It's too hot - really hot - to be travelling around today. I decided to shop locally, in our big supermarket in the mall, rather than travel to Jerusalem. The place is packed with last-minute shoppers. The store is closed on Saturdays and closes 2:30 pm on Friday. I walk in and everything is plastered with Sales signs. I look closer. Wow! A giant 25 cent savings in fabric softener. Nearly every fabric softener has this sale sign on it. Buy 10 of these and get one at half price! Buy 3 of these expensive frozen food items and get one extra stamp. 40 stamps and you get discounts on pyrex bakeware. I went to buy chickens. The bearded guy looks at me and smiles - I haven't seen you since last week, he remarked. I smiled back at him and said to myself - I haven't been here in 6 months! I ordered two whole chickens. "Is this one OK?" he asked holding it up for me to see. Meanwhile the chicken's insides are dripping disgustingly while he's holding the damn thing up for me. "Sure, it's beautiful - thanks!". He did the same for the second. I felt like throwing up and commented to a woman standing near me - It's a wonder why I'm not a vegetarian. I saw an exit sign and wondered if I should take myself up on it. Leave quickly. The fruit look aged, unlike the shuk where you only see first-rate stuff. I maneuvered through 10 aisles of food trying hard not to buy the familiar imported (and expensive) items like chocolate covered oreo cookies, dijon mustards, and salad dressings and Aunt Jemima's from the good ol' US of A. I did it - I made it to the cashiers with only an imported Twizzlers with the rest of the stuff local. One thing I noticed today, everyone trusts each other there. I saw babies left in strollers in the aisles - which would never be done in the US/Canada because of kidnapping sickos. Someone asked me while waiting in line - "Mind watching my stuff?" which included her purse, and off she went to look for more stuff to put into her cart, and I thought of Barcelona where even if you held onto your purse it wasn't safe. Thank God I'm here.
Thursday, July 29, 2004
What a nice time I had. All of the coordinators hadn't managed to be there but it was a small, intimate group. The place itself had names for all of its buildings ranging from biblical names to Martin Luther King House and Magna Carta House. The view was magnificant - from one side you could see the Mediterranean and on the other the Carmel mountain range, looking very lush and rugged. We had a nice big contingent from the Galilee, and a few that came separately from Jerusalem. Four of us took a car service from Jerusalem. There was Rose, a quiet grandmother who is a Christian Arab from East Jerusalem. She and I took a walk in the late evening, and she and I instinctively would smell all the flowers we saw and comment to each other whether it had a scent or not. Then she would tell me the names of them in Arabic. Bouganvillea is Majnuneh and I forgot the name of honeysuckle. But our favorite is Jasmine. She recommended since I live not far from Jericho that I should notice a flower from that area called "footneh". Haven't a clue what it is, but will find out. Then there was Aida and her 3 year old daughter. She is of Bedouin heritage, a very in-your-face-proud-to-be-Palestinian. She reminds me alot of the African-Americans I knew in the 1970s, who were into the "black pride" thing. She and I disagreed about practically everything from the onset. When we got into our taxi van - she preferred a small car. I was thrilled with the van as I feel less claustrophobic. Aida likes the thrill of breaking the sound barrier. After 40 minutes she told me with a small car you can drive faster and asked the driver if he could speed up. He said he really didn't want to go over 110 KPH. She said she usually does 130-140 Kilometers an hour. I told her I'd never travel in her car to go anywhere because I'm really not into the "faster than the speed of light" thing. During the sessions she called me a settler because I live outside the green line. I brought it up afterwards - we all brought our stuff out on the table, which was very healthy. Palestinians generally do get angry because I'm an immigrant, and because of where I live. This is something that has to be discussed before we can go further in our work. There is anger on both sides which has to be acknowledged and discussed. But by the end of the retreat, Karmela and I discussed our vision of making our group more visible by adding an additional item on our agenda, which are monthly trips to somewhere cultural but in a public place. Everyone loved that idea and in the end they wanted to join us in our monthly outings and hand out brochures to those that were curious about our group. Lunchtime brought another idea to the forefront. We were told that some of the kids from the Youth Village asked what were Arabs doing together with Jews. Someone working there told the kids - but I said why don't we talk to these kids and have a workshop with them? This is what we are trying to do, isn't it? Everyone was enthusiastic about that idea as well and we will have to plan for a December workshop. We spoke about having all the coordinators corresponding in a Yahoo-group-type e-mail forum, where we could brainstorm, socialize, etc., and which would strengthen us in our work - so that's being established tomorrow!!! We left as one big really happy family, with a lot of hard but satisfying work to be done in the future
Wednesday, July 28, 2004
I'm off work until August the 9th and was generously given a laptop for home use, in case people at work need to e-mail me and in case I need to edit reports, etc. The kids and hubby looked on gleefully as I spent an hour trying to set up the cables, etc. "No PORN please" I warned Hubby. In case my company is a "big brother" type that watches what you do - last thing I need is for them to peruse what I did and see all these porn site crop up when they check the last Internet sites I viewed. As for the kids, I'm terrified of computer viruses. Last one killed my home computer. So I'm not giving them my password and there's no ICQ and no Kazaa and they can turn blue in the face from wanting .... but I'm firm about this. Scrooge mama. There.
I'm going to Yemin Orde this morning for a 2 day seminar with the coordinators of our interfaith group. This came at a good time as my company is closed (with the exception of my workaholic bosses) and I didn't have to ask for any special favors to get the time off. I don't know really what's in store but that's the exciting part. I've also never been to Yemin Orde which looks highly interesting. I'm told it's a gorgeous place. My friends at the Peace Cafe have gone off to Jordan - I could join them at any time, but feel awkward travelling there alone and I'm lazy. I just want to stick around close to home these days. I just have to listen to my soul and see what it wants.
Tuesday, July 27, 2004
Today is Tisha B'av - the 9th of the Hebrew month of Av. It is historically a day of national mourning beginning with the Israelite spies who went to spy out the land of Canaan and came back with horrible reports of giants and giant grapes (I see nothing wrong with giant grapes) which terrified the Israelites in the desert. The story goes that God said something like - on this day because you cried for nothing, now I'll give you something to cry about (which sounds very Jewish-motherish). And so on this day all these catastrophes happened to us - the destruction of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem with the subsequent exile to all parts of the earth, expulsion of Jews in England, expulsion from Spain, and the list goes on.
