear "SAY HI TO YOUR FRIENDS!!" Clearly, no one on that bus has any friends in any settlement. Oh dear. But never mind.

We disembarked in the middle of this quiet village and walked passed a beautiful paradise of sorts - a Garden-of-Eden-like oasis with a fresh cold-water spring in the middle. Beautiful flora and vegetation were growing there. It was stunning. "Is the water safe to drink"? I asked someone from the village. "It's alot healthier than what you have there," he said, dissing my mineral water. We tried to get ahold of families that were already in the fields waiting for us. We were in close proximity to the settlement fence but I sensed quiet for today even though there were harassments yesterday. In the distance I hear yelps and whoops coming from a Jewish shepherd who had 5 German shepherds with him and a herd of goats. He sounded and looked like Wild Bill Hickok or whatever Cowboy ruled the West in the late 1800s. "He's crazy, don't go near him." "He's a settler. All settlers are crazy." said the British journalist in the know. I wanted him to see exceptions to the rule. I told him where I live. "You're a settler then." Crazy, but not bad crazy. The head of another peace movement told me it's illegal to live where I live. I'm used to the same shit over and over again. I gave him my old shpiel.

We eventually got to the place where the family was waiting for us. We picked olives for 1/2 hour, together with this young family, and they decided it was time for us to eat. It's Ramadan, you don't have to feed us because you're not eating. Anyways, out came the pita, the chumous, the eggplant dips, and Coke. Things always go better with Coke. We saw the army and the police and a settlement security car on the road we had just come off of. They were watching everyone picking olives. Everyone was nervous of each other. The little boy who was 4 years old was pointing an olive twig at the police and pretended to shoot. That felt creepy. But when we were all finished, they thanked us profusely and invited us to break the Ramadan fast with them. The wife kissed me 4 times, even the "police-shooting" little boy blew me kisses.

We went on to find another family to pick olives with. We had just missed a visit from the army who had just told this group they had 15 minutes to finish up and leave. The army had given the villagers 3 days to harvest in what usually takes 3 weeks. This is why they needed all the help they can get to do their harvesting. A traditional way of life they had been doing each October - November for hundreds of years. I felt transported back to another era while I was picking olives and dammit it still felt therapeutic. Even as the olives rained down on my head from the people picking above me. Though at times, there was too much political discussion during the harvest. Occupation this and that. Arafat this and Arafat that. Sharon this and Sharon that. Fuck them all. Let's just sit down and talk and share.

My aching arm sore that morning, lost it's ache. They said there also had been an altercation with the Jewish shepherd we had seen earlier and one of the Rabbis, with the Shepherd yelling "Why are you helping them, they will cut out your intestines!!!" When we were done helping this family, my intestines still intact, we went to the last family in the grove, helping them for 15 minutes or so before soldiers came to visit us. I moved towards the elderly couple, like I'm a big fat shield. The soldiers were gruff and young. "We told you to move out 2 hours ago and you're still here. Move out now." We told them we wanted to stay until their mule came back to transport the rest of the olives. They allowed only 2 people to stay behind with the olives. The elderly Palestinian couple moved with us.

Meanwhile the army is videotaping us. Why? We were all wondering why. I figured it was to make us uncomfortable. Why else? It's not like we were doing anything wrong and picking olives in the nude or something. The Brit journalist turned around and didn't want to be photographed. I felt like going up the camera and introducing myself - Hi. My name is Leah and I'm happy to be here today helping Palestinians harvest their olives. If we would all help each other all the time, there wouldn't be any need for you guys to be in uniform and you'd be off in college somewhere like other normal kids your age everywhere else in the civilized world." Lovely speech but I never made it. I did mention to some of the Internationals - which is what we call the non-Israeli volunteers - that I had no problem being filmed because I'm only helping the State of Israel by doing this, not hurting it. I'm not burning flags, tires, yelling slogans. I'm just picking olives in this stifling fucking heat. I could have drunk the town out of water today, that's how thirsty I was. I was glad I wasn't observing Ramadan, trying to be discreet while drinking my own water. I felt sorry and sad for these soldiers who are so young and have to act so tough and make these life and death decisions, oftentimes at the risk of their own lives. On the way back, we stopped off at the well and took a tour of the Oasis. I thought if only the people in the fenced in settlement could have a look at how beautiful this place is, but they're too frightened to ever do so. Not now. Maybe one day they will saunter down and the people living side by side in this neck of the woods will trust each other again.

My bladder was bursting by this time and I was thrilled to be heading back. The "why don't you go in back of one of the olive trees" didn't do it for me. We met in the modern community center back in the village with the German camera crew in tow filming everyone in that room. I run into the bathroom. A TOILET!! But no paper. "Can anyone help me out with some tissue paper here" I asked - not caring that the film crew was filming, not caring if the entire country of Germany knew that I need to go - badly.

