Sunday, December 26, 2010

Mixed Couples

I have recurring dreams.  I am usually hiding from Nazis, in a countryside barn, trying not to make a sound, so they don't hear me.  I'm never found, but the dream is nevertheless terrifying.  It's a blur whether it's a memory from a past life or an unfortunate comparison to a current one.

There have been rallies in Israel of late, coming from the far right wing - Posters and chants go something like this "Don't rent homes or sell to Arabs" "Jewish women for the Jewish nation" "Death to the Arabs" "Foreigners Out". 

No wonder I'm terrified in my sleep.  I'm terrified in my waking hours.  My parents are Holocaust escapees from Austria and if you insert the following - it reads eerily like Germany, 1938.

"Don't rent homes or sell to Jews"
"German women for the German state" (German women who dated Jews were paraded in public and ridiculed)
"Death to the Jews" - "The Jews are our Misfortune" "Jews Out"

I rarely get depressed but was depressed about the rallies against Arabs in Jewish neighborhoods and stories about Jewish gangs beating up Arabs in Jerusalem.  My dad also was cornered by a gang of Nazis, who were about to thump him, but he somehow broke away and ran real fast, hopping on to a moving trolley, losing the bastards.

Meanwhile, in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Pisgat Zeev, Jews are complaining about Arabs moving into this neighborhood.  Many of the new residents are Christian Arabs, and some are Moslem.  Gangs of Jews walk around the malls making sure Arabs don't hustle Jewish girls. 

And my daughter has a young friend who is married to an Arab.  They have an infant son and live in Pisgat Zeev.  Somehow word got out to the husband about me and they invited me to their home for dinner.  I guess that Jews who like Arabs are such a rarity, they wanted to meet one up close.  I entered the home, and the husband greeted me warmly and introduced me to his two brothers.  They spoke perfect Hebrew with no "Arab" accent. 

"He's going to have a hard life" - the husband told me, pointing to his infant son.

I had to agree.  But they already  had the YMCA Arab/Jewish nursery and kindergarten and Hand-in-Hand Arab/Jewish elementary school picked out for their young son - it would make perfect sense for their child to go there.

We talked about my dialogue groups; they insisted I was a "leftist" even though I said I was politically in the middle.  They lived in Pisgat Zeev for 15 years and it was difficult at first, they endured plenty of beatings and nasty neighbors.  My daughter's friend had a hard time with (ex) friends who called her "the whore who went out with Arabs" after she began dating her husband four years ago.

"He treats you well?" I asked her. 
"Everyone should have a husband like him" she replied.  I had to ask.  After all, so many people think Arabs beat their wives and if they're married to Jews,  treat their Jewish wives like shit. 

She had dated a physically abusive Jewish man before she met her husband. 

Abusive men are all over the place - they span all religions and cultures.

"What religion will you raise him?" I asked.

The father said he'll be raised both Moslem and Jewish. According to Islam, the boy is Moslem, after the father's religion.  According to Judaism, the boy is Jewish, according to the Jewish religion.  I guess he would have to be both religions.

They had gone to Toronto for a visit, and it seemed like a wonderful multi-cultural place in which to bring up their son, but the husband didn't want to leave his large family, who have been very warm and accepting to his Jewish wife.

Later that evening, she drove me home.  I suggested Haifa as a place that might be good for them - it seems like the most tolerant city and probably has many mixed couples.  They hadn't had racist rallies there.

Haifa?  Do you really think so?   Perhaps it will be a good idea.  She seemed to like my suggestion.

I sensed a bit of hope in her weary eyes. 

Monday, December 06, 2010

Wisconsin in December

My 3rd daughter, whom I often call "the complainer" has finally had it with us, with her boyfriendless life, with the courses she was taking, with her job, and her nasty boss and hightailed it to Madison, Wisconsin.

She decided she needed a change of scenery, and wanted to make some "easy" money selling Dead Sea products at one of the US malls, like many Israelis do, as a sort of rite-of-passage after army service, but unlike so many others, she is an American citizen and so these companies were competing for her to work for them. 

