Saturday, December 29, 2007

Life without Hubby

I really had intended to write more often - but for the past week, I couldn't because someone had reported my blog as spa*m. Isn't that just awful?

Life without hubby is mostly peaceful and not too aggravating, save for two of my kids who behave awfully to me. Hubs will be coming home in March until Passover holidays. I think I have the best of both worlds this way, I thought, as I lunched with a girlfriend whose partner is away every other month for a month. Less time to argue and more time for myself.

My daughters are each confiding in me, and I feel like the Holder of a Billion Secrets. One found a job and doesn't want me to tell the other one about it. The Other One is going for a week on holiday to Turkey and doesn't want THAT sister to know about it and so on and so forth.

Dinner is usually my son and I, even on Friday nights, as the others come and go at various times of the week and sleep at home only 2-3 times a week. This prompted a rather intimate, coming-of-age conversation between my son and I. He was worried that he didn't yet have a girlfriend. He'll be 16 next month. I told him he didn't have to worry, he could even have one at 18. And that his classmates who boast about girlfriends or whatever, are probably lying half the time.

He thought maybe about meeting this girl who lives in Tel Aviv who he knows through his internet wanderings.

"Maybe she'll give." he told me.

"Give what?" I asked

"You know."

Yeah, I know, and where is his father to give him that father and son talk at this time right now, for fuck's sake (pun intended).

And so I gave him the spiel about condoms and how dangerous it is for his health and otherwise if he has sex without them.

But hopefully, when he's ready, he'll be comfortable enough ask me for money to buy a damn pack.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Interfaith Chanukah Party

My friend at work was making fun of my "To Do" lists which have like 30 items for me to do in one day.

"You ought to see a psychiatrist. You're mad!!"

My kids though, think I'm crazy for entirely different reasons. My Complainer Daughter was bothered a little that I was having an interfaith chanukah party with Arabs and Jews. Why can't I be like other mothers and just have Jews at the party? Why must we be an embarrassment to the neighborhood?

"Don't talk about Arabs to Natty (her boyfriend). He doesn't like Arabs."

Well, that was the perfect opportunity to go over to him and talk some sense into the young man of Moroccan ancestry.

"I hear you don't like Arabs. We're having a party tonight and you are invited. I used to think just like you. You know why you don't like them, don't you? It's because it is what you were taught. You've never had Arab friends and all your friends say they hate Arabs so you hate them too, aren't I right?"

He nodded.

I also dared to invite some locals from my neighborhood. These were old friends who I know never had contact with Palestinians. There was a Palestinian from Abu Dis whom I never met who is on my email list and got the invite. Surprisingly he said he'd like to come and bring a friend or two. Great. At least we'll have some diversity.

By the time the party was supposed to begin,the apartment shone and I lit candles all over the place to make that warm and fuzzy mood. The Abu Dis guys called. I thought they'd have problems at the entrance check point but didn't. They were lost so I had to guide them through. In fact, everyone got lost. No one's been to my new pad before plus it's a new neighborhood so it was quite a challenge for me to explain directions to people, since I'm no good at them myself. Turns out the Abu Dis guy brought in a friend from Jenin who told me he had never been invited to a Jewish home before and he seemed so delighted to be in my house. Even in Maaleh Adumim. Settlement, shmettlement. There. He was intrigued by the uncovered mezuzot I had on my door frames and I explained the Moses and Egypt story to him, so he could understand the origin of this. "the prayer inside is the same prayer as you have...Lah Il'ha Il Allah - there is no God but Allah" - "Shma Israel - the Lord is One." He smiled.

One of the Jewish guys came over to me and said "I'd been to Jenin."

"Oh yeah?"

"Yeah, in a jeep. With a gun." he whispered to me.

Yikes. Better not say that too loud. And I was pleased that he was here because next time, he may not want to go into Jenin in an army uniform with a gun, if he gets to know some of the locals.

My daughter and her boyfriend were going out on the town and walked towards the door. I intercepted and introduced them to the guests. The happy Jenin guy looked at Natty, thinking perhaps he was an Arab because well, many Moroccans just do.

"Kif Halak!!" He grabbed Natty's hand shaking it hard and smiling widely.

I see Natty's face getting all red. He can't get out of this one.

The Jenin guy continued to talk to him in Arabic. I thought I would pee in my pants - I found it hilarious.

I explained that Natty doesn't know Arabic, his name is Hebrew - short for Netanel.

"Have a great evening kids!" I said as I closed the door behind them.

It was time to light the Chanukah menorah and we said the blessings and sang Maoz Tzur while my friend played guitar. I was frying sweet potato latkes (pancakes) and the Jenin guy pointed and said "levivot!" the Hebrew word for what they are. He googled Chanukah, wanting to come prepared. I thought that was really sweet.

Meanwhile, I introduced everyone to each other. Haj Ibrahim came in traditional Arab dress. Some of my right-wing Jewish Orthodox friends were there and shook hands with my Palestinian buddies and they were wrapped up in conversation on my couch and standing in the kitchen. It was good. I told my Jewish friends that we don't talk politics so we don't get angry, we will just celebrate together. And I think we were all relieved we didn't have to point fingers and yell and scream at each other. But then again, my house isn't the Israeli Knesset.

I then asked the guy from Jenin if he would like to speak about the upcoming Moslem holiday Eid Al Adha so my Jewish friends could learn something about it.

I actually made Makhlouba to celebrate and people actually liked it. Of course, the Jewish folks had no idea what it was but everyone seemed to enjoy it, except for the vegetarians.

I thought the party would end at a reasonably early hour, but guests left at 11:30 pm instead. People were making connections and exchanging numbers and emails. And I wasn't tired. It's funny how happiness could give you that wonderful burst of energy.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Sacrifice of Isaac/Ishmael

My interfaith group had a retreat in the Old City on Thursday evening about the sacrifice of Isaac/Ishmael in our traditions. We were a small group of perhaps 15 people - half were Palestinians from the Hebron area and the other were Jews from Jerusalem area/Tel Aviv/Rannana/Galilee/US.

I had made my kids spaghetti and meat sauce on Wednesday evening so they wouldn't starve to death on Thursday, being that I was going to stay overnight at the beautiful Austrian Hospice on Via Dolorosa.

What made me happy was that there were quite a few people who were experiencing an interfaith gathering for the first time. During the introductory circle, some even expressed their discomfort at meeting the other. There was a woman from Baltimore who said her friends were telling her she was crazy for meeting Arabs, a wife whose settler husband was totally against her meeting Arabs, but to compromise he let her go, as long as she doesn't do this more than once a month. I think the subject of our retreat was a curiosity for the Jews moreso than for the Arabs.

One Jewish person asked the Arabs in the group - "this biblical story is actually SO awful, why on earth did you have to adopt it for Ishmael?" which made everyone in the room laugh.

We began with the Jewish perspective (since we started the whole story...); it was interesting to see how many explanations you can have with the text that said something like "Take your son, your only son, whom you love..." - but Isaac, of course, wasn't Abraham's only son. What about Ishmael? Did the text insinuate that Abraham only loved Isaac and not Ishmael. We know that wasn't true either....

Some of us then shared stories of someone who sacrificed something for us.

We had dinner at the hospice and the Austrians serving our meals were unusually friendly - probably because no one brought their shrieking kids. Last time we had a retreat, the Bethlehem crowd brought their cranky kids, which totally flustered the staff. This is a very quiet place. They should actually have a sign "no kids under 12 allowed".

The next morning we had the Christian perspective which showed the parallels of this story with the actual sacrifice of Jesus for his people. Actually, I learned that at the time, it was a sacrifice for his disciples only - later on in Christian history, the story evolved that Jesus sacrificed his life for all mankind. The Christian presenter also asked how it was possible that Abraham, already an old man, was able to bind Isaac up (who commentaries say was already an adult - 37 years old).

The Moslem perspective came afterwards - basically that Ishmael was the son that was the one that Abraham was to sacrifice and not Isaac. But someone questioned the Koran and said that it doesn't actually say in the Koran that it was Ishmael; it wasn't until the 13th century that Moslem commentary stated it was Ishmael. But no one there could actually confirm this.

One of the Jewish women there, the first-timer whose husband was a settler, posed a question to the Moslem presenter about slaughtering lambs during modern times during their holidays and does this perhaps contribute to their "violent culture"? Her question distressed me and I said "I want to defend Islam (me? I'm always astounding myself) by saying that if the slaughtering of animals is done for a Moslem holiday and is within the framework of the Koran, it's totally acceptable and doesn't contribute to a violent culture. Because it's contained to animals and holidays, nothing else. Much like when Jews adhere to the Torah when drinking wine on Shabbat, which doesn't contribute to alcoholism. We're sanctifying the wine. They're sanctifying their holiday meals by preparing the lamb just as specified in the Koran." An approving nod from the Moslem members of our group.

But I was also glad she felt safe enough to voice her opinion in the group, however uncomfortable it may have made people feel, because it was her first time in an interfaith group and we need the skeptics to come. And she was so curious about the Moslem faith, she wanted to go with whomever was going to pray at Al Aksa for Friday morning prayers. She'd buy a body/head covering so she would look appropriate. Some of those going said they'd take her. I don't know if she got into the mosque or what her reaction was afterwards, because we parted ways before lunch....but I am very curious to find out....

