Sunday, December 27, 2009


I took two friends of mine to Jerusalem to the south Hebron Palestinian village of Twane.  It is not even shown on the road map we had.  I met people from there a few months ago on the Center for Emerging Futures weekend.  They were more amused than angry at the fact that I live in a settlement and that I showed up at an Israeli/Palestinian event.

Hubby was nervous at my galavanting around the West Bank, after all, it was just a day or so ago when a settler was shot and killed while driving through the northern part of the West Bank.  I told my husband "I'm doing a mitzvah (good deed).  When you go to do a mitzvah, then you don't have to worry."

I don't know how much of a mitzvah it was, because all I was doing was giving the villagers a few sweaters of mine that I hadn't worn in two years and nothing else.  But I felt that they needed to know that Israelis cared about them and so going there would make a difference and give them some sense of hope.

We drove on Route 60, past the Jewish settlements of Carmel and Maon and a bit after that was the small shanty of a place called Twane where our host met with us, as well as a few Italians from an organization called "Dove".  We sat in a small room and our host told us his or their story.  In the 80s the Israeli government drove them off the land and some few years later they were told that they could return.  However, since their land is in Area C, this means that they can't build anything - no homes, no schools, no medical clinics, nothing.  In fact, there is a small electric generator which gives them electricity for only three hours a day, which they use during evening hours.  As for water, they draw them from wells.  There is very little running water.  They managed to get their roads paved, but we hear there is a demolition order for the road, the first floor (!) of the clinic and the school, which were all built without permits - because they would never get permits to build. 

Medical clinic - there's a demolition order for the first floor only!

On top of all this, they are below the Jewish settlement of Havat Maon, whose residents terrorize them often, which is the reason for international presence in their village.

A handsome young man coming out of the tiny mosque saw me taking a photo of a local woman drawing water from her well. 

Local Mosque

Drawing water

He tells me in Arabic about how they don't have water because of "the Jews".  I look at him.  Do I  or don't I tell him who I am.  I tell him.  "I'm Jewish.  And I'm sorry."  He looks at me. 
"Not all Jews of course, only the Zionists."  I sigh.

The kids of the village are walking around barefoot and the one little girl I see is wearing shoes a few sizes too big.

Local kid and a friend

another kid - same friend

Our host is telling us that he is looking forward to a gathering of Israelis and Palestinians later on - perhaps to plan a summer camp for Israeli and Palestinian children.  I told him I'd love to join the planning group.  He seems happy.

One woman invites me in to see some embroidered stuff she is selling.  I buy a woven straw plate for pita.  It was made in the village.  She is charging me 70 shekels for it and I know I'm being overcharged, but I wouldn't dare bargain about the price.  I pay it and tell my friends, she needs this money.  They understand and are glad that I bought something because they hadn't.

On the way back, they ask me "How do you still have hope?"

I tell them - "Look at the way these people live.  Their daily life is so difficult.  But yet, they still want to work and meet with Israelis in the hope that one day, the government will come to its senses and give them the bare minimum necessary - like water and electricity.  That's all they ask for. Instead of getting violent, they prefer to meet with Israelis and let them know of their hardships.  That's so commendable, since they get harrassed so frequently.  If I were in their place, I don't think I'd be as patient."

Afterwards at my friends' home, we were so contemplative.  I wondered to myself if the Israeli government would see that the villagers are a quiet lot, and if there is no trouble coming from that village, couldn't they just let them have electricity and water?  And then after a few more years of quiet, could they not let them build?  Wouldn't that be more constructive than constantly issuing demolition orders?

Ancient stone residences

 I wondered if I had made a mistake taking my friends there, as it was a heavy trip - very emotional to see and hear these things.  My friends avoid newspapers and hearing the news, because they prefer to just focus on positive things in life.  And this was like hearing the news.  But they assured me that they needed to hear and see what was going on and thanked me for taking them to places they would not see otherwise.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas in Jerusalem

YMCA lobby

I had been planning to celebrate Christmas one way or another, the way a lot of Israeli Jews do in Jerusalem - by going to church.  I began my evening at the YMCA.  They had an evening of scripture readings and Christmas carols in the auditorium, which was filled to capacity with Jewish Israelis.  I asked the woman next to me "you think there are any Christians here?"  I think I saw two, besides the pastor and the Arab director of the YMCA.


 It was sweet and nostalgic for me to listen to the familiar carols and it brought me back to a funny place - as a teenager I went to a religious Jewish high school.  Some of the girls in our class started to sing Christmas carols during recess in our classroom, which immediately brought the principal to our class to tell us to immediately stop.  He went out only to find us resuming our singing.


If you didn't know what date it was, you'd never tell it was Christmas.  There are no Santa Clauses on every street corner, there are no Christmas lights in the streets, or decorating homes and public buildings.  No Christmas carols in the malls that get on your nerves by the time Christmas arrives.  Nothing.  So this is why Israelis flock to celebrate that one day we can get to hear beautiful spiritual music.  With no kitsch.

After the YMCA I headed over to the old city because I wanted to make my way over the Church of the Redeemer which is a German Lutheran church.  They were having mass at 10:30.  A friend called.  She was my classmate in the ultra-orthodox Jewish school we went to in the Bronx, Beth Jacob.  And she wanted to join me.


"Sure!  Why not!  I was at the Y last year and I loved the carols"

"Great.  It'll be nice to have company" and I laughed out loud in the street thinking of us two wayward former ultra-orthodox school kids. 

I met her at Mamilla.  She had trouble finding parking.

"Looks like I'm not the only one who's thinking of going to church tonight."


We walked quickly to the church finding a crowd already there.  Again - full of Israeli Jews.  There was a guy with a santa cap on.


"I want to know.  Where are my gifts."

He laughed and his friend said - "here" and dished out chocolate to my friend and I.

"Wow!  This was easy.  We should have wished for a million dollars!" said my friend.

Someone said that once you're in the church, you can't leave until the service ends.

"You Vill Stay und you vill like it" I said to whoever was listening.  Nothing like German punctuality imposed on others.

The church opened its doors and it was difficult to find seating.  We finally found two seats in the back and the service began pretty much on time.  We were told not to take photos during the service.