When we first heard that she was contemplating this, Hubby was scared  - "she doesn't know anything about life!  She'll get lost in the US!  They'll kidnap her...they'll ...."  I would always shush him in his daily tirades.  I tried to explain that I travelled around alone when I was 17, but that didn't faze him.  He was like "But she can't even read English!".  Not that well, it's true.  And she pronounces "onions" - ognions.  But, whatever.  I had faith that she'll get by and that God will watch over her where we can't.

We thought together (my daughter and I) about possible places - options were: Dallas (great weather, cowboys, oil men), San Francisco (I have lots of friends there - but she was like 'I don't want to be with your friends' as if  they were pariahs) and Madison, Wisconsin.  She had an old friend working the carts in the malls in Madison and decided to go there.  We looked at Google Earth together to see where she would be living.  The street was in a new neighborhood and not far from the mall. 

We applied for her to get an American passport, the folks there arranged for her flight (they paid), and I took her out for dinner one Thursday about three weeks ago at a nice restaurant in Jerusalem.

She told me she'd have to change airports in New York - from Kennedy to LaGuardia.  I told her we're keeping this info from dad, because he will get hysterical at the thought of her maneuvering around New York by herself.  On the way back from dinner, she gets a call from overseas.  She didn't read her ticket correctly.  Her flight was for the night before and she missed it.  A punishment for not reading English well enough. She seemed devastated.  She had already packed and Hubby had given her a $ gift.  The overseas contacts worked frantically to get her on the next flight that evening/morning and because she's only one person travelling, it was easy to find her a flight.

I was nervous the entire time she was on her 23-hour travels because she didn't have a way to get in touch.  No phone, no computer.  Her US contacts called me once she got to New York and then she woke me up at 4:30 am on Saturday morning to tell me she was finally in Madison. 

She went out to a club on Saturday night, R&B music; the place was half African-American, half white.  I smiled a smile she couldn't see.  Glad to see she's going to mixed places.  I urged her to be careful how she behaves - that she represents not only Jews but Israelis.  I want people to have a good image of both.  Don't ask for bargains, don't be rude, don't push and shove.  She herself was in culture shock after her evening out at the club.  Nobody yelled, pushed and shoved to get in.  Everyone was courteous.  In the end I was glad she chose this small mid-Western college town.  I think it was just what she needed to unwind, though she's working 12 hour days.  Plus she thinks American guys are "hot".  This trip also afforded her an opportunity to get close to her grandmother, who lives in Canada, with whom she hadn't been much in touch, and who she was now calling a couple of times a week.  She was now yearning for some family who lives relatively close by.

She called me and told me about that awfully non-kosher restaurant she went to that served rabbit and frog's legs.  She just had a steak in that non-kosher place, and told the waitress to make sure the salad didn't have any cheese on it.  That's her level of kosher.

It's Chanukah now and it's snowing there.  A white Chanukah.  She's thrilled with snow up to her ankles, and loves the Christmas lights now showing up all over the place.  And the Carols in the mall haven't driven her up the wall yet.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Festival of Light and Fire

Thursday seemed just like any other day, albeit more festive. I managed to get off work early to go to a distant relative's bar mitzvah and to prepare for my interfaith Chanukah party and my boss was sympathetic (a Chanukah miracle?).  Probably because I looked like shit. I couldn't shake this cold I had for a few days, and combined with the fact that it was Chanukah and everyone was in a festive mood, she had no problem telling me I could leave early, as if it were even a question.  We hadn't heard yet about the fire that had begun that morning in the Carmel area. 

I left for the bar mitzvah, agitated at signs on the tables that said "bishul yehudi bilvad" (Jewish cooking only) - implying that no Arab person (or non-Jew) had tainted their food with their 'impure' hands, and then proceeded to drown my sorrow with a few vodka and grapefruit drinks.

