Saturday, April 29, 2006

More Pilgrimage photos

On the rooftop of the Ethiopian Church - near the 9th station of the cross.

At the Western Wall Plaza

Interfaith Pilgrimage - Day 2

We all slept over at the Austrian Hospice on the Via Dolorosa. We were given the dorms and thought it was a women's only place and began stripping off our clothing. Just then there's a knock on the door and some Austrian guy is there in his undies - we were undoubtedly disturbing his sleep. Despite the non-working window and thus - no air, I slept fine. Only one woman heard me "mumble" in my sleep. Others heard others snoring, but I didn't. I just heard the Muezzin at 4:00 am - as if he were right in my room n- calling everyone to prayers.

One of the elderly Moslem women that morning took out her prayer mat and began her morning prayers at the more decent hour of 7:30 am.

"You think we are disturbing her by our talking?"

"Nah" said I, figuring Moslems are just like Jews and talk incessantly during services. But I have no idea, since I have never been inside a mosque during prayers and also their prayers don't last for hours on end like ours do. It's like a 15 minute session. I think Jews would be quiet too if our services weren't so long. I just took care not to step in front of her prayer mat because that is forbidden, as I had learned in another interfaith session and told the others too, not to step in front of someone praying on their mat.

We took a tour of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, this time seeing the Ethiopian churches on the way, the place where Jesus's cross was placed and where he was anointed and the burial tomb, which seems to be the central part of the church where all the tourists wait on line to enter and pray. From there is was on to the Jewish quarter where we viewed the Burnt House and the Wohl Archeological Museum, which uncovered ruins from the time the Romans burnt the wealthy Upper City of Jerusalem and which showed the charred remains. We viewed a film about a re-enaction of what happened during that time and the prophecy that Jews will once again come back to Jerusalem and where the squares will be filled with children playing.

I wondered what the Palestinians were thinking - this not being part of their educational curriculum. And we had a discussion back and forth.

The Romans destroyed Jewish Jerusalem
The Jordanians destroyed the Jewish quarter in 1948, and Israel rebuilt it beautufully.
The Jews destroyed many Arab homes near the Western Wall so a plaza could be built in 1967.

One of our older Arab women showed us where she lived close to the Western Wall. It had not been destroyed, but she did have to move out to make way for the new Jewish residents. We wanted to have another meeting to find out about her life there and what happened to her and how it affected her and her family and about others whose lives had been displaced. Obviously both our peoples had been displaced - us by the Romans and them by us in modern times.

We headed down to the Western Wall, some of the Arab women, even though they were Jerusalemites, had never been there at all. We told them to offer their own prayers and that it would be perfectly ok to go there, even in their distinctly Arab head coverings. Some were nervous that they wouldn't be let in. But we were all let in with no hassle - and all of us offered prayers of peace at the Wall, which we all shared in our closing circle at the Western Wall plaza.

Afterwards, we went to visit some Armenian women and heard first hand their story about the disasterous Easter escapade they endured. They run a shop for Palestinian crafts, made by women all over the country who are not employed, so that they too can make a bit of money from their handicrafts. Before heading our separate ways, we prayed for tolerance and understanding from all the people in this beautiful city.

Pilgrimage Photos

After being turned away by police from the Temple Mount/Haram al Sharif

The rooftops of via Dolorosa from the Sisters of Sion Convent

A Roman "bullet" - or rather a stone - used as a weapon in Roman times

Listening to the Sufi Sheikh tell stories from his childhood - sitting on his grandfather's lap....

Friday, April 28, 2006

Interfaith Pilgrimage - Day 1

I was supposed to go on an Interfaith retreat in Bethlehem, but apparently there was trouble there that I didn't know about. Perhaps there was a news blackout on disturbances there. In any event, the retreat was cancelled but, fortunately, the women's interfaith group had a pilgrimage to the Old City in Jerusalem scheduled for the same time.

I met this group at Damascus Gate - which consisted of 15 Moslems, Christians and Jewish women. We were told we had been given the ok to visit the Al Aksa mosque, but when we got there the police said - absolutely no way. We just thought non-Moslems weren't allowed in, but when a Christian woman in our group gave her ID card to the officer, he told her she was allowed to enter. Never mind, there was another entrance which we tried to navigate. There, too, the police didn't allow us to enter (only the Moslem women) and, unfortunately, we didn't have the number and name of the person who said it was ok for us. Two of the Moslem women went in and were able to speak to someone in charge, and as we were walking away towards via Dolorosa, told us that the Wakf ok'd our visit. We were elated! At the entrance, we were again turned away by the police. One man came over to talk to the police: "By us, it's ok for them to come inside". Apparently the women told the Wakf that it would make a bad name for Islam if we weren't allowed in together. So he relented. But the police rules prevailed and we didn't get a chance to see Al Aksa. Apparently, it's ok on some mornings and before 2:30 pm. But it was after 3:00 pm and services were to begin soon at 4:00 pm. I held hands with one of the Arab Christian women walking down the stairs who struck up a conversation with the policemen. They were Israeli Arabs and wondered who the hell we were, as they don't usually see mixed groups of Jews and Arabs walking around town together.

"We are sisters" said my friend.

"Sisters?" they looked at one another. "How could that be"

"We are all the same chldren of God."

And with that we walked away from the confused policemen. The same reaction would follow us throughout our pilgrimage.

