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.


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'm not even in your store."

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


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 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.


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.


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!!


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.