Saturday, November 24, 2007

New Blog

Since I love eating (out) I just thought I'd share with y'all some of my takes on restaurants in Jerusalem and surrounding areas....

Check it out here:

http://fressing.blogspot.com/

Shake, Rattle and Roll

We had our second earthquake of the week last night, which woke me up around 12:15 am. My bed was shaking and there was no one but me in it - so it couldn't have been anything but an earthquake Then I heard the windows rattling.

My daughter and her boyfriend were in the next room, each blaming the other for shaking the bed - that was funny. So when I told them my bed was shaking too, then they realized what it was. And my son was sound asleep. Fortunately, it was a small one, around 4.1 on the Richter scale.

But when I slept in today, waking up at 8:00 am instead of 5:45 am, it was so warm and sunny that my long-sleeved top felt too hot. I just spent 45 luxurious minutes lounging on the porch. What a day to be strolling outside, though, like perhaps Ein Karem, the Old City or Abu Ghosh eating lunch outdoors. But I'll just relish the beautiful view and the warm weather right here from the 8th floor in my apartment.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Shabbat in Beit Jala

The Center for Emerging Futures/Global Village sent me an email about an enticing weekend in Beit Jala. 35 Palestinians and 35 Israelis. How could I resist that? I've never heard of this organization before but now was a good time to check it out. With Hubby in Canada, it was a tad more difficult organizing the kids to band together without me but they did it - eventually.

How does one get to Beit Jala, a Palestinian village, without a car? It is just outside of Bethlehem, about a 5 minute drive south of Jerusalem but there are no buses there, at least none that I know of. So I took the bus to Malcha Mall, tried to look for an Arab taxi driver (funny - most Jews look for Jewish drivers) and asked him to take me there. After we haggled over the price, he drove me to the Everest Hotel. He wondered what was a nice Jewish woman running off in the sunset to Beit Jala? I told him about the weekend and he was happy to hear that there were such things as weekends with Israelis/Palestinians together.

The Everest Hotel is a family-run hotel, run by Christian Arabs, on the highest hill in Beit Jala, overlooking Jerusalem, Herodian and Bethlehem. It looked like a run-down hotel from the outside - it certainly wouldn't get many visitors if it were on the Israeli side - the tables in the diningroom were simple and chipped; the rooms inside small but pleasant with well-worn but clean bedding. I was just glad we had hot water and flushing toilets. I was put in a room with an Israeli woman from Haifa.

Some familiar faces were already there - people I met through interfaith or in Camp Tawonga in the US - from Jenin,Hebron, Bethlehem and Ramallah. I thought it amusing that I knew more Arabs than Jews. There was only one Israeli that I recognized - Laughing Alex from Laughter Yoga.

The weekend was very structured and highly organized. We shared in groups of three, of two, in the big group of 70, around tables in the dining room, switching tables and groups so often that you pretty much got to know and speak to all of the people there, which was great. I enjoy that better than being stuck with just one group for the entire weekend.

I remember hearing from one pretty woman from Bethlehem who told me that her son, who is nine years old, had never been to the sea before. She got them a permit to go into Israel and for the first time, she and her son went to Tel Aviv and he was just amazed at the beauty of it. She was frustrated that she lived so close to the sea but couldn't get to it. I also live close to the sea and don't get to it more than once or twice a year but it is my choice, isn't it? Another share I heard was that in pre-1948 this man's family were rich landowners. When the Israelis took over, his family was removed from their Jezreel valley area land to a refugee camp in Jenin. They became poor and, subsequently, when this man fell in love with his cousin, her father didn't allow her to marry him because he was now poor. So he blames the Israelis for his lost love.

It was getting close to Shabbat and I wanted to light Shabbat candles. I figured I'd be the only one doing this and asked the organizers if I can do this in front of the crowd. They looked at me like I was a bit crazy for asking but made the announcement that there was going to be candle lighting for the Jewish Sabbath when everyone was seated. I explained that Jewish women light Sabbath candles in order to bring light into the world and said the blessing and translated it into English.

One of the Bethlehem women came over to me to tell me that this touched her heart and I was so pleased to hear that.

But there were others whose heart it didn't touch.

That evening some of the Palestinians were angry with me for living over the Green Line.

"HOW CAN SHE BE FOR PEACE WHEN SHE LIVES IN A SETTLEMENT?!" exclaimed one of the men to the others, as someoneone translated his outbursts for me. I guess not too many people from my neighborhood don't rush out to meet Arabs in droves, but there are quite a few of us who do.

It was difficult to explain my point of view to a people who believe that the only thing blocking their way to a better, less-strangling life and a Palestinian state is any land over the 1967 borders - which also includes neighborhoods in Jerusalem annexed to Israel like Ramot and French Hill and Gilo in the south of the city. I tried to explain that the 1967 borders were politician-made, not people-made. Weren't they also living beyond 1967 borders pre-1948?

"At least I'm not living in Ramat Aviv Gimmel in Tel Aviv where the Israelis destroyed an Arab village in order to build the posh Tel Aviv neighborhood and I am not living in West Jerusalem in an abandoned Arab home, as they do in Baka or Talbieh! I feel ok where I am because pre-1967-pre-1948; there was nothing there!!"

He shrugged his head, waved his hands up in the air and walked away.

A man from the West Bank town of Marda near the Jewish settlement of Ariel came over to talk to me.

"As long as you live over the green line, people here will not get close to you. They will not trust you completely. I respect you, I really do, but when you can move over the green line, we can then talk better. People are angry with you - like that man over there. Look at the other Israelis making better connections with the people here, because where they live is no problem for us. Where you live, it's a problem."

"But Peace Now even said that 95% of this city where I live (Maaleh Adumim) was not Palestinian owned before 1967 so it was totally barren. And I live in the section furthest away from Azariah where there was bound to be some Palestinian-owned land in Maaleh Adumim."

He didn't buy it. "Everything in Palestine was owned by Palestinian families. Everything.!"

He went on to explain that the settlement of Ariel took 40 dunams of land away from his family when they built their city and he was quite angry about it.

"they didn't buy it from your family?"

"No they didn't. They just took. And if my wife finds out I'm sitting here tonight talking to a settler, she'll kick my ass!"

Hard for me to comprehend that if everyone just packs up and leaves to beyond the borders of 1967 there will be peace. I think it is just an illusion. I tried to explain that I don't believe in borders - period. There shouldn't be 1948, 1967, 1973 borders anywhere. We all should be free to live wherever we want. I told him I envied the Europeans who had fought so bitterly with one another throughout the centuries but have very porous borders and can just freely travel through this area of the world. Many Israelis would love to travel to Damascus and Beirut and I'm sure many in the Arab world would love to travel to Tel Aviv or Haifa (but most mention Tel Aviv in their dreams).

Later on that evening, the mood got lighter. There was a hafla. I brought my belly dance belts but not for me - I put them on the men and they danced with them. There were too many men and I didn't want to dance like a "harlot" so I waited until some of the Palestinian women got up to dance and I danced with them, moving mostly my hands instead of my body, even though I wanted to "shake it" because the music was just so good, so I didn't.

But that didn't stop some of the older Palestinian men, who pulled me over to tell me something.

"Without love there is no peace (pronuncing the word 'peace' as 'beace')" he beamed at me. "Your husband is very lucky. We love your shape, especially your back." which was a polite way of saying "I had a nice ass." But they didn't come off sounding skeevy, rather I felt admired - and for a woman like myself, being over 50 years old, I didn't mind the compliment at all.

During the closing circle, I told everyone that I'm a peace addict. And the effects of the drug of peace is so strong that it last longer than any pharmaceutical drug. And I can't get enough of it. And it's a healthy drug - one that everyone should take....

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

marital bliss

I found the secret to marital bliss. I've always loved my guy, seriously, even when he would request dinner at 11:30 pm, if the previous one was finished by 5:00 pm and other assorted atrocities he would heap on me and the kids, like needing a spotless house at all hours of the day!

But he's in Canada now, with the Canadian Mounties and where people say "aboot" instead of "about" and pepper the end of their sentences with "eh?" He's now one of the commuting dads/husbands who commute overseas for work because there's not too much of it here in the Holy Land. I mean, if he wanted to study Holy books all day long in the Holy Land, hey! no problem. But if he wants his family to eat real food and not just dream about it, he has to bring in the dineros any which way he can.

It's been a week already. I do miss the man. The broom and the dustpan also miss him and the windows miss being stroked shiny clean. They won't see that much of me, those apparati.

Ah, my porn-again hubby. I go on to the internet and don't see any of his rather "interesting" surfing history. The titles of those websites made me laugh every Saturday morning, even though they're not fit for print.

My chauffer extraordinaire is gone. The car is not fit for the road and only he can maneuver the dying vehicle. So I bus it into work everyday and, when desperate, take a taxi from the local mall.