Church of the Redeemer

The service began ---

"In the beginning God created the heavens in the earth..."

Genesis.  And the German pastor was saying this in the original Hebrew.  I looked at my friend.

"I think Hitler's turning over in his grave, isn't he?"

He continued by welcoming us Jews into their church.

Yup, the old bastard's really turning over in his grave - several times.

If I hadn't been looking at who was speaking, it could have been an old chassidic Jew quoting Genesis in Hebrew.  It was surreal listening to the Old Testament in church.

My friend felt bad for the pastor.

"Could you imagine.  We're invading this place on their holiest day. Could you just imagine synagogues opening up their doors to non-Jews during Yom Kippur with their cell phones and cameras?"

The church's "police" came over to admonish anyone they caught taking photos.  Luckily I took a few before and after the service.

Candles were lit by every aisle.  The place was just glowing.  It was beautiful.  The singing began  - in English and Hebrew.  We sang along to the familiar songs in English, while they were being sung in German.\

The whole mass took a little over an hour, but it was a very spiritual moment for the two of us.  I felt good being able to flow and feel comfortable enough with another religion - enough to join in during their holiest day.  And the bells that rang from the church after the service made the evening more magical than it already had been for us.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Being that my boss is overseas, I, too, want US hours and days, which means Sundays off.  Of course, I will have to take them as vacation days, unlike the rest of the world, but that's the best I can have for now. 

So what does one do on a limited budget in Jerusalem?

I went shopping for a bunch of winter stuff at the second-hand store, Ke'Chadash in French Hill.  On the bus  I sat next to a woman who works at the local bank.  I mentioned the word "second-hand" and she repeated the word it as if I had introduced the plague.

"No Israelis shop at second-hand stores.  They like everything new."

"Great!  Less competition for me then."  And off I went buying designer-type sweaters and skirts for $7 each.  Let those silly Israeli women spend $50 and more on stuff that's less quality.  And that includes my kids who also turn up their Canadian-born noses at second hand things.

I then had a light lunch at one of those boutique coffee shops that have been popping up all over the place.  The restaurant is called Cafe Tomer on Rechov HaLamed Heh Street in one of Jerusalem's residential neighborhoods. I often envy those people who have the time to just sit in a cafe and enjoy the peaceful ambience of leisure.  It was just delightful to finally be able to have an inexpensive but delicious cup of onion soup with Pecorino cheese on the side with a roll, plus a great cup of coffee with a chocolate brioche which was a treat made in heaven.  These things I do not take for granted.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Hanukah donuts

I woke up this morning with a start.

"The Hebrew Letters!"

"What?" Hubby was confused.  I never wake up this way.

"The Hebrew Letters!  I forgot to send the Hebrew letters."

Why was that on my mind first thing this morning?  I forgot to send Hebrew letters by Fedex yesterday to my boss for her laptop in the States, and that seemed to be bugging me.  I thought that amusing considering what other stuff went on this week.

Saturday night I went to the opening of the Jewish Film Festival.  Molly Picon's film, East and West, a silent flick from 1923 was the featured film.  Before the film, the hanukah menorah was lit inside the theater and we sang Maoz Tzur, which is what differentiates this film festival from probably all others anywhere else in the world.  The live band accompanied the film led us through some strange musical interludes during the course of the film - I had expected Klezmer music all the way - but the final song was Pump It by the Black Eyed Peas which, strangely enough, fit the finale.  Go figure.    At the party afterwards, an acquaintance came over to me and said she had to wake up tomorrow early to go on the Jesus Trail.   Sounds interesting, but this is a do-it-yourself thing with a guidebook on the trails. I told her I, too, have to wake up early.  She pressed me about what.

"My daughter is getting a boob job"

One of my daughters, not telling who, got breast implants this past Sunday at a private medical clinic in Tel Aviv.  She's a small girl and the doctor had enough sense not to give her those horrid looking balloon-type implants.  I remember Arsenio Hall saying "Men don't care if they fake" and I guess they don't care how stupid they can look too.  But if doc didn't let daughter overdo it, we might just be looking fine.  This whole thing, paid for by my daughter, cost 15,000 shekels - roughly $3800.  Don't know how that compares with boob jobs in the States. 

While she was in surgery, I staked out the mall and plopped myself down in one of the nicer restaurants in the trendy Ramat Aviv mall for breakfast, where tights were selling for $60 a pair and a bottle of water in the supermarket sold for twice the price as it did in Jerusalem.  My daughter's best friend also had the same surgery done that day, right afterwards, so when I came back to the room, her mother was busy reciting Psalms instead of gouging herself on food and putting expensive shit on her wishlist like I did.

Both kids came out of this fine, although mine was in excrutiating pain, while the daughter of the Psalm-reciting mother felt just a bit of pain.  Maybe there is a conicidence with prayer as a healing tool.  I should have tried that method, but didn't.

Meanwhile, she's walking around the house these past few days holding up her new boobs with her hands.  I'm wondering if she's doing that because she can finally hold something, or if she's just more comfortable with her walking around that way.  The sisters all wanted to have a look at the newbies and came over to check her out.  And like most who do it - she's happy that she did.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Rashaida Bedouins

No one I know knows anything about them or where they're located. I met Juma at Metzokei Dragot who gave my number to Mohammad who runs the Bedouin guest tent. Mohammad has called me since every 3 days or so to find out when I'd be coming to visit with them. They've just begun hosting Israelis and internationals at their place so they seem to be over-exuberant in trying to get guests to come.

Hubby was nervous at me going to the middle of nowhere so I gave him Mohammad's number "just in case". What is there to be nervous about if you don't believe the "other" is your enemy?

I went with a couple of my adventurous friends who have travelled extensively. They love new experiences. We travelled to the Jewish settlement of Efrat, then on winding roads east towards Tekoa. In front of us was a sign forbidding entrance to Israelis. To the left was a handwritten sign that said "Maaleh Amos" in Hebrew. That's the Jewish settlement that's closest to the Rashaida Bedouin village. We travelled past hilly olive groves in the valley between desert and mountain ridges. The roads were winding and beautiful. We obviously missed our destination and Mohammed directed us to where we had to go.