I waited 1/2 hour for the Chanukah donuts at Marzipan bakery to arrive.  They were the cheapest and best in Jerusalem and I was ordering 20 of them for tonight's meeting.

I get home late and people had already arrived from the Evangelical Lutheran Church.  Hubby had already put one of the young girls to work grating potatoes for latkes.  I guess I wouldn't be able to put up those "Jewish cooking only" signs on my kitchen table.  I laughed at the thought and then realized that I like the energy when you share the cooking with other people.  Hubby's friend Abed ended up frying the latkes and this became a truly multi-cultural culinary thing going on in my home.  Those latkes were the best tasting latkes ever.

My son was supposed to be working that night and came home in the middle of our meeting. 

"Did you hear what happened at the Carmel?" - he seemed excited and I didn't want to hear any of his long stories.  He said his boss had gone there to help out, which is why he came home early.

"Shhhh.  Not now.  Tell me later." as presentations of Chanukah, Eid el Adha and Christmas were being shared.

Later that evening, after the guests left, we suddenly realized what had been going on.  I had hiked in the Carmel region about 3 years ago - gorgeous countryside, which was now ablaze and there seemed to be no end in sight.  We were totally unequipped for such a disaster.  I read in Friday's paper that a flight instructor saw a small fire at 11:15 and he called it in, but that firefighting planes didn't show up until 1:45 pm.  What the fuck were they doing until then?  Having one of their super long coffee breaks?

After lighting candles on Friday, my daughter was telling me how angry God must be at us. 

"Of course he's angry at us.  Look at the way we treat people.  Like that stupid chief rabbi in Safed telling Jews not to rent out their apartments to Arabs.  Many who rent there are Druze who serve in the army. And then those young people there beat up Arabs who live there.   It's horrible.  HORRIBLE."

I heard her "tsk" me.  She obviously disagreed with my theory.

Watching the news that night my family was surprised and thrilled to hear that Turkey was one of the countries that had come to our aid. 

"Yay!  We can finally go back to visiting Turkey again" - noting that much Israeli tourism to Turkey had stopped since the Gaza flotilla incident.

We had planned a trip to Haifa next week and were thankful it hadn't been this week.

I get an email this morning that makes me smile. A group of Arabs and Jews are already planning to plant trees and shrubs in that area, so we can once again enjoy the beauty of the Carmel - together.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

reality check

"Why haven't  reality show producers discovered you yet." asked my eldest daughter over a rushed breakfast on Friday. "The Kardashians are so boring compared to you."

Of course they are.  We were in hysterics because Hubby was on the phone complaining to the Herald Tribune's subscription department.

"I don't think I should be paying so much for my paper delivery, because the delivery guy no longer delivers to our apartment.  He puts the papers in the mailbox downstairs and I have to go down 8 flights of stairs, sometimes without any clothes on, to get the paper."

Fearing that she is dealing with a true maniac, the subscription woman gave him one month free plus deducted 10 shekels a month thereafter.

Plus my 23 year-old Complainer daughter has decided to leave the coop, citing her main reason for leaving because she can no longer live at home.  If she wants to take a shower in our only working shower, which she likes to do twice a day (and torments me with digs of "dirty woman" because I sometimes shower every other day), she has to enter our bedroom.  Hubby often sleeps in the nude, and no matter how much I tell him to put undies on because the kids come in at all hours to shower, he doesn't listen.  Finally, she's so pissed off that one morning I hear her yell at him, "I'm sick and tired of seeing your stupid ugly penis."  So she believes that things will be better working a slave job, in US malls, selling Dead Sea products.  It's a thankless job, but the kids who work there seem to make good money and even in the slow months, will make twice as much as they do working a thankless job in Israel.  Her choices were Appleton, Wisconsin; Milwaukee; Dallas, Texas and San Francisco.  I begged her to take San Francisco.  I think it's the more exciting city of the lot and the one day a week she gets off, she can take in some of the city's beauty. I'm no longer on her shit list because I filled out all the forms and got her all the documents she needed to get her first US passport.  We warned her not to use the word "nigger" over there, because Israeli kids have no idea of the history and connotation of the N word, and often use it to address each other as they would use the word "dude" or "man".

