Saturday, August 29, 2009


I'm sitting at the Sabbath table on Friday night. We're having our usual chaotic discussions which end up with people being very loud and yelling at each other, then erupting in terrible laughter (usually the kids) and me just wanting to walk away or wishing I was in New York or somewhere else far away.

This time I was commenting on the Jerusalem Post's article that 90% of Palestinians are believed by some to have been originally Jews, the ancient Jews of Israel, who were forced to convert to either Christiantity or Islam in later years. They're the ones who never left. So instead of having an intelligent conversation around the table like I imagine other families have, my 19 year-old daughter tells me:

"Arabs don't have souls"

I'm doing the dishes and I stop. I turn around. I usually don't and continue conversations while doing other things at once. I look at her.

"Where did you hear THAT?"

"From the rabbanit" (the "learned" woman she used to go to for religious lessons).

"That's bullshit. That is Total Bullshit", this time it's me yelling and not the kids. I'm staring into her eyes like someone who is trying to deprogram a cult member.

She explained - "when they die, they don't go to heaven or hell, they just don't go anywhere."

I was livid.

"You mean you believe that only Jewish people have souls?? Is that woman out of her fucking mind? I'm so happy you're not taking lessons from her any longer. I won't allow it. I'm thrilled you're not going there." There must be a religious teacher out there who doesn't talk trash like that about other peoples.

I can't imagine that people like my friend Ibrahim who invites every Tom, Dick and crazy nut into his home to stay however long they want, and if they can, to either donate what they wish, or if they can't, then he never asks them for money. Sometimes they stay for months on end. I can't believe he doesn't have a soul.

And my friend from Jenin who is struggling with Lymphoma and is fasting during Ramadan even though he doesn't have to, according to Islam, because like in Judaism, if you're sick, you should not fast. I can't believe he doesn't have a soul.

And my hosts who, this past week, laid out an Iftar feast for us after their daily fast and served us first, even though we told them we had eaten all day, so please start first - I can't believe they don't have souls. And when the mother smiled at us as she walked out to pray the 5th prayer of the day at the mosque, she could have passed for a Sephardic women on her way to synagogue, had she just tied her headscarf to the back instead of the front. I can't believe she has no soul.

I'm hoping that my daughter will one day want to connect with a more compassionate Jewish religious community, and take her lessons with them, and will realize that we all have souls that want to connect with God in our own way through our own religions.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


I have been feeling bloated for days. It's been awhile since I've been so constipated. It's easier to write that I'm constipated than actually tell people. That's more embarrassing. After work I went to pick up some natural fiber at the local drug store together with hand sanitizer so I can sanitize my hands after going on the public buses. These hand sanitizers are going like hot cakes these days.

I didn't go home after the drug store. I went to the bank to close 13 standing orders (debit charges) from various services like cable tv, internet, insurance, mortgages, etc. The teller asked me why I'm closing them. I looked at the young girl behind the plastic window and complained for the first time - but gently so that she wouldn't think I'm holding her responsible.

"I asked the bank four times to please extend my loan so that I can have easier monthly payments. Why should I feel so choked each month? They didn't want to hear from it. Each time they refused me. So another bank gave me much better terms, and I'm paying 500 shekels less each month. I transferred my salary over to them, so I have to transfer the standing orders too."

She didn't say a further word to me. It was as if I had just admitted to being an adultress. Yes, I cheated on my bank and went over to another bank behind the first bank's back. Oy. She shoved the 13 papers at me for my signature, unsmiling. Well, if the bank wanted to keep me as their customer, they should have been nicer to me. I would have remained loyal. But they were stubborn. They didn't want to pay me any attention. And when a woman feels neglected and rejected, she goes somewhere else.

"I'm sorry" I told her, and walked out the door.

I was then off to an Iftar dinner to break the Ramadan fast in Abu Dis. Once there I asked Abed - our host - my usual question of late - does he know if he is a descendant from Jews? He looked at me strangely. I told him of the Jerusalem Post's magazine article this past weekend. It was a spread of a few pages.

"This is a right wing paper - correct?" he asked me.

"Yes, so this is great that they're writing articles about this. If people see that you are all or mostly descended from Jews, perhaps we'll all be nicer to you and you will feel less oppressed, less choked." There's a lot of "choked" feelings these days.

We moved into his parents' dining room with a beautiful domed roof - the old part of the house. There is a movement to renovate/restore all the old homes that are 100 to a few hundred years old in Abu Dis. We saw a photo of his grandfather who lived until he was 107 years old. He looked like Moses, with his cane, robe and beard. Not that I know what Moses looked like, though when my kids were little they believed I did.

