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!)