Friday, September 29, 2006

lyrical moments

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

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

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

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

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

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

I laughed and turned to hubby.

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

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

And then - the light turned green...

Sunday, September 24, 2006

New Years in the Country

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Hey - Do you Want to Know a Secret?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wish List

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

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

3. I want to have 3 months contingency saved up

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

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

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

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

8. I want to become a famous writer


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

11. A lovely new couch would be wonderful too

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

Now for the Grateful List:

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

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

3. I am grateful for the warm weather in Jerusalem

4. I am grateful for my job

5. I am grateful to have a married daughter

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

7. I am grateful for my interfaith work

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Jewish New Year and Ramadan Karim!!!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Gourmet dinners - the macrobiotic way

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

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

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

But the food was absolutely divine.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Coughing - no laughing matter

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

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

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

She armed me with an antibiotic and off I went.

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

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

Just thinking about her makes me cough.

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

And thinking about it makes me cough...

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

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

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

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

I meet him again. More free advice.

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

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

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

"I'm looking for my cigarettes."

I hate nicotine addicts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I closed the door to my office and coughed away.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Seeds of Peace

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

Cat chess

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

Cat chess - setting up the game

Cat chess - team work

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

Cat chess - and the winner is...

Man from U.R.F.A.

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

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

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

"So why is his name Ibrahim?"

"Because he is a Moslem."

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

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

Synagogue built by Jews from Urfa, Turkey - Jerusalem

Interior of the Urfa Synagogue, Jerusalem

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

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

Saturday, September 09, 2006

cup o joe

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

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

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

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

What the F?

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

Thankfully the tortilla wrap was a decently huge portion.

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

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

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Feeling like biblical Job again...

This week's been tough. One Example -

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

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

"What's your ID number"

I gave it to him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, September 02, 2006

What the bleep were they thinking?

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

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

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

Russian compound

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

Russian compound

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

Russian compound

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I'll take the Breville please"

"You're making a mistake."

"I doubt it."

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