Tuesday, November 29, 2005

hasidic reggae

Good thing I subscribe to the Jerusalem Post - otherwise I wouldn't have seen this announcement at all today, and I would have only gotten the weekend papers.

Eminem is coming to Israel, and whatever is left of Depeche Mode. My kids will defnitely want to see Eminem. Maybe I'll have to subsidize the costs which will probably be a fortune by Israeli standards. But I think we owe it to ourselves to go see (not me - but my kids) really popular musicians who venture this way. So few do and it will hopefully lead the way for other top entertainers to put Israel on their touring map.

But what I was really excited about today was hearing that US singer Matisyahu is planning four Israeli dates in December. I'm hoping to get tickets today as I'm sure he will be sold out. He's Hasidic, he's young, and he's hot! The music is amazing. Very spiritual to boot. Some lyrics:

"you walk around like everybody owes you something
take what you get and thank God for all that life brings."

"the poor man has it all
but not content with anything
while the rich man's hands are empty
but he's sitting like a king"

"If you stay high, you bound to stay low"

Go to this site . The video is amazing. Actually the video is not great quality but the song he sings is really good.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Trampling on the land

While at dinner on Friday night, a CBS reporter - testing me on my liberal thinking and sympathy for Arabs - asked me whether I believed that Israel was given to the Jews by God. "Of course I do. And, by the way, this does not give us the right to trample on those who were already living here. If this land was given to us by God, we must treat the inhabitants with some respect (differentiating of course between terrorists and just-regular folk)" A sad example of this "trampling" I received in an e-mail this morning.

Translated from Hebrew:

Yesterday Hani Totech, a colleague of my son Doron, called me. Doron had told him that I might be able to give some publicity to the flagrant injustice done to him and his family by the army who on Tuesday morning November 22nd destroyed their home without any prior notice.

Today I visited the family, father, mother and five small children, who now live near the ruins of their home in a tent that belongs to the Red Cross.

This is their horror story:

Hani Totech built his house fifteen years ago without permit. This is normal practice for the inhabitants of Wadi Joz near the old city of Jerusalem, since permits to build in that area are not given to Arabs, even though some families already lived there before the six-day war.

In the late nineteen-nineties, Hani was sued by law and ordered to pay a fine of 50.000 shekel. Today, in November 2005, he is still paying monthly installments.

On November 22nd, Hani’s wife phoned him at his job, and told him that dozens of soldiers had encircled the house and were carrying the furniture to the neighbors. They said they had come to destroy the house. This was a complete surprise. There had been no previous warning or announcement whatsoever.

Hani phoned his lawyer, who told him to take a cab and join him immediately. Together they went to court where an order was issued to stop all activities until further notice. Hani phoned his wife to tell her he was on his way home with the court order. He also sent a copy of the order by fax to one of the neighbors. Next he got into a taxi and hurried home.

When the soldiers heard that a court order had been issued to stop the works, they didn’t lose one minute but put their bulldozer to task with lightning speed. When Hani arrived, soldiers caught him some fifty meters from his home and didn’t let go of him until the house was in ruins.

The lawyer (who had earned 5000 dollar on the case five years ago) advised Hani not to pursue the matter any longer. “You will lose all your money and gain nothing. Be wise and keep your money to raise your children,” he said.

On my ironic question whether Hani expected the fine of 50.000 shekel to be reimbursed to him, he answered seriously: “No, I still have to pay the installments, otherwise they’ll put me in jail.”

I can’t give Hani his house back, and of course he doesn’t expects that from me. But he asked me to give publicity to his story.

“Tell your friends that my little boy came home from school and saw the ruins of our home. Television people were filming. They asked him for his reaction. He answered: ‘I hope they’ll all die.’ Tell the Jews that for years my wife and I have been raising our children in an atmosphere of tolerance and goodwill. We don’t want them to grow with hatred in their hearts. But what can we do now to avoid them feeling the way they do?”

For me the question remains: How will the Totech family spend the rainy season? Seven people in a small tent, without toilets, without heating, without any comfort?

