Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Silence

This is a good thing when there's nothing I can say. These are moments when I have no solution, no creative insights, no nothing. I grieve for both sides in this conflict and wonder if it will ever end. Having the Kassams hit areas they've never hit and where I have friends is awful - schools and many businesses in the area have closed and those who can have sought refuge by relatives in other areas of Israel. But I also feel for the Palestinian mother of 5 daughters who were all killed. I can't imagine what her grief must be like. I have no words.

I just feel that the powers that be are too proud to stop this stupidity. Hamas and Israel are fighting for the upper hand, they both need to save face for their people.

Yet I'm trying to live a normal life, but it's hard. My neighbors met me at the bus stop this morning. The woman ranted about the Arabs in Gaza, "They get this hatred from their mothers' milk." I could only mutter back, "well, if over there they didn't all hate us before, they certainly do now", then feeling ashamed that I have sunk to the level of putting everyone into one bowl of soup.

On the way to Jerusalem with my daughter by bus, we looked at the parade of army tanks on the road, on their way to somewhere, probably the Gazan border - who knows. We tried to make light of it by saying they're probably all going for repairs at Wadi Joz - the East Jerusalem Arab neighborhood known for its cheaper car repair shops. But my daughter was nervous and was checking everyone coming onto the bus. She nudged me and stared at a young fellow who looked miserable. "Do you think he has a bomb on him." "No, of course, not. He's just having a bad day. Maybe he has relatives in Gaza, maybe he's angry at the situation, at Israelis, or just plain hates his job."

I got so tired of reading the same ol', same ol' news about everyone's opinions on whether it's right or whether it's wrong - or who's right and who's wrong. So it was just in the nick of time to get me out of my gloom that a friend sent me this video. It's 16 minutes long - but well worth the watch.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The End of America

A old friend of mine who lives in the greater New York area emailed me on Monday that she's in Jerusalem and wants to get together. I'm always ready to hang with old friends from my happy single days in New York City when they come to visit, so last night, I met her at Mamilla Mall near the Old City for a quick bite to eat.

I waited for her cab for what seemed like ages, thinking the fucking cab driver is probably ripping her off and taking her for a literal ride all around Jerusalem. After yelling at the cab driver who insisted (at 8:00 pm) that he couldn't go the straight way because of the "traffic", I slammed the cab door shut and took a look at her. No wonder they're trying to rip her off. She looked wonderful in a blue cashmere wool coat and also looked quite loaded, even though that wasn't the case, given the economic situation now in the US and that she also had lost her job several months ago. So clearly she is shyster cab driver fodder.

My friend seemed stressed, terribly stressed, and said she needed a real drink. Most of the coffee shops have those, so we walked along the beautiful outdoors Mamilla mall, as she told me her horror dating stories in the Orthodox dating scene. God, it sure is a jungle out there. Better be grateful for what I have, I thought.

Once in the restaurant and over our mojitas, I asked her what brought her here. Apparently she met this kabbalist rabbi about a year ago when he was visiting the States, who told her that she must drop everything and come to Israel immediately - before Chanukah because of some disaster that will happen in the U.S. And tonight before she met me, someone had told her what the rabbi had told them - that the entire United States would be flooded over because of global warming. No more U.S. Nada. Null and Void. A great big giant Atlantis.

I asked her - "Is Canada included?" but she didn't know. I was worried if it was included, then my sister won't be able to bring my husband's suit for my daughter's wedding, never mind all my nieces and nephews in Lakewood, N.J.

"This is serious shit for him to be scaring the wits out of you. I think you need a second opinion" and suggested she contact the Lubavitcher Rebbe, who gives messages through his letters/books. In other words, his chassidim place letters from people into volumes of letters he wrote throughout his life and through those books, answers are forthcoming. And they are pretty spot on. For example, we received a blessing to buy a house, which we did, which was pretty miraculous since we didn't know how on earth we would ever buy a darn thing here. And besides, the Rebbe said to always say positive things because that will influence the heavens in a positive way. So I really agreed/liked his perspective.

We walked back to the bus station and I was getting really aggravated by this rabbi's negative "prediction".

"What about Hollywood??? What will I do about movies? Does that mean I'll have to watch foreign films for the rest of my life?"

"Yeah" said my friend, "We'll have to do with Bollywood"

"And what about American Idol? And Macy's? And Manhattan??"

God can't be that awful to do such a thing. God is great. I know that.

I continued the conversation. "Well, if it does happen, God forbid, then all the extremist Moslem groups - the Taliban, Al-Qaida and others will jump for joy, thinking that the U.S. was duly punished for its sins. Is that what God wants?"

I tried googling the guy, in Hebrew and English, but didn't come up with a thing. So that was strange in itself. If he were well-known, something would have come up.

This morning, I ran to get the paper to see if the United States was still there. i breathed a sigh of relief. It was.

My husband put things into perspective for me, as he usually does in his grand way.

"You know, this country is the MOTHER of rabbis who are full of shit."

And with that, I say, amen.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Chanukah at Ibrahim's

It's the Festival of Lights time of year – when Israelis overdo the sufganiyot (Chanukah donuts) thing. I had one so far. I'm trying not to overindulge in the deep fried, transfat fest. But what I'm having a hard time doing is juggling all the fun stuff going on this week with the empty nest at home. The first night of Chanukah saw many people rushing home early or at least on time to be with their children to light the first candle of the holiday. Moi? No one was home except for Hubby. The youngest kid was working and my youngest daughter was at the married daughter's house eating those damn sufganiyot and then having the nerve to ask me if I'm bringing more home. NO! I'M NOT! There.

But what I did do was do things a bit different this year. I decided to do funky, unusual Chanukah celebrations, of which there are many this year. Tonight my friend Ibrahim on the Mt. of Olives was hosting a Chanukah party, Winter Solstice celebration, Christmas celebration and end of Eid. How many chances do Jews get to go to their Arab friends' homes to light Chanukah menorahs. Not many. I decided this was it.

I got a ride to Ibrahim's with an African-American Sikh teacher/musician SiriOm Singh and his Israeli wife. I'm sure the Arab cab driver had a tough time figuring out SiriOm with his white turban and white robe. Jewish? Moslem? Indian? Tribal African? We kept him guessing.

Ibrahim's wife had cooked for about 100 people – rice, majjadrah, various cooked vegetables and salads. But we were only about 15 in his cozy living room. Ibrahim told us some funny stories about meeting Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach for the first time in New York City. The Rabbi looked at Ibrahim walking towards him and started breathing in deeply. Ibrahim looks at him strangely. The Rabbi explains "I can always tell when someone is coming from the Holy Land". And he embraced Ibrahim and they became friends.

Another story was they were catching a flight from somewhere in the U.S. to Toronto. Ibrahim and his travel companion, David, both fall asleep in the airport terminal. They wake up and no one is at the gate!! They missed their flight apparently. They are told to wait at another gate standby for another flight soon to leave to Toronto. But then are told that the original plan is coming back for them. Ibrahim was wearing his traditional Arab robes and headdress. He believes they must have mistaken him for some oil sheikh, as the flight attendants were like "who are you? In 13 years of flying, we've never brought a plane back to the gate." He tells the attendants laughing, "who am I? I am a man with no country and no passport. I am NOTHING!" and he bellows out laughing as he tells the story.

Eliyahu came afterwards to light the menorah and tell the story of Chankuah. There were two Chinese and Japanese women there, who didn't know the story.

We went around the room sharing what we all wish for, and chanted and sang along with SiriOm, by the light of the two Chanukah candles which seemed to warm us all up miraculously.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Easy Remedy to Get Rich

Hubby didn't let me sleep. Not on purpose of course, but he was wheezing and coughing and getting up and getting down, taking a shit, and I heard all of it. At one point in the middle of the darkest night, he turns to me and says - ..."I can't breathe. This might be the end. I'm just saying goodbye to you now..." I am not very sympathetic when I'm woken up in the middle of the night and just said a weak "bye" to him and went back to sleep. I thought, well, I'll just bury him in the morning.

Needless to say, he was alive and well and stuffy-nosed at 6:00 am when I did wake up for the day, which ticked me off even more that he had to dramatize his stuffed nose to that point with me. Men.

I wasn't feeling so well myself; seems that I'm coming down with a sore throat but I was glad to be out of the sick house and on my way to a light day at work.

At the bus stop, a woman stopped her car and asked if any of us waiting for a bus would like a lift with her to Jerusalem. Why, sure!! This was quite unusual. People don't often stop for passengers and when they do, it's because someone in the neighborhood is hitchhiking. Not one of us was. So a female soldier got in the front, and a young man got in the back together with me. The driver is playing religious cds. Some rabbi is talking. I figured she got us into the car to proselytize, after all, we are a captive audience. The rabbi was going on about King David the Messiah, and kabbalistic aspects of the Sabbath meals, including the one right after the Sabbath called the Melave Malke (literally translated as "Queen's banquet"). I asked about the CD and the woman turned to me (at a red light, thankfully), and told me that having the 4th meal after the Sabbath is a segulah (spiritual remedy) for wealth. Wow! That's quite an easy feat for me. More meals, more food! Yay! But I thought about this whole thing from the beginning - the circumstances were certainly odd and perhaps part of Divine Providence. Like...
1. Why did she do the unusual thing and stop her car to give us lifts?
2. Why did she specifically focus on "that" part of the cd when she was speaking to me? After all, she wouldn't have known that I could use a few more bucks in my pockets.

