Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Dred-ing it

I love Moosh Ben Ari. He's one of my favorite performers. I found this on YouTube.

Now, there are other dreaded guys around.

OK this guy is not a dreaded guy but he does have the potential. Plus he's a musician and the music is pretty good. He's a prince from Bahrain. Sheikh Hassan AlKhalifa. Yup. From the Royal Family.

I think Moosh and the Sheikh should get together and do some music together. What do you think?

And last but not least, there is my buddy (well, not yet) Omar bin Laden who people are calling Rasta Bin Laden. I'm waiting for a music video from him. He's definitely got the look. Won't that be a hoot if HE joins up with Moosh. What would his father say? Even worse that hanging with Moosh is the fact that he is into peace! I'm thrilled. He can join us here in Jerusalem for the many opportunities....

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


My son was suspended from school and I was told he wasn't to go back unless I accompany him. Well, we did have to wait a few days for this because my job comes before kids. Definitely. So I waited for a pleasant morning where my boss would be holed up in meetings and then went with him.

We sat in a room waiting for his class coordinator to speak with us. She began to talk to me in rapid, Spanish-accented Hebrew, but switched to English after I kept on asking her to repeat herself more slowly.

"Are you Argentinian?" I asked her.

She nodded.

I guess right on the first try. Not that she looked Argentinian or anything. How do Argentinians look? She could have been Mexican or Cuban or even from Ecuador. Perhaps she just reminded me of Evita Peron, which is why I guessed right.

She went on and on loudly, while glaring at my son.

"And he's so CHILDISH! And the way he speaks on the phone isn't normal. It just isn't normal! He doesn't listen to anyone." and turning to him, she continued. "WHO DO YOU THINK YOU'RE HURTING?? YOU THINK IT'S FUNNY TO ACT THAT WAY, TO THINK EVERYTHING IS FUNNY?"

I was just sitting there listening to her, imagining how this woman eats her husband up for dinner and spits him out. I wonder if he even had a penis left.

At the end of the meeting she demanded my son keep his phone in her office, which he reluctantly agreed to do. I just sat there speechless myself, until she related something that the sports teacher said about my son - that he has amazing strength and stamina in sport. He's never seen anything like it.

"So" I said, finally finding my tongue. "Why don't we build on that?? Can you find him a soccer league to go to?"


She looked at me, "Call me Thursday, and I'll keep you up to date on him." She even winked at me.

It was 8:32. I mentioned that I didn't want my son to get penalized for coming late to class while we were (or rather she was) talking.

Then Evita told me not worry, that she'll take him to his class, as she put her arms around my son and walked with him that way through the school halls. Hope he wasn't embarrassed as shit.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Birthday blues

It's nearing my birthday and I'm feeling unusually lonely. Hubby is not here to celebrate, and in past birthday celebrations, we would go to a very nice, even posh, restaurant for dinner. I'm thinking a lunch special at a nice hotel would be nice, but my girlfriends are either on diets or don't want to spend the money. I know there are people around who love to eat out. Where are they all? Are they all coupled off?

Hubby got tickets to Bon Jovi and is getting tickets to Ozzy Osbourne in Toronto. It would have been fun to go with him, even though I'd probably need to wear earplugs. He called up old friends and some cousins and they're going with him. Money is easier to come by over there and people are comfortable spending $100 and upwards for a concert ticket.

I'm thinking there's a concert here with a local Jerusalem band who will be playing with Sudanese musicians at Daila on Thursday. That's funky enough for me. The cost is under $5. So I could gather a few of my friends and have a fun night out. That's if the snow doesn't get to Jerusalem to lock us in our homes - all one inch of it or so.

Thankfully my usually raucous and complaining soldier girl was making me laugh with her terrible English. She pronounces "onions" "ongions" and her grandmother tried to have a conversation with her about coming to Canada and joining the police force in Toronto. She got off the phone and told me about the conversation. I told her to check it out more thoroughly. They may have a height requirement there.

"Really" she seemed amazed, and continued.

"They don't have that here. That's 'cos everyone here are pidgets."

"You mean 'midgets' don't you darling."

She smiled her dimpled smile, and I hugged her for one whole minute.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

What a day...

Right now it is quiet. There is no one at home, and I am sitting by the computer grateful to God for giving me a chance to catch my breathe from a crazy week. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday were particularly awful days. My son was suspended from school on Wednesday for not listening to his teachers, playing on his cellphone and not giving it to them when they asked for it, not wearing his uniform (sweatshirt with the school name on it) and generally acting as he does in my home. He can't come to school until I go with him one morning for the same ol' same ol' with his teacher. Trouble is, I have to be at work at 7:30 am most of the week this week and can't make it to his school except for Monday morning.

