Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Prutza of Jerusalem

My good friend who is Ultra Orthodox and who lives in a totally Ultra Orthodox town outside Jerusalem was called a "Prutza" yesterday by a man walking on the opposite side of the street - a total stranger. Prutza means a loose woman, a whore.

I know my friend. She is a modest, wonderful woman, who is kind to everyone and who, even though she is swamped with work, doesn't hesitate to cook us all a lunch of pasta, rice or couscous and scrumptious salads when the bosses are away.

But she is very attractive and wears a shoulder-length wig and nice clothing. She doesn't wear a rag on her head nor does she walk around in sloppy house dresses the way other non-working mothers/wives do in that neighborhood.

So instead of enjoying her attractiveness, some Breslover Hasidic male idiot decided to call her names.

"I hadn't been called that in 2 years. I thought maybe I lost some weight!" she told me excitedly.

"Nu, so what did you answer him?" I asked. "Did you thank him. You know at your age, being called a prutza is a compliment."

And we thought of things she should have answered him or use for future prutza-callers.

1. If you think I'm a Prutza, you should see my friend JerusalemGypsy. She's a REAL Prutza.

2. That's a hell of a pick-up line.

3. No thank you, I'm married.

4. Fuck off, you stupid c...t - (if he's English/American)

5. Ishtekha (your wife is a) Prutza (if he's Israeli)

Any other ideas out there?

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Wild and Crazy Gay Guy

I love my crazy brother-in-law. He has the best sense of humor. I warned Hubby that if he keeps on aggravating me, I will leave him for a rich gay man.

Brother-in-law (BIL) was staying at a hotel where all these Nigerian Christians were staying.

He described them.

"They were HUGE! All aunt Jemima types. I told mum 'I know what this sect is called. They're called - Eating For Jesus.'"

He tried to join them for (probably very lively)church services on Sunday, but by then, they had gone.

My son took a big liking to him. And even he wasn't spared.

Brother-in-law: "Remember when we ran out of toilet paper and I had to use a toothbrush? Well, I found it. Here it is!" and he popped out my son's toothbrush out of his bag and threw it to him.

Saturday we walked together to the Old City. We walked into a shop selling exquisite carpets on the Via Dolorosa.

"Are you married?" asked the salesman.

"Yes - to a MAN" answered BIL without batting one of his long eyelashes.

No more closet for him. He enjoys giving people shock treatments.

We walked past several convents and we were invited in for a look and a tour.

BIL: "It's OK, we don't have to see the place. We're actually from the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence"

Saturday night, my 20 year old daughter and myself took him to Jerusalem's only gay club. It was empty at 11:30 but by midnight it began to fill up - with mostly young Palestinian men in their late teens and twenties from East Jerusalem and environs. I think perhaps because it was Middle-Eastern night with my favorite sweet Knafe being dished out for free. My brother-in-law was chatting to a really cute Palestinian but I wanted to dance. And dance I did to excellent Arabic music, with all these adorable "fairies" who were more adorable than me. There were a couple of drag queens up on stage who had legs I would kill for. And for once in her life there was no one hitting on my blonde bombshell daughter, but she enjoyed the evening nevertheless.

Wedding Tales

Well it happened and I can't believe I have a married daughter and gained a son-in-law. The wedding was lovely and went practically hitchless except I kept on feeling like Tevye from Fiddler on The Roof when I approached my daughter to do something traditional like walk down the aisle to soulful Jewish music instead of Enya and she refused. But back to the music later.

I spent the wedding day at the hairdresser and makeup place with my 4 daughters. I was bored stiff half the time, even though we got a kick out of the photographer looking exactly like my second oldest's ex-boyfriend. I was restless and didn't have the patience to sit around for 5 hours. But there was nothing I could do. I was trapped.

It takes me 5 minutes to put on my makeup and I would assume it takes a professional to do it in 15-20 minutes. My hair took 1/2 hour just to blowp-dry it out. I watched my daughters' transformation - one morphed her hair into a Pamela Anderson type blonde-do, then cried because she hated her dramatic eye makeup. The others did themselves up beautifully but less dramatic.