The food his mother prepared was delicious. I never tasted falafel balls stuffed with onions,sumac and other tart spices. There were about 15 courses. And this happens each night during Ramadan - a feast after the fast. I even managed to converse a bit in Arabic to his folks. Even with my grammatical mistakes, I felt proud that a few sentences just came to me. I learned that rice is called "reese" in Arabic. Another new word.

After the meal, the Moslems taught us about Ramadan and I spoke about Elul which seemed to be parallel in that these are the seasons/months where God is more accessible to us and we can ask God for what we want. If we're good to mankind then God will be good to us. This is in both of our religions.

Then Abed told me that he sometimes gets questioned by the Palestinian Police who know about our group. I told him to invite the guy to our meetings so he can see what we do is nothing harmful, but just the opposite.

"They know everything about us. They found out from the internet that I'm having meetings with settlers and they want to know what goes on."

That left me nonplussed. But what I left in Abed cousin's car accidentally was the natural laxative I had bought plus my hand sanitizer. That pissed me off. Now the Palestinian intelligence will find out that this one settler suffers from constipation. And that's more than I can bear.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Vacation Over

I had a great two weeks off work. I could hardly get to my computer at home because my son hogs it and puts up a fight when I need it for an hour. It's hardly worth the headache. But now I'm at my office, after work hours, and the computer is MINE! All mine.

Here is a video I took at the Klezmer Festival in Tzefat. Great music, great breakdancer or whatever you call him. Too bad I don't have a decent video cam - but you get the picture.

We spoke to the guy afterwards who told us he runs a breakdance school for boys in Jerusalem and he performs on Ben Yehuda Street every Thursday evening. It's worth a watch and even a few shekels!

Monday, August 17, 2009


I love Ezra Nawi. There aren't too many people from Maaleh Adumim that love Ezra Nawi. But I do. There aren't too many Sephardic gay men who help Palestinians in the Southern Hebron region, when no one else can or will. But he does.

On the way to nowhere in particular yesterday morning, I stopped by the courthouse in Jerusalem where this guy was about to be charged for who knows what, something like interfering with the army, police or what have you. Emails were sent out to various lists asking for people to come out in support of this man, whose trial and sentencing was at 8:30 a.m.

I didn't know any one there, as I'm not a leftist activist, and I guess most of the people there were. I went over to a couple of people and asked how long the court thing will take. They glanced at me, unsmiling, and said they didn't know. It almost felt as if they just all "knew" I lived over the forbidden green line.

The Orthodox Jewish couple holding up a sign in support of Ezra were much more welcoming when I attempted to hold a conversation. I felt comfortable with the sign holders and hung out with them for a bit.

He came out at around 11:00 am, while everyone cheered and clapped. The sentencing held over until September. So he's safely out of jail - for now.

You see, I always felt that if there were more Ezra Nawi's, there would be peace between Palestinians and Israelis, despite the government, despite politics. If there were more Ezra Nawi's, we would be seen more as a light unto the nations, not as oppressors of a people by others. If there were more Ezra Nawi's, there wouldn't be talk of boycotts of Israeli academics or products. Not everyone may believe this. But I do.

Saturday, August 15, 2009


I should have known not to come home tonight. The droopy sunflowers which I bought at the shuk for 10 shekels was enough of a sign. They were perfectly alive when I bought them, but as soon as I walked into the house, the stems wouldn't stay straight.

To begin with, I offered to babysit a blind cute medium-sized scrawny dog. But one of my kids (the former IDF soldier!) was hysterical about it.

"You're bringing GERMS into the house!! I don't want dirty dogs in the house! You love dogs more than you care about me."

She screamed at me, and shoved a chair. The dog faced the direction of her voice and growled at her loudly. Frightened, she ran into her room and slammed the door shut and refused to come out of the room unless she was accompanied by someone.

Imagine being frightened of a blind dog! What a yutz.

Then Hubby got mad at her for slamming the door and equally mad at me for bringing the dog home and threatened us with no new furniture - ever and other assorted threats. And the caulking I want done around the kitchen, faggedaboutit. I'll have to hire someone to do the handyman work.

See why I run to these interfaith peace activities? Arabs, Jews, Christians sit around for two days, talking formally in circles and informally in smaller circles and laugh together and ask curious questions and compare cultures into the late hours of the night. Why can't my home life be as wonderful?

I had just come back from an overnight retreat in Beit Jala. This was a retreat with the Interfaith Encounter Association together with the Hope Flowers School in Bethlehem. My favorite people were all there - the handsome flirty Palestinian geologist, who now tells everyone (since it came up last time I saw him) that he is descended from one of Bar Kochba's sons, an English guy from Liverpool who impressed me with the fact that he had been at the Cavern Club when the Beatles played there, my other British friend David, whom I hadn't seen in ages, people involved with Rabbis for Human Rights' activities, a woman from Saudi Arabia visiting relatives here, friends from the women's group, etc. All of us were wishing for a kind of happy world, like the kind of place we created here in our encounter.

