At our interfaith meeting yesterday, I was quite surprised and pleased to learn that the Koran promotes peace, reconciliation, etc. It's unfortunate that many regimes do their own thing and don't promote these particular characteristics which are much more humane. And that terrorists show Islam in a bad light.
1) "Believers are brothers - spread reconciliation among your brothers". We were told that "believers" do not just mean Moslems, rather anyone/everyone who believes in God.
2) "Spreading enmity between people is worse than murder" - So all those regimes that spread lies about Judaism and Christiantiy - take heed.
3) "No obligation in religion" - that is to say, that a Moslem must not oblige others to embrace Islam or he must not oblige others to pray or fast or follow the Islamic rituals. He can only adivse others to do so but not oblige. - Those Taliban guys in Afghanistan were doing it all wrong and the Iranians and the Saudis....
So if Islamic heads of state really took these verses to heart, wouldn't the world look different today?
Wednesday, June 30, 2004
At our interfaith meeting yesterday, I was quite surprised and pleased to learn that the Koran promotes peace, reconciliation, etc. It's unfortunate that many regimes do their own thing and don't promote these particular characteristics which are much more humane. And that terrorists show Islam in a bad light.
Tuesday, June 29, 2004
We had our monthly meeting last night. There were 11 of us in this gorgeous former home of Conrad Schick, who designed a number of Jerusalem neighborhoods in the last century. Now it belongs to the Swedish Theological Institute. A few new members showed up - a Franciscan Friar from Bethlehem. The word "friar" means "sucker" in Hebrew (one who gets conned easily, one who works for nothing, one who pays too much for something)- so I found it quite amusing when he told us he was a "friar" from Bethlehem. I asked him what the difference was between a friar and a priest and he explained that friars were Brothers whereas priests were Fathers. I think there were an equal number of each religion represented this time around. Someone wondered out loud if this group is effective in any way, she had some reservations if it was doing any good. Another mentioned that the women's group had been meeting every month for the past 2 years despite all the political difficulties and hardships people go through here and it is still preservering. I wanted us to go more public - to be seen in more public places, having coffee outside so people will see a mixed group, maybe take a second look and a third, maybe even getting newcomers interested because they "see" it happening. Like "What's going on here?" A Moslem woman was in charge of the refreshments much to the slight dismay of another person who commented - "You know them and their hospitality. They have to go all out (which she did - we had an amazing meal!). It's not in their culture to just bring drinks and cookies to a meeting. It's not in their culture to get receipts for the food either." I laughed. We were always so used to just coffee and cookies at meetings but this woman brought a carload of food. Trouble is - the main person in charge of reimbursing the group for refreshments will probably hit the ceiling when he sees the bill. ...Just some of the more amusing cultural differences you find here.
Monday, June 28, 2004
My friend Gloria who worked with me at Sire Records many many years ago, once said to someone about us - "we weren't made to drive, we were made to be driven." I never bothered to learn how to drive when living in NYC. It was just unnecessary, and I didn't want to have the hassle of having to park the damn thing. It was so much more convenient to either walk or bus it. But when I got to Toronto I felt hemmed in - by the cold, by having to walk 10 minutes in below zero weather to wait for a bus while pregnant with my first child, etc. I decided to learn how to drive at age 28. Driving in that city was a breeze, people were polite and there was hardly any traffic. We bought used Volvos - because Hubby deemed it "the safest car". Now in Israel, we took a huge bank loan to finance our first car - a Hyundai lantra wagon. It's been nicknamed the Batmobile. We've had it nearly 8 years. I hardly drive it, because Jerusalem is chaotic and everyone cuts in front of you, just because they want to get there a second quicker than you. The car has been through the mill. It's been to the pound. It's been repossessed. Before that happened Hubby would "hide" the car several blocks away from our place so the repo's wouldn't find it. One of the repo men spotted it on a job site and off it went. We hired a lawyer, who was an excellent wheeler (no pun intended) and dealer and he managed to get it back for us within 3 months. We had to pay 3 months of storage fees though to get it out (Now we have a neighbor going through the same thing - hiding his huge truck blocks away from where he lives). I felt liberated without the car, strangely enough. I didn't have to shell out enormous $ for gas. And did I feel healthy. We walked everywhere. We have to pay for auto registration each year, which is a hassle, but cars have to undergo a test each year and if they don't pass, you don't get your registration sticker, and if you don't get your sticker, you get fined heavily. Hubby somehow managed to forget to register his car for 5 years until he got caught. Pleading "Not knowing the language and culture and laws" got his court fine lowered and he is finally up-to-date. Then there are the hitchhikers. I'm always telling Hubby "pick them up" and he drives passed them, while I notice the look on their faces after they've been "passed over". He tells me "there's no room in the back" even though it's empty, or "there's too much equipment in the car". My Chassidic friend once told us that if we do something good for someone with our car - like pick up hitchhikers - we'll have less problems with the Batmobile. I tell him that. My son, when riding with dad, tells me Hubby does pick up hitchhikers but they're "only women". :-)
Sunday, June 27, 2004
I just read over the weekend that Rev. Sun Myung Moon donned a golden crown at a US Senate office building and declared himself the Messiah. Very nice. This reception was billed as a peace awards thing.