By the time the groom came to pick up the bride, whom he hadn't seen in a week, for photographs and a blessing from Grand Sephardic rabbi Ovadiah Yosef, I was in the dressing room futzing around with my plastic bra straps trying to make them tighter. Meanwhile, everyone's annoyingly calling me to tell me the groom is here and to come out and I'm telling them -"honey if you want some photos to remember, I WILL come out completely topless to greet the groom but I'd like to be on good terms with my daughter."

Walking towards the Wedding Canopy the DJ put on the Enya song from The Gladiator. It was indeed very lovely, but as soon as the song finished and the entire family had been gathered together, Mr. DJ began playing some calypso-hand-clapping crap which totally fucked up the mood. He could have continued with some other gorgeous New Age type stuff, but he must have been on one too many Red Bull & Vodkas or whatever.

The ceremony began and it is different from Ashkenazi weddings, as the bride does not walk around the husband 7 times, and I thought at one point the Rabbi asked me to drink the wine, and I was about to as I was handed the cup.

"You're ruining MY WEDDING" hissed my daughter loudly, hopefully loudly enough for the video to pick up this conversation. Others whispered to me that I must lift up her veil, and put the wine to her lips for her to sip. It was red wine and she was petrified I'd get it all over her dress. I didn't. A trick for next wedding is to buy white wine.

My brother-in-law was called up to say one blessing. He didn't understand the Rabbi's Hebrew telling him to put the wine glass in his right hand. I hissed at my daughter - NOW HE'S RUINING YOUR WEDDING!!! And I laughed.

The dancing was lively during the dinner, the DJ played good music - first Hasidic music with a mechitza (barrier to divide the sexes) for 20 minutes and then a slow dance with the couple alone - my daughter had 6 sets of floor sparklers going off as well as confetti pouring down on them during the dance and it looked lovely. Then we had our eclectic music going - salsa, R&B, country, Middle Eastern (I brought my belly dancing belts) and I really think we all had a wonderful celebration. We had a matching eclectic crowd - Jewish, Arab, Chassidic, secular, modern orthodox,Messianic Jews - you name it, we had it.

Around midnight the ex-Criminal got totally wasted, unbeknowest to me, and one of the groom's relatives went over to me and said "go to her - she's passed out." The Complainer complained that she's causing us embarrassment.

"Now the other family will know that we're all crazy."

Too late. The wedding can't be called off now. Mwaaa haa haa.

In fact it ended at 1:30 and we shoved the "unconscious" Drunk Daughter into the back seat with 3 other girls trying to shove her around to make room for themselves (she couldn't wake up for shit) and headed home. It took us about 1/2 hour to get the Drunk One out of the car.

And may the newlyweds have a life as beautiful as my daughter's wedding dress!!!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Jewish - Arab Women's Tent

On Sunday in Beersheva, there was an Arab-Jewish women's tent. I couldn't go. There's too much to take care of before my family's major event. But my new friend did. And she's a great photographer to boot. You can read about this here.

The Mother of (the Bride of) Frankenstein

It sums up the way I feel. Daughter has been so bitchy to me. But that's ok. The wedding is tomorrow. I guess all brides are bitchy before their weddings. I took off like a bat out of hell yesterday morning, haven been given the okay to leave work to rush off to do errands, like buy my son clothing for the wedding, and other assorted millions of little piddly things. Rushing from store to store, I realize it is a blessing not to have so much leisure time. Because if I had so much time on my hands, I'd shop for this and that - beginning with bras and underwear, to pajamas, to sandals, to a long skirt, short, skirt, a few tops and pants. It's hard work. The few leisurely hours I had yesterday wore me down. I managed to find my son what to wear and I can tell you that I love shopping with boys. They put on clothes, and if it fits, and they can close the zippers and buttons, and the pants don't fall down around their waist, it's good enough to buy. We didn't search from store to store like I would with one of my daughters. The first store was It.