It's a 25 hour fast day - no eating or drinking. This is personally very difficult for me but because I mourn too, I chose to fast. I'm the only one in my family who is keeping this fast and decided to go to the Kagans for a workshop. Otherwise, I'd be at home watching everyone eat and drink and watch tv all night and the day would be meaningless. I knew it would be different from a synagogue or the usual run-of-the mill reading of Lamentations, etc. For one, everyone left their shoes outside and were given tea candles to read Lamentations with. The people reading it out loud in a mournful tone were women instead of men. We were told to write down what we would want written on our tombstone. After all, why wait and let someone else write it for you? We lied down on the floor and were told where our grieving spot was where our rib cage meets - the place where it hurts where you touch it. After we wrote down on a sheet of paper all that was lost to us - personal, national, etc. We had to grieve in order to heal. I wrote furiously - of the sadness at losing my parents, my cat, missed opportunities in my life, my tough children, the fact that so many people lack spirituality in their lives, the fact that Ibrahim's kids can't come back to Jerusalem to live because they're not Jews, the unfairness of life, the fact that in Israel/Palestine we don't live like the brothers/sisters we should be. We took our papers and burned them in a tray. I watched my paper burn and it rolled up by itself as it burned, like a scroll. After I took the ashes from that sheet of paper and put it on my forehead, as people did in ancient times. And I hope from this day on, we can build towards a better world.
Monday, July 26, 2004
Yesterday I walked to downtown Jerusalem to get some exercise but also because I was curious about the Human Chain - a chain of people stretching from Gaza to the Western Wall in Jerusalem. This was a protest of Sharon's decision to uproot Jewish settlements in Gaza. At the one end of the chain in the northern Gaza community of Nisanit was Yitzchak and Shlomit Shamir, two of the residents of the original Kfar Darom community of the 1940's - with the Shamirs' granddaughter, 6-year-old Yael Better of N'vei Dekalim, at the Western Wall. So I walked and walked up and down Jaffa street looking at the sea of people. There were apparently 130,000 people participating in that chain. Everything seemed festive. People were praying. Young teenagers were socializing. There was an announcement that at 10 to seven everyone would clasp hands to make the chain effective. And I felt so strange. Like I didn't belong. I don't know why. I guess I'm a more global person and needed to see more global people around me. This was a strictly homogeneous group of just Orthodox men, women and children - people I used to identify with. But I also feel strange among the extreme left wing with people yelling to end the occupation. I don't fit in anywhere, except for my small group of interfaith peace workers. I'm a real nowhere woman.
Sunday, July 25, 2004
I want to acknowledge some comments - thanks for the SaveKaren website. I don't know what we could do with that website except get some tips. Should Hubby become an on-line shnorrer, a Holy Beggar? I think he'll absolutely freak. But if he believes Osama is really reading this and perhaps that bum wants to do a little good in this world and give charity, why not give some honey to Hubby? And anyway isn't he better off giving alms instead of arms to the poor. Oh well. I'm PMS-y and it's a good thing I've not been invited to a party anytime soon. Today I'm antisocial. I pick up the phone at work and growl - WHAT. My friends walk into my office and I feel like Linda Blair from the exorcist. l-e-a-v-e m-e a-l-o-n-e. Truth is, I've not had caffeine today, trying to get off it, so I've got a wrenching headache to boot. Plus my Criminal daughter is keeping "Keith Richards hours" which are like sleeping from 5 am until 4 pm. Plus I've been nominated the bus monitor for my Interfaith seminar this week to make sure everyone gets on the bus for the 3 hour trip and no one is left behind. My luck my cellphone battery will run out and I won't be able to call anyone. My bosses are making me work 3 days during my summer vacation when the office is supposed to be closed.
I've been reading the book The Millionaire Next Door. All the "don't"s are what I do. I spend before I get the $. I've already picked out a computer and a digital camera and have restaurants pegged out for lunches when I have my days off next week. Investing? Saving? I save to spend. I try and make more in order to spend more. Jesus saves and Leah spends. I do have a pension at work - and the HR person who knows me wisely transferred it to a fund where I will NEVER be able to get at that money before the age of 65 "otherwise you won't have it because you'll spend it" said the wise young woman at my work. My brother lives frugally. He doesn't opt for a bigger place, even though he squishes his big kids in 2 tiny bedrooms. The apartment is old and their appliances are pushing 20 years old. But he won't have to worry when he's retired in a few years. Me? Lord knows what will be of me.
By the way, and changing the subject and seriously speaking - I'm trying to do my good deed for the day - a girlfriend of mine from Brazil has a granddaughter with a rare disease. She is only 5 months old. I'm terribly saddened by it and hope to donate what I can when I get paid. This is her website and thanks for helping a really, good and worthy cause. "He who saves one life is like he saves the entire world." - I forgot who said it, but someone did.
Friday, July 23, 2004
I got depressed this morning when Hubby told me he lost 4 jobs this year because people didn't hire him as he doesn't employ "JEWS ONLY". In his business, he is an equal opportunity employer and he won't not put an Arab on a jobsite just because someone is uncomfortable or is racist or whatever. But I thought of some hilarious stuff this morning so instead of being morbid, I'll focus on this.
I remember once in New York City a non Jewish person walking near a group of Hassidim said to his friend - "Could you imagine them "doing it"? They must do it like jackrabbits." Well, sweet ignorant pea, if you would have gotten to know us, some of us Hassidic misfits were a pretty wild (but stable) bunch. No extramartial affairs, no heavy drugs, although once before Passover I did smoke a huge reefer with Hubby to calm my nerves, in the basement by the washing machine, in my modestly-dressed glory. Years back in Toronto when I was part of the Lubavitch Hassidic group, I wore a wig or a scarf to cover all my hair, wore very modest dresses, no slacks, no short sleeves, etc. You get the picture. But sometimes us women had to get together and let our hair down, so to speak. One evening we gathered together at my friend Reva's house for Italian night. We had to eat Italian and look Italian. No men were going to be there and we could let loose. I ran out of the house with my winter coat over my sleeveless camisole, and 5 inch spiked heeled black shoes. I wore a black wig and lots of eye makeup. I wanted to look like a hot Sicilian mama (I was much younger then!). My other friend, didn't want to go the immodest route and dressed as a widow all in black. We threw her Hubby out of the house, shut the drapes and took off our coats to reveal our revealing clothes. My girlfriend, originally from Bombay, was too hot in the house, so she ate in her bra and we were all so giggly and happy.