They tried this "interfaith peace" thing on us nearly 2 years ago. We got an invitation to this "Interfaith" dinner at the Hyatt Hotel in Jerusalem. At no cost, we just had to rsvp. I called up Hubby to tell him the Good News! There was no mention of it being a Moonie thing - it listed all the organizations involved and sounded quite legit. So we went. Outside a few ultra-orthodox Jews were handing out leaflets warning participants that this was a Moonie thing. We noticed it was a Moonie thing as soon as we walked into the Hyatt. There were hundreds of people, mostly Asian, dressed very well - very polished-looking and orderly. This is something that scares Israelis to the bone. Not only that, every few feet, someone would motion us to a different part of the hotel. We were escorted to the registration room, where they had us sign in, and gave us name tags, and then the reception room where people gathered informally and after that to the dinner room. The place was set exquisitely. There were "representatives" already seated at the tables waiting for their "bait". At this point, Hubby freaked and said he wasn't about to get brainwashed by this cult and paced nervously outside, even though my friends Ibrahim and Eliyahu and a few others were already seated. He came back in to tell me that he was leaving and I could stay but he warned me that when he stepped outside 25 "geisha" types followed him around, pretending to look elsewhere but they were keeping an eye. He insisted - "You don't know how they brainwash people. They're showing a film. I'm sure you'll not even know you're being brainwashed.." Brainwash, shmainwash. I was so damn hungry and looking at the elegantly set table and the first course awaiting I just didn't fucking care and told him so. The dinner went on, we had fun musical entertainment, and the German/American moonies at my table struck up a conversation with me and handed me their business cards. They spoke about wonderful things like everyone getting along and Christian groups were there who had taken down their crosses from their houses of worship so as not to "estrange" themselves from the rest of humankind. To blend as one. That's a moonie thing. Which is why every couple I saw were a mixed race or mixed nationality couple. A few weeks after the dinner, I got a phone call from one of "them" saying she wants to meet me to talk. I pushed her off twice and she never called again.
They showed up again in Jerusalem in December, when they all went up to the Temple Mount and circled the old city of Jerusalem in the name of peace. I walked up with them to photograph them and their yellow vests. They brought busloads of people, mostly Arabs from the North to party with the Jews and Moonies at Independence Park. I was there out of curiosity - but then the guy on stage was like - "And only Reverend Moon can bring peace to the world". The Arabs were like "well who the fuck is he?".
They came back yet again in May, but this time the natives were wise to it and very few of us showed up for their march through downtown Jerusalem.
It's not up to Rev. Moon to bring peace - it's up to the people who live here.
Friday, June 25, 2004
Ever compile them? I've done them in my Debtor's Anonymous program, where we'd be asked to list everything we want - no matter how atrocious sounding. Some of mine are grandoise and may never come to fruition - like a 3 month world cruise or an apartment in New York. Others are more practical and do-able within time. It's having the patience to wait to get them (without having to buy them on a charge card) that's an issue - like a home computer, a digital camera, a printer, screens for the windows so the stray cat - whose become buddies with my dog - doesn't enter our home during the night and help herself to leftovers on the kitchen counters or sink or garbage. Others are on my immediate list - like jeans for my son, and sandals for my daughter as my dog chewed up her wooden ones I bought her last month, a haircut and some makeup for me. Oh and not to forget the the pleasurable stuff I'd like to do during the summer - like having breakfast in one of the many beautiful restaurants that have sprung up in the Jerusalem hills with decadent all-you-can-eat buffets. Or visit one of the numerous spas they have here with their quiet ambience. Most of them are in the Galilee in rustic areas. And what do I do for my daughter's graduation gift? Take her out for dinner? Have a mother and daughter day in Tel Aviv? She hasn't a clue what she wants and that's a dangerous area for me because it'll turn out to be absolutely nothing if she continues to want nothing. And I'll have to be the social planner here. She wants to go to Eilat but over there the nightlife starts at close to midnight and usually entails going to some dance club with godawful electronic music. Isn't there anyplace around anymore that plays some good James Brown? So she'd rather do that one with friends, and I don't blame her. I did manage to cross out one thing I wrote down on my monthly wish list - which was getting the tiny front garden together. I bought enough plants to make me happy this month - most of which are daisy-like flowers and scented jasmine. I used to crave a large garden where I could plant all the biblical trees and plants like a fig tree, pomegranate tree, myrtle, etc. but I'm content these days with this small one. I think that's the trait I'm going to need to work on the most. Being content with what I have and those wish lists will shrink from five pages to one.
Thursday, June 24, 2004
Talk about the Enchanted Garden. That's where I was this past Tuesday. I went reluctantly but curiously to the weekly meeting of the Macrolover's Jerusalem group - a society of macrobiotic eating. I used to toy with that diet throughout the years, but like any addict, went right back to my unhealthy eating habits of sugar and the highs of chocolate indulgence. There are times when I have a health scare or just feel under the weather a little more than I'd like and I'd revert back to this diet and I'd feel oh so healthy while I'm on it. This diet is of Japanese origin, they use alot of seaweed which is high in iron and other good shit. And if you like sushi, as I do, you won't mind the seaweed. Then everything has to be whole grain. Whole grain pasta and whole grain rice and whole grain bread. No dairy, absolutely no red meat, an occasional meal of organic chicken is allowed as is some seafood. 70% grains, 20% veggies and 10% legumes - something like that. It's a strange diet and a difficult one. It takes hours to prepare a meal, although its strong adherents to this diet claim they know all the shortcuts. They have something that's called Seitan - a soy substitute for meat. But it sounds like Satan, and looks pretty evil too, until it's cooked. No nightshades are allowed - and that is tomatoes, potatoes and eggplant - which is what I eat most of the time. Beets are borderline. I remember the "strict ones" at a macro dinner once all whispering that the hostess was serving shredded beets. "I'm not going to eat that" - hissed one. Is that not a "healthier than thou" attitude?
The people in this group were so quiet, it was nearly frightening. No shouting, everyone eating quietly - they say you must chew each bite of food at least 50 times, so it takes ages to eat a meal. I actually felt so relaxed eating like this, consciously chewing together with all these calm people. Plus I never knew this place existed in Jerusalem. It was in one of the wealthier parts of town behind high walls. I never knew what was inside. It looked scary. There was a sign that said "Hansen's Hospital" so I thought perhaps it was a mental hospital of some sort. Turns out this woman's parents had been living on these premises since 1965. They had taken over an abandoned house with the permission of the present owners - the government agency of the Jewish National Fund - and were quietly restoring the gardens of this former 120 year old hospital for lepers. When they arrived, there were still lepers living there, but eventually they were all transferred and only this family remained (her father was a surgeon at another hospital). She created an organic garden and the people tending it are kids with Down's Syndrome. Other groups coming to tend gardens are Ultra-Orthodox single mothers with their children. She is correct at being nervous that "they" might one day tear this place down and build high-rises or some other monstrosity. Which is why she is remaining very low key about this place and doesn't advertise it too much.
