Monday, December 25, 2006

(not celebrating) Christmas in Jerusalem

Well, it certainly doesn't feel like Christmas here. It's work as usual. Nothing is closed, except for the US consulate (and other consulates of course) and the Filipino caregivers have their day off today.

Last night two Breslov Hassidim, with long earlocks, came to my door to ask if I want to buy this ridiculously gigantic book of Psalms. I have Psalms thank-you, but I opted for their charity box. They took out their notebook to jot down my address and all that. It was cold outside so I invited them in. They seemed happy to get out of the cold. The men hardly looked at me (some ultra-Orthodox men do not look directly at women) even though I was modestly dressed but were friendly none-the-less and were grateful for an opportunity to say a blessing over the glass of water I gave them and blessed me and thanked me for my hospitality.

"Funny those guys coming over Christmas eve" said Hubby.

"Huh? You even think they KNOW it's Christmas Eve?" I answered - they may not have a clue being that they probably don't read the papers and don't watch tv.

"They're probably from the Tax department snooping around"

I rolled my eyes. I blame the Holy Ganga for Hubby's paranoia.

"Yeah, looks like we'll get a reduction on our taxes then won't we" I retorted. What's on display at our house, other than torn sofas, broken dining room chairs and a color tv that displays only a blue and red picture.

I added to the fun. "Maybe they're the Three Wise Men, only one is missing, so only Two Wise Men showed up at our home."

Today at our staff lunch, the president wanted to hear from us immigrants how we saw Christmas once-upon-a-time. I told her about one of my fondest memories of my two Catholic friends who, years ago, fought with their respective families and had nowhere to go for Christmas dinner. Seeing their distress, I ended up making their festive meal, turkey with all the trimmings. Despite the lack of Christmas tree and decorations in my house, I think we had a damn good holiday meal together. And it was pretty funny for them to be hosted by their Jewish friend and it put us all back in a good mood. The next memory was of my Sicilian friend's family's dinner where we pigged out from 4:30 pm until 10:30 at night, while her grandmother gave me a verbal thrashing for not going to Church, while the rest of the family chuckled and tried to tell her that I was Jewish and that's a good reason not to go to church.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Tel Aviv and Borat, the Movie

Ahhh. Nothing like a Sunday off. Reminds me of the Old Country. Today my work gave me off for Chanukah vacation - not all 8 days but 1 measly day. Better than no days at all though.

My daughter had to take her university/college entrance exam that morning. This exam has nothing to do with how intelligent you are because she is very intelligent and got the highest marks in her high school, but she feels like a complete idiot after studying for 3 months for this exam. English was easy, she told me but math and Hebrew were difficult for her. I spoke to some people who said these exams just show how quickly and accurately you can do these tests under pressure. And you learn how to solve mathematical problems quickly. Big friggin' deal. She lives in my house. She can definitely work/learn well under pressure. Who are they to judge.

But never mind the results. I celebrated the end of her tedious studying day and night and we went off to Tel Aviv to look at the sunset

and to go further north to Ramat Hasharon to Cinema City, a huge complex of 21 or so movie theaters. I hadn't been to Tel Aviv in 1 1/2 years. It's an hour away, but I never find the time to leave Jerusalem.

We got to the cinema just in time for the show. We laughed our asses off and I was surprised to see the audience about my age with few young people. Borat was hysterical speaking in Hebrew when he should have been speaking Kazakh and I'm thinking - man, has this guy put Kazakhastan on the map. Their government should go with it and do "Borat tours" of the country - it would be absolutely hilarious.

Funniest part was the nude wrestling, where it was difficult for me (but I managed) to get my bladder under control, I was laughing so hard.

Also hilarious was the part where he thought the bed and breakfast Jews were poisoning him with their deli sandwich they insisted that he eat. It reminded me of the time when I took my first trip to Israel when I just turned 17 -waay back in early 1973. Our car got stuck in the mud in an Arab village and one of the villagers came out of his home to help us up the hill to his home. They sat me down and served me tea. I had never heard of herbal tea back then especially not flavored teas like mint. So needless to say when I took a sip of it, I truly thought they were trying to poison me and I wouldn't drink it. I was terrified. It wasn't until a year later that I acquired a taste for it and realized that it was the tea of choice for many Israelis, especially of Moroccan origin. Just goes to show...

Sunday, December 17, 2006

A tale of two towns

I went hiking last Friday with Jerusalem's Mosaic Club. We were a cozy group and began our trek from Mevasseret Zion, a now-wealthy suburb of Jerusalem, and the place where I began my life in Israel in its absorption center, where the sole occupants now are Ethiopian immigrants (perhaps the only non-well-to-do residents of the place). We passed by burial caves from the 2nd Temple period, and the tour guide explained that only wealthy people dug out their own burial caves and reused them for generations, while the rest buried their dead out in the field.

Our hippie guide apologized profusely for his not excellent English, but I really enjoyed his guiding - as he referred to abandoned settlements as abdomened homes and where the farmers grew weed, instead of wheat, and where we had to squish the red berries with our toes (instead of fingers) - stuff like that throughout the tour. He told us Bedouin tales in one of the caves of female demons and showed us the odd nest that the sunbird built.

Down in the valley between Mevasseret towards Jerusalem, we walked passed the newly built bridges (a sore spot with nature preservers) and highways, and a previously unknown place(to me) called Einot Telem where there was a small Jewish settlement up until the Arab riots of 1929. The soap factory was the only building left standing. Because of the springs, there was settlement there for hundreds of years. Right now there were unsightly water tanks and a big electro-magnetic-field-cellphone-transmitter on the site. We sat in the shade of the back of the former factory, where there has been some recent restoration done on the site to have our lunch.

We walked on the dirt road towards Lifta dodging cement trucks building the new highway fast and furious today. It ruined the serenity of the place.

I was always curious about Lifta, the abandoned Arab village of pre-1948 and in my 11 years here, never had a chance to roam around it.

It has been left abandoned and I was grateful that the picturesque buildings hadn't been razed. The place has a long history and we could peek inside an ancient building to see the Byzantine stones inside.

But don't lean on the walls of these buildings, they are in danger of collapse, warned our guide. Some of the better maintained buildings are now squatted in by hippies, junkies and a drug rehab center. The guide said he wasn't sure if the Arabs left on their own or were forced out in 1948 (I tend to think they were forced out by frequent attacks on them), but I do have an Arab friend who was born there who now lives in Jerusalem. Perhaps I'll one day go with her, if it's not too painful, and get a real tour of the place.

In the early 1950s immigrant Jews from Arab countries were placed there until enough room in the tent cities of that time became available. In 1967 the IDF did practice runs in that village and thus ruined many of the buildings.

The government/municipality doesn't know what to do with the place. One idea was to tear it down and build a shopping mall there (horrible idea), another was to make it into a upscale residence for Jews, another was to make it into an artists village. I think they should renovate it and use it as a tourist site (a living Palestinian village) the way they redo ancient Jewish villages and have descendants of the village guide people around in native dress. I don't see the Israeli government okaying this idea. It's too "political". But I still think it's a cool idea.

Monday, December 11, 2006

And the madness goes on

It started out mad - I woke up before six am, cooked up a macrobiotic storm for breakfast and lunch (miso soup with squash and wakame, tempeh, grilled tofu, brown/wild rice stew with cabbage, onions and celery) only to realize when I got to work that, hey! its Monday and that's when we order sandwiches/salads on the company account.

We finally found a place to rent for a few months. There are very few places that will rent to you for less than a year. The owner took full advantage of this and raised the rent $50 more a month for that privilege. It's a villa - private home - big and old and shabby and cold. But it's got closets and we could live out of boxes and leave the rest of our stuff like wardrobes and summer stuff and books fully packed until our permanent move (whenever that will ever be). Hubby wants to go through a lawyer for this lease, but the owner is saying she will just come with me to get a standard rental lease at the print shop and sign it. I spoke to others and for not complicated cases such as this, you don't need a lawyer. But as Hubby says he doesn't want to get "fucked" so he wants the lawyer. I called said lawyer today and he's out sick. He's a man. He could be sick for days. You know how it is - probably just a head cold.

So I don't want to get "fucked" by the landlord and have her sign up with someone else which will leave us stranded, so I may just get the darn thing signed just between the two of us this afternoon and screw the men. They make things so complicated.

At home- tried to get the 17 year old to wash dishes so that she could get her phone charger back from Hubby who took it away on Friday for not doing laundry. She was in a rush to go to a party.

"At 5:30 in the evening you're going to a party?" I asked.

Since when do parties for teens start at 5:30 pm? It's more like 11:30 pm until the wee hours. It's wonderful. These teen clubs in Jerusalem have parties till 5:00 am and the kids can't wake up to go to school or work or whatever it is that keeps them occupied.

She swore at us using the English "F" word, and ran upstairs while we went off to see the rental apartment.