Getting off the bus in Jerusalem, I encountered someone I previously worked with in high-tech, a young Orthodox woman.
"Is that your bus from work?" she asked.
"No, I went on a trip on my day off."
"Really? Where?"
"Olive picking in Samaria"
"Oh, where can you do that?"
and by this time I knew she was completely puzzled. I explained about the fence and the 3 days Palestinians had to pick their olives and by this time the smile on her face vanished. But I didn't care. At least I was "out" about where I was and what I was doing. Let it just sink in.

Saturday, October 16, 2004


I'm irritating Hubby by viewing blogs today. "Sitting on your fat ass again, aren't you?" To stifle the hurt, I begin to daydream. My first daydreams must have been when I was 8 years old. I had a crush on Diver Dan from the TV series in the early 1960s. Kaptain Kangaroo never did it for me, neither did Mr. Greenjeans. Diver Dan would always rescue me from some argument my parents were having or from my non-castle-like life. Then there was Adam West in the Batman TV series who did the same. In very clear sequence I remember the objects of my daydreams. Robin was a total wimp - yecck. After that series, I daydreamed about Davy Jones from the Monkees. Why I didn't think he was a wimp was beyond me. He was the shortest Monkee but he was British, and I loved his Gypsy British look. As I got older, the daydreams weren't always so childish - most were xxx-rated. Hell, even Davy Jones daydreams were xxx-rated at times. In 8th grade and beyond, it was Paul McCartney. Oh what a hunk he was then. Anything was better than sitting in Bible classes with boring Bible teachers and Rebetzzins and Rabbis who tried to separate the sexes often very futilely. I was getting it on with Paul Mc - his real-life wife invisible in my dreams. During class, after class, he was with me when I was walking down the streets in the Bronx, even accompanying me on the subway. Delusional? Maybe. Who wouldn't want to escape the Bronx in the 1970s? I imagined myself in his home in St. John's Wood. Of course I wasn't 14 in my dreams. I was 18 and 19. Certainly not jailbait. When I graduated high school - a miraculous feat indeed - I graduated to the more hard-rocking Rolling Stones. I pretended I was best friends with Keith Richards, like a brother to me. Mick, feh. Didn't feature much in my dreams, except for me having smart answers to his sarcastic comments. I always had the right answers in my day dreams. In real life, I wasn't too assertive. I'm getting a bit better at it, but the awkwardness of realizing how unassertive I was - was terrible and so I daydreamed about having the balls, about not being shy, about getting what it is I wanted, even though I had absolutely not much of an idea what the hell I wanted. Now my latest movie star crush is invading my brain space. Oh dear. So now I don't know if I'm palpatating because I'm thinking about him or because it's a menopause thing. In my day dreams - besides the xxx-rated stuff you will not read about here - we do peace work together, we think alike, we want the same things in life, I'm not after him for his money although the fact that he has some certainly helps in life - I don't have to be a slave for a salary, we vacation in Sinai and swim with the Dolphins, I don't look like I'm pushing 50, he looks the same as he does now and we live happily ever after....

Friday, October 15, 2004

Ramadan and more

At the beginning of the week at work, this guy asked the girls at the reception desk whether they had a calendar that also featured Moslem holidays so he would know when Ramadan began, as he had Turkish clients. Everyone standing at the reception area looked in the direction of the office of the Resident Expert in Local Moslem Traditions, which happens to be me and told him to ask me, which he did. I told him it begins on Friday. I still don't know why Israeli calendars don't acknowledge Moslem holidays when we live with them, when we're surrounded by Moslem countries. Why? Oh well. There are probably too many different answers for that one. I won't even go there now.

While driving into Jerusalem this morning, I mentioned to Hubby that our ex-Criminal daughter is finally coming home today after not seeing her for 2 weeks. I was nervous because I need to hide my $ and my makeup when she's around. Hubby said he found new hiding spots for me thanks to the visit by the Narcs the other day, and told me where they looked, behind the air conditioner vent, in paint cans, etc. There's good in everything that happens.

While shopping at the shuk, where I hadn't shopped in a month, I felt a sort of homecoming. The guy at the nut stand handed me my 1/2 kilo of nuts, without my asking for them. The cheese man insisted I leave my shopping bags in his store until I finished shopping, so I took advantage and had a coffee and muffin at my favorite funky coffee shop there. I hear there is actually an Ethopian restaurant now in the shuk, but I have to find it first. So this coffee shop is a real tiny squishy place but everyone talks to each other. I found my girlfriend sitting down with her 12-step books and notebooks spread out over the table, and the owner is telling me to tell her not to bring her books on Fridays because "it's killing him." He needs all the space he can get on this day. I tell her the owner says not to bring your books on Fridays. She is ok with that. Then two women we don't know sit down with us and I'm telling my friend about the Narcs, etc. The women would rather hear my conversation than have one of their own. But when I listened in on their conversation, it sounded alot like ours - as they spoke about all the characters in the shuk and how it is so interesting to just sit and watch the colorful people all day long. I interjected and told them they can join my friend and I who want to bring folding chairs and sit in the middle of the shuk all day Friday until closing time, just to watch everyone. The French woman was so excited she babbled on to me in French, and I felt like I was sitting in some cafe in Rive Gauche. What the hell. I couldn't understand most of what she said, but it felt nice and luxurious.