"The sign to Maaleh Amos is on a rock" he explained.

Oh, sorry. I was looking for a normal sign, not a Flintstone-type sign. Go figure. We retracked until we got to the sign, up past Bedouin ruins and got to Maaleh Amos. One of the Bedouins waiting there asked if we were going to Mohammed's place. Yes, we are. He jumped into our car as if it's just normal to jump into peoples' cars and directed us past his Bedouin village of Rashaida where the girls' school's windows and frames are colored pink and where camels roamed wild. We veered off the asphalt onto a non-paved road up hills and over who knows what for about 15 minutes until we got to a large tent up on top of a hill with views that were unbelievably stunning.

The Rashaida tribe lived in nearby Ein Gedi until 1948 when they moved uphill and since 1984 lived in the place where they are now living. Our host Mohammad has two wives and 11 children. The younger man who rode in the car with us, spoke perfect Hebrew and told us that the Arabic the Bedouin speak is closest to classical Arabic, which means he can understand all dialects. The families don't work out of their village and all work is done around the home, raising flocks of sheep, goats and camels and some vegetables. I wondered out loud what on earth do they ever get upset about? No mortgages, no taxes, no bills, no rushing to the office, no boss, no standing in line for hours at the supermarket, no traffic jams. Nothing. I asked Mohammad if his wives get along. He says they do. They're mostly secular, although there is a mosque in their village, no one feels pressured to go to prayers, although most fast during Ramadan. Inside the tent, the mattresses are made of sheeps' wool and the covering made out of goat hair, so that when it rains, the hair expands and covers any holes, making the tent waterproof. Amazing self-sufficiency.

Meanwhile, we wondered how in this empty place did people suddenly show up at the tent to check us out? Kids, older men, men in turbans, teens, etc. They seem to have come out of nowhere. A musician began to play on the stringed instrument called "sumsimeyeh" or something like that.

The camels appeared and I was asked to milk it. Huh? Are you putting me to work already? I'm not even there an hour! I squeezed and milk poured out. That milk collected in a tin was our beverage soon after, and I never tasted anything as wonderful and sweet. And of course, so fresh. Not from a shelf in a supermarket.

We took a walk to where Mohammad's dad lives, in the valley below and met with everyone there.

Then climbed into one of their vehicles to ride to an old Jordanian military outpost that was in use pre-1967. I felt like a kid again riding in the open back on the bumpy roads. The young man riding with us told me I should listen to Arabic music. I told him that I do and we sang some familiar tunes. He tells me to listen to Fairuz in the morning.

"I always listen to Fairuz in the morning with my coffee."

"Why? What happens if you listen to Fairuz in the evening?"

"No. She's much better in the morning. I listen to Om Kolthum in the evening. There's nothing like Om Kolthum in the evening."

Hmmmm. Have to give it a try.

It was almost time for us to leave. We didn't want to travel the unmarked, unpaved roads in the dark. But it was hard to leave this serene place. These people, this tribe, is looking to get tourists to visit with them. We joked how we left the car unlocked and it was still there, as was my cell phone.  You and your valuables are safe as a guest of the Bedouin. They welcome people to sleep over in their comfortable tents and share breakfast, lunch and dinner with them, with a bonfire at night and camel riding and hiking during the day. It sounds ideal and we promised that we'd get more people to visit and would visit over the weekend ourselves sometime in the near future.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Talk the Israeli talk

Saturday night is one night where I no longer want to run into town and party. After all, I'm in my 50s and Sunday is a work day, so going anywhere on a Saturday night is no longer fun.

My eldest daughter wanted to go for pizza with me, my Complainer and her boyfriend. We looked quite the motley crew as we sauntered in there with our pajama fleece pants, and slippers with pink socks. The pizza place was busy. It does a brisk business on Saturday evening, when most people, like myself, prefer staying home. The pizza shop is our local version of a pub. Maaleh Adumim doesn't have a pub, so it's a great place for people wanting to dry out. Too bad we don't have rehabs here for alcoholics, because I'm thinking maybe the Brits should forget about their fancy shmancy Priory clinic and open one up here.

The male members of one family were at the Pizza shop taking up most of the floor space, watching the football game on the television on the wall. In fact, they were watching a few football games, cheering for Chelsea (against Manchester City), reiterating for me that they were not against Manchester United, God forbid, before switching the station to watch Jerusalem's Betar team with alternate cheers and loud OY's while holding their heads in misery at times.

The pizza was great, smothered in onions and mushrooms, flavored with sumac and other spices. The pizza makers asked us how it was. The Complainer shrugged "nothing special...." I glared at her. It was delicious! Why did she insult them?

"Oh be Israeli mom. This is how we talk."

"Yes, so I've heard" I muttered.

But the big Israeli bully of a daughter that I have, turned helpless this morning.

"Mom, Visa took 1,000 shekels from my bank on the 2nd, and I TOLD the bank that I wanted it out on the 10th. Now I have no money..." she was miserable.

"Looks like it's time to Talk Like An Israeli now and give it to that bank person, isn't it?"

It's a good thing she has a good many years of practice....

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Home Sweet Home

My family were putting pressure on me this week to stay home more and make them normal meals, meaning non-vegan, non-healthy, laden with meat or cheese (separately, of course) and vegetables only as a side dish. I thought I'd do that yesterday, so last night was spaghetti and meat sauce for dinner.

This morning I was rewarded accordingly. My unemployed daughter calls me up to rat on her brother at 9:30 am.

"Why didn't he go to school?" she demanded. Not that she cares about his education, mind you, but because she wants to take over the computer that's in his room. The family computer.

I call him and he's like --- "Ok, Ok, I'm on my way right now!"

"Why are you late by an hour?"

"Because my English teacher isn't in today, so what am I going to do - huh?" he asks me.

"How do you know your English teacher won't be coming in today??" Did he get a chain call from one of his classmates telling him of the good news? Of course not.

11:30 am I get a frantic call from my daughter, while I'm busy at work, and needing to get stuff done in a hurry.

"That stupid boy locked the computer. Call him NOW and get the code from him, otherwise I'll wreck this whole place. I'll wreck everything he has."