Meanwhile, our present landlord thinks we're leaving the end of the week - he doesn't know it's mid-January. I'm too nervous to approach him until I get the rental agreement signed so he can see that we're just not apartment squatters. All this friggin chaos in my life. I should be thrilled actually because I have a light work week this week while all the bosses are away at meetings for an entire week and there's no pressure to get 100 things done in 1/2 hour. But I'm not.

And when I think of that fucking Iranian Ahmadinejad trying to blow us up in Jerusalem so he can bring on the Mahdi - I just think - "Man, go ahead. Make my day."

Friday, December 08, 2006

Pills for Life

I think I have the writer's block. I haven't been inspired to write. My family's getting on my nerves. All of them.

"Oprah said you don't just give kids an allowance. They have to work for it" said my 20 year old as I gave my 17 year old 30 NIS ($7) for her weekly Thursday night outings.

I should have thrown out the TV. It's no good for kids. They were right. They'll only learn how normal families work and it'll make us look even more dysfunctional. And the kids are right. She gets money for doing shit around the house. I ask her to do stuff like put on a tablecloth and she puts in on halfway and runs out of the house. I give her the cash to keep her quiet. I don't want her bugging me or stealing from her sisters or borrowing from her friends. I do everything the books (and Oprah) say I shouldn't be doing.

Hubby was threatening not to buy any apartment, which will leave us pretty much stranded. At dinner same daughter said - "You know, if you get mad at him these days, you can always wash his teeth in the toilet" - and we all laughed like madwomen.

My neck is killing me and it's from stress. The only thing I can do is try and listen to Johnny Cash or the soundtrack from Walk The Line to calm me down.

Emails and SMS's are coming in - help needed with olive picking in Palestinian territories, house demolitions going on and people needed for support, and interfaith stuff going on left and right and I'm not joining in on anything - just deleting the messages, as I would for something I see for sale and cannot afford. I'm restless and we've overstayed our lease. I'm nervous. And it's catchy. My married kid had excrutiating stomach pains and went to emergency this week, just when I had wanted to begin packing. They perscribed antacids, after checking her thoroughly. A nervous stomach they tell her. I gave her the number of a homeopath, feelig that I just about had it with the conventional medical profession. Shame that's it's a fortune here. Seems the homeopath did the trick. He seemed to have "felt her pain" and gave her tiny homeopathic pills which calmed her tummy right down. Maybe I should go see him - perhaps he has a few little homeopathic pills for my psycho life.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

words of wisdom

It was one rough week.

We are still hoping for a miracle that the Landlord will sell us our present abode at a reasonable price. We had hoped by spending the last Day of Rest cleaning our place top-to-bottom and having it sparkle that the landlord could sell it as is. But he walked through the home quickly on Sunday to say he can't sell it without renovation and he would like us to leave as quickly as we can. It's now the end of that week and not a box is packed.

Which means we will have to look for a place for rent for four months, until we move into our new place - that is, if we can get the new place.

We are hoping that one bank will give us the OK to get a mortgage with them. It's an easier process than it used to be. You used to have to put 40% of the price down and above that get two guarantors to sign. So if you run away to America or Europe and leave all your debts behind, the banks would run after your guarantors. I've heard horror stories of guarantors that trusted their best friends and close relatives, only to find that they were stuck with the mortgage. Nowadays that has all changed and the banks will take back your house. But it's not that easy to be approved for a mortgage. Not all banks will approve. They have different criteria.

And all through this chaotic week I worked like a slave/dog at my job and Hubby had four teeth pulled. It wasn't easy. The freeze didn't take and he sat there for two hours writhing in pain because he didn't want to ever go through this again. Not to mention everyone called for him that Thursday. The seller of the new apartment who wanted us to sign the contract that day because it was the end of the month, potential clients, new immigrants who wanted to brainstorm with him about finding work, you name it, they called him. My son fielded the calls and told everyone that dad had his teeth taken out and couldn't meet them or greet them or come to the phone. No secrets there.

And my married kid was traumatized by her crazy Orthodox new sister-in-law of hers in the US but in Jerusalem for a visit, who decided that she had "ruined her child" because my daughter photographed her teen kid with a cigarette in her hand during a two hour outing last summer to our home.

"You piece of shit" (daughter recorded this conversation). "If I see you, I'll slap your face. You've RUINED my daughter. You took her to your home and let her hang out with your sister who looks like a street hooker!!! Your family are a bunch of low lifes (how on earth could she have found that out!!??)....." and the conversation went on with more threats between the two.

I told my daughter - not to worry. If I have to call that crazy woman I will and I'll tell her it wasn't a cigarette, it was a joint and that we're not street hookers, we're high-class escorts, and she should damn well know the difference.

Hubby, still suffering from his dental trauma, managed one sentence to calm my daughter down which proves you don't need a full set of teeth to sprout gems such as this.

"My shit in the toilet this morning looked better than her face."

And he laughed, and she laughed and I couldn't stop laughing looking at him...

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


Well I got one of those Miranda bosses from The Devil Wears Prada. She happy about my work because I hear people tell me that, so I must be worth something, but she's always complaining whenever I'm around.

"Are you trying to give me a heart attack?"

Not unless I'm in your Will, honey - I thought to myself.

She was complaining about all the files I put on her desk for her tons of meetings she had that day. She wants them in her InBox. OK. Not a problem.

She shoots out her requests of me for one hour straight - order this book from Amazon, look for this and that on the Internet, answer her emails, file this and put this on the agenda and look through her hundred pages of notes, read her emails, answer what I can, write papers for her, prepare for her meetings, edit this, figure out what she has to do in the next hour, day, week and year, and write it all down in a list, categorize everything and all this has to be done in less than an hour before she leaves. And I do it.

alas - I'm no longer the princess slave I used to be.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Going through the ringer, Israeli style

For the past 11 years since I’ve moved to Israel from Canada, I always wondered why people complained of life being so difficult here. I find tedious day-to-day life similar to any day-to-day life in any other country. OK - I’ve been through the 2nd intifada and it wasn’t any picnic taking public transportation and eyeing everyone coming onto the bus to see if perhaps that person lugging a huge backpack over their shoulder was going to blow us all up. It wasn’t fun when my kids took buses to school then either.

The ping pong game in Gaza and Sederot going on now is terribly depressing, but it seems miles away, as distant as the war in Lebanon seemed from Jerusalem this summer.
My day is routine. I wake up. Get bread and milk for the family. Hubby, my darling chauffeur, drives me to work nearly every morning. I’m busy as heck at my job. I thank God that I do have a job. I run an errand or two before heading home to make dinner, straighten up, listen to my kids’ day, mediate their fights (”SHUT THE HELL UP RIGHT NOW!!”) and crash.

What could be so difficult?

And then we began looking for a home. We have been renting all our lives and never owned anything - so feeling nervous about being a senior citizen in less than two decades and having to dish out my meager pension to a landlord for rent - we decided it was high time to buy.

We’ve been looking at places to buy and rent since August, ever since my landlord who swore to me 5 years ago, he’d never sell our place, decided to sell. He has no buyer, his place looks like shit (and not because of us), it’s small - the only thing going for it is a huge terrace off the living room, and he’s charging a fortune for it. And he’s wondering why he can’t sell the damn place.

We’re hoping to buy a spanking new, larger place, quite a bit cheaper than what he’s charging for his dump and the move-in date is March or April. We’ve begged Mr. Landlord to let us stay on for four more months. After all, who will rent to us for only 4 months? There aren’t people clamoring to get into our place anyway, so let’s continue to pay rent. Hubby even offered him $100 more a month, but like Mr. Pharaoh from Egypt, the man’s not budging, and I don’t know how to bring about plagues and tell him it’s because of his hardened heart. He tells us we have to be out of our place in a week. We haven’t packed a friggin’ thing. He’s coming on Sunday to inspect our place and then decide whether he wants us out or in for 4 more months.
That’s one.

The other is trying to maneuver through the Israeli banking system. I went to one bank. She’s telling me she’ll give me a mortgage based on Prime. There are tons of different types of mortgages and she’s giving me the more risky one. Nah. I go to the next bank. And the next bank. I find them impersonal and they all make me nervous. I find out from one bank that I’m still considered a new immigrant. I can get a special immigrant’s mortgage at a fixed low interest rate for 20 years. The mortgage person is patient with me and speaks to me in English, which I find a relief. Who wants to make important life decisions in Hebrew when it’s not your first language? But I have to go to the Ministry of Absorption to extend this right, which is stamped in my “Immigrant’s ID” booklet for only 7 years instead of the 15 years it is today. And I better get going before the government decides to change the rules again.

Fine. What could be so difficult about that? After all, Israel’s come a long way with the way their Ministry of Interior office is handled nowadays. The place used to be every immigrant’s biggest nightmare 15 years ago. You’d wait to fill out forms which you didn’t understand for an Israeli ID card, Israeli passport, wait 5 hours and then be told “sorry, we’re closing for the day” or they’d decide to go on strike in the middle of your wait. Now, things get processed in a day. Passport expired? Not a problem. Go in the afternoon, wait 15 minutes and voila - you get a stamp with an extention! You’re out of there in a flash. So what could be the problem with the Ministry of Absorption?