Wednesday, June 23, 2004
It's one of those weeks at work. I should really be relaxed - more relaxed than usual because my main boss is away. He's an elderly man who I have to call by his title. I really resented it at first, because I'm not into hierarchies of any kind, but I got to understand him and respect him for what he is. He taught me alot. I work in a small place, but since I'm the main point person for any English work done in the company, I get swamped. Every time I put the phone down, someone else is calling for a message for this one, and I should call this person and make appointments for this one, and charge this one's palm pilot or order me this and order me that, edit this report and edit that report, file this and file that with no one knowing but the HR guy that I do hundreds of things a day. And to top that off, Hubby stops in either before I start work or right when I have to leave - for me to type up this quote for him and e-mail it to this person and fax it to that person, I just need to SCREAM. And after that instead of going home to relax today I have to go to an excrutiating painful end-of-year party for my 5th grader - all boys. So, I won't be getting home until late. I nearly forgot to arrange for transportation for my 14 year old Criminal daughter to get her bus tickets for camp. While I'm typing this - and this is after work hours - I've got people asking me to check this person's calendar and popping in say goodbye - I've got no time to say goodbye folks. I really need a place to chill. I've got 7 minutes to finish this blog, (now it's six) and take my coffee cups down to the kitchen. And while I close these chaotic thoughts in my head I have to breathe slowly and thank God that my Criminal found a school whose teachers and staff love her. She even commented (after not being in a school since February -and this is June) that they hadn't thrown her out of school after two weeks like all the other schools did. They deal with kids with behavioral problems and don't expect them to learn right when they get there. They just do their own thing. But their own thing can be working with animals, computers, carpentry, crafts, gardening, sports, music, etc. They even got my daughter performing at the end of year school party as part of duet and she had only been there 2 weeks. So - they also invite famous Israeli singers to sing with the kids and they video taped the sessions. Interesting place and a very warm one. I guess I needn't feel so harrassed after all. Plus I'll need to change her Pseudonym if she keeps this up.
Tuesday, June 22, 2004
I spoke to a close friend yesterday who just came back from the States. She is finding it difficult to find a job in Jerusalem. It's either Jerusalem for her or back to Chicago. So she's aiming for "back to Chicago" and I'm feeling rather sad about it. I'm trying to look at the good points about it like having yet another friend to visit in Chicago. I've never been there, but hey - if everyone I'm friends with ends up there, it's a good enough reason to visit. But losing this friend to Chicago will be sad. Because we're social buddies. She calls me her "social sponsor". I call her up with the week's events - like macrobiotic pot lucks, Interfaith weekends, Gypsy bazaars, Native Americans visiting, concerts, new restaurants, etc. and together we pick and choose what we're going to be doing together. We ate at lots of restaurants together - one restaurant we liked in particular because it was this funky coffee shop with all the neighborhood eccentrics and artists showing up, including some filmmakers and tourists, last time we were there. We spoke to every interesting person that passed our table. We laughed and said we could just sit here every day from the morning to the night without moving and said one day we'll do just that. We've had this yearly date for the Jerusalem Film Festival, usually held in July. It didn't matter what movie they showed. It was just so nice to be at Sultan's Pool, this magnificent natural amphitheatre where temporary stages and seats would go up for events like this and it would seem like you were seeing a movie at a drive-in only you're outside in the cool Jerusalem evening breeze. We saw Pedro Almovodar's movie - All About my Mother and someone just handed us tickets to the "after-party" at a nearby hotel, where we ate sushi until we were stuffed - not giving a damn about the politicians and assorted VIPs invited to the soiree. The next year we saw Shrek and shrieked with laughter. Last year it was the film Hero and before the movie they had about 50 drummers all dressed in white, not with regular drums, but African drums, or middle eastern Darbukas. I couldn't sit still in my seat. The festival began with fireworks. We heard Arabic spoken behind us while we were seated, and were happy that this event was open and comfortable enough for everyone who was able to spend $6 for these tickets.
Monday, June 21, 2004
While I was moaning over the fact that I missed my favorite Rolling Stone, Ronnie Wood jamming with Bob Dylan yesterday somewhere in England, Hubby was moaning that he had stomach cancer. Alas, 'tis nothing more than a mere stomach flu. I had it yesterday. And worked right through it. But him? He was moaning and groaning all through the night, kept the kids awake who ended up laughing at him and told me at 2 am they were embarrassed listening to all the sounds he's making. What will the neighbors think? That we're having sex all night long? ah nechtiger tug - which is loosely translated Yiddish for - Ha! But I think he got the nervous stomach because he got a letter from the National Insurance agency saying he owes them in excess of $10,000, when in reality it's perhaps a bit more than $1,000. Not only did they send him an enormous bill - they said they had already put a lien on his bank account, which had me laughing up a storm. He doesn't have a fucking bank account, you government freaks!! The bureaucracy here is evil. Our former landlord owned a flower shop in town. How much money can one make selling flowers, for Christ's sake? But the tax authorities came to his shop, see he has a car, owns an apartment and presto! He gets a bill for over $100,000 in taxes. No paperwork was needed for them to create this amount. They're experts. Everyone cheats, so they assume. Why shouldn't they just pick an enormous number out of a hat and terrify every business owner that just wants to put food on their table. Getting back to Hubby, we don't own our home. So we're considered "nebbishes" - pathetic - in this country. I armored him with documents of our debts and our rental agreement proving we don't own a darn thing in this town, and they lowered the $10,000 thing to a more reasonable $1,400, payable in 12 payments.