Even though we had not been able to go onto the Haram Al Sharif, or the Temple Mount, as it is known to Jews, we had a Moslem guide talk to us about its significance from the Moslem point of view. While talking about the holiness of the place, he totally neglected to mention that before the Mosque was build, the First and Second Temples of the Jews stood there - as if that never happened. I prompted him a bit -

"Do you know that WE believe that Joseph dreamt his dream of angels right there on that rock inside the Holy Mosque?"

"I don't know. If it's written in the Koran, then I believe it, but if it's not written in the Koran, then I don't."

"But it IS interesting, isn't it, even if you don't believe it!"

He expected me to tell him about the Temples but I sidetracked him.

We continued on to via Dolorosa, where we entered the Sisters of Sion convent. They had something in their basement, I had never known existed. It was called the Lithostrophus (or something like that), which was where the Appolonia Fortress was situated, just north of the Temple Mount and where Pontius Pilate judged Jesus. We walked down in the basement where the water cisterns were, and where water travelled to the Temple area. A Roman main street was uncovered there as well, and one of the nuns had spent Easter there at the Chapel alongside of it. One of the sisters there, who was our guide, reminded me of the "Lorraine" character from Mad TV and I just smiled every time I looked at her with her trousers pulled up way above her waist.

Some of the group had stopped off at Abu Shukri's restaurant for his famous Humous which irritated some of the organizers. Luckily we were only 15 women and not 40, because it would have been totally difficult to corral all those women.

From there it was off to visit the Sufi Sheikh - Abdul Aziz Bukhari whose ancestors came to this country in the very early 1600s from Uzbekistan. He spoke for 1 1/2 hours and I felt he was similar in his beliefs to Hasidic Jews. He said praying 5 times a day isn't enough, one has to have God in his mind all day long, in every thing one does. In the after-life, there won't be separate lines for Jews, Moslems, Christians, Buddhists, etc. Only for Good and Bad. If bad things happen to someone, you may not know the reason for your suffering, but ultimately, it is for the good and only God knows what the eventual result will be.

We asked him to speak to us because some Armenian members of our group were harassed by local Jews, were spit on and on top of that, were not allowed to enter the Church of the Holy Sepulchre the Saturday when they celebrated Easter by the police, who had arrested some of the people who scuffled with the "spitters". Many had travelled from other countries - like Turkey, Cyprus and even further and were devastated that they couldn't participate in their festival at the holiest church in Christiandom. This caused them so much anguish, and we discussed this with the Sheikh. Turns out there are 3 split factions of Armenians, but they all bonded together when this happened and are now working together with the police and Jerusalem municipality so that this won't happen again next year. So this horrible turn of events actually united them in the end.

The other Moslem women were inquisitive about Sufism in general and didn't quite understand what they are about. He told them that Sufis are the same as other Moslems, they only add on to Islamic practice. Just what Hassidic Jews do, I thought - and it was something I mentioned over dinner that night. I felt a real kinship with Sufi Islam because of its sprituality.

We walked out of his home and Israeli policemen were on the street for evening greetings.

"Erev Tov" (good evening) said one to me.

"Erev tov" I answered back, and walked towards my Moslem friend with her headcovering on. Again, he and his partner looked at our group as we exited the Sheikh's home, wondering what the heck is THIS all about. As we walked towards Jaffa Gate on Via Dolorasa, we heard a commotion and saw tons of police and army. Behind them were a large crowd of dancing Orthodox Jews.

The nun was horrified.

"This is no place for demonstrations in the Moslem quarter!!"

But then after asking someone, we found out it was no demonstration after all, rather a celebration of the Jewish New Moon, which this group celebrates by dancing around the Temple Mount each month. It still didn't make the Others in our group comfortable as we had to go through this very large and rowdy crowd. We held hands and walked across this sea of people so that the Others would feel safer. I'm sure nothing would have happened, but it's funny how a mob of dancing and singing Jews can feel scary if you are an Arab woman walking around. And us Jewish women felt their discomfort and over dinner we had a discussion about the various ways Jews celebrate the new Jewish lunar month. Next time they see a mob like this, they may feel less uncomfortable.

Photos to come tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Human Trafficking

This is not one of me and my daughter's usual Friday night skits when we play Russian women, Slava and Sveta, in our heavy Russian accents poking fun at every man they see and throwing our family in fits of laughter.

This is real and a serious problem in our country, unfortunately.

I got the following important e-mail - "Please take a moment to sign the petition listed below. The women who are victims certainly don't have that luxury, locked
into apartments and seeing between 16-25 clients a day. Visit the resources and "take action" sections of Task Force on Human Trafficking to sign.

We aim to recruit *fifteen hundred *signatures on our
petition. Once we have reached this goal, we will
present the petition to selected Israeli government
officials. Fifteen hundred signatures from people all
over the world will send an important message to the
Israel government: we must put an end modern slavery
in Israel!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Holocaust Remembrance Day

Were these 2 shmucks separated at birth? One is dead and the other is alive and kicking, much to my chagrin. Today at Holocaust Remembrance Day, I have no patience for Jew Haters like the Iranian asswipe. Usually I do, and in a better mood, I would have gladly gone secretly to Iran, kidnapped the idiot and dragged him to a few Interfaith dialogue groups to see what that does to him. Usually it does transform people when they get to know the other. But today I was not in my compassionate mode.

The siren went off at 10:00 am and I closed my eyes to think of quite a number of relatives from Austria and Poland who never made it out alive after WWII. Even my Uncle Adolf (I really did have an Uncle Adolf) who I thought was blonde-Aryan-enough looking to pass as a non-Jew, and wondered if he even had a chance to try. I used to look at his photo as a kid - he was my mother's brother - and believed I resembled him a bit with our fair hair and blue eyes.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Mo' Peace Stuff

Some people from the International Day of Peace organization in the US - came for a visit with us a couple of weeks ago and wrote some beautiful things here of their visit. There are some nice photos of their visit as well.

