Saturday, April 28, 2007


My son called me frantically yesterday morning from school.

"MOM! I'm sick!!! Please hurry and pick me up from school NOW!"

Of course, just then, some real estate people rang the doorbell and wanted me to show them the house we are renting. Fortunately, these people had seen the house on their own already and were haggling with the agent about it. I excused myself meanwhile and then a second call came in.

"MOMMMM! Are you coming? PLEASE HURRY, I'M SICK."

"What's wrong"

"I don't know"

This is such a guy thing, lemme tell you. I'd have these exact conversations with Hubby. He'd tell me over the phone he's sick and not know what's wrong. I mean what the fuck? Is it your throat? Your head? Fever? Legs? Arms? Brains? Teeth?

They don't know.

I got to the school gate and my son was clearly very uncomfortable. He seemed to have something stuck in his throat which he was trying to cough out. I took him to the emergency clinic. The doctor thought it was some kind of allergic reaction after taking a chest x-ray and seeing nothing. He was on sn inhaler for 10 minutes. I took him home afterwards and then went to the pharmacy to get him inhalers. He calls me after I've already bought them.

"Don't buy me medicine. I'm ok now - hear?"

"Yeah, alright. Are you sure?" And I go back to the pharmacist who gives me a credit on my purchase.

Later on my daughter found a bee sitting on the kitchen floor.

"There's a bee here, Mom! Can you get rid of it?"

"No honey, that's what men are for. HONEY!!!" I screamed at Hubby who was glued to the couch. "Please get up and do that Manly thing of yours and get rid of this bug - please!"

He gave me a look that Al Bundy of Married with Children gives his wife when she asks for sex - and forced himself off the couch. To do that manly thing.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Food (and drink) for Thoughts

I had done my mitzvah of doing a presentation on Jewish marriage to the mostly Moslem crowd at our conference in Petra - complete with a video of the chuppah at my daughter's June wedding. This resulted in several young, cute, Jordanian suitors begging me for my daughters' hand.

"I'm coming to Jerusalem to marry your daughters"

"Which one?" I asked the cutest first guy from Amman.

"Any one. They're all beautiful."

"And you, sir?" I asked the second one.

"Me? I'm going to convert to Judaism and kill all the Arabs from Egypt to Syria for her." He stood up and gestured wildly with his hands while talking.

Hmmmm. Didn't think I wanted HIM as my son-in-law.

I asked the third guy which one of my 3 daughters did he want to marry.

"The youngest one."

"You're such an Arab" remarked a young Egyptian woman, who was dressed in religious Moslem garb. "Such a Gulf Arab at that. See how he wants the young one?"

And we all laughed. I also laughed at the fact that I was up in the youngsters' room and they had an assortment of liquor bottles that the 2nd potential suitor of my daughter was happily imbibing. They were all neatly placed by their visiting American friends on the floor near the bed as if it were illicit drugs to be shoved under the bed, should any Islamic police show up at the door. The Moslem women didn't have any at all.

They offered me some of this stuff which I refused. Funnily, even though I am allowed to partake of alcoholic beverages, I felt odd at the thought of drinking in a Moslem country, so I just asked for a soft drink - please.

Meanwhile at dinner time I had been raving over the wonderful desserts served there like Malabeh and some Egyptian sweet bread pudding (can't remember the name of this).

We had learned earlier that Druze men are not allowed to eat a green called Gargeer in Arabic (it was rocket leaves, as I found out later) because it's an aphrodisiac. Well, we all were hysterical when at lunch on the last day of the conference, one of the Palestinian men piled his plate about 2 feet high with that stuff.

"Should I warn his wife" I asked the woman sitting next to me, as I saw him take a seat. This caused a wave of laughter all along our big long table.

Later on, I showed Mr. Aphrodisiac photos from the seder I went to.

"That's makhlube" I said proudly. We had it as a main dish for our seder.

"It's not enough you steal our land!!! Now you're stealing our food." He said half-joking, half-serious.


"It won't be long before you'll call this Israeli food. You already did this with falafel and humous. Everyone thinks it's Israeli food now. It's ARABIC food. ARABIC."

"OK OK - please calm down Mister." thinking the aphrodisiac was going awry.

I promised him that from now on, I'd always label any makhlube I or my friends make as Arabic, not Israeli food, and he seemed quite satisfied with that.

Arabs and Jews Dancing to Shlomo Carlebach music

This was one of the highlights of my trip. Jews and Arabs, Palestinians and Israelis, all dancing to the music of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach.