Today I picked up my mother-in-law and brother-in-law from the airport. He was insane as usual.

"We just bought a house near Lake Wilcox" he said turning to my son in the car. "You say Wilcox with an emphasis on Cox. Lake Wil COX."

He went on about the gay shul in Toronto that he nicknamed "Shaarei Tuches" ("tuches" is Yiddish for "ass").

Hubby's mom was touched that we seemed so close to her even though we live so far. It's been 10 years since she's seen most of us.

"We always talk about you at home, that's why!" I interjected.

"That's because Bubby smokes pot." laughed brother-in-law.

Are we not the Jewish Osbourne family, I ask?

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Mafia son

"God, you look SO ISRAELI" gushed a friend of mine, my blonde hair gone and in its place the color red. She had collected some money for our upcoming wedding as things were looking bleaker and bleaker, and I sat in her car and burst into tears - not because of the fact that she thought I looked Israeli but because I was touched by her generosity and ashamed of my neediness.

Friday morning I met my ex-Criminal daughter. I had just enough money to get into town. I cashed another $30 check and put down a deposit on a dress we found for her for the wedding. I did attempt to pay with my credit card, but it was refused and I put down $25 for it, and introduced yet another Jerusalem store to the American retail tradition of lay-away.

The day didn't start off normally to begin with. I forgot that my son had school and neglected to wake him up. Ooops. Anyway he suffered a bad sunburn so we can tell his teachers that he was in pain that day. He told me that nearly every day he gets woken up by a fly buzzing around his head.

"OH, that's my assistant, Freddy the fly" I told him. So my daily telephone calls to his cellphone nor the alarm clock are not what prompts him to wake up -it's the fly. I thought I'm not killing any more of those if they're going to help me with him.

Saturday we lounged around and the Complainer's boyfriend the "Son of Mafia Mom" -'redid' my computer so it would download stuff faster and in the process, erased all my e-mails,and internet favorites. But I don't DARE complain. To compensate, he invited us all to his cousin's villa where there is a private pool and the house is empty because they're in the process of selling it. He threw a lit cigarette butt over the balcony.

"What if there's someone walking under the place where you threw the lit ciggie butt?" I asked.

He shrugged his shoulders and laughed when I told him he was just like Complainer's dad who, when we had a dog, shovelled up some dog shit on our terrace and threw it over the railing instead of tossing it into a wastebin, like normal people do.

I felt like a million bucks lying around the private pool with my kids and this guy. He gathered up the trash, took stuff from me so I wouldn't have to carry anything and when we neared the trash bin across the street, he threw the plastic bag of trash, hitting the trash bin on the side and scaring the local cats, not bothering to walk it over and putting the trash inside the bin, like decent people do. But I don't DARE complain...

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Funny, you should(n't) ask

I'm still in mourning over a trip I was invited to take, but know I can't take it because of my slave job. The trip was to be able to participate in Oseh Shalom~Sanea al-Salam which is a Palestinian-Jewish Family Peacemakers Camp September 1-4, 2006 -- Camp Tawonga on the Tuolumne River near Yosemite National Park. Looking at the dates, and feeling my heart sink, because that part of the US is just so beautiful, together with the fact that this type of retreat is right up my alley,and knowing I am not able to afford such a trip on my own is tragic. We would be in midst of steering committee preparations at that time and there's no way I could even ask my boss. It's like asking to be fired. He kvetched as it was when I took 5 days to go to Barcelona to participate in the Parliament of World Religions, you think he'd let me take off during the 4 most stressful times of the year to go to "camp"?

It's so difficult to ask people for a lot of things.

Take my future son-in-law who is of Tunisian background. We need to take a count of who will turn up at the wedding so that appropriate numbers of tables can be set up. My daughter and I have no problem calling our friends to see if they are coming. Americans send out invites with RSVP cards. Israelis don't. So if you really want to find out statistics, you have to call. Tunisian Guy said no way will he call and ask his friends and relatives if they are coming or not. It would be insulting. I told my daughter not to force the issue on him because we have to respect his culture too.

