Sunday, June 24, 2007

movin' on

We finally moved out of our rental apartment. The only thing sad about leaving was leaving the stray kitties behind, as I was one of their main food providers. But I was glad to leave behind a landlord who complained about our having "burnt" the grass in her front yard and the fact that I don't pay my bills the day she gives them to me and the fact that she hoards our mail and doesn't give it to us for 2 weeks.

I wanted to do the right thing and cleaned up her apartment before she had a final look at it. Hubby hired a young Palestinian man - about 21 years old, a really good-looking guy, who immediately began "talking" sex to me as soon as Hubs ran out the door for an errand. I had began our work together by telling him about my interfaith activities and how much I learn from the Koran. I wanted to talk Prophet Mohammed and Suras with him, but he had something else on his mind.

"How long is your husband gone for?"

"1/2 hour" I said. I should have said "5 minutes" because no sooner had I finished my sentence he was like "last time I cleaned an apartment building, this married woman with a child asked me to have sex with her."

I looked at him incredulously. Is he kinda coming on to me in a 'round about way? I'm over twice his age!! Is he that desperate?

He continued..."And you wouldn't believe what happened to me last week. This MAN invited me to have a look in his apartment. I thought, 'I must be mad going into a stranger's home.' The guy said he'd pay me whatever I want if I had sex with him."

"Really? You should have asked for several thousand shekels." I answered, without looking at him.

"Do you know any girls, or women - who are divorced - that would go out with me, who need to have sex?"

"Well, looks like you're not getting any on your side, am I right?"

Of course I am right. He told me he'd never marry anyone who would have sex with him before marriage. And it was totally wrong for a Moslem girl to "do it" but Israeli girls "do it" at age 15. So he's looking for me to find him a sex partner. An Israeli one - of course. Maybe even one of my daughters who doesn't have a boyfriend. He gave me his cellphone number and after I told Hubby about our time alone (I hadn't been this happy to see Hubby return home in years), his phone number went into the trash bin.

The next day we all moved into my married and heavily pregnant daughter's home and she was terribly miserable having us all there. She was looking at her precious floors and the food in the fridge, knowing in a matter of hours, her family, like locusts, would empty out her food supplies. She'd see imaginary footprints on her floor and huff about "having to wash her floor - yet again". She didn't make anyone feel welcome and I do hope that we will be able to move into our place this week -

so we could enjoy the fact that there would be no more movers, no more cleaners, no more landlords - or miserable daughters - for ever after.....

Monday, June 18, 2007

videos of Tantur Peace Festival, Jerusalem

I know I'm no Spielberg or anything, and this wasn't even taken by a video camera - just my old and worn Canon A75. But you can get the drift of Israelis and Palestinians grooving together and hanging out, listening to each other's music.

Palestinian Hip Hop

It Takes a Revolution – Palestinian Hip Hop

Jewish prayers to Indian music

Debka dancing

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Peace Festival at Tantur

This Palestinian Hip Hop band was cute. Don't remember the name of the band. But it was great to hear their music....

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Peace Festival in Jerusalem

Palestinian/American comedian Ray Hanania opened up his set on Friday night by telling us “either you must be hard core peace activists or you’re homeless”. It was friggin’ freezing that evening and we were moved from the outside venue to the more intimate auditorium inside Tantur, where IPCRI and it’s leaders Gershon Baskin/Hanna Siniora had organized a full afternoon/evening of Palestinian/Israeli music, workshops and films on Friday and Saturday.

And like the scent of jasmine which entices me or, to better describe this, it’s like a heavy addiction that these wonderful peace activities give me. And so when I found out about this event a few weeks ago, I cooked a quickie Sabbath meal for my family on Friday and ran out the door to catch the last bus into Jerusalem.
It was a chance for Israelis to get to know Palestinian music and for Palestinians to hear Israeli music. We had one famous Israeli name performing on Friday, David Broza.

(David Broza performance)

The atmosphere was festive with food stands set up as well as Palestinian crafts for sale and peace organizations publicizing their stuff. Unfortunately, the crowd numbered a few hundred rather than a few thousand, which I had hoped for, but perhaps that was due to preaching to the preached and not having famous companies like Coca Cola sponsor this kind of event. Ahhh to be a ‘marketing for peace’ person. That is my dream.