Well, looks like they’re back to where the other Ministry was 20 years ago. I called up one number after another and was connected to numbers which didn’t answer and didn’t have voice mail. It was frustrating. I called up the main number.
“Does the immigrant department consist of only one person???” I was totally irritated. The Russian woman assured me it was an entire department.

“Then why isn’t anyone answering??? It’s 10:30 in the morning. One-half hour after their morning break!!” (government employees are well-known for their extravagant and must-have 10:00 breaks)

She proceeded to give me 6 other numbers. I called them all - no one answered.
The next day, all government ministries went on strike. I don’t care. I called them anyway. I pick a number - any number. Someone answers. I’m totally shocked.

“Aren’t you on strike?” I question her.

“Yes” she giggles

“Then can you help me out here?”

And the woman on strike gives me all the necessary information to make the appointment I need to have with them. Go figure.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

The Hostage

My kids were making me laugh. Not on purpose though. Their English is horrible. Absolutely horrible. Worse than my Hebrew.

My daughter working in that fancy Jerusalem hotel, cheerfully informed me that she became a "hostage" at her work.

"Hostage?" I asked. She looked way too happy to be a true hostage. We tried to figure out what she meant.

"You wouldn't be smiling if you were a hostage in a hotel, even THAT hotel." thinking about some rich old smarmy man in that place.

"You know, I stand at the entrance of the hotel...."

My married daughter interrupted..

"Oh, you mean a Ho. You're a Ho! A Ho at the Ho-tel!!"

We were laughing hysterically.

At the end we figured out she was a Hostess for the hotel's restaurant, which was equally as funny - with "ho" at the beginning of the word.

Her pronunciation is horrible - simply horrible. We laugh at the thought of her pointing out to customers the dish of "pisghetti with ongions".

Someone in the hotel has a great sense of humor.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

We Want Peace...

This is lovely - some of my friends are here in this short video.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Home sweet Home

Yeah, it's been a while since I've posted. I've got like 2 weeks to move from our place - and, well, we haven't really found any place to move to. I hope they won't get their bullies to drive us out of the apartment.

It's been tough finding a place to rent, first of all. I finally saw a 4 bedroom for rent on Thursday. A spanking brand new apartment in the newest part of town. I called the agent on Wednesday night.

"I'd like to be the first person to see this place. Can I come over tomorrow morning."

"No, you'll have to see it at 8:00 at night. That's the earliest I can show it to you."

Great. I called him again at noon to confirm our time. Then I called him again at 7:40 pm to make sure 8:00 was still ok. And we rushed over.

When we got there - someone else was there. He saw us and said he's gonna close the deal. The agent liar lied to me. He didn't book the guy for 8:10 like he should have. He had us all come at once. What a fucking dick. I was devastated to say the least. I cried loudly all the way home, and my kids consoled me. It's not meant to be, they said. It's God's will, said my husband.

Then my ex-Criminal got ahold of my cellphone with the agent's number on it, after blasting me for not being Israeli enough and not telling him off when he said the apartment is already rented. She said I should have said, "What is this? You can't rent the apartment to him, I called you first, blah blah blah."

So she calls the guy up and blasts him for treating her mother this way and what kind of an agent is he anyways. My 20 year old takes the phone and tells him he's a rotten businessman. He retorts "Don't tell me how to run my business." Dickhole.

After grieving for 12 hours, we had a miracle email from close relatives that said they want to help us buy a place. I think that now my dream of owning a place in this country will come true...

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Past Lives

Do you believe you had a former life? I do. I'm always thinking about what I could have been in a former life.

There was the time when I was 17 years old and went to London for the first time. I had been dreaming about London since 1964 - Mary Poppins, Beatles, Petula Clark and others from Swinging London perhaps shaped my longing for the place. But it went deeper than that. There was a familiarity about the place I couldn't put my finger on. I wasn't familiar with all of England - not Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool, Cornwall, etc. London called to me. So when I hopped into a cab from the airport, he couldn't find his way around. I told him "I think you go up that way and turn a right". And when I was right, I actually freaked myself out enough to write Hans Holzer - the "former lives" expert living in NYC a letter. He wrote in scribbled German-English that he wasn't going to do a case study on me, unless I had recurrent dreams about a place, which I didn't.

How far back does one soul go? When I lived in New York, I hung around African-Americans and they'd nod to each other - "she think she black". I often wondered if I had once been a slave in the deep south.

Here in Israel I am constantly bumping into Franciscans friars and monks. A Jewish woman sang St. Francis' Dolce Amore which brought me near tears. Did I once know the man?

Was I once living in the time of the first temple, which intrigues me more than the second temple?

Why did the border between Pakistan and India feel so familiar to me when I was there last year, watching the people of Pakistan file back into their fields at sunset one Friday night? The feeling was almost magical. Did some of the lost 10 tribes not travel in this direction?

Why do I have such a strong desire to visit the Silk Route - Bukhara, Tajikstan, Turkmenistan, Samarkand - and not France, Denmark or the exotic Fiji Island. Not even the Bahamas. Was I once there, living in a hut or living in a palace?

If you believe in past lives, do you come back to rectify what you didn't complete in the last few? Is my constant battle/struggle with money and cravings for the good life a sign that I once was rich? Perhaps stingy rich and miserly - not giving any charity? Did I have to come back as me in this life to learn a lesson or two?

And do we have to rectify in this life the biblical feud between Sarah and Hagar in order that there be peace between their two sons?

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Green Stuff

I managed to wrestle the computer away from my kid yesterday morning who was typing like a banshee at 5:30 am.

"Don't you have to go to school this morning?"

"That's why I'm up. Because if I go to sleep, I won't wake up in time for school."

But she went upstairs, saw her bed around 6:00 am and I couldn't wake her up for school.


I went back down to the computer. Finally. It was mine. All mine. I see this plastic bag next to the computer with some green stuff in it. It looks suspicious. Is my daughter smoking the pipe? I called Hubby, the expert, for his opinion.

I opened it. It doesn't smell like anything illegal.

"Here you look at it." I shove the plastic bag at him.

He smells it. He even tastes it and hands it back to me. I taste it. It tastes like zaatar (hyssop). Whew. I think it even is zaatar - with salt.

I eat a big pinch of it.

It was delicious.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Yehuda Stolov of IEA and Ibrahim Issa of Hope Flowers

Discussing our "rewards"

The Hope Flowers School

Hope and Flowers

I went to a retreat at the Hope Flowers School in El Khader near Bethlehem on Monday evening. I had to leave work early because the special bus taking us there was leaving at 3:00. I had planned to go several times in the past to this place but for some reason never could. So I was happy to finally be able to visit. But not before I had my harrowing cab ride with a cab driver who should have retired 10 years before.

"How come you don't take cabs often? You should call me whenver you need a cab to go home."

"I walk from work to the center of town"

He turned around to look at my legs. shithole.

I tried to turn the conversation around to make it seem like I'm just one-of-the-guys.

Bad mistake.

"I'm going to the soccer game on Sunday with my son"

"Do you go to the games on Saturday (when there is no public transportation)?"


"I can pick you up from your house and drive you there. We can go to the games together. Don't tell your husband"

"Huh? Oh, I could never do that - because he's my designated DRIVER! He always drives me to wherever I want to go on a Saturday."

"Here's my card. Call me"

"OK" and I dropped the card on the street. Maybe some lonely old lady will pick it up and give him a call.

The guitar player Ofer Golany was with us, and we began our journey with him strumming a lovely rendition of the traveler's prayer in both Hebrew and English. He said he'd have to learn the Arabic version to be fair.

First of all, I love the name of the school. Hope. Flowers. It's a private Palestinian school that teaches co-existence to its 250 pupils. In better times, there were more students. But now people are hard pressed. At least the teachers here get paid which is more than can be said for public school teachers in the Palestinian public school system, where funds are sorely lacking in the civil service departments. Teachers have been on strike because they hadn't received a salary in 6 months. And if Palestinian kids are anything like their Israeli counterparts, you wouldn't want to teach for free. Never.

This was a large school and was housed in a lovely modern building - nothing run down about it, but it was already quite chilly this evening and I had to leave my jacket on throughout the sessions. They don't have any heating/cooling system in the building. It must be difficult for the kids to learn that way. I also noticed the large windows which were quite low. There were no security bars on the windows making me freak out at how dangerous this was - and I feel they were just lucky that there hadn't been any accidents, because a safety inspector in Israel would surely have closed the place down until safety bars were installed.

I munched on some petit beurre cookies that seemed burnt. I muttered to Ofer "I think the Palestinians get our reject cookies. The Israeli market would never let these go for sale in our supermarkets."

"I'm not thinking that." he said.