Then Hubby asked me if Ibrahim is going to show up at our wedding wearing traditional Arab dress, keffiyah and all.

"People are going to ask - 'which side of the family is HE from?'" he remarked to me on the way to work.

I'm certainly not going to ask Ibrahim what he's planning on wearing to the party. Hell no. Besides, his dressing up in traditional Arab garb will most definitely stir up some sort of curious conversations between the wedding guests. If he dresses Western style, he'll just look like another older Sephardic Jewish man, so if you ask MY opinion, I hope he opts for the galabiyeh look.

But speaking of Ibrahim, when I asked him if he will be at the wedding, he said "Only if I'm not in jail" and told me he is up for a court hearing the day before my daughter's wedding. The reason? He invited two old friends of his, men in their sixties, to his home to do some work at his house. He's been friendly with them for years and they do handymen work around his house. Unfortunately, the separation fence was built so that his friends are over the fence and not inside like he is. He is a resident of Jerusalem, they are now considered West Bank Palestinians. By law, he cannot any longer invite his buddies that he knew most of his life over to his home even for a cup of coffee unless they have a permit. Well, he was caught by the police who checked their id's and this could carry a 6 month prison sentence (even if the "infiltrators" have a clean police record which they do). He didn't feel like asking his old buddies whether they had permits. He did what he always did and invited them over. Everyone in his neighborhood does because the fence split the town in half. But he got caught. I hope the judge sees alot of Ibrahim's supporters in the court house and realizes that this man is special and not give him jail time. Let them give him community service or something. For Christ's sake, the judge should know he already does Community Service. In a big way.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Wedding Planners

On Friday we sat with the coordinator of the wedding hall and mowed our way through the menu, and the time table for the wedding itself - when to dance, when to eat, etc. They were wonderfully pleasant and generous and gave us alot of freebies which had been listed as having to pay extra for like the fish fillets and the hot chocolate cake, plus the grilled kebab and falafel stand at the reception with a whole bunch of other things I can't remember. I wonder if I had a chunkier bank account than the tragically "in the red" one I have now, would I be happier and more at ease? I thought that as we wrote a check out for 2 days after the wedding for an enormous sum that we cannot cover.

In traditional Orthodox Jewish weddings, at the pre-wedding reception, the bride sits apart from her husband-to-be and is flanked by her sisters, friends, mother while the photogs click away at everyone air-kissing her. This is the time to talk to everyone, because you can't have a conversation while you're dancing the night away. The reception is going to last 1 1/2 hours before the ceremony takes place. That's like half the wedding already.

Would she want the special bridal chair to sit on in the grassy area?

She didn't want to hear of it.

"NO WAY!!! I'm staying in my room, I'll find something to watch on tv. NO ONE IS GOING TO SEE ME BEFORE THE CEREMONY, OK???"

She needed to have her grand entrance at the ceremony, where everyone could oooh and ahhh over her.

Her hubby-to-be just sat there and didn't seem to have an opinion. Maybe he was afraid to?

The Planner told us that 50% of the brides nowadays just show up for the ceremony and not for the pre-wedding reception.

We tried Orthodox tradition #2 on her.

"What about the Yichud room?"

This is the room that couples retire to after the ceremony to be alone, to break their fast, if they are fasting. Many years ago, but not nowadays, it was where you consummated the marriage.

The hotel would supply them with salads and munchies and there they can catch their breath before heading to the hall where the music and festivities will carry on well past midnight.

She was quick and to the point.


We tried to get her to see that people need to find their seats and settle in themselves before the dancing gets underway.

As of today, her fiancee quietly coaxed her into having a 10 minute reprieve in that room before they walk into the hall, but on Friday, it was Hell No We Won't Go.