But you know what? Adding this one easy thing to my life can't hurt. It's easy. I can do more food. Not a problem. And if I get rich as shit in the next year or so, I'll certainly let you know and then you can all add that special 4th meal after the Sabbath ends... It's certainly cheaper than buying lottery tix.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Creating anti-semites

I was just checking the papers this morning to see whether our Foundation was one of the victims of the Madoff scandal - the guy scammed so many people/banks/institutions of $50b - that I was nervous my paycheck won't come on time, if at all, if it did fall prey to this asshole. Luckily, our Foundation head was clever enough to not be one of his victims. But Hubby and I were like "What the Fuck? How on earth do you 'lose' 50 billion friggin' dollars???" We can't imagine. We only have had the wonderful exhiliarating experience of blowing thousands of dollars - of our own money, though. Then I was thinking of all the non-Jews who, when they read about this, will mutter rather loudly, "that fucking Jew" and unfortunately, they'll be right on about this one. Couldn't he have been another religion, like a Jain or Taoist or Buddhist or some other Eastern non-threatening religion?

Then yesterday afternoon, a crazy bus driver, who should have had his drivers license revoked, killed over 25 Russian tourists by trying to pass another car or some other stupid retarded thing on a mountain curve, during the relatively short ride from the Ovdat airport to Eilat. These people, who had just landed in Israel, were Russian travel agents traveling to Eilat in order to put the lovely resort on their agenda and to bring thousands of Russian tourists to Israel. "Just think about all the Russian anti-semites we just created" said a co-worker to me. We were so angry to read that the bus driver had around 22 traffic violations - even more amazed that he was still employed as a bus driver!! There are so many unemployed people these days who know how to drive well, and this freakhead was still employed. Seems the more infractions you have, the more "experience" you have, and are more likely to be hired by tourist bus agencies.

Like the Egged bus drivers - they get away with murder here, literally. Not enough that around 15 years ago my father's closest friend and his wife had been run over by a bus in Jerusalem, causing the man to lose both legs and the death of his wife. One woman sitting next to me on a bus the other week, complained that one day the bus driver mistook her for a woman he had argued with minutes earlier, so when she went to get out of the bus by the back door, the driver closed the back doors on her for four minutes straight, while the passengers screamed at the driver to open up the doors. She needed some physical rehab after that incident, but with the running around to various medical facilities, she had no energy to continue a lawsuit. That's the case I hear with many people who should really be suing the shit out of these bus companies.

Thank God, there is Hanukkah to look forward to next week, the Festival of Lights, because this is exactly what we need right now.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

What a drag it is getting old....

The gardener came in to the office yesterday with a very cheery "My! Every time I see you, you look younger and younger." Thinking that perhaps he's not getting any from his wife, I looked at his compliment a bit askance. "What is your secret?" he asked. I told him - chocolate. It's gotta be that. It can't really be anything else. Or it could also be the age-deceiving long blond hair that I'm letting grow until it grows out of control, down to my waist, down to the floor - whichever comes first.

Truth is, I was suffering all day from friggin' neck osteoarthritis. I struggled through Arabic class in the morning, where the arthritis pain creeped onto my head and basically throbbed there for the rest of the day.

Early in the evening, I had to go with my daughter and fiancee and Hubby and fiancee's parents and brothers to the wedding hall to sample EVERYTHING on the menu so that the soon-to-be-married couple can choose their wedding menu. They put out 16different salads on the beautifully decorated table, of which the couple had to choose eight. The quinoa was delicious, but it's too freaky/hippy/healthy for my daughter, (and I liked it) so she didn't choose it. I should have told her that I hated it, then she would have given it a second thought. Then came four fish appetizer dishes, which we all passed around the table, of which they had to choose two. Then came around four meat appetizer dishes, quite unusual ones at that, and I was reluctant to tell her what I liked. Then three chicken main meal and three meat main meal dishes of which they would have to choose one of each. The older brother was like "what about the vegetarians?" The groom said, "Vegetarians? If they want to eat leaves, they could eat those," he said, pointing to the extravagant flower arrangement on the table.

Meanwhile, I had popped two neurophen tablets into my mouth at the onset of the meal because of my neck pain and I was truly trying to enjoy the food. I don't know whether it was the food, company or excitement, or the neurophen, but the pain lessened quite a bit and I thought of why I had this pain in the neck to begin with.

I remember on Saturday night, my son had downloaded for Hubby all his heavy metal favorite tunes - Alice Kooper, Kiss, Guns and Roses. I ran into my son's room like a rock star and danced and pranced, shaking my head all over the place, like I was some heavy metal goon. Of course I thought nothing of it. Until Sunday evening, when the pain kicked in. And I thought - hey. I'm so limited. Dancing, prancing, jumping up and down for joy, running for the bus are only things young people can do. Not me. Not anymore. And it's a bit of a drag, isn't it?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Words

I got this hysterical email from a friend. I also figured what a great way to teach a foreigner you don't like, a little bit of English!

"Once again, The Washington Post has published the*winning submissions to its yearly contest,in which readers are asked to supply alternate meanings*for common words.

The winners are:

1. Coffee (n.) the person upon whom one coughs.
2. Flabbergasted (adj.) appalled over how much weight you have gained.
3. Abdicate (v.) to give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.
4. Esplanade (v.) to attempt an explanation while drunk.
5. Willy-nilly (adj.) impotent.
6. Negligent (adj.) describes a condition in which you absent-mindedly answer the door in your nightgown.
7. Lymph (v.) to walk with a lisp.
8. Gargoyle (n.) olive-flavored mouthwash.
9. Flatulence (n.) emergency vehicle that picks you up after you are run over by a steamroller.
10. Balderdash (n.) a rapidly receding hairline.
11. Testicle (n.) a humorous question on an exam.
12. Rectitude (n.) the formal, dignified bearing adopted by proctologists.
13. Pokemon (n) a Rastafarian proctologist.
14. Oyster (n.) a person who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddishisms.
15. Frisbeetarianism (n.) (back by popular demand): The belief that, when you die, your Soul flies up onto the roof and gets stuck there.
16. Circumvent (n.) an opening in the front of boxer shorts worn by Jewish men."

And then I came up with two of my own - since I'm such a genius.

1. Gallbladder - the nerve of being incontinent
2. Paypal - paying the Vatican for the chance to become Pope.

Since English is not my son's first language any longer, I was trying to guess which city he was talking about, when he was telling me about the basketball games from the U.S he was watching on tv.

Scaraminto??? It took me a few minutes to realize he was talking about Sacramento. Sheesh. Foreigners!

My Arabic lessons are going well. It's a hard language but I have my fave words there too...

1) Daiman = always; but it sounds like "diamond"
2) Shitta = rainy; yup, rainy weather is shitta weather for sure
3) Moustashfa = hospital; but it sounds like moustache so it's easy to remember
4) mumkin = possible; it's a fun word because it sounds like pumpkin or munchkin.

That's all the words I have to day today, folks.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Just Chillin'

I could have danced all night...I could have gone to the Kagan's Jewish Renewal Minyan on Friday night and stayed over at a friend's in Jerusalem, I could have gone to Jerusalem Saturday night to see a friend's comedy show, I could have gone to pay a solidarity visit to Palestinians in Hebron on Saturday who were victims of Jewish violence, I could have gone to see Irish music Saturday night, if I had 50 shekels to spend on entertainment, but with being overwhelmed with all this stuff to do and no money to do the stuff that costs money, I decided to just stay home and do the traditional dinner with the family. The 2nd oldest daughter, who lives with her fiancee's family, is always at our home Friday night and promises she'll bring the kids too after they're married every Friday night. Unlike my eldest daughter who is always at her mother-in-law's home every weekend.

After the meal, my daughter and I haggled over songs for her slow dance at her upcoming wedding. Her fiancee wants Elvis' Love Me Tender (which I thought was wonderful), and my suggestions of the Beatles' "And I Love Her" and what I thought was oh-so-cool songs from Nat King Cole, like "Unforgettable" or Etta James, "At Last" brought a lot of "OH MOMs!!!" from her. I give up. She's not a music maven and, to her, classic music is music from the eighties. She didn't make me shut off YouTube,however, when I played her Dusty Springfield's "The Look of Love". Maybe, just maybe, she'll let the DJ play that one. For me.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Hi Sexy

"Hi Sexy" popped this message on my Facebook instant messenger. I was quite taken aback and wondered if one of my kids was online. My Facebook is pretty much an Arab/Jewish get together. There are religious and secular Jews that I accepted, some of whom I don't know, and there are many Arab names on my Facebook as well - many of whom I know, but then again, there is a good percentage who somehow found me, and we have no friends in common. But I accepted them because..

1. I want everyone to get together and have a good time and get to know one another
2. Maybe they'll start dialoguing
3. Maybe they'll see all the wonderful Jews doing interfaith/peace work on my Facebook and see that we're not such terrible people after all.

But I wasn't prepared for "Hi Sexy" and wrote him back. The guy was from Kuwait, it turns out and probably was looking for some foreign tail. Too bad he got me.

