Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Salad Wars

My daughter hardly looked at me this evening when I came home at 9:00 pm. She was sulking on the tv chair with her fiancee, complaining as usual.

"No one is helping me for when his family comes next week. My sister doesn't even want to make salads. I can't wait to move to Tiberias away from this shitty family.

Yeah, I feel the same way sometimes. I really do.

And she continued, "Plus his family is starting to put away money for us and you're not doing anything!!! And they're asking me what you're doing for us..."

I started to get heated up.

"Did you tell them that I haven't yet recuperated from the wedding we had THREE WEEKS AGO? And do you know how much money I'm gonna be spending on that whole tribe coming down from Tiberias next week. Hundreds of shekels!!"

Man, does she burn my ass.

And she's the one doing most of the shit-disturbing.

Yesterday, I was talking about the good documentaries and movies on the Holocaust. One day a year,even Israeli cable tv pays homage to the Holocaust and nothing much is shown except Holocaust-related films and documentaries and ceremonies. So she rolls her eyes and tells me she's going to be watching a DVD.

"Once a year you just can't have respect and watch a documentary or film on the Holocaust? You have to just wash it away, like you want nothing to do with it. Like it's only a friggin' Ashkenazi thing and because you think you're Morrocan, it doesn't affect you?"

I was livid.

Like the whole thing with the salads. She's giving me a hard time because of salads when his family comes next week.

"They're not gonna eat your big American salads. They eat little salads. All different kinds of little salads."

"Excuse me!! They're not gonna partake of my big American salads? What kind of shit is that? If I were to go to their house, would they serve gefilte fish for me because that's what I eat? Of course not!"

Then she tells me about her fiancee's mother's reaction to what my daughter told HER about my salads and my customs.

"She told me that she's not gonna change her eating habits. We shouldn't expect her to eat like we do."

"I don't expect her to. Did you not tell her I'm open minded about other people's customs, and could you please elaborate on what you just told me?"

"You know how you put your salad on your plate from the big plate?"


"Well, they don't do that. They don't put their salads on their plates. They'll all just put their spoons in and eat the salads straight from the serving salad plate."

"Oh don't worry, Arabs do that too" I told her, knowing how much she doesn't want her fiancee's family to be compared to Arabs.

How much more civilized are we than that family? I dunno. There's an awful lot of belching and farting around in our house, even though we put our salads on our plates.

So, yeah, I can live with that communal eating custom in my house. But only for a day.

Sunday, April 19, 2009


This is a place of such holiness and such tension - it's hard for me to go there these days. But tears came to my eyes when I watched this group visiting Hebron.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Feast of the Messiah

I can't believe I went on the last day of Passover to the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in the Old City to observe the traditional Jewish Seudat Moshiach (Feast of the Messiah). My oldest daughter wanted me to come to her house at 5:00 pm to have tea on her new patio set and I was really fatigued from the holiday itself. But I can always have tea with her, when she decides to stay home one weekend instead of always going to her mother-in-laws. This is a "once in a messianic" opportunity for me to celebrate the last day of Passover with Moslem, Christians and Jews. Just what the messiah ordered.

I hitched a ride with my son-in-law and daughter back to Jerusalem and the weather got nasty. The heat wave was over and I wasn't expecting it to be so over in a matter of hours. I was freezing, even though I wore a black shawl which I nearly forgot in my rush to get out of the house.

Yaqub was the first to arrive on his bike, and seeing my shivering, he gallantly loaned me his warm coat while we waited for the others just inside Jaffa Gate of the Old City. The others who showed up were a real mixed crowd. Some even freaked me out, like the Chassidic-looking guy in a shtreimel (fur hat) and black satin overcoat. Was he going to be joining us in the Church? On Passover? Others were some familiar faces and unfamiliar faces - a mix of religious, secular,hippies, straighties, musicians and a group of Christians from EAPPI,from the World Council of Churches. We all trudged off together to the Church of the Redeemer, which I had never been to before. We were 20 minutes early and no one was letting us in. I reminded people that this was a German church, not an Israeli one, and Time is taken very seriously in Germany - if you say you are going to be there at 6:00 then don't bother showing up 20 minutes early. The Chassidic-looking guy sat down at a table at a cafe across the way with one of the secular women, of course not ordering anything because it was still Passover and one can't buy anything or eat things not kosher for Passover. The Arab cafe owner kept on coming out to look at him, probably not believing what he was seeing. No one who looks like THAT ever sits in his cafe, I can assure you.