Then there was the night I came back from the mikvah (see yesterday's post) with a trenchcoat and nothing underneath. I wanted to surprise Hubby. My neighbor, a Hassidic Israeli woman, stopped me and invited me into her home on the way to mine. I laughed and told her I can't really stop by tonight because I'm stark stark naked under this coat - no clothing!!! We roared with laughter for 10 minutes outside her house. She thought I was "so cool" after that and would regularly confide in me about her sex life after I confided in her about my wardrobe (or lack of) that night.
Thursday, July 22, 2004
The pious looking woman looked at me and said - "never tell your husband you don't want to have sex with him, just tell him God wanted it to be this way" -her eyes rolling up heavenwards to make the point. I usually avoid strangers on the phone and at the door. Telemarketers call me daily, asking for me by name so my kids call me to the phone, usually when I'm in the middle of anything. I've trained them to ask for their names, and if the name doesn't sound familiar, it's not a friend and it's the dreaded telemarketer, looking for donations, surveys and God knows what. But last night two women with the widest shining smiles I had ever seen came to my door last night. I said - what the heck. I know they're going to sell me religion but I'm willing to listen.
Speaking about listening - I had just come back from a wonderful interfaith planning session with my other two colleagues. Karmela the nun told me that she was so hurt every time she heard a Jewish person call Jesus by the name - yeshu (not Yeshua). I asked her why. I was just told it was a nickname. "IT'S NOT!" Karmela exclaimed, rising from her seat. "It's an abbreviation for "his name should be erased"" I really had no idea. These are sensitivities we have to be aware of for one another. So I was happy as a pig in shit because our interfaith group planned to go on an outing to a site called mini-Israel in Latrun (a miniature model of the country) after I had badgered everyone to be seen as a "mixed" group in public places. Our Moslem coordinator had just been there and said she loved the place and she felt as a Moslem they honored their holy places, etc. in that site. So that's our outing for September.
Back to the holy, smiling women at my door - we sat on the bench in front of my house and they asked me if I go to the ritual bath (called a mikvah), which observant/traditional Jewish women go to every month a week after their menstrual cycles because once the menstrual cycle starts, we are not permitted to have sexual relations with our men for at least 12 days afterwards. After "dipping" in the holy waters, we may once again be "available" for our guys. I had been going to the "baths", but had not been dealing with some of the more stringent laws involved. I actually enjoy my "time off" from Hubby. Plus, as the time approaches for going to the mikvah, there he is doing the dishes, straightening up or whatever and I feel he is waiting for me. Even after 20 years. It's nice. These women went over the laws of family purity with me and I brought up some serious stuff. I said - I hate having sex with my husband the day I have to go to the baths, because I get home from work, make dinner, take a bath for 1/2 hour (part of the rules on the "day of"), then go to the ritual bath building (the mikvah), and by the time I get back home, I just want to go to sleep. They both laughed and told me to take a nap on the day of. Oh really? Hey boss, I need to sleep with my husband tonight so can I take a nap? So what if the reports have to go out tonight. Peace in the home is more important. Yes. I can see that really going down well (no pun intended) with the boss.
Wednesday, July 21, 2004
I decided to go to this female rabbi's house next Monday evening for one of our major fast days - for the recital of the Lamentations book and a workshop. I asked what the workshop was about and they said it would be an "intense" one. It's a grieving workshop - about the loss of all we have lost in our lives, our loved ones, dreams, our relationships, our youth, opportunities, the brokenness of the world, maimed bodies, hate, revenge, ignorance. It sounded interesting. I discussed it with Hubby who said - "they're going to cry over there for two hours?" I told him it's not that you're only crying over something that happened two thousand years ago, but you're also crying because there's no peace in the land yet, and for other losses - personal and national. He tried to think of something personal and awful and said - well I can't leave the country because of the debt to debtor's court. "Why don't you cry over that? It's healthy to cry and on that day you're supposed to cry over stuff".
Speaking of female leaders, they just found the grave of a legendary 19th century woman called Chana Rochel of Ludomir of Ukraine. Now I'm quoting from the Shalem Center's e-mail to me. She was the learned and chraismatic woman who taught and healed as a Hassidic rebbe. She was single. A group of male rabbis in her region forced her to marry against her will but instead she annulled her own marriage and escaped excommunication by moving to Jerusalem. She carried on her work here - especially with Jewish and Arab women and died in the late 1880s. The site of her grave was lost until last week. People came in groups to visit her and recite psalms at the gravesite.
Tuesday, July 20, 2004
|What a boring title for a post. My life felt pretty humdrum today. Nothing exciting happening, except that sometime during the night the dog emptied out the garbage in my daughters' room and gnawed on the (used) feminine hygiene products and strew them all over the porch for all our neighbors to see. Then my Criminal daughter trounced into my room at 4 am to look for "daddy's phone" to send a message to one of her friends and I hurled some verbal abuse back at her semi-consciously. Why does she have to wake me up from my dreams? I dreamt that I was riding around in the Rolling Stones' limo during an upcoming tour and I was just about to meet them when I get woken up. She couldn't have waited until 5 am to send a friggin message to her friends via cellphone? Teen Witch.
Some good news on the front - Abed found an apartment to rent in an East Jerusalem neighborhood, close to the old city, which means he'll be in front of the Wall, not behind it. I am so relieved. So is Hubby. So is Abed and I'm sure the rest of his family.
So many things I'm missing because I just don't have the energy - like the Walking Meditation for Peace on the Haas Promenade on Sunday, the Sufi workshop at the New Age bookstore last night and the sushi-making class tonight. All I want to do is go home, do a bit of laundry, plug through dinner and watch Will & Grace and go to sleep.
Monday, July 19, 2004
Last night I went to the Shuk to buy some stuff at the health food store nearby - something called Tempeh. I met my daughter's Iranian boyfriend in his equivalent-of-a-dollar-store and he promptly handed me a drink of diet soda - a new diet Orange soda that he insists I buy for Hubby instead of Coke. I saw his mother behind the cashier. The prospective mother-in-law. She looks at me sadly or seriously. I couldn't tell which. "Your daughter is stubborn" she tells me. I know that. But should I do the Israeli thing and argue with her. Normal Israelis would yell - "what do you mean she's stubborn? Look at yourself. You think you're perfect?...." and the argument would have continued for 1/2 hour. But doing my "active listening" bit, I asked her - Why do you think she's stubborn? She just shook her head sadly and said "It's not good. It's not good." I looked at the boyfriend. He said - "she came to my house on Friday night. She had a cold. We all begged her to have tea with lemon. No. She wouldn't have it. She knows it's good for her but she didn't want it." I guess it must have been real insulting for them for her to refuse their cold cure. We parted by the boyfriend giving me a spatula to take home with me. "For your eggs" he said.