And also this: Is it really impossible to claim some compensation for the terrible injustice that our army has done while knowing that a court order had been issued against demolishing the house?

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Jesus Christ

Hubby and I have begun to work out together in the neighborhood gym. It's swank and spanking new and the guys there surely can give the men in Jerusalem's YMCA a run for their money. If you want to see muscles - MY gym is the place. Good thing Hubby accompanies me there so I must behave.

My Good Daughter even told us that working out in the gym helps depression. But it doesn't help hard-of-hearing because when I told Hubby that I am a certain way because I am menopausal, he had this wonderful senior moment. "You're in a puzzle?"
No, darling I'm not. I love when you don't hear because then I can say things like "I transferred all your money from your bank account to mine." And you will think I'm saying something else.

Tonight we actually celebrated American Thanksgiving at our new friends who are messianic Jews. Jews who, unlike Orthodox Jews who believe in an eventual Messiah, believe that Jesus is the one. Hubby was having a hard time deciding if he wanted to go or not and subject himself to conversations about Christ. Especially on the holy Sabbath. But I, feeling very "Eve-like" persuaded him to go. "It'll be fun." I told him.

"What if they spike the food?" he wanted to know.

"With what? Crumbs from the New Testament?"

There were 3 other couples there besides us, all Americans. Some brought their teenage kids, who were well-behaved, and there was one, like mine, who showed some teen attitude.

"How did you cope with 5 kids?" asked the mother of the kids. She had twins. Lucky you are, lady. I told her God wanted to torture me one at a time.

Everyone there I assumed "knew" we were non-believers. We spoke with one man about our experience as Lubavitcher Chassidim.

He asked - "And they believe that their Rebbe will come back as the Messiah, yet they're not ostracised as being heretics!"

I added - "Sure, it'll be fun to see who comes back first."

The man asked "The Rebbe or who?"

AH - the prompt. They probably do not mention the "J" word to non-believers unless we mention it first.

"Why Jesus of course" I smiled. He knew who the "Who" was. He just wanted me to say his name.

Ding Ding Ding! I felt the green light come on.

Hubby insisted on being seated near the door. He didn't say so, but I thought perhaps it would make it easy for him to make a quick getaway, should he feel totally uncomfortable. They began their Friday night shabbat meal, similar to the way, all traditional Jews do it, singing the same hymns etc. The only time I heard a "Jesus" mention was when the father of household blessed his daughters the traditional prayer of becoming like Sarah, Rivka, Rachel and Leah and Miriam and he added something to the effect like "they should be a light unto the nations so they should know Jesus". Then we dug into the meal, which was an American culinary delight and for a moment I forgot I was in Jerusalem.

I asked about their families. Did their families mind their beliefs? Many of them already came from families who believed as they did. So no one there was excommunicated. What about Jesus' lineage. The traditional Jewish belief was that the messiah must be from the tribe of Judah, which is only determined by patriarchal lineage - and if Jesus' father was God then there's a problem with that. But I didn't press further. I don't care what their beliefs are. I was a new guest in their home and didn't want to make anyone feel uncomfortable. And after about 5 hours, way past our bedtime, we said our goodbyes.

Instead of falling asleep, we were wide awake and watched music shows on TV.

"Why aren't we tired - it's nearly 1:00 am" Hubby asked.

I answered - "Oh, don't worry, it's called Sleep Deprivation. That's what they did to us, so that in time, we'll become believers." feeding into Hubby's paranoia of spiked food and drink.

We both laughed and eventually did fall asleep.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Sweet 16

I'm ready for yet another 2 week vacation. Perhaps I should apply for a saleswoman's job where I'd have to leave the country for 2 weeks out of the month. This way when there is hell at home I'd only enjoy two weeks of it instead of a full month. Maybe even live longer - who knows?