Weathering it

I'm as moody as the weather here - Israel's weather god, can't make up its mind whether it should be summer or winter yet, which is causing me to dress totally inappropiately every day. One day it's boiling, one day it's cool and rainy, and the men here aren't any better.

My brother told me on Friday that his son's wedding's color will be predominantly green.

"Why green?" I asked. "Shouldn't it be orange?" thinking they are politically "orange". They're not Irish, for Guinesses' sake.

"Because that's the "in" color in America right now. Which means it'll be the "in" color in Israel next year!" he remarked. Yeah right, Mr. know-it-all.

"Since when do Israelis copy American fashion??" I retorted.

"They always do".

"Do not." Just because he was an A student in college, does not mean he gets an A with me.

I continued my tirade. "Israelis copy European fashion. Since when do you see Israeli teens walking around looking like Americans in sneakers, jeans and sweatshirts?? Don't you see what these kids look like?? The fashion here comes from Europe - Italy and France primarily."

"Really?" He was getting silent.

"Yeah. And since when are YOU such a fashion maven? Only gay guys are in the know about these things."

I think I stunned him into total silence.

"Hello? Are you still there?"

"My wife didn't wish you a mazal tov" - said he, changing the subject.

And this morning on the way to work, with my Good Daughter in the back seat, I asked her a simple question.

"Do you like the way I parted my hair on the side now?"

Hubby overheard and commented - "Ridiculous! At your age!!"

Parting my hair on the side at age 50 is ridiculous??? Hmmmmm. Someone help me figure this one out.

Obviously a co-worker had much of the same kind of male-trips on her side of the pond. She is close in age to me and she is always jokingly offering me some of her pretty blue prozac pills which look so appealing. But I am not the pill popping kind, unless they're chocolate M&Ms.

She ranted on to me - "My husband tried to play with my boobs last night. It was just awful. And he tries to wake me in the middle of the night for this. It's so annoying - like someone trying to stick a finger in your ear."

I laughed and laughed. Girl, I am SO with you.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Richie Rich

I want to thank someone who donated to the Wedding Fund . You know who you are. God bless you. I've got a bit under $4,000 to raise! Hallelujah!

I was so distressed over my son's behavior yesterday (as he was probably distressed over mine) - partly because we had such a lovely Interfaith meeting on Thursday evening, including a documentary filmmaker attending where the subject was "Mothers and Fathers" in our religions, and so I felt like such a loser Mother when it comes to my Werewolf Teenage son. The meeting turned out to not only be about Mothers and Fathers in our religion but in our cultures too when we broke up into small group discussions. There was a Moslem woman there who had in recent months begun to cover her hair/neck in the fashion of religious Moslem women. I was curious as to what prompted her to do it. She said she felt better about herself doing it but her more modern mother wasn't as thrilled. Needless to say, one of the Jewish Orthodox women there, who also covers her hair in the fashion of Jewish modern-Orthodox women (scarves not wigs), sat next to her and they had an instant camaraderie thing going.

Then during Friday night dinner, everyone was ratting on my Complainer daughter, who has a new boyfriend and she wasn't with us that evening so it was easy to talk about her. He's Richie Rich, doesn't need to work, but doesn't want her to work either, telling her to call up her work and to give them lame excuses (including the car accident one) why she can't come in. We were horrified at hearing this because she NEEDS to work, to make her own money, etc. I thought - finally - YIPPEEE! A guy with some moolah is interested in one of my kids. What an easy future life she'll have if she marries him, I thought. Wrong. He's also verbally abusive to her, I found out yesterday, and even though he is a new boyfriend, he has taken to calling her "retarded" occasionally. She must give him Das Boot. Even though he intends to pay for her breast implants (!) which she so sorely wants, and which he claims she doesn't need (but his claims are obviously bullshit because he probably wants big boobies more than he wants her to not go through with it, if he's offering to pay for it). Before I was told that he was abusive and controlling I thought - wow! What a generous prince to want to dish out bucks for this for my daughter. Now I'm thinking - what a pig.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Ritalin War

My day is horrible. Horrible! What a way to end the week. It started when I had one day back at work yesterday after the Passover holiday. From freedom back to slavery. Isn't it supposed to be the other way around? I sat quietly while my boss gave me simple orders to follow.

"Don't sit here. Sit there" he barked, ordering me to sit in a chair a few feet in back of his secretary, amongst his usual queries of "what are you doing?" while he sees me toiling away at stuff that he didn't dish out to me.

My son was supposed to go back to school today and told me he was going to take the ritalin perscribed to him so I don't have to get daily calls from frustrated teachers and school staff about his behavior and maybe he might even learn something to boot. But I spent from 7:30 am to 9:30 am talking, cajoling, bribing, threatening, crying and God knows what in order for him to take his pill. It's a tiny fucking pill. And he's too nervous to swallow it. I sat down by the piles of filthy laundry, utterly exhausted and threatening him with no computer for the weekend if he doesn't just try. I began to cry. My Good Daughter comes out of her bedroom and yells like a wayward preacher at Mr. Werewolf.