I tried to get her to have patience, tolerance, whatever....until he got home from school, but she and I both know that once that happens, he takes over the computer and hardly lets her on.

I called him in school, figuring he's not in class anyways. I was right.

"Nu, what?" he asked me impatiently, as if he's pretending that he's interested in joining class.

"Give me the code now. PLEASE!! I don't want your room in pieces."

"Why did she tell you I wasn't in school??? Because of that I locked the computer. She can go fuck herself."

Great. But I think he was worried about his stuff, so he gave me the code and I passed it on to my daughter.

One hour later, she calls me back.

"Why is he here?? He rushed back from school so I can't be on the computer? I swear I don't care if he calls the police, if I don't go on the computer at 1:00 I'll KILL HIM!!"

So now you know why I try to force feed healthy food to my kids, and also, why I'm out all the time, as much I can be.

Two hours passed. No phone calls. I'm wondering if I'll be coming home to kids with broken bones and shit thrown and broken into pieces all over our brand new house. How far will they go? And all this over a computer!!

At 3:00 my son calls. He's calm. So I assume he hasn't thrown her out of the 8th floor window. He's concerned because he's being called up for army service and doesn't want to take the urine test there. He wants to do it at our local medical clinic, so where did I put the forms. I give out a great big loud OY and my boss hears, and is taking it personally.

"I know" she says. "I drive you crazy, don't I."

Not at all. Not at all.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Nothing Comes Easy

"Is there anything that comes easy in this country? Anything?" asked Hubby on the phone to me today. This was one of the few conversations where I agreed with him entirely.

"Yes, weight gain" I answered, because that was the only thing I could think of that comes easily in this country besides aggravation, frustration, and everything similar.

Hubby's business owes back taxes. Like a good citizen, he's ready to pay it all. The money is sitting in the bank ready for income tax. But since April, they haven't taken it. They don't want it because they want to clear up some prehistoric thing that a former accountant never gave in to them.

"You don't have to worry, you won't have to pay a thing on the 1997 return" the accountant assured us.

But meanwhile, they put a lien on our bank account and threatened to take our stuff because we haven't paid them yet. Even though it's there for the taking. Look, if they don't want our money, I'm certainly fine with that. I could use it for a much-needed holiday, or an LCD or a stereo system.

And then last week, at a friend's wedding, my friend Abdullah came over to tell me that he thought he saw my security guard daughter on the bus the other day and when he asked her "Are you JG's daughter?" She told him "No." I called her immediately when Abdullah left to eat some grape leaves on the far side of the wedding hall.

"Did you see my friend Abdullah on the bus the other day and did you tell him that you weren't my daughter???"



"Because I don't like your friends." meaning, she was embarrassed by the way he looked (bandana, wild curly hair, same green jacket he's wearing for years, etc.) and by the way he talked - with a heavy Arabic accent. She didn't have to explain. I knew.

If she's going to be rude and racist, I warned her if she's going to disown me as her mother to my friends, then when I'm filthy fucking rich, I'll remember that, and she will be sorry. So very sorry.

This morning I see a letter from the municipality telling me I don't get a water discount because I only have three people in the household? Huh? Since when did my two daughters up and leave me? Hell, if that's the case, I'm taking over their bedrooms as an office and guest room/exercise/hippie lounge respectively. But when I checked this morning, all their things were still there. I called up the municipality to tell them how stupid they are, so they now want me to send them my daughters' ID cards so they can prove they live with me.

I checked with my kids and both have our old address on their ID. So the municipality believes I moved to a new place with Hubby and son and left my two daughters behind in the old house. That thought had crossed my mind once or twice, but I never acted on it. Really.

Sunday, November 29, 2009


The weekend began on Thursday evening. Eliyahu, my peacemaker friend, was getting married that night and it was sure to be an interesting evening with his crowd. The bus left Jerusalem early and my boss didn't give me a hard time about it at all, which left me to wonder why I don't leave early more often to go wherever it is I need to always go. Ibrahim, Tamer, Mohammad, Abdullah were on the bus, as were a bunch of religious Jewish hippies dressed in colorful outfits and I already felt out of place in my shiny black and silver fancy dress. I don't have any hippie clothes for weddings. There were regular non-hippie Orthodox Jews on the bus too. It was such an interesting mix that when we passed the checkpoint to get to the wedding hall, we all smiled when the soldiers kept on coming on the bus a few times perhaps because they thought their eyes were deceiving them. What's this bus full of Jews and Arabs together? I'm sure they talked among themselves about it. I announced we should just do a bus tour together after the wedding and travel to towns around the country to draw attention to ourselves. Another one of my friends wanted to tell the soldiers that "we're just a bunch of peace terrorists.....we blow up stereotypes" - which I thought was so so clever.

Normally, 7 blessings are said under the marriage canopy, but Eliyahu had 8, which included all the Moslem, Druze and Christian sheikhs, imams, priests, etc. giving him a blessing in Arabic, English and Hebrew. I even noticed that the bride's Israeli mother of Iraqi descent seemed as if she was actually enjoying herself watching the Arabic blessings bestowed on the bride and groom.

At the dinner, I was glad Hubby hadn't joined me at the wedding. No booze, no Coca Cola, no dairy, no meat, not even a chicken wing. 100% vegan. My macrobiotic friends thoroughly enjoyed themselves, and I too enjoyed the healthy pickings, but Hubby would have complained throughout the meal. I know him too well. "What kind of fucking wedding meal is this?" he would have said over and over again to anyone who would care to listen, and would have had the bus driver stop for a steak somewhere roadside.

