Saturday, January 31, 2009


Hubby's working for messianic Jews these days, and he told me one evening over dinner,

"every day the client quotes some proverb or something from the New Testament. It's usually something about Jesus/Yeshua. I think they're trying to prostrate me."

And I fell over laughing because this guy's vocabulary is pretty much like Kelly Bundy's of Married With Children. Like the time we walked past the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, but he insisted it was the Church of the Holy Sculpture.

But speaking of's sad when you see, or think that your mission is failing. I'm sure Messianic Jews feel a sense of failure at not being able to save unsaved Jews. And I, for one, feel a sense of failure at not being able to fulfill my peace mission between Arabs and Jews. Like I once or twice said - I'm a missionary for peace.

I was supposed to have my interfaith meeting this past Thursday. In fact, 5 new people from Maaleh Adumim showed up. I was terribly excited. I had Eliyahu McLean guest speak on our sensitive subject of "What does the Koran and Torah teach about War?" and to balance things out a bit, I also picked up a bunch of Tu-B'shvat (New Year for Trees) treats since next week is the day and the almond trees will start blooming beautifully all over the country. Even better, the people who did show up were not the already converted, but people who didn't believe that Arabs want peace, but that they can't be trusted, and all that stuff. Just the kind of audience I wanted for this meeting.

But my Moslem co-coordinator was nowhere to be found. And both his phones were off. I had called him earlier in the week to make sure Palestinian permits were in order and he said it was. I called another Moslem participant who told me he "couldn't come" and that our Moslem coordinator was probably being harassed by Palestinian police and pressured not to come. "They know about your meetings", he said sadly. With both phones being off, I was terrified that he was locked up in a Palestinian prison somewhere, all because he is teaching the Islamic perspective on things to a bunch of Jews living over the green line. Insane. I told the other guy maybe our coordinator could bring over the police to show them how harmless these meetings are, and how in actuality they are to their benefit. But the most M. could do was email me the Moslem perspective.

Being that I have a shitty computer, which doesn't read any of my Word documents, I couldn't open up his presentation. Instead, I sent it to work where I'll forward it to our members.

But the thought of moderate Palestinians being harassed by their own extremists made me awfully sad. I didn't want to get into the "you see?" mode that my guests were trying to convince me is really the case.

The next day I walk into the local health food store and met an acquaintance who is dabbling in local politics. She right away brought up my co-existance religious dialogue group.

"You know 80% of violent crimes are committed by people you know."

"Like spousal abuse" I answered.

She left it at that, but was inferring that "they" were likely to commit violent crimes on me or at me or towards me - however you say it, even though I trust them.

And I thought, after she left of course, because my clever thoughts never arrive on time, should I not have gotten married because these 80% statistics are scary, and that men can be violent to their wives? So should I not take a chance and trust to bring Moslems into my home because there is a chance that they'll turn on me? Like Husbands may do on their Wives - and Employees on their Employers, etc. But some of the most fulfilling moments in life are when you do fight that inner fear and take that chance.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Penitent One

Years ago when I started my blog in 2004, I referred to this youngest daughter of mine as "the Criminal" one. Why? She was always getting herself into some kind of trouble. It started in elementary school when she didn't feel like sitting in class and would wander around the hallways just chatting up everyone from teachers to students on their way to class, to the bathroom, to the office, etc. Then she acted out inappropriately during a memorial day service assembly, laughing and jumping around with her friends. The summer she barely graduated elementary school she stole money from the charity boxes at the pizza shop, went to a dormitory school in the Fall and hitchhiked all over the country at 13.

One day her friend's mother accused her of stealing 500 shekels from their house. My daughter denied it and then threatened in Hebrew,

"I know people from the Olam Hatachton (the underworld)."

The woman responded, "I also know people from Olam Hatachton."

Now listening to this conversation, the only Olam Hatachton I knew about was the lingerie store in the local mall called Olam Hatachton, and I wondered why are they bragging that they know people from the lingerie store, until it dawned on me hours later that it was the real Underworld, the Israeli Mafia, from where both bragged they knew people.