What about the dancing logistics? There will be Orthodox, Ultra Orthodox, Arabs, and secular Jews. Hubby wanted 1/2 hour of Hassidic music with a separation barrier between the sexes so everyone can dance (Ultra Orthodox Jews and Arab women won't dance in mixed company). Fussy Daughter compromised at 20 minutes of Hassidic music with a barrier. Then the barrier comes down and then they want all sorts of music - not necessarily Jewish. She wants to walk down the aisle with Irish music even though no one will be Irish at our wedding. Bring out the Guinness folks.

And after 2 1/2 hours of hashing it out, I saw the couple slumped in their chairs. I laughed and told the wedding planners -

"Look at them. Don't they look like the most miserable people on earth??"

I couldn't understand for the life of me why people look so miserable before marriage. Save it for after marriage, folks.

"It's normal" the wedding planners assured me. "It's exhausting for all couples to go through this."

I wondered if my daughter's "It's my way or the high way" attitude is taking its toll on future Hubby. But yesterday when I saw him, he was all smiles and adulation for his future wife.

She was yakking on the phone to her friend for a long time which I thought was rude of her, while he walked in the door.

"Get off the phone with your friend. Tell her you'll call her later! It's not nice." I hissed at her.

"Don't put pressure on her" he smiled at her as if she were a exquisite piece of gold he just discovered.

And I'm thinking as I always think when I see him - Jeez, which planet do you really come from?

Monday, June 12, 2006

My tent or yours?

I walked into work this morning wearing the same outfit I had on at last night's bar mitzvah of a co-worker's son.

"Sharmy! (shortened Arabic slang for "slut") You didn't come home last night, eh?" they all teased me at the reception desk.

I have a work-related "event" tonight and didn't want to deal with finding another semi-fancy outfit, so I made the mistake of deciding to wear what I wore last night.

My colleagues were soothing to me later on when they offered me some Belgian chocolates.

"We didn't invite so & so to come down to take a few. Now they're none left."

"That's fine" I muttered. "And besides, those people aren't as depressed as we are. We NEED those chocolates"

"BevaDAI" ("exactly"), they concurred.

Why was I so down? I just had a friend call me up sobbing on the phone. She's miserable. I told her to call Hubby who is also miserable and who has more patience for talking on the phone than I have.

"It's not tznius (modest) to call up your husband to complain about things" she told me.

Jeez, while I understand and respect her boundaries, I can't even fucking GIVE Hubby away, can I??

I had come back from a wonderful weekend in the Jerusalem Forest where they had a Celebration of Light festival. Old hippies, young hippies, religious and secular, and a handful of Arabs for added spice were there. Eliyahu had no success in bringing in 12 West Bank Palestinians because the army decided that there will be a closure every weekend. It used to be just on Jewish holidays, but they've extended their closures. Now it will be even more difficult for us to meet.

And I forgot about the real world where there are Cavemen Hubbys, horrible children, weddings to plan, dresses to buy for these weddings, fundraising letters to finance this wedding to send out, etc. and I just ate when I was hungry, listened to amazing musicians by the bonfire on Friday night, until I couldn't keep my eyes open, was woken up by jackals howling sometime in the wee hours, did laughter yoga, danced the dance of the Hebrew letters, listened to healers, shared our food, hugged and got hugged back, prayed in a circle and everything was blissful. Until Hubby picked me up later that afternoon.

I introduced him to one of the long-bearded Orthodox Jewish men there, who was quite a character.

"Your wife and I had a great time last night. You weren't there, my wife wasn't there. We had a blast."

What a wonderful introduction this was.

"Yes, this is EXACTLY what he wants to hear!" I glared at this long-bearded Caveman. We had been grooving to the music on Friday night by the bonfire and reminiscing about the Beatles and how spiritual George Harrison was and how he was at Woodstock in 1969 because he was 19 years old and how I wasn't there because I was only 13 years old. Then we parted ways. But he made it sound more whoop-de-doo than that. Oy Vey. I tried explaining to Hubby that where my tent was situated, in between a million other tents, you can hear when someone unzips their tent to get in. You can hear someone belch. You can hear them fart. I don't think anybody was "doing it" in their tent, because you would have heard it.