I bought the rest of my stuff at the market. Now Jews go into a period of semi-mourning because of the ancient siege around the ancient temple in Jerusalem. It's called "The nine days". Jerusalem is not having it's street fair this week and I can feel the city honoring this tradition. More observant people don't do laundry during these days, don't bathe/shower - (sorry, I'm not taking that one on in this tropical heat), don't buy new clothing, don't listen to music and don't eat meat and wine, except on the Sabbath (and you can wash in honor of the Sabbath). I've decided I'll do the no meat/no wine bit so I'm perusing my files for dairy dishes. I've got the week's menu. There. The kids may not like some of the stuff, like vegetarian chili and soba noodles with vegetables, but I'm tired of pizza, falafel, spaghetti and more spaghetti. So they'll fret.
Sunday, July 18, 2004
Goldie Cohen, an elderly Jewish lady from New York, goes to her travel agent. "I vont to go to India." "Mrs. Cohen, why India? It's filthy, much hotter than New York, it's filled to the brim with Indians." "I vont to go to India." "But it's a long journey, and those trains, how will you manage? What will you eat? The food is too hot and spicy for you. You can't drink the water. You must not eat fresh fruit and vegetables. You'll get sick: the plague, hepatitis, cholera, typhoid, malaria, G-d only knows. What will you do? Can you imagine the hospital, no Jewish doctors? Why torture yourself?" "I vont to go to India." The necessary arrangements are made, and off she goes. She arrives in India and, undeterred by the noise, smell and crowds, makes her way to an ashram. There she joins the seemingly never-ending queue of people waiting for an audience with the guru. An aide tells her that it will take at least three days of standing in line to see the guru. "Dats OK," Goldie says. Eventually she reaches the hallowed portals. There she is told firmly that she can only say three words. "Fine," she says. She is ushered into the inner sanctum where the wise guru is seated, ready to bestow spiritual blessings upon eager initiates. Just before she reaches the holy of holies she is once again reminded: "Remember, just three words." Unlike the other devotees, she does not prostrate at his feet. She stands directly in front of him, crosses her arms over her chest, fixes her gaze on his, and says: "Sheldon, come home."
I've had rough Jewish mothering moments this past weekend. I've passed on having "fun" with a girlfriend - going to the last round of films being shown at the film festival and passing up on Saturday brunch because I thought my family needed me after me being away for a week. At lunch time everyone was goading each other into an argument - perhaps out of boredom and they sat around the table making fun of each other's boyfriend, friends, this one's ghost-white skin, hair lice, and then they looked at me and said I looked like an Arab. Fine girls, you'll have to think of another one, this one's NOT an insult. "Mum's the only one in the family who loves Arabs." They laughed. I looked at my youngest daughter who had two Arab friends from her last school and asked - "What happened to Rami and Sami. Why don't they come around to the house anymore?" She replied - "They're Arabs." I feel like I'm swimming against the tide. Or trying to drain the ocean with a strainer. I felt so weak. Why? I'm working so hard towards peace in my country, which I believe starts at home and I get this?
People are always saying - Look at the parents and you'll see why kids behave that way. I've never ever understood this. Look at this story. I've read a recent article in the New York Times (July 15th) about a Palestinian father in Jenin. To quote - "While Mr. Nashrati, who once worked as a welder in Israel, spoke of peace and a twostate solution, his children, maturing in this time of violence and separation, sounded a harsher note. Rukon, 10 years old, said he wanted to grow up to be a fighter like Mahmoud Tawalbe, an Islamic Jihad leader killed in the raid two years ago. "I'm disturbed when I hear my son say that," Mr. Nashrati said. "This is a general problem for us, that we don't feel we can control our children." Asked if he thought he could be friends with an Israeli boy his age, Rukon drew a hand across his throat. "I want only to stab him," he said. Mr. Nashrati hastily said Rukon was young and ignorant. "This son is old enough to understand," he said, indicating Munir, 20. Asked if he could be friends with an Israeli his age, Munir Nashrati said, "It's impossible."
Racism doesn't always begin with the parents teaching. So is it the schools? Peers? What can a Jewish mother do?
Thursday, July 15, 2004
I took my 12-year old son, thinking I'm doing him a favor by going out with mum, to a free open-air concert by a Beatles cover band and the film Yellow Submarine at Liberty Bell Park in Jerusalem. You have to get there early or tickets get swooped up quickly. Even though I'm a Stones fan, there doesn't seem to be much choice in Diaspora-type entertainment. Not compared to Barcelona where everyone tours - I saw ads for Macy Gray, Alicia Keys, John Mayall. Everyone's going to Barcelona and no one is coming here. Except that some old British bands who no longer are on the A list - like Manfred Mann and Uriah Heep have been here in recent months. Getting back to the Beatles, I was 12 when Yellow Submarine was first shown and I loved the music and the colors. My son enjoyed the cover band somewhat and remembered the movie I Am Sam where they did Beatle covers for the film soundtrack. He thought the cover band took their music from the I Am Sam film. So much for my mothering skills at giving them Western music education. He was utterly bored and fidgety during Yellow Submarine and stole my cell phone to call his dad who was at home. "Come and get me NOW! I'm tired and hungry and the film is boring!"
I read an article by an Israeli who said Israelis should get to know the music of the Arabs - especially classic singers like Um Koulthoum. I am familiar with alot of the world music modern Arabic stuff like Khaled, but not this woman, I'm ashamed to admit. Alot of Palestinians I know are familiar with the Israeli singers who sing middle-eastern type music - not so much the pop/rock singers/groups. The young people are fairly traditional - they don't even know who the Rolling Stones are! - except that Rap has crept into their society and man - can they breakdance.
Wednesday, July 14, 2004
I'm back home now and glad to see the entire family in one piece. The plants and the dog didn't die either. My laundry and kitchen were in complete disarray, but what the hell, that's what Fridays are for. I'm back to being Cinderella.
Barcelona was great, the people were nice, the nuns were very hospitable, walking me to the airport bus and making sure I took food with me - the only complaint I had about the city was that there was way too much purse snatching. I think it's out of control. We have other problems here, but there is very little of that in our country, thankfully. And the whipped cream is tastier in Israel, and I did pick up a little Spanish, like "no carne" and "este" and "quanto". A few more weeks, and I may have put full sentences together. Ibrahim gave me a stack of business cards to take home for him. My kids looked at the maps of the city I brought back and laughed at the place called Zona University, because "zona" in Hebrew is "whore". Yes, Europe is special. A special university for whores.
I bought t-shirts for the kids with "Barcelona" written on them - different styles of course. And it was first come, first serve. Of course some wanted what the other one chose, but had I gotten them all the same stuff, they would have been embarrassed.
Tonight in Jerusalem is the end of the Film Festival and street fairs although not as packed as The Ramblas in Barcelona. If I were jealous of anything in Barcelona that they had that we don't have - it's tourists. They had thousands of tourists. Because of the negative media portrayal, showing Israel/Palestine under fire in every square foot/meter in this country, no one comes to visit anymore, outside of a few religious pilgrims. And that saddens me.
Monday, July 12, 2004
One interesting highlight was a film I saw about interfaith work in Los Angeles. The name of the film was based on a billboard made after 9-11 "God and Allah Need to Talk". Of course God and Allah are the same, but because PEOPLE think they are different - thus the name of the documentary. After 9-11 Moslems in the US were targets of hate, with everyone lumping them into the Taliban/Al Qaida category. Even Sikhs I´ve spoken with said they were targets because of their turbans - just that Osama has his turban twisted the wrong way, doesn´t mean everyone else does. So the Islamic Center of Southern California decided to do something about all this hate directed towards their community and began to do interfaith work with the Beth Tikvah Congregation inviting them to each other´s celebrations. It was encouraging to see this finally happening.
The evening brought a gathering of people by regions. We met our Middle East contingent, which included delegates from Jordan, Egypt and Morocco. Ibrahim was in my group and after I told my story, he ended with his - and to sum up - he began with the fact that he is a man without a country. To explain further, he and his family, though they haven´t immigrated from other countries like I have and have been living in the land for hundreds of years - are not citizens of Israel (because he is an Arab Jerusalemite) and therefore, are officially homeless, so to speak. I felt so touched, I wanted to reach into my bag and hand him my Israeli passport and say - "Here sweetie, take mine. Belong here. Belong to the land. It´s a cinch for me to get a passport yet I´m only in this country for 9 years. But you, who have been here for centuries, truly deserve a passport even before I do. You have earned it and it should have been your right." I am feeling so sorry for Ibrahim. I wish I had more clout to do something. I am praying that we will see equality very soon.
Sunday, July 11, 2004
Karmela was telling me this morning on the way to the Forum - Isn´t it nice how the Sikhs clean your shoes while you eat lunch? I looked at her horrified. I was thinking of my $70 brand new Nayot sandals being dunked in water while I was eating curry barefoot in the giant tent? Karmela continued - and look how nice and clean my shoes are. Luckily today, God cleaned my (other,older) shoes as it poured rain today. I hadn´t seen any rain since April so it actually was a pleasure walking around getting soaked, while the natives looked at me in sheer wonder as I was the only one without an umbrella and closed shoes.
Yesterday my day of rest consisted of a trip to Girona and Figueres. Girona is a beautiful ancient city, built during Roman times, with wonderfully preserved medieval buildings and a Jewish quarter. I hooked up with the 3 people sitting near me. I can´t get away from interfaith. I´m doomed to do this work for the rest of my life. My tour buddies were a Moslem woman from South Africa and a Jewish woman who was born to Jewish parents, and raised as an Evangelical Christian. We wandered around the city and explored the Jewish museum. That quarter looked exactly like the Old City of Jerusalem. Now I know why the Jews in medieval Spain felt so comfortable there as the climate (minus the summer rains) plus the terrain and the buildings must have reminded them of their ancient home in Israel. I imagined the Jews of that city walking around the city on the Sabbath, walking alongside the river with their families. Today there are no Jews left in Girona. We had to eat lunch and we were pressed for time, so we did some speed-tapas. The quickest food you can order in Spain. We visited the Dali Museum in Figueres. I don´t really like museums. I feel so confined. But I really enjoyed this one. The man was a real talent and painted like he was on some great acid trip - but he said he never took drugs - he was the drug. Yes, I´ll take 2 Dali´s in my cuppa tea please. I slept on the way back which gave me the energy to take in the World Music concert at the Sagrada Familia Cathedral. This cathedral, built by Gaudi, looks like a giant elaborate sand castle. In fact most of his stuff looks like expert sand-castleing. I got a seat near the stage. The place was set up for I don´t know how many thousands. I felt so much love emanating from all these people it was unbelievable. Like the elderly lady in her wheelchair across from me. Her head was down the whole time, she was perhaps oblivious to her surroundings, but the people in front of her and on the side, were tending to her so tenderly, smiling and stroking her back and arms. I heard nuns singing opera, Buddhist monks chanting, Japanese drummers (who got the loudest applause), Flamenco singing, Sufi singing and dancing, native American folk songs and they saved the Israeli group Sheva for last. When they did their finale singing- Salaam, Shalom - Everyone stood up and danced. Just amazing. If all that positive energy and all that spiritually healing music could be carried across the seas to every country from the performers and the audience in Barcelona.....it could mean the messianic era is here. Because that´s how it felt last night.