Then there was the time the daughter tried to get into Teddy Stadium to watch a football match. She had a penknife on her because she had hitchhiked into Jerusalem, but they caught her at the entrance with the weapon and opened up a serious police file on her. Not to mention the joint she gave her friend over a year and a half ago, which brought on yet another police file.

So, I really should have been relieved when she told me a few weeks ago that she was "learning" every night in the Bukharian Quarter with a woman called Vered, who teaches other young girls like her about Judaism. Religious Judaism. Ultra-Orthodox Judaism. These past few weeks, I would see her reading Psalms and reciting Grace After Meals and blessings before food.

This weekend she was spending, not at her boyfriend's place as she had always done, but at a girls' seminary in the Ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Har Nof in Jerusalem.

"Where and what is this place?" I asked her, a bit concerned. She seems to be delving into religion at 300 miles per hour. She told me where it was, and I googled it, only to find nice things said about the place by girls who had been there. I was looking to see whether it was attached to any scandalous religous cults like the Jewish Taliban women, or the Megirot lady who spiritually unclutters everyone's life - but some weird stuff was written about her, and I didn't want her associated with any of these people.

And she's into Breslov Chassidim too - the crazy ones who dance around downtown to holy reggae music in their white caps, who are always happy no matter what.

So - where we used to always admonish her for all the infractions she had acquired, I wonder whether she'll be admonishing Hubby and I pretty soon for all the infractions we are doing in living our semi-secular lifestyle.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


I have to reluctantly admit that I admire the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) at times. For totally different reasons than you might expect. They can do with my daughter things that I was unsuccessful at as a mother. Two examples:

1. Educate her. She dropped out of high school at 10th grade. I couldn't convince her that an education is a good thing. Her principal humiliated her and she wanted nothing to do with school. Ever. Until the army persuaded her that she could go back to studies, under their auspices, and she'll get her high school equivalency that way - with no abusive principals. And now she's in the midst of her studies and is excited to report to me that she is doing wonderfully in Math, History and English but terrible in Geography. For her to be doing wonderfully in any subject is something that the IDF has accomplished and I have failed. Unless she was just ready for learning at her advanced age of 20.

2. Grounding her. Throughout her life, I have been unsuccessful at grounding any of my kids, when they needed to be punished. They would laugh smugly at me, and just either climb out the window or push me out of the way, while marching out the door after I tried grounding them for the usual stuff teens get grounded. I could only shrug and bear it. So with good reason, I felt a tinge of jealousy at the IDF on Thursday when my daughter, who was supposed to be home for the weekend, called to say she wasn't coming because she "had to be at her base."

"What did you do now?" I asked her, knowing that she was in fact "grounded" by the IDF.

"Nothing. It was for something stupid." she answered.

Something stupid? She got grounded for something stupid. And the IDF was successful in grounding her for something stupid? I was green with envy. How do they do that? What is their secret? Is it because they have live ammo that frightens her? Is it jail time for them if they disobey orders? How do they ground my daughter for something stupid when I had trouble grounding my kids for more serious infractions like telling me to go fuck myself? How? Her job in the IDF is shrouded in secrecy. So I may never know their secret for their success.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Tikkun - Repairing the World - or trying to...

While watching the inauguration of the new U.S. president at the American Cultural Center with a bunch of other expats, I had this wonderful feeling that the U.S. had finally done its tikkun (spiritual repair work)for the way African-Americans were treated way back when. I saw much pride in the faces of young Afro-Americans, such joy that seemed to sweep right through the tv screen towards everyone who was watching with us. I loved the happy multicultural scene of the crowds in Washington D.C. and even felt a bit jealous that they had that and we don't have that - yet. For me, it was an incredible moment, though I smiled at the thought of how my now-deceased dad, who was a Jewish Archie Bunker, would have reacted to all of this.