The whole trouble began because my son wanted me to order this expensive cable tv station which showed live games from his favorite soccer team - Betar of Jerusalem. Being that this month was a tough crunch financially, my cable tv payment bounced and I tried to explain this logically to this nearly-16-year-old. But he doesn't do logic. I should have known. Besides, everyone knows that Betar fans are a bunch of football hooligans. And he is certainly one of them right now. He warned me he was gonna create havoc in his school and that he did. In turn, he ain't gonna see any Betar on TV, not live anyways, until the end of the school season, IF he turns it around for himself.

So since things go in spirals and angry thoughts beget angry thoughts and angry thoughts turn your life upside down, this is how it was for me for the end of the week.

Hubby in Toronto is telling me everything is groovy in the Great White North, but his brother is writing me heartbreaking tales and I sense quite a bit of jealousy and feeling threatened over their mom's attention and love. Like Jacob and Esau. I tried to calm "Esau" down (even though in this story, he is the youngest, but he always was the mom's "pride and joy"), telling them all to go to family therapy. I chuckled to myself thinking what would have happened to all those Bible stories had Esau and Jacob and Sarah, Hagar and Abraham, and countless other biblical characters gone to family therapy.

Back in Israel, I took a different bus back home Wednesday evening. Going a different route, the bus went through the ultra-orthodox neighborhoods where billboards are plastered with all sorts of notices - to avoid this transgression, to avoid that transgression, a rabbi's talk, a 'kosher' advertisement, and death notices. And I see the name of my sister's husband's mother on one of the death notices. No one in my family calls me about it, of course. At nearly 52 years old, I'm the baby in the family and perhaps no one wanted to upset the baby. But I called my sister the next day, told her how I found out and blamed her "over-65-year-old" status for her forgetfulness. And I forgave her and went to pay a shiva (condolence) call at the family's Jerusalem home on Thursday.

Afterwards I thought I'd get some shopping done. I pile my cart high with food for the week, go through checkout, try to write a post-dated check, as Hubby is late in sending me some $$ and the check doesn't go through. My credit cards are not equipped with enough credit to handle $125 worth of groceries and I leave the Russian cashier to deal with cancelling my order and unravelling the groceries. She is not happy.

I'm waiting at the bus stop and some idiot is trying to small-talk me (they appear out of nowhere when you're in the rottenest of moods, don't they?). My daughter calls to tell me her hubby is in the mall. I tell her what happened, and she comes to the rescue with their charge card. I, in turn, go back to the supermarket and rescue my groceries which are still sitting prettily in the cart. No one touched them.

A bit ashamed at having my daughter having to pay for my goods, I go home and continue to ignore my son, who is walking around me in circles, venting about how none of this would have happened had I gotten him the cable tv station he wanted. I pretend that there is this giant, hairy orangutan in my house and I'm just gonna pretend he's not there.

Friday, my unemployed daughter loans me 100 NIS ($25) for more food for Shabbat. Everyone and their boyfriends/husband will be by me for Friday night dinner - which is alot of people - and I'm pressed for time.

I really wanted to go on the "silent walk" in Jerusalem on Friday, put on by the Middle Way who were hosting Jack Kornfield, a famous American Buddhist, and for which I tried to get permits for a few of my Palestinian friends to be able to go on this walk. But I got out of bed at 9:00 am and my head was heavy. I didn't leave the house until the "heaviness" subsided around 11:00 am. I did my shopping, and should have known it was gonna continue to be a bad day when the local bookstore ran out of the Herald Tribute at 11:15 am.

I go into the health food store with my packages, check out the organic foodstuffs which I'm not buying this week and noticed that my bags are gone. But some other woman who went to the same stores as I did left her stuff in the store. I peeked into her bags and decided my stuff is far more interesting. But I worried, because this stuff was bought on borrowed money and credit card payments (which went through because of the smaller amount of money this time). Not only did I worry, but I burst into loud tears in the store and the young girl at the cashier set about calling the store owners trying to find out the identity of the woman who walked out with my bags. The neighboring store owner came in to get a bill changed, and saw me sobbing. He looked at me. "Why are you crying?" I told him, but he still was totally uncomfortable with seeing me in this state. I just had thoughts of the woman throwing her stuff (really my stuff) into her car and driving three hours to the North of the country and I'd be stuck without my things... Finally, thank God for credit cards sometimes, the cashier called the number on the slip and got the hubby who told her that his wife had gone to Jerusalem but would deliver the food to my home.

I walked out of the health food store and called my daughter.

"I can't talk now I'm in Terem" which is the emergency medical clinic where we live, about a 5 minute walk (at fast pace) from the health food store. I hurry there and my grandson is on an inhaler, and my daughter is crying.

"What happened?" I asked.

"Nothing" she said. But she calmed down enough to tell me that the baby had a very bad cough and the doctor here said if he's not on an inhaler, he could come down with pneumonia. And that scared the shit out of her.