Sunday, June 20, 2004
Feeling bored and restless when it comes to organized prayers, but feeling a need to pray at times, I always try to find new ways of expressing love and thanks to God. So I got an e-mail about a Prayer Circle being held on Saturday in a lovely older part of Jerusalem. I knew the people holding this event because Michael was at one of the Interfaith seminars and gave a beautiful presentation to the 25 young Palestinians while wearing a colorful fringed garment that Jews wear during prayer, and he spoke about the reconciliatory move from a black-and-white picture on the blackboard to a colorful picture of the rainbow, that represents the acceptance of the variety of humankind that gives room to each color to improve itself on its own pace. So I thought I'd give his thing a try. Now usually Hubby likes to do his Caveman thing on Saturdays, mess around with his tools, and hibernate in his cave so I tried to devise clever ways in which to entice him to accompany me. I told him about it and added "...and probably all the wackos in Jerusalem will be there." Meeting new "wackos" is usually enough for him to want to leave his Cave. He actually kept reminding me about it Saturday morning so it was meant for us to go. We got there and the crowd was small but not at all wacko. Michael's wife Ruth led the services (she is an ordained Rabbi with the Jewish renewal movement - a group I only recently heard of). She noticed I didn't bring any prayer books and figured I wasn't ready for ready-made liturgy. We gathered in their garden I had the urge to go barefoot and so did everyone else. Even Hubby joined in the circle and we began by twisting from side to side and then picking a flower in the garden and meditating on its beauty, etc. Then we sat in a circle and praised God in our own words for whatever we wanted to praise Him for. People were saying "Thank ye God for the friends I have, for the flowers of different colors that all are different but get along together, etc." I couldn't say the "ye" thing. But I was able to praise God and felt that these kinds of prayers are also as effective if not more effective than what I call synagogue speed-praying. We sang some Hallelujahs out loud, together with the birds. By that time, Hubby left the circle to lie on his back in the sun but he didn't pick up and leave, so he may have enjoyed the strange beauty of it all. Then we took turns sharing and I said that I believe God enjoys it when you notice what He creates so this kind of prayer is effective. Ruth said that that is probably one of God's female attributes (Jewish tradition holds that God has both male and female attributes) so the - did you notice my new perfume (in the guise of flowers)- is quite appropriate to praise.
Friday, June 18, 2004
I've always despised bullies. And yet I have to contend with them, not directly, but sort of directly, because it affects my life here. I understand why Dr. Andrew Weil insists on news fasts because it's Friday morning, my day off work and the first thing I do is read the paper and get upset. Two things got me riled up this morning - an article in the Jerusalem Post about British contractors fleeing Jenin after months of threats and intimidation, and after shots were fired at their headquarters. Threats from Israelis? I read further. They were working on the construction of 435 Jenin apartments (on a $27 million project funded by the United Arab Emirates and the Red Crescent) which featured Italian marble kitchen tops and ceramic tiles, and built to European construction standards, which are, in my opinion, probably of a better quality than Middle Eastern construction standards (except for Hubby's high standards). Why? Many inhabitants were suspicious that the construction and attempts to move them to less crowded areas would undermine their status as refugees. OK. So they'd rather live in squalor than to better their quality of life because of political reasons??? Another reason was that one building had an extension which was made when one of the powerful clans in the camp "bullied" the contractors. Neighbors may have gotten jealous of one building getting "more" than what they were alloted. Nevertheless, these contractors got up and left and the project is at a standstill.
The next item in the news was a story about a beauty contest called "Miss Seam Line" - Not hem line, or anything perverse - but a beauty contest for the young Jewish ladies of the neighborhood of Gilo and young Palestinian girls from the adjacent town of Beit Jala. There had been alot of shooting from the Beit Jala neighborhood into Gilo a few years ago when the Intifada started, with the Beit Jala residents claiming that the shooters were not from their "hood". So now you have this attempt to reconcile the two neighboring neighborhoods. There were 8 Palestinian girls who signed up for it but each one dropped out because of threats made by some members of the Palestinian Authority to each of the families. Sad, isn't it. It would have made a good opportunity for peace. But the political entity on the Palestinian side would have none of that. And it makes me sad that the Palestinians have no other rival leadership to the PLO that would make a sincere bid for peace. And this is one of the reasons why they suffer.
Thursday, June 17, 2004
I just read today that Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, a journalist from Bangladesh who dared to say that Jews and Muslims can live together, has been imprisoned for 6 months. There's a website which can give you more information about this guy. Sheesh. I guess I'd probably get a life sentence or death by stoning for my interfaith activities if I lived there. One must be thankful for living in a place which gives you freedom of speech.
Speaking of interfaith work - the group in which I am actively involved, has made me the Jewish coordinator of it's Jerusalem chapter. I'm thrilled. We already had our first coordinator's meeting last week and we three women - a Jew, a Christian and a Moslem -celebrated and brainstormed for our upcoming interfaith session over ice cream. I got an even better surprise when they said they were going to send me to Barcelona in early July for the Parliament of World Religions.
To retrack - and this is what I find so amusing - I had printed out business cards for myself back in February, which had nothing to do with my 9 to 5 job or 8 to 4 job, as it is. It was a business card which read "Interfaith coordinator and promoter". It hadn't happened yet. I was just envisioning what I'd like to do and made up the cards "in the event of". But you see how powerful visions can be. And if I and many others here envision real peace between people (not politicians) in the region sometime soon, do not dare scoff. I have my proof that visions work!
Wednesday, June 16, 2004
I recently read in the news that Jerusalem District Attorney Eli Abarbanel told reporters he has instructed police to crack down on Betar Jerusalem soccer fans who shout "death to the Arabs" at games held in Teddy Stadium. Touche!! I believe Betar is the only team that doesn't have Arabs on it. Maybe it ought to. The Israeli Palestinian team of Sakhnin did extremely well this year.
I went to one game since I've been here. It used to be "ladies free" a few years ago, but I had to pay by the time I went. They separated the fans of Betar from the Haifa fans sitting across the field. One Haifa fan entered "our" area and he was immediately surrounded by 10 security guys so nothing should happen to him. I don't think football hooliganism here comes close to what happens in England and in Europe, but it's far different than any US/Canadian sport event I've attended. For one thing - they all picnic. There was no one selling beer and popcorn throughout the game. People brought sunflower seeds and thermoses full of coffee. Then I tried to get something to eat during the break. There was a stand with seedy looking hot dogs and no condiments except for ketchup. No such thing as relish, mustard, sauerkraut, etc. Coffee was a do-it-yourself thing, and it was the coffee that is called "botz" (translated as "mud"). No lattes or filter. I got into the game, starting cursing in English because that's how I curse, and as the game progressed, all the Israelis around me thought - Hey its more fun to curse in English -so the "f" words were flying in our section. The game ended with a tie - so I have no idea what it's like to celebrate beating a top team in Jerusalem. And when I left the stadium, there was a carpet of sunflower seed casings all over the floor. It was certainly not Yankee Stadium.