(notice the Wall dividing Bethlehem and Jerusalem in the background)

The groups who were in attendance and lucky to obtain permits to enter Jerusalem, were the Peace Club in Hebron, Combatants for Peace, Windows, debka dancers from Anata and a bunch from Bethlehem. Jewish groups came from interfaith dialogue groups, Peace Now, Machsom (checkpoint) Watch and many others. Thankfully there was a lot of media there to report on the events and to capture the moment and to photograph the spontaenous circles of Jews and Palestianians who were planning future events together. I was glad to have made my business cards minutes before I left home because there were many people I gave them to. It feels great expanding this amazing circle of peace-minded friends.

Many of the people I invited to this event asked me “how do we find out about these kinds of things?” which prompted me to begin an email list of my own to promote interfaith/peace activities.

As dusk turned into night, the music was wonderful with the likes of Aliza Hava, an American new immigrant to Israel with an amazing voice who sang original songs, like ”One People, One Land” and Musicians for Peace who had a really wonderful repetoire. But we were all shivering and beginning to feel uncomfortable, so the organizers arranged for the rest of the evening to be held inside the auditorium, where Ray gave us a wonderful preview of his Israeli/Palestinian Comedy Tour, although he is the only Palestinian in the tour. I thought he was hilarious. I laughed my ass off and he was like “was that a sympathy laugh?” No, dahling. It was great seeing a fellow MidEastYouth writer, especially one who gets 3 trillion comments on every post of his. So that was actually a ”jealousy laugh” m’dear.
After Ray’s act, Israeli musicians took the stage. They were a most unusual band. The woman played a tampura (a sitar-like instrument) and sang Jewish prayers in Indian style tunes. It was hauntingly beautiful.

After them, came a Palestinian band who seemed to play klezmer music. I thought - well this is the first Palestinian klezmer band I’ve ever heard - and wanted to invite them to the Safed klezmer festival later on this summer.
I walked a brisk 45-minute walk to my friend’s home with Eliyahu, blabbing the whole way about integrated housing, how wonderful everyone is, wouldn’t it be great if this happened, or that happened and how could we get hundreds of thousands of people into this scene?

Next day I set out for Tantur from the Baka neighborhood of Jerusalem. It was much hotter than the day before. I saw a Palestinian bus from East Jerusalem - those small blue and white mini-buses with hardly any seats. I knocked on the door at a red light. The driver opened up for me and charged me a bit less than an Israeli bus and off we went. Now this was a milestone for me. One of my firsts. I had never taken Palestinian public transportation before because, well, it’s just not done. These buses usually go towards the West Bank where the passengers then pick up Palestinian yellow taxis with west bank license plates. Everyone, of course, was cordial and two men even got up from their seats to give me theirs. But I’m sure their day was rougher than mine - checkpoints and all. I decided to stand for the 10 minute ride.

Getting back to the festival, we started out by watching the film “Encounter Point.” The couple I invited walked out of the film. I ran out to see why.
“It’s just so negative. Everything here is negative.” he moaned. He obviously didn’t come the night before for the non-negative Palestinian-Woodstock-like atmosphere.

“Why don’t you just stick around and wait? The music will soon start and the whole mood will change.”


“How will people learn not to be negative. I know this festival is about 40 years of occupation. But I think of it as a celebration of ’40 years of being reunited with my long-lost cousins’. ”

I thought I saw him smile. Maybe he’ll stay. But he didn’t. A shame. Because even Encounter Point was very moving towards the end as Palestinians and Israelis encountered one another for the very first time. It reminded me of my own story nearly 4 years ago.

We formed chat circles and I spent the late afternoon introducing all these people to one another so that they can form new connections. It just seemed as if I were putting pieces of a puzzle together.

On the big stage were Palestinian hip-hop bands, dancers, Israeli bands, and by the last act, with an Israeli singer of Moroccan background who sang “hafla” songs, we were all dancing wildly in front of the stage, singing “Now is the time for peace”. By the time the party ended, I could really have danced all night. I was so much in a state of bliss that I exclaimed to some stunned listeners that “Peace is even better than sex.”

And now that I’m back into my work week and the tough reality of life, I really think there may even be some truth in what I said...

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

She's in the army now

My daughter was drafted yesterday into the army. I thought there would be more fanfare - ceremonies, large crowds, music, speeches. There were just a few families there with their about-to-be-soldier daughters at the place where we were at in Jerusalem.