My 2nd daughter and her husband are also thinking about leaving Israel.  Not because my husband sleeps in the nude, but because they work 11 hour days and more, and can't afford their own place or can't afford their own place with a car.  They feel the US has more opportunity and an easier life with cars costing a fraction of what they do here  They're thinking of Florida. I didn't have the energy this time to talk them out of it.  If I had to sign a declaration of loyalty to the State of Israel at this time, I'd have a hard time. Not only do I find the legal system and government policies racist - but even if you have your own business, the government tax bureaus pursue you relentlessly until you have given them everything but your own children.  If you believe you have paid all penalties for late filing, another penalty shows up years later for something.  And so I thought of this young couple, who have a lot of potential, but would be held back because of all this stupid bureaucracy, that I just said - go.  Maybe they'll make enough money for me to go visit them....and also maybe they could buy some quality US-made 100% cotton undies for Hubby.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

circumcise you

My 3 year old grandson was jumping all over the hospital room where his new brother was born, and where his family was planning the brit mila (circumcision) ceremony for the next week.

"Gam ani rotza brit mila" he's screaming- which translates to "I also want a brit mila"

We're laughing at him.

"No you don't.  You really don't want a second one." 

Today we had the ceremony.  My daughter shoos me out of the room while she gets dressed.  I laugh at her.

"But I saw you give birth!! So what's the big deal seeing you in your granny undies."

On the way there, Jerusalem's streets were full of heavy traffic.  I hail a cab and I get an Arab taxi driver, who tells me he likes blondes.  Somehow my naturally graying hair looks blonde to him.  I tell him about my grandson and he motions with his finger...

"They will cut him today?"  pointing to the tip of his finger.

Most Moslems, he tells me, just do the circumcision in the hospital nowadays, though at one time they also used to have ritual circumcisers who weren't doctors.

He was confused by the "hafla" Jewish boys have at 13.  He thought that was perhaps a circumcision ceremony.  I was gonna tell him that's when they should all cut off their dicks, but I held back.  I explained a Jewish boy becomes a man, according to our tradition and there is no circumcision done at 13.

Then he tells me in Egypt they still do female circumcision.  I tell him it's horrible because it's not written anywhere  in the Koran. It has nothing to do with Islam. He agrees and tells me women want to have love.  And men just want to have sex.  A cab driver who understands.  Finally.  I sigh to myself.  I always get these cab drivers who have these semi-inappropriate conversations with me. 

I get to the Hall and guests have already arrived.  I'm 15 minutes late.  I flit from table to table to be with two sets of friends, feeling like Mrs. Doubtfire changing her identity and rushing from table to table.  The circumciser is here.  The room is dimly lit.  I voice my concern to people around me.  "Doesn't he need more light to circumcise this baby?  Even a dentist uses tons of light to see teeth, never mind a penis."  But they laughed and said this guy could do a circumcision in the dark.  He apparently does 10 a day and all for free.  He does it for the "mitzvah" (good deed).

The food is abundant and extravagant and delicious.    They had hoped to get 100 people and paid for 100 people, but they probably didn't have more than 80 show up. I joked with my son-in-law that if it weren't for his huge Tunisian family, the room would have been empty.

Meanwhile the Russian photographer was taking photos of the Complainer daughter and her male friend.  She took the sleeping baby and I yelled at her to hold his head.  She glared at me and growled..."shut up, you bitch!!" which made my friends look at me and laugh.  They hoped the photographer had captured that moment.

The little one finally gets up. He must have pee'd and it burns.  He shrieks.  My daughter is worried.  "You just need to change his diaper.  Then he'll be fine."

I get to do the changing, because my daughter is too squeamish.  Her husband pours oil over the bandage.  These are the directions so the bandage won't stick to the diaper. The tiny thing then nurses and falls asleep as if he has not a care in the world.... 