Tuesday, June 15, 2004
Today at work we had this farewell party for a young woman who was our receptionist for 4 years, while getting herself through law school. Now, she's finally graduated and I recall so many people who have passed through my working life - some of whom I'm still in touch with since the mid-1970s, and some of whom I've sadly lost touch with. There was the time I worked at the State Tax Department at the World Trade Center for 4 years. My closest friend was Ethel, an African-American woman years older than I, with a bunch of kids. They called us the salt 'n peppa twins. White people used to mutter about me - She thinks she's black, and African-Americans used to say about Ethel "She think she white." I told them I was neither. I was beige. A nice neutral color. There was the time I worked at a New York City record company living the dreams of my dreams - free concerts, free backstage passes, parties, etc. I've lost touch with all my friends there who somehow ended up marrying Englishmen and ending up in London. We had some wild times at that place, as you can well imagine in the late 1970s. There was a friend I'm not in touch with anymore, who I had gone to school with since first grade - ok it's not work related but worth relating. She and I both came from very strictly religious families and we'd check in with each other what sin we had committed the week before - "My parents went to synagogue and I turned on the radio to listen to the Stones special" "I took the subway today to visit my friend in Queens" - all those things strictly forbidden on the Sabbath. She ended up somewhere in Los Angeles but is impossible to find. It's worth the while to keep up the friendships from way back and from the present. I hope this young lady, in whose honor I'm drinking some fine red wine, will still remember us when she's a high-falutin' lawyer.
Monday, June 14, 2004
Hubby had a free day yesterday and had his buddy Abed help him in our garden which is really tiny. We have a tiny olive tree and a larger lemon tree and there's not much room for anything else. They were going to pave it with some decorative stones. Hubby was just going to trim the olive tree but Abed felt the branches and said that it has alot of oil in it and it shouldn't be trimmed until the Fall. Of course he would know that, most olive trees are grown and cultivated by Arabs. Jews can learn alot of very simple but beautiful things related to the land from their Palestinian brothers. Like the time Ibrahim came over and peeled a pomegranate in the shapes of several pyramids. I just take a knife and cut it into quarters, but he had a whole story behind the pyramids. Getting back to the point, this separation wall is affecting Abed who is married with 4 children. It is being built right in front of his house. It will be really difficult for him to travel to Jerusalem to get to work. It will probably take him hours to get through. He has an Israeli ID card and asked us for help in finding him a place outside the wall before the wall closes in on him.
On the one hand, I understand somewhat why the wall is being built, but on the other hand I figured the only people who deserve to be behind this wall are the people like Hamas, Al Aksa Brigade, Hezobolla, Al Qaida, religious and community leaders who incite people to violence and murder, etc. and any of their ilk. But not Abed. And not his family. And not others like him. And I believe there are many of them. I am trying really hard not to make comparisons to World War II, but Jews were put in ghettos behind high walls - my relatives included - and maybe, MAYBE if they had a non-Jewish friend on the other side who was brave enough to risk his/her life - they had a chance. I feel like I have a responsibility to help Abed find a way out of this mess. But how? If I find a moment, I can demonstrate with Taayush. I can make calls for Abed. But with the rest, I feel so helpless. Of course we Jews did nothing to deserve the horrible treatment we got during the 1940s. And Israel has terrorism it has to fight. But I hate this kind of collective punishment and believe it creates even more animosity towards Israel where there may not have been before. Sometimes I think the Wall is the easy way out. The more difficult way would be to set up education systems for both peoples, where tolerance would have been the norm, and every Israeli child would have to learn Arabic and every Palestinian child would have to know Hebrew and actually use it. They'd begin by playing together. Or perhaps have more integration in the cities with a real democratic system in place - not a selective democratic one. There wouldn't be this "this is yours and this is mine" attitude - it would be shared. The land would be shared with all its resources and holy places. And the more difficult way just may have been worth it in the long run.
Sunday, June 13, 2004
Yesterday the Nasty One complained as usual. It was 2 pm and she has whisked her boyfriend up to her room quickly, like she was embarrassed for him to be there. What's up with that? Why are you bringing plates of food to your room? Why can't he eat with the rest of us in the dining area? She was like "You're not like other mothers. You never wash the floors or clean the bathroom (she's right, I make them do it). "All my friend's mothers work and clean and give their kids money." Hubby broke in with "Of course she's not like other mothers. She's busy bringing peace to the world. Leave her alone." It was a dig, but a rather nice dig. Straightening up the house, washing dishes, cooking and shopping are mine. All mine. It's true that most Israeli women spend their entire free day on Friday cleaning silly things like their baseboards and window sills and wash their floors using a method called "sponga". No mops. You throw a ton of water with alot of chemical cleaner all over the floors until they are absolutely flooded and sweep the water outside with a rubber thing on a broom handle that looks like a huge window wiper. When I first came to this country, I searched high and low for a mop and found it in one store in Jerusalem. But replacements were difficult to come by so I relegated this dirty task to my assimilated children. You wanna be Israeli - you do sponga.
Friday, June 11, 2004
Jewish tradition teaches that the world exists because of 36 righteous people in the world. Ibrahim is one of them. I truly believe that he has the soul of the Jewish and Moslem's biblical ancestor Abraham. Remember the story about how Abraham (or Ibrahim) would go out of his tent to find guests to bring back. He didn't wait until people walked in. My dad used to tell me that Arab hospitality was because they were descendents of Abraham/Ibrahim.