"No one's called me sexy in at least 10 years, and I'm sure I'm old enough to be your mother" I retorted.

He writes me "Ha! I'm 31"

I write him - "Ha Ha!! I'm 53. So I AM old enough to be your mother."

So he continued to message me, but with more respect this time, and told me he's originally from Lebanon and he hates Hizbullah because they ruined his country. Sounds like a good guy.

I get a Jordanian messaging me yesterday. He wants to know if I could visit him in Jordan, and blesses me with a good Eid Al Adha season and Allah should be good to me and all that. I bless him back, but don't take him up on the invite to visit him in Jordan - unless I can come with my entire family and converge on his house.

My daughter just got a computer and is into Facebook now - all her very religious in-laws are asking me to accept them as a friend.

I laughed with her this morning. "What will they think when they see all these Arab names on my Facebook?"

"Oh my God - Mom!" The truth has to come out sooner or later, I tell her.

I also tell her about the "Hi Sexy" man from Kuwait and she has a good laugh. And I feel so young again.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Just waiting and waiting...and waiting

I'm waiting for a whole shitload of things.

1. Like the messiah. I spent most of last week feeling terribly depressed over the terrorist murders of the Holtzberg couple in Mumbai, India, leaving their two-year-old son orphaned. I even took a look at a video of the memorial service where the kid was screaming for his mother, and I burst into tears at work. What kind of revenge did their family want? Not a revenge with weapons. But that there should be MORE light in this world. And I cried again at the wonderful-ness that is Chabad. What Jewish-affiliated person doesn't look for a Chabad house when they are traveling anywhere in the world? Entering a Chabad house is like coming home to familiar surroundings and sitting in a warm living room, lit up with a beautiful fireplace, while the snow is raging down outside. I remember going to Florida with my husband once and we needed a babysitter. We called up the local Chabad, who got us in touch with a family of 12 daughters, the eldest of whom would be our babysitter. Needless to say, she was great with our daughter. I almost stayed with Chabad in New Delhi on Friday night, but decided instead to see the authentic local synagogue and see how real Jewish Indians bring in the Sabbath. But I knew that I can always rely on Chabad, if need be, anywhere in the world.

2. For the rain - The country is desperately in need of a washing up. There hasn't been any rain in weeks. Although I don't have shoes/boots for the rain, I'll risk having soaked socks for the health of the land. But it's cloudy out now and I think the rain will come today.

3. For hubby to start work - Those days/weeks in-between jobs are agonizing for him, as they are for me. That usually means lack of money for things like...food and other sundry items. Fortunately, I'm doing after-hours work so we can manage for food, but it means me coming home at 9:00 pm or even later. Only then do I start cooking and only at 10:00 pm do we eat. I try to imagine that we're not in Israel and that I'm in Spain or some other place, where it's the norm to eat supper so late. And those inbetween days brings out the worst in hubby's moods. Last weekend we were invited to a bar mitzvah at a synagogue about a 40-minute walk from our home. I don't remember the last time Hubs stepped foot into a shul - he hadn't even for the high holy days. But he sat around while I stuffed my mouth full of the delicacies laid out on several tables after the service, and muttered things to me like "there's nothing here in this synagogue..." and was about to hurl more insults at the synagogue and its congregants when I noticed the rabbi's wife standing near us. I shushed him loudly and he got insulted and walked away. As we were walking home, he continues his tirade against everything in and not in his life. I hear footsteps in back of me. Someone was walking behind me, but I didn't really care, I had just HAD it with that complaining man and I said something like "You are just such a FUCKING MISERABLE MAN, AND I HATE BEING WITH YOU WHEN YOU'RE LIKE THIS." And the person whose footsteps I heard, walked passed us. It was our friendly bank manager. I smiled sweetly at her, wished her a good Sabbath and wondered if she heard our spat.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Old Friends

A big highlight of this past week was seeing a friend whom I hadn't seen in about 28 years. She and I had gone to a very ultra-orthodox Jewish elementary school in the Bronx - she being the class wiz and I being the "daydreamer who could do better." I did actually fall asleep one day in ancient and boring Mrs. O'Neill's class (the school had occasionally hired gentile teachers) and my classmates never let me forget it. During high school this friend and I remained close friends, going to Rye Beach on warm summer Sundays and spending Saturdays at each other's house, playing Monopoly and Risk, singing Motown and Beatles with her other 4 sisters in her livingroom. After high school we both began to drift away from religion, hiding from our families the fact that we were starting to listen to the radio on Saturdays while our parents were praying in synagogue, and gently easing into non-kosher food. She had non-Jewish male admirers while in college, who called her on the phone (pre-cellphone days) and if her father answered, he angrily told them never to call again because Hitler had already killed 6 million Jews. Her dad also blamed her not being religious for the 1977 New York City blackout. Our dads were so similar. While I decided to chuck college for the work force directly out of high school, she continued on from college to NYU Law School, and had me room with her during the summer of 1977 while her roommate was away. Imagine being 21 and living in Greenwich Village. We had a fantastic time. I don't remember too much other than trying to fry up bacon for the first time in her dorm flat, putting way too much oil in the pan, and wondering why the oil nearly overflowed!!She had graduated tops in her class and had every law firm asking her to join them. She moved out to LA in 1979 with her Italian boyfriend - whom she married 9 years later - secretly. But for the past 8 years he was no longer a secret to her family.

One thing we had most in common was music. I had worked for Sire Records in NYC and had access to many shows, but we both had gone to the Concert for Bangladesh for our first concert ever and were hooked on bands. We had been heavily into Beatles - she, since 1964 and me since 1968 - her sister having gone to Shea Stadium in 1966. She had never stopped going to concerts and has seen everyone in concert throughout the years, paying at times top price for the unusual once-in-a-lifetime venues. I, on the other hand, had become ultra-orthodox and had stopped concert-going in 1983. Then by making aliyah to Israel I didn't have the access to the bands as she had. Big names and more interesting nostalgic ones (Marianne Faithfull, Iggy Pop) started coming to Israel but I didn't always have the bucks to see them.

I took two days off work to tour around Jerusalem with her and her husband. I was nervous with all the rail construction going on, making Jerusalem look like a war zone. I wanted to show her Jerusalem the Golden, the beautiful, and not Jerusalem the Dump.

I wondered what would happen after 28 years of hardly being in touch. Would it be like old times?? It was really exciting to meet up with her again and was glad I found her through googling one of her sisters about 5 years ago who, in turn, gave me her email address.

We toured the kotel, the churches at Gethsemene at the foot of the Mt. of Olives, they went to the Temple Mount while I stayed behind with her laptop (they weren't going to allow anyone in with laptops so I volunteered to stay behind), trudging through the Cardo of the Jewish Quarter and on to the Christian Quarter to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, me pointing out to them the Holy Stone where Jesus' body lay after his crucifixion. The beggars by the Kotel were restrained, they sat in their chairs and asked for money; the taxi drivers were more aggressive,offering to drive us to the Mt. of Olives and Bethlehem for $80 - $100.

From the Church we walked down Via Dolorosa and out Damascus Gate, stopping at Jafar bakery for a quick knafe fix for me. Next stop was Meah Shearim, where I quickly put on a skirt over my pants to not irritate the locals with my "immodest" dress. She thought the Aharoni Chassidim with their striped overcoats quaint enough to photograph, and thankfully no one protested.

We had dinner at Bachatzer, a hip new eatery in the old train station depot where many bars and restaurants recently appeared, meeting another elementary school classmate of ours. I brought my 1969 yearbook and they laughed as I told them what my husband said - "I'd never get an erection looking at the girls in that book." We were a pretty ugly lot back then - my friend, with her short hair and Elvis Costello glasses and me with my short unruly hair, no makeup and goofy face.

Next day we took a cab from their hotel to the Kotel. I had wanted them to see the City of David, since it was a new attraction, and because I wanted to even out all the churches with something Jewish. Our cab driver was an Arab from the Mt. of Olives, who began talking with me in Hebrew. I told him about my interfaith group that meets in my house. He really didn't believe that such a thing like this would exist, especially in my community of Maaleh Adumim, until we passed Jaffa Gate and I shouted out a friendly "Hi" to my friend Ismail who was in front of his office. He then said "I'm taking you to the Mt. of Olives on me. It will be the same price as your trip to the kotel." He was so excited about my interfaith group,especially when I told him I have more respect for Islam as a result of our meetings...and he called up an Israeli Jewish friend of his to let her know and that they will join us beginning next month. My friend looked at me as if to say "shall we trust this guy?" and I smiled and said this is how welcoming Arabs are if they feel that they are being respected and heard. True to his word, his taxi climbed up the Mt. of Olives, he got out to buy some orange juice for all of us, and took us to the observation point in front of the Seven Arches Hotel.

My friends weren't impressed with the City of David - just stones - they said. We laughed at the irony of not many things Jewish to show them other than the Jewish Quarter/Kotel and Meah Shearim, while there were many more beautiful churches we seemed to pass by and take a peek at. The day continued with me showing them the new outdoor Mamilla Mall, which they liked as compared to the kitschy fancy mall in Herzliya, the quaint shops on Yoel Ben Solomon Street, back to the old city for some shopping and then to show them the Jerusalem Hotel, part of the wall of biblical Jerusalem by the East Jerusalem gas station, and the American Colony Hotel - stuff most people wouldn't usually see in that part of town.