But I am sure I wasn't imagining it. I know my cookies and I felt my instinct was quite true. I don't think our hosts toasted the friggin' biscuits and really believe they get our reject cookies.

But getting back to our gathering - we were a small group of around 15 people - half Jews - half Palestinians. We discussed the subject of "Reward" from our respective sources and again it only confirmed that we have tons in common. God seemed to reward us the same way and for the same things. But after about 1 1/2 hours, the conversation went from reward to that of not getting rewards and the situation our hosts found themselves in.

We heard fireworks outside. There was a big gathering/party nearby as one of the townsfolk had just gotten out of an Israeli prison after being there for 4 years. His crime? Being in Israel without a permit. The people there live with green ID cards (not the Israeli blue ones) and can't get into Jerusalem easily, even though it's a 10 minute drive only. We were curious about the situation, about the school. What does a private school cost? In Israel it's about 7,000 - 10,000 NIS a year ($1,500 - $2,500), much cheaper than a private school in the States, but alot of money on a lower Israeli salary. They told us that this private school costs 200 NIS a year ($50), but many students could not even pay that tiny amount. Many families in this town are unemployed and are supported by relatives in the Palestinian Diaspora in Europe and the States. If they send $200 a month, it can really help out a family greatly.

The principal, Ibrahim Issa, said they are in Area C, which means it is under Israeli control, which means they are caught in between Israeli and Palestinian territories. For example, if they want to get a fast internet connection, they are not able to connect with the Israeli cable companies, and are not able to connect with Palestinian companies, so they are stuck. They're in no-man's land, so to speak. They tried several ways to get hooked up, but were scammed a couple of thousand dollars already. They would really like to get internet connections so the kids in the school could connect with Israeli kids and make a good "connection". But of course no one outside the school really seems to care if they do or not.

They asked the army to please clear the roadsides which are full of rubble so that the school buses can maneuver the roads safely, but for some reason, they aren't even allowed to do that. It's a security risk, they are told.

So even with all these hardships, Mr. Issa and his staff, continue to plug away at teaching co-existence to his 250 students. As we say in Hebrew - Kol Hakavod! (What an honorable thing!)

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Religious debate

Christianity versus Islam - hilarious stuff

Saturday, October 28, 2006

A place I could call home

I couldn't get to the party Alex was having for himself after his Laughter Yoga session in the Rose Garden, as much as I would have liked to. I had unpleasant things to do that day.

I woke up at 6:00 to clean my home. Not a fun task. The builders that own our apartment decided a few months ago that the place they promised me they would "never sell" was going to be put on the market. Someone was going to see it that morning and I didn't want him to think we were "dirty Americans". I know how clean these Israelis can be. Most of them keep spotless houses. Palestinians keep their houses spotless as well. I've only seen a few messy homes - lived in by American ex-pats mostly. I think I've only seen one messy Israeli home. What is it in our culture that half of us leave stuff lying all over the place and can't pick up a broom? Not that I want to leave this place at all - but I don't want to have that kind of "dirty" reputation. So I cleaned the cobwebs and shit off the corners of the baseboards and wiped handprints and cleaned the bathrooms until they sparkled. They still stunk though so I hid the stench through some patchouli incense. Thank God for incense.

We have been living in our apartment for five years and now we have to move. We have been looking for a place since August. And it has been difficult. Just the thought of packing boxes yet again... is so unsettling.

We're moving with one less kid this time, but moving is horrible. And the worst thing about it is that we have no place to move to - and we have to be out by December 1st.

There is a shortage of apartments for rent in our area - perhaps one or two a month come up. The one we saw without an agent was a total disaster. It wasn't in the old part of town, but the apartment was on the top floor (Hubby hates climbing stairs) and the doors all had holes in them. There was one closed room with steps in the middle of the room going up to the second floor.

"What kind of design is that?" shrieked Hubby to me as we walked through the dump.

The woman who drove all the way from Jerusalem to show us her place had to listen to Hubby's tirade.

"The place is a wreck!" he said to her in English.

"What's a wreck?" she asked.

I was hoping he'd be more gentler with her and not have to always be up front and honest as is his trade mark, but he didn't give a flying fajita.

He told her she'd be better off selling the place instead of renting it. Sure enough, I'd seen this place advertised over a month with no takers.

We've seen apartments for sale as well, thinking we had better get into the buying market before we get too old to get a mortgage here. They don't give mortgages to you past 75 years of age and I don't blame them. We can't qualify anymore for a 25 year mortgage or 30 year mortgage. It's down to 20 years now. Which means the downpayment has to be alot more than it would have been for a longer length of time. But never mind.

The agents have been as frustrated with us not liking anything as we have been with the apartments. Hubby doesn't want pre-fab and those are the cheapest ones - ones we can afford. I liked the one with the garden and brand new kitchen, in the old neighborhood. The kids don't want old neighborhoods because they'll be embarrassed to bring friends over. They want new. But new is $180,000 and that is too much for us. It's a bargain compared to Jerusalem where a run-down flat under 100 meters will cost nearly $300,000 and a lovely one double that. But we'd have to finance most of the cost - and the monthly payments would be high, too high for us - we like to enjoy having an occasional coffee out and a breakfast out and perhaps even a dinner out once every couple of months. We see too many people strapped for cash when the mortgage is too high.

There was a French real estate agent who took me and my two girls on a whirlwind tour of 4 apartments. He whizzed through the roundabouts making us all dizzy and talked loudly on the phone the entire time making us even dizzier. We liked a couple of the places, but again - the price wasn't right.

So if there is a good God in this world - we need a place that is affordable, lovely, and which my family will enjoy living in...

Spielberg Film archives

From an article in this weekend's Haaretz magazine, I came across this wonderful site . I especially liked the First Film of Palestine, dated 1911. It showed how Jews and Arabs got along really well then, celebrated together (during the Yarzheit (anniversary of the death) of Rabbi Meir Baal Haness in Tiberias there were Arabs together with the Jews during the procession) and built together during the Ottoman rule of Palestine. Maybe we ought to bring the Turks back in here. This film and more can be seen on the right hand side of the screen at Virtual Cinema.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

It's Love and Peace and Rock'n' roll for this kid - Jerusalem

peace gathering - Jerusalem

Peace Gathering

I was invited to Eliyahu's home for his pretty regular monthly peace gatherings. This guy gets a cool bunch of eclectic folk into his home - and they come from all over - Bedouin, a visitor from Jordan, settlers from Tekoa and Elazar, visitors from Santa Cruz and Santa Barbara, not to mention his guest speaker/chanter. He was Siri Om Singh, an African American Sikh who did kirtan, sacred chanting. What was interesting about this guy was that he wore the whole sikh get-up and is from Trenton, New Jersey. I expected him to say somewhere in the Punjab, but Trenton? Even more interesting was that his wife is Israeli and was the only one at the gathering, besides the tourists there, who left Israel for the US. Most others left the US for Israel.

"We have to have SOME kind of balance!" she laughed, as we all introduced ourselves.

My good friend or, rather, everyone's good friend, Ibrahim from the Mt. of Olives was there telling us that everyone is invited to stay at his home. He has a rabbi living with him and this Friday 30 rabbis will be coming over to visit him. That's alot of rabbis wandering around the predominantly Moslem area. But his neighbors are used to him and he's well respected so hopefully no Moslem extremists will give him a hard time for befriending so many Jews. I guess another reason is that most of the people living on the Mt. of Olives are his relatives in one form or another. His family numbers 12,000 souls.

He went on - "We should stop saying this is Jewish land, this is Palestinian land. It is God's land."

He spoke about the significance of Ramadan - how this time of year is to reflect on the people who do not have enough money to buy the wonderful food seen in the markets, and to give charity to those less fortunate.

During the break I spoke with a gentleman from Edmonton of Arabic heritage (Lebanese, Saudi). He had been on the Haj and told me his take on things, particularly with regard to the Temple Mount. He said the Israelites never referred to it as a temple - rather - it was called a Beit Hamikdash (House of the holiest). He went on to tell me Al Quds, the Arabic term for Jerusalem is from the Hebrew word Kadosh, meaning Holy. Mecca is from the Hebrew word Mikdash. He said the Israelites walked around the temple 7 times during the holiday of Succot, much like Moslems do in Mecca around the Kabaa.

"You see, Abraham taught his two sons, Isaac and Ishmael, the same things." he told me, and indeed, as he voiced the similarities between us, I felt an even stronger kinship with my Moslem brothers.

We heard stories about biblical Noah from a Chassidic perspective from Emunah Witt, a familiar figure in Jerusalem, and a follower of the singing Rabbi, Shlomo Carlebach.

"We're told that if you love just one person, you bring love to the world. If you love just yourself, this can make it happen too."