Back home, my kids complained that I smelled like a campfire. I didn't care. And like a true blue hippie, I didn't shower until the next morning.....

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Celebration of Light - Jerusalem Forest


Trying their hand at tree climbing Posted by Picasa

Celebration of Light - Jerusalem Forest

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Celebration of Light - Jerusalem Forest

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Celebration of Light - Jerusalem Forest

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Celebration of Light - Jerusalem Forest


Great band playing throughout the night and during the day - Turkish, Gypsy, Balkan, Klezmer music Posted by Picasa

Celebration of Light - Jerusalem forest

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Celebration of Light - Jerusalem Forest

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Celebration of Light

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tent of Nations

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photos from Tent of Nations

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Friday, June 09, 2006

Supermarket not so Super

I usually do my weekly shopping on Thursdays unless I'm doing something totally important on a Thursday like my daughter's wedding in a few weeks on Thursday or some peace thingy on Thursday or whatever. There were a whole bunch of important things going on Thursday evening like the Sting concert which I couldn't afford so I didn't go, and then there was the Palestinian film about their soccer team being shown on the Wall in Abu Dis which I could have gone to, but because I'm camping out on Friday at the Celebration of Light Festival, I thought, even though my kids/family/caveman hubby give me a difficult time when I am around, it's better for all of us when mom is around. So I traded Friday night for being here on Thursday....

I went to Mister Zol where I live. It's translation is "Mister Cheap" in English. A regular supermarket chain. Thursday is shopping day rush and there weren't any shopping carts available. So I did what I usually do, and rushed out the exit to grab a cart there and walk in through the exit. But a security guard stopped me short.

"You can't come in here this way."

"What way?"

"You can't come in through the exit"

"But I've been coming in through the exit with shopping carts for 10 years!"

"I'm sorry, but I'll get fired if I let you in"

I was tired from saving my husband from buying a hideous suit he was going to buy for the wedding - I walked into the store while he had the thing on - black loud pinstripes with a black t-shirt beneath. He looked like Don Corleone on a really rough day.

"Sorry, no mobster clothes for this man" I told the saleswoman, and we spent another 1 1/2 hours in the mall looking for the right combination.

She pulled out a white shirt with sequins. For him.

"No Liberace shirts for him either." I huffed. But I did choose something lovely in one of those "newly appropriate" colors for men - lilac with a matching tie and a soft pinstriped suit. Hubby looked absolutely dashing. He put down our grocery money to pay for half the suit and we went back home.

But it was an ordeal and I was in no mood for smarmy idiot security guards who could have checked me going back into the store. I had to return the cart and go all the way around the mall to the front entrance again to get to the supermarket. I was furious.

"FUCK YOU, YOU IDIOT" I swore at him in English and slammed the shopping cart into the pile of others standing at the exit. I made my way again past the Russian security chap in the front entrance to the mall, probably wondering if he was seeing my double.

I did manage to find a cart inside the store and went over to the meat section. Hubby prematurely threw out last weekend's papers and I wasn't quick enough to grap the coupon page. But I saw a couple of last week's news by the meat guys.

"Could you grab me that paper please. I'm looking for coupons." He reluctantly walked over to give me one. The back page with the coupons was missing. After I ordered what I needed from him, I asked me to get me the other one.

"Sorry, I can't. There are other people waiting." There was one other person in line and the shit was too busy to walk one foot behind him to hand me another paper. It's not his job after all. He's a meat man, not a paper delivery boy.

I sadly walked passed a guy who was usually works in the meat section.

"How are you?" he asked.

"OK, fine, I guess."

He looked at my cart. I had a chopped meat package in the place where you put little children on to sit.

He gave me a very disapproving look - even though the meat was packaged in hard plastic.

"You shouldn't put the meat there, that's where you put tushies."

"Fine" I said and moved on, putting the meat in the main part of the cart. I had no energy left to argue with anyone else in that store.