The baby was squirming and crying with that thing on his face and stopped for a moment to smile at grandma.

I looked at her and told her to get him off the dairy formula and put him on soy formula.

"That will relieve his congestion." I felt like a wise owl grandma giving sound advice.

Yes folks. I'm back in control.

I get home, open the door for the upset lady who took my bags, and began cooking. The house is upside down, but I don't care - at least not until 5:30 pm, when I enlisted some of my kids to help me before dinner. And it all came together.

Hubby skyped me at 10:15 pm. I had fallen asleep on the couch but woke up to hear him talking to my son. I walk into the room and tell him of my awful week. By the time I got to the tale of the woman who took my bags, he's like..

"Why the fuck are you telling me all this??"

And I say to him - "You know what? If you're not going to be sympathetic, I'm gonna say goodbye now." And with that, I walked out of the room, knowing he can't follow me around the house because he's in Canada.

And maybe, just maybe, my son will become a fan of some calmer sport - like baseball.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Reading is a luxury I would like to be able to afford

It has been so cold in Jerusalem this past week that it could have snowed. And I could have stayed home from work, but the gods wanted it to be sunny and cold. Not a freakin' cloud in the sky. Someone at my editing course told me I reminded him of one of the characters in one of Solzhenitsyn's books where the workers in the Gulag Archipelago were always watching the thermometer in case it went under -19 degrees so they wouldn't have to go out to work.

And why do I want a day off work so bad? Because I have absolutely no time to read. I have books lying around the house that I've never read. People loan me these "great books" that I just "have to read" but when is there time?? Even the Holy Sabbath has been desecrated by Homework that I have to do for class. It's not easy working full time and going to school part-time. I'd rather just watch a silly movie on DVD after cleaning up the house and making dinner. But the books keep on beckoning. The Jordanian part of the United Religions Initiative just sent out an email that they've starting a book club and sent around A Tale of Two Cities in ebook form. It's over 400 pages!!! Who could tackle this in a month?

And, of course, there's darling Hubby, who hopes to make a lot more cash in Canada than he did in Israel. And if God sees to it that he does, maybe I'll be able to cut my work week in half, and get to read a good book (or two) a month.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Bush in the 'hood

"They didn't do all this for President Clinton when he came here, did they?" asked my daughter over dinner on Friday night.

"No. I guess because Clinton had less enemies than President Bush."

The security was ridiculous and I felt as if I were in a military zone while the US President was here, tying up traffic for hours and irritating most Jerusalem residents.

I complained to a fellow co-walker, a stranger, while we tried to walk along Jabotinsky Street, which was cordoned off from pedestrians as well as car traffic while the President was going to visit the Israeli President. The policemen barked nervously at us, as we asked to please let us cross to the other side of the street.

"You can't help it. He's the King of the World." said she.


And that is exactly what the cab driver who took me home said to me as well. Everyone is calling him "The King of the World."

On Thursday I didn't bother coming in to work and decided to work instead at home, rather than have to walk with a gruesome cold that I had, for 1/2 hour because our office is too close to where the President was staying and for sure there wouldn't be any buses running in that direction for a certain number of hours. It was cold outside, better not take the chance with the way I'm feeling.

My daughter called me at 9:30 am. She was stuck outside a tunnel for 1 1/2 hours because Bush was going to Ramallah that morning and the roads were closed. I chose right to work at home.

My friends told me that the city (or country?) shelled out 9 million shekels (about over $2 M) to clean up some of Jerusalem's streets where the President would pass by.

9 million shekels????

Heck, I would have taken my mop and broom and taken my kids and cleaned it up for President George W. Bush for a mere 1 million shekels. OK, maybe 1 1/2 million shekels. It still would have been a bargain.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

IPCRI (Palestinian/Israeli) retreat in Jerusalem

IPCRI (Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information) had a retreat this past weekend at the beautiful Tantur Center in Gilo near the Bethlehem border. Now sometimes these retreats can be quite stressful for me and other times they are most enjoyable.

There were about 200 Israelis and Palestinians who participated in the many workshops over Friday and Saturday. It always astounds me that even after 6 years of being involved in peace activities, I'm still meeting new people and making new connections. When you think you just about know everyone in the field, you realize there's still a lot more out there. Which makes me happy of course, believing that these grassroots movements are growing like weeds.

I checked into a lovely room with a terrace that morning and after lunch went back to my room to put away some of the brochures I collected. I noticed another backpack on the other bed and wondered who my roommate was. But what I did notice was that this person didn't have any toiletries or perhaps didn't get around to unpacking them. That's unusual for a woman, isn't it? The jacket on the bed was black with a satin stripe and I wondered whether I did indeed have a female roommate.

I ran down to the front desk.

"Who is my roommate?"