Another Carlebach follower spoke about incense - that the incense used in the ancient Temple had several ingredients, with one in particular that smelled awful, but when put together with the others, was the one that had that heavenly scent. And that when the 3rd temple is rebuilt, we won't have any animal sacrifices, as the Israelites sacrificed birds, goats, and sheep in biblical times. Because it will be a time of peace and there will be no killing. Not even of animals.

It was difficult for me to pull myself away from this oasis of peace to go back home. It always is. But there are others. Many others coming this way.

Saturday, October 21, 2006


About three Jewish women, myself included, drove past the invisible borders of East and West Jerusalem and ventured into the Arab neighborhood of Beit Hanina to share Iftar with our Moslem sisters. This is a very large neighborhood of several kilometers. West Jerusalem buses don’t go there so we had to drive there. Traffic was heavy and drivers were impatient trying to get home before the fast ended.

Fadwa’s home was beautifully set and although some of us brought food to share, most of the stuff, I’m sure, was made by her and her mother. I joked to some of the women there.

“Like you - today, I didn’t either eat anything ……. healthy”. And I dug into the food as joyfully as my Moslem sisters did.

I wondered if the fast always ends with most families sitting down to an enormous amount of food - lentil soup, chicken baked with veggies, rice, mejjedrah, salads, and for dessert - the first time I tasted kadaif.

One of the women read from the Koran with an English translation. It looked so much like our Old Testament with an English translation. She read about the fast before we sat down to our meal.

The director of the women’s group, an Orthodox Jewish woman (who only feasted on vegetarian stuff) told us about her discussion with her Arab pharmacist.

“Ramadan Kareem” she told him.

“How do you know about Ramadan?”

“Do you know I’m going to an Iftar tonight?”

“Why are you going to an Iftar? With whom? What kind of group are you with?”

“A group of women, Jewish, Moslem and Christian get together and we celebrate holidays together.”

He still couldn’t get it. “Why? Are you against anything?”

“No we’re not against anything. We’re simply pro-peace.”

“Oh peace” he shrugged. “It’s no use talking about it.”

“That’s exactly my point” she continued. “We don’t talk about it. When we get together, we live peace.”

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

City of David

Last time I went down to see the excavations being done on the biblical City of David was perhaps 10 years ago. We walked through the streets of Silwan and saw ancient stones and steps built into the hillside. It is believed that the palace of King David was built here, as well as the pre-Israelite Jebusite kingdom.

ancient City of David

Then there was the Intifida and it was no longer safe for Israelis to venture into this area.

This year, during the holiday of Succot, I ventured there again. It looked completely different.

Entrance to the City of David

This time, I entered a gated “village” built up for tourists and viewing promenades amidst lovely olive trees, etc. The paths takes you through Hezekiah’s water tunnel where Jerusalem received its main source of water from the Gihon spring. A tour inside the tunnel means you walk waist high in water with flashlights. I steered clear of the tunnel and walked along newly cobblestoned paths to the Gihon Spring - past Arab homes and Jewish homes standing side-by-side. My ideal dream of living in a mixed neighborhood seemed to be here (Alas that is not true, if you read the linked articles below - but it still remains my dream)

The history isn’t so simple and the present situation of the City of David/Silwan has its conflicts. In the late 1882 a large group of Yemenite Jews trekked across the desert and made their home in Silwan. There they lived peacefully with their Arab neighbors until the 1929 Arab riots. Some Jews are now reclaiming the site because of the biblical history attached to it and saying they are reclaiming the homes the Yemenite Jews left behind. The Arabs naturally are feeling like they are being pushed out. Last year, the municipality wanted to raze 88 Arab homes to expand the City of David national park amidst a lot of protest, myself being included in these protests. There’s a lot more to uncover, it is claimed. I’m sure there is. But not at the expense of people living there now. I suggested to no one in particular that they should build underground viewing sites so as not to disturb the residents living overhead. In fact one particular story here is quite heartbreaking.

There seems to be quite a few Jewish settler families who have bought-out homes from the Arabs in the City of David area.

Jewish home - City of David

I saw some Jewish kids on a gated street. I asked the kids if everyone inside the gate is Jewish. No, half are Arabs. Do they get along with their Arab neighbors? Yes - was their answer. I seemed satisfied with that, thinking this is certainly not Hebron where the tensions are awful between Arab and Jewish residents of that city. I’m not too sure they visit each other’s homes here, but they don’t seem to harass each other as much as they do in Hebron. I’m wondering how much the media revs up the situation as well. But I am wondering if I had spoken to Palestinians that day, what reaction would they have given me. I gazed below at a Palestinian woman drying her laundry on her rooftop.

A view of Silwan - Jerusalem

I walked down the steep hill past archeologists who were excavating a home adjacent to the Gihon Spring.

Sifting through City of David excavations

Arab legend has it that the water flows here from Mecca. My Jewish New Age friends tell me there are more crystals in the Gihon water than any other water source they know of. I felt the holiness of that place immediately. There was something special about it, though I can’t express it in words. It’s just something you feel.

As I walked back up towards the modern city of Jerusalem, past the Jewish and Arab homes, I felt a deep sense of tranquility in that area. Perhaps it was an illusion, perhaps not. The grape vines and beautiful gardens that peeked out from behind the walls and gates certainly contributed to it. But perhaps it was my wishful thinking.

Saturday, October 14, 2006


I went with my married daughter to breakfast yesterday morning. She had a bit of a run-in with her sister-in-law followed by her mother-in-law and ended up sleeping at my house for 3 days, not wanting to look at any of them (she's living at the mother-in-law's house until their apartment is ready for them to move into). Since that episode, mum-in-law took the phone out of her room so there'll be no more eavesdropping. I mean, shit, that sort of thing can bring governments down.

I gave her the pep talk about how she can run the world, or at least be a stand-up comedienne (I'm seriously thinking about videotaping her and putting her on YouTube), because we all end up in fits of uncontrollable laughter when she's around. Can't she make up material and imitate her in-laws?

Then she shows me her nightie she just bought and I hit the ceiling. The kid's been married since June and she buys a two piece red cotton thing with a Mrs. Simpson cartoon on the front.

"Honey, are you sure Hubby will want to stare at that thing every evening?"

"I'm not dressing like a slut" she protested.

"But you're married. You HAVE TO!"

I'm sure Shmuely Boteach would agree with me on this one.

Friday, October 13, 2006

crafts for sale - Liberty Bell Park - Jerusalem

Making pottery - Liberty Bell Park

Witches - Liberty Bell Park - Succot Festivities

Israeli band - Irish music - Succot Festivities - Liberty Bell Park

Jerusalem Street Theatre - Irish dancers - Liberty Bell Park

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Carmel Mountain Fall foilage

Hiking in the Carmel Mountains

Hiking in the Carmel Mountains

There were many things going on in Jerusalem yesterday such as the Jerusalem March, which my son likes to attend because the marching Evangelical Christians who love Israel and the Jews dish out candies and souvenirs from their countries to the children, who line the sidewalks, more to get the goodies than for the reciprocal joy of seeing the marchers in their kitchy biblical or interesting native costumes.

But I decided to go hiking instead and get out of the soon-to-be-crowded city. It was organized by an English speaking group called ESRA (English Speaking Residents Association). The hike was classified as being "moderate" but I'm always nervous about heights and those extremely narrow and seemingly dangerous hiking paths that one slip off can land you down a cliff. And there are no railings to hang onto. What is moderate for some people can be awfully difficult for others. As the bus picked up more passengers from Raanana, Hadera, Netanya, I noticed most were older than me - in their 50's and 60's - and some even in their early 70s. I no longer felt frightened of the "moderacy" of the hike and figured it HAS to be on the easy side for these people.

I was quite wrong. These people outpaced me for most of the hike, as I lagged behind among the 1/3 lagging behind. We continuously climbed over rocks to get up the mountain in Wadi Bustan, dodging branches overhead and thorns on our sides. I felt the Fall season as I tread on brown leaves beneath my feet. The Fall season was something I always missed (however briefly) from Canada. I missed walking on these giant fallen multicolored maple leaves. These leaves weren't maple leaves - I think they were mostly acorn leaves, as there were an abundance of acorn and carob trees on our paths. At the end the path was steep and narrow I quipped that only an anti-semite could have drawn up these JNF (Jerusalem National Forest) trails. Three hours later we were on top of the mountain, having our lunch, me looking longingly at the luxurious Carmel Forest Spa across from us. Man - what would I give for a nice dip in a jacuzzi. It was hot and we were all sweaty. The view of the sea was magnificent from the summit and I felt my feet giving way, but fortunately for me others did too. The guide wanted to go another two hours. We had already hiked five. We asked him for a shorter route. That would take an hour. The way down the mountain was more pleasant and I was jealous at these sixty-something men whizzing by me effortlessly. The guide told us a story of Beit Oren kibbutz which loomed high in the hills above us. In 1947 they assisted in getting Jewish detainees out of the British Atlit prison camp on the coast. Hundreds of them escaped, some hiding within Beit Oren.