Later on that evening, the Jordanians did some wonderful debka dancing and a group of Saudi school kids who were at our hotel joined in.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Trip to Petra - Part 2

Friday we settled in to our interfaith "talks" - with each person or team describing their circle of interfaith/intercultural activities. The head of our organization in Israel became too ill to attend this conference and asked me to take care of the Jewish presentation while I was ALREADY ON THE WAY. Thank God for good intuition - as right before I left, I grabbed ahold of Jewish Soul music Rabbi, Shlomo Carlebach CD, my daughter's wedding cd, some leftover matzah from Passover and a havdalah candle, and threw them all in my suitcase. So I was prepared for any emergency such as this surprise!

The Moslem presentation was on food - what is Halal and what is Haram. I knew most of the Islamic laws on food and the similarities to kashrut for Jews and I would guess that the 90% of Moslems there could have been bored at hearing the same stuff over and over except for a lively exchange between the Bedouin Sheikh and the person doing the presentation who were arguing about the prohibition of eating animals that weren't slaughtered in the Halal way. The Sheikh claimed it wasn't an actual "prohibition" but rather, one should "avoid" this meat. I laughed at how similar Jews argue about such seemingly trivial (at least to outsiders) laws, and there are so many of them to argue about - I guess that's why we're always arguing. But it was amusing for me to know that Moslems argue in the same fashion.

After their presentation - it was my turn. I turned over my daughter's wedding CD to the part of the wedding ceremony, which was a shortened version of the 1/2 hour ceremony. Many people were interrupting me for interpretations of the strange goings-on under the Chuppah (marriage canopy) - "were they drinking wine?" "why did they break the glass" (that was the most popular question); "what was that long scroll?" "why did the bride put her ring on her middle finger to show everyone?" "What does the marriage contract say?" - I answered their questions as best I could and went into dating rituals (ultra-orthodox have the most interesting ones) and family purity where the couple cannot have sex when the wife is menstruating and a week after that - after which she dunks herself in a mikvah (ritual bath).

After, I and another Jewish woman made a short presentation on the recent Passover holiday and I gave out matzah for everyone to taste, explaining the seder rituals, the final prayer of "Next Year in Jerusalem", etc. except that I joked that many Israelis now rush back into Egypt during the Passover holidays to vacation in Sinai. But the other presenter explained that this holiday was kept to some extent even by the hidden Jews of Spain, the Marranos/Anusim, who were forced to convert to Christianity and kept some semblance of tradition, such as not eating bread during a certain time during the Spring season and others.

Later that afternoon, right before the Sabbath, we played a CD by Jewish soul music Rabbi, Shlomo Carlebach, the one who went to Berkley and San Francisco in the late 1960s and founded the synagogue which was called the House of Love and Prayer to bring the Jewish hippies from acid tripping to tripping on Judaism. He has worked tirelessly for the rest of his life and has since passed on, but his teachings are still thriving and his unique soul-soaring music still touches everyone's soul. So much so that after we did our Sabbath presentation - lighting candles with a blessing to bring in the Sabbath, a song for the Sabbath (lecha dodi, greeting the Sabbath Queen) and blessings over grape juice and challah, which we distributed - an Iranian woman came over to me and asked where she could get such a CD.

"Well to tell you the truth, I don't think the CD stores in Tehran stock this item.
Tell you what, I'll just give this to you."

Which I did and she happily accepted the gift. So now "A Taste of Shabbes" by Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach has been imported into Iran. I laughed at the thought of Rabbi Carlebach doing this on purpose - somewhere in the heavens - plotting to get his music over to the Iranians and touch their souls too.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Back from Petra - Part I

I don't know how many posts this trip to Jordan will turn out - but I guess the best place to start is from the beginning.

There were 11 of us in a minivan (which started out in Maghar up in the Galilee) going to the Jordanian border at Aqaba - 4 Moslems, 2 Christians, 1 Druze, 4 Jews. Of course, before the trip, everyone I know had been telling me "watch out" "be careful" because going into an Arab country is always scary for Jews who are, well, frightened of Arabs. I smile at these poor souls and say "thank you" for their warnings. But for me, the Jewish wanderer, it's just another exciting and wonderful adventure into the unknown.

Four hours after leaving Jerusalem we ended up by the Israeli/Jordanian border. Passing over to Jordan from the Israeli side was uneventful. But when we got to the Jordanian side, they held our group for nearly three hours because one of the East Jerusalem women held Jordanian citizenship and Jordanians are not allowed through the Aqaba border (only the Allenby border near Jericho). It took alot of cajoling and persuading the border people that we needed to be at this conference tonight. We weren't about to leave this poor woman behind as the rest of us were allowed entry.

I would have not have minded the long wait so much if this border had an exciting duty-free shop or a restaurant for God's sake. One of the Moslem men told me that at the other border crossing at Beit Shean, there is a really big duty-free shop like the kind you find in Baghdad. Sorry, wouldn't know 'bout that. Not yet, anyways. We wandered over to a place where a sign said "cafeteria" but when we walked in they seemed to stock only 4 different kinds of chocolate bars and some soft drinks.

"Any food here?" we asked.

The guy behind the counter smiled weakly and said "Food?" as if he hadn't seen food since Turkish rule ended decades ago.

But the bathrooms were nostalgic for me because they were the no-toilet type - the "you squat and wash the poop down with water from a bucket" type that we all know and love from India.

I went to the bank to change money. There, lying on the couch, was the cashier/teller.

"Ahlan Wahsahlan" I smiled at him for guiltily disturbing his siesta. I gave him a whole bunch of shekels which he gave back to me in 58 Jordanian Dinars.

"You could have gotten a much better rate in East Jerusalem" said my friend. I'll know for next time.

After I had done all my errands (after all, there was nothing much else to do there except perhaps buy more chocolate bars), I joined our group who had since settled in the border manager's air-conditioned office, seated comfortably in ornate couches and plush seats - old and worn - they once saw a better day - but still ornate in the Arabic fashion. We joked around with him, teaching him a bit of Hebrew. He was very kind and pleasant and patient. This was probably the busiest day he had in months. Perhaps he was happy he had been kept busy because in the middle of his room, in front of his desk, was a 21" t.v.. I especially enjoyed watching the Jordanian Action movie channel he had on. Plus, I added another word in Arabic to my stash of Arabic words that I know which was - Jowiz safar (passport).

Finally, after 2 1/2 hours of calls to the ministry of the interior and other assorted officials, Ms. East Jerusalem was let through and we were only too happy to be on our way to Petra in an old van - with as many flies as passengers.

It took two hours to get to Petra and we watched and photographed the sunset from the van windows. The desert changed to a more green mountainous terrain and when the sun set we got to the Petra Panorama hotel. All of us went to check in and when the reception people took a look at me and then their eyes went over their list of people they had to place in pairs in our respective rooms - they kind of mumbled between themselves and checked in others before me. What was going on??? Seems the event organizers didn't recognize my Hebrew name and had me rooming with a guy.

"Is he young and cute?" I asked. In the end, they put me together with a Palestinian woman, which thrilled me somewhat because I felt it would be more meaningful to room with a Palestinian woman rather than with someone us Israelis have no conflicts with.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Haunted House

"I hate this house. I HATE THIS HOUSE" screamed the Good Daughter, soon-to-be 21 years old, while we were having quality time together over Passover, watching stupid shows like Ripleys Believe It Or Not and Girls of the Playboy Mansion.

We had just heard sounds outside our window, people talking. I peeked my head outside her window and saw - nothing. The lights sometimes flicker on and off.

I mean there ARE some good things about the house - like the fridge that belongs to the landlord, for example. It keeps our food cold, actually. And we finally had ice-cream that stayed frozen rather than watery ice cream than we had for years with our 10 year old now-very-moldy fridge. Having normal ice cream for Passover was like giving the family gold nuggets. They were so happy..

She was generally miserable anyways, I thought. She had made 2 guys miserable by breaking up with them and now someone had just given her the boot which saw ntear-filled tissues all over her bed and floor. I told her no guy is worth crying over more than 48 hours, so she should get all the crying out of the way now.

"All these terrible things are happening to us because OF THIS HOUSE!!"

Sure. They have. I've had soup ladels gone missing, my blue bra, now we can't find our bread knife. Hubby has had next to nothing work since we moved and everyone is horrible to each other.

I'm off to Petra today for an interfaith conference. I've asked the Good Daughter who usually fills in for me in the cooking department if she will make food for the family this weekend.


But Hubby was gentler - "don't worry, we'll figure it all out". He actually is going to get the chef son-in-law to come in for an hour tomorrow to help with the Sabbath cooking.