I rushed home to something I didn't want to rush home to - my son's Parents/Teachers meeting. I knew nothing glorious was going to be said about him and I dreaded hearing what I already knew - that he doesn't listen, doesn't do his homework, doesn't respond, doesn't participate in class speaks rudely to the principal, and thinks he's one cool almost-14-year old dude. So I don't know why I needed to spend 45 minutes with the teacher and 2 other school staff members for them to tell me what I already knew. But I brought the little pipsqueak along so he could hear it back for himself. Going back home, I saw this bike rider on the road, driving with no helmet, in the middle of the road, insufficient bike lights and showing off his riding skills by riding with "no hands". Brilliant. But my heart sank as I realized it's my stupid son. I had a fit and threatened to sell his bike if I ever saw him doing that again.

The Ex-Criminal turned 16 today and was let out of her reformatory for the day. We had made reservations at a nice restaurant in Jerusalem. She wanted the entire family to be there plus the Complainer's boyfriend. I hope she understands this expensive endeavor is replacing a physical birthday gift, although I managed to persuade my cheap eldest daughter to buy her a gift she needs, like boots.

At the restaurant we all seemed like such a loving family, taking photos, and hugging and kissing each other that everyone in the packed place must have thought - Oh how sweet, isn't that such a lovely family - not knowing of the torture they all put me through. I put my daughter back to her "place" in a taxi and fell asleep, reading an article in the paper about immigrant juvenile crime down 17% (isn't it nice when they do lock them up?). I get a call at 11:20 pm and 12:30 am rousing me from my sleep. I'm not a good rouser. I must have sounded like I was partying with Keith Richards. Seems that the daughter never got to her place. I knew where she was. She ran off to her boyfriend's and will have to suffer the consequences when she gets back. I fell blissfully asleep.

Hubby woke up in a foul mood and said our son was the Devil.

"And what are you sweet pea? The Angel of Mercy?" I realized then, although rabbis won't tell you, why Eve was created. The One Above did such a rotton job creating Adam, he had to do some heavy repair work and created Eve. Poor Eve. She had no other women to complain to either.

I just couldn't wait to get out of the house, and into my office where my slave job awaits...

All the leaves are brown

Fall has hit Jerusalem. Notice the bars outside my office. To keep the employees in - rather than keep the criminals out.....???

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Fall-ing in Jerusalem

I look out my window at work and see yellow leaves gathered on the ground. I feel I'm back in the US - somewhere in the Northeast - but it's not as cold. It has been raining and I love having the rain pour its wetness on me. I don't use an umbrella or a hood. It washes my sadness away.

Over the weekend my son, whom I try to educate in the best way I can, was telling me excitedly that the manager of Jerusalem's soccer team, Betar, was going to place an Arab player on the team.

"That's wonderful! Maybe the fans will be less racist if he wins a few ones for us."

But by the end of the weekend, my son gleefully told me the plan was nixed because the fans were totally against it. Again, Betar will be the only team without any Arab players. What fools. I silently celebrated their loss on Saturday to Petach Tikvah.

Son was suspended from school today because of bad behavior. I took away his keyboard, but I was told by the Complainer after checking in today that he found another one in the house.

I called Hubby to alert him.

"Yeah, I smashed it."

"YOU SMASHED IT?? WHAT DOES THAT TEACH HIM??? TO DESTROY PEOPLE'S STUFF??" Never mind all the therapy he'll need.

I complained bitterly about my life to a co-worker.

"That's men for you."

"That's no excuse. If that were the case, Hubby would be a great advertisement for a lesbian lifestyle."

Hubby is in-between jobs and down in the dumps. I was at my wit's end by this morning and gave him one of my own Sermons in the Car.

"I don't care if you become a Buddhist. Throw Judaism out the window if it bothers you so much. Meditate. (I was secretly hoping he would take the hint and go to a Buddhist monastery for a few months and leave us all alone) You'll get rid of your anger and your depression and you won't take any of this stuff - the hardships with the kids, the taxes, your work - personally. You'll see it in a different light."

Surely Judaism teaches us how to cope with life's trials and tribulations, but he is not grabbing a fucking clue.