We spoke about Moses in the formal circles - and it was funny how one person had the Torah on his cell phone and one person had the Koran on his cellphone and the two of them compared notes from their respective phones, checking to find similar stories in our sources. It seems as if the Koran has the same Moses stories as the Torah does except for a section on the Jews' wandering in the desert - the Koran talks about the Jews catching fish whereas the Torah doesn't mention fish at all. You'd figure they'd camp out some of the time by either the Mediterranean or the Red Sea during their 40 year sojourn.

One of the Jewish men in our group spoke about the fact that when Moses lifted his hands during the wars the Israelites fought, the Israelites were victorious, but not when his hands were down. So Aaron and Joshua had to help keep Moses' hands up.

One of the Palestinians mentioned that at an Israeli checkpoint, the soldiers demanded that he keep his hands up and stand on one leg. I told him, now you can tell him about the Moses story, and he won't want to have you raise your hands like that.

I felt that we could all live together in a commune, a kibbutz or something of that kind, and many others thought that as well. A lot voiced a wish for a common Middle Eastern community, with open borders. I've always wanted this type of European Community thing and it is always encouraging when I hear a new voice wish for the same thing. I feel if so many of us want this, it's bound to happen sooner than later.

We took a walk outside of our hotel to the grocery store nearby. I was astounded that the prices of humous, labane and cabbage salads were 1/2 the price of what I pay in West Jerusalem. I wondered whether this was another reason for Israelis not being allowed or being discouraged from entering into Arab neighborhoods. It would certainly make the Israeli side drop their prices if we all went into Arab grocery stores to buy our food and house supplies.

But then the retreat was over, and I had to prepare for Shabbat. My newly-married daughter's wedding album was ready and she was eager to show it to us. I saw my bus coming, and asked the driver if there would be another one after this one. He nodded yes. I still hadn't gotten cigarettes for Hubby and a newspaper for myself. I waited for about an hour. No bus. I called up my son who never leaves his computer and asked him to look up the bus schedule. The last one from the shuk was at 3:15. It was nearly 4:30, and here I was standing at the stop like an idiot. I took another bus to a place where I could get a different bus back home. This ended up being a 2 1/4 hour trip home - all because of cigarettes for a miserable Hubby and a paper and a lying bus driver.

And then I entered the chaos that is my home.

Thursday, August 06, 2009


OK - it wasn't Leonard Cohen, but it was a spiritual concert nonetheless. I got an invite to go to a concert of love songs from King David and Rumi, celebrating the Jewish festival of love - Tu B'Av. The singer I know from my interfaith retreats and the Jewish Renewal Friday night services. Miriam Ahuvatel Iron was accompanied by two young musicians, one playing sitar and one playing an assortment of Indian/other percussion instruments. We sat in someone's beautiful backyard in the German Colony; the ground was covered in clover and there was the sound of water trickling behind the lush plants. If it weren't for the mosquitos, I could have sat there for hours on end.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Fun at the fairs

Jerusalem is abundant with fairs, free concerts, even free movies. My calendar is completely full next week and the week after with a choice of about 5 things to do in one day. Yesterday I had an invite for the opening of the Brazilian Film Festival at the Cinemateque. The complimentary tickets were for two and included the reception, which included a delicious Brazilian drink (I had two) called Caipirinha and a film called Ballroom. See? You can be a nobody in the industry here and get to go to film premieres and parties, etc. I love this place. Try getting an invite in NYC to something like that.

After the film, I walked across the pedestrian bridge to get to Emek Refaim to join my daughter who was drinking coffee with a friend. The view from the bridge was awesome - you could see the annual arts and crafts fair, called Hutzot Hayotzer, in Sultan's Pool and it was crowded. Emek Refaim was buzzing too. It felt like Tel Aviv. Every cafe/restaurant was full and the streets were filled with pedestrians. And it was 11:00 at night.

On Friday, there was the regular Farmers Market on Emek Refaim. I passed by a bored-looking group of tour bus drivers who laughed when I took their photo. They told me they were bad and had been punished - banished to the bottom of the bus.

I had gone to the fair to meet a friend from Toronto before her trip back home. She really wants to move here and asked how I convinced Hubby to move. Her Hubby is miserable over there, but is nervous to make the big move.

"Just talk about this place constantly. Talk about what you saw, experienced, the holiness, spirituality, the people, until he's so sick of hearing you go on and on and on until he'll have no choice but to move." Of course one has to leave out all the shitty stuff and just focus on the positive.

Every day is another experience - whether religious, fun, spiritual, exasperating, a test of patience, etc.