Back home my kids tormented me as usual. Things are totally back to normal. The Complainer was upset that I wasn't sweeping the floor. "You're so lazy." "I'm cooking, don't you see!" trying to make her see that I wasn't just into Minesweeper computer games. But she continued - "other mothers work and they sweep AND cook". I'll never win with her. Even if I do end up sweeping and cooking. Plus I'd rather be playing Minesweeper.

I have come to the sad conclusion that because of the rather tense and stressful situation in this country, families like us are not considered dysfunctional here, but rather quite normal. As long as we're not divorced, murderers, gangsters, heroin addicts, etc., we're really ok. We're tight. We rock! I remember living in Canada where no one fights over land there. It's just too damn cold and big. No one wants it anyway. So the mood is relaxed other than the local kidnappers one has to watch out for in every city there and your local rapists - but there we were considered quite a dysfunctional family. Go figure.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Thank God it's Thursday

No one was as happy to get back to my work routine as I was today. Hubby and I decided that those narcs were really Elijah the prophet plus 2 angels, as a sign for Hubby to change his Cheech and Chong ways. At work my colleagues and I brainstormed about life. "Stick it up your jumper!" said one British expat who is in her mid-50s. She had sound advice for me. "When you're in your late 40s you get depressed. It's normal. You wonder if anything you ever did in your life was the right choice. You get fed up with your marriage, your kids. Then you get to be 50 and get even more depressed about the lines on your face and sagging boobs and bum until you get used to them, which you eventually do. After that, there are the pills, and then even your husband will become bearable." Yikes. Always look on the bright side of life, eh?

On a brighter note indeed, Miriam Shaviv wrote an article about me as one of the Jewish women bloggers in the Autumn issue of the British publication "The Jewish Quarterly". Here is the article.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Narcs and Sparks

You wouldn't believe how insane these past 24 hours have been. I was feeling a bit under the weather with a stomach flu of sorts and just settled on the couch to watch the film Kate and Leopold with my Good Daughter. About 1/2 hour into the movie, there's a knock on the door. I go to answer and 3 guys walk in. Never seen them before. They ask for Hubby by his middle name. Weird. Who are you people? "We're the police." Hell they didn't look like the police but they did hold some kind of warrant and my stomach sank further. What the hell was going on now? My Criminal Daughter hasn't been in any trouble since school began and Hubby was in the kitchen in a t-shirt and underwear. "I'm in my underwear", he whispered loudly to them "mind if I change?" By that time, I was sitting back on the couch trying to pretend this wasn't happening whatever "this" was. Was it work related? Was he witness to a crime? An accident? So instead of being polite and waiting until the trousers come on, they fucking follow him into the bedroom. I hear stuff turning over, like my mattress, and I ask Hubby pointblank - Are they looking for pot??? Yes, he said so solemnly. And they're not going to find any here, he told me. So in come these young narcs, one is tall and tough, one is short with a goatee and one looks 16 years old. And my wimp dog is licking their feet and rubbing against them. "We have proof that you bought drugs two months ago in this neighborhood. Give us names!!" they demanded. I'm still sitting on the couch, numb, trying to get into the movie, and half hearing what's going on. "What names? I have no names!" "Who are you friends here? "I have no friends in this neighborhood." - this conversation going back and forth. Meanwhile my eldest daughter walks in with her boyfriend and recognizes one of the narcs. "He's a narc? He smokes pot himself." She whispered to me. At first she had thought they were the Criminal Daughter's friends, until she recognized this one guy. They looked everywhere for evidence. In the electrical box, in the garden (I told them I grow herbs but not "those" herbs). In the end, they looked in his car and found 3 seeds (I'm not kidding) and put those seeds in a baggie. The tall guy looked triumphant! Evidence of pot! I could imagine the look on his supervisor's face as he brings in his haul. Man, what a party everyone could have on 3 seeds! They took Hubby to the police station trying to extract names, but he had none for them. But perhaps it scared him out of ever bringing that shit into the house.