Thursday, October 21, 2010

I know somethin' about birthin' babies

I think I found my second calling.  My daughter was admitted to the hospital yesterday around noon after her water broke the night before. But it didn't break in a large gush, rather trickled down continuously so that she wasn't 100% sure if it was the water.  After the hospital ran some tests, they said that it was the water but the baby's head was in the way of the water coming down all in one swoop. 

We had a bit of a false alarm the week before where she ended up in the hospital, only to be sent home 6 hours later.  I had rushed out from work only to return home "empty handed".  Yesterday, I was like

"yeah,okay (yawn).  Call me right before they induce you." as they told her  they would.

This morning I decided I wouldn't go to work because on the bus I figured I should do everything in my power to help her go into labor naturally.  I hear when you are induced, the labor pains are so much worse than natural labor, why should she have to go through that, especially since she was intent on not taking epidurals.  I called work, told them I'm not coming in, gave instructions to people in the office so Boss would be placated that everything was still running smoothly, and made my way to the daughter.

Meanwhile, I was on the phone trying to find solutions to induce labor naturally. I suspected they would try to induce her later that evening if she wasn't making any progress on  her own.  A friend suggested I do reflexology and instructed me on where exactly are the points which could help, which were below the ankle.  A second person said to get her to take 3-4 tablespoons of castor oil in thick juice.  Her hubby went to get the vile oil.  It was around 12:30 pm when she downed the stuff.  We took a walk up and down the 7 flights of stairs meanwhile and by 2:30 she was back on her bed.  2:45 she complained of intense pain.  Terribly intense pain.  And it wasn't going away either.  No sooner did it die down than another shot of intense pain started.  Her labor had begun, but wasn't giving her any respite.  I ran to get the nurse 3 minutes later, who looked at me like "oh God, what an idiot complaining about 3 contractions" and rolled her eyes and went into the room to look at my daughter,who was by that time, squatting on the floor,complaining she can't get up.  Fortunately, there was a doctor on the floor who examined her and he immediately said to "take her to delivery - she's ready."  As she's wheeled out of the room, people in the hallway smiled and wished us well.  She was squeezing my hand in pain as we go to the elevators,which were all full. 

"Can't we tell these people to get the hell out?" I asked one of the nurses wheeling my daughter's bed.

We managed to squeeze into one elevator and for the next 1/2 hour in the delivery room she bent over my arm as I rubbed her lower back vigorously with my other arm and we breathed together.

"You're doing great!!" I coaxed, as she complained about the pain.  "LOVE that pain! You didn't have to have them induce you!!  Soon you're gonna be holding your baby!"    She glared at me.  How can anyone in their right mind love their pain.

The whole thing from first painful contraction to her pushing the baby boy out took 40 minutes.  I laughed and cried as I saw the midwife pull the baby out.  He gave a short cry and they put him on her immediately with all the guck on.  Of course, he's great once his dad holds him, and the minute I hold him, he begins whining.  So much for quality granny time.  Newborns have about 120 facial expressions within a minute.  It's so amusing looking at them.

Meanwhile, back home, I hadn't cancelled an interfaith meeting at my home called for 6:30 pm, and instructed Hubby to handle it all.

"All you have to do is be nice and greet people."  That in itself is a challenge for grumpa.  But he did it and everyone said the meeting was great.

The theme of the meeting was about Honoring Parents - and I thought about this while rubbing my daughter's back.

"You owe me a big sushi meal for this." 

I hope she'll do me the honor.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Praying for the Peace of Jerusalem

On Eagles' Wings had their day of prayer for Jerusalem as they do each year on the first Sunday in October.  A friend from work surprised me with an invite to this event, and I, in turn, invited Hubby to tag along since he is a big fan of DayStar TV.  He says he watches it solely for the entertainment it provides of evangelists pushing people to the ground and seeing those trembling bodies on the floor.  He also likes to hear about the end of days and the Rapture.  So I thought he might want to see several hundred evangelical Christians praying right here in Jerusalem, without having to travel all the way to Kansas City, Missouri.