I had a really busy Friday - I spent hours talking to Sikhs, who were running the hospitality kitchen and serving us stuff like potato curry, lentil soup, gulab jamoun, which I kept on taking from people who crazily enough weren´t eating theirs. I never knew anything about Sikhs, except that they looked like 11th century Jews - I never knew that they are a monotheistic religion, give 10% of what they earn to charity, etc. Seeing their exhibits and listening to their prayers made me want to visit their temple in Amisrar, Punjap, India. Fascinating people. The Mideast women had a panel discussion which drew so many people that there was standing room only. I was interviewed by English radio and of course it was thrilling. I prayed I´d say the right thing and not sound foolish. But nothing came close to the experience I had Friday night. My friend Eliyahu invited me to go with him to this old synagogue in downtown Barcelona which is open only once a month but this time they opened it for the Parliament participants. I figured what the heck, I´ll go. We were greeted there by the person who holds the key to this place - a nondescript building in the medieval part of town - no sign, no nothing. He opens the gate and we walk down a few steps. I am astounded. This place was excavated with the excavations being a Roman building which was THE major synagogue in Roman times. The synagogue was recently discovered in 1987 by a Catalan historian who mentioned to the man who now holds the keys that according to papers he discovered from an Aragon king in 1290 - who gave permission for this synagogue to be renovated - the site of the synagogue is HERE. They uncovered the remains by taking off 60 tons of rubble covering it. The Jews used this synagogue until 1391 when they were expelled from Barcelona. The began to reuse it sporadically from the late 1990s. I asked to light Shabbat candles as I do every Friday night. I didn´t think lighting Shabbat candles in the convent where I was staying would have been appropriate. As people poured into the synagogue (including a tv crew - who filmed us during services), this Swami-looking rabbi began the services. We sang loudly, we danced like dervishes, we said the äncient Shma prayer (Here o´Israel the Lord is God, the Lord is One) enunciating each word slowly, like a slow mantra. We covered our eyes while saying this prayer. When we uncovered our eyes, every one in the room wiped their eyes. It was powerful for every one of us to be there in this rediscovered place of worship, which was hidden for hundreds of years. It was as if all the souls of the people who had been praying there before 1391 were there with us, singing and praying with us. I felt it. I felt them. I never felt this way before in any synagogue or house of prayer. We ended our prayers by sharing what we were grateful for. We made a blessing over wine, and walked out of the synagogue, back into the modern world....
Friday, July 09, 2004
I see I´m next to be bumped off the Bloggers of Note list. Well it was really nice while it lasted! I´m having a bit of trouble replying to individual e-mails from the conference so hang in there and I´ll try and answer at a private NetCafe over the weekend.
That morning there was no electricity at the convent. The nuns lit candles around 6 am so we could make our way to the washrooms, and I felt transported back to another era.
Over at the Sikh lunch I spotted a tv crew. I went over to them and asked them if they would like to speak to a group of Israelis and Palestinians who work together. They asked three times - Israelis and Palestinians working together? I don´t think they believed me so I carted them off to meet and interview Ibrahim and Eliyahu and our group of women. Back over at the conference everything was so overwhelming - the people,the colours, the languges, the 250 page program guide and the Spanish keyboard, which I have to get used to. So I took in light stuff at the theatre like Japanese Shinto performances and dances of 4 cultures. I wandered around the Exhibitions which was like a marketplace for religions. There were Pagans and Zoroastrians and names I couldn´t pronounce. I felt I was in some sort of religious Disney World. We ended the evening with a workshop from the United Religions Initiative introducing ourselves and describing the work we do. I met people from Serbia, Palestinians living in Finland, a Kenyan priest, a Mufti from Rwanda - absolutely fascinating people with equally fascinating stories. At one point while an American Buddhist sang a folk song, we walked around in silence greeting each other with our eyes and hands and smile. The "eye-speak" was so strong, I ended up walking around with tears coming down. I´m such a wuss over these things. But it really was very powerful, as hokey as it sounds.
I feel us peaceworkers in the Middle East have a more difficult time than most in other places, but I feel we are in a place where thousands of like-minded people are giving us all their support, which strengthens our resolve to continue this work.
Thursday, July 08, 2004
I met my colleagues in the airport taxi. I got in saying "God, I´m so happy, I could just FLY"! They didn´t get it. OK. The next thing we had to deal with was airport security. I knew I wouldn´t have a problem because having an Israeli passport, you usually don´t. When security asked me for what purpose was I going to Spain, I answered -for an interfaith conference. The security girl pulled me away from the crowed - Does that mean you are in a conference with Christians, Moslems and Jews?" Yes. She took my passport and ran to get her manager. "Are you the organizer of this group?" No, I´m not - SHE is" pointing to the secretary, who was called over and gave them the list of the entire group. I don´t know what they thought. They stuck some kind of sticker on my airline ticket. I don´t know if I´m now a security risk or not but Karmela was put into a room, asked to take her shoes off, walk around. She spend a good amount of time with the security person, she nearly got her to join our group. After check in I ran upstairs to airport Duty Free. I was looking for a hair brush. I could buy tons of liquor and chocolates. I could get as drunk as a skunk or as hyper as ever, but have neat hair? Faggedaboutit. The Iberian flight was tough as it took them a few hours before they´d give us anything to drink, unlike El Al where they run to feed you a few minutes after take off. I went to get a drink of water, feeling very dehydrated, but the flight attendants said to wait because they were serving food in 15 minutes, which turned out to be a half hour later. Stupid me should have prepared myself. After all, I´m not in "kansas" anymore, I´ve got to go with the flow and brought my own damn water bottle. After landing we spent several hours waiting for them to tell us where we were staying. Hubby doesn´t know this yet, but we were put up in Carmelite nun´s convent. He´ll be thrilled. The windows are so high - about 14 feet up - that you never want to see a man again, you wouldn´t have to. No views to the street from my room. And of course, no male guests. Karmela was worried about the crucifix in my room. "You can take it down, you knowl" she said to me in the morning, as we tried to navigate the Barcelona metro. Nah, why bother taking a painting of Jesus on a cross down, just because I´m a nice Jewish woman in a nice Catholic convent. It would offend the hosts, I am sure, I told Karmela. It´s ok. I´ll deal with it. I´m ok with it. But it was nice of her to be concerned about my comfort, nevertheless.
I haven´t seen much of the forum yet. I´ve done a bit of walking around the old part of the city, took in a cafe and went to the forum in the afternoon. I was trying to find my group among the 5,000 participants. Information told me to try the place down by the beach where the Sikhs were feeding everyone for free. I went to this giant tent and had to take off my shoes, and put on a white head covering. I really know nothing about Sikhs and was intrigued. Why were they feeding everyone? And why was their food so good? I was feeling dehydrated by the heat, went straight for the water and thought I saw a mirage. But it wasn´t a mirage. It was my Palestinian friend, Ibrahim! What a great welcome to Barcelona. ...to be continued...
Wednesday, July 07, 2004
It's a good idea to post about miracles - I always figure the more you publicize miracles, the more they are likely to appear in your life.