By the end of the day, my legs were sore from two full days of walking. Unfortunately, my apartment has no bath, just a shower so I couldn't soak my sore feet. It didn't really matter though. I was just so happy to see a good long-lost friend again, to catch up on 28 years of life with her and pleased that it had ended with a nice dinner where Hubby had reneged on his vow not to go anywhere but his grave - he actually did show up for dinner and got on well with her husband.

I had taken them away from downtown Jerusalem, trying to avoid the ugly downtown areas. They loved the Old City and said this was the "real Jerusalem". Thank God they loved it and want to return one day. I feel I've done my job well when showing people around Jerusalem and they end up loving it and want to come back.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Light (or not) unto the Nations

We Jews have this tremendous yoke to carry. I try to take this "light unto the nations" bit quite seriously. And it depresses me when I read in the papers about the "thanks" certain people are getting for helping our country. For example, most recently I read that the State of Israel is about to raze a mosque that a Beduin IDF reservist built in an unrecognized Beduin village of Wadi el-Naam. It is build out of mud and straw and is an environmentally friendly structure. Could you imagine the outcry if a synagogue was about to be razed? The guy who built it served in the IDF from the age of 18 - 27. Now he says he wouldn't allow his son to serve in the army, and I don't blame him.

Then there is the Christian Larsen family from Denmark who moved to the Arava 13 years ago. One of their children established Desert Peace Hikes which bring together youth at risk and young people from various institutions, neglected kids basically, and take them for survival and bonding hikes in the desert. But after Sukkot the couple went to Turkey and was refused entry on the way back into Israel. The immigration police didn't provide any explanation why they were refused entry and the couple received humiliating treatment at the detention center with an official saying "she didn't care what they did" and they had to leave the country,which they did eventually. One of the officers said to them at the detention center cell, "here you'll do what I tell you or I'll make you suffer - a lot".

I ask - is this how we are a light unto the nations? I want to cry when I think how fucked up we are.

Then there's the religious infighting. Yaakov Litzman, an ultra-orthodox member of parliament showed up at a family celebration and someone threw kugel at him. That was pretty funny, at the same time as it was sad, I must admit, and I told Hubby if they were really pissed off at him, they should have thrown a more messier cholent at him instead.

And the settlers in Hebron have once again vandalized a Moslem cemetery and have written "Mohammad is a pig" graffiti on a mosque wall. Some Light we are.

But I also saw that the Breslov Hassidim put in a full page ad for bringing Rabbi Nachman's body to Israel to Jerusalem, which they hope will bring peace to our city, unite our peoples in the knowledge of God, and make us a prosperous nation as a result of this inevitable peace between us all.

And my friend Eliyahu had an interfaith Shabbat this weekend, because included in the Torah portion of the week is the story that Isaac and Ishmael both came together in the end to bury their beloved father Abraham. I was stuck at home in Maaleh Adumim this Friday night and couldn't attend, but was happy nontheless that I do see a spark of light at the end of this awfully long dark tunnel.

Monday, November 17, 2008

No Laughing Matters

The reason I am so attracted to Laughter Yoga is that you laugh at everyone and everything, no matter how terrible the situation. The exercises we do are, for example, to open up a Visa bill or a phone bill, look at it and laugh hysterically. I also learned how to laugh hysterically as we pretended we were running through an airport and were about to miss our flight.



So I get into occasional trouble when I now laugh at just about anything. I didn't know what kind of lawyer my girlfriend's husband was. She told me. It wasn't funny or anything. He was an immigration lawyer. But I broke into a wide grin as she told me and her response was,

"Well, don't laugh, it pays the bills!"

Of course it does, honey, and this wasn't a smarmy smile, but a smile that is pasted on my face, no matter who tells me what.

I came back from my enchanted weekend in Jerusalem, to find Hubby sitting on the couch watching t.v. He wanted to express how different we were, that maybe we were growing too much apart. But the only way he could do it was to tell me one thing, very solemnly, a few minutes after I walked in.

"The only trip I'm going on is to the grave."

I howled with laughter. That is pretty fucking funny. Yet another person besides the ex-mayorial candidate Porush who doesn't know the meaning of the word "fun."

He was astounded by my laughter, which lasted a good 5 minutes.

But last night I went to my debtor's anonymous meeting and sat with my sponsor afterwards for serious, deep Step One work. It was difficult for me to come up with things I feel as I relate to money, but I wrote them down, one by one. I found myself serious, unsmiling, close to tears as I recalled all my hardships around money. In front of her I tore up one of my credit cards, so I won't ever buy a shitload of makeup on 12 payments. I showed her all the stuff I thought had to be paid this week. Visa was hassling me by calling me every few days and I promised to pay them the balance on Thursday, even thinking of postponing my daughter's dentist appointment because I couldn't do both financially.

My sponsor wasn't laughing. She was horrified.

"You mean to tell me that you will put creditors over your own daughter's health?"

"But these creditors are so frightening over the phone."

"Can you screen the calls?"

"You mean not take the calls from creditors? Won't these people write me lawyers' letters?"

She told me if I even pay them a small amount each month, they won't bother to have lawyers running after me.

And I went away from that meeting, sad that I would even put all those damn creditors ahead of my kids' needs and needs such as food, but was beginning to feel a bit empowered that I didn't have to take harassing phone calls from creditors, and that if I did take their calls, I could tell them to call me next week, or that I can't talk now. All those things I thought I couldn't do, because I wanted to placate them so badly. And leave my kids by the wayside. And that realization was no laughing matter.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Magical Minyan and other weekend stories

1. These past few weeks I have been going steadily to my debtors anonymous meeting in Jerusalem. Being that all things money related either make me ridiculously giddy or terribly anxiety-ridden, I thought it was time to get back to that protective cocoon of a support group, get a guardian angel sponsor who will walk me through the frightening things like not opening up mail from the bank, or not checking the checking account and start some real 12 step work so I can feel grateful with what I have and with what I get and with that appreciation the abundance/miracles with money comes. I already feel 50% relieved at knowing that there is help out there and up there with the Higher Power's power.

2. Thursday evening I went to the gravesite of the singing rabbi, Shlomo Carlebach as it was the anniversary of his death. There was something very mystical about being at a gravesite at night. It wasn't frightening as gravesites are imagined to be during the evening. The moon peeked through the clouds and lit up the tombstones beautifully. We walked over to where there was a tent set up among the graves near Rav Shlomo's grave and where the musicians had already gathered. They were reciting Psalms to his music, and there was a magical feel to it. The man singing sounded eerily much like the late Rabbi.

Until my cellphone rang and disturbed my peace.

Hubby: "I gave my key to Daughter #4. Now I'm locked out of the house. WHEN ARE YOU COMING HOME??"

Me: "Um. Well, I'm in the middle of a cemetery right now, and there aren't any buses going here at night. And if there were, they are only once an hour. So, why don't you go down to our married daughter's house. She's only 5 minutes away."

Click.

30 seconds later. Another ring. I put my phone on vibrate so not to disturb the others around me who were singing along with the music.

"WHEN ARE YOU COMING HOME???"

"Why aren't you at our daughter's home?"

"I'm NOT Going!! I'm gonna wait outside for 4 hours until you get here."

"That's your choice then."

Click.

30 seconds later.

"What's 4th Daughter's number. I don't have it. I gave her the key and I want her to come home now!"

"Why don't you go to our daughter's home?"

"When are you coming home?"

Click.

30 seconds later.

My 4th daughter calls.

"He's driving me crazy! Every 2 seconds he's calling me and he says he'll pay for my taxi back and give me money."

Me: "WHAT!!! Then we'll only have 100 shekels ($25) for food for Shabbat. Don't do it. Don't take his calls."

"OK mom"

Click.

The phone keeps buzzing and I refuse to answer. I want to enjoy the little time I have with a Rabbi who gave so much joy to so many people. I spotted a friend in the back of the crowd and caught up on things with her. A woman came over to us and announced that she knew Shlomo all her life. We smiled at her. It's nice to know people who have known him well. I had known him just a bit. She continued, "I travel around the world singing his songs." Lovely, we thought. "And you're talking is really disturbing to me." OY. We saw her standing by herself quite a ways behind where everyone else was standing, and didn't believe our voices carried over that much, as the music was quite loud. But as I was being disturbed throughout the gathering, I unintentionally disturbed someone else. Karma is karma.

I found out that Hubby eventually trudged 5 minutes to my daughter's home, and my 2nd daughter came by just by chance and had a key for him. Don't you love happy endings?

3. Nava Tehilla, the Jewish Renewal minyan had its Friday night services. It's so much like the mythical town of Brigadoon, a movie I used to watch with my favorite aunt when I was a kid - about a Scottish town that appears once every 100 years. Thank G-d I don't have to wait 100 years - this service appears once every month. And when it does, it's a wonderful mystical spiritual connection to God. I arrived there late, as usual, and a friend I went to elementary school with (Bais Yaakov, an ultra-orthodox school), ran over to greet me. It was almost like a two people taking the same tab of acid, but one has a bad trip and one is in heaven. She was having a bad trip and couldn't deal with the guitars, darboukas and violins during the service. She went upstairs to the Reform synagogue, Kol Haneshama, and said it was like an Orthodox service compared to this. Well, I wanted to jump right into the service. There was one seat left - next to a nun, dressed in white. She was French and had the most angelic face. She had a siddur (prayer book), and I did not. Ironic, non? I helped her find the place in the book, and she was grateful, planting two kisses on my cheeks after the service.