Ibrahim lives on the Mt. of Olives, just up the steep hill from the Gesthemene Gardens and churches. I met him just over a year ago at a Peace circle meeting in Jerusalem. After the meeting he invited me over to his house. I asked a mutual friend "Is it safe to go up to his place" "Sure, everyone knows him and besides everyone in that neighborhood is related to him." I set off one day after work. The taxi driver I hailed was an Israeli - "It's dangerous there, sorry, but I'm can't take you there." I tried others "Why are you going there?" "I haven't been there since 1973" "Are you crazy". Not giving up so easily, I simply walked to Jaffa Gate and hailed an Arab taxi. I didn't know the street just the area - right behind a church. The taxi stopped in front of a store in the commercial area of the neighborhood. One guy who looked just like Ibrahim said "I'm his nephew, I'll take you there." I thought we'd we walking to his house. No. By that time the cab had already left and it was dark outside. The two men got into a car and motioned me in. Taking a chance that these people will be OK - I got in and prayed that they were indeed going to take me to Ibrahim's house and not to some deserted cemetery, etc. A minute later we were there. Of course the minute I showed up, plates of food appeared on the table. I met his wife his aunt, his sister, his sons, saw the place where he was born, and saw the section of the house that Ibrahaim built solely for guests. And does he have guests. It seems that everywhere he goes he invites people to stay at his home. If not to stay, then to visit. At that time his guests included a Korean woman, a couple of Germans, and three Jewish men (two Americans and one Israeli). The Israeli guest had been there for 8 months. The others for two months. Some just pop in for a day or two. His wife asked me if I was staying over. "No, I live really close by" I told her. "Why aren't you sleeping over?" She demanded to know, irregardless if I lived down the freakin' block. He built three floors with a kitchen for his guests to stay and feel comfortable. I don't think he asks any money from them. They're guests. He doesn't run a hotel or hostel.
Later on that year, I took my 12 year old son over to him. We drove in a taxi straight to his home. My son asked a bit nervously-"Are we driving through an Arab village?" "Yes, darling, isn't it picturesque?" I'm sure none of his school friends have had this experience. He played soccer with Ibrahim's grandchild - who was also 12 and they communicated by whistling and sharing chocolates. One time we went as a group to Nebi Musa during the Jewish holiday of Tu B'shvat - the Jewish new year for trees and his grandchildren planted trees together with two of my kids.
And the time he came over to eat a meal with us during one of the Jewish festivals. Some of my kids were like "You're not bringing an Arab into the house." I said "Oh yes I am". And when he came he brought 2 huge bags of fresh fruits and vegetables. When he got up to leave, my kids said "You forgot your packages". He said "They're yours".
I took a friend of mine to his home, walking there this time from the old city. Dangerous? I wouldn't call the smiling natives dangerous. Of course, they all knew where we were headed. Maybe half of them are his relatives. But Ibrahim is leaving tomorrow to go on a trip to visit his children - who live overseas - for 6 weeks. He e-mailed people saying his married kids will be taking care of the guests who are still there and who aren't there yet. I'm going to miss him terribly. Have a safe trip and come home safe. Your guests are waiting.
Thursday, June 10, 2004
When my not-computer-savvy Hubby was told by yours truly that I featured him in the only photo on this blog, he responded as such: "WHAT! What if someone from Al-Quaida is reading this??? Now they'll be after me." Heh heh, yeah right. I mean who knows who is reading this stuff, but going "after YOU???" It's funny how this paranoia stuff is all around me and I try to just shake any traces of it off my shoulders. My dad - may he rest in peace - was such a man. He would sniffle and 20 bottles of God-knows-what-kind-of-medicine would show up on the kitchen table. I'd cough and he'd scream "GET AWAY FROM ME!!", or even better - "STOP IT!" My eldest daughter - the Vain One - saw a dot in the pupil of her eye. I told her she has had that tiny cataract since she was born, a specialist checked it out shortly thereafter and it was nothing to be concerned about. "Are you sure?? Is it dangerous" And she called her boyfriend and 20 other friends about it to make sure she wasn't going to die. Then she went to see a nutritionist for a health-maintenance diet. It's especially difficult when you have a hubby like that. There are some good sides to it. Like him being paranoid that Israeli income tax authorities are constantly watching him with spy cameras and tapping his phones, so he does record all income properly. At least that. But there's the time my kids joyfully told him "The taxi driver asked mom if she was married" and then I had to sit down with him for an hour explaining that most taxi drivers are over 65 (I lied) and I would never leave him for an Israeli cab driver because they always have to be king of the road, and no, I didn't give him my number and he wasn't too attractive and YOU my darling are the most fairest one of all.
Wednesday, June 09, 2004
I met with my friend for dinner yesterday who is the director of Reiki for Peace, a new non-profit organization. She recently had a session of students – both Jews and Palestinians – in her home. A good deal of her time is spent on the phone with the Israeli army, asking them for permits for her Palestinian students to stay in Jerusalem for two to four days, usually at her home. Part of the session had her asking her students to talk about five things they were grateful for in their lives. She went down the line. One Palestinian woman said she could not think of anything to be grateful for because of the wall that is being built by her backyard to keep the Palestinians out of Israel. She and her sister used to go frequently for picnics in the fields near their house, but now all they can see from their home is an ugly grey wall, many meters high. A holocaust survivor – an elderly German-Jewish woman said – “what do you know from walls? I can tell you about walls in the concentration camps. Electric wire walls, that if you touched them, you’d get electrocuted. There was no way out of those walls – not even through a checkpoint.” The Palestinian woman got upset and cried – “You have no idea how we suffer. You don’t know what we’re going through” and a verbal fight ensued, with the Palestinian woman threatening to leave but in the end staying because of Rahel, my friend, the teacher. Needless to say there was a lot of tension in the air. Rahel read passages from a book about unconditional love. Then she did a Reiki attunement on them while they were all lying face down. Some began weeping. Rahel asked the students to tell her what they experienced. The Palestinian woman said she felt that her body became one big heart and then embraced the German holocaust survivor. These two women, who minutes before were at each other’s throats because of the pain they both went through in their lives - some recent and some not so recent - are now seeing each other socially. That is really Reiki for Peace. Rahel asks if anyone wants to know more about this incredible organization – they can e-mail her at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tuesday, June 08, 2004
My free time is running out fast. I am trying to post photos on this site. Hope it shows up properly. The first one is snow in Jerusalem. Because right now I feel the relentless heat. It doesn't get better. I've been walking all over Jerusalem since the 7 days of mourning ended with my water bottles in tow. If you don't have one of those, you're liable to have headaches or worse. Dehydration sets in quickly here. The only escape from the heat will be to take a trip to Europe to see some rain. We won't see any rain until around November, when there's a trickle at first and then torrents in January and February. Luckily there's no humidity in Jerusalem. That was one of the reasons why I chose to live here rather than the humid coast. I avoid those places during the summer - even though my kids whine about not going to the beach with us - ever. Too bad. Now they're big enough to make their way by themselves.