This morning - we had our court case for our Criminal Daughter for stealing $100 from a friend's home with 3 other kids. By this time, I'm sitting in the court with her lawyer who is trying to explain the procedures to me, completely numb, thinking of beaches, and buying shoes, and eating fancy meals and anything but being where I was. I get a call. I'm really not in the mood to talk to anyone at the moment. "Who is THIS!" I practically screamed into the phone. "It's the public library. We have the Harry Potter book you ordered and it will be available for you until Monday." "Thank you!" and this librarian had no idea how relieved I was to hear that kind of news.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

First Rains

Jerusalem had its first rain yesterday. This always has been a thrilling moment. All of a sudden as I'm about to leave my office about 4:30 pm - I see and hear the rain. It was beautiful. Everything seemed much greener (except for my wallet). Imagine how the trees and rocks felt after no rain since April. With the sun beating down on you day after day. Imagine not being able to take a shower for so long (never mind, don't dare imagine that!). But that's probably how the trees felt. And I saw the first rainbow of the season, which seemed to hover over East Jerusalem. My kids jealously asked if I had seen the rain and walked in it. We live on the edge of the Judean desert and the rain comes to us a bit later on and it's always a bit lighter than it is in Jerusalem. So there was no rain, but they did hear thunder and saw a bit of lightening coming from Jerusalem.

Also a first, one reader of this blog is making her journey to Jerusalem and we hope to meet the end of the month. It'll be nice to meet face to face at last.

Monday, October 11, 2004

RIP Christopher Reeve

I was sad to hear Christopher Reeve died this morning. He used to be my neighbor when I lived in NYC in the late 1970s, so this celebrity death was especially difficult. We lived in a small 10 apartment brownstone on West 83rd Street, he on the 5th and I lived on the 3rd floor. He stayed there until he made Superman II and then he left for more luxurious surroundings. In fact I read an interview with him saying he lived in a dingy walk up - I wanted to kill that person. It wasn't dingy at all - not a luxury building but not dingy. It was right off Central Park West. And Christopher was so quiet and nice. I had a window facing the front so when I'd see him coming back in a taxi with all his luggage I'd grab my garbage and take it to the trash bin in front of our house - just at that moment to help him with the door and say hello. Never made those stupid superman cracks like why don't you just fly up with those damn heavy bags. He partied some times with Ron Wood of the Stones, which I never knew until years later, at Ron's LA place. He never threw any wild parties in his NY pad. You never heard a peep from his apartment. Not like my neighbor who used to say "Ohmmmmmmms" real loud in the bathroom and I could hear him as if there was no wall there. When he moved out his dad moved in with some much younger woman and my friend and I would laugh as they would come back from their jog - he would be sweating bricks and she was just flushed with nary a bead of sweat to be found. I loved that place in NYC. I moved there in 1977 just as the neighborhood was becoming yuppie-land. My parents had a difficult time with it. "It's ugly" they would tell me. No matter how nicely I decorated it, they hated it, because I wasn't living with them or I wasn't living with a husband. I worked for Sire Records in 1978 for a couple of years - pre-Madonna. It was a 10 minute walk from my home so I was able to keep partying hours which meant going to sleep at 3 am and waking up at 9:00 am, feeding the cat and getting to work on time at 10:00 am. We worked from 10:00 - 6:00 pm. Not only did we get the usual record company perks like free passes to the Capitol theatre (which was useless because cool New Yorkers hardly ever went to "Joisey"). I remember going there twice, once for a Bruce Springsteen concert in 1978 and once for a Ramones concert. Peter Tork from the 1960s band the Monkees did a demo at Sire's tiny basement recording studio and was stark broke. They couldn't afford a hotel. I was the one who hoarded his band Cotton Mouth for a couple of nights while they recorded. He was so Californian. He made fun of my 5 inch stiletto heels and admonished me saying I should be wearing Birkenstocks. Yuck. Shoes of hippies. Never. I'm from Manhattan. I'm into sleek duds. Fuck Birkenstocks. My livingroom looked like a refugee camp but it was thrilling nevertheless, as I made them all dinner and actually had some magazines from the 1960s, which we perused and laughed over. If someone had told me in 1966 when I was 10 that Peter Tork would one day crash over at my house, I would have laughed. I introduced him to my friend, whom he slept with the next day. They really got along great, hey - I thought a relationship would be in the works for them. But she never did hear from him. She was so disappointed, she was all set - at a Monkees reunion a couple of years later - to have her young son wear a t-shirt saying "Peter is my dad". Thank God she never did do it. So there's a small glimpse of my rather exciting life 25 years ago...