I began to shout - "I don't even care if Jesus saves you. Someone's gotta save you, if you ain't gonna go on meds, sweet pea." And with that I walked out of the car, to my slave job.

Not even a year's membership in the gym is making him happy. And this is something he wanted for years and years. Yesterday, I took my fucking charge card and made 12 payments for the 2 of us in our neighborhood gym, which is spanking new and beautiful with state-of-the-art equipment. He railed at me for making 12 payments instead of being grateful and I wanted to toss his membership card into the Mediterranean.

And then I think of my Jewish meditation mantra and laugh as I recite it ever so slowly....."OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY"

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Oh Sonny Boy

It didn't take me too many days to recover jet-lag wise from India. I would wake up at 4:00 am, being that it was 7:30 am there. But driving to work brought me back to reality quickly. Stuck in traffic because I have to pass by the King David Hotel and David Citadel Hotel where the Clintons and Condoleeza Rice were staying. Security was all over the place. Ahh Jerusalem and its illustrious guests.

On the home front my Son had been acting up, playing hookey from school 3 times while I was away. Then he was suspended for one day for god-knows-what. His voice is changing and he sounds totally awkward. His hormones are going bonkers. The girls at work asked me -

"Does he have his own room?"


"So why don't you get him some dirty magazines and let him wank away."

It's certainly ok by me, if it'll rid him of his awful mood swings. But I'm not buying him nothing. Let him borrow from his friends.

Yesterday Hubby picked up the phone.

"Your son was by my house with 2 other kids. He was ringing the doorbell incessantly while I was sleeping."

Turns out the guy is a judo instructor and this happened at 4:00 in the afternoon not in the morning, you see. Sometimes Israelis take a siesta from 2:00 - 4:00.

I asked my son the next day where he rode his bike to.

"I don't know."

"Did you annoy this guy"

"I was upstairs"

"Upstairs where?"

"I don't know"

"Did you want to take Judo lessons?"

"I don't know"

"How did you get there?"

"I don't know. Somebody took us there."

"Listen kid. Annoying someone is one thing. Annoying a judo instructor is quite another. I don't need these people coming after you or me, understand?"


I'm annoying. Go figure.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

My favorite mode of transportation - Delhi

Taj Mahal

Indian family - Agra

Just outside Anandpur Sahib

Pet Cows? - Gurah

Gurah at sunrise

Gurah village - Punjab

Jst outside Amritsar

Lengar (dinner) at the Temple

Entrance to the Golden Temple

Golden Temple on Diwali

Monday, November 14, 2005

Back to Jerusalem

I got home Saturday. Being that I was alone when I left India, it was less traumatic leaving than if I would have left good friends. I spent my last day in India scooting through Dilli Haat - the crafts exhibition - where I bought higher-quality items such as wall hangings and some clothing which was still much cheaper than back home. The rickshaw driver insisted I go with him shopping and I argued with him nicely for the duration of the ride.

"I have no time to go shopping with you - sorry. Please - what is wrong with just dropping me off where I want to go?" In the end I won and he did just that.

I could have shopped till I dropped. This is what most people do once they get here. It's either a shopping experience or a spiritual experience. I guess I had both, so I was lucky. Afterwards I explored the State Emporiums near Connaught Circle which had stores for each of the provinces. I was hard-pressed to find gifts for my son and Hubby. I had very little time left until synagogue started and I felt I HAD to be at the only Delhi synagogue. I hadn't gone to the main bazaar near the railway station yet and did a 15 minute run through, buying all the cheapest stuff that friends had asked for, scarves, wall hangings and a tablecloth for us. I raced back to my hotel - avoiding all the miscreants hanging around trying to get me to go into their restaurants or just wanting a conversation with me.

"YOU LIKE INDIA?" shouted an elderly man as I rushed through the streets. I didn't have time to answer him but I hoped my smile was enough of an answer.