A Jerusalem peacemaker, Elad, held a gathering last night of dozens of people at the YMCA to discuss the "situation." Although much better than last week when we were in the midst of the Gazan war, there was still much repair work to be done. Jews and Arabs gathered together because we all felt that we were in the same boat, so to speak. Because we peacemakers are standing in the middle between both Jews and Arabs, we got it from both sides. We get the hateful remarks about the other, and it's hard after a while to listen to everyone's venom bouncing off of us, when you're standing in the middle. It almost feels as if you're being squished from both sides. People sitting at my table laughed when I told them I got mail from a friend in Tulkarem telling me to boycott Israeli products and I got mail from a Jewish person telling me to boycott Israeli Arab products that I blurted out "MY GOD! I'M GOING TO STARVE TO DEATH if I boycott both." Israeli Channel Two was there filming our sharing circle about why we were there. And when it was my turn, I told the circle (and Channel Two) that we are really all one family - the Tribe of Abraham. And being that one part of my family got hit a bit harsher than another part of my family, it's part of my Jewish tikkun to do my bit to help out. We had no idea where we could help out. There were humanitarian drives for clothing and food and baby items to Gaza. Some of my friends who posted on the Jerusalem Anglo email list got a slew of hateful mail about 'why do it for them'?

Many actually said they got physically sick at the onset of this war. One woman told me she always felt that Gaza was the "kidney" of Israel. She was peeing blood and had tests done, but they couldn't find anything. She seemed to know it was related to the conflict and told the worried doctors not to worry, she'll check back with them in two weeks. Needless to say, her ailment is over. Other people were talking about how sick they felt and I heard someone say my friend Ibrahim was going around at the beginning of the war calling people up telling them he's dying. Kind of freaky, no?

We all wrote cards/posters to the people in Gaza. I don't know who will read them. I wrote mine in English and asked an Arab man I didn't know if he could please translate this into Arabic.

"I'm trusting you with the translation," I told him, hoping he wasn't going to translate my loving letter into something like "I wish you all would just curl up and die" or something of that note. But I had to trust this person to translate, and I did. After all, he's family, isn't he?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

a wonderful word from Gershon Baskin

It was like he took the words right out of my mouth... I'm reprinting the whole article here:

Gaza needs a peace stimulus

History shows the power of people-to-people contact.

By Daniel Noah Moses and Aaron Shneyer
from the January 14, 2009 edition (Christian Science Monitor - )

Jerusalem - "We have failed, haven't we?" our colleague from Gaza said over the phone, amid the sound of explosions.

For those of us engaged in "people to people" peace building, the latest violent chapter in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is both tragic and surreal. All around us, people remain convinced that the solution to the conflict depends on military fatigues, armored tanks, Qassam rockets, suicide bombers, stones, and F-16s. But violence will only prolong the conflict and inflict deeper wounds.

Israelis and Palestinians have a choice. They can continue business as usual: violence, separation, hatred, and fear. Or they can recognize that they must look for mutually beneficial ways to share their small corner of the world.

People-to-people diplomacy works on the assumption that if Israelis and Palestinians connect at a human level, they will build compassion and trust. They will change public opinion. Painfully, slowly, they will create cross-border movements to transform the cultural and political reality on the ground.

Many question the impact of people-to-people diplomacy. But it has hardly been tried. Researchers estimate that perhaps 5 percent of the Palestinian and Israeli populations have engaged in an organized "dialogue" or "encounter" program of any kind. Since the beginning of the second intifada in 2000, an estimated 1 percent or less of Palestinian and Israeli youth have had such an opportunity. It's unreasonable to dismiss people-to-people programs based on such a meager attempt.

When the conflict between Israel and Hamas took its latest ugly turn, Israeli and Palestinian graduates of the Seeds of Peace summer camp in Maine were at a citywide interfaith celebration in Haifa. While Hamas and the Israeli government communicated through violence, the "Seeds" communicated with words and affirmed their commitment to finding nonviolent ways to build a better future.

Participants of all ages in reconciliation programs such as Seeds of Peace go through profound personal transformations. They do not melt into soft consensus and sing "Kumbaya." They struggle – intensely. They disagree radically about fundamental issues.

At the same time, they come to terms with the existence and the perspectives of the "other side." They form deep, life-long relationships. They build trust.
But it is difficult for seeds to flourish when the ground is toxic. To cultivate a culture of peace, we need a critical mass. Leading up to the Good Friday agreements in Northern Ireland in 1998, at least $650 million in mostly government funds was spent over five years to bring Catholics and Protestants together. This people-to-people diplomacy touched at least one-sixth of the population (250,000 people).