Afterwards, we had the usual pot luck dinner. I was nervous that people would hate what I brought - soba noodles, bean sprouts with arame seaweed, but I saw that everyone ate it, and I was relieved. It seemed like many people put their souls into the food they brought, as everything tasted wonderful, and it was different from last month's food. I had a craving for pomegrantes and after dinner they appeared on the table for dessert. God is good. The music after dinner was as enchanting as it was during the service - someone came in with an Indian instrument and played some Indian music to Hebrew lyrics. There was a Indian teacher there with cascading long grey hair and a beautiful face. She took the instrument and sang in Hindi. I closed my eyes and I was on a different plane or planet or dimension. This was another evening of "who needs drugs when you have this".

I was happy to see Ibrahim from the Mt. of Olives there and we sat down to talk. He was having trouble with the Israeli authorities who, like I wrote about earlier, don't give Palestinians permits to build, and threatened to demolish his house. He was able to defer the court date several times, and hopefully he has a decent lawyer. But no matter, even a lawyer doesn't help in cases such as these. He needs help from Above on this and support from the people down below. It did put a damper on my evening, but he was so joyous that evening, even while going through all this hassle, that it put me right back on the happy path.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Study Tour of Jerusalem by Ir Amim

I saw an ad in Hebrew during the holidays in the Jerusalem Post from Ir Amim , promoting their study tours of East Jerusalem. First I wrote to them asking why they put a Hebrew ad in an English newspaper, when the Post readers obviously don't want to deal with reading Hebrew in any way/shape/form - and then I signed up for their free study tour about three weeks ago one Friday morning.

The tour lasted about four hours, taking us to the southernmost part of Gilo, overlooking Beit Jalah, El Khader and Bethlehem, then driving past Har Homa through Sur Baher and Jabel Mukaber...



A tree grows in Sur Baher

We saw the new Jewish housing built right at the edge of Jabel Mukaber. The ads for this project, Nof Zion, say nothing of it being right at the edge of this town! But it is touted as luxurious living.


The spiffy Jewish neighborhood of Nof Zion at the edge of Jabel Mukaber.

Then on to the wall which divides the neighborhood of Abu Dis - cutting right through it.







Then to French Hill/Issawiya overlooking the disputed E1 area.

Some of the things I found out from Ir Amim were:

1. There are 10,000 Arab children not registered in schools (due to lack of space). There is a lack of 1,500 classrooms that the Jerusalem municipality failed to provide. Therefore, many classes take place in private homes/apartments and often Hamas and the Islamic Trust provide schooling, being that the Jerusalem municipality doesn't. Support for these extremist groups is growing in these East Jerusalem neighborhoods, as a result.

2. Neighborhoods in East Jerusalem do not have zoning plans, so most homes are illegal and prone for demolition (as high as over 90%!). When families expand, what can they do? Where can they go? So they: a) build illegally; b) live in one house all together, causing overcrowding.

3. East Jerusalem Arabs DO pay their municipal taxes (many Israelis believe they don't). This is a way to prove Jerusalem residency. If they do not pay taxes, or leave Jerusalem, after seven years they may lose their residency rights.

4. There is a lack of playgrounds and parks throughout East Jerusalem. In fact, I hadn't seen one playground or park the entire trip, unlike West Jerusalem, where they are in abundance. Garbage collection is not supplied by the Jerusalem municipality.

5. Black water tanks on rooftops were pointed out to us. People get their water supply independently. The Jerusalem municipality doesn't supply water for them, so they have to bring it in privately. Garbage collection is also not supplied by the municipality.

6. Seeing the wall that divides Abu Dis from Jerusalem mid-neighborhood, we were asked if the people that live behind the wall are any more dangerous than the people living in front of the wall. Being that the last two Jerusalem terrorists lived in front of the wall and not behind it, does it mean the people are even more dangerous behind this wall? Many people, because of lack of housing in Jerusalem, went to live in nearby Abu Dis. They have Jerusalem area residency cards, but have now found themselves behind the wall.

I was happy to see a more recent email with a link to a Haaretz article that 160,000 people living in East Jerusalem will finally be connected to water through the municipality. That's a happy first. Perhaps they'll consider that it's also a good idea to help the children of East Jerusalem get an education. Because if they don't do it, someone else will.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Whose Jerusalem - Ultra Orthodox or secular?

Looks like many secular/traditional/non-ultra-orthodox people breathed a sigh of relief this morning and thanked God (even the secular probably did) that Porush did not win the Jerusalem municipal elections, and welcomed Nir Barkat as mayor.

And I thought of how Jerusalem is supposed to be a City of Gold not an ugly dirty, dingy, city turned upside down by litter and poor city planning. I prayed to God before I went to bed to please, for His sake, let the best guy win (i.e. Barkat) who will hopefully turn this city back into His Golden, gorgeous city.


I can't vote in the elections because I live in the suburbs, but these elections affect me nontheless, as I spend most of my waking hours here, working, playing and eating. I really don't know much about Porush, except that he looks like he doesn't know the meaning of the word "fun."

I cruised by the ultra-orthodox neighborhoods on the bus yesterday afternoon, looking at the filthy neighborhoods, thinking perhaps I would think differently about the typical secular person's fear about ultra-orthodox encroachment, if they would only take a bit of pride in their surroundings, perhaps even consider recycling or something along environmental lines, that doesn't conflict with the Torah. But the ban of having a photo of a woman on a bus ad, we're not even talking scantily-clad women, but even plain looking women, is scary, as is the lack of cultural funding and the tearing down of historical landmarks to make way for luxury housing. I pictured much of Jerusalem looking like B'nai Brak near Tel Aviv, a very ugly city in my mind, with no tourists coming in except to see the sights in the Old City and perhaps Ein Karem in West Jerusalem, no internationals wanting to invest in business here and perhaps Porush would even want the cinemateque closed on the Sabbath. Not to mention the exodus of the bright, young and secular to greener pastures like Tel Aviv and the coast. Those were the many thoughts/fears I had travelling down Strauss Street yesterday afternoon, looking sadly out the window.

I took off work yesterday to work for someone I know would lose in yesterday's elections. I was put to work by Arkadi Gaydamak's party as a mashkif, which is an "observer" in the polling stations. My daughter, who had been happily working for his party for the past couple of weeks, day and night, for a very nice income, gave me this opportunity for the day. I was supposed to be at the Hillel Street experimental school at 7:00 am until 3:00 pm jotting down the numbers listed on the voters' cards. Four of us got there at 7:00 but we didn't have the cards we needed in order for us to be considered "official". We called Gaydamak's office several times to be told "someone will be coming to give them to you." After 1/2 hour, we wandered over to the nearest coffee shop and got to know each other a bit. Not a Russian among us. One was doing her doctorate in Middle Eastern Studies, and another was a warm sephardic woman who insisted the Rebbe of Lubavitch was still alive and well and answering her letters.

We finally got to 'work' at around 9:00 am in separate rooms. There were three other women in the room with me. One was the secretary, who took voters' cards and ID numbers, checked their voting numbers on their voting ticket. I simply highlighted these voting numbers on a numbered sheet, which looked like some sort of advanced bingo sheet and joked if I win anything if the sheet fills up, or I fill in a line or two. There were 976 voters registered to vote in our room and we expected to be busy. But all together only SEVEN people showed up by 3:00 pm. Why? Most of the people on our list were Arabs and stragglers, like students. In fact the people who did show up were foreign-born students who had just made aliyah. The Arabs stupidly boycotted the elections - again. I say "stupidly" because so little of the municipal budget goes to East Jerusalem (I heard about 10%), and they desperately need better infrastructure and more classrooms/schools built. But without voting, I don't think they'll win any prizes or get the things that they need most, and that's a shame. The politicians will continue to ignore this part of the populace as a result.

So what does a person do for hours on end when no one comes to vote? Having never done this before, I thought I'd be busy and would have no time for Sudoku and reading, etc. Our room was an English-language classroom, and I was considering reading all the workbooks, that's how bored I was. I did find one book by Oscar Wilde, which I read in about 1/2 hour. Short stories for young children - The Selfish Giant, The Happy Prince, The Fisherman's Soul, Star Child, etc, which was the highlight of my day.

Meals were given out by everyone's respective parties. The woman next to me was working for Porush. She got two large fluffy rolls, a can of Star Kist tuna salad, vanilla pudding and chocolate milk. I got a lousy omelet sandwich. Others had a hot meat meal.

And I wondered out loud to the people in the room whether, had I been working for Dan Birran (Green Leaf candidate), I would have gotten an organic vegetable salad with nuts and seeds and sprouts - with a few hemp seeds thrown in.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Holy Moly



Walking around Jerusalem with a bandaid above your upper lip causes so many people to flinch. I don't know why. But after an appointment with a dermatologist to get this ridiculous thing off my skin, which appeared on me around 5 years ago or so, I got all these sympathetic looks from people. But no one gave me their seat, so they must not have been too sympathetic. The skin doc during my first initial visit said it was a cosmetic procedure and was about to charge me 500 NIS for it ($140), which I didn't have, but then my family doctor said - hey! let them do a biopsy on it and it'll change from a cosmetic to a medical procedure. He didn't quite "say" it, but wrote a letter about them 'checking' it at a lab.

