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."


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.


"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."


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?"


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"


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


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.