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Back to work

My two bosses are out this week, which means I have time to clear up all this mess on my desk while they are away. I had planned to take 3 days off to go to Sinai, but since that seems like vacationing in Gaza, I'm not going to do it. Yet. I've committed myself to olive harvesting with Palestinians instead one day this week with one of the Rabbis for Human Rights who keeps on getting arrested for standing in front of bulldozers while they try to demolish Palestinian homes in the Jerusalem area. It'll be great to finally meet this man. But anyway, just to ramble - I missed alot of stuff this past week. I could have gone snorkelling for snails at Hof Dor, which is a beautiful beach on the Mediterranean up in northern Israel. These snails are believed to emit a blue dye which was used during biblical times to dye fringes which are worn by men as a 4-cornered garment. This snail was rediscovered in recent years and the dyeing process has begun again. There was a bird observation trip I missed by the Beit Shean valley. I did fuck-all yesterday but play Minesweeper on my computer and had hours of endless fun clicking on the "next blog" feature trying to pick up some good reading. Some were hysterically funny, and then I would click on all their links and I got to this site called "Awful plastic surgery" where you could see before and after photos of celebrities. Feh. I'm glad I'm too poor and actually even if I wasn't poor, too frightened to go under a surgeon's knife for a little nip and tuck. I'll have to grow old and wrinkled. So frightening did the botched up jobs look. And the fake boobs!! What is with everyone getting those? So much for cleaning my house. Anyway, if I missed those fabulous trips during the holiday and will be missing a trip to Sinai this weekend, I'll be sure to report on the trip I won't miss - which is a trip to the courthouse where my Criminal daughter (who along with others) who stole about $100 from a friend's home (who is obviously no longer a friend) will be on trial on Wednesday. I think I'd rather go to Sinai.

Our interfaith Sukkah gathering - me in foreground

My friend's casbah-like sukkah complete with futons inside for sleeping

Inside the Sukkah made of lights

Sukkah of light - City Hall - Jerusalem

Hubby in our Sukkah - notice the Christmas tinsel

Sukkot celebrations in Jerusalem

Ibrahim's wall poster

Party at Ibrahim's

Feast at Ibrahim's house

Mt of Olives party

the little ass-pinchers

Saturday, October 09, 2004


"Why is it when there's so much food in the kitchen sink, does this fly have to buzz around me?" asked Hubby as the sun began to rise. Too early for a Saturday wake up call. But I couldn't sleep either. Why this and why that. I took my dog out for his morning romp in the park. Why is my dog gay? Couldn't care less for female dogs, but try and take him away from his male counterparts, he wimpers like a, well, wimp. I watched as Hubby started on the dishes. I took a 2 minute bathroom break to note that he nearly finished them. Why does it take me about 1/2 hour for kitchen clean-up and it takes him 3 minutes to straighten everything up? Why does my female friend have armpit hair and it doesn't look bad on her when she walks around sleeveless. It's hardly noticeable, but if ~I~ don't shave for 2 days, the growing stubble is just nauseating. I went to do a load of laundry. Why is it that when I do one load, 2 more waiting loads suddenly appear out of nowhere? The more laundry I do, the more it grows. Why is it that our friend's father recently died? He was in his 80s (I think) and was on a strict macrobiotic diet. I thought those people always lived to 120 years old.

Friday, October 08, 2004


It was pretty heavy last night going from party to party and then coming home and mourning the dead from Sinai's terrorist attacks. Especially since I was mourning for so many different reasons - for the families lost, injured, for the upcoming vacation I wanted to take this weekend in Sinai near Nueiba, but now no one will go with me (I am mad enough to still go), for the bedouin that depend on Israeli tourism which make up 90% of their income - all that will be lost for at least the next 6 months. If nothing further happens in that region, then they'll go back slowly but surely. It happened before but not to this great a damage. I went for coffee today at the shuk to commissirate with friends. I get to such a high, then to such a low. Such is life here. And one of my friends told me that in order to avoid the "ass patting" incident next time with the little kids on the Mt. of Olives, I should put crazy glue on my ass - then wait. Hee Hee! My other friend came by at the same time two women walked past with Sinai t-shirts. "The bedouin there always know what is going on. They know what cars go past. They know what's in them. They know everything." My friend is a Sinai regular going a few times a year to Tarabin. "Why and how didn't they see this coming? This is so strange and out of character for them. There are so many checkpoints in Sinai, how did 3 bombers get through?" I don't know. I just don't know anything anymore. All I know is that I got so caught up in conversation that I missed my last bus home before the Sabbath, as buses don't run during the Sabbath. Ooops. If it weren't for my 12 year old son, I'd have everyone fend and cook for themselves. But he still needs me terribly. Hubby came to the rescue and brought his wandering wife home.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Ended is the Holiday