There are nearly 12 million people within the borders of Israel and the Palestinian territories. To reach roughly the same proportion of people there as in Northern Ireland, let's assume we need to spend at least the same amount per capita. This would be about $5 billion over the course of five years – $1 billion a year.

This is pocket change. The war in Iraq has cost the American government almost $600 billion so far. The United States gives more than $2 billion annually to Israel for military aid. Why not invest close to that amount in peace – $2 billion a year over the course of five years, just $10 billion for the first phase of a peace-building initiative worth its salt.

For such a "peace stimulus" to succeed:

1. The United States must lead an international campaign to bring together millions of Israelis and Palestinians for sustained people-to-people diplomacy.

2. The Israeli and Palestinian governments must make people-to-people diplomacy a public and vocal priority.

3. Programs need to be flexible. They must provide space for local initiative and local needs.

4. Resources must be devoted to programs that focus on community building, on dialogue within communities – on getting one's own house in order.

5. Programs must be coordinated and sustained: Follow-up is essential. Individual organizations need to work together, to share resources, to have maximum impact. The Alliance For Middle East Peace is taking critical steps in this direction.

First, we have to navigate the geography of conflict: the enforced separation, through military and legal means; the emotional and psychological barriers, just as strong. We urge the international community to construct a chain of secure centers, safe havens, at the separation barriers, where Israelis, Palestinians and internationals can meet safely and interact as equals.

With war raging, with people dying, with pain, anger, and hatred intensifying, world citizens of conscience must take responsibility and realize our power to help transform this conflict. A well-coordinated people-to-people initiative would do more than perhaps anything to ease the tensions in the greater Middle East and on the world scene.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

False Alarm

We were all sitting in the board room of our office happily enjoying lunch. There were all these visiting professors and heads of U.S. foundations at the table with the regulars. And then I heard that awfully scary drone of the siren. In Jerusalem - not from Sderot, Beersheva, Ashkelon - but in Jerusalem.

"Oh fuck!" I screamed out, not really caring what our illustrious guests thought of profanity at this point. "That's the war siren. We'd better head for the shelter." I left my soup and lasagna and salads on the table and headed for our basement shelter. I tried calling my kids to see how they were handling this. And I wondered aloud.

Did Iran try to get at us?
Did Hezbollah's rockets reach as far as Jerusalem?
Did the Gazan Kassams reach as far as Jerusalem?
Was it Al Qaida?

But 10 minutes later the people who knew how to get internet from their phones discovered that the siren was either a false alarm or a test. But now I know how the people down south feel every day. It can be quite disruptive and nervewracking.

Meanwhile, the emails and messages I received were dismal.

The director of our interfaith group said the retreat with Hebron Palestinians was off because the person giving the Moslem perspective wasn't able to get his permit.

One Palestinian wrote me that he is not going to come to my next meeting because until he hears condemnation of the violence in Gaza, he refuses to have any kind of normalization with Israelis. I was gonna write him back - a) he doesn't have to worry about having anything normal with me - because I'm certified crazy, and b)WTF? If I stand in the middle of the street and say I condemn the violence - how will that change things? Will the army stop what it's doing because a crazy woman is yelling and screaming in the middle of the street for the killings to stop? And what about the rockets coming in from Hamas?? Who will have the balls to stop? Will this war run by men with an overload of testosterone come to an end soon? I thought about it and thought this region must be run by women. The worst we can do is get into a catfight and pull each other's hair out.

And speaking about male ego, my daughter had told me that the reason there was so much traffic from Maaleh Adumim to Jerusalem the past week or so was because the mayor had gone to the soldiers manning the checkpoint,telling them to hurry the cars through so the traffic tie ups would be less. Their officer got offended the mayor didn't come to him first and then ordered his soldiers to very s-l-o-w-l-y check each and every car, taking up a tremendous amount of time and causing everyone's travel time into Jerusalem to be a two-hour ride instead of a mere 40 minute trip. If this is true, it's total male ego madness, and if this is what's running the country, we're in trouble.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

My truck runneth me over

At least that's how I am feeling at this very moment. Every bone in my body aches. Hubby had been feeling like this a couple of days ago and called me to say that we were gonna have dinner at Shaarei Tzedek Hospital - he felt so bad - which I promptly told to my co-workers over lunch - and boy did we all have a good laugh with all the women saying in unison - "men!" But today I'm babying myself with ginger, lemon and honey tea and the Jewish penicillin chicken soup.