Later that evening I finally showed up at my door and my eyes were terribly bloodshot. My teen kids danced around me excitedly hugging and kissing me and laughing - "Mommy's smoked a joint! Mommy's smoked a joint! YAYYYY!!!" that I thought if I had taken out an ounce of weed out of my backpack, nothing would elate them more. But I had no such goodies for them or for myself for that matter.

Whatever happened to getting excited over going out to eat at Burger King?


Sunday, October 08, 2006

Looking back, looking ahead

Looking back on the year that was - well, we've come a long ways. A year ago, I had no idea that my eldest daughter would have found her soul mate and get married. And my ex-criminal, whom I'll have to rename - perhaps the Reformed One - is now home, instead of at her reformatory for teens at risk, thanks to a private lawyer we hired. The Complainer found a job waitressing at one of Jerusalem's swankier hotels - Condoleeza Rice stayed there. So she's hardly at home to complain about anything, having to work even on the Jewish holidays. My Son, who is not yet 15, has hairs growing on his chin, and it's really amusing. He asked me not to blog about it, but he never reads my blog because it's in English. None of his friends will read it either, so there. But the hairs growing on his chin are funny because he strikes me as still being a kid. He likes his cartoons, and computer games and screams at his sister when she sings loudly. He's physically turning into a man, but it's hard for me to let that sink in. So he actually shaved 2 weeks ago, but he needs another shave for his 6 hairs growing on his chin.

And thankfully, I have off work this week for the Succot holiday. There's so much going on that it's mind boggling. It is so hard for me to pick and choose. Money is a bit scarce which depresses me during holidays, but I'm going to try not to let it bother me too much. This is, after all, a holiday of joy. And I'm going to make the best of it.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Why should have the chicken crossed the road..

I was having a very unholy argument inside the Holy Bagels store in Jerusalem this morning. I see a sparse selection of bagels, and it's only 9:00 am. The Yom Kippur fast begins at 5:00 pm this afternoon and American ex-pats like their bagels right after the fast.

"I'm sorry" explained the salesgirl behind the counter. "You can't order 12. There's none left. But we do have more at our other store at the central bus station."

"I'm sorry, but I'm not going there. I travelled all the way from Maaleh Adumim for these bagels."

Another sales guy intercepted.

"People placed orders for bagels already last week, and we have to take care of those."

"Aren't you making any more? It's only 9:00 am"

Most places will close around 1:00 pm. Even the local television and radio stations only broadcast until 1:30 pm. Then the nation closes for a pre-fast festive dinner and a 25 hour fast. You can't miss Yom Kippur here - not like I did years ago, as a secular, jet-setting New Yorker, sitting in a Chinese restaurant with a friend from England.

"Do you know what day it is today?" she asked.

"No. What?"

"It's Yom Kippur Eve" she told me with a slightly guilty look. I gave her a slightly guilty look back and then we continued to dig into our delicous moo shoo pork dish.

But getting back to bagels, I wasn't gonna budge from my spot. Another American guy budded in, almost getting 6 bagels, while they were still trying to decide how many to give me.

Finally, an announcement was made - more bagels coming in 1/2 hour. I took my dozen plus 2 freebies and left.

Going back to my car, looking at the sidewalk, I saw a pair of familiar feet, which when I looked up, I saw they belonged to my married daughter who just bumped into Hubby. We all decided to go and do Kaporos (Atonement)together in the shuk, using real chickens. We hadn't done it this way in 11 years, since coming to Israel, using money instead, but the chickens seem to be the real deal.

I remember 2 years ago, seeing some animal rights protesters yelling at people going to do Kaporos, prompting a slew of policemen at the site from then on.

I thought - I really like this tradition, but if I would think about it from an animal rights perspective, it's quite horrifying actually.

Going into the market, the stench was quite strong. A guy carrying a crate of already slaughtered chickens moved passed us, their blood covering their white feathers. I guess no one here is frightened of bird flu.

Hubby went first. He said a paragraph three times calling on angels and that this chicken will go to its death instead of him. Then he gave it to some guy who slit its throat and put it into a funnel for the blood to drain. I saw some teens with good cameras photographing the gory stuff.

"Are you gonna blog this?" I asked. I couldn't even bring myself to photograph it. which is why I'd make an awful photojournalist.

"It's art." he told me.

Pretty gory art. Van Gogh might have liked it.

It was my turn to hold the chicken and wave it over my head three times. The chicken squawked like mad. It really didn't want to go in my place. Probably because it sensed my sins are so many and thought it's gonna go to chicken hell as a result. As I finished, I looked up and saw a television camera staring me in the face.

"Oh shit!" I muttered.

Back home, I prepared the festive pre-fast meal which consisted of, well, chicken. I don't know how I did it but I totally disconnected the live chickens I saw that morning from the de-feathered thing that sat in my fridge.

I really should become a vegetarian.

Have an easy fast - to those who are fasting.

Friday, September 29, 2006

lyrical moments

Driving home with Hubby after work yesterday through East Jerusalem, I was having such wonderful spiritual feelings. We passed by a neighborhood mosque in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, where the muezzin was calling out for prayer. It was about 6:45 pm and people there probably were just finishing up their break-fast meal during these Ramadan days. A block beyond we saw Ultra-Orthodox Jews coming and going to Rabbi Shimon the Righteous's gravesite nearby. There's an enclave of religious Jews who have settled in this neighborhood because of this gravesite.

We were just coming out of that enchanting neighborhood, onto the highway, which would lead us past the Mt. of Olives towards our town. We stopped at a red light. To the right of me was a panoramic view of East Jerusalem and West Jerusalem in all its glory, including the Dome of the Rock, with its gold dome still glistening in the twilight.

To the left of us was a red Mazda sports car. Music was blaring really loudly from that car and he parked beside us for the duration of that seemingly long red traffic light.

I'm telling you the music was blaring - the lyrics were loud and clear.

"My head, my back - lick my P...y and my crack." The singer ranted on - "My head,my back, lick my p...y and my crack."

If anything got me out of my spiritual stupor it was that.

I laughed and turned to hubby.

"You don't need to be too much of a poet to write songs nowadays, eh? So much for Jerusalem the Holy."

The driver of the red Mazda was oblivious to our stares and laughter. Wonder if he even understood the song's lyrics.

And then - the light turned green...

Sunday, September 24, 2006

New Years in the Country

The last time I cried when a vacation ended was when I left Sinai about 1 1/2 years ago after spending a glorious 5 days there. It was paradise. I cried today too after coming home from spending Rosh Hashana on a friend's kibbutz. This kibbutz is far from paradise, let me tell you, but there is something special about spending a major holiday with friends whom you started out your life with in Israel (they were on the same absorption center as we were), not having had to spend hours on line in the supermarkets in the pre-holiday madness, not having had to slave over the stove for hours preparing elaborate holiday meals, etc. I just showed up with some Belgian chocolates and expensive vodka, three of my kids and Hubby.

There are only about 6 families and some renters on this kibbutz. It's tiny. But they have a guest house, which our friend improves on little-by-little each year, which we stay in and check for scorpions first before unpacking our bags.

We saw other guests staying for the holiday who we knew from previous years, as well as other kibbutz members who we are friendly with and the place always seems like a home away from home - tiny as it may be.

They have a synagogue on the premises - non-Orthodox - and you can go there in jeans and a t-shirt or you can dress up, if you wish - for the High Holiday services. Nothing like the States/Canada where high fashion for the high holidays is a Must for being seen in a synagogue. And the formal services take hours longer there. I was really grateful to take part in the services in this small, informal synagogue, without all the superficial trappings.

On the eve of Rosh Hashana, on Friday night after services, a family, originally from Bombay, India, had their father do a communal Rosh Hashana seder in the kibbutz dining room with leeks, string beans, pomegrantes, fish head, brains (don't ask), dates, and beets and special blessings said over each one. I spoke to the father the next day. I wanted to know about their origins. He and his wife looked totally Indian and I was curious. Were they originally Iraqis who came to India in the late 1800s, as many did? He said they were B'nei Israel, meaning they are a group that trace their origins from the first Temple era, before the great exile. So he is descended from one of the lost 10 tribes and not the two tribes of Yehuda and Binyamin as are the rest of us. I found chatting to him totally fascinating.

The tv room/clubhouse in the bomb shelter of the guest house has these torn, dirty comfortable chairs all over the room and they can really use an upgrade on furniture here, but it also has its charm. We all hang around there at midnight and watch some movie here and there - there's always someone watching tv like the lifeguard and his fluffy terrier dog. Or the time our entire family watched movies on that TV with other families during a chilly evening during one Passover holiday and we wrapped ourselves in blankets and put our feet up on each other. Another time I couldn't sleep around 3 in the morning, went down to the TV room and some of the kibbutz dogs came in to keep me company. Last night there were other guests around the same age as my kids and they were up all night there, drinking tea, coffee and smoking a nargila.