I was supposed to go with Hubby to a "pressure relief" meeting at 6:30, which was to help alleviate some financial pressure of his business and our home life - a part of debtor's anonymous where you sit with 2 other people who have been solvent non-debtors for 3 months at least. They listen objectively and then advise. I got sidetracked and told Hubby there wasa party at 5:00 at the All Nations Cafe and then we can go afterwards to the "pressure relief" meeting. We got to the Cafe and saw Dhyon there with a group of people I didn't know. He said the cafe had moved up to downtown Mt. of Olives until renovations are completed on the old one. Fine. Hubby didn't look too thrilled. We heard music coming from down the street -guitars, darboukas, flutes, etc. A herd of about 60 bedraggled Jewish hippies were trudging up the steep hill. I'm already walking with them excited about a peace party anywhere with these people. Hubby was horrified at the sight and said he's going back to the car. If I want to go hang with them - fine. Forget about peace in the home for a night, I thought. I walked up this very steep hill; the path looked like it had been in use for hundreds of years, but I would have preferred riding on a donkey than walking and slipping and falling as some did. As we were a large group and noisy, there was a residential section at the top of the hill and people were looking at us seriously wondering what was going on. "SALAAAM!!!" everyone shouted to the residents and darboukas banged on wildly. The local children met us at the top of the hill. We made a large circle, some of the younger men took some of the kids on their shoulders and danced with them. I took some photos and the kids got wild "ME! ME! ME!" they all shouted at me and wanted to see instant photos in the digital. One wanted to scrape her photo off the monitor because she thought she could. The little boys behaved badly. As we walked in the direction of the cafe, the circle broken up, I felt little hands patting my ass. I turned around to shout at whoever was the culprit, but they were faster than my reflexes, plus I didn't know how to shout - Get your fucking hands off my ass, you little squirts - in Arabic. But the little girls were sweet and we hugged and kissed them good bye as we walked into the cafe, which was owned by Ibrahim's nephew. We were a big crowd and grabbed alot of attention from the 20 older men hanging around in the street, looking at us like what the fuck are all these Jews doing in our 'hood. Ignoring the not-too-friendly-looking stares, we sauntered into the cafe, musical instruments playing and all of us singing peace songs in Hebrew and Arabic. They served us Arabic coffee and some pancake-like pastry smothered in honey - on the house. I saw my other buddy Ismail there with Claire, who always hosts the Jerusalem peacemaker circle in her home. So I didn't explain anything about all these people who I met today. They are part of this group, who in the name of peace, walk into Jerusalem during the 3 Jewish holiays of Passover, Shavuot and Succot, when in biblical times, people made a pilgrimate to Jerusalem. So they do the same, but in the name of peace and stay in Arab villages on the way to Jerusalem, etc. I forgot the name of this group - but Dhyon probably has it on his All Nations Cafe site. Not everyone was Jewish. There was one person there wearing a giant cross - her name was Mary Margaret, which sounded more like Mary Magdalene the way she said it. She was from South Africa and wanders around the world, but has stayed in Jerusalem for the past two months because it is God's will. I met a British young man who doesn't claim to be part of any religion but also was here because of a message from God. Looks like we were all from the same planet and ended up in the same small country, trying to do the same seemingly-impossible thing. From the cafe we walked 5 minutes more to Ibrahim's house where he supplied us with dinner - he even had a section where everything was strictly kosher for those that only eat strictly kosher. But everything was vegetarian so that the veggie people wouldn't feel uncomfortable. There were a couple of Unification Church people hanging out at his house. I knew it right away when one of them came over to me "My dad is black, my mother is white and my wife is Chinese." A typical Rev. Moon family. From there I saw Ismael getting ready to leave and I hitched a ride with him and a writer called Mark to the bus stop. The driver Khaled heard me mention the word "knafeh" a wonderfully rich Arabic desert, which I'm madly addicted to. "You want knafeh? We're taking you to the best bakery in Jabel Mukaber" - a village just outside West Jerusalem and he didn't ask if I wanted to go, but decided that's where the 4 of us are going. I didn't mind being hijacked for knafeh. When we got there, the place was closing, so no knafeh, but we sat down for baklaveh sweets, which was Ismael's treat to us, plus he gave me a plateful for me to take home "for your children." On the way back to the bus stop, Khaled told me he is a Sufi and also knew the Sufi Sheikh Bukhari. I mentioned some things I learned about Abraham from the Koran - Sura 2. He was impressed and said I could be a Moslem because I believe in one God. He continued "Adam was a Moslem, as was Abraham, and Jacob and Joseph...." He was hijacking all OUR Jewish holy people!!!! Wait a minute there! But I really didn't care if he thought they were Moslems. What does it matter what they were really. Just if we did all act like Abraham from the Bible or Ibrahim from the Mt. of Olives, who I really believe are the same people, we wouldn't be having this war with each other.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004