"Look what you did to your mother. You will burn in hell for this. People burn in hell for making their mothers cry." I just thought what a true fuckhead he is. He is 14 years old and such a wimpuss. Life would be so much easier for him if he only tried. He'd do much better in school and maybe even have a chance in life. Not to mention I paid a fortune for the top Jerusalem psychologist to test him for Dyslexia and ADHD and other stuff, which I couldn't afford and together with all those "if onlys" piling up in my head I couldn't stop weeping. Then my Good Daughter calmed down before I did and just warned him he'll end up like those crazy Jerusalem homeless men, if he doesn't take his pills. She tried to persuade him and then her boyfriend arrived, and took his turn cajoling him with brotherly camaraderie.

"I want to see YOU swallow a pill" ordered my Werewolf son to the boyfriend. As no one had headaches yet, no one was ready to swallow anything for show. I remembered I had vitamins downstairs. Bingo. And it was 4 times as big as that puny pill. I showed him.

"Look"! I said - gleefully downing the plastic coated thing.

He still wouldn't put the fucking miniscule thing in his mouth.

He wanted to try it with eggs. I whipped up a batch of them and rolled the egg around the pill. And he refused that as well.

I called the school, told them he wasn't coming in today. We'll try again Sunday.

I called up a friend who had a kid on ritalin. How did she get her 8 year old onto it??

"You melt it with hot water, then throw it in the drink. Try some yourself, all the mothers get addicted to it"

At least half her advice was useful, but I also think he has issues about taking the pill, thinking it'll turn him into the Fly or some other horror movie character.

After picking up some stuff at the bakery, I came home to find him gone, out of the house. I checked the balcony. Last time I saw him, he was sitting there and I neurotically thought we tortured him with this pill business. Oh God. Did he fling himself over the balcony, in teenage angst??? Nah. Not a chance. Not when he's too afraid to take a teenie weenie meenie pill.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Passover is over

Tonight it's all over - and for those in the rest of the world outside Israel, it's over tomorrow night. That's one of the reasons why living in Israel is easier if you're a holiday-observant Jew - much less holiday cooking - only one seder, and one day less of a holiday. It's worth it to me, as I remind Hubby when he gets into his "why the fuck are we here" mode.

Meanwhile, so much has happened in two days. My future son-in-law bought my son a beautiful aquarium and I didn't like the plain fish he bought so I bought some tiger fish, and some fish with beautiful tails - all very small. And Hubby answered an ad to foster a 2 month old puppy from the JSPCA for a few days. Needless to say, the minute the pooch landed at our doorstep, Hubby wanted him for good. But we're not good permanent dog keepers. The longest we had a dog was for a year, after Hubby, frustrated by sweeping mounds of dog hair and being the only one walking him, gave our last dog up for adoption.

My Eldest daughter asked us about paying for her wedding. It was early in the morning, she looked quite dishevelled and was carrying her toothbrush in her hand, while yelling at us when we told her we can't foot more than 1/4 of the total cost. Hubby and I started laughing at her inappropriately and she called her fiancee to tell him she wants to postpone the wedding (it's not postponed), toothbrush in hand, which made us laugh even harder. The Israeli custom is for each side to split the cost (much fairer than the Arab custom of the groom's side having to pay for everything including the house and the North American-Jewish custom of the bride's side having to foot most of the wedding costs). Too bad she doesn't have a crystal ball and cannot see me as grandma looking after her kids once a week while she and her Hubby have some dining out fun - she can only see us as loser parents at the moment. She was livid and said she didn't want us at the wedding (!) So it looks like we're gonna have to crash our own daughter's wedding in June.

Meanwhile, while our Eldest was sulking over at her fiancee's home, we had the Complainer and her boyfriend home with us. Hubby loves when the boys come over because he puts them to work. That's punishment for sleeping with our daughters. The boyfriend had to build the stand-up barbecue Hubby bought (we use simple barbecues here - most Israelis do not use the US-gas-type barbecues. We use the primitive charcoal kind instead). Not only that, but boyfriend had to grill the entire supper himself while Hubby watched Fox News. Obviously, 11 years into our life in this country, Hubby has not yet become Israeli as most Israeli men barbecue at least once a week.

And last night I felt heavy with tiredness - and dreamt of my workplace. Ugh. I hate nightmares.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Rest in Peace

Rest in peace Mohammad. He was unable to be buried in the Moslem cemetery on the Mt. of Olives. This photo was taken in the restaurant he owned, which he was so proud of. He gave us free desserts and coffee the day a bunch of us went up to the Mt. of Olives as part of a peace walk...

I remember writing about the day I met Mohammad Abu-El-Hawa, the man murdered for selling his home to Jews on the Mt. of Olives. You can read about it here .

Since then I had been having these intense converations with friends who defend the right of Jews to buy these properties - who say to me "Don't you believe that the land was given by God to the Jews?"

Yes, I do believe that. But don't believe you have to move out the Other just because of it.

I have mixed feelings too about settling Jews in Arab neighborhoods. On the one hand, in an ideal situation, in a Nirvana/Messianic world, I do want to see Jews and Arabs living together everywhere. But as I told my friend, the time is not right for that now. The Arabs aren't ready to have an influx of Jews - especially not ones who aren't interested in getting to know them or their culture, etc. living near them. With the arrival of "settler-types" into Arab neighborhoods comes all the fearful signs for the Arab population - the constant police and army presence to protect the Jewish families (even for very few families), meaning that movement in their area will not be as free as it was - constant checking of their IDs, etc. - whereas beforehand Arabs were able to move around freer in their own neighborhoods.

That doesn't give anyone a right to murder people who do sell their homes to Jews - instead, if someone gets an offer from a Jewish organization, why don't they go to the Palestinian Authority and say - "Hey, these guys just offered me $300,000 for this apartment! I don't want to sell it but I need the money. What can you do to help? Maybe offer me the same and it'll be Palestinian government property?" Who knows. It's just a thought I'm putting out there.