The following day I went to Metzagei Dragot, a vacation "village", by the Dead Sea. My friend's son had a bar mitzvah and this time I told Hubby to come with me because I was tired of going everywhere alone. I promised him the crowd and food will be non-vegan and delicious. We got a ride from one of our friends, who freaked hubby out with her driving by taking her hands off the wheels at times to talk with them and looking out the window at the view instead of ahead. We saw friends we hadn't seen in ages and checked into our rooms which were like cabins. Fancy camping. If you want a romantic holiday, I wouldn't recommend this place. On the cabin floors were old worn tiles, the beds had skimpy old blankets on them and sank when I sat on them. We checked the room to make sure it was scorpion-free and then relaxed. Thankfully the food was indeed delicious and I networked my ass off as peace missionaries do, with some people afterwards wanting to join the interfaith dialogue bandwagon, whether for shiatsu demonstrations, a synagogue family weekend in Beit Jala and a Bedouin worker at the place invited me to see his camp, where he'd like to have a similar tourist village like this. All this added to my ever-growing To Do list and I prayed this weekend that one day I'll be able to afford to work on my Arab/Israeli dialogue work full-time. Now these things will take months to come to fruition because I only have time to work on them a couple of hours a week. But it would be great to get a small crowd over to the Bedouin encampment to see what they would like to offer tourists.

The bar mizvah boy did his Torah reading perfectly, and on the way to the rustic bedouin tent with the thatched roof, where the services were held, overlooking the Dead Sea on the high cliffs, we saw a herd of Ibex. They came quite close to us and I thought perhaps they were attracted spiritually to the prayers. The whole scene was so biblical looking. But the people there said the Ibex were attracted more to the cake on the tables than the prayers. So much for animal spirituality.

Hubby was bubbly during lunch, having drunk about 6 shots of Scotch. He was telling my friend her red hair looked like something he could eat. In the afternoon a small group of us took a walk to see different desert views, which were breathtaking and walked back as the sun set. At the end of the day, I told our driver wouldn't it be nice if we all lived together in some sort of place like that, rural, but with more upscale accommodations of course. Maybe we'll build a retirement village somewhere out there. Just for our crowd.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

To Hell or not to Hell

I'm sure Hubby was a preacher in his last life. If it wasn't his last life, it sure is in this life. He and I were having a verbal go at each other as to which one of us is the bigger sinner and who will be going to hell. Him or me.

"You go around eating Halal meat with your Arabs. I would be a successful person if it weren't for you!"

"Oh yeah??? Well the way you go around cursing me and the kids is MUCH WORSE than me eating Halal meat. Much worse!!"

"Fuck you!"

Friday night at my home is me against the world. I get teased by my kids and son-in-law for having Arab friends and believing that most are good and then wish out loud that Beitar, the Jerusalem soccer club, gets a kick-ass Arab player soon. With an Arab who wins a game for the team, time after time, we'll see how things will shift instead of the racist hooligans the fans are now. But they think my peace-loving antics are also evil. I don't give a flying flake.

But you know who might be going to hell? Some bus drivers in Jerusalem. I was walking to my stop when I see a bus flying by with the back door open. This happens a lot here. Drivers just simply forget that you need to close the back door so that passengers don't fly out of the bus. Makes sense, non? Another day I go to the front of the bus and see the bus driver reading a fucking newspaper while he's driving. The paper was sitting beneath the steering wheel on the dashboard. Is he not going to hell? Is this not worse than eating halal meat?

Thursday, November 19, 2009


I've been getting very nostalgic lately about my childhood and teen years. I don't know why, really. Perhaps it's because I'm getting older and I like to look back fondly on those formative, fun, carefree years of mine when I wasn't saddled with mortgages, bills, husband, working, etc. And I wonder why I did not ever take photos of those good times? I hardly have any photos of myself with friends who I grew up with.

There was a review of a book about the history of the Grand Concourse called Broken Dreams. From what I saw on Amazon, it looked like a well-written, interesting book, and for the first time in nearly 4 years I bought that book from Amazon, wondering if it will mention my street in the Bronx where I grew up and the neighborhood of Kingsbridge Heights.

The strength of one's thoughts just getting out to the universe is very powerful. Here I am waxing nostalgic since I bought the book, waiting for it to arrive and, strangely, during this time, someone from my childhood finds me on Facebook, as I also put my maiden name there, asking if I remember her. Of course I remember. She was one of my first best friends. She would come over to my house to play and I'd go over to hers, which was remarkable because my folks didn't allow me to have secular Jewish friends. Her parents were Holocaust survivors and they had this gorgeous dining room which no one was allowed to enter. It was only used for special occasions. She also had a beautiful teenage sister whom we envied who dressed in white go-go boots and whose hair was so fashionable. This was in the mid-1960s. Her sister had a yelling match with her mother, was absolutely horrible to us and used to always slam her door shut. We used to sneak into her room to listen to her records. This is what I remember. We used to giggle when sis had her tantrums and say - "That's teenage for you." We were bratty 10 year olds.

She also had a lovely country home in Lake Mohegan and I loved going there on Sundays, walking on those country roads, letting inchworms crawl on us and watching fireflies and having barbecues.

So we caught up on Facebook emailing our stories, checking each others photos, and trying to catch up on 45 years of life in just a few short paragraphs.

Then, I glanced at a couple of her friends on Facebook and one was a group from the same elementary school in the Bronx and there I saw someone whom I was friends with who lived in the same building as I did in the 60s. I contacted her and she remembers me too. I remember playing with her when I was as young as three. She had a brother and together (with his friends and without her) we used to poo in our apartment building's concrete back yard (I think we were about 4 or 5 years old)to piss off the superintendent, who'd think it was stray dogs dirtying up the premises. Disgusting, eh? But that's what little kids do behind their parents' back. I think at one point we were found out and his folks didn't allow me to play with their son any more. Fortunately, I eventually grew out of being a shit-disturbing troublemaker and became friendly with his sister. She was gorgeous and looked like a little Elizabeth Taylor. I felt ugly and stupid next to her. I remember when I stopped hanging out with her because I just felt so inadequate. We were about 12 and she was hanging out in the lobby with some boys trying to bum a cigarette off them and I heard her call them "cheap" because they wouldn't give her one. She was way out of my league. I wasn't cool, I didn't smoke anything until I was 19 and I was an Orthodox Jew which made me feel so old-fashioned and frumpy next to her. So it was great to catch up with her too, though I didn't remind her of the poo thing with her brother. I'm hoping she either never knew or forgot about it totally.