We (her father, boyfriend, sister and I) looked at the small crowd and joked that this is perhaps the “special needs unit” - low profiles, too overweight, too underweight, dysfunctional, dropouts, etc. She missed the “normal” profile by being underweight one kilo. Forget that she’s a soldier, don’t you just hate her for that?
But seriously, I never had so many phone calls from her that first day in the army as I had in 6 months. She called me up at 2:30 pm.

“They’re starting to be mean.”

“Of course they are. But you can handle ‘mean’. Where did you think you were going? To a spa?”

She’s a tough little one. I’m sure she’ll be fine.

The army is a rite of passage for most Israelis. It’s not something I’m thrilled about her doing but I let my children make their choices as long as they use them well. My two eldest daughters bypassed the army by telling the draft people they were religious and can’t serve. Actually they weren’t religious and my eldest daughter had piercings up the wazoo and bright red streaks in her hair when she was called up. She went to the rabbinical office to get them to give her a waiver, piercings and all. The Rabbi didn’t give two shits about it thankfully. He just didn’t want to see girls in the army so he hardly glanced at her and stamped the waiver. She and my 2nd daughter did national service instead.

But my third daughter’s friends have all been drafted and she felt she should go with the flow. Peer pressure. She won’t be a fighter and for that I’m thankful. She has Palestinian friends and knows about how to treat human beings that aren’t Jewish. And maybe if she lands up working a checkpoint or two, she’ll be more thoughtful, respectful and helpful than most of the soldiers you find at checkpoints. And that is a more comforting thought.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The view on Saturdays

It was a pleasant day, this past Saturday - weather-wise. I couldn't see Jordan anymore from my window like I can during wintertime but the view is lovely nevertheless. I’m doing what I usually do on a Saturday morning, which is read the Haaretz magazine cover-to-cover, laughing at Sayed Kashua’s life experiences and wishing he was my friend, but his article is not there this weekend. But I’m starting a whole lot later than usual. I had a sleepless night last night. My cellphone rang at 2 am and it was probably for one of my kids who make phone calls from my cell when I’m not looking. And when I’m sleeping, I’m not usually looking. Not being able to fall back asleep, I watched one of the movies I downloaded, “A Night At the Museum” and mid-movie (even though I enjoyed this comedy), I felt my eyes closing… Fortunately, I had the luxury of sleeping in until 10:45 am. A true blessing for my tired and weary soul.
I wasn’t supposed to be tossing and turning and watching movies or reading Haaretz this weekend. I was supposed to be in Nazareth for a compassionate listening workshop with Arabs and Jews - these things feed my soul - but my pregnant daughter had early contractions and was under observation at Hadassah Ein Karem hospital. I would be a horrible mother if I just buzzed off up North to feed my soul and not care about hers. I sat in her hospital room eating her mother-in-law’s delicious food that her hubby brought for her. While I was licking my plate clean of stuffed grape leaves, kubbeh and fried cauliflower (the family is Tunisian), her mum-in-law walks in and gives me a momentarily dirty look. I automatically read read her mind which said “What the fuck are you doing eating the food I gave my son and daughter-in-law for the weekend so that they don’t have to eat that horrible hospital food”. The look lasted a split second, but I caught it and read it.
But getting back to this morning. My second oldest daughter was making us all a breakfast of shakshouka. And my 17 year old bounces in this morning with a friend, ready to go to the Dead Sea. It’s only 30 minutes from where we live.
“Whose driving you?” I asked, hoping she wasn’t planning to hitchhike and hoping she’ll be eating some breakfast before going. She doesn’t.
“My friend from work. He’s an Arab.” I don’t know why she has to announce his heritage. If the driver was Jewish, she wouldn’t be telling me “My friend from work. He’s an Israeli Jew”. Maybe she wants to see/hear my reaction? She knows it won’t be negative.
I say to her -”Why doesn’t he come in? It’s not nice to leave him in the car while you get ready.” Getting ready for teenage girls may take “a while.” He is driving a Mazda 6. Not too shabby.
My daughter turns to her girlfriend and tells her “See, my mother doesn’t mind.” Perhaps the girlfriend’s mother would mind her daughter being driven around by an Arab friend. Maybe that’s why this guy was reluctant to come into our home. So I went up to meet him and tell him he’s welcome in our home. He looked like a nice guy, with manners. And when they left, I even felt a bit sorry for him, knowing that my daughter may take HIM for a ride, perhpas having him pay for her cigarettes and food and entrance fee, if there is any.