Hubby came in and I complained to him bitterly about how harrassed I felt. He made me laugh by shaking hands with a Russian acquaintance and asked me immediately afterwards if I wanted to buy any "nyet" making it sound like "meat" with a Russian accent.

A good laugh - that's exactly what I needed.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

10 top signs the messiah is coming

As in Arabic folklore when a pidgeon shits on you and it's supposed to bring good luck to the shitee, I wondered if the same good luck applies when you find dog poo right in front of the entrance to your place of work - which is what happened to me more than once and this morning as I gingerly tried to step over and around the many pieces.

My boss is impatient and wanted me to print out something for him.

"Is it printing" he demanded to know 1 second after he asked me to print the document.

In turn I glared at the printer as if to tell it - if it doesn't start printing immediately back it goes to the Printer Pound. Fortunately, it listened a second after my terrifying stare and began printing immediately.

I had gone to visit my brother and my 2 great nephews were there. They are Ultra-Orthodox Jews and were talking in Hip-speak with words like "dude" and "awesome" and "cool" smattered in their vocabulary. I was so totally amused by the way they looked with their black hats and black suits and their "homeboy" speak.

Somewhere in our conversations, I pointed out to them the messianic signs of the times.

"You know Mattisyahu is opening up for Sting on Thursday, in Tel Aviv, don't you?" I asked the boys.

"Who's Mattisyahu?" asked my uncool but lovely 65 year old sister.

Her grandchildren told her "A Hassidic rapper".

"Isn't this totally like messianic (using the Yiddish term "Moshiach-dik") times...." I asked the boys.

".....when a Jewish guy, totally decked out in Ultra-Orthodox garb, unashamed of who is he, in fact proud of who he is, performs with a world-famous rock singer? And his album made it to the top 10 in Billboard?" I continued, not sure they knew what "Billboard" is, but they knew by the way I said it, that it marked a musical milestone for performers.

"Not that I'm Hassidic or a Lubavitcher (the Hassidic sect that I once belonged to and that Mattisyahu belongs to) or anything anymore."

"Once a Lubavitcher, always a Lubavitcher" offered up my Great-Nephew.

I've heard that many times before. So since we are on the topic of Moshiach or Messiah as is the mission of Lubavitchers to reign in the Moshiach/Messiah, I tried to come up with 10 top signs that the Moshiach is really coming. I don't think I can come up with 10 - help me out here. These are things that are happening in the world today that you would never think would happen in a million years.

1. Mattisyahu, a Hasidic performer - becoming a world-famous musical artist.

2. Madonna being strongly into Kabbalah

3. My son offering to do the dishes and help me cook last week.

4. No calls from his school for one week complaining that he is suspended.

5. More and more grassroots peace groups I find out about every day in this country

6. More people into buying organic produce, becoming more environmentally aware

7. New York - much more safe than it ever was...

Anything else?


Monday, June 05, 2006

Tent of Nations

"Where did you just come from?" asked the soldier around midnight at the checkpoint from Gush Etzion going into the tunnels leading to Jerusalem. We were a group of 6 people piled into a car that could only hold 5.

Our driver answered "From a picnic".

"A picnic?" the soldier asked incredulously. How many people picnic when it's not a holiday in the midnight hours.

He got sterner.

"Where do you live?"

"In Jerusalem."

"Where in Jerusalem?"

And three people rattled off the neighborhoods they live in Jerusalem. There were a couple of "internationals" with us - from Netherlands, Germany and a nun in the back seat.

The soldier peered into the back seat to see our smiling faces and let us go.

I just caught the last bus to where I live and saw an old friend I met at Israeli dancing years ago.

She was curious too.

"Where are you coming from?"

"From a party in Gush Etzion" I told her. The bus was crowded. I was standing. She was sitting. I didn't have the energy to explain to her where I really was. If you say "Gush Etzion" you really mean the Jewish part of the area, not the Palestinian part, where I had been.