And meanwhile, I'll be away from this haunted house, leaving my family to bicker and fight over the weekend, while I'll be basking in the sun at Petra, Jordan.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Last Day of Passover

This sure was a different Passover holiday for me. Last year I had wandered around the Jewish quarter of the old city, took my son on a jeep tour of all the ancient Jewish sites around the old city and this year, it was like I hung out with Jesus's disciples. First the messianic Jewish seder and then yesterday, right before the last day of Passover, it was Easter Sunday. Saturday night I watched on television the goings on at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and it kind of frightened me with the holy fire and letting the wax drip down the pilgrims' faces. Besides it's so dark in there. I decided to join my messianic Jewish friends in a much more subdued Easter Sunday service at the Garden Tomb - where Protestants believe Jesus was buried. They said it was an evangelical service in Arabic, which I thought was gonna be kind of funky.

Hubby was getting irritated at my rushing out to do these strange things and it manifested in his answering my kids in the following way...

Kids: "MOM! Where are you going" - see - they don't really care where I am going, they're just friggin' worried that I'm not going to cook a festive Passover meal for them.

Hubby (always being politically incorrect and horribly offensive): "She's going to go get crucified."

Kids: "What is that?"

Me: "Tell you later. Bye" (slamming the door shut)

We parked in East Jerusalem and walked to the garden tomb, which is not far from the American Consulate. I could tell this was a Protestant-type service. Everyone was tall (just kidding), quiet (not kidding) and the Arab "believers" were traditionally late. I sat with the foreigners to get the translation of the Arabic-led service and thought the music was great - mixing traditional hymns sung in Arabic with Darbuka drumming. I didn't sing along because it's difficult for me to sing of Jesus the Lord and Savior in Arabic and even in English when you are just there as an observer, not as a believer. But I enjoyed basking in everyone's spirit and happiness.

I had taken photos and even videos of the ceremony and hymn singing, but we were asked not to publish the photos. I asked my friends later why I couldn't put these videos/photos on my blog. Safety reasons, I was told. What if there were former Moslems who had converted to Christianity and were on their families' shit list? It would be dangerous for them to be ID'd. So for their sake, I dare not publish photos that have people in them or that are clear. You'll just get the tomb photos, folks.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Passover - continued

I have been feeling terribly lethargic for the rest of the holiday. I haven't been energetic enough to do anything besides struggle with dishes and laundry and washing the floor once and yelling at Hubby and Son for peeing on the lower bathroom walls.

We didn't have the bucks to do anything or to go anywhere this year, because the new house drained us every which way and I'm buying food on overdraft. Like thousands of Israelis, I guess. But it's just so not Debtor's Anonymous. How am I gonna face these people next week

I was going to go on a trip to the Golan advertised as just a trip that cost only 40 NIS (less than $10) - all inclusive with a meat lunch, bus, guides, entrance fees - which was incredibly cheap. The email I received said there would be a "central event" in Katzrin with a performer. Then I read in the papers the day before the trip that this "central event" is actually a demonstration and hundreds of people are expected to be bussed in for the event. Hmmm. Well, I don't really like feeling duped, and it's not like I expected a political party not to dupe me - I certainly do - but because of that I cancelled my trip and spent all my time playing minesweeper on my computer which is next to my son's computer. My son's tushy is pasted onto his computer chair and he makes these weird noises and farts and belches constantly to the point where I was wishing I'd be back at work. Is that not sad to be spending your Passover holiday this way?

But anyways, yesterday, while Hubby and son were sitting on the couch belching people's names (Vladimir, Arkady Gaydamak, Boris, Ahmadinejad, etc.) for no apparent reason, I felt I was doing a mitzvah by sending good Israeli music to MidEast Youth's director to put on their radio site. They had good Arabic stuff going on there, but absolutely no Israeli music. And music is one of those things (besides food and laughter yoga) that makes for peace among peoples. So among the stuff I sent, they chose Moosh Ben Ari's "Ya" and Shotei Hanevua's "Ein Ani". Have a listen here

Tuesday, April 03, 2007


"Where are you gonna be for the Seder"? asked my brother, who has never invited me or my family to his seder in the 11 years we've been here (and he won't come to my place outside Jerusalem because he likes to invite his 1,875,082 friends over to his).

"By friends"

"Which friends?"

Now he's sounding like my nosy sister. It's none of his business "which friends" because he has no idea who my friends are. He probably thought I'm going to hang out at a Moslem seder. Even though Moslems don't make a seder, he is totally sure that if there was ever gonna be one Moslem family making one, I was sure to find it.