And I wonder if anyone is doing a documentary on how Facebook reunites people after decades of not being in touch...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

It's all relative

First of all, thanks to the anonymous person who tipped me off about the bug on my blog. It was unreadable and it seems the problem stemmed from Photobucket. So I erased all my photobucket images and have a new, but plain blog without the bells and whistles or beads and camels. For now anyways.

Getting back to what I wanted to say --- my sister and neice and nephew came in from Canada this past week and we got together at my brother's house. They are all uber ultra-orthodox and so I donned my only dress - but no headcovering - and headed over to my big brother. My niece was having the freakies. Seems she is nervous about taking buses still, even though there haven't been any bus attacks for years now (thank you good God). But much to her horror:

"I took this taxi and then I looked at the seat next to the driver and saw an Arabic newspaper. I was so scared!!!"

I looked at her and laughed. Cab drivers? They're just scraping by to make a living. They may not all love Jews, because not all Jews love them either - but they're quite safe. I can assure you.

My sister in law put her mind at ease with:

"Oh, don't worry about that. If you have any problems with Arabs, just call her" she said tossing her head towards me. "She's friends with ALL of them."


I explained to them (for the 100th time) my interfaith work and my sister was like:

"You know you can't trust them. They're all terrorists." She used the dreaded "all" word. I was calm. I was cool. I was collected. I looked at her and asked -

"Did you EVER in your life sit down and speak with any Arab? Ever?"

Sis lowers her head down slightly.


"So you can't tell me they're "all" like that."

Certainly we don't want to hear that ALL Jews are Madoffs or shysters or rich as shit. Why do I have to hear the "all" word?

Next day I was at the family wedding. This time I had to act the Ultra Orthodox part. If I didn't come dressed appropriately - meaning head covering too - it would have been an embarrassment for my sister and niece. And it's a grave sin to embarrass people in public. I actually felt more mature donning the elegant headscarf to cover my hair, and noted that when I nearly slipped in my shoes, it wasn't becoming of me to shout out "FUCK" when I looked the way I did.

The relatives were pleased to see my hair tucked in wearing a long-sleeved dress. They even introduced me to their friends. But I sat at their table and found I had nothing much to say to them. The conversation was strained if there even was a conversation. But when it was time to leave, I hugged them and told them I loved them and I felt they loved me back, even though we don't speak much to each other.

I come home to the person I'm related to by marriage - Hubby. He's in a foul mood today and tells me:

"All I want is for people to go on buses and cough and sneeze on each other. And get sick. That's all I want. That's the person you married."


Then this morning I see a bill he got from income tax for 43,000 shekels. After all, why shouldn't they run after our money? Aren't we all brothers?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Rare Flowers and Brits

I'm still aching. Terribly. It's been two days since I hiked up in the Galilee with ESRA (English Speaking Residents Association), which mostly consist of Brits and the average age, I would guess is 65. You'd think, looking at these grey-haired folks, that the hike would be a piece of cake. It's almost like hiking with the Young At Heart crowd. Well it was easy because we didn't climb down ladders or hang off cliffs, but it was a very long and winding road.

To show you just how crazy I am, I woke up at 5:00 am. Who in their right mind takes off a day of work to wake up at that ungodly hour? Me. I got the 5:30 bus and my ride fetched me in Jerusalem one hour later. We waited for the main bus carrying all the hikers for about an hour, but the wait was wonderful and gave me a chance to discover a coffee called Pannone and a raspberry ganache which yelled "butter" all the way. The weather was delightful. I got onto the bus and sat in one of the few empty seats next to a messianic Jew. Maybe he was Jewish, maybe not, but he was from Montreal and had a distinct Quebec accent, pronouncing words like "dere" instead of "there". As soon as he mentioned the "New Testament" I knew that God wanted me to meet yet another one of these people. Again and again. Never fails, eh? We had a lovely discussion but he started in on the Moslems, calling them demonic and then I switched him off. I tried explaining that not everyone interprets the Koran the way Al Qaida and other extremists do and that the Moslems I met were one of the most hospitable people around. That seemed to royally piss him off because for the duration of the hike, while we sat down for lunch, he was going on about them like "every where in the world the Moslems are causing trouble" and when we passed a burnt out part of the forest, it was "them" doing it again.

"How do you know it's Arabs" I asked him. Perhaps it was Israeli teens. Perhaps it was a careless hiker, lighting up a butt then forgetting about it, until the winds whipped up a forest fire.

We began our hike in the Biria forest and saw the ruins of an ancient first century synagogue.

People in general on that hike were so friendly, it almost felt like family. A family of Brits and a couple of stray Yanks and Canadians and maybe an Aussie, a South African or two. Hiking uphill for a while, two guys teased me with "breathing heavy, aren't we?" "Yeah but what good is it if I'm breathing heavy alone."  We hiked 18 kilometers to Rosh Pina down the mountain.

There was a rare flower which is in bloom only a couple of weeks a year and only in a few places. This was one of them.

Luckily, even though I don't hike more than once a year, I felt seasoned enough to bring my crocs which I sunk my aching feet into after the hike. And

Saturday, November 07, 2009

The Country of Everest - Beit Jala

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to spend a weekend at the Everest Hotel, which had been given good publicity a couple of weeks ago in the Jerusalem Post. The conference was sponsored by the Center for Emerging Futures advertised as:

Building Grassroots Partnerships

Beyond opinions, beyond fears,
beyond simplistic solutions and beyond politics:

A meeting of Palestinians – Israelis – Internationals
A human gathering of listening and co-creation

Sounded just like what I needed. I remembered the tough time I experienced last time I was there two years ago and I hoped things would be a bit different this time.

I didn't feel like spending money on a cab to get to Beit Jala. I took the bus from Maaleh Adumim to Talpiot when I decided I would take the Arab 21 bus straight to Beit Jala. I saw an Arab woman standing by the stop and started a conversation with her in my very broken Arabic but enough that she understood that I wanted to get to the Everest Hotel. She was so pleased that I asked for her assistance, after all, it's not every day that an Israeli woman would come over to ask an Arab woman for directions. She quickly offered me some of the seeds she was eating and invited me for coffee at her house. I would have loved to go, but I was going to be an hour late already. I sat in the back of the bus, some people staring, probably wondering if I was Jewish, a journalist or just a plain ol' foreigner or all three. The bus pretty much emptied out at a stop where taxis were waiting to take people to Hebron. It took about 15 minutes to get to Beit Jala and the bus left me off quite close to the hotel.