We were finally let in and a hoard of other people joined us. I thought perhaps some German tourists who were at the church may have joined us accidentally and then decided to stay for the 3 hours we were there. I'm not sure. Then there was a group who did join us from the Walk about Love - a two month walk all around the Holy Land, whose participants were young hippies from all over the world.

Eliyahu from Jerusalem Peacemakers hosted this event and brought just enough matza and food for like 50 people. But there seemed to be around 150 people crammed into the chapel and he asked that people take small amounts when it came time to partake of the Feast. Somehow, miraculously, there was enough for everyone - quinoa salad, fruits, matzas, drinks, salads - with some food leftover. I don't remember what everyone spoke about - but the Pastor spoke, Ibrahaim spoke, Sheikh Abdul Aziz Bukhara spoke, and someone called Gershon gave over the Jewish perspective. And why not? It was our holiday after all. Miriam Irons and Aliza Hava sang - getting us to sing the halleluyas with them. But in general, the evening reflected the unity that we should feel at a time like this, and we all seemed to have a feeling that the energy of this united-ness actually expanded outward to the rest of Jerusalem and then to the rest of the country. We all hope for a messianic age where we can share our lives together with all peoples. But many of us are living in that era right now.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

On the Last Day of Passover my true love gave to me...

Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Jewish men are supposed to buy their wives gifts for this major holiday, preferably jewellery. But my soul-mate hasn't a fucking clue about shopping for his wife - not even after 26 years. His contribution is plain, ol' simple income so that I don't get stressed out because of the cost of inviting dozens of guests for each meal. And this year, Thank the Good Lord, I did not get stressed. I spent 3,000 NIS for the entire holiday, which is about $750, if I did the math right. And he had the money this year, which is as good a gift as I can expect from him. May the $$ continue to come in.

Now my future son-in-law has set up camp inside my home with my daughter for about a month or so until he's out of the army. I asked whether any of his relatives speak English, because if not, Hubby will not be able to communicate when they meet us in two weeks. He said his mother's native language is French and it is very similar to English. I couldn't believe my ears when I heard that. I tried to tell him gently that only the alphabet is the same, but even a four letter word like "shit" bears no resemblance to the French equivalent, "merde". It won't work. There will be a communications barrier between his folks and Hubs.

My married daughter offered to host his brood when they come in two weeks.
Not a chance. You see, this girl's got not one, but TWO LCD's in her salon and bedroom, and her place is fully furnished. They'll think we're comfortable financially. I explained to my daughter that at least if they come to us, they'll see that we don't even have shower doors and we watch a stinking old 21" television, and see that there's a shabby, barely working computer in my son's room. "It'll be better that way." I told her. "This way, maybe they'll feel sorry for us, and won't make demands on us like we have to buy the couple an apartment or furnish it, or something horrible like that."

And tonight is the last night of the holiday, and man am I glad. I'm cooking slowly because my neck is stiff and I'm probably dehydrated, even though I have a bottle of water handy which I drink from during short breaks in the cooking. My newly married daughter and engaged one were very relieved to be invited to my oldest daughter's home for dinner tonight. You see, I invited two very nice couples, our age or a bit older, who live in the neighborhood, for dinner tonight. Together, we're a bunch of nostalgic ex-New Yorkers and the conversation hits everything from the Tappan Zee bridge, to Yankee Stadium, to Shea, to restaurants on the Lower East Side. They're normal people. They really are. But my kids shy away from an evening with my friends as if I've invited the plague into my home.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Moroccans are Coming

HELP!!!! My newly engaged couple arrived last night, just as I'm recuperating from my other daughter's wedding and had some requests/questions.

1. When can his relatives come and meet us?

2. My daughter will need to have a "henna" ceremony - done by Jewish women whose families originate from Arab/Middle Eastern countries (I understand Arab women also have this done the night before the wedding).

I insisted that my very blonde, blue eyed daughter is not of North African extraction but because she's marrying into a family of Moroccans, this should be done. My daughter wanted something relatively extravagant so that she could get money out of this too. I told the very young couple that my friends will not dish out moolah for two events so close to each other. If they want a henna ceremony, it'll have to be at my house, with her friends, and she's lucky if she gets sexy lingerie out of the deal - and if the future mother-in-law wants to come, she'll have to come with her pastries because I sure as hell can't bake/cook those goodies that drip with honey and look like all sorts of twirly tube things.