My co-workers laughed. "Now it'll cost them a lot more than 500 shekels" one of them chuckled. So it will. And that is how things are done right here in the Middle East for little or no money at all.

And speaking of moles and warts and all sorts of ugly things, tomorrow is election day in Jerusalem and other municipalities. My daughter, with her history of assorted eclectic jobs, has been working night and day, day and night for Jerusalem mayorial candidate, Arkady Gaydamak. The rich Russian oligarch. The owner of Jerusalem's soccer team. The one who's Hebrew is on par with Hubby's. The one who built tent cities for refugees of the Galilee during the Second Lebanon War a couple of years ago. And the one who will most probably not get elected.

Anyway, my daughter offered me a one-day stint at the election booths with pay, monitoring the booths so that people don't sneak in twice or three times to vote. Since it's decent pay at 62 NIS ($18) an hour - sure I'll take it. I promptly took a vacation day so I can pay something to those lousy Visa creditors who called me twice because one payment of theirs bounced two days ago. They had no right getting me into a funk with debt anyhow (of course I'm really to blame - I should just tear up the damn cards). And they'll have to wait until I get paid my just Rubles.

Much to my relief, I won't have to wear the scary old bandaid above my lip tomorrow, while I monitor the polling stations in Jerusalem, although with it on, no one would DARE march into the voting booths twice.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Forgiveness

Before Yom Kippur I attended an interfaith seminar on Forgiveness in Islam and Judaism. The room was packed mostly with Pardes students. I heard for the first time a story about the Prophet Mohammad who lived next to a Jewish man who refused to believe the Prophet's words and prophecy. The Jewish neighbor believed that prophecy comes from the Jews alone. He began to antagonize the prophet, throwing garbage in front of the prophet's home (I somehow think the same behavior happens today in some Jerusalem neighborhoods when you have a neighborly spat). Then the prophet noticed that for a few days there was no garbage in front of his home. He wondered what happened and was told that the Jewish man was ill. The prophet visited him and said "you're my neighbor, and I must forgive you, and visit you always." Touching, no?

Now to take this story down a few notches, I'll ask you if I need to forgive Egged buses for making our daily trips into Jerusalem and back somewhat of a nighmare. They already injured me once by spraining my elbow area so bad, I couldn't move my arm for about a week.

Last week the bus driver "forgot" that there was a speed bump in front of him, and sped over it, causing me to be thrown to the floor while attempting to take my seat, banging my knee and thigh on the step up to my seat. Bus driver attempted to hold me down so I wouldn't fly through the front window. At least he was successful in doing that.

After a week, this is the lovely two-and-a-half-inch bruise on my leg. It's now green and yellow, not purple and blue. I guess you can call it an improvement. But the next time, Egged. Watch out. I got a lawyer in the family now. I may not forgive so easily. At least not as easily as the Prophet.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Life just ain't a Fairy tale

It's usually fraught with disappointments. Aside from yesterday's Obama winning, of course. I'll start with these positive moments. I had attended a PeaceXPeace book launch of "60 Years, 60 Voices" featuring a lovely hardcover coffee table book covering the stories of 30 Palestinian and 30 Israeli women. All my peace activist friends were there. One guy there was telling me how the election of Obama is making the entire country friendlier.

"People are happier, everyone's talking to each other in the streets. In fact, I bet in the Palestinian territories, they're handing out sweets right now instead of burning American flags."

I agreed. That was the day's high point.

We laughed about how you can tell who is a Democrat and who is a Republican by the way they dress.

"I'm quite a Democrat then, aren't I?" I asked him. I was wearing straight green pants and a white Indian shirt with a green woolen shawl. Republicans don't wear Indian clothing and hippie green shawls.

But during the day I was very anxious about Hubby not having worked in nearly two months and not having any contingency back up. I'm delaying food shopping until some cash flows in.

And yesterday my son's teacher called me. He was suspended from school for two days because he called the teacher a "zoobie". I had no idea what that meant, so at lunchtime I asked my Israeli co-workers who nearly spit out their drinks when I said "zoobie." I was totally amused. The brave ones informed me that it meant "dick." "He called the teacher a 'dick'", they said.

Then my daughter was in tears because the place where she wanted to get married didn't allow fireworks (sparklers shooting from the floor) and confetti during the traditional secular Jewish wedding slow dance after the wedding ceremony. She was totally in tears.

They did allow bubbles. I told her I thought bubbles blowing around the newlyweds, while the spotlight is on them would be beautiful.

"BUT MOM!!!" she said, her face getting red and splotchy. "The photographs never look good with bubbles. It looks just gorgeous with confetti. Just gorgeous. Now I'm not so sure I want to get married there. I wanted a fairy tale wedding. I wanted everything to look perfect!"

I put my motherly arm around her and explained to her the facts of life.

"Listen sweetie. Life isn't like that. It just isn't perfect, no matter how much you plan, or want it to be. Like when I met your dad, he had a fabulous job. He was only 23 and was a graphic artist earning a great salary. But a few days after our wedding they laid him off, and it's been hell ever since."

I looked at her sadly.

She looked at me, stunned, unbelieving at me, like some young child who had just heard that there really is no Santa Claus and there is no such thing as a tooth fairy.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Home demolitions

I'm always looking for commonalities between Israelis and Palestinians. In strange places. Ironically, both Israeli families and Palestinians could find commonalities in that their homes can be destroyed if built without permits. I wonder if the extremist Federman and Tor families now sympathize with Arabs who also have their homes destroyed in the same fashion theirs was. Oddly, I sympathize with both. It must be devastating, even if I don't agree with the Federman/Tor views, to lose everything you own. Same with the Arab families. It's awful to be made homeless.

Demolition of a Jewish home:


Demolition of a Palestinian home:

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Update fromthe 'burbs

"I'm going shopping with you when you buy a dress for my wedding. I don't want you wearing any freaky (hippie)dress" insisted my bride-to-be daughter.

"OK" I sighed weakly. I can compromise on that. They will probably close a deal this week on some chic, expensive place out of town, in the middle of nowhere, because all the celebrities are getting married there. And so far, I have not saved a cent for this wedding. It's in God's hands. He certainly knows I at least must have some bucks for that upscale dress she's going to want me to wear.

Nonetheless, I must thank God too that there are no color schemes in Israeli weddings. For this I must be eternally grateful.

The night before I had seen the place with her fiancee's parents. His mother is lovely and so good to my daughter, but she thinks me as rather primitive as I only have one pair of shoes and she has 30. I also have never been to her favorite mall in Ramat Aviv, in Tel Aviv. She was opened mouthed with shock as I told her "I've never been." I kid you not. So we decided that I will go to Ramat Aviv for the very first time to buy a dress for the wedding with my daughter in tow.

But because I can't easily pursue material pursuits, the only alternative for me is to pursue spiritual ones. Last weekend was the Jewish Renewal monthly service on Friday night. I was feeling quite antsy back home in the 'burb of Maaleh Adumim, where there is no close spiritual congregation at all, unless I want to join in with the messianic Jews. So off I went for the weekend leaving Hubby and son behind. I dutifully prepared food for them so they wouldn't starve to death, being that they are so - (what's the politically correct word for "stupid"?) - when it comes to opening up the fridge or making a simple rice dish or turning on the oven to cook a chicken. The service last Friday was, as usual, unusual. People dancing barefoot, acoustic instruments being played with a monk from the Latrun monastery on violin. He sure can play some kick-ass klezmer. The weekly Torah portion read that week was the first one of the season - and the first one in the Old Testament - Bereishit (Genesis), and they invited a soon-to-give-birth woman and her partner who the Rabbi blessed for their new beginning.

The next day, I went to visit a daughter of friends for lunch and my brother later that afternoon, who was mortified that I attended a service with guitars and musical accompaniment on the Sabbath, not really caring that I had felt it so spiritually uplifting and, as a result, closer to God with that kind of service. That's how it is with these "ritualistic" Jews who focus more about the "do's and don'ts" of the religion that the soul aspect. And if that wasn't awful enough for him, I had taken my cellphone along in a pouch, which he didn't know about until he made the Havdalah separation) service that is recited to separate the Sabbath from the rest of the week, on Saturday night after nightfall. In the middle of his reciting the blessing, my cell buzzes. He looks up from his prayer book and glares at me for carrying the prohibited cellphone around with me on the Sabbath.

"You should have told him 'at least I didn't take the car to your house'" Hubby said and laughed as I told him the story.

And last night I hosted 24 people from the Compassionate Listening Group at my home for tea and coffee last night after dinner. I had no idea what I was going to talk about to everyone and thought it rather skimpy that I just prepared drinks and not much in the way of treats, though the group leader said they'd bring along snacks, which they did. As their bus veered noisily into the driveway on the quiet Friday night, I went down to meet the group feeling the eyes of 120 families living in our apartment complex who are able to see the bus from their windows, probably wondering what on earth is this crazy woman up to now.