Monday, June 07, 2004
I've come across an e-mail from Bruce Paine who is on a macrobiotics e-mail list I'm on. Why am I on this list when I love chocolate and sugar and white flour and everything that a macrobiotic diet isn't? Maybe one day I'll eat like that. But anyway, he's got this site. I hope you can all view this.
The seven days of mourning is over. Finally. I had to mourn in that torn, dirty dress for only 15 minutes this morning and promptly changed and took my first walk to the grocery store. The Palestinian workers there wondered where I'd been all week, and after I told them, blessed me with the same blessings Jews give each other - "May you know of no more sorrow, only happiness."
We went to the cemetery this morning and recited Psalms. I looked at our beat up Hyundai Lantra that drove dad all over Jerusalem for his shopping errands with his two canes when he lived near us over 5 years ago. Hubby was his chauffer extraordinaire. But he's Canadian macho and preferred to stand back and mope by himself rather than join the crowd. I can now re-enter civilization. The only thing I can't get is a haircut this month and listen to music. I've already threatened my brother that before the month is up, I'm coming over with my camera to take a photo of his beard. He's very anti-beard and will be really miserable this month. It's also a good thing the Rolling Stones aren't playing anywhere because that would have caused a major sin.
Some recollections - My brother is 11 years older than I am, and always called me his "baby sister" which caused me great pain throughout my teenage years. I seem to love that term now. But when I turned 21 and came to his wedding, I was more readily accepted by him and his friends and they promptly asked me to join them in their pre-celebratory hash smoking frenzy. I was of course completely flattered (ever since Brother married a proper English woman, all "joints" have been rendered as extinct as Tyrannesaurus Rex). He and his friends had this code name for smoking contraband - "reading books". My Brother was the "librarian". We'd ask each other "How many books did you read today?" "Was it a quality book?" and so on. Once I walked with two of his friends from the "library", who wouldn't have given me the time of day when I was 17. We took a morning toke and a morning hike - pre-dawn - up to Masada. We were laughing hysterically about everything, enjoying the beautiful vistas and each other's company. One English guy - a complete stranger - looks at our motley group and says to Eddie "You're very funny, you must read alot of books". With that comment, we all laughed uncontrollably (or as my friends would say "had a Dean Martin coffee spit").
Saturday, June 05, 2004
Today must be some sort of reflective "grateful" day. I am certainly grateful I am sending my daughter to her Jerusalem high school. She told me she has to read a novel about a Christian Arab who lives in the north of Israel.
In the Herald Tribune I read an article by Thomas Friedman "Saudi schools foster a culture of death" where he says that their school system fosters intolerance and discrimination. That they glorify death and get young people to abstain from the attractions of life. He quotes one Saudi writer -"And the fact that from the 4th to 12th grade we do not teach our children that there are other civilizations in the world and that we are part of the global community and only stress the Islamic empires over and over is also worth reevaluating. And last but certainly not least, the religious climate in the country must change."
So Israel may not be a light unto the nations with everything, but perhaps with some things like this it may.
There were many things I missed this week - like the Jerusalem Festival of Light and Peace in the Jerusalem Forest and the Gay Parade and party this past Thursday. Some may think - why on earth would you even bother going to something like that? A few years ago a female friend of mine, who worked with me in high tech, became one of my closest friends. She had this dry sense of humor and practiced Orthodox Judaism - by the way she dressed and the way she tried to observe the many commandments. All things fit her Orthodox lifestle except for the fact that she was a lesbian. I was the first person in the office she "came out" to. I was shocked to say the least. (Hubby's brother left religion after he "came out" but why did he have to leave his spiritual life behind?) I went to her and her partner's "commitment" ceremony which was held on a Friday afternoon and afterwards her guests from the small gay/lesbian Orthodox community (which I never knew existed) went to pray at the local synagogue. Needless to say it caused a bit of a ruckus in the neighborhood. I stood next to a guest from the US, who hadn't been in a synagogue in years. She was reciting the prayers with tears streaming down her face. I'm sure those prayers were heard.
The reason I cite this story was because during the week of "shiva" there was a young woman who had broken off relations with her family. It wasn't of her doing. She is divorced with a small child, is still Orthodox, but less than her family would like. She told me her she hasn't seen her parents in months because they rejected her for the reason that she no longer covers her hair. It's heartbreaking to see this intolerance. I saw the same picture many years ago when a kid left his chassidic community because his father threw him out of the house for wearing metal eyeglass frames instead of the more socially accepted thick black frames. Sure, I'd love my kids to be the "A" students I always wanted them to be, and would have loved to have children with no police record, or have children that are leaders in their community - but it didn't happen but you have to accept and love these "misfits of (their) society" regardless. Because they don't come up to your expectations because they've turned out to be gay or lesbian, less religious, less generous, less whatever - so what.
The first friend who came to visit with me is a peacemaker. Eliyahu trounced in and my relatives were like "where did HE come from" - they didn't say it, but the looks they gave one another said it. He would talk to me, and enunciate the important words quite loudly so that everyone heard ".....Sheikh Bukhari..blah, blah,blah, One State Solution...blah blah blah" etc. I may not have had the quantity of visitors my brother had, but I am grateful that the dozen friends or so that I do have are of great quality.
