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.