Yesterday my daughter came home at 1 AM and noticed while we were all sleeping that the whole house was filled with gas from the stove top burner that was left on (at the highest mark). She quickly shut off the gas and opened up the windows. We don't know how long the gas was on. Normally that would do an entire family in, but I had no idea this even happened until she called me at 8 am on my way to work this morning. I only woke up with a headache that seems to stem from a chronic stiff neck more than from anything internal. The kids and hubby also suffered no effect at all.
So I want to publically thank God for saving my family.
I'm leaving for Barcelona in a few hours. I hope to be able to check my e-mails and blog from some internet cafe daily. I have no idea where I'll be staying and that is exciting in itself and also terrifying! Tomorrow I plan to take a one-day tour before I head off to the conference to I-don't-know-where-but-at-least-it's-far-away-from-home. I'm excited. I just hope everyone at home remembers to walk the dog, water the plants and go food shopping. I would hate to come home to dead plants, a dead dog and malnourished kids.
I hope it wasn't such an ordeal for the Palestinians to get their Visas for this trip --it's a much more difficult procedure for them. They don't have passports - they get travel documents and the wait for any such documents is horrendous. People sometimes camp out for 3 days in order to get into the ministry of interior offices in East Jerusalem. With me, I breezed into the West Jerusalem office one afternoon, waited 1/2 an hour and got an extension to my passport.
I told the Palestinian working at my local grocer that I'll be away for a week, I'm going to Spain with 10 Christians, and 10 Moslems and 9 other Jews from here. He wished me a nice trip and then I felt guilty telling him about my trip because it's very difficult for them to travel even within their own areas - even to see their own relatives - because of roadblocks, checkpoints, etc. and here I am whizzing all over the place. But maybe in the future, as a result of many groups such as ours, all those barriers will come down and people will be able to travel freely wherever and whenever.
Tuesday, July 06, 2004
The best haircuts I've had since coming to Israel have been from biker hairdressers. Yup. You've heard right. Not the stereotypically gay hairdressers I used to love to go to in NYC (I used to pick them from Glamour Magazine), where I'd sit for hours on a Saturday taking in all the interesting traffic. Gerard Bollei in NYC hated long hair. And I wanted to look like Stevie Nicks from Fleetwood Mac. I never did get to look like her but my hair certainly looked like her hair. He used to badger me about getting a short wedge cut. I pointed out the Hispanic receptionist to him with the long, beautifully layered hair. "You like THAT?" he shreiked in front of her. "It's aaawwwful!" But he did as he was told. He was my hairdresser for years.
Coming to a new country in the Middle East where everyone's hair is dyed every shade of red or cheap blonde was frightening. Hairdressing is big business here. Where I live, in the commercial center, you find around 4 hairdressers in each strip mall. And most seem to be straight. I only came across two effeminate-type hairdressers, one had a talent for getting my honey blonde shades just right (but went out of business) and the other gave me a nasty mousey brown color. One very popular gay hairdresser in Jerusalem had a smear campaign done on him a few years ago with rumors that he had AIDS and that customers were contracting the disease from him. He put ads in newspapers saying it wasn't true, etc. I was his customer soon after that - once - to show some support.
I went a couple of times to this place run by an American who rides a Harley (one doesn't "drive" a Harley - I guess). His haircuts were good but he is quite expensive catering to a mostly "anglo" crowd in the posher part of town. So Hubby told me about a place that's always packed - the guy rides a Harley too. The price was $50 less than the other Harley guy so I went. Turns out they are the only hairdressers in the neighborhood that have a cappuccino maker instead of just serving instant coffee so I took it as a good sign. However all these people were walking around the tiny salon drinking some evil looking green liquid that looked like kryptonite. There were a few little boys there as young as 10 getting the tops of their heads dyed blonde ala MTV. I showed the Harley guy a shade I wanted. Impossible. He just will not do any shade of red. Hubby was thrilled. The Harley Hairdresser said I'd like his results. He gave me a base color - put loads of different highlights in it, showed me a bottle with blue liquid in it and asked if it was ok to use that color. Before I had a chance to say "NO!" , the stuff was already in my hair. Never mind, it looks good. It's the best haircut and color I've had in 9 years since I came here. As Arnold S. says - "I'll be back."
Monday, July 05, 2004
3 of my oldest daughters have them. One is Iranian, born in Tehran, one is Romanian and one is of Moroccan descent. They don't want to date anyone of American descent - they're too nerdy they say. Oy. Hubby calls them all "kebabs" - the Iranian Kebab, the Romainian Kebab, etc. which annoys the shit out of my girls. Whenever they fight, Hubby takes sides - "Drop her like a hot potato" he said to the Iranian boyfriend. So when my 2nd oldest daughter fought with her boyfriend, which isn't too often, my son piped in with a - "Drop him like a hot potato" in his Israeli accent. I don't know how permissive other parents are, but the boys generally are allowed to stay the night since they're "steadies". Once we heard the Iranian guy blow his nose real loud in the sink. "Why is he doing that? What's wrong with using tissues, western-style?" I asked Hubby. He said it's a middle-eastern thing, he's seen the Arabs do it too. The Iranian leaves his shoes outside her room as is his tradition, not to put shoes in bedrooms. Our 2nd daughter usually stays over the Romanian boyfriend's place because our place is too noisy and she can't study. But it's summer sweetie. Never mind. Habits are hard to break. The Romanian, when he does stay over, is our house chef. He makes us all breakfast on weekends. The Iranian gives us all assorted gifts from his family dollar store whenever he can, but eat American Jewish food? He usually carts my daughter off to his house for a meal of rice heavily flavored with dill, or they go to the mall for a schwarma. The Moroccan boyfriend is usually hidden upstairs in my 3rd daughter's room for the sheer embarrassment at our not-so-spiffy furniture and not your typically middle-eastern - you-can-eat-off-the-floor-because-it's-so-clean - floors. So I don't know what his talents are yet. But now my only son has 3 new brothers and pesters them accordingly.