"We don't have any names, you'll have to check with the organizers"

It wasn't until dinner time that one of the organizers came over to me and said she had made a mistake and had put a man in my room. Great! Just what my husband would want while he is in Canada. And I wondered who the lucky guy was! But I didn't stick around to find out, and hurriedly got my things and checked into another room. I thought how funny it would have been had I not questioned anything and went to sleep and then I'd see this guy come into the room.

The next day people were like "well, how did you sleep."

"Very well, thank you, since I didn't have a GUY in my room."

Other than that faux pas, the retreat was very well organized with a choice of 3 different workshops at any given time. I gave a workshop at the very beginning with my friend Rahel from Reiki for Peace on "How to Move from Extremism to Tolerance" citing my days as a follower of Rabbi Meir Kahane and how these Israeli/Palestinian encounters" made such a difference and changed my life entirely.

There were quite a large number of young Palestinians in our workshop, from the Hebron area and some from Bethlehem and Nablus. I guess they have their hardships with neighborhing Jewish extremists and were interested to hear my story.

There were some very powerful young people at the retreat that I had a strong feeling of a new world order about to emerge from this. I know that's a very powerful statement, but it really felt "as if".

The fact that I live in Maaleh Adumim raised some eyebrows but the participants here weren't as aggravated about this fact as they are at other times, and listened to my views. A Fatah guy from Bethlehem was terribly excited when he heard where I come from and shouted "That's IT! We have to start talking to settlers!." Even though I don't feel like a settler at all, I guess I'll always be one to the Palestinians. I often wonder if they consider those who live in post-1967 Jerusalem neighborhoods like French Hill, Talpiot Mizrach, Gilo and Ramot as settlers too. Mr. "Fatah" and I exchanged numbers and I hope it won't be too hard for him to get a permit to come into Jerusalem for more interfaith gatherings. But one of the Palestinians told me he knows of two Palestinian families who live in Maaleh Adumim, which I was thrilled to hear about - one is a journalist and the other, I have no idea. And I wondered if their neighbors know and if these families are having an easy time of it or not.

We were entertained Friday evening by Musicians for Peace who were better than I've ever heard them in their four years together, and they sang Shlomo Carlebach's classic "Because of My Brothers and Friends" in Hebrew, English and Arabic while we linked arms and swayed back and forth together as one family.

One of the more popular workshops there was how to influence policy makers. There wasn't enough time for everyone's questions and there was just so much to talk about that we could have gone on for hours about this.

And while I was going to workshop after workshop, it seemed that my own goals became clearer, and I was quite happy and confident in knowing that I have a very big goal in mind - which is combating racism in my neighborhood. Not an easy task and certainly this is not a task for one person. But I thought of adding monthly encounters at my home when things are a little less hectic in my life and getting others involved. I'm sure we could have quite a nice group going in my part of town and took down numbers of people who asked to do worskhops in my area - interfaith yoga workshops, compassionate listening, reiki, etc. etc.

But whether I can get a local group going from my home or not, or whether these grass roots movements will grow into tens of thousands of people or not didn't matter in the end. What did matter was the fact that whenever I do attend these gatherings, my heart is filled with so much hope and joy, that it just spills over to everyone I come into contact with, and I wonder if they notice how happy I am. My son certainly felt it and spent the day cleaning up so I came home to a spotless home. Now that is certainly worth something, isn't it?

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

New Years in Jerusalem

It's such a non-event, this secular New Year here in J-town. First of all, I had to wake up today at 5:30 am to get to my class in Kfar Saba. We all have work and school today. That is everyone who doesn't work for the US Embassy or Consulate or some other foreign entity. Last night the local tv station counted down to midnight in the TV studio. When it turned 12:00, confetti fell from the ceiling in the tv studio and the 50 or so people in the audience clapped and cheered. No fireworks display, no big street festivals - nothing really. Some restaurants in Jerusalem offered special "end of year" meals with champagne at midnight. They can't say they're serving up a "New Years" dinner because then the local Rabbi squad will get mad and take away their kosher licenses. I had the choice of going to a friend for a get-together with other friends and a midnight champagne toast, but I was feeling fatigued by 9:30 pm and did homework instead. How pathetic is that?

I met my friend on the bus yesterday who was discussing his former life in Sweden and his Christmas celebrations there. He seemed happy to be away from all that stuff now being that Christmas has nothing much to do with Jesus and is more of a commercial, capitalist holiday. He even told me that Santa was Turkish, which was a total surprise for me. I had always thought Santa was just this big fat German, when in fact Saint Nicholas was a 4th century Turk. A Jolly Fat Turk at that.

And my co-workers were telling me yesterday that President Bush will be coming soon to visit Israel. He'll be in Jerusalem. Whoop de doo. With his visit comes traffic tie-ups in the city, up to an hour or so. Something to look forward to in the New Year.