The synagogue was difficult to find and I came mid-service. It's not like Jews are well-known in the city so no one really knew what a synagogue was. I did manage to find it and walked in mid-service. There were about 5 locals and 5 guests there and the Rabbi was friendly and chatted with us a bit afterwards.

I ended up having my final buffet meal on the rooftop of the Ajanta Hotel, where I would have liked to have stayed. All you can eat for $2. I will miss the cuisine. Meanwhile a woman was there giving away bracelets because she "wanted everyone to be happy" and gave them henna tattooes on their palms as well. I opted for just the bracelets.

Back at my hotel room, I got a call telling me to open up my door to get my towel. I thought it was 3:00 am for my wake-up call. No, it was midnight and I had only slept two hours. I didn't understand why they had to do that but had no strength to figure it out or to argue with them either. At the airport I told the check-in people that I would have loved to be seated in Business Class for the way back to compensate me for losing my luggage for 6 days. They said they can only do it if the people who had reserved in Business did not show up. In the end it was in economy, but I had a wonderful seat-mate who was a professional Israeli photographer for a National Geographic-type magazine who had just been in Pakistan and Kashmir and shared with me his videos throughout our 6 1/2 hour ride back.

In Jordan our flight was delayed 2 hours, which meant a 4 hour wait and I was amused at all the Iraqis in the airport. Should I start a conversation with them or shouldn't I? In the end I stuck with the Israelis and had cappuccino after cappuccino and salad after salad because I hadn't had either for two weeks.

I was horrified to see that we were going on a propeller jet. They're noisy and bumpier than regular jets and I wasn't in the mood. I sat next to a few Japanese businessmen and my fear subsided as I gave him an aerial tour of Israeli cities, Arab villages and Jewish settlements.

Back home my kids hovered around me as I opened up my suitcases. Only my son seemed to be satisfied with his gift which was just an expensive tube of Smarties I bought at the airport and he grabbed it from me like a rhesus monkey would have done in Delhi. I bought them bangles but some were too small for them and not their style.

"We want the two you're wearing". Of course they did. And about the clothes I got for them, they complained of the Indian smell. I bought incense for Hubby which he appreciated and some jewellery boxes for the girls who didn't have any.

"You smell like India" said the Complainer. Could be a good thing. Looks like India got into my soul too.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Hindu Temple

I went to the grandest of Hindu temples the other day in Delhi. It had just opened 3 days ago and has a really long name so I don't remember it - but it is extravagant. It reminded me of being in Disney World. Cameras weren't aloud so no photos will describe it. There was an Imax theater showing a 50 minute history of their Guru (18th century) and a boat ride in the style of "It's a Small World". The place must have cost somewhere in the tens of millions of dollars.

Our guide summed it all up, when I mentioned the pollution of the air here as well as the rivers and the poverty.

"People aren't talking about money here. It's not the purpose of our lives. People in Europe have clean homes and smooth roads but their souls are jumpy. Here in India, our roads are bumpy and jumpy and our streets are not so clean, but our souls are smooth. We are happy."

And that they are.

Similarities between the Sikhs and Jews

There were so many of them it seemed. The Sikhs reminded me of Lubavitch Chassidim with their uncut beards, their unending, genuine hospitality, etc. The only difference physically was that one wore turbans and one group wear black hats. To the Sikhs - all humanity are equal and they got rid of the caste system in their religion.

Over the Sikh holy book was a beautifully embroidered cover much like Jews covering their Torah. On top was a canopy, which is what we use during weddings and when transferring the Torah from one place to another.

After services the Sikhs have a "lenger" - a community meal. The Jews have a "kiddush". However the Sikhs win in orderliness. Jewish "kiddushes" are unruly. Everyone waits for the Rabbi to recite the blessing over wine and then food grabbing is de riguer. With the Sikhs, you sit down in very even rows and wait for people to serve you. They feed people by the thousands. In every temple we visited we were served not only by local Sikhs but by the head of the Birmingham group - who modestly served others. This was unusual and even the head of the Institute, took her turn in serving us too.