I had asked the same question myself to someone before I moved here. I remember her answer to me which I was able to quote word-for-word to my friend.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009


I wish I could trust all of the members of my family. But I can't. No one trusts each other. They trust me because I can be trusted - most of the time. But the girls lock their closet doors because they steal clothing and makeup from each other. They don't ask to borrow - they steal.

And my unemployed daughter has unfortunately taken a liking to my clothing - especially my tops. I found her wearing my green tank top while she was headed out the door. Of course I tried to get her to take it off, but she whined to me, "but Mom, it matches perfectly with what I'm wearing."

I had loaned her an expensive tent on Passover, which she never returned. It's probably in tent heaven somewhere and I'm holding her financially responsible for it. But she hasn't worked since April, so she's unable to pay me back. I can't get water out of a stone. Moses did, but I can't.

Then I thought one of my mother-in-law's rings that she gave me went missing and for two weeks I frantically looked everywhere at home thinking it's lost because it fell out of my bag or something. I cleaned the house spotless while searching for this ring. Then at the beginning of this week I see the same daughter wearing something glistening on her fingers.

"What are you wearing?" I asked.

She giggles.

"Let me see what's on your hand."

More giggles.

I take a look at MY ring and yank it off her.

"You can't wear that! It's expensive. What if you lose it like you lost the tent!"

Bad enough she likes my clothing, but now my jewellery? Shit. What am I to do? I often have several pieces of my clothing disappear for a week or two and then reappear mysteriously back in my closet. I know it's her.

Hubby is no better. He goes into my purse to "borrow" cigarette money. Of course he doesn't tell me, but I wonder what happened to my 50 shekels and when I call him, he's like "oh yeah, I needed money and I didn't want to wake you." What a load of crap.

But one has to always be grateful for what I have. So what am I grateful for? I'm grateful to God that he's not a cross-dresser.

Monday, August 03, 2009


Who would have thunk that Leonard Cohen would out-do selling out his concert at Ramat Gan Stadium much quicker than Madonna or Paul McCartney. I, for one, had no idea this would happen. I thought I'd be able to try throughout the day and get through eventually, as I had for the two other concerts I got tickets for, which were quite a breeze.

I printed out the seating chart. I tried calling and by internet. At least three other friends tried with me - and also couldn't get through. But the time we all did, the tickets were sold out. How disappointing!! A friend got through at 3:00 am early Sunday morning, but they didn't send her a confirmation number, which means she doesn't have tickets. Especially disheartening are the comments I get on Facebook that no matter what I have to go - because it was the best concert they had ever gone to, and these are people who are professional concert-goers. No matter what price - I have to go. No matter if Iran is raining H or A bombs on us I have to go. So, people, you see I have to go.

I do hope Mr. Cohen will think about doing another concert so I can go, otherwise I'll have to resort to begging for tickets up until the day of the show. I'm not prepared to pay double the price - I want to pay the cost. Just cost. So if there's anyone out there who knows somebody, who knows somebody, who knows someone who can get me tickets - I'll love you forever.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

The back of me

I was at the bank Friday morning. Try never going to a bank when it's closed the day before, which it was for the Tisha B'av fast day. The line stretched out of the bank and didn't move for at least 1/2 hour. The people in the line were getting irritated. Especially the man in back of me. I remembered his face. He flirted with me at the bus stop across the street a couple of months ago. He was from South America and then moved to an English speaking country and is divorced. He asked me if I was married and I always think that's nice of men to ask right away. Yes, yes, I'm married, I told him. He seemed funny, interesting and friendly while we were waiting at the bus stop. But at the bank he was a different person.

"I'm in back of you, ok?" he said to me in English after hearing me argue with Hubby for the 100th time that morning on my cellphone. He went somewhere inside the bank and I tried to tell him that there was a woman who had arrived before him who told me that SHE was in back of me - so he's really in back of her.

He comes back 10 minutes later and a young tall man is telling Mr. South American that HE actually was in back of me. So they're arguing. Mr. S.A. is telling me - "didn't I tell you I was in back of you?"

"Yes, but there was a woman before you who said the same thing." He looked furious and then told me in his Ricky Ricardo voice "Next tiiime, I'll tell sohmbody else I'm in back of them."

Yeah, whatever. I shrugged and turned to look in front of me.

About a half hour later I was two people away from the tellers. A little boy runs up to me:

"My mother is in back of you!"

The Spanish guy is livid. "I'M in back of you!!" he tells me.

"Don't you remember I told you there was a woman in back of me before you? Well that's her!" I pointed to the kid's mother, who was yelling at the man.

He puts his fingers in his ears, mutters curses in Spanish, English and Hebrew. It's my turn at the teller. I don't dare look back.