But I couldn't tell him "which friends" because I wasn't sure he'd understand. He'd already made peace with the fact that his nutty baby sister has Moslem and Christian friends. But he still hasn't got a clue that I have a bunch of Messianic Jewish friends as well. That fact is a bit harder for me to "let out of the closet" than anything else. It's akin to bringing home to your Ku Klux Klan papa in the 1960s deep south - a black boyfriend. It's just not done. And I think I'm gonna have alot of 'splaining to do when I have my housewarming party in a few weeks and invite everyone over.

So rather than have a seder with my family alone - which can be fun and depressing all at the same time - I opted to go to our messianic Jewish friends' seder because well

1. I enjoy their company
2. Hubby likes them (an even bigger and rarer feat)
3. The food will be delicious
4. I won't have to do all the cooking and shopping
5. A new experience for me to write about

I didn't have a problem telling all my friends at work where I'm going, though it did cause a lot of raised eyebrows. Messianic Jews are a puzzlement to other "normal" Jews. "Are they Christians?" the co-workers ask. "No, they believe in Jesus as the Messiah, but they are traditional and very spiritual people" I explained. The spiritual aspect is what attracted me to them. Most Jews steer clear of them, fearing their missionary-type agendas - but I look at these people as displaced Jews, not fitting in anywhere in the spectrum, and knowing that the main difference between them and most Jews is only on the identity of who the messiah is. But our commonality is that we both would really like a messiah to come and redeem us. Who wouldn't. Hubby thinks the messianic age is full of fun - like sex and drugs and rock-n-roll. I'm thinking "wow, there'll be no impurity in the world, and I'll be able to have my bacon and eggs again together with spaghetti and clam sauce and fried shrimps." (this based on the chassidic belief that when the messiah comes and there'll be no impurity in the world, animals which were once considered impure will become pure and we can enjoy eating them).

Although I tend to now to find it difficult to believe that any one person can be the messiah and save the world from itself and from its politicians, because how will people accept as a messiah someone who is different from them? Let's say Jesus comes back tomorrow and wanders around Jerusalem, he'd be put straight into Herzog Hospital in the Jerusalem Syndrome department. Think about it. So I have come to the conclusion that I'll have to just wait and see. I've also been thinking that although I would love a messiah to come and save us from our politicians and global warming and nuclear wars, and high taxes, I don't think one person can do it. It would take a real miracle. I tend to think we have to bring that kind of messianic age ourselves, by putting down our weapons, being good and righteous to each other and all the rest of that shit. Then we can usher in a wonderful messianic age all by ourselves and wouldn't have to kill each other over who is the real messiah...

Packing up for the seder, I brought my share of food, wine, grapejuice, hand-made matzot that looked like the kind of matzot the Israelites baked when they ran out of Egypt 4700 years ago, which brought alot of "ooohs and ahhhs" from my hosts because they never saw anything like it before and I grated real white root horseradish for the bitter herbs instead of having the one in the jars. They did go according to the Haggadah for the most part and only added in a few messianic things a couple of times - like instead of "by sanctifying us with your commandments" it was "by sanctifying us with your messiah". I looked through my own haggadah "The Holistic Haggadah" and circled the commonalities about the messiah that I could contribute -like the afikoman representing the redemption, etc. The leader of the seder was joyful that I brought it up and explained that the 3 matzot and the hiding and subsequent finding of the broken middle piece (the afikoman) - where the finder, usually a child - gets a prize - was a sign of the messiah's coming. The seder and explanations were all done in Hebrew, and there was acoustic guitar accompaniment for the Hallel part of the seder. During the mention of the 10 plagues, their teen kids threw plastic plagues on all of us - frogs, bugs,spiders, etc. and for the hail part, (real) pink and white marshmallows. It was a lively and fun seder and lasted for 6 hours. It was already 1:30 a.m. and I smirked at Hubby who said beforehand that he was only gonna stay until 10:00 p.m. We shared all the leftovers and I ended up with three times as much to take home than what I brought.

Next morning my son and I woke up around 10:00 a.m - the rest of the clan were still fast asleep.

"They did it differently than others didn't they?" asked my son.

I braced myself for alot of explaining to do.

"Why do YOU think it was so different?"

"Because they didn't say all of the parts of the haggadah"

"Oh. And I breathed a sigh of relief as I bit into a slice of the ancient-looking hand-made matzah smothered in butter.