Their marriage ceremony used to last 7 days - similar to Jewish wedding celebrations where you would have 7 days of special festive dinners in different places after the wedding. But now the Sikhs have dwindled it down to just one day.

Their prayer book looked like a Jewish book of Psalms, only much shorter.

I felt we were kindred spirits and also felt very connected with their community. I know when I visit London and Birmingham, I'll be welcomed warmly by them.

People at the Conference

I learned so much from everyone there - from the famous Buddhist monk from Sri Lanka - The Venerable Sobitha - who taught us how to meditate to the Moslem woman from Zimbabwe to the Bosnian people who wanted to help us get out of our conflict the way they did.

We had a meditation session with Sobitha one morning. I tried to concentrate on his "breath in, breath out" meditations. I even tried to look at my nostrils as he instructed while my eyes were closed.

"People are not happy" he said. "People always want something. Then when they get it, they want something else. They are never satisfied."

"You talking to me?" I thought.

The smoke of the incense wafted towards me and no one else. My mind drifted to all sorts of thoughts and I got sidetracked from "breath in/breath out" I'm such a total loser meditator. And as I was sitting cross legged, my feet began to tingle and fall asleep.

I spoke with the Zimbabwe woman who irritated me by telling me that Jews rule the world.

"Really?" I inquired. "Looks like you've been reading too many of those awful anti-semitic books around."

"Oh no. You know who owns Coca Cola? A Jew." and she rattled off his name.

"Oh yeah? So who owns Pepsi?" I challenged her. "Probably not a Jew."

I was fuming. "And what about the non-Jews like the Hiltons with their slutty kids and Donald Trump who is so full of himself. And what about billionaire Jews who are philanthropists and use their money for the good in this world. HUH?"

She didn't have much else to say, except that she thought the Ayatollah was good for Iran because he brought Islam to the country while the Shah was a total non-believer and people were behaving in a non-Islamic fashion.

I grabbed ahold of her friend one evening and told her about the history of Israel/Palestine. She had no idea that before 1967, the West Bank was actually in Jordan.

But they did come to our presentations and I am glad they listened to us. It may change their views, even slightly.

The Moslem Bosnian girl in her twenties said she had lived in Iraq for 5 years under Sadaam Hussein's rule and even though he was an idiot and a tyrant, people lived pretty normal lives there. She wished the Americans would leave and let the locals deal with the aftermath of who will be in power, etc. No one really wants them there it seemed.

Some site visits

When we were in Amritsar, we went to visit two sites, Sacred Heart School and Pingalwara Charitable society. The first school was a well-to-do Catholic school, where the children all called me Madam and we were treated to beautiful performances by the girls. When I get back home, I will treat you to some of these photos. It must have taken these girls weeks to prepare such perfect presentations. The next place was a home/school for Amritsar's unwanted children, many with physical handicaps. We roamed around the place, run by the Sikhs, and I saw a mouse scurry where the deaf and mute kids were. How convenient, I thought, to have a mouse just there because the kids wouldn't be able to complain. They had a pretty good state-of-the-art hearing lab and math and science lab. Some kids were abandoned and were brought here. They all wanted to shake our hands, especially the little ones.

But the most wonderful visit I experienced was to the Golden Temple at Amritsar during Diwali. I did not expect to see or feel this experience. It is simply undescribable, although the photos may describe some of it. The crowds ran into the tens of thousands and everyone was very dignified, save for one unruly person outside the temple who grabbed ahold of my butt.

We had always received VIP treatment - not only because of our affiliation with the Institute but because the Birmingham head of the Sikhs, Baba Ji, was with us and we were ushered into the main temple instead of waiting in line which would have taken 6 hours or so to get inside. I didn't feel grungy walking barefoot amongst everyone. I thought I would.

Then there were the fireworks display. I wasn't like in Western countries. Not at all. In Western countries, they put the fireworks totally away from everyone, in case of misfires, etc. But we were herded onto the roof to watch the display and to our horror, right next to us were the fireworks. These were major fireworks and we all freaked out, althought the natives seemed so nonplussed about it.