Last night we sat in the backyard of our friend's home, drinking wine, drinking coffee, drinking sodas, and saw a really bright shooting star that seemed so close. It made the evening seem so magical.

And who can forget lounging by the pool. My son played pool volleyball for hours. So today, when we left right after lunch, people were already by the pool and its crystal clear, clean waters together with the burning sun were tempting me to stay just a bit longer.

But we were nervous about traffic. If we waited until the end of the holiday, the traffic going south would be just horrendous and no one wanted to put Hubby in a foul mood. It would have taken us 5 hours or so to get back instead of 2 1/2 hours.

And very reluctantly, I headed back to our car, to Jerusalem, to our home in the city. Back to real life.

I think I would have wanted to prolong our New Year's vacation just a touch longer.

Happy New Year and Ramadan Kareem to all Jews and Moslems. You Christians will have to wait until December/January for your New Year's wishes.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Hey - Do you Want to Know a Secret?

Yesterday I was invited to a special screening of a non-hit full length feature film called "The Secret". Ten of us crowded into a small room around a lap top and we watched this cleverly filmed flick. I came across a blog about it which explains the whole deal really well.

It's all about creating this energy from your thoughts - to get whatever it is you want. We compared notes after the film and I was already familiar with grateful lists and visions lists where you list incredible things that you want, even if it sounds ludicrous. Because one has to ask for what one wants. If you don't ask - you don't get. Makes quite a bit of sense.

In retrospect, I have gotten some incredible gifts during the past few years, after I started making these lists and the gifts, however subtle, are still gifts and they keep coming. Like the time I voiced my wish to a friend that I would really like to work with non-Jews in Israel, showing them the Jewish side of things, the Israeli side of things, inviting them to my home for holidays/Sabbath so they could have a different non-touristy experience. A few months later I landed a position as a coordinator for an Interfaith group in Jerusalem which gave me the opportunity to do just that. Then there was a friend who only knew me through an e-mail list, who felt a kinship because she was Jewish and I was Jewish and we were Rolling Stones fans to boot. Within a year, she had sent me a round trip business class ticket on her air miles to see the Stones in New York and I thought I was dreaming.

And the movie also confirmed what I already sensed - that people who are anti-war demonstrators, for example, are actually promoting war with their thoughts because their whole focus is on war and not peace. I have a stance that I never go to demonstrations because of all the negative energy I experience there. No matter how worthy a cause. I'll join in if it's to be helpful to others, because I feel I'm building something, so it was amusing/amazing to have my thoughts confirmed.

I'm inspired now to publicly list more than 10 things I would like to ask for and more than 10 things I am grateful for today.

Then the next step would be to visualize myself with whatever it is I am asking for.

You can join me in listing the things you want and are grateful for and this can be an ongoing thing. I'd love to hear back that it's working for you too.

Wish List

1. I would like to buy a 4 bedroom home - within this month - preferably with a garden.

2. Easy mortgage payments - I want to be able to pay for the home effortlessly.

3. I want to have 3 months contingency saved up

4. I want my kids to be successfull and happy in their lives - career-wise and marriage-wise

5. I want my ex-Criminal kid to finally come home and abide by the rules set out for her from her school

6. I want to take a vacation with my husband and kids - in a nice hotel

7. I want to have the strength and willpower to eat healthier - whole foods preferably

8. I want to become a famous writer


10. I want a 42" flat screen LCD television with a good sound system.

11. A lovely new couch would be wonderful too

12. As well as a dining room table with new chairs

Now for the Grateful List:

1. I am grateful my son is doing well in school this year (8th grade) and is motivated to do well and is going to after school tutoring

2. I am grateful we are going away to our friends on Kibbutz for Rosh Hashana which relieves me from shopping and cooking

3. I am grateful for the warm weather in Jerusalem

4. I am grateful for my job

5. I am grateful to have a married daughter

6. I am grateful to have a wide variety of good friends

7. I am grateful for my interfaith work

8. I am grateful that my self-employed husband is busy with work

9. I am grateful that I enjoy hanging out with my kids

10. I am grateful to watch downloaded movies on my computer!!!

11. I am grateful that I have a fulfilling spiritual life

12. I am grateful to live in Jerusalem....

Happy Jewish New Year and Ramadan Karim!!!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Gourmet dinners - the macrobiotic way

I don't know how I get sucked into it. I'm a hopeless chocolate addict. For people who are strictly on a macrobiotic diet, that is surely akin to eating pork for a Moslem or Orthodox Jew. And this week was just simply awful because our company had too many New Years parties - and what did they do? They saved an entire chocolate mousse cake for the staff. And we're a small staff so there's lots of the bad stuff for all of us. To top it all off, everyone is gifting the office with tons of chocolate. This is awful. Simply awful.

But getting back to last week's dinner - we were around 10 people. You could tell who was a true "macro" person by the size of them. "They" - meaning most of the people around the table were terribly skinny. "Us" - meaning just me and another woman, were alot more "zaftig" than the others. I just knew this other woman ate regular food and we sat near each other for support.

But you know, if I could, I would love to kick the "bad eating" habits I have and return to nature. Eating pure, natural foods, revelling in their natural wholesome tastes. It's healthier. Maybe my cough would go away and I would stop scaring people on the public buses with it. It's just so time consuming and time is sorely lacking and so is cash to hire a good cook.

But the food was absolutely divine.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Coughing - no laughing matter

It started two weeks ago with a sore throat. It turned into an itchy cough a couple days later, and I saw my Russian doctor.

"I don't like the way you breathe."

"Why? Is it too heavy for you?" I joked. She didn't get it.

She armed me with an antibiotic and off I went.

And still, nothing's changed. I'm still hacking away.

Maybe it's stress. My nearly-17 year old ex-Criminal ran away from her hostel two weeks ago and the police are looking for her. She had only 2 months left to her "sentence" of being in that hostel and she fucked up by running away. Now, they'll probably extend her time there until she's 18. She shows up now and then, phones me now and then, even shows up at her old school now and then and is trying to get a job.

Just thinking about her makes me cough.

And then there's the fact that we have to move the end of October and do not have a place to move to. We're debating whether to rent or buy. It's one of life's tough decisions that I don't want to deal with at the moment but I have to nevertheless. And every evening after work, I am out with real estate agents who are showing me shitty old homes because our budget is quite low. Will we ever get a dream home? Or any home? And rentals? There are only two 4 bedroom rentals in our town. They're expensive, and we'd have to move every year or two again. I'm tired of being on the run. I really would like to settle down in one place. We're even playing the lottery to see if we could even win the 2nd prize which would make for a decent down-payment for a home.

And thinking about it makes me cough...

I went out for dinner last week with my married daughter who was doing her Russian imitation.

"Nastarovia!!! Charasho, piesdietz, pederas, bleh!!" she shouted out while we're sitting outside at this Italian restaurant.

I'm hysterically laughing and begin a terrible coughing fit. I'm hoping not to freak out the restaurant's other patrons sitting near us. I'm sure I did, but they were polite about it and didn't move inside. Anyway, I'm on antibiotics and not contagious.

I meet a macrobiotics counsellor who is giving free advice at a health food store. He tells me to drink Lotus Root Tea. I buy it. It's disgusting but I drink it anyway. I continue to hack away with this damn cough.

I meet him again. More free advice.

"You're expelling yin. Stay away from coffee, sugars, even fruits" he said looking at my fresh organic figs I just bought. I was sad. My favorite foods and I can't eat them.

Last night, after having finished my antibiotics, the doctor started me on decongestants. I should be sleepy. I am extremely tired by 9:00 pm and go to bed at a decent hour. But I wake up at 3:30 am - in time to see my night-owl kids return home from wherever it is they go to at that hour. I rescue Hubby's cellphone and cigarettes from the diningroom in case my kids "need" to use them and put them in our room. An hour later Hubby is turning on the light in the hallway. I was just dozing off and the light was harsh.

"Why did you turn on the lights just now?" I asked Hubs.

"I'm looking for my cigarettes."

I hate nicotine addicts.

"They're on our table here" I said slurring my speech.

"Oh! Thanks!" His tone was appreciative because he knew I had rescued his precious smokes from my two thieving, smoking teens.

This morning I got to work at 7:30 am. I go down to the fridge and see this big, decadent chocolate mousse cake that's left over from a party my office had 2 nights ago. I remember what the counsellor said about having all that Yin in my system.

But I don't care. I take a plateful of cake, hoping the rest of the office staff will finish it before noon, or I'll have another piece.

I tell my co-worker. "I really shouldn't be eating this. It's too Yin"

She looks at me strangely but guesses I shouldn't be eating sweets.

I continued - "But I don't care. I'd rather cough and have this cake. It's just too good to pass up."

I closed the door to my office and coughed away.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Seeds of Peace

Really nice article in the weekend edition of the Jerusalem Post on this gathering.

Cat chess

My son and Hubby rescued 2 abandoned and hungry kittens over the weekend at a construction site. Great. Now I have 2 more "babies" to feed. Meanwhile, the little rascals were busy this past Saturday playing a game of chess. Intelligent animals, aren't they?