Sunday, July 04, 2004
Hubby was driving Abed from our town, where they're both working and on the way to Jerusalem saw alot of army personnel and bulldozers. Abed said - they're there because they're going to demolish a house. Sure enough, when they came back an hour later, the house was nothing but rubble. Sometimes, homes in Arab towns get demolished because terrorists lived there, but most of the time it's because the family didn't get a permit to build a home there. Usually because families live together, they build additions or attachments. You need a permit and you could wait for a permit for years on end, sometimes it never coming at all. So with families bursting at the seams, they build without permits. Along comes some bozo, looks at the house and says - Oh a new house, let's check if they had a permit to build. Usually it's not and the bulldozers come and raze the buildings. Well, there is The Committee Against House Demolitions - but they can't possibly make it to all of them. Israelis on the other hand, live in towns with Western-style infrastructure, buy their apartments from the builders, who had permits to build to begin with, and don't have to deal with this type of annoyance, unless they build a home extension without permission - which they will have to take down. But Arab culture is not Western culture. Go figure. Hubby was upset by the house demolition and they went on to buy building supplies in a Palestinian-owned store. The store owner got into a discussion with Abed and Abed yelled at him "He's not Jewish. Look at him, he's Canadian, he's not Jewish." After Abed got into the car and looked at my bewildered Hubby and told him point blank - "You're not Jewish. You can't possibly be Jewish with your attitudes. You must be Christian." I laughed at first when I was told this story, but got upset later on. Do Palestinians really believe that if you show a bit of compassion, you can't really be Jewish? That it's not a Jewish trait? It's very depressing when you think about it because compassion is very much a Jewish trait, but unfortunately, the Palestinians living here do not see it very often.
Friday, July 02, 2004
Some one send me this joke today-
Two Arabs boarded a flight out of London. One took a window seat and the other sat next to him in the middle seat. Just before takeoff, an American sat down in the aisle seat. After takeoff, the American kicked his shoes off, wiggled his toes and was settling in when the Arab in the window seat said, "I need to get up and get a coke." "Don't get up" said the American, "I'm in the aisle seat. I'll get it for you." As soon as he left, one of the Arabs picked up the American's shoe and spat in it. When he returned with the coke, the other Arab said, "That looks good, I'd really like one, too."
Again, the American obligingly went to fetch it. While he was gone the other Arab picked up his other shoe and spat in it. When the American returned, they all
sat back and enjoyed the flight. As the plane was landing, the American slipped his feet into his shoes and knew immediately what had happened.
"Why does it have to be this way?" he asked.
"How long must this go on?
This fighting between our nations?
This spitting in shoes and pissing in cokes."
I usually like off-color jokes, but I'm not sure I liked this one - promoting suspicion of the Other. Because it all seems so true.
Reminds me of the first time I went into an Arab home when I was 17 (20 years ago or so)(the family assisted us when our rented car got stuck in the mud in their village). I had never tasted mint tea in the early 1970s - never mind ever hearing of it. This was before the herbal tea thing started to become popular. They offered me mint tea and I took one sip, and not recognizing the strange taste, suspected it to be poison. I wouldn't drink the rest of it. Well, the sip didn't kill me, in fact I drink mint tea quite regularly these days - and sage tea is quite popular among Arabs here as well. But I'm sure the suspicion of us Jews is quite prevalent unfortunately among the Palestinian population as well.
Unfortunately, I see fear and suspicion as having caused great tragedies for the two peoples living in this land. So the best way to eradicate it - the way I see it - would be to have these intefaith/intercultural meetings grow and involve most of the population. There's now a very small minority involved in such meetings, but as people get sick of the violence, the only option is this - to get to know the other, which will eventually cause a breakdown of suspicion and fear.
Look what's happened in the past - two examples - in 1929 there was a massacre of Jews living in Hebron because the Islamic religious leaders told their people that the Jews were going to annihilate them. And when Baruch Goldstein feared that the Arabs in the Hebron mosque would kill all the Jews going to celebrate the holiday of Purim in the Cave of the Patriarchs, he murdered 39 Moslem worshippers while they were praying. It's tragic, and those tragedies could have all been averted had we all not been suspicious of one another.
There are so many interfaith/intercultural activities going on, it makes me dizzy. I missed one this weekend at the Druze village of Ramah where we were going to go with women and the youth of that village on a hike and get to know their village, etc. In the States I hear of tremendous stuff going on that my friend Eliyahu is involved in - Two interesting ones were:
"Next in DC on Jan 11th, I was the guest speaker at an Arab-Jewish dialogue
group that meets monthly in a well known restaurant, Mimi's Bistro. It is
owned by an Iraqi-American who hosts the dialogues and was excited to see
the Sulha video and get copies sent to his friends."
"Back in Philadelphia on Jan. 20th, I attended a special event called
"Search for Common Ground" - a dialogue between Dr Akbar Ahmed, the
Pakistani chair of Islamic studies at American University in DC and Dr.
Judea Pearl, father of the Jewish journalist who was murdered in Pakistan.
It was a powerful discussion about the obstacles to and the possibilities of
reconciliation between Jews and Muslims and Islam and the West. Dr. Ahmad
invited me to speak later to his students, as I will describe later."
The next 'Sulha' gathering will take place Aug 17-19 in the Galilee. There will a
children's space, talking circles, a tent of Hagar and Sarah, a Bereaved
Parents tent, shared kosher/halal meals, and live music. I am helping to
organize a space within the gathering for many peace and dialogue groups to
share their work with the wider public. Please see this website for details
and come join us if you can! www.metasulha.org
- If this keeps up, there'll be a shortage of these kinds of jokes! Who can we pick on then?
Thursday, July 01, 2004
Hubby was delighted to have been able to pay yesterday a whole slew of bills outstanding for a couple of months. He went to the post office to pay it. The women working in the post-office took a look at the eight (8!) parking tickets of $25 each that he paid and caused a ruckus. "If you were my husband, I'd KILL you!!" and each of the women took a look at what she was talking about and they too said to him - "We would KILL you!!!" "What a waste of money" and went on and on about it. Of course I felt like killing him too. I only saw one parking ticket but thought he had another one - not another SEVEN! But it was comforting to know that I wasn't the only one who wanted to kill him for it.
Jerusalem was alive and well last night with the first of many street celebrations at the Pedestrian Mall downtown. My son and his friend came along and there were arts and crafts stands, mimes (who have always disturbed me, don't know why), costumed stilt walkers, a giant Elvis puppet dancing on stilts to Elvis music, fire jugglers, jazz bands, middle eastern bands, and food stands (always save the best for last). It was crowded and a pleasure to see downtown Jerusalem like this after looking like a ghost town for a few years because of the many terrorist attacks in that area. I saw a toddler standing up in her stroller and pushed her gently back down in it so she wouldn't fall. "I know you" said her mum, and I can't remember faces these days, never mind names. Turns out she's my friend Ibrahim's daughter, walking through the crowd with her husband and other small child. Small world.