But I do the dishes and wash the floor whenever I want to. Supper is there whenever I feel up to it and we save a shitload of money on not buying Colas for dinner. We don't argue about a messy house anymore nor about money. It's quite wonderful, actually, not to argue or get angry at one another. Is this what marital bliss is? If only it wouldn't feel so lonely at times....

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Shamanic Rabbi

I didn't know who I was really listening to at first, my sides were hurting from laughing so much. Was this George Carlin's brother, separated at birth? Who knows? But the humor was a pleasant surprise for me.

I had initially decided to see Rabbi Gershon Winkler because, like me, he was once an ultra-orthodox Jew who found that way of conformative lifestyle rather stifling and so he upped and left his familiar surroundings in search of something that spoke to him. And what seemed to have done the trick was learning from native Americans . He seemed to find a Jewish parallel with them much as I did with the Sikh community. Ah, yes, we are all One.

And our hostess, Maya, made me feel welcome when all this healthy looking great food was put on the table for the taking. She told me "don't wait - just eat. Here you don't need manners." Great. I can joyfully pig out.

The rather large crowd that had come to hear him at Maya's house on beautiful Caspi Street (her balcony has a panoramic view of Jerusalem's Old City and beyond) was eclectic as well, ranging from hippies, to ultra-orthodox, new-age orthodox, a good mix in ages, you name it, they were there.

Winkler began by singing/chanting a Hebrew prayer, all the while banging on an native-American drum and we sang/chanted along with him. He began from the beginning - the story of Judaism. I'll try to remember as best I can his dialogue and reproduce it here.

"Abraham was the first Jew. And people (whose religion was based on a goddess) were curious about this new religion because Abraham was like - 'well we have ONE law, and it's especially for men!

People: "Oh really? Because all we have are like goddesses."

Abraham: "Quick Ishamael, get me the knife!"

So people liked the Jewish religion but from afar. That's why there aren't so many Jews around.

God told Abraham that he will give him land just for him and his descendents.

Abraham: "Really?"

And Abraham flipped through photos of Montana with its beautiful rivers, and the Rocky Mountains and the Swiss Alps and exotic places and got very excited as he and his family trekked through the middle east. And then he saw a sign "Abraham's Land."

A land - full of - rocks.

"Oh God, well, thanks. I just LOVE rocks (giving his wife a look). I love rocks so much I will give you a new name - The Rock, and by the way, me and my wife are just gonna head down to Egypt for something to eat, OK?"

which brought tons of laughter from the audience...

"And during the days of King Solomon there wasn't any war. Know why? Because he had 1,000 wives!!!

King Solomon: "Honey, I'm going off to war now."
Wife 835: "Oh no you're not" pulling him back in. "You were with Her yesterday, today's MY turn."

"and Moses was the greatest prophet because when he saw the burning bush, he knew he didn't know! He was a Buddhist!" (more laughter)

"When someone dies and he finally goes up to heaven and knows the truth, he's kvetching 'oh I shouldn't have done this, I should have done that, why did this happen, now I know, oh no, why didn't I do this," etc. etc. and God doesn't want all these people kvetching so he sends them back down to earth again to be reincarnated. Why? God wants peace and quiet up there!"

"So heaven is actually hell! And earth is hell, isn't it? Why do people get sick? Because PEOPLE make you sick. But life on earth could be heaven too. If you're sitting in a garden you could smell the fragrant flowers and think this is heaven or you could be swatting flies and think this place is terrible."

I enjoyed nearly two hours of his non-stop talk and left with a smile still glued to my face from laughing so much. And I didn't care if the bus driver thought I was nuts for smiling to myself.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Meeting the Deputy Head of PLO mission to the US


There was an interesting and rare occasion this past week to meet with Dr. Nabil Abu Znaid, Deputy Head of the PLO Mission to the U.S who was speaking at Elana Rozenman's home (Elana is head of the EMUN-TRUST organization). On the way there, on the same street at Elana's, I saw Taayush activist Ezra Nawi, trying to park his elongated van. He saw me smile warmly at him as I approached and smiled back, with a bit of uncertainty, as he gets harrassed frequently for his untiring assistance to Palestinians with the group Taayush, but when I asked him where he was going, it turned out he and I were going to different places.

Getting back to the meeting, Dr. Nabil had invited Elana to his home in Washington in April and stated that this was the first time he had Israelis in his home, and seemed to want to continue that contact. Elana was impressed by his revelation and his supra-efforts to cook them a festive meal (his brothers flew in from Florida to help him with the feast) Now it was Elana's turn to host him as he flew back home for family-related reasons and invited a bunch of us, as an activity of her organization - EMUN-TRUST - to hear him speak.

We went around the room introducing ourselves and I was surprised to learn that quite a few women had never met any Palestinian before, albeit a real live Palestinian official, and some were even residents of settlements. Elana stressed that this was not to be a political meeting, just a "getting to know you" sort of thing, but there were gentle arguments back and forth of "why are the people in Gaza shelling Sederot?" (Dr. Nabil is totally against this - it does nothing for the Palestinian cause)and the occupation, and avoided the "dividing Jerusalem" issue hanging over everyone's heads.

Dr. Nabil told us how we have to listen to the Palestinian's hardship because Israelis generally don't hear them. He gave us a most recent example of his being stopped at a checkpoint that day. The Israeli soldiers saw his credentials and that he had a permit to travel to West Jerusalem, but wanted to make sure his permit wasn't fake. So they locked him in a small room while they checked his permit. He was banging on the door as he was frightened. What are these soldiers going to do to him now? He went on to say how humiliating it was for him to be locked up. What did he do to deserve this treatment? If they thought the permit was fake and wanted to check, they could have told him "Wait a minute, sir, while we check it" and have him stand off to the side but they didn't have to lock him up. He was obviously very shaken up about this ordeal.

I shared that many older Palestinians fondly recall pre-1948 close friendships with Jews. And they often recall those stories to their children and grandchildren. And this gives the younger generations hope that this actually can still happen. While I was sharing this, I saw the Palestinians at the meeting shake their heads up and down because their fathers/grandfathers had told them the very same thing of course.

And I thought Dr. Nabil's plea to be treated like a regular human being and not a terrorist was well taken - and was glad that the first-timers who had never spoken with Palestinians before had heard his story. Because it shows we are not always right.

Elana shared about her current Noam/Peace X Peace project in which Palestinian and Israeli women learn and practice martial arts together - not so much for what strength it can bring to you physically, but also for the strength it can bring to you emotionally - "so that when you hear people around the table talking racist talk about Arabs, you will have the strength to confront them and say 'hey, wait a minute, I know differently'"

There were other Palestinians there; one was an actress with a bubbly personality. I just wanted to jump into a cab with her and go dancing. She told me of all the people she knew including Shimon Peres because she's active in the Peres Center for Peace and told me about the time she was talking to him. I forgot the content of that particular story as I was probably having one too many senior moments, but she told him "and I don't mean to drop a bomb on you..." So I laughed, telling her, "don't ever tell Israelis, especially an important one, about dropping bombs on them." We both laughed loudly at this, and I'm sure by the end of our conversation together she also wanted to jump into a cab with me to go dancing, but her time was up, her permit about to expire, and like a Palestinian Cinderella, had to get back to her home before the permit does expire and who knows what could happen.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Telemarketing Queen

"Please leave me alone, I'm having sex with my cake" I muttered to one of my co-workers who was on some ghastly diet and wanted to know how yummy the 3 tiered chocolate mousse cake was that I was eating during our festive birthday luncheon at work.

In fact, eating that cake was reminiscent of "that scene" in When Harry Met Sally, minus all the moaning and groaning. It was that damn good. I dared not eat a second piece because too much of a great thing is, well, just too much.

Meanwhile, the Jerusalem Post has hired some really annoying telemarketers, one of whom had been trying for the past week to sell me some "free" coupons to 20 restaurants that are probably miles away from Jerusalem that I have no use for if I would only give her names and phone numbers of 5 people that would want to have a subscription to the paper. A simple "no" didn't cut it for her. She wanted to know "why is it no"? And I don't have the heart to tell her no, because I probably need an assertiveness training course.

Hubby took the phone from me after I saw a "restricted" number calling me on my pelephone earlier this evening and said "I'm not dealing with this - you take over". Man, was he smooth.

Hubby - "You're doing a great job."

"Really?"

"Yes, your aggressiveness and nudgy-ness will get you far, if not within the Jerusalem Post, then in another organization, but we are too busy to deal with this right now."

She tried to tell him what he will be missing out on in life.

"Yes, I know, you're really doing your job well, but I don't have numbers for you, I don't have names for you, I don't even have animals for you. I have nothing. Life is hard here, it's terrible in fact at times, we're going through alot and we're just too busy to deal with this right now."

After 5 minutes with him, she did understand. I guess it was enough for her to hear how wonderful and hardworking and aggressive she was. He made her out to be the telemarketing Queen and she seemed happy with that.

And I hope we never hear from her or her ilk again.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Cinderella

I'm spoiled. Last week when the Head Honcho arrived from the States to his Israel branch, we were treated all week long to the leftovers from the meetings. And what glorious left-overs they were - smoked salmon, grilled salmon with garlic, filet of this and filet of that, lasagne from one of the best Italian restaurants in Jerusalem (OK, there's not a whole slew of Italian restaurants here, but nevermind). And even though we had to suffice ourselves with the leftovers, it was still like being an exalted factory worker/slave.