I don't know what's up with me these days. There were so many things I needed to take care of and so much spare time to do it in. There were so many events going on, even a friend's father's funeral and I didn't go to any of them. I didn't clean my house. I didn't file. I just kept on hearing like a broken record over and over again - you're not like other mothers, they work, they clean .blah blah blah. Even my 12 year old son joined in the chorus. The succah on my porch with all its tinsel, looks sad and depressed. There's no one in it and no one that cares that it's there. Just me. 2 of my kids were off with friends and I didn't see them the entire holiday. Tonight - the last night of the holiday, I'm home with the Complainer who is upstairs sleeping off a night out with the girlfriends and my Son. Hubby is in his cave and probably will remain there the rest of the night. I was supposed to go at noon to help escort Palestinian children in the South Hebron hills. There was an incident last week where 2 Christian peacemakers escorting the children to their school (because of incidents with settlers harassing them) were beaten up and one was hospitalized. The assailants were English and Hebrew speaking. I was set to go but the woman organizing it said they had enough volunteers. I was actually nervous about going - not because of Palestinians who would probably be grateful that Jews are helping them out here but fearing these crazy young Jews would try and start up with us as we're escorting these kids. Isn't it odd that I'd feel nervous moreso with my own people. It made me extremely depressed. One of the reasons why I am feeling a bit down. I was going to go yesterday afternoon on a short hike in the Jerusalem hills to see some springs but was too lethargic to even get ready to go. Tomorrow there's a party at the Mt. of Olives - perhaps in combination with the ending of the Jewish holiday but together with our Moslem friends. I am goig to try -really try to make it to that one. Something has got to brighten up my day. One thing nearly did and which made me feel not quite that alone in the universe. I read HopeWays newsletter. It began like this "People have often asked us in the last 14 months if we were "pro-Palestinian" or "pro-Israeli", "right-wing" or "left-wing", "religious" or "secular"... We have always answered these questions with a single word: "Yes". We are pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli, both right and left, both religious and secular. In fact, there is no other way of supporting peace. To support only one of the sides means to work for conflict and hostility, not for mutual acceptance and reconciliation..." It is comforting to know I'm not the only one that thinks exactly like this.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Richard Gere in Jerusalem a few months ago - Ibrahim in the background getting a hug (the short man)

name calling

Kind of a childish thought, but I was thinking about the names people have called me in recent months that have brought a smile to my face. One is "Arab lover". Not usually used in a loving tone, this is what some former friendsand some of my children are calling me. It certainly brings my mood up when people call me that. During my last day at work before the holidays, the Professor I work for smiled at me and called me a "heavyweight - and I don't mean in kilos". Getting a compliment out of him is not that easy and it certainly brightened my day. I went to a moshav (communal living - not exactly a village, not exactly a kibbutz - but has a rural village feel to it) where all the members were former 1960s hippies and have returned to a life of religious Judaism, and they look Orthodox with their head coverings and long beards (only the men of course) but when they talk to you, you can still notice a bit of that former life in them. Many are artisans, craftspeople, etc. I said hello to a woman there who dresses like a Gypsy. She hadn't seen me in a couple of years -"Hellooo! Don't you look like a hippie!" - To have an original former hippie call me a hippie was a large compliment of sorts. I felt 20 years old again. I was thrilled! I was only 12 when Woodstock hit in 1969 and felt like everyone's kid sister. So now I'm "one of them". The other person I work for who is the President of the Foundation said her daughter was a "bohemian like yourself". I felt like I belong with the likes of Bob Dylan being called a Bohemian. Ahh to be in those Greenwich Village cafes in the late 1950s/early 1960s!

Besides all the name calling - I found another friend of mine whom I hadn't seen or heard from since I was 12. You see because of this peace work, I made a connection with an old schoolmate who is doing alot of the same kind of parallel work I am doing here - with the Peacemaker Circle. Through an e-mail I got from the Peacemaker Circle community inviting me to the Auschwitz Bearing Witness retreat, where people of all religions and many nations get together to dialogue and meditate. I recognized the name of the USA coordinator who went to the same religious girls school I went to in the Bronx. she was the first real "hippie". She was 13 already in Grade 8 and had long straight hair which she parted in the middle and wore peace beads and had a peace sign necklace. The rest of us "straighties" still parted our hair on the sides and didn't get into all the hippie clothing until high school. I would love to see her again plus she knows Eliyahu and some of the others I work with here. I wrote her and immediately got an answer. YES! She did got to that awful religious school in the Bronx and did I meet Richard Gere when he was in Israel last? No, I never did meet him, although he is high on my list of hunks to meet. However, my friend Ibrahim did meet with him when he was here recently and chauffered him around and Richard was lucky enough to get a big fat Ibrahim hug.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Sukkah gathering