I accompanied the first group to my apartment, telling them not to use the Sabbath elevator and then saw the confused looks. I explained what a Sabbath elevator is, and had to go lightly into the very complex laws of what people do/don't do on this day.

Having seated everyone and feeling wonderful that I was able to fit 24 people comfortably into my living room with borrowed plastic chairs, I began my story starting with my parents fleeing Austria as Jewish refugees before WWII, having been saved by a gentile neighbor and by my mother's brother, fast forwarding to the conflict I had with my parents over religious observance and how hurt they were when I left it, to joining up with Chabad in Toronto when I began my married life, and leaving it after the Rebbe died, my dalliance with the extremist Kahane crowd and leaving that scene for the truth that I finally seemed to find in compassion and understanding of the Other in this country - culminating in the dialogue group I hold monthly between Palestinians and Israelis in my living room. The entire evening was being filmed for I don't know what and where, but it doesn't matter to me.

This was followed by a question and answer forum and I was able to answer everyone, feeling finally that maybe all this peace work I've been doing for years has seasoned me somewhat. Up until yesterday I've always felt this work I do is just a part of me and that it's important, but nothing "that" special. But the guests yesterday seemed to think otherwise and feel that perhaps I should/can take it to the next level. Having no idea what and how, I'll just leave that, as I do with most things, up to God to show me a way.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Every picture tells a story

"There was lots of music around town." a friend told me yesterday about the holiday's entertainment in Jerusalem.

"Really?"

"You usually know what's going on." She seemed surprised at my ignorance. "What happened?"

I don't know what happened this year. Maybe my entertainment radar had gone on the blink. Maybe it was a combination of not having a succah built. Maybe it was having to grovel for money owing my husband from his clients so that I can buy a bus ticket into town. Maybe it was my kids getting angry at me for borrowing food money from them. Maybe it was the frustrated tone in my daughter's voice when I asked her to borrow the car for a local trip in the neighborhood, which would have taken me 1 1/2 hours round trip, had I taken two buses or had I walked.

I went to the parade, I went to a friend's home for coffee, I went to a debtors anonymous meeting that was long overdue for me. But nothing else. I cooked and shopped and cooked and shopped. It was getting tedious.

I had 100 things listed on my To Do list, because I'd have the time on my 8 days off for the holiday. Only one item got done.

I managed to organize all the loose photographs lying unorganizedly around and put them into those tiny photo albums that the photo shops give away to customers who bother printing out photos these days. Almost all are neatly stored away in albums now. Labeled albums. It took me one full day to do it. And these photographs prompted so many memories of a seemingly easier life in Canada. It's all in my head, this easier life, of course. I have pictures of lakes, streams, rivers and beaches and beautiful grassy backyards of Toronto suburbs. I remind myself that we couldn't afford a house or summer away in cottage country or even to buy ourselves a home of our own in Thornhill. Hubby tells me average mortgages are $4,000 these days. It makes my own mortgage of $1,250 much easier to fathom. But life in Canada did seem easier and less anxiety ridden. We seemed to have everything we needed back then.

I sift through the photos and linger on the memory of a particular one.

I looked at photos of me pregnant with my first child, some hideous "frummy" (ultra-orthodox) 'uniforms' of wide skirts and baggy tops that I can't believe I allowed myself to wear, and of a recent photo of me dozing off while holding my sleeping grandson. I grimace at another photo of me and a newly formed double chin. And I was thankful that not all photographs of me show me with this ridiculous looking turkey chin.

I have photos of my daughters' ex-boyfriends. My soldier daughter tells me to throw out the now-embarrassing-to-her photos of her ex-boyfriend. I just throw out the ones of him alone. I keep the ones with him and her together. I made the mistake of throwing out photos of ex-boyfriends when I got engaged and never forgave myself for the missed memories. I told her I'll keep them just for her, if she ever wants a glance 20 years down the road of her life's history and on days like this, with more time on your hands than is necessary, this would be a good memory jolter for her - and she could daydream the day away of the easier life she once had.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Big Fright

I had planned to go to Abed's wedding for a few months, and the time kept getting closer and closer. On Tuesday he called to officially invite me. On Friday, I found out that a close female friend of mine was invited too. I was thrilled because Abed had told me that this was going to be a very traditional Arab wedding. The men and women would be separate. I would not know anyone in the women's section and was happy to have a friend with me.

Meanwhile, over the weekend, the look on my husband's face got drabber and drabber. We discussed this over dinner last night. He was adamant that I should not go. The wedding was going to be in Abu Dis, a Palestinian neighborhood east of Jerusalem, behind the big wall. He told me again over coffee with friends this morning. Our friends told me they'd be frightened to go too.

The fear is so great here of the other that everyone is afraid for their lives. It's unfair. But I can't go by the "talk" of others. Is it true that Arab neighborhoods are dangerous for Jews? Hubby was telling me horrific things that could happen to me over there...I was starting to feel nervous myself.

This is supposed to be a wedding celebration of a close peace associate of mine. I told my husband and children and friends that if it were so dangerous, he'd warn me to stay away because of tensions in the area. This is what had been done in the past when we were supposed to go to Bethlehem one year and there were tensions between our peoples. There are always tensions between our peoples - look at the tension in Acco. But this tension between peoples who more and more I feel are the same is, to me, artificial. It can be zapped away. It's not easy, but I know it can be done.

I was starting to get flutters in my stomach as the time got closer to the wedding because of my family's concerns. It was starting in a couple of hours.

Logistics. How do we get there? Is it safe for Israelis to take their car to Abu Dis? I wrote a few emails to Palestinian friends who live in the area, and my friend wrote some of her friends.

Yes, it's safe to take a car with Israeli license plates. It's Area B in our sectioned-off land which has A,B,C as its sections.

The Israeli man who came with us decided to leave his car in my neighborhood and we took a Palestinian car service recommended by a friend. He said he'll pick us up in 10 minutes. That's 20 minutes in Palestinian time.

We drove up and down a couple of hills until we got to Abu Dis, a large Palestinian university town. We were immediately greeted with smiles, and separated from our male colleague, shown to the women's section. Again. More smiles. We were greeted by Abed's relatives who had never met us before. We were led up to the dancing area by his mother to dance with her. My friend and I seemed to be the only Jewish women there. We noticed Abed's mother could pass for one of our aunts. She looked more Jewish than Arab, we thought, and imagined her cooking up a vat of kreplach soup.

Sitting with all these women, I wondered where does all this fear of the other come from? As different parts of the wedding ceremony were happening, the woman sitting next to me, who treated us like VIPs as soon as we walked in, gave me a running commentary in Arabic, which I understood only a few words. I picked up a couple of new Arabic words from her which I believed were - aris (bride) and aroos (groom). I was quite pleased with myself to have guessed what those words meant.

When the men came in, the women who weren't covered up to begin with, covered up their bare arms and hair. The men lined up to greet the groom and many gave him money. There were necklaces of dollar bills put around the groom and bride. Then the bride and groom cut the many tiered wedding cake with what looked like an antique ceremonial dagger.

My friend commented that this wasn't an Arabic cake. Yeah, it's more Jewish than Arabic, I told her. It was sponge cake with coconut frosting. Kiddush cake. Two wine glasses were filled with Coca Cola for the bride and groom to give a toast to each other.

It could have very well been a Jewish wedding in an ultra-orthodox wedding hall. They also have separate rooms for men and women for dancing.

And I wondered again, where the fear of the other comes from. Are our respective societies feeding each other lies about one another so that we can't become close?

And I thanked God for taking fear out of my heart and so being able to have an opportunity to see a traditional Arab wedding in a Palestinian village and to mingle and dance together with the women guests.

Grateful

OK - it's time to feel grateful. Of course I may feel differently tomorrow, but I downloaded some photos from September and October's stuff I did/saw, and it wasn't all that terrible. So I look at these pics and feel grateful to see what I did.






Over 7,000 Christian pilgrims came to Israel for the Feast of Tabernacles - Sukkot holiday. They gave candy to the little kids. My son and daughter came with me, hoping to get a loot bag full of sweets, but the marchers seemed to only give to the little ones. My son felt first-hand how painful it is to grow up. I mean, he's growing a beard for frig's sake!! He's no longer at the "cutie" stage. People will no longer pinch his cheeks and give him sweets. Except for his mother.

But luckily we saw an abandoned pile of candies left by an Ultra Orthodox kid who probably left it because the candies weren't kosher. Wouldn't you know it. We piled the stuff into my purse quicker than ice melting in 1,000 degree heat.




Babysitting the grandkid.



Interfaith Iftar celebration in Jerusalem







Jaffa beachfront



Work trip to the Galilee and at the end of the day we had a kosher Druze meal at Usifiya. Unusual and wonderful food.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Welcome to My Pity Party

It's a new year. I know I'm supposed to be grateful and all that shit. But it's hard. Tonight is the first night of Sukkot. No Sukkah. Well, no money, no sukkah. We tried to sell our old one - the one that doesn't fit - a bit too late. Like yesterday. Of course, there were no takers. Well, there was one potential one, but he couldn't get a car in to take the thing, so now the money we thought we'd get from the sale is gone.