After the convention we toured the Punjap to places which aren't on any tourist map. Great temples popped out of nowhere in these tiny remote villages, where life probably hasn't changed in centuries. What a history lesson and a lesson in people's culture I had for these couple of weeks. I believe it would take 4 years of university for one to learn what I had learned in two weeks. From the conflict in Uganda, to the peaceful two/state solution in Bosnia-Herzegovina, to how people are being empowered in schools to deal with bullies - the list is endless. And I can take it all home with me once it sinks in.

Our group dwindled down from the 100 people at the convention to 40 on tour and then most had to catch their flights back home. It was sad saying goodbyes to the Afghans - it is certainly not easy for us to meet and they were totally fun guys - as well as the London/Birmingham Sikhs who accompanied us everywhere. There were just 4 of us left yesterday - 2 from Bosnia and 1 from Brazil and we rented a car with a driver since you would have to be totally insane to drive in India. Off to Agra to see the Taj Mahal. One of the 7 wonders of the world. I'm glad I saw it. It was like photos coming to life. The ride was tedious - 4 hours each way on India's national highway where there were signs about obeying traffic rules. We all had a good laugh over that. What rules. Two lane highways are 4 lanes and what they get away with here you would never see in Western countries.

Vendors were totally awful in Agra, and people had warned us of aggressive rhesus monkeys who snatch your bags, but monkeys didn't bother us at all. The vendors attacked us worse. I didn't bother buying from any of them until the very end, but my friends did and so we were totally bombarded with these people.

But when we got inside, we were totally in awe, and each one of us spontaneously said a prayer of thanks to God for bringing us together in this spectacular place.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Going Shopping

On Thursday a few of the Sikh volunteers from the UK told me they were taking me shopping because my suitcase had not arrived yet and they were probably tired of seeing me in my derelict clothing. they took me to this elegant looking store, selling ethnic clothing in the old market and I thought I'd be paying. But turns out they were treating me to 2 suits. I felt embarrassed at them paying for two, so I only bought one. Two elderly Sikh gentlemen accompanied us and waited patiently in the store for well over an hour while they showed me dozens of outfits. It's a total no-no to thumb through the clothing yourself so they would rather take everything out of the package and repackage it again. Fine, if it keeps them in business.

I felt bad for the older men waiting. "You shouldn't have gone shopping with a Jewish woman" I told them. They chastised me for not buying a second outfit.

"Jewish women don't want to spend money" one of them said. "They like to keep the money."

"Really? Why don't you just speak to my husband about that. He'll totally disagree with you there."


I'm sure I may have said something about our accommodations - but I'll repeat. I don't remember. I should have been more grateful to have the room we had at first with the lizards, spiders and ants, toilets that didn't flush and our one towel. Oh, not to mention no working shower and washing my body in buckets of water. Because we've been moved for one night to a different hostel that looks like something from Midnight Express. At least the bathroom does. It doesn't have the Western style toilet - it's got the Asian bathroom - where you have to squat. Ugh. I'm glad it's only for one night and I'm grateful I don't have the runs. Plus the sheets were dirty and I told them I'll sleep on the new carpet in their temple if we don't get clean sheets.


I had not written anything about the conference at Amritsar. First of all we were all given badges. I'm so not used to looking VIP and I kept on forgetting my badge when I left my room in the mornings. But I did get the hang of it eventually.

It was really great to have an opportunity to meet people from 25 difference countries. I seemed to gravitate towards certain people from certain countries more than others. The ones I chummied up to were those from Afghanistan. They were extremely funny and interesting and spoke perfect English. During the Taliban era, they fled to Pakistan but now are helping to build their country again. There were two men from Pakistan who we got to know. The introduction was awkward at first, but then we seemed to be like family with them. You see politicians and politics separate people, not get them together. We seemed to be doing better at making peace than our own countries were doing.

