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."


"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


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


"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


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.


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.