What about the in-laws meeting us? I had intended to celebrate Israel Independence Day with both Jews and Palestinians in an intimate setting where Jews would celebrate their Independence and Palestinians would mourn their loss of land/homes, etc. in their Nakba. We would celebrate and mourn each other's wins and losses.

But this is the only day I'd be able to meet my daughter's fiancee's family, so the gathering of Jews/Palestinians will have to wait another year. I told my daughter's fiancee, to invite his family for an Independence Day barbecue at our home in two weeks. I said that I'm off work that day and I'll be only too happy to host them.

He called his folks to invite them. After that phone conversation he told me "everybody's coming". All his siblings. I had no idea what that meant. Two brothers, sister? Two sisters, 1 brother? Not a chance. They're seven kids altogether + parents + the families of the two married sibs. They will all drive down from Tiberias to meet us.

So - what's an overworked granny like me to do?? Retract the invite? I really wanted to. I sure did. I panicked but tried not to let it show.

Today, after doing my last-of-the-Passover-holiday shopping I sulked in the kitchen and complained to Hubby. I'm thinking of all the barbecue meat I'll have to buy for our "meet the soon-to-be-relatives" of ours and the cost of it all.

"Looks like we'll NEVER get this apartment furnished! We still don't have shower doors and I'm tired of watching movies on our ancient 2nd-hand 21" tv. When will we ever get anything?"

Hubby looked at me incredulously. He seemed more the voice of reason today.

"What's more important? Marrying off kids or buying furniture?"

I glared at him.

"Buying furniture - dammit!"

Friday, April 10, 2009

From Bondage to Freedom

Well, there were some interesting seders I missed this year - The Forward had an article about a New York Kinky Jews' seder with emphasis on the "bondage" rather than freedom - this would have been fun for me and hubby to attend as strictly voyeurs. We'll have to put this down on our "interesting seder wish list".

This year we decided to invite the newest members of our clan. The "distinguished" family of my new son-in-law. With our lovely heirloom Noritake from 1938 and my mother-in-law's silver plated setting, our table looked pretty distinguished, if I might say so myself. Being the secular family that they are, they pretty much ran through the story until the food part,which ended their part of the seder. After they left my daughter and hubby finished the rest of the seder.

Our guests came with two cases of soda, a big basket full of chocolates, a big basket full of soaps and lotions from Sheinkin. My daughter came with a bag full sample lotions and creams and stuff she didn't want after she cleaned up their room for Passover. And my daughter's mother-in-law had noticed that we didn't have a microwave, which we only use for popcorn and food warming. I told her it wasn't necessary. I had planned to buy one next month - an expensive one with a grill, since I was planning to use the grill more than the microwave. But they walked in with one anyways....

The next day Hubby opens it up and it's non-digital and white. Not black or aluminum. It had a slanted window, which made it look like a retro mini washing machine rather than a microwave. He put it back in the box.

"I'm not keeping anything that makes me angry. This makes me angry." I laughed instead of getting angry at him for being ungrateful for our gifts. We're stashing the thing in our storage room - maybe one day, one of our kids with no taste will want it.

In the evening, my son had Pesach-itis. He was doubled up with stomach pain. Trying to loosen his blockage, I did some reflexology on his feet and soon after he was running to the bathroom. While I feel asleep, he missed on the way to the toilet and hurled in the hallway. Hubby was screaming for someone to clean it up - that someone being me, of course, as there was no one else in the house. This is my vacation, I thought to myself, as I had to clean up the mess, getting out of bed in the midst of a lovely slumber. Please God, don't let anyone get deathly ill in the middle of the night at our home, because Hubby and I are the Kings and Queens of Bitches when we are woken up and we'll just let that person rot until morning.

But my THIRD eldest daughter, the one I call the Complainer, called me from Tiberias last night. She told me in an unusually tiny voice rather than her regular raspy one, that she and her boyfriend got engaged. She has a ring. It's official. And if we thought that we had just gotten over one wedding, we now have to plan another. It's happiness and this is truly a season of Freedom for us. But the silly little girl really believes that she is on a journey from Bondage to Freedom. She has no idea, at the tender age of 21, that a married woman's journey is just the opposite.