In the midst of the holiday, I invited my interfaith group to my home. The Palestinians didn't want to take the buses - I don't know whether it was because they're not comfortable on Jewish buses or not comfortable because buses occasionally blow up here. When the first shift of people came, I asked Suhair if she was uncomfortable coming to my place, or did she feel nervous. The only time they felt uncomfortable was at the meeting place at French Hill. There the way they were running to the car that picked them up, aroused the attention of some soldiers who yelled at them to stop and checked their ID's. He explained that is the way the last female suicide bomber approached some soldiers. I couldn't understand it fully, but they all seemed fine when they passed the checkpoint into the suburb of Jerusalem where I live - Ma'aleh Adumim, considered one of the biggest settlements. I hate using the term "settlements" because it denotes separation of some sort and denotes borders which are politically incorrect. I didn't have to explain anything to the 3 Palestinian women who showed up along with 3 Christians (the Jews, as usual showed up 2 hours later). They seemed to understand simple logistics of why I would want to settle in this place. I pay half of what they pay in rent and property taxes as living in Jerusalem in unaffordable for us. It was hot again today and I had these grandoise plans of making simple things like Potato Bourekas, Tabouli salad and Israeli salad, but couldn't get to any of them because I had to work until 1:30 pm and the kids actually woke up and decided 1/2 hour before the party began that the place needed a bit of cleaning. My daughter's bean bag tore upstairs and she put in on our upper porch. The wind blew all the foam beans all over the house, our garden and our neighbor's garden. They complained bitterly to my kids at having to clean up that mess from their property. They're chronic complainers anyway and I laughed when my kids told me about their complaining, thinking about how frustrating it is to sweep up the light tiny little foam beads, as they escape the broom with any tiny gust of movement. They complained to Hubby last year because we hadn't planted anything in our garden and the dirt would blow up onto their porch, which they had the misfortune of having to clean. "They want us to buy plants, let them buy us plants" I said to Hubby. But getting back to the party (am I ADHD or what!?? Focus girl - focus!), we all sat around the hot plastic sukkah eating dips and various breads/pitas. they marvelled at how lovely it was. I told them about next year's plan to swathe the walls in wall hangings as my friend in Jerusalem had done. I managed to get a lulav and etrog - which is citron and palm branches - with myrtle branches and willows on the side of the palms. It's traditional to make blessings over these waving them with one hand in all directions for the unity of the Jewish people - I recited the blessings in English and Hebrew and waved them around in every direction. I actually forgot alot of the symbolism but Karmela the nun came to my rescue and in detail explained what everything was and why we used them and do what we do with them. She had gone to Meah Shearim - a very ultra-Orthodox neighborhood in Jerusalem and asked questions from the guy selling these things. He looked at her - "what is it to you?" Not because he knew she was a Christian, she can pass for Golda Meir's sister, but because she was a woman and what do women care about such things." But the man next to him insisted she be told because "maybe there's not a man around and she wants to tell her kids." "That's right" smiled Karmela. And she got the story of why and what and how. 5 hours later, everyone left and my house is empty now. But at least it was a joy being blessed by Rose who blessed our home in Hebrew and feeling a big euphoric at the fact that I accomplished sharing one of our traditions with others of different religions.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Sukkah hopping

I needed to get out of the house last night - to go sukkah hopping - to check out the latest and the greatest ones around town. I actually didn't see anything that spectacular. The city erected a very gaudy one built of lightbulbs which was a crowded spectacle. Hubby was going to accompany me on my outing and then frustrated by his overcrowded closet, said -fuck it, he's not going anywhere. I decided what the heck, I'll go on my own, rather than grow old and moldy waiting for my loved ones to join me. After viewing the one at city hall, I went to my friend's sister's house in Rehavia - a posh neighborhood in Jerusalem. She had this big makeshift sukkah - with two sections - one for eating and one for sleeping. Hardly any tinsel just lots of palm fronds for the roof. The walls were covered with Indian sheets/material and on the floor were carpets and futons. The place looked like a middle eastern bordello. It was actually so very lovely it was hard to leave. I felt I was off in a tropical island hut drinking warm Carlsberg and eating caramel Hershey kisses, a new import from New York. What could be better. My friends were talking about people they knew who had just recently died. It got spooky. Then they got prophetic. "This place is going to see real upheaval this year. Every Jew is going to leave the US/Diaspora and come here. This is the place to be." I did't quite get what they were getting at. Was the Messiah about to come? Were they smoking too much pot? My friend left her sister's place to bring her kids back where her kids had some original ideas for sukkah decorations, plastic power rangers and the like. We went out to see what Jerusalem's only Irish pub was like only to be highly disappointed. I ordered Irish Coffee - "sorry, we don't serve hot drinks here." "HOT DRINKS!? IT's COFFEE WITH IRISH WHISKY INSIDE." I tried to explain but she didn't understand, while the Chieftains' music blared in the background. The bartender offered me Bailey's Irish cream instead which she served to me in a big glass, about 2 tablespoons worth. My friend's frozen margarita tasted like cotton candy. What a disappointment save for the Irish music.