Robert Stearns

I was surprised to see an Orthodox neighbor of mine in the audience, but then since this was a Zionist Christian crowd, I wasn't that surprised in the end.  Rabbi Riskin also spoke, his manner of speaking wildly with his hands, coupled with his Brooklyn accent seemed amusing to me.  Nir Barkat spoke and as he left, he shook my hand.  I guess it wasn't the right time for me to complain to him about the inferior municipal services the Arab residents of Jerusalem get, compared to Jewish residents.  I sometimes feel like the queen of missed opportunities.

The speakers mostly railed against Islamic extremism, but their speeches included Arabs together with Jews, living in peace, in this messianic vision they had of a peaceful Israel.

I actually sang along with the folks when they sang verses from the Psalms.  But I drew the line at lifting my hands up to the heavens with the rest of the crowd.  I haven't even gotten that far with my own spiritual community of Nava Tehilla in Jerusalem.

The scenario for such an event was perfect.  It was held at the Hass Promenade, overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem, as the sun set.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Oh little town of Bethlehem

 "Where are you going today?" asked my curious cab driver. I couldn't get anyone to give me a lift on a bus-free Saturday morning and I had to meet the bus that would take Israelis to Bethlehem as part of the Visit Palestine group.

"Bethlehem - with a bus full of Israelis"

The cab driver proceeded to tell me how he speaks fluent Arabic, which he learned when he was a young teenager and hung out with Arabs from the Bethlehem/Hebron area - and that when he was in the South of France, the Arabs he met there thought he was a Palestinian from the Hebron area.

"They won't mess with you if they know you're from Hebron. They have a reputation" and went on to tell me about the camaraderie they shared. He never told them he was Jewish.

Unlike him and many other Jews who visit Arab countries and neighborhoods undercover, we were encouraged to speak Hebrew on this trip. The natives have to know we're Israeli and we're touring Bethlehem.

Even though Bethlehem is about a 10 minute walk from the most southern part of Jerusalem or even less, it's verboten for Israelis to enter this area. Yes, Israelis do sneak in on foreign passports and all that,but officially, it's never been done. Until now. Preparations began a couple of weeks ago when I was asked to sign a few forms that I would not hold the Israeli government or army responsible if anything happened to me in Palestinian-controlled Area A. I signed and faxed and was approved to visit Bethelehem along with around 50 other Israelis from the Tel Aviv/Jerusalem area.

At the Rachel checkpoint, where we had permission to enter, the soldiers told us that they didn't receive any fax giving us the permission. We waited over 1/2 hour and they said if they get the forms faxed, which could be in another 1/2 hour, we could go through, if not....there are other ways to get into Bethlehem. But our organizers wanted to go in the legal way and we detoured in the meanwhile towards Beit Jalah to meet our Palestinian counterparts and for a mini-dialogue. After many phone calls to different authorities, we were informed that we were okay'd to go through the Rachel checkpoint.

This was an historical moment for us all. This was the first time that Israelis who were not journalists, who were not police officers or soldiers, who were not closeted Israelis, were allowed in through this checkpoint. We were all elated and clapped as we went through the wall to the other side. We're in Bethlehem, finally.

Our organizer was telling us his friends reactions. When he tells people he's going to New York, or to Europe or wherever else abroad, his friends are like "cool! Great". But when he told them he was going to nearby Bethlehem, they're like "You crazy, man?" We want to change all that.

We met our Palestinian friends again - who came from Jericho, Nablus and Bethlehem and toured the Church of Nativity. The smell of incense was strong and the Armenian mass was going on. We were escorted by Palestinian police, who seemed perplexed at seeing a mixed group of Israelis and Palestinians and gave us VIP treatment as they whizzed us through the chamber where Jesus was born, in front of a long very-pissed off line of tourists, who watched us breeze by them. Who knows how long a wait they had.

We walked through the marketplace and I don't think I have ever been there. We stopped off at Mary's Place, a Catholic-owned, new, tastefