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....