And now that he's gone, the kitchen is bare and there are only tin cans of tuna in the cupboard. I felt like Cinderella back in the cinders. I'm beginning to think I'm becoming so narrow-minded that the only things that make me happy these days are food and money. Food is usually easier to come by, but it wasn't today, as I looked at our empty office kitchen.

Back on the home front, my son was in 10th heaven as my daughter's incredibly hunky boyfriend took him to the soccer game at Teddy Stadium tonight. This incredible hunk also has an incredible two-seater BMW and my son was just too elated at not having to go to the game with his mother, who usually likes going to games, but it's definitely not as cool to go with your mother as it is to go with a very muscular, tall guy driving such a wonderful car. I'm sure my son would have wanted all his classmates to see him riding around in such a vehicle with such a chaperone. I do hope he bumps into some of his buddies at the game, for his happy sake.

And my soldier daughter was bitter as we didn't come to visit her at her army base this weekend to bring her food. She always complains but this time she had tears in her eyes.

"My boyfriend's family even came to the base to bring me chicken and you didn't even call" she said to me sadly.

Of course, I was ridden with typical Jewish motherly guilt when my older daughter, the girlfriend of the incredible Hunk, came to my rescue.

"Don't be upset at what she said. You know she always complains about your food, anyway, so why bother bringing it to her?"

Ah, yes, how right you are. I now remember the many complaints I got about "why don't you make it this way and why don't you learn from this one's mother and that one's mother" etc. etc. and I was happy I saved a useless trip to the army base to give my daughter chicken she may have thrown in the wastebasket after all the trouble I would have gone through to get it to her.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Homework and Chores

I've got homework to do. I never thought I'd have to see homework again and was so relieved that I didn't have to go through this shit when I saw the homework heaped on my kids throughout their school years. But I began editing class on Tuesday at Beit Berl, thoroughly enjoying learning this time around, probably because I'm learning by choice and not because my mother (or the Law) made me go. The teachers all took attendance, and one was especially amusing when she called out

"Ruth?"

"Here!" answered Ruth.

"Good. Because without you, we're ruth-less."

Much of that went on during the 4 hour session with this teacher and kept me awake even though I had not much sleep the entire week.

And getting back to the rest of the week.

The school strikes are still on and my son is learning absolutely nothing this year. His tutor wants to tutor him, but I'm like "on what?" He certainly doesn't need any help in homework at the moment. I think I'll just save my money, although the prestigious multi-cultural Anglican school offered to take my son in temporarily while the strike is in effect to the tune of $150 per week, which is unaffordable for me at the moment. It would have been nice for him to be in that environment and learning the subjects in English would have meant that I would be able to help him with homework. But maybe some relative will feel bad enough that he's not learning this year and send me the bucks for him to go to this private school.

And now that we're in an apartment building with 31 neighbors, hubby found some friends. One invited us to his son's brit on Friday where we met other neighbors who invited us for tea on Friday night. Mr. Unsociable actually turned sociable and agreed to go to see them for 1/2 hour, which turned out to be more like an hour.

We spent Saturday getting boxes of kitchen stuff that was in storage since June, up to our apartment and finding a new, finally-permanent home for our long-lost foodstuffs, glasses, coffee mugs, wine glasses and cookbooks. Opening up boxes of food, we found loads of mothlike insects that made their way into the grains and nuts, which totally grossed us out. Unfortunately, they also made their way into my expensive dried burdock and dried tofu packages, which I sadly tossed out.

And, um, I see I gotta go. I still have a few pages of homework to do.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

IKEA - Israel style

Saturday night we made the grave mistake of going to IKEA which is roughly 1 1/2 hours from Jerusalem by car. We even had to use our son-in-law's car as our car is useless in the evening because it doesn't go into gear when you turn the headlights on. Go figure what the hell that problem is, we don't have the patience nor the money to find out. So with spending 200 NIS ($50) on gassing up son-in-law's tank we were happily on our way.

We found most of Israel's population parked in IKEA's parking lot when we got there and wandered around happily for an hour looking and jotting down items we wanted for our new apartment. One was a coffee table, another was a bathroom cupboard, a sliding garbage bin for our kitchen and a few other assorted small things.

It was 11:00 pm and the store was closing. I had no idea how things work there. I went to the sales office with my organized list of things to buy and she was like "you have to mark the number on the red sticker which was on the item". So we had to trudge back through the maze to look at the stickers. Unfortunately the coffee table was out of stock as well as the garbage bin's track. We were left with the bathroom cabinet and the mirror we wanted for the hallway. The women at the sales desk told us we'd have to go back to the department for the bathroom cabinet, make the order there, go back and pay them here and the wait for the item is just a mere two more hours.

"but that'll be after 1:00 am. Hubby just shrugged and was willing to wait it out, but knowing him, he'd get miserable after an hour of waiting and waiting (or in reality after 15 minutes of waiting and waiting - such is the character of many men) and I really didn't want to get home at 2:30 am having to get up for work at 6:00 for Sunday (yup, working on Sunday is still a drag - even after 12 years of doing it).

At least I had my mirror. Hubby was pissed off by this time and walked way ahead of me with "I'll meet you at the car" and adding "and don't even fucking buy anything in this fucking place." But I went towards the "get-it-yourself" warehouse to get my mirror as I had the location on hand. I saw it. I was thrilled. There was one left. I gently took it down and saw ......that the mirror - the last mirror in stock - was cracked down the middle.

So it seems the gods of Perpetual Spending somehow didn't want us to go shopping at IKEA for whatever reason....

Monday, October 15, 2007

Back in the Holy Land

"WELL DO YOU WANT ME TO HELP YOU OR NOT???" yelled the shuttle bus driver at me as he gruffly loaded my luggage onto his minibus from the airport in Tel Aviv. It was a rough landing home.

Yup, I'm certainly not in Kansas or, rather, San Francisco, anymore. Where the people politely line up to go up the escalator on the right side only in order to let everyone pass on the left and where I saw a kind Far-Eastern woman ask a homeless man if he needed anything to eat, and where I heard no public yelling and where people seemed generally happy, earthquakes and all.

The bus driver was rotten to everyone on the bus, complained about having to take everyone to where they needed to go ("too far in" "taking too long" "can't turn the bus around") and didn't want to take me home, because I live on the outskirts of Jerusalem. But he did flag down a cab where at least the Arab taxi driver was polite and I wished him an Eid Mubarak. He looked surprised that I even knew they had a holiday that day - such is life here.

Hubby treated me like Queen for a Day and then afterwards I reverted back to my role as the Spouse with the Louse.

Married daughter didn't leave me much time to get over jet lag before she asked me to babysit while they went to a wedding, but the grandkid now looks like a big baby buddha. And if he's fed (which is often), he's grateful and smiles and gurgles enough to make the heart melt. But it was my turn to be grateful as she made Friday night dinner and Saturday lunch for all of us instead of running over to her mother-in-law as is her weekend tradition.

I just thought of how funny my trip began when I noticed how Ben Gurion airport put three airlines on the floor just below the main floor. They were Lot Airways (Poland), Austrian Airlines and Lufthansa. Coincidence or not? Putting these airways in the basement - was this not Israel's official airport revenge for World War II atrocities? "Put those airlines in the basement, man, they're not gonna be with the rest of the world's airlines."

And then I thought it amusing (kind of) how I loaned my belly dance belts to a group of young Palestinian women, two of which returned by belts the next day and then one didn't return it. And that was my favorite belt - the velvet one my friend bought me from Turkey. And I was thinking she was probably thinking "you know, this bitch stole my land, and so I'm gonna steal her belly dance belt." OK, wise one. I think that's a fair trade, but I've got the better deal.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

photos of San Francisco


Fisherman's Wharf


Inside a cell at Alcatraz


Sunbathers


The Pacific Coast


Arts & Crafts at camp


Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead's former pad


Psychedelic House - Haight Ashbury

Funniest thing when I was waiting at the walking tour meeting point for Haight Ashbury Walking Tour, people kept asking me if "I" was the tour guide. Made me feel old and wonderful at the same time. Oh yes! To be cool and old. Thought a bit about taking their $20 and going around telling them, "yeah, this was Jimmy's house, this was Janis' house and this is where the Dead played" 'cos they probably wouldn't have known the difference.