If I were to sell my apartment to an Arab family in my neighborhood, I'd probably still be alive, but in the worst-case scenario the neighbors might harrass the new family - like smash the windows in their car, set fire to their stuff, or some other atrocity. And they wouldn't be entitled to a constant police presence if they moved in here as would Jews moving to an Arab neighborhood - that is the main difference. They'd have to fend for themselves.

But I still am very sad that someone I met only once and who is related to a good friend of mine was murdered for this and I really wish both sides would be tolerant to each other and that my dream of Arabs and Jews living together everywhere in this country can be possible.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Sorry for Schnorring

Schnorring. I love that word. It sounds like something a pig does - snorting, schnorring. But it's something that, unfortunately, I feel I must do. For those of you not well-versed in the Yiddish language, it means "going begging". Jeez, and I see alot of blogs just posting those donation buttons on their sites for just nothing at all!!

You see, folks, we have a wedding coming up in June and have 1/10 of the funds for it. So this is an SOS call for anyone who has any means to donate something so I can get my Eldest Daughter the hell out of my house!!!

Just kidding. I absolutely adore her. Today anyhow. She and her fiancee took my Teenage Werewolf son out to one of Israel's pathetic amusement parks. These amusement parks were the main reasons why my children all wanted to go back to Canada the minute they landed in Israel nearly 11 years ago, because it was NOTHING at all like Canada's Wonderland. And they felt cheated.

But I'm a happy mother today because I don't have to fight my Teenage Werewolf for computer time today as he rides around in one of Israel's 2 roller-coasters all day long. Let my soon-to-be-married daughter and her honey have the headaches ...Mwaa haa haa.

And thank you in advance for donating to her wedding (if you can) (the dreaded donation button can be found on the right side of the blog - under the sign of the dove!)

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Passover in Jerusalem

I wanted to be blessed by the Cohanim (priest) at the Western Wall - they do a mass prayer service during Passover and Succot and I found it kind of cool to be blessed in the open there. So I went "up there" with a friend of mine, stopping at various places in the Arab marketplace. I saw a Palestinian friend of mine that I knew from peace gatherings, whom I hadn't seen in months. We hugged and he asked us to stay for coffee or tea. I told him I had to be blessed by the Jewish priests and would get back to him later on in the day.

My friend, who is not into friendships with Palestinians (yet) looked at me - I think under that smile, she was horrified at me being hugged by an Arab.

"Not that I was looking, but that guy had the biggest hard on I ever saw" she told me, as we walked towards the Western Wall.

I was hysterical "Hey sweetie, I hadn't noticed a thing and wouldn't have known otherwise if you hadn't told me what you noticed because you weren't looking at whatever you weren't supposed to be looking at."

Was she trying to scare me or something?

After finding our spot with a nice view of the crowd, I closed my eyes and let myself be blessed - with interruptions, of course, by my ex-criminal daughter, who called me every 15 minutes because I didn't leave her money for cigarettes and how will she get back to her hostel today. I tried to arrange something for her - and finally got the Oldest Daughter to front her $5 to get to where she was supposed to be going.

My friend and I parted ways after the services, and I walked towards the Archeological garden. The rain poured down and I was still wearing my sandals, feeling that if I could "will" in the summer, it would get here already. 11 years in the country, and I hadn't seen these excavations. It was fun to play tourist for a day. The mood was festive, even though the weather wasn't. I stopped off at my Palestinian friend's office for tea, and he said he would like to show me the Koran in English and would I mind if he gets one for me in English next time.

"That would be fine" I said - wondering how I would bring it in the house, past Hubby, who usually doesn't allow any non-Jewish religious item in it and finds a way to unburden himself of the various New Testament gifts he received from friends, usually by leaving it somewhere. I thumbed through the text and kissed it afterwards putting it down on the table.

"Thank you. Thank you!!! I really respect you" he told me.

I told him I kiss all Holy Books and do that with my own - why not with the Koran. He was so pleased to see me kiss the Koran, he was beaming. I took off because I had to meet another friend soon, and looked down as I walked down the steps, trying to avoid glancing at him below the waist.

My friend and I were about to do another tourist thing and ride the red double-decker tour bus which goes all around Jerusalem in two hours. But when we saw the bus, it was closed on top because of the rain, and we nixed that idea until the weather gets better and the open-top bus comes around so we could feel like we're riding in a convertible.

We went back into the old city - this time doing the Easter thing. We got lost, as that is easy to do in the winding maze of streets in the Old City, but followed some "foreigners" into the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. I took some wonderful photos but at one point my flash went off when I didn't want it too.

"God DAMN IT" I said rather loudly, causing my friend to wander far away from me, totally embarrassed to be seen near me. Luckily the priests around seemed non-plussed at my outburst. There were hundreds and hundreds of Easter Pilgrims there and the priests were just interested in keeping order. By the Holy Rock was an African man praying in English so fervently, we listened in on his prayers, and we wanted to follow him around the church because he was so interesting.

Meanwhile, while I was galavanting around town, my future son-in-law had bought my son a fish tank, complete with 7 fish - as a consolation gift for not having spent time with him during the holiday.

"I think it would really look nice in the living room,don't you think?" I asked my son of the pretty fish tank.

"It's mine! It stays in my room!"

Fair is fair. Maybe he'll want to gaze at the fish more instead of at the computer for a change.