Cat chess - setting up the game

Cat chess - team work

Cat chess - cat fight - I won. No, I won!!

Cat chess - and the winner is...

Man from U.R.F.A.

We had a dinner guest over for our Friday night Sabbath meal. Funny that our guests are usually not Jewish because the friends we have, who are Orthodox, won't drive to our home for dinner on the Sabbath and we don't have too many friends in our immediate neighborhood, due to our very busy lifestyles. And there are those friends that aren't Orthodox and live in Jerusalem that don't drive and there's no bus service on the Sabbath.

This Turkish guy was a guest at our last interfaith meeting, and is studying conflict resolution at the Hebrew U for a few months, and said to me - before he leaves back for Turkey, he would love to experience a Shabbat meal. I immediately invited him, because not only does everything feel more festive when there are guests around, but also because my crazy family misbehaves alot less when there's company. Doesn't everyone's family?

Before he arrived, my kids were like "Why are you inviting Arabs again?". Besides telling them they'd never get a chance to interact with Arabs if I didn't keep on inviting them to our home, I tried to explain this particular man isn't an Arab because Turkish people don't consider themselves Arabs. They're - well - Turkish.

"So why is his name Ibrahim?"

"Because he is a Moslem."

Then I tried to explain to my not-so-very-worldly teens that not all Moslems are Arabs, terrorists, etc. It's something that I have to keep on drilling into them. Anyway, I knew they would like him.

Even though Ibrahim now lives in Istanbul, he was born in Urfa , a town near the Syrian border with an amazing history. Biblical Abraham was said to have been born there, and there is a mosque built over his birthplace, plus a cave where he was thrown into the fire when he was a child, and survived because of his faith in God. Most of you know the story. I was totally fascinated by this. He told me many Israelis of Turkish/Kurdish background quietly pass into Syria from Urfa to visit their ancestral home (even though Syria is officially closed to Israelis).

Synagogue built by Jews from Urfa, Turkey - Jerusalem

Interior of the Urfa Synagogue, Jerusalem

Urfa was home to many Jews pre-1948, and there is even a synagogue in Jerusalem which was built around the turn of the century - see photos above - by Urfa's expats. Ibrahim ventured into that synagogue last Friday night to check it out and he was thrilled to find some people from Urfa there. He remarked that they looked Turkish and resembled many of his relatives. Out of the 40 people that pray in that particular synagogue, only 9 are left from the Urfa community. The rest moved on to different areas of the city/country. I could see the joy in his face as he described meeting his Jewish countrymen - who were different from the affluent Jews he now encounters in Istanbul. Urfa's people were more salt-of-the-earth small merchant types.

Looks like I have to add yet another place to visit on my wish list.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

cup o joe

It is the newest of a long line of coffee places in Jerusalem to open up this past week. That day I was feeling tired, grumpy, sweaty, trying to get over bronchitis and I sauntered over there to check it out, as I like to do with all eateries/drinkeries.

I ordered a cappucino with a tortilla goat cheese wrap. I thought, hey, here comes a hefty cappucino in a nice big cup. This set me back $2.50 after all. Then they brought me this perfectly tasting coffee in a ridiculously tiny expresso coffee cup.

"I didn't order expresso. I ordered Cappucino."

"This is your cappucino." the waitress informed me.

What the F?

Who imported this chain here anyways? Must not have been Jews because we like huge portions of everything. I downed my shot glass of caffeine in 3 small gulps and felt a trite ripped off on top of every other awful thing I felt that day.

Thankfully the tortilla wrap was a decently huge portion.

Having voiced my complaint of "they should have told me this cappucino was going to be 3 tablespoons only before I ordered it" to the waitress, the manager came right over with a "Joe" token, saying I could use it on my next visit there.

I will. But I really think they should rename the place - Tablespoon O Joe.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Feeling like biblical Job again...

This week's been tough. One Example -

It started out by me getting a threatening letter from a check collection agency. One of my checks bounced and they marked in a box that the reason it bounced was lack of funds. Huh? I happened to have actually had money in the bank at that time, however fleetingly. Plus, they're charging me a penalty on top of the regular amount of the check. I called them.

"I think there's been a mistake in that letter you sent."

"What's your ID number"

I gave it to him.

"I see you owe 136 shekels plus you'll have to pay the 55 shekel fee."

"Why do I have to pay a penalty if it's not MY fault that the check bounced - it must be your fault."

This crapola of a collection thief got totally fucked up over the fact that I accused him of making a mistake.

"If you don't pay this..." I could hear his rats ass of a voice rising, "...I will make sure you won't be able to write a check. Anywhere. Not in Renuar, TNT....blah blah blah" as he rattled off all of Jerusalem's fashion outlets.

"I'm not going to pay the penalty and that's final. I'll be happy to pay the principal."

Later that afternoon I marched into the Make-up store where I wrote the check, showed the manager my bank statement where it showed not even an overdraft (most Israelis do have overdraft)and she apologized profusely, calling me "Honey" all the time. She was American and I was relieved that I could sound half-intelligent and explain what was bugging me about that check collection agency. I'd have more trouble explaining it all in Hebrew, save for the choice words in Hebrew I could have called the idiot I spoke to that morning.

She called up and spoke to a different person at the collection agency. That person actually checked my cheque and saw that the store made a mistake - and the stamp they put on the back of the check was put on the front - thus the reason why my bank didn't accept their cheque. Ta Da!!!

And on my way out, I tried on all the latest lipsticks and shiny eyeshadows from all the expensive brands. At least if I won a small victory, I should look good, shouldn't I?

Saturday, September 02, 2006

What the bleep were they thinking?

It's like 4:30 am on Saturday morning and I can't sleep - because of the muezzin, my hacking cough (mostly) and a chirping cricket who made its way into my house.

My brother-in-law and nephew both came in for a very short visit. They called my brother but didn't call me to tell me they were in town so I didn't know they were here until they left. Hmmph. Made me feel quite the family outcast. That's what you get when you're not the Orthodox Shining Light, Community Leader in the family.

Then there was the notice I read in the papers of Seeds of Peace, a group bringing together Arab and Jewish youth for summer camps in the US and activities in Jerusalem, that they were closing their Jerusalem office. They were moving to Ramallah and Tel Aviv. Wow. What a logical move. No Israeli Jewish teen will be able to step foot into Ramallah and there are hardly any Arabs living in Tel Aviv - I guess things will be easier for them, eh, peacewise, but what the fuck are they thinking? Maybe I'll find out more if I go to their Seeds of Peace Cafe on Sunday night.

Russian compound

Then if that wasn't enough, walking around the Russian Compound, I got angry at the fact that they had closed down the beautiful once-bustling pub neighborhood in order to destroy these landmarks, to build office buildings.

Russian compound

Jerusalem doesn't have the strict no-destroying-old-picturesque buildings rule that, say, London has. They destroyed nothing and what used to be slummy areas, are now expensive townhouses. There is no need to destroy these structures!!

Russian compound

The last thing pissing me off this week was going to an Iranian (Jewish) shop to buy a veggie juicer. Iranian Jews. I haven't had the pleasure of ever meeting non-Jewish Iranians, except in Canada when my then 5-year old daughter in Canada's Wonderland looked at this woman all covered up in black, including her face, and asked me, within her earshot, if she was a monster.

"No sweetie. She's just all covered up because of modesty. Like some Jewish women cover their hair and elbows and knees because of modesty, she's covering up even more."

The woman, listening to my explanation, thanked me profusely for explaining her garb in such a nice way. She didn't get too many "nice" feelings from the general populace walking around the streets of Toronto. And the next time I met non-Jewish Iranians was when I went to their photo studio to get photos done for our Israeli ID/passports right before we moved to Israel. I remember laughing when we were there, telling them what we were getting the family photos for. Wonder what they were thinking. But I never had a meaningful conversation with any.

Getting back to Iranian Jews. Here many are sales merchants (selling shoes, cheap bric-a-brac, electrical appliances) and hucksters, in general.

Walking into their electrical store, I had decided on the Breville model because all the "fresh juice" sellers in town pretty much owned one.

He turned to me and said "Don't buy that one. You'll regret it. The motor burns out every two months and they're always replacing it."

"Of course their motor burns out - they're using it all day long!!" I reasoned.

He showed me another one he had - 600 watts compared to the 450 watt one I wanted. It looked like a piece of shit compared to the Breville. I insisted on the Breville.

"With this" he said, showing me the shit, "I'll give you a one-year guarantee and with this" showing me the Breville and his face turning red, "you'll get NO guarantee".

Hubby explained to me that they probably make more money with the shittier brand as the markup is higher on that.

"I'll take the Breville please"

"You're making a mistake."

"I doubt it."

I used it a couple times this week to make carrot juice, carrot-beet-apple juice, and I have not regretted buying it - not at all.