And everywhere I turn, it's war - even though it's not felt in the Jerusalem area to the extent people are feeling it in the south of Israel and of course in Gaza itself. I can't seem to do a news fast. My husband is pretty much glued to Al Jazeera's English station and my emails are full of all different kinds of mail. Some are "Let's boycott Arab products - because the Israeli Arabs are traitors", and an American friend married to a Palestinian in the West Bank emailed me a "Let's boycott Israeli products" thing. Now how the fuck am I supposed to do that?

"No, darling, I can't watch your son (my grandson) today. Not until this war is over. I promised my friend I'd boycott Israeli products, and he's one of them."

That would also mean all Teva medications and 99% of the food I eat. Not to mention no ICQ and using my disk-on-key. Even if I were far to the Left, it would seem nearly an impossible feat.

I got a sad email from the Sulha family that a Gazan peacemaker's two children were injured in the fighting, and that we should pray for them. He would come to the Sulha each summer with his family.

And thank God I get emails from groups that are saying "Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies" and the All Nations Cafe is working in Walaja in planting workshops together with Jews and Arabs and are having a peace workshop on Tuesday that I hope to go to, if I'm feeling better.

Rabbis from Human Rights had a 20th anniversary get together at Maaleh Hachamisha hotel in the hills outside of Jerusalem this past week, with Chava Alberstein performing. Hubby and I thought it would be dinner but I had my suspicions because it was free. He was feeling like shit but decided to meet me anyways at Liberty Bell where a bus was going to take all us car-less people to the event. I introduced myself to the handful of people there. There was a familiar-looking woman there. I started to talk.

"You look very familiar."

"You probably know me from demonstrations."

"I don't demonstrate"

A look of confusion from the woman.

"Where are you from?"

"I'm from Maaleh Adumim."

Woman steps back. I continue.

"Yeah, I hold dialogue groups between residents of Maaleh Adumim and Palestinians from Abu Dis."

"IN MAALEH ADUMIM?" She shakes her head. "What are you gonna do when we give it back?"

I was gonna ask her - "back to Jordan?" but nicely responded that I will worry about it when it comes to that, and that I'll take up residence in Abu Dis since I have friends there, it's cheap and I'll perfect my Arabic.

Hubby was feeling lousy and he gave me one of his "in three hours time, you will hear about this from me..." looks.

Meanwhile, Hubby, aka Mr. Tact, was talking to me about his upcoming job. His long-time partner Abed was coming to work on this project and he was thinking about also hiring a Jewish guy who he knew was out of work now. He says rather loudly,

"Well, it's better than hiring an Arab."

I looked at our Arab bus driver, glared at my husband, hoping Mr. bus driver did not understand English or was hard of hearing. Hubby didn't get it. I continued glaring, pointed at the bus driver, and then Hubby picked up.

"You know, I need balance. I can't hire two Arabs - that would be imbalance. I need to hire this Jewish guy for balance."

Thank you darling, I thought. That's all I need is an angry Arab bus driver now while we climb all over the rain-drenched dark roads of the hills. Geez.

Even at the venue, Mr. Tact went on when he saw there wasn't any dinner. We were walking in with the other participants and he's talking about how "fucked it is that there's no dinner, and what did I think? That they were gonna feed 200 people for free?" Thankfully, we were at a hotel, and I stuck my hand into my Contingency Fund envelope that I save for emergencies, and this was such a one. I gave him 100 NIS and told him to buy himself a meal. A real meal. The speeches were all gonna be in Hebrew which was, again, another no-no for bringing Hubby along. But he assured me that he'll be fine, after he eats, lounging in the lobby to people-watch - which he was.