Jerusalem's Drummers' circle


they gave hourly performances all around the walls of Jerusalem. Fun to watch hippies looking like biblical types, drumming and trumpeting - not everyone knew what to make of them. Posted by Picasa

By the Hulda Gates


This is how people - 300,000 at a time during Passover - came up the steps into the temple...fascinating, isn't it? Posted by Picasa

ancient mikvah


2,000 year old mikvah (ritual bath) - on one side were people going into the bath, on the other side of the steps people came up after being purified and ready to enter the temple. The two parts were separated by a wall... Posted by Picasa

ancient Jerusalem


2,000 year old store fronts - used by people coming up to the temple - these stores sold birds, or goats used for temple sacrifices Posted by Picasa

More Passover


at the archeological garden - a 2,000 year old floor that had been crushed by falling boulders from the Roman destruction of the wall Posted by Picasa

Passover in Jerusalem


Crowds at the Western Wall Posted by Picasa

Friday, April 14, 2006

Deadly Real Estate

I was reading the papers this morning - the front page read "E. Jerusalem man slain after he sells building to settlers" - reading further I noticed the victim was Mohammed Abu-al-Hawa, 40 years old. He apparently sold a 4 story apartment building to Jews in A-tur, near the Mt. of Olives. The building had been bought by Elad, a nonprofit organization settling Jews in Palestinian neighborhood. According to the report -His brother said someone showed up with $300,000 in cash to HIS door for HIS apartment. He actually refused the money. But his brother was not lucky and the family said the transaction was made through a Palestinian family to a Jordanian Investment Company. They may not even have known the sale was to Jews.

I knew he was a relative of my friend Ibrahim, but wasn't sure if it was his son or another relative. I called up several friends, but none were answering their phones. I was getting frantic. I was too nervous to call Ibrahim, and talk to him, but in the end I did call him. Turns out it was his nephew. I stammered who I was and said over and over again.

"I am so sorry this happened to your family"

He replied - God will take care of everyone, and then wished me a Shabbat shalom.

I wanted to offer to help their family somehow who are now fatherless and he had 7 children, but that didn't come through. I just couldn't manage the words. But I'm sure I'll find out in the next few days if they need any monetary help and post it here.

Again, this is tragic - on the one hand, tragic that people will murder people for political and racist reasons such as selling homes to Jews and on the other hand, tragic because there is also something arrogant at the eagerness of Jewish organizations wishing to uproot Palestinian families who had been living here for generations...

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Passover 2006

We had 2 invites this year for the Seder. One with our messianic Jewish friends -the other with once-good-friends we first met when we moved here 9 years ago. We had been out of touch with them for about 5 years and poof - out of nowhere - they were back in our lives asking us to join them in a pot-luck seder with about 21 guests. My Trashy Daughters thumbed their noses up at this invite, preferring instead to be with their boyfriends' families, the engaged daughter was fully excused to be with her future family (let her get to know what her in-laws will be like during stressful holidays - MWAA ha ha!), except for my Good Daughter and Teenage Werewolf Son.

Thankfully there were many other ADHD type kids a bit older than my son for him to wreak havoc with at the seder table - and he felt at home. It was noisy and fun there. I brought my hand made matzah to the table and read from my Holistic Haggadah by Dr. Michael Kagan. It had alot of touchy-feely stuff to it. Like "feel the salt water as tears running down your cheeks. Free your inner Mitzrayim (Egypt). In Buddhism attachments are the cause of suffering, in Judaism, they are the cause of enslavement..., etc." And nearly everyone oohh'd and ahh'd at this new Jewish Renewal funky interpretation of the ancient Haggadah, save for about 3 people who clearly weren't interested in all at any interpretations of the text, but preferred to get down to the meal already. Typical Jews.

I spoke about meaningful prayer - how difficult it was to find that feeling of elation when you pray in ordinary Orthodox synagogues, preferring Jewish Renewal or the Kol Haneshama Reform Congregation in Jerusalem instead for the spiritual way they pray. But one of the guests told me about a women's prayer group that meets once a month in my very own neighborhood and she felt it was highly spiritual, so I guess I might as well give it a try.

Our hostess inquired about my New Age beliefs - she was annoyed at my Wandering Judaism and was getting emotional about my straying from the well-trodden path of Orthodox Jews. "Don't you believe that the 613 commandments were given from God? Don't you think it's wrong to just pick and choose?" This after Hubby was reading from his Haggadah about how saying that the 613 Laws felt like it came from the police rather than from God.

I told my hostess rather politely that all these commandments had strayed far from their original source interpreted by rabbis and who knows what God really had in mind for us? There are many different paths to God.

Behind me was another guest rooting me on with her "Yeah, she's right" every time I said something to the hostess.

I told her now that we chucked alot of the Sabbath restrictions, we were happier now as a family. And isn't enjoying the Sabbath what it's all about - not dreading that it comes every week?

"Aren't you happier that your daughter is marrying someone religious - wouldn't you rather have that than the other way around?" she asked her final question.

"No, I just want her to be happy. If she was going to be both Orthodox and narrow-minded, that would probably upset me. Other than that it doesn't matter what she becomes - she just must make it her duty to be happy. That's all that matters, really."

Reverting back to Nice Hostess, she told me how it is wonderful that Hubby puts me on a pedastel and calls me "My Wife", that he respects me and all that shit. My daughter glanced at me as if saying "that is one Woman who has had much more than 4 cups of wine tonight." Not everyone knows the real Caveman Hubby.

After that seder ended we went over to the Messianic Seder to see what that was like, as it was nearing its end and people were already leaving. We knocked on the door at 12:30 am.