I try to see the good in my life, and there are lots of gifts I am privileged to see. I did get to see Paul McCartney in concert because Hubby was working that month and tickets were affordable then. And I knew I would have regretted not going if I had a chance and didn't take it. But that now seems like so long ago.

One such gift came on Saturday when my daughter and future son-in-law decided to take me for an impromptu ride to Tel Aviv and Jaffa and I swished my feet in the warm water up to my knees, marveling at the still peaceful mixed Arab/Jewish city of Jaffa. Later that evening friends of mine from England, a couple, one Jewish, one not, took Hubby and I out for dinner. Two treats in a row. I laughed as we passed by the edge of Meah Shearim and the non-Jewish guy took triple takes at the striped coats and fur hats of the Hassidim. My husband shouted at them.

"He likes what you're wearing."

I was like - "Are you crazy??? Want them to throw rocks at you??"

I thought being taken out twice that day was a sign of good things to come. I really did. Earlier that morning a white dove landed on our porch. It didn't want to fly away. I thought it was injured. I fed it and gave it water. I was told they bring good luck. It did fly away a few hours later. I thought it was more than a coincidence when the calls came in for restless me to go to Tel Aviv and meet up with good friends later that evening. Just when I needed it.

But Hubby is in renovations and Jews don't renovate or paint during the month-long holiday season. Just when you need cash the most. Every three days or so there's another festive meal, and I'm weary of writing post-dated checks to the supermarket, not knowing if my bank will honor them. It's totally frightening.

I wonder how on earth do people "make it" here?? How is it that people have what they need? And some don't. Is it soup kitchen time for us, I thought as I looked at my 1,000 NIS ($300) electric bill that just came in?

My co-workers were joking with me telling me I must be thrilled that I have no savings or investments because I didn't lose any money in the financial crisis that seems to be happening all over the place. My boss told me it's the poor's turn to laugh at the rich. But I'd love to have had $10 million and if I'd lost half, I'd still have $5 million or so. It's not worth hanging yourself over that, is it?

Sunday I got a call from the dentist. Hubby had work done over a year ago and the 2,000 NIS bill is still outstanding. This wasn't the first call made to us either. And the calls from that office began to increase to every other day since the beginning of the new year. I put a stop to it by going into their office and writing 4 more post-dated checks.

"Can't I write 12 checks?" I asked.

"No more than 4, please. It's been outstanding for over a year" she reminded me, though she didn't have to.

"How will I cover them?" I asked her. She was a young ultra-orthdox receptionist.

"With God's help" she smiled at me.

Yup. With God's help. I mused that mantra over and over again as I rode home on the bus with an acquaintance, telling her a bit of how stressed I am, but not telling her the entire story. I told her how I saw in the newspaper that studio apartments in Manhattan are renting for $3,500 a month. I once had a one-bedroom apartment in a brownstone in Manhattan's upper west side, just off Central Park West.

"Had I just had some foresight, I would have just sublet the place forever." I thought of the $6,000 monthly easy money I could have gotten, easing our financial burden. But I had given up the place in 1983 when I decided, foolishly, to move to Toronto because Toronto seemed a less scary place to raise children. Had I looked into my crystal ball, I would have seen Giuliani making a safe place in New York to raise children, plus making people who already owned apartments there, quite happy.

My friend pointed out the window of the bus "But look. Now you're HERE and look what you got instead!" I looked out the window at Bar Ilan Street. It was pre-holiday madness, with crowds of Ultra-Orthodox Jews all wearing the same thing and boxes and paper littering the streets.

"Yeah, blue plaid skirts" I commented, looking at the "uniform" the women seemed to all be wearing.

The friend laughed.

I went shopping again for the holiday and wrote another post-dated check. My heart is in my stomach by now. I'll cover it with God's help. Right? I'll need to go again on Friday. Never mind all the stuff going on during the holiday. It depresses me to read the paper and see all the sukkot events. I can't do any of it. I can get into town twice. I have a bus card with a few more "clicks" left. But that's about it. Maybe I'll go to the Jerusalem parade with my son so the Christian Zionists can ply us with the candies they bring to give to the Jewish children that line the parade route. Maybe I'll go to the interfaith Sukkah party on Tuesday night. Maybe I'll go with my messianic friends to their picnic next week - they said they'll drive us. These things are all free.



And then I saw that dove again today. I shook my head at it sadly and told it "You're supposed to bring good luck. Where is it?" and I closed the porch door because I didn't want to see the bird of false promises and hopes.

Monday, October 06, 2008

a funny

someone just sent me this joke about the weather---



In deference to The Archbishop of Canterbury and The Royal Commission for Political Correctness, it was announced today that the local climate in the UK should no longer be referred to as ''English Weather.' Rather than offend a sizeable portion of the population, it will now be referred to as 'Muslim Weather.' In other words - partly Sunni, but mostly Shi'ite.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Jews to Blame



fucking hilarious

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Look who's moving into the neighborhood

On the eve of Rosh Hashana I walked around the neighborhood, doing last minute things like hand-picking flowers from the florist for my daughter's fiancee's family. On the way I met someone who was sympathetic to all the negative emails I had received about my interfaith encounters.

"I got some real nasty emails" she told me. This was because she told the list that the person who started the whole tirade against my meetings was inciteful. I told her that it's not like I'm inviting car thieves to the meeting.

She then told me her personal story:

"I used to live in Silwan (City of David) years ago. I rented a place from an Arab landlord and everyone was real friendly and warm towards me. I just gave birth prematurely and I walked into my apartment to see bloody handprints all over my door. Of course I freaked out totally thinking 'they're GOING TO KILL ME!'. My landlord explained that it's tradition that when a baby might be in danger, they slaughter a sheep and put the blood of the sheep around the doorpost of the house to save/heal the baby. But I didn't know at first until they spoke to me about it."

I agreed with her that I would have freaked out too at the sight of bloody handprints all over my door. WTF? But I tried to look it up on the internet and the closest thing I can find about this custom was
this:

Meanwhile, hubby wanted to irritate our community a bit more.

"Let's announce that we're having a nudist party" he told me this morning joyfully. Now THIS is a person that should be going to shul today, no? But I'm stuck with him in the house. This is my atonement. I found it quite funny actually and added

"OK - next time I announce an interfaith meeting, I'll tell them it'll be a nudist interfaith encounter, and then we can have fun with all the responses."

But I was thinking, there are scarier things than me inviting 5 Palestinians to my home to talk about religion.

For example, on Sunday I walked around Givat Shaul after I had my yearly boob smooshing examination at Machon Halla. There are a lot of wonderful stores in that neighborhood that borders on the ultra-orthodox Har Nof neighborhood. The customers are mostly ultra-orthodox, meaning lots of toy stores, electronics, clothing, food with reasonable prices. I wandered into one toy store to see this:



Shocking. Especially since I saw that the store owners weren't especially religious. They had kowtowed to the ultra-orthodox customers and had colored over the photo of the immodest mother and even her young female child in every swimming pool box. Except for one.

I called the owner over.

"You forgot to cover up this woman with black marker!" I showed him, pointing to the bare arms and worse of the photo of a woman in the swimming pool with her child.

He just looked at me.

And in the Maale Adumim local paper, the headline screamed how tens (or is it hundreds)of ultra-orthodox Jews are all registering locally at this one particular address so they can have a Maaleh Adumim address to be able to vote in an ultra-orthodox municipality or mayor or something in the forthcoming November 11th local elections. It's being looked into now because it's impossible for hundreds of people to be living in one apartment in the older section of the city. In fact, one of my friends said that "they" knocked on her door asking if she would like to sell her apartment. If they knock on mine, should I tell them apartments are half price in Abu Dis? Or should I just warn the local toy store that they'd better start coloring with black marker the immodest mothers that adorn the boxes of toys in their store?

Happy Holidays

Happy Rosh Hashana and Eid Mubarak. It's great to have the two holidays together. I'm so not a synagogue-goer. Reading from a prayer book just does not do it for me. I did my duty somewhat by hearing the call of the "shofar" from the synagogue across the street. Even on the 8th floor, the sound carried.

My more joyful moments, as usual, center around food.

We were invited to my daughter's fiancee's family on the first night of the holiday. I was happy to be invited out, avoiding the rush-to-get-things-done on the first night, the way most people are stressed out.

Their family insists that the mother of the groom is of Polish/ashkenazi descent. Looking at her and listening to her, there are no physical nor other traces of this ashkenazi lineage. It just can't be. My daughter and I were wondering if she was in fact a kidnapped Yemenite child from the late 1940s. Her personality is too warm and she served way too much food. Her sister looks like Israeli actress Gila Almagor. I ate a tablespoon of everything being served and still I was stuffed by the end of the meal.

Later that evening we laughed as we took a look at their older brother, a huge hulk of a handsome man, who resembled Christopher Reeve. My son said he was waiting for him to open up his shirt to reveal the big "S" sign.

And because of the amount of guests there, the groom's mother told me she hired her "Filipino" to wash the dishes during and after the meal. I expected to, in fact, see a person from the Philippines. Instead, some friendly short guy from Sri Lanka walked in.

"Is this your Filipino" I asked the groom's mother.

She nodded proudly. She loves her Filipino.

"But he's from Sri Lanka! Sri Lanka is nowhere close to the Philippines." I tried to explain to her.

I don't think she understood.