I joined up with a group of Jewish Jerusalemites and others to this remote hilltop across from the settlement of Neve Daniel. The place has a name. The Tent of Nations. All I saw were acres of groves of a little bit of everything - oak trees, olive trees, grape vines - on freshly plowed land. The view from the top was spectacular. On one side you can see Neve Daniel and on the other the large Ultra Orthodox enclave of Beitar and the Palestinian village of Nahalin.

Two Christian-Arab brothers, Daher and Daoud Nasser and their families have been here since 1918. Their grandfather lived in a cave and farmed this area. They have been fighting in the Israeli Higher Courts since 1991 because the government claims the land they are on is State land. They have ownership papers to prove that it isn't. There were plans to build a road cutting through the lush terraces or perhaps build another settlement on this hilltop.

So the brothers decided to open up their space to people from everywhere to help them plant trees, harvest the crops, etc. and they attract groups of people internationally and locally. Of course, before today, I had no idea this place existed.

We brought food to share and took a tour of the area, including the cave where the family once lived, and watched the sun set over the hills. They are preparing a summer camp for children and the bed frames are in place, just the mattresses and tent covers aren't.

As the night went on, we sang songs with guitar, darbouka and tambourine accompaniment, teaching songs in Hebrew and English to the young kids there. I learned a new word in Arabic - hess hess (mosquitos) - as there were tons of them there but thankfully they bypassed me for some of the younger blood around. A bonfire was built by the brothers for us and they brought out potatoes to roast in the fire. We sat around quietly and the organizer of this event, Dhyon, spoke:

"I invite the angel of Gabriel to come down and protect this land that no government should take it away from this family and that it should continue to be a place of peace..."

"AMEN" said a few of us loudly.

It dawned on me that it was hitting 10:00 pm. There was no easy way out of this place - no bus stops and the Palestinians would have offered to drive me back but they don't have permits to enter Israel, so they couldn't. And looking at the crowd it seemed that all of them didn't have the slave day jobs that I held. They could camp out here if they liked - it was so peaceful that the thought did cross my mind more than once - had I not had to wake up at 6:00 am and hop on a bus 45 minutes later and be fully alert from 7:30 for 10 hours. I started to panic and vented quietly to a German photographer staying at Ibrahim's house on the Mt. of Olives.

"You're not going to die if you don't come home tonight." she tried to explain to me logically.

"And you're children won't die if you don't come home tonight." she continued.

But Hubby was off to Haifa before daybreak in the morning and I really didn't want to go to work smelling like I'd been at a bonfire all night wearing the same clothes I did the day before only a lot dirtier.

She noticed my nervousness and was sympathetic and squeezed my hand, asking people who would be driving back to Jerusalem. Not too many people were into going back right away.

I compromised and said as long as I get to Jerusalem before the last bus back to the 'burbs, I'd be happy. This means leaving around 11:30 pm.

I relaxed and so did the person who drove me here who seemed to have found his Nirvana at this place.

The Nasser brothers young kids were there.

"Don't you kids have school?"

The kid shook his head.

Their father told me they have three months summer vacation. Ouch. Imagine being home with your children for 3 months instead of two. Jewish Israeli kids have two months vacation. I don't understand why the Palestinian children get 3 months vacation. Perhaps because of their much lower budget for education. I can't think of any other reason.

They brought their car to the bonfire and played some Arabic music. I recognized the singer.

"Wow! Fairouz!!" I exclaimed.

"AIWA" smiled the brother, probably surprised that I would know Arabic singers.

Cheese and watermelon was passed around as well as sweet mint tea. The campfire was simmering down and about 11:30 the people began to get up all at once to go back to Jerusalem. I thought they'd stay the night. We walked to where the cars were parked - about 1/2 kilometer down the moon-stars-lit dirt paths all together, with Fairuz still singing in the background.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Happy Shavuot

Here are some scenes from yesterday's street fair on Emek Refaim in Jerusalem in honor of the Shavuot holiday . It's always a holiday when I get the day off from work too!

Two Shmendriks

Three gorgeous redheads...