So while I'm busy greeting strangers that don't know of my existence, my house is topsy turvy. I got a call from a school that actually WANTS my 14 year old Criminal daughter who hadn't been in any school since February. Absolutely flattered but absolutely helpless. I told them I was in mourning and couldn't accompany my daughter, but frazzled Hubby certainly would. "I have good news and some bad news, sweetie", I told him. The good news is Criminal starts school on Sunday (our week is Sunday - Friday with just Saturday off from school) and the bad news is YOU have to take her, meet the principal, see what kind of place it is, sign forms, find out what time she finishes and arrange for transport". You know, all the things he just "loves" to do.
Hubby was supposed to buy a basketball for our Son but obviously was too overwhelmed on Friday. I wasn't there, Hubby had left for his errands, Son tantrumed, got thrown out of the house by my Good daughter's soldier boyfriend and retaliated by throwing dirt and water from the garden outside into the house from the kitchen window. I came home to a war zone. Once I was home though, everything calmed down. Mums are irreplaceable.
Friday, June 04, 2004
I'm blogging from a friend's since my home computer has gone kaput. It's a bit rushed blogging from my brother's since there is rarely a break during the day when people aren't flocking to his home. I'd say hundreds of people have visited his home to pay condolences and much to their amazement, hardly anyone knew of my existence. Not that brother has much to be ashamed of with me but I'm not a leader of any community - like my sister's husband is. He's got more to be proud of with her. But we don't get together for holidays, only when family comes in from overseas a couple of times a year, so people don't know. I wanted to make light of the situation and said - well you have to hide your gems, or "yes, I'm the closet sister" or "I'm the one swept under the rug". What I really wanted to do was ream him out after the week is finished.
Seeing friends from the time I lived in the Bronx was the most emotional part of the day. After they'd leave, I'd think of "those years" (the 60s and early 70s) in "that neighborhood" in the Bronx, and got all teary eyed. I try to capture those moments more clear, but find them foggy. I thought of so many things the past few days, like going back to my old apartment where my family lived since 1940 (until 1977) and knocking on the present tenent's door, asking if I could see the place one more time. Or seeing the ancient photos of my ancestors, especially the one of the great-grandmother who I am named after. She was corsetted to the hilt and looked very stern and tough in that photograph. I imagined her running after her husband with a frying pan in her hand. She looked like a blonde Russian peasant. This was my dad's maternal side. His paternal side's ancestors looked dark and swarthy, like Gypsies. I wondered what they were like.
I haven't been looking at my e-mails or answering because by the time I get back home, it's nearly midnight. I feel rather claustrophobic as I can't go out of the house - not even to walk the dog when I get home. But Monday morning, things will be nearly back to normal. It's tiring telling the same stories about dad over and over again to all the different shifts of people coming in throughout the day. My relatives gladly accepted my "interesting" friends and some had wonderful conversations/arguments with them. When the ladies from the Interfaith group came in, we compared rules of mourning for Islam, Christianity and Judaism, which will probably be our topic for our meeting next mnnth.
I saw my teacher from 6th grade at the funeral. A girlfriend who I went to school with from 1st grade was at the "shiva" (mourning) house, plus others from our Bronx neighborhood who immigrated to Jerusalem. It was so strange - all those memories coming back at me. I felt transported back in time, perhaps age 10, sometimes age 15. It seems like so many people have now come back to Israel to live, their parents came from Europe, either before WWII or afterwards, and made a detour to the US - the Bronx, in particular - and then our generation went back to our ancient land.
Wednesday, June 02, 2004
It was strange burying dad because customs here are so different from anywhere else. Firstly there are no caskets. Bodies are buried in white shrouds not in boxes. I guess because the ground is holy and the body should be in direct contact with holy ground. I cried of course when I saw my dad so stiff alone on display in front of the mourners while my nephew eulogized him so accurately. Then something funny always happens when you are at your lowest - like when my son's yarmulke blew off at the cemetery and flew into the as-yet unfilled grave of dad. I tried to retrieve it while everyone was shreaking "LEAH" thinking I'm going to jump into the grave. But thankfully it was sitting only on the side of the grave and not inside. And it made everyone laugh. My sister made sure to keep me abreast of all the laws related to mourning. "You can't go outside, you can't do housework, you can't go shopping, no music, no leather shoes, no makeup (which goes well with "not going outside" for me)". I thought of my husband having the pleasure of going shopping for me - a task normally delegated to myself - and I could see him at the grocery store, racking up the bill, "we need 100 bottles of soda, 30 bags of cookies..." He is a clueless shopper. oh well. For this week, it's gotta be.
At the funeral home, I was asked if I wanted to have one more look at dad, but I wanted to remember him the way I saw him last - having breakfast in his old age home, yelling across the room at his friend who was leaving the dining room with his walker "Max!! You're gonna get a speeding ticket!" Or pointing out a few 105 year old women by the window "Which one should I ask out on a date". Rest in peace.
Tuesday, June 01, 2004
I was watching our dog (a male bassett hound 7 month old puppy) the other day interact with a street cat who likes to jumps up onto a car then onto our porch to get at the dog food there. He usually chases it, but this time he sniffed the cat while it was eating. The cat looks back with a "What the hay-ell do you think you're doing" look. The dog lies down and watches as the cat eats up his food.
I heard my hubby laughing in the washroom this morning around 5:30 am. What the fuck is so funny at 5:30 in the morning and on the day of my dad's funeral? He recalled how I told him about the list of people I called so they can visit me during the week of mourning for dad. I understood what was so funny. My siblings are pillars of their respective communities and then there's me. Hubby says we are the Israeli equivalent of the famous dysfunctional Osbourne family. The people that will visit my brother and sister will be quite similar, a very homogenous group. Who is coming to visit me over the week? Chassidic Jews, New Agers, rainbow hippies, Palestinians, Gypsies, healers, and Carmela the nun. I absolutely adore my eclectic bunch of friends.
I called up my dad's second wife to tell her about dad (they had not been living together for 5 years). She is an ardent follower and supporter of the late, extreme right-wing, anti-Arab Rabbi Kahane (My dad was not one of his followers) and I'm wondering what will God's plan be. Will people who normally do not socialize together -get it together after the funeral to talk and break bread? Like the cat and dog chilling out together on my porch?