The introduction circle had already begun. I was listening to people's share of why they came - some had never met the other before, some wanted an end to the occupation, some wanted this for their children and I said I needed this kind of gathering for my mental health, which elicited some laughter. Of course, I mentioned that I came from Maaleh Adumim, which caused some murmuring among the crowed, but I happily saw that there was another young man from my city too.

We sat in a listening circle with Raed from an area near Ariel. He was harsh. No settlements! he cried, No occupation!!! YOU move to Tel Aviv and I move to Maaleh Adumim. He glared at me.

I told him that's impossible. Although I love to visit Tel Aviv, I'm not moving from Maaleh Adumim and if he wants to move and live with me in my community, that would be fine with me. I'm obviously not thinking or caring what my other 37,000 neighbors think of my ideas. He quieted down because he actually liked the idea of "living with me" and kept on repeating "living with you?" about 20 times. But he still believed that the settlements were the only problem and if they were removed, peace would miraculously appear in the region. I said the conflict was much older and deeper than 1967. He walked away from our table only to return with some crackers shaped like fish and handed each one of us a cracker - like a peace offering of sorts. This we thought was a lovely gesture from a man so angry, and we spoke about it in the larger circle.

Other forms of "giving" were done that weekend. One young Palestinian from Hebron said he was touched when, on Friday night, he complained of a horrible stomach ache. A Jewish woman made him some mint tea.

Another said he had a terrible headache and a Jewish tai chi instructor gave him some treatment and within minutes his headache was gone.

Jewish Oud player Yair Dalal entertained us on Friday evening with young musicians from Beit Jala.

This weekend I connected more deeply with some people, especially some of the women that came with their husbands from Twane and Umm al-Kheir. My Arabic was slightly better than it was a couple of years ago and their husbands spoke good English. They were such sweet people. One came over to me after I had lit the Sabbath candles and wished me a warm "shabbat shalom". They feel tormented by the Jews who live in nearby Carmel and Maon farms. Although the settlements receive 100% water supply and electricity, they don't have electricity and running water more than 3 hours a day. I guess we can't exchange email addresses. By the end of the weekend, my partnership goal/promise was to assist the families as best as I can by them making goat cheese and milk and yogurt products, as well as olive oil products and assisting these families in selling their products to tour groups and individuals who visit the South Hebron area. They can't really produce organic or any veggies or fruits, for that matter, on a large scale basis because of the water/electrical shortages. They are just able to grow whatever they can for their own use. But I figure this might help them out just a bit.

At breakfast Saturday morning, I sat with two young women, one raven-haired Jewish beauty from Belgium, whom everyone mistook for an Arab woman, and one who recently moved from Seattle who was 23 years old, but had the compassion and maturity of a much older woman. I told her my kids, who were her age, just thought about parties, shopping, friends, etc. She told me she was born an old woman and I laughed. We then sat around and spoke about visiting one another in Tel Aviv and Ashdod and perhaps having brunch on the Tel Aviv Port one day and then the conversation abruptly stopped.

"You know 'they' can't do all these things we're just taking for granted" - we almost said in unison - looking at our Arab table mates. We were almost embarrassed by this.

Leaving my nirvana on Saturday afternoon was difficult this time. We really connected and just this week I had a call from Twane asking when I plan to come down to visit. I told them for sure later on this month. Promises made have to be kept.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


I was a good mother and wife this week. I actually went to work and then went straight home afterwards. No parties, no friends, no restaurants, no concerts. Nothing. I made dinner. I did laundry. But on Friday I became restless again. I missed my social activities.

The All Nations Cafe advertised a clean up day at Ein Haniyeh on Friday near the Arab village of Walaja overlooking the Malcha neighborhood in West Jerusalem. It's just a bit over the checkpoint. I recruited Hubby to drive me there since we still have our rented car. There was also supposed to be a Peace March organized by the Humanist movement. As we drove past the train station in Malcha, I recognized a fellow peace worker and we gave her a lift. Apparently, the peace march and speeches and performances were all cancelled due to political infighting in Walaja. OK. But the clean up is still on.

When we arrived, Dhyon of All Nations was there with two young Arab boys, one of whom hugged me like a long lost sister. A large group of Humanists came to clean up - mostly from Argentina, but some from Spain.

We took some bags and began cleaning up in the heat. Interesting to see the garbage that I collected. A child's headband, pajamas, a shirt, a lot of paper plates and plastic cups, beer bottles - lots of beer bottles - and cards advertising sex services and salad containers. It was hot and I had enough after 1/2 hour. I think everyone took a break after 1/2 hour.

I looked at the byzanine ruins by the spring. It was shamefully covered in Hebrew graffiti. A young Russian man was filling up about 25 jerry cans of spring water. This is the only water he drinks.

"It's better than Mei Eden".

"When do you finish all that water?" I asked him.

He said it takes him two weeks, and then he comes back to refill. The Ein Haniyeh pool was empty. There are rocks and garbage blocking the flow of water and it was Dyhon's aim to unblock the flow and get the pool filled up again.

We introduced ourselves to each other and sat down for a coffee break, while exchanging busines cards. Nothing like freshly brewed over-the-fire Arabic coffee with cardamom.

We then heard that the official March for Peace and speeches and entertainment was cancelled because the Walaja officials didn't want to have "normalization" with Israelis. Because Israelis were joining, they didn't want the event to go on.

"How stupid." I told whoever was listening. "This 'normalization' thing is political bullshit. Our governments are always feeding us bullshit so that we can't be together."

People nodded in agreement.

"Events like these are always more effective when both Israelis and Arabs are involved. It sends a stronger message to the world or to our country that even Israelis are upset at the way the Walaja community is being treated by the Israeli government (by planning a Jewish neighborhood on their village land, while they themselves are not allowed to legally expand). But, ok, let them cancel. Stupid idiots."

There was an Arab man from Abu Tor who was leaving back to Jerusalem sooner rather than later. I wanted to get a lift from him. No problem. I knew we had to pass the checkpoint.