"Who's there?" they asked.

"Elijah the prophet" and we walked in.

It was no second coming, but it was fun to be with them. We had a bit of a surprise there as we saw former neighbors of ours whom we hadn't seen in 7 years. Turns out the woman got turned on to Jesus/Yeshua 5 years ago but the husband and son were heretics and non-believers like ourselves. I asked her how did she find her path? She told me she saw what her friends had - serenity, fulfillment, happiness - and wanted that too. Fair enough.

Back home, we spoke about our neighbors (just as they, at the same time, were probably speaking about us), and what it was like in that "mixed marriage" where one "believed" and one didn't and how many more people we would see whom we thought we knew at these messianic gatherings.

Monday, April 10, 2006


Sent to me by a Palestinian friend - really funny!!

A British, an American and a Palestinian died, and all went to hell.

The British said: I miss England! I wanna call England and see how everybody is doing there ......he called and talked for about 5 minutes ....then he said: "Well, devil, how much do I owe you for the phone call??? The devil goes: "five million dollars...." he made him a check and went to sit back on his chair....

The American was too jealous, he starts screaming...."Me too! I wanna call the United States, I wanna see how everybody is doing too........"He called and talked for about 2 minutes, then he said: " Well, devil, how much do i owe you for the phone call??? The devil said: " ten million dollars..." " Ten million dollars!!!" he made him a check and went to sit back on his chair...

The Palestinian was extremly sooo Jealous too....he starts screaming and screaming , " I wanna call Palestine too, I wanna see how everybody is doing there too! I wanna talk to everybody......"

So, he called Palestine, and he talked for about twenty hours...he was talking and talking ...and talking......then he said: " Well, devil, how much do I owe you for the phone call??? The devil goes: " One dollar....!!"
"Only one dollar...!!"

The devil goes: " Yes, Well, FROM HELL TO HELL, IT'S LOCAL !!!!

Saturday, April 08, 2006

The Bad, the Good, the Bad, the Good

the Bad - last week getting a notice that an Arab family from Silwan (city of David) outside the old city of Jerusalem whose ancestors saved the Jews during the riots in the 1920, were forcibly evicted from their homes because they were housed "in Jewish owned land" previous to 1948. I did not have time to join the protests, but would have - had I not had my slave job to go to every day. Does not anyone think what about the glorious mansions Jews live in - in West Jerusalem, that belonged to Arabs pre-1948?

the Good - Jews and Arabs working together to protest the wall separating the Arab Jerusalem neighborhoods of Jabel Mukaber and Sheikh Saed. A group called Neighbors to Neighbors have worked, met and celebrated together over this wall which would have separated families. The court has ruled that the neighborhood will not be separated and that the wall will be build behind Seikh Saed. Mazal Tov to all those that worked together on this.

The Bad - feeling totally depressed on Thursday crying my eyes out for no wedding and Pesach funds, totally scaring my co-workers who said...

the Good - that they are no longer afraid of our bosses because of me and my "fuck 'em" attitude and who pulled me out of the dumps by telling me I hold them up when they are freaked out. Another good friend said it's not me but rather the total eclipse which screwed everything and everyone's moods here. It's true. Everything was wacky the past week.

the Bad - There was a mini-tornado in the Galilee. I was like - whoa! Kansas in Israel. There was flooding everywhere. I was late to work twice because of heavy flooding on the roads.

the Good - my daughter listening to me about wedding plans. I may even get to walk her down the aisle after telling her it disturbs me that I won't do the traditional "mama giving the bride away" trip down the aisle. Please don't take that away from me. And I think she won't.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Hectic life

My soon-to-be-married daughter is going job hunting. I saw a wonderful job offer in the papers - working for a blind professor.

"Honey, it'll be great. When it gets real hot in the summer in Jerusalem, and you just want to strip down - go right on ahead. He won't see a friggin' thing."

But she went ahead to agencies and is looking for a more run-of-the-mill job - lucky thing about her is that she can work in both Hebrew and English - not like her mom, who can't read and write properly in Hebrew.

Back at the ranch, my son has been just the regular teenage werewolf - imitating my voice, my sentences - I'd like to toss him out the window. But instead, I'm not coming home early for him. Let him learn to fend for himself at the tender age of 14 and rip himself away from the computer to open up a fucking can of tuna. I'm royally pissed off at him. But I've been having fun being away. On Sunday, there was a peace gathering at Eliyahu's house. He had just come back from a trip to Seville, Spain at a conference from Rabbis and Imams. He is neither, but does connect the two and knows pretty much all of the Israeli ones. You wouldn't believe the photos of all these Gazan and Palestinian Imams dancing with the Israeli rabbis. Incredible stuff and of course, this never makes the papers.

Last night I went to my debtor's anonymous meeting trying to figure out how on earth will I pay for this wedding. People there brainstorm after the meetings and give good advice. I got no advice at this Hebrew -speakers meeting, but was encouraged to go to the English meeting on Wednesday.

Back home that evening my Werewolf Son was fuming.

"I needed 20 shekels ($4.50) for the movies and a party at school tonight and you didn't come home early to give it to me."

I came home at 9:30 pm hoping he would go to sleep at 10:00 and I wouldn't have to deal. So I dealt the best way I knew how.

"You didn't call me at work. You could have and I would have told you to ask your sister to loan the money to you. Anyway, getting angry at me is an excuse for not going. You think you could have torn yourself away from the computer to go to a school party?"