Cable Cars

Peacemaker's Camp

All I know is that I was so friggin' cold that first day of Camp Towanga, high in the Sierra's, that I wanted to go back to Jerusalem - immediately!! It was raining savagely and I guess God did it on purpose so that we'd all huddle together - about 90 Palestinians and Jews - over the fireplace in the dining area/lounge. As I tried to defrost over a pizza lunch, there were 20 minute instructions on how to deal with your cutlery, plates and meal time organization that I looked over at my friend Aliza and asked "Why do I feel like I'm in rehab?". There were more warnings and how to deal with snakes and black bears if we should see any. I zoned out after 10 minutes of instructions and looked around. Most of the campers were half my age and there were a few smatterings of "elderly" campers - over the age of 45. I wondered how the ones even more senior than that managed in this cold. I ventured out on the porch only once because of the darbuka playing outside. The musicians had already found each other and the musician lovers like myself were happy at the spontaneous jam and I was glad I bought that Monterey sweatshirt with a hood at the kitschy tourist shop in Monterey. Otherwise, I would have been in trouble clothes-wise.That evening, back at the bunk, any part of my body that was out of my sleeping bag was painfully cold - like my fingers and my nose. As a result, I woke up at dawn and was one of the 5 who decided to go on a morning walk on top of the mountain ridge. Fortunately, these people weren't the young 'uns, and I had a good conversation with our group, one an English teacher who lives in the Bay area, who, though she is in between cancer treatments, was able to walk way ahead of me without huffing and puffing and a lovely Palestinian American whose cousin owns the beautiful and quaint Jerusalem Hotel in East Jerusalem. I was quite pleased at myself for getting good at playing "Arab Geography." We hardly noticed the vistas as we were so engrossed in our conversations but I did notice the sun coming up finally warming my cold bones. The camp looked lovely today, and was set amidst large acorn trees which would drop acorns on our heads if we sat under one. There were workshops on Compassionate Listening, lots of organized group talk, hikes to the waterfalls, shorter hiking to the river, boating on the lake, analogous games were played, like trying to steal each other's treasure and in the end we found the treasure was the same, which brought out 2 1/2 hour discussions on borders and the conflict and the feelings each of us felt about it. I could hear heated discussions coming from other circles and it was good to be able to hear what everyone had to say. During our workshop on how to effect Change someone mentioned the book the "Tipping Point" that 20% of people are waiting to see if a product/something will work and then will join in if they see that it does. And then it grows from there. So we have to market our peace efforts so that we reach out to those not yet involved, which will happen naturally if they see successes in our grass roots endeavors. I'm not so much worried about that as I see it will kick off eventually. There were a few Palestinians whose stories I heard - one was from a refugee camp in Jericho. He thought he was going to a convention, not a camp. It would be difficult for him to say to friends that he "partied with Israelis" because others in his refugee camp are not into "normalization processes with Israelis" - at least not yet. I mentioned other Palestinians I knew who were at the All Nations Cafe meetings from the Dehaisha and Anata refugee camps, and thought he'd be ok there. Another was a woman who spoke about her husband and brother who had been killed by the IDF, after her brother-in-law was killed by a stray IDF missile on his way to his wedding to her sister. So in revenge she recruited her brother and husband for attacks against the IDF and she herself was in prison for 2 years leaving 3 very young children with her mother. She decided that fighting against Israelis isn't the answer but joining a grassroots peace movement is - so she is now part of Combatants for Peace. I heard the story of a young man from Gaza whose home was destroyed by the IDF and he wanted to strap on a belt of explosives in revenge, but thinking about it decided that he'd cause more damage than good to his people and is now part of the Arava Institute in the Negev. I spoke about my own transformation from being a member of Rabbi Kahane's Kach party in the 80's and partying with them in Jerusalem, but the hate was eventually so uncomfortable for me that I had no community for a while until I found myself so heavily involved in the interfaith dialogue movement in Jerusalem as The Answer to the conflict and became a peace addict. In the evening, the mood was lighter and on Saturday night and Sunday night there was dancing for three hours while the DJ's spun American, Israeli and Arabic dance music. My rather conservative American-Palestinian bunkmate from Tulkarem thought the Arab girls wouldn't dance but most of the Palestinian girls did get up to boogie and could put me to shame in the belly dance department. The last day, we walked down to the river to wash each other's hands as a cleansing ritual and we blessed each other as we did it. We were amused to hear a Palestinian quote Herzl saying "If you have the will it is not a dream" and explained that he quoted Herzl because he had such a good track record. That morning I had a lively conversation with a Palestinian from Jerusalem who made my day by talking about how Sephardic Jews should call themselves Arabs and then there would be no problem getting into the Arab League as the Arabs would then have a mindswitch, as Israel would be considered "mostly Arab." I laughed and told them the city I live in, Maaleh Adumim, is then 80% Arab - Jewish Arab. "See? No problems then." laughed my friend. And I teased him about being a Zionist. "King David (I think) coined the term Zion in his Psalms. Therefore, the land is called Zion from ancient times, it's not a modern term. So anyone who loves the Land of Zion, even if he's an Arab, is a Zionist!" And we laughed at each other hysterically because our suggestions are absurd and true at the same time. We exchanged email addresses with those we felt connected to, took more photos and planned for the future as we hugged and kissed each other goodbye. I do hope the Bay area residents take me up on my offer to visit Jerusalem and stay with me. A reunion for the Mideast participants is already being planned for the Spring in Jordan, a neutral meeting ground for Palestinians and Israeli.

Friday, October 05, 2007

san francisco

"Is everyone in San Franciso Jewish?" I asked the people driving me back to where I'm staying in Oakland.

laughter.

I ask that question because I am simply astounded at the amount of food and restaurants all over the place. Food I've never seen before - cookies from Australia, polenta for breakfast, egg burritos with spinach, blackbeans and salsa. Today I had a serrano stuffed with Mexican cheese. I asked the Spanish woman if it was spicy.

"No, you don't have to worry. It eeesant spicee."

Never trust the Spanish when they say "it eeesant spicee." It was very spicy.

Even in pitstops on the road they sold organic coffee and organic salad.

Needless to say, I'm quite impressed with their food selections.

San Francisco is lovely and I didn't suffer jetlag at all. On Tuesday evening my friends from the Rolling Stones email list took me out for Mexican food, where I had a cheese enchilada and a mochito drink. By the evening's end my speech was slurring and it was tough for me to keep my eyes open - I hadn't slept properly in 30 hours.

By the next morning my hosts directed me on the local transportation. It was easy for me to maneuver. And why shouldn't it be? Everything's in English. I told everyone I came in contact with that I'm from Jerusalem. I like to see their reactions.

I went to Alcatraz which was fascinating for me, especially because they have this audio tour which isn't like any other with boring narratives. Basically, the criminals and guards at Alcatraz come to life in this fabulous audio tour, complete with sound effects of cell gates slamming shut and tough guy talk coming from the prisoners. Even the prison riots seemed so real, as they directed you throughout the prison.

I wandered around afterwards in Fisherman's Wharf just taking it all in, eating a red snapper taco - which was heavenly - at a seaside place called Dantes. Not expensive either. I took in the Del Monte Cannery where the had lovely American Indian crafts.

I forgot to mention that the day I arrived I sauntered over to Long's Pharmacy which was many aisles long. I bought a shitload of crazy things to take back home, - gifts for my girls and a lambswool duster and organic cough lozenges!

But getting back to the present - there were the expected street crazies who made me laugh. And the old trolleys came alive and took us back to the Federal building. I walked all the way up market street, but I think I enjoy the quaint places better than the modern San Francisco stores. You won't get me in Macy's.

Today I took a rather pricey bus tour to Monterrey and Carmel - 2 1/2 hours south of San Francisco. We had a bus driver who said he was Italian, but spoke with a Spanish accent whose name was Efram. Or in Hebrew it would be Ephraim, one of the 12 tribes. We actually spoke about it, - he doesn't have any idea why his dad named him Efram, but perhaps he's one of the "lost Jews" who were forced to convert during the Spanish Inquisition. But these days I'm thinking everyone with a Spanish accent might be a lost Jew.

I got to get ready for camp tomorrow. We are going to be in the Sierra Mountains. And it's cold there. And there are bears there too. ugh. Unless he's Smokey the Bear, I'm not thrilled about meeting any of these animals. So - I gotta go back. Will report after camp, I'm sure I'll be computerless until then.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

MY Succot

My succot is probably alot different from other people's succot celebrations because well, we're different obviously. And therefore have different experiences.

For the first time in 24 years Hubby didn't put up a sukkah and we were a bit depressed about it but our messianic Jewish friends did and invited us to a meal on Friday night. They have these extravagant meals during the holidays and everyone pitches in to make a few dishes. Being that I don't have a working kitchen yet, I was relegated to buying a few veggies for the "dip". I took along one of my daughters who had never been to them before and told them beforehand of their beliefs so she wouldn't be overly surprised. She wasn't surprised at all being that she already knows her crazy mother has all these crazy friends.

The food was great, as usual, and in their sukkah, I gave over my presentation of Succot that I gave over at my workplace a few days earlier, bringing in stuff from the Zohar/Kabbalah, Chabad and Talmud. Around the table we all spoke about how Christian for the most part Jesus has become. One of the guests made quipped about how "they put back the foreskin on Yeshua" which made me laugh all evening. Hubby asked if Jesus is a Spanish name actually, which made the others laugh.

Then on Saturday I went over to the Old City to shop for the family who will be hosting me when I go to San Francisco this week. It was crowded in the market but the shopowners were still complaining that no one is buying. We bought. We bought a ceramic Armenian style bowl and some small jewellry/trinket boxes for their daughters and couldn't find anything suitable for their young son that wouldn't drive the mother up a wall - if I bought him a darbukah or a flute, the mother probaby wouldn't speak to me with all that racket her son would make. We laughed at a shop that sold a belly dance outfit next to a piece of a religious garment.