"Do the soldiers give you any trouble?"


We were made to stop at the checkpoint. The soldier looks at the driver. He asks what he was doing and where he went. It didn't matter that he was driving a car with Israeli license plates. All Arabs are suspicious looking at checkpoints.

"You saw me come in 1/2 hour ago" said the driver to the soldier.

Again - what was he doing there and where does he live?

"I went to clean up the spring"

"There's no water in the pool" the soldier insisted, thinking the guy is lying.

I butted in.

"Exactly. That's why we're cleaning it up." I obviously didn't look or act like a kidnapped Israeli woman and the soldier seemed satisfied that the driver is an ok human being, even if he is an Arab.

He waved us through.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


My son is a computer addict. He's addicted to free Poker games on the internet. It's just horrible. I woke him up yesterday by telephone while I was on the way to work, and he didn't even answer me with a "fuck you" so I thought he was in a pretty good mood, despite the fact that I woke him. But I got a call from his teacher that evening telling me that he never showed up in school that day.


The fact that he didn't curse me out, as he usually does nearly every morning when I wake him, should have been a warning sign. He was probably sitting at the computer, playing Poker and forgot about school. Just simply forgot.

The teacher was mad and said I'd have to come into work late to speak to the principal.

"Sorry, I can't this week and next week. We have a lot of pressure this week at work. I can't see anyone or be 5 minutes late until October 25th."

The teacher growled at me, saying things that I should really put my kid first.

I'm like - sorry, but I don't feel like jeopardizing the only steady income my family has for this kid. Get it?

"I'll talk to the principal" she huffed at me.

My son is telling me - "why should I got to school? I HATE THAT SCHOOL."

Well, because no other school will take you, sonny boy.

I only found sympathy with co-workers the next morning.

"He should be going to work."

"Let him do his exams later on in life."

"Let him start army service earlier."

"He doesn't learn anything anyway, why should he just sit in class??"

And they all joined me in vilifying the school faculty who made me feel like an incompetent mother.

This morning before work, though, I took away his keyboard and mouse and hid it under lock and key.

I called him to wake him up for school. He probably saw the keyboard and mouse missing and there were no curses for me this morning. He simply hung the phone up on me.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


It was sad when the holiday ended. I didn't really go anywhere for the holidays. Unlike tens of thousands of Israelis who fly overseas, I prefer to spend the main holidays in Israel - because that's where you feel the holiday.'s just another plain day. And I also didn't go anywhere because for the first time, Hubby was able to buy and build a large sukkah, long enough to fit around 20 people uncomfortably and 14 people comfortably. We had been going without a sukkah for two years and it didn't feel right. It didn't feel like Sukkot.

On Friday, I had my daughter's in-laws all over. The shy single Elvis fan brother-in-law didn't want his photo taken and I was trying to get a good shot of him for his JDate profile. He'd love to find a nice all-American girl - she must love Elvis of course. I finally did manage to get a nice shot of him - but only to be shown on JDate. This time my daughter's mother-in-law gave me a beautiful poinsetta plant and a deep frying pan. Finally, something useful, instead of the ugly microwave we got on Passover that looked like a washing machine, which we traded in for another, more sleek looking, model.

On Sunday I invited eight Evangelical Lutherans to my home for dinner. I thought they were German girls so I bought TWO cases of beer. I didn't want to seem like the cheap Jew. But they were all young American girls and only half a case went. We still have a case and a half sitting in the fridge. Oh well. Better to miscalculate on the generous side. Hubby was even around to give them a demonstration of shaking the lulav and etrog and I read the blessing in English and explained to them the story behind succot, which I can't even remember myself any more.. I'm sure they must have thought that shaking the lulav and etrog was quite the strange ritual so I mentioned that Jesus definitely did the very same thing.

On Monday and Tuesday I babysat the grandkid who is so much more different in the daytime than he is when I normally watch him in the cranky evenings. I got so used to the little bugger and enjoyed my 7 hours a day with him, until his mom came to pick him up.

On Wednesday, Jerusalem's macrobiotic community "invaded" my house - some 30 people. My neighbors must have thought I was nuts. This event lasted nearly 12 hours. I was like the maintenance person - replacing wet towels, toilet paper, tableclothes, aprons and whatever else was needed. These people are really eco-conscious and brought their own real plates and cups so I didn't need to cook or wash up the entire day - which was quite a joy. I did shiatsu and tai chi and listened as much as I could to the different lectures until I lost my energy sometime after dinner... My kids stayed in their rooms all day and Hubby stayed away until everyone left. They'll have none of that healthy food/lifestyle, thank you.

Saturday, Hubby and I decided to take advantage of our rented car and went countryside to have brunch out in Hans Sternbach's winery in Moshav Ganei Yeshayahu -out in the sticks somewhere near Beit Shemesh. On the way, he tried to take a short cut and sees a young pretty thing walking on the side of the road. He asks for directions. She tells him he has to go back...there is no shortcut around here. He tells her "have a nice....ass", but luckily I don't think she heard him.

We finally found the restaurant and were so happy. We really needed some respite from all the guests during the week and wanted some quiet moments. We looked at the shaded patio, the tables set beneath grape vines and sat down. The waitress comes over and tells us the cook hasn't arrived yet because the roads are blocked due to a bicycle race. We sit and wait. While we wait, we hear screaming coming from the house. The restaurant also happens to be the owner's residence. His kid is yelling at him. We hear doors slam. We laugh because it looks like we're not gonna get any quiet today either. We also laugh because we're glad other kids do the same to their parents as our kids. The waitress is embarrassed and comes over to apologize. By this time, we're just laughing and tell her it's ok. "At least they're not telling their father to fuck off, like my kids do." The waitress laughs with us.

The cook finally comes, and so does the food which was worth the wait - 8 different kinds of salads - lentils with caraway, eggplant, beets, humous, matbucha, cheese platter with caraway cream cheese, ricotta, labanae, olives, a fish platter of smoked mackerel, salmon and herring and omelettes. We get a tour of the winery and a taste of 4 custom wines. We sit next to diplomats from Denmark who arrived in a Jaguar and we feel rich.