Last time they had a party and dance at school, he came home after an hour, once the dancing started. Some stud he is.

And tonight, even though I feel like falling on my face, I'm going to the Women's Interfaith Group because a woman is presenting whom I thought would never ever be caught dead at these meetings. She is a very orthodox Jewish woman and a therapist and every time I approached her and told her what I'm into these days she's like "I don't wanna hear about it." Interfaith stuff between Moslems and Jews totally freaked her out.

So now I'm going to see why she is no longer freaked out and why she decided to do a workshop with these Moslem, Christian and Jewish women together. I'm exhausted but my curiosity about why people change their previous mode of thinking is getting the better of me.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

The Women's Tent

I couldn't go because of my slave job. My boss wanted me to work on Friday which ruined my day off. The gathering sounded wonderful though and someone who was lucky enough to be there wrote about it. I'm printing excerpts here with her permission - dedicated to those who are pessimistic about co-existence....and for those who know it is possible.

My Experiences at the Women’s tent

The women’s tent occurred on Thursday-Friday 30-31st March.
500 Druze, Muslim and Christian Arab, Jewish, American, Australian, Italian WOMEN gathered for 2 days of sharing ,ceremony, workshops, singing, food, dance and togetherness.

Imagine a place filled with love. There are people from all over the world. All gathered, all dancing. Smiling sharing and singing. These are people I would not normally be in communication with. They are my sisters on the path to another world a place of peace where we can be one. For some hours on Thursday, 30 March, the day after the solar eclipse, we had that, we had a new world. It was for me a beautiful world.

To see the women there congregating all with love, all with open hearts, all wanting to give, to learn, to see, to be. G-d and the angels and the light where with us that day. They received, I think, our blessings and they received our intentions and looked on with love. In returned they showered us with love from above.

Our dreams can come true. On Thursday dreams turned into reality. On Thursday women hugged. Druze women, Arab women, Jews, Christians, Americans and Europeans. We were all there. We were all present and counted for. Each woman brought her self, her friends, her love and her faith. What ever her faith maybe. Each woman opened her heart. There were no borders. The love flowed. I believe that g-d witnessed this and g-d, or the g-d in each one of us, G-d took over.

The organizers worried before the event about organization. Will people get involved? Will people mix and will there be a connection? I witnessed this worry. I witnessed the opposite at the event. The love just flowed. When it was the time of the workshops everyone was involved. There was no one outside. It was a miracle. It was at it should be.

I felt so much warmth. I just wanted to hug everybody. The day was intense. There was the opening ceremony where we celebrated all faiths then we got up and danced and danced and felt the ecstasy that broke the borders of who we are (Jews, Druze, Arab, other) and opened our hearts so that as one we danced and sang and became a circle or a tribe of women with tears of joy in our eyes sharing and celebrating and embracing a wonderful moment of pure joy.

We ate together the delicious food of the Druze community – Canafe and humous, labane and pitta.

We circled, we joined in ceremony and then again we sang. Our voices filled space and rose above. The voices of angels.

We returned to our Druze host families. Exhausted and sated.

The next day we joined and in the fashion of containing, we shared our stories and our experiences.

We ended the event with a tour of Daliyat El Karmel. We learnt from the Druze a little bit about their history their culture and their beliefs.

I learnt that the more I give the more I receive. I opened my heart and gave and received so much at times I felt I could burst with love.

I am writing this because I feel so much hope in my heart that this is the way. This is the way of the new community and here we witnessed a glimpse of a possible future. A future that today’s reality could deem impossible but the hope in my heart shouts this is what can be. If we hold it in our hearts this IS possible, this can be. More and more circles all over the world and they are happening – in 6 continents in September women will gather and hold space. In august the Sulha where thousands of people – Arabs, Jews, Druze and friends for all over will gather for 3 days of talking circles, workshops , dancing and music. Where again borders will be broken down and the language of love and hope will be spoken. There are so many events so many places in Israel at this time for our hearts to open. I feel so grateful. Festivals, workshops, singing groups. There can be a new reality – it is already happening now.

Tanya Lyons

Doing it the American Way

I feel obliged to teach Israeli merchants the American way of business. It's enough that by living here things get all fucked up.

One example is that Hubby told me the other day that our drivers' license expired. I figured something was up - how would he have taken notice unless something horrible happened to make him take notice. We received a renewal form in the mail but he looked at it and said the licenses expire on June 3.

"How do you kow it expired?" I asked.

"I got a ticket the other day"

Bingo. He probably read the friggin license renewal form backwards because it probably expired March 6 - being that Israelis show their days and months differently than North Americans. It shows up as 6/3/06. OK - so after 11 years in this country he STILL didn't get it.

Frustrated a bit by this misunderstanding, I walked into a store because they had stuff on sale and saw a dress suitable for my daughter's wedding. I tried it on and it looked absolutely lovely. No need for me to go to 100 stores to find something and make myself crazy. It's rare to find a dress nowadays that makes me look skinny. It was a shimmery copper dress. I loveto shimmer.

I told the saleswomen, and they probably heard this for the first time in their lives -

"I'm gonna teach you people about 'layaway'. Layaway is what people do in America when they want to buy something and not go into debt. They put a certain amount of money on it and it is theirs. You keep the dress until the entire amount is paid - it could take a bit but it will get paid."

"Israelis just use their credit card."

"Yup - they sure do. And my credit card is at its limit. No more debting for me."

She insisted on half the amount up front. I agreed. Wow! A breakthrough in Israeli retail. I'll have easy payment terms at no interest and look skinny at my daughter's wedding. How much better can it get?