When I got home, I saw my e-ticket to San Francisco. Actually it comes from Nablus, so I'm sure I'll have alot of 'splaining to do to the airport officials about why my airplane ticket is coming from a travel agency in Nablus which is in the West Bank/or as they say on their ticket "occupied territory". Better get to the airport especially early for possible interrogation. They're not too friendly over there to people in the peace camp.

I spent the morning making copies of Israeli music for friends in San Francisco from my Rolling Stones email list who will be meeting me on Tuesday. I want to enlighten them with our wonderful music that is really different from the crap they listen to over there. If anything, I could tell those airport officials - I'm the Israeli Ambassador of Music.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Things are not what they seem

For the first time in 24 years, we do not have a succah. Hubby just didn't/couldn't build one and if I had the extra $$$ I would have had someone buy the material and build it ourselves. Eating a supposed-to-be-festive dinner last night in our unfinished kitchen I think depressed everyone and we all ended up getting grumpy on Grumpa (hubby's new nickname), who again, couldn't stop complaining about everything in that horrible world of his.

But he wasn't the only male who was angry at the world. I was shopping for meat for a barbecue for the holiday (chicken wings and hot dogs - steaks are too expensive) and a few stores down, there's a Judaica store owned by an "religious" American guy. Never had any run ins with him before. I kinda even warmed up to him when he took in a little calico kitten and let her/him run around his shop. But yesterday he was having a bad day. Worse than Hubby ever had. He was yelling and screaming at someone. Everyone around heard him shouting on top of his lungs (in English) but most continued to mind their own business and just walked past.

"GET OUT. GET OOOOOUUTTTTT!!!! GET THE FUCK OUT MY STORE. GET OOOOUUUUTTTT!!!!"

I heard things smash and I went to look at what's going on. This isn't New York, so you don't have to be scared to get involved, or so I thought.

I step one centimeter into his Judaica store full of religious artifacts and furniture and a plastic juice container comes flying at me. There's a woman standing in the store - I don't know whether it's his wife or just another poor soul.

I come face to face with him and tell him -

"You're scaring everybody with your shouting."

He glared at me. Obviously didn't remember our conversations about the kitten in his store.

"I DON'T GIVE A SHIT. YOU DON'T LIKE IT, GET OUTTA MY STORE."

"I'm not even in your store."

His anger turned to me - he got red in the face.

"WELL THEN GO FUCK YOURSELF!!! OK? GO FUCK YOURSELF!!!"

I figured he probably wasn't selling as many holy books and yarmulkes as he would have liked. He's having a rough day, I know, but he certainly wasn't acting much like a religious book store owner. And that got me mad. I yelled back -

"WELL,I'D RATHER GO FUCK MYSELF THAN FUCK YOU." There. I walked away from his store, while he hoisted his anger onto me and yelled but I wasn't listening to what he was yelling back to me as I walked away from that store. Never buying a holy book from that guy again - ever.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

There's no such a thing as a free lunch - or dinner

Maybe God is trying to tell me in a nice way "honey, you've GOT to lose some weight" but, as most people, I don't always listen to Him. This revelation came to me as I've attempted to eat out in restaurants twice, thinking I've got a great deal here. So hey.

The first time I entered an auction at e-luna.com to get a much cheaper dinner for two at a nice fancy restaurant. I got around 130 NIS ($30) off a 300 NIS ($70) dinner for two at Eldad Vezehoo in one of Jerusalem's picturesque quaint alleyways. I really didn't want to go with Hubby. He was getting on my nerves so much these days, but none of my kids wanted to join me and one of my girlfriends was with her boyfriend and my other friend was on a special diet. So Hubby grumpily met me in Jerusalem and began complaining, so much so, that I lost my appetite. I sat through an elegant dinner just listening to him complain and complain and I didn't say a word to him during the entire meal - not even to tell him to shut the fuck up already. I don't know if it was the restaurant or the mood but I just didn't even like what I was eating - the sauce was too sweet and the veggies beneath my salmon dish were too salty. We ended up taking 70% of the food back home in bags so our kids could gulp it down.

Then this week I took my son to the orthodontist and afterwards he wanted to visit my daughter's husband who's a chef at one of Jerusalem's top touristy restaurants. The place is always packed. I didn't want to eat there because a) it's very expensive because it's geared to tourists, and, b) my son-in-law insists on paying which makes me very uncomfortable. We walked into the kitchen to say "hi". My son in-law comes right over.

Son-in-law (SIL) "D. looks like he wants to have a good hamburger. Don't you? Am I right?"

Me - "Sorry, we just came to say hello."

SIL - "Ma Pitom - what's this - you both must sit down, and she'll serve you" nodding to a friend of my daughter's who's a waitress there.

Me - "Really gotta go."

SIL - "I'll sit down with you. I'm gonna eat something too."

Me - "OK but only if you let me pay."

SIL - "I don't pay the full price for this. I get it very cheap. Let me pay."

By this time my son really seemed to want this hamburger and so I agreed to sit down.

We sat down and felt very uncomfortable letting my SIL pay. He works 13 hours a day so they can afford all the furniture loans they took out for a year. I don't think he gets the meals for that cheap. Certainly discounted, but not by that much.

We put our menus down and began to walk out. SIL sees us and stops us and places us right back at our table. So does the waitress. They're forcing us to eat there.

Not only does a nice big juicy hamburger with fries come to the table, but so does a chicken tortilla and fluffy thick pita with an assortment of small salads.

Just as the food hit the table my work is calling me to hook me up with a hotel in California to book rooms for one of our directors and Hubby is frantic because he's in Jerusalem and his headlights aren't working and he's like "OK - well, I'll just sleep here all night."

"Fine" I said, hung up, and took a bite of a french fry.

My SIL's wife (my daughter)calls me a second later.

"Where are you?" We tell her. A second later she walks into the restaurant with her baby and one of my other daughters and glowers at us. She doesn't come over to speak to us. She looks furious as she talks to my SIL, probably giving him shit for inviting us to eat. My other daughter walks over.

"It's not nice that you're eating here"

"I really tried not to - believe me." I said pulling over the waitress to verify my story.

The daughters leave, I can hardly eat my food - again - and wrap it all up to take home to my starving family.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Conversations with God

I had a lot of things to contemplate about this Yom Kippur morning. From silly thoughts that the word menopause is really "men oppose" to more serious thoughts as the day dragged on about how very few people in the Holy Land were eating today being that Ramadan and Yom Kippur fall on the same day today. It seemed really special to me that we were doing the same thing - suffering (and praying of course)- together with our Moslem cousins.

My close friend made aliyah recently and as I remember she was always the one who ran to synagogue every Sabbath from the moment services began at 7:30 am until 12:30 pm. I asked her about Rosh Hashana - the first New Year in the Holy Land for her. She told me she could hardly focus in synagogue this year. Another friend told me the same thing - she hardly went to synagogue this New Year.

Why?

These people believe in God, and are actually Orthodox Jews. What's goin' on here? I mean it's been a few years since I've had this feeling that many formal synagogues are awful - routine, boring, the congregants usually running through the service like speed praying/reading. And that's what led me on a search for alternative prayer sessions, which led me to both the Reform Kol Haneshama in Jerusalem and the monthly Jewish renewal services led by Rabbi Ruth Kagan. Both of these places uplift my soul and this wandering Jew has found her niche there. But I had no idea others were slowly feeling this way too.

I'm wondering whether landing in Israel makes your old spirit disappear and a new spirit of sorts comes to take hold of you.

I took the friend who just moved here to an interfaith evening at Eliyahu McLean's place to celebrate Ramadan and Yom Kippur Thursday evening. A sufi Sheikh from Nazareth spoke to us about Ramadan and we heard a mystical interpretation of Yom Kippur, plus there was Jewish meditation, and sufi flute music. There was the usual mix of Palestinians and Jews and his place was packed. More people came too because I made an email list of the people who always ask me "how do you know about these things?" and sent them an email about this event. She was never exposed to anything interfaith and stayed just short of the Ramadan explanation but said she'd like to continue going to these things.

Happy events like these make my spirit soar. I want to live in a country where there are gatherings like this all the time. And they keep getting bigger. People are thirsting for knowledge of each other and for different ways to talk to God.

My family didn't go to synagogue on Yom Kippur. On Yom Kippur eve my husband, son and I wandered around the neighborhood because everyone is out on the roads. The kids are bicyling on the streets because no cars are driving. We walked passed the packed synagogues. I didn't feel like going in though. We walked passed another small makeshift synagogue held in a kindergarten building. It reminded me of the small synagogue in New Delhi. I told my husband and son that I feel like I want to stay, and listened to the service inside while remaining outside in the cool breeze in the garden. There was a bit of an overflow crowd in the garden and I felt that having the prayers surround me while I just took it into my soul was just as good as praying yourself.

