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.
Saturday, October 17, 2009
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. Overseas...it'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.
Saturday, October 03, 2009
There was Oktoberfest today - not in Germany, not in Canada - but in the ancient Christian city of Taybeh in the West Bank. Finding out recently that the city was called Ofrah, yes, the biblical city of Ofrah, only made me want to go even more. Maybe I'll find an ancient mezuzah or kiddush cup over there.
A peace activist named Fred was organizing a bus from West Jerusalem, so how convenient was that? Hubby didn't want to join, which irked me that I have to go to events all alone. The bus was filled with tourists and Israelis - young Israelis looking for some good, cheap beer. Taking a detour on the way, we drove through the Arab neighborhood of Anata. Although within Jerusalem's municipality, the city is a gated neighborhood. Not like the gated chic neighborhoods of Bel Air, California, but walled and fenced in. Although most residents have blue Israeli ID cards, they still must go through check points to get out of their 'hood. As Fred said, there are 50,000 very pissed off Palestinians living there. He laments, "if our government really wants peace with our Arab neighbors, why don't they put some money into this place? There's not enough water for residents and permits for building are nonexistent, so that all building that takes place is illegal, which means every week houses get demolished by the Israeli government." We drive on the very picturesque road until we get to Taybeh - and laughed when we saw that the sign forbidding entrance to Israelis was covered up by a Taybeh Oktoberfest poster, leaving only the bottom line visible which read "...illegal under Israeli law".
The festival was just getting started, kids doing debkas on the stage and the local Taybeh beer on tap, which was cold and delicious on this very hot day. This beer was 10 NIS. I told hubby there was no way the Palestinians would charge us Israeli prices. They have more heart. We had paid 25 NIS for a small cup of beer on a Tel Aviv beach during the summer. A large cup of Taybeh costs 10 NIS.
Inside the municipality building, local crafts and food were being sold - locally made honey, olive oil, olive oil soap and colorful embroidered bags, clothing, etc. There were a lot of internationals from all over the world - it seemed like a mini UN convention.
I did see people I knew from Beit Jala and hung out with them for a while, but then I got restless and wanted to see the old city and the brewery. I walked through the quiet streets to the old city which was quite a tiny section of town, but picturesque, nevertheless. The view was phenomenal.
I thought my husband would have freaked at the thought of me wandering alone through an Arab village, where I knew absolutely no one. And I thought of what my dad would have said, getting lost in a place like this - in German (after all, this IS Oktoberfest) "Ich Sheiss mich ahn" which means something like "I shit myself". When I did lose my way, I simply asked for directions and the locals were very helpful. Most of them knew English and some even backtracked just to help me get on the right road.
The brewery was small, very clean and I was happy to hear the beer has no preservatives.
I hung out a bit with Fred, and he told a couple of people he was with that I'm a settler. I'm like "well, why don't you just announce it on a loudspeaker!" meanwhile eyeing the many Palestinian police around. I don't think they were on the lookout for settlers among the crowd, they simply need crowd control during a beer festival that's for sure. I saw two of them pulling out an inebriated young man from the municipality building, taking him to who knows where. In my conversations with Fred, telling him how much I'd love to have a mixed residential community of Arabs and Jews, I guess he must see me as quite the freak, coming from Maaleh Adumim. I told him I'd love a one state solution - where everyone is equal, a real democracy, which led Fred to tell me - "you need to start telling people you're not a zionist." Gulp. Has it come to this?
Later I see Maria Khoury who shakes my hand and welcomes me to Taybeh. She's either the wife of the beer maker or the wife of the mayor - I don't know which. She takes me and another woman to see the Byzantine church built by Queen Helena in the 4th century. Taybeh is the place where Jesus rested before heading back to Jerusalem before Easter (or Passover?). I asked her about Jewish roots. She tells me the town's name was changed from Ofrah to Taybeh after Suleiman conquered the area. Taybeh is the only Palestinian town which is solely Christian - with 2,000 residents. They only sell land/homes to other Christians. She has to rush back to take the stage. She's the busy MC for the day, but I appreciated her warmth and friendliness.
Later at dusk we walked towards the old city again trying to find a tour guide. A young local joined us. He asked us what we thought of "the situation" and was surprised to find sympathetic Israelis. In fact, I think he was in total shock. He had never spoken to Isr-aliens before (that's how he pronounced it) and bemoans the fact that he can't go into Jerusalem. A nice Christian boy can't get a permit to get to Jerusalem. He can't visit the ocean either. He feels stifled and frustrated. I feel sorry for him. He tells us - what right have we to be here? And then I feel sorry for him even more, because he doesn't know of Jewish historical longing for this land. Someone tells him Jewish refugees returned to their land after 2,000 years. I don't know if he's happy hearing that but someone else explains that politics and politicians and regimes change all the time. Who knows what will be. I hear a prayer coming from the Church over a loudspeaker. It sounds very much like a sephardic Jewish service. I look at the people, and if the bunch of them weren't wearing the huge crucifixes around their necks, they could very well pass for Jewish. After all, 3,000 years ago, that's what they were...