After we had made our small presentation, people from countries like Bosnia and the Ukraine would give us advice, their business cards, etc. Many wanted to partner with us and the Bosnians together with us decided we would try to make a summer camp for teenagers together.

I hung out alot with the US contingent from Indiana and Massachusetts.

We seemed to get a lot of very positive feedback after the two of us made our presentation to the entire delegation. I was pleased that alot of people, especially the Afghani's, will go back to their country and tell their people what they experienced. I'm sure they will say that the media have it all wrong - the Israeli's they met are not as awful as they thought. And perhaps the Pakistanis will do that as well. The trip, with all it's difficulties, is definitely worth it for this.

Saturday, November 05, 2005


I don't understand why so many Israelis travel to India and some alot of hash. It doesn't make sense. You don't need any drugs in India. India is intoxicating and trippy just on its own. It's a totally different world that it is difficult to describe in words. It is so full of contrasts. You could be walking down a street, in the old market taking in the beautiful scents of spices and incense and then along comes the traffic and you're breathing in the fumes and choking on them. There are the beggars, the deformed, the mystical sudhus dressed in organge robes gazing intensely at you and then you see these beautifully dressed women in the most colorful saris/punjabi outfits. I have never seen a more colorful people. We meandered down the shops today and got dizzy from all the glittering material. It's quite a no-no to get clothing on your own. The salemen sit on mattresses while customers sit on the chairs and they unravel everything.

Besides that, there was no anonymity for me yesterday. I had terrible stomach cramps and we all figured out it was because I was constipated for 6 days. And dehydrated. So my friends loaded me up with 2 liters of water and everyone in the convention started to call me "Job" from the Bible - the one who lost her luggage and is constipated. One doctor ran to the local pharmacy to get me some fiber. Throughout the day, they did their check-ups on me asking me how I felt. Who would have thought you get constipated in INdia in the first place. I was prepared for the opposite.

More tomorrow. When I may have more time.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Roughing It

I still did not get my luggage, although they said it is due to arrive today, thanks to the volunteers at the convention. They were incredible, looking after me every step of the way from getting me 2 Punjabi outfits so I'd have something to wear other than the greenish brown pants I had been wearing since Sunday. Plus they had arranged for one of their friends/relatives from Delhi to go to the airport to pick up my luggage so I would not have to make the 8 hour trip there. I felt so pampered being looked after.

I joked to everyone that God was trying to humble me. After all,Hubby complained that I had packed too much luggage. Of course, everyone else just came with hand luggage. I came with a big bag stuffed with one week's worth of clothing, plus toiletries. So now I was forced to make do with little for 5 days.

Taking showers? Not where I'm staying. At least I have a sit down toilet. It doesn't flush, so we pour buckets of water into it to make the "stuff" go down. It works!

I washed my hair for the first time since I got here this morning by pouring very warm water into the bucket and then using a smaller bucket to pour water over my head. Being paranoid, I poured listerine into my mouth to disinfect anything coming into my mouth from the bad water.

They have gone out of their way here to make us feel comfortable, giving us spoons with our meals and covering the tables with white satin-y tableclothes.

I did discover one flushing toilet in the conference area. Most of the public toilets are not sit down toilets. You have to squat into what looks like a flat urinal on the floor and then do the bucket thing to flush. But we are all doing it. It's not the worst thing in the world. There is toilet paper.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Happy Diwali

The Indian Festival of lights. It is a privilege for me to celebrate it for the first time here.

As I boarded the Air India flight to Amritsar from new Delhi, the plane was filled with the scent of incense and Indian music played in the background. I felt relaxed. It was so soothing. Imagine being as paranoid about flying as I am and feeling relaxed about flying for the first time. Perhaps there should be a rule that all airlines should burn incense and play sitar music. There is something to this.

I forgot to say that during the Royal Jordanian flight they sprayed the airline with I don't know what but it looked like DDT - when we landed. I prefer incense.

I was hoping that the Air India pilots fly their planes better than they drive their cars. From the smooth flight, I can say that they do.