We all fasted and didn't even turn on the tv or computer which meant we were mostly in bed biding our time until we could eat. I was going to go to the local (boring) synagogue at 5:00 pm for the last part of the Yom Kippur service which I find very enjoyable as it is only for one hour and people find themselves adrenalized during this last hour of the fast.

But to backtrack - at 3:00 pm I noticed my daughter sitting by the window reciting Psalms. She had no idea I was watching her but I was. She wasn't just mouthing the words in Hebrew. She was having this amazing conversation with God that astounded me. Her mouth moved as if she was speaking loudly to Him, even though there was no sound coming out of her mouth. I saw her getting emotional, and then finally crying to Him - really crying - and she put the book to her face and rocked back and forth and I felt such joy that my daughter had found her own way to converse with God.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

We've made it - We've finally made it

Those were the words of our friends on kibbutz, the ones who made aliyah with us 12 years ago and were with us on the absorption center, where one gets absorbed into being Israeli.

We couldn't figure out why. We feel anything but having "made it." No one makes it in Israel. I imagine Billionaire Arkady Gaydamak's billions shrinking into the millions because everyone, like all the tax authorities, likes to dip their hands into everyone's bank accounts and take heaping quantities of "our own" hard-earned money. But if we think we have it bad, the kibbutz is going bankrupt. It's the only conservative movement-affiliated kibbutz in Israel. We used to visit our friends once a year for one holiday or another and we didn't have to pay anything because we were guests of the kibbutz. But since it went bankrupt, the guest house (if you want to call it that - it's more like a hostel) separated from the Kibbutz and we now had to pay for our suppers, so to speak. Only four of us went up for Rosh Hashana and we dished out what we would have spent anyway on take-out food since we don't have a kitchen in our apartment yet. The kids shrieked at the site of a scorpion in their room and we moved up to the 2nd floor.

Our friend was trying to reassure us that we made it and went on and on in his South African accent-

"You bought a house, man, you've got a married daughter and a grandkid. You've made it man, you've made it."

"Yeah", I said to Hubby, "We've made it alright." It seems like every week we get a letter saying we owe another enormous amount to the tax authorities. They'll wonder how we were able to buy a house and slap on another $25,000 tax on us. There's no method to their madness. Maybe this is how one makes it in this country.

But taking our mind of the troubles of our own and of the kibbutz we spent the 2nd day of the holiday, not talking to God in the synagogue, as alot of people do, but driving off to places we hadn't yet seen in the Galilee, like Rosh Pina,


and the Hula Valley Reserve




which has its swamp back but was berefit of birds as it wasn't "bird viewing" season where you can see thousands of cranes and pelicans lifting off each morning from the site. We saw catfish and turtles and sea otters and a grumpy Russian-Israeli tourist who was complaining about how "dead" the place was now. Just as our old, overused car was overheating we stopped off at Amirim, this magical place in the upper Galilee, where there is a lot of spirituality and music and organic food and sat down to an amazing long-wished-for-healthy meal of brown rice with assorted really tasty toppings. The place was like an Indian-type retreat with mattresses covered in fun-looking, colorful material, bean bags and buddhas and a tiny stream with goldfish running through the place.


Lovely, just lovely. And it took our mind away from having "made it" in Israel.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Happiness, Laughter and Sadness

The end of summer has been filled with all of the above - happiness, laughter and sadness.

Happiness -

1. my week off from work. I didn't have the money to take trips even inside Israel so I did things that make me happy anyways, like take my son to the big mall in Jerusalem to get him soccer memorabilia at Jerusalem's soccer team's store. I had a very long leisurely lunch with one of my closest friends.

2. A very close girlfriend from my childhood moved to Israel and best of all, to Jerusalem. I think I had seen her twice in 24 years. I hope to rekindle those long, heart-to-heart conversations we had when we were teens.

3. My work decided to send me to an editing course as I don't have any formal training and they need an editor. So I discovered this year-long course and I'll be starting in the fall.

4. God is great. He and my interfaith work will be sending me to San Francisco in October to an Israeli/Palestinian peace camp. I'm so grateful. I've been missing the US lately and this 10 day trip is just what I need.

5. My Rolling Stone fan e-friends in San Francisco learned I was coming; one is home-hosting me (we've never met) and we're all having a get-together the evening I arrive (if I don't fall on my face from the long trip). I am so grateful for this generosity. I love the universe.

6. Festival of Light in the Jerusalem Forest - We spent a Friday evening, Saturday day at this new-age festival. It was very small this year, and I knew about half the people there. This got me to wish that I lived on a commune with all these people who are peace-loving, spiritual, Jews, Arabs, wonderful. I made some new friends at that festival too and I hope we keep in touch.

Sadness:

1. Hubby is in the throes of depression. No one can get him out of it. I get sad around him and wonder what it's like to live with a happy person. I have no idea. Really.

2. My 17 year-old daughter was picked up by the "fuzz" a couple of weeks ago. They tell me they suspect she's using an assortment of drugs and brought her in for an investigation. She denies everything. But why would they have even bothered if there was no suspicion. Perhaps her friends us. I have no idea how to tell. My glass is always half full. So how would I know? Mood swings? We all have them.... I've never found any substances in the house (and I sometimes rummage through her stuff).

3. Devorah Brous is leaving for the US. She runs Bustan in the Negev, which is a place for empowering the Negev's bedouin communities. I'm not a close acquaintance of hers, but we see each other now and then at peace gatherings. I especially admired her at the Jerusalem festival of light (not only because she speaks fluent Arabic) when she was saying that we need to do more than just "collect good energy" to bring peace into the world. She said that the bedouins who have their houses demolished don't want to meet with Israelis until they feel like our equals. She wants more activism happening among our peace groups. She gave over the directorship to someone else and they had a good-bye party for her in the Negev that I missed because I couldn't take off work.

4. Still no kitchen in our home - which means we will not be able to celebrate the holidays in a normal way, which means me cooking up a storm. Instead, I've been buying all the unhealthy microwavable foods as well as ready-made food, which is nice, but terribly expensive. I miss my weekend scrambled eggs!!

Laughter:

1. Alex Sternik's videos. He's the laughter yoga guru and is wearing the braided wig in the video. I love the guy.

2. My grandson - who is 2 months old tomorrow. He's been a miserable, colicky baby and then on Thursday, every time I said "I love you" to him, he coo'd and smiled at me. We "coo'd" and smiled to each other for hours that evening.

2. The officer who called me up from the army telling me how wonderfully behaved my daughter is (the Complainer) and how smart she is and I should be proud that I have such a wonderful wonderful daughter. I didn't tell him about her "home behavior" like when I walked into her room to clean a spot off the floor today at 3:00 pm. She was napping. And I heard "What are you waking me up for, you fucking bitch!!! Get out of my room. You're always waking me up." Maybe this is considered "wonderful behavior" in the Israeli army. I don't know. Go figure.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Sulha



The yearly Sulha was underway last week and here are some photos from it. It's an amazing feeling to be there. I would sit in my chair for hours telling hubby who accompanied me, that THIS is how I want to live. This is how I want to see my country. Full of people of different faiths getting along so beautifully. It was like a messianic vision. I attended one workshop when I just wasn't taking in the atmoshere. It was the relationship between Sufis and Kabbalah, although it tended to be more on the relationship between Sufis and Rabbis through the centuries.



Simply fascinating to hear that Maimonides studied with Sufis and his son was considered a Sufi Jew. Other stories - the Chief Rabbi of Ramat Gan in Tel Aviv related that his grandfather was the chief rabbi of Libya, when Libya had Jews living there. So well-versed in the Koran was he, that he was called the Sheikh Rabbi.



Another story related was that in Chechnya, someone called Alex Fagin researched the Chabad Lubavitch Chassidim. He found the source of one of their very popular songs called the "Rebbe's Nigun" or "Shmil's Nugun". Who is Shmil? Most people think of Shmil as a Russian peasant. But that isn't so. Apparently, the Alter Rebbe, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, the founder of Lubavitch in the late 18th century, was jailed as his Chassidic teachings were considered going against the Czar. In jail, he met up with a Sufi Sheikh who ended up being executed, while the Alter Rebbe's life was spared. The sufi sang his melody to the Rabbi, saying his one wish was to preserve this melody. The Rebbe came out of jail and with it the melody, known to so many Lubavitch Chassidim today. I would love to have this story confirmed by another person....as I couldn't find this when I "googled".



Safed in Israel was once a center of both Sufism and Kabbalah.



And it just seemed that for a while, it was okay for Jews to study Islam (and vice-versa) and many rabbis living in Arab countries did study the Koran. Now there seems to be a revival where some rabbis are looking for that special spiritual relationship with their Moslem brothers - the children of Abraham....



Saturday, August 18, 2007

Art Festival in Jerusalem




I asked various friends and relatives if they wanted to come with me to the annual arts and crafts fair in Jerusalem this past week. Eveyone had their excuses - courses, children, not interested, too crowded and Hubby wouldn't go because he'd miss several enchanting hours of Fox News that evening if he did.