Then as I worried both for our troops in Gaza and for our own in the South of Israel and for the innocents in Gaza - there were reports coming in of terrorists caught in the nick-of-time in the Jerusalem area and global demonstrations against the Israeli action in Gaza. I walked into the store where I do my weekly shopping in Gaza. I smiled at the Palestinian workers and they didn't smile back. Perhaps it was the situation, perhaps they had a hard day at work. I don't know. But I felt something wasn't right. I asked a worker unloading veggies if there were newer lemons other than the ugly ones on the shelves, and I didn't get an answer from him. I came up closer to him and repeated my request. Again. No answer. Was this a protest - ignore Israeli customers day - of some sort? I tapped him on the shoulder and then he answered me. I hope I wasn't being paranoid, but it threw me for a loop a bit.

At least I have my visions. I sat down afterwards and meditated. Instead of the war-torn poverty-striken, Hamas-occupied Gaza strip, I envisioned beautiful beach resorts by the sea beckoning Israeli tourists to come. The Arab hospitality is in full swing, they are prosperous, there are luxury hotels and then there are these quaint Sinai-type huts for the tourist looking for a more close-to-the-earth experience. We go fishing with the Palestinians in their fishing boats, and we sit by a bonfire on the beach, sipping Arabic coffee and enjoying the tranquility.

Saturday, January 03, 2009


It comes in many forms. I stopped into a local health food shop to buy some organic peppers, of which there was none left, and struck up a conversation with the proprietress of the store about money.

"In my money book, it tells you not to say 'I want' but that you already have. Say, 'the money's coming' - or,'Im going to have...'." She advised me.

Oh? I get it. If you keep on saying "want, want, want", then you'll always be wanting. These are the laws of the universe.

I told this to Hubby who managed to wrangle the car off our stingy daughter for some local errands.

He's sitting at the wheel repeatedly telling himself, "I'm going to have an abundance of sex" and laughed at his new-found knowledge.

Meanwhile, I thought of joining a support group of parents whose kids have turned religious. There must be a support group in Tel Aviv or somewhere secular. Because this abundance of my children becoming religious is rapid and somewhat surprising.

This week my 4th daughter announced that she was going to keep the Sabbath totally - no computer, no phone calls, no turning on lights, smoking, and she's going to synagogue.

My soldier daughter and her boyfriend have come to me for the weekend, and demanded that I have everything ready, all the food, hot water, hot plate - everything done before 4:12 pm - the onset of the Sabbath. They are getting more and more observant and I wonder when they'll stop sleeping with each other if all the rest of the stuff is so important. But they'll probably leave that for last, of course.

She kept on annoying me throughout the afternoon while I was speed-cooking, announcing that I have "1 hour left before Shabbat starts" and why is it taking me so long to make the food - didn't I start at 11:00 am? No. Actually, I started at 12:15 p.m. after a lovely breakfast out with my husband and married daughter. I had enough money left over after shopping to treat everyone and it felt good. I hadn't dined out since late November. But getting back to the soldier daughter, every 1/2 hour or so she would trounce into the kitchen and annoy me with her time announcements.

"Shabbat is at 4:00, and you're not even ready!" she complained.

I glanced at the newspaper and saw that it actually began at 4:12 pm and told her so, plus I'm adding the 18 minutes extra allowed by rabbis, or whomever it was that did this timing thing. So I actually had until 4:30.

And miraculously everything was done by 4:30-ish, and I wondered what it would have been like had I told the kids to fend for themselves while I wandered off to my favorite Jewish Renewal service in Jerusalem which was this Friday night. It was hard for me to miss that service.

But I chose family this weekend and after dinner Hubby was making fun of my son who was in one of the bedrooms playing Playstation Soccer with my (secular) daughter's fiancee - so he thankfully didn't know he was being made fun of - by Hubby putting a large bowl over his mouth, saying my son's mouth was as large as that bowl. This put all my daughters in hysterics and two of then literally fell on the floor with laughter. They love taunting and teasing each other and have been doing this shit since they could talk. You all know we're not the perfect family. There was no point yelling at my husband about teasing my son behind his back. And don't worry about my son, who gets this all the time from his sisters, and gives it right back to them about them about pimples, lice (a thing of the past,thank God, but definitely part of their history), trouble with the law, trashy behavior, etc.

So the abundance of money for a breakfast out, four out of five kids home for the weekend and laughter was good enough for me.