I went alone and was comfortable with this decision because I didn't have to depend on someone else's schedule. If I wanted to browse for 1/2 hour at the guy who did exquisite stainless steel jewelery, no one would get impatient with me or had I brought my son, he would have had the patience of a gnat and we both would have been miserable. I scooted over to my favorite "gypsy cafe" and sat there for a long while.







There were glass blowers from Hebron, where most Israelis don't dare venture..who brought their crafts to the festival. I was pleased to see Palestinian vendors from the Old City in Jerusalem come over on our side to show us their wares. And once inside the elaborate tent, I felt I was actually in the old city.

"Please - I'll sell this to you at a very good 'brice'. You are my first customer..."



Then afterwards I went off to the arena where one of Israel's rock band's were performing. I didn't have the patience to listen for the entire concert so I sat in for about 20 minutes of the band's set. Besides....I don't know the words to any of their songs, so I couldn't sing along with the audience.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

All Nations Cafe - hike to Walaja



On Tuesday, I joined up with the All Nations Café (run by Dhyan and Daphna) who were having a hike from the beautiful Ein Lavan spring near the biblical zoo to the Palestinian village of Walaja. .

We were a small group of about 10 people at first, some of whom had accidentally discovered Haj Ibrahim's guest house and were staying there. The spring was packed with people, mostly young, orthodox Jewish people who glanced curiously at our mixed Jewish/Palestinian group. Daphna taught us a simple song with a circle dance to it - like a chant – which we sang over and over again, switching partners as we went around the circle – singing it in Arabic, English, Hebrew and Esperanto. "One people, one planet, one spirit, one people, one planet, one spirit, one people, one planet, one spirit – all we need is love!!" We sang this loud and often and some young Jewish teens asked us what our group was about.



We asked them to join but they didn't, preferring instead to watch us. One of the girls was wearing a Camp Kobi Mandel t-shirt. Kobi Mandel was a young Jewish boy of 13 who was murdered by terrorists while he was playing with a friend in a cave near to his home. His mother has since set up a camp for Jewish relatives of terror victims. I thought about the connection of our group and the camp – thinking if we had a much bigger circle of people singing this together, thousands instead of just two-digit numbers, there would have been no need to set up this camp and this poor mother's young son might have been alive today.



We began our hike down the mountain, by the side of the railway tracks, to a dried up riverbed. I spoke with a young girl from the Shuafat refugee camp. I don't often meet people from Palestinian refugee camps and I was happy that she was a regular member of this group. I, and other Israelis, often think of those living in refugee camps, as the most militant of Palestinians. Who would have thought that some would join a group such as this? Later in the evening there would be others from the Dehaishe refugee camp in Bethlehem who joined up with us.



Halfway through our hike, we ended up in Ein Haniyeh spring, off the old road to Gush Etzion. One of the Palestinian men took away my water bottle to fill it up at the spring. What do I know. To me, you fill up your water bottles from tap water or from the spring water you buy at the store. I would never have thought to have filled it up here - such a city chick I am. We made our way up the mountainside to Abu-Abdullah's home which was a ramshackle of a home which he stays in by himself, leaving his family up the hill at the village of Walaja.



On the way there, the Palestinians took a few pinches of something off a tree – which was the sumac spice. I tasted it – it was extremely pungent – like eating Mike and Ike's Zour candies – only presumably much healthier.

The reason for Abed Abu-Abdullah living in this place are the 200 fruit trees he has on the lands surrounding the old home – olive, grape vines, and who knows what else.




The army had tried to remove him and his groves but he steadfastly refused, showing them ownership papers he had from his grandfather. He was supposed to have taken us to see a holy 4,000 year old olive tree somewhere nearby, which people say, has miraculous healed anyone who eats olives from this tree. But he was in a bad mood, someone explained, and he has to be focused in order to take us there. Bad mood and all, which I didn't feel by the way, he allowed us to pick the ripe grapes off his vines.



He made us all coffee and some of us had brought snacks to share. My new friend from the Shuafat refugee camp remarked sadly how there are no trees at all in her refugee camp, as we munched on the same bunch of grapes together.



The groves on the hill made the entire place seem so enchanting. There was something very magical about it that no wonder there's a healing ancient olive tree nearby.



At dusk we went down the hill for the main gathering near an abandoned house by the roadside, which also belongs to Abu-Abdullah's family. There more Palestinians awaited us – many of whom were from the Bethlehem area. A bonfire was lit and we were now a group of nearly 30 people.

I felt a lot of empathy these past two days because being in their "hood" I experienced the discomfort of going through a checkpoint from Dr. Dejani's home with a miserable soldier, who shouted at us to move our car back. We wondered why the anger and someone suggested that perhaps to smile and show niceness wasn't allowed. It can be mistaken for a sign of weakness, something the Israeli army wouldn't dare want to show to outsiders. And now, as it became dark, and we were merely shadows from the road, an army jeep stopped in front of us, only the top of the jeep was visible through the trees.

"COME OVER HERE - NOW!!!!"

Let me tell you. To be shouted at like that by Israeli soldiers is quite frightening. Even for an Israeli like myself. And it happens to Palestinians all the time. It just happens to me when I'm hanging out with them. We answered them back in Hebrew, but they weren't satisfied. Daphne, one of the organizers of the group, and a native Israeli, went down the hill to speak to them. After about 5 very long minutes she returned.

"They change soldiers here like they change underpants. The soldiers at the checkpoints know we meet here every week, but when they change the soldiers at the checkpoints, we have to explain about our group over and over again to them. Everything is ok now."

Back at the bonfire, going around the circle, we shared a little about ourselves and we drank more coffee (and I couldn't fall asleep that evening until 2:00 a.m.) and a debka teacher taught us some debka steps, which we practiced over and over again to the music of darbukas and then from Arabic music from someone's cellphone.

The glow of the fire shone on the face of everyone there. I hate to sound so hokey, but it did put warmth in everyone's hearts. There's nothing like sitting around a fire. It's soothing. People bond around a bonfire, don't they? Well, it seemed that even though there was a language barrier as many of the 17 Palestinians there didn't speak either English or Hebrew, they said they were touched by the fact that we (Jews) were there. It gives them hope in a world that seems hopeless.

Israelis flood into Palestinian neighborhood of Beit Hanina

OK - now that I got your attention - we're not flooding in, but it would be great if we do visit there in droves.

A group of us met on Monday and carpooled our way to Dr. Mohammad Dajani's home in Beit Hanina. We were a quite large group of Jews who met some neighborhood Palestinians at his home, some of whom were active in Dajani's political party called Wasatia . For many Jews, this was the first time they ventured into an Arab neighborhood, and some voiced that they were quite nervous at first – but laughed it off seeing how silly it was to have felt this way, as we were sitting in Dajani's large closed off porch.

Funny that even well-to-do Arabs do not have these clonish homes as Israelis do, built by Israeli construction companies. They have their own individual look and feel. We were on the third floor and I saw a living room, a game room and a dining area – no kitchen visible - and a closed off porch and an open porch with a taboon oven. Upstairs was a rooftop patio where you could throw a big party. Downstairs was probably where his family resided and the first floor was his office, which we knew by the way the books poured out into the hallway. His walls were covered with vintage posters and magazine covers – cool stuff like Elvis and James Dean and classics like Gone with the Wind and sentimental Love Story. Moving towards the top of the house were family photos and embroidered Palestinian clothing hanging over the railings.

We were given an explanation of the area from the rooftop, viewing the Nusseibeh housing project, a project that housed all the refugees from the Old City in 1967 after their homes were raised to make room for the Western Wall Plaza. The Wall was a block away from his home,– it made life for those who held Israeli residency cards who lived beyond that wall, difficult, as they are now unable to pass easily through the checkpoints. The businesses on the main street suffered as a result of the checkpoint as it is no longer the main road to Ramallah and many have gone out of business or are no longer the expensive shops catering to the well-to-do as they once were.

After stuffing myself on fruit and cakes (I still do not have a kitchen, so any stray food around is considered 'dinner'), we went to hear Dr. Dajani speak briefly about his new party. Even though I had heard him speak beforehand, this was his turf now and there's always a different slant to it.

Basically what he said is that in order to create a moderate Palestinian culture, rather than have the masses be attracted to extremist parties like Hamas, speaking about democracy will not do it. Democracy is a Western concept and the religious Moslem man/woman on the street will not want to hear about it. Instead, he bases his party on the language of the Koran. The Koran states to walk the middle road ("We have made you a moderate nation"). He explains "It's God who wants this."

Elana Rozenman of Trust spoke a bit about her group. "What is lacking among our people is trust. We want normal interaction between our people." She gave us an exercise to do in which we took a partner and, while the other listened (without interrupting), one of us spoke about a person in our life whom we trusted and why we trusted that person, how we felt about having someone we are able to trust in, etc. Then we switched roles.

During the sharing one of the women visiting from Toronto said one has to feel empathy. "Put yourselves in the other's place and stop defending yourselves." A Palestinian young man said that others may look at moderates as infidels. But he's looking forward to "the opportunity for infidels to move ahead."

At the end of the meeting some of the Jewish participants, including myself, took a few Wasatia pamphlets, all in Arabic, to give out to people we knew who may not know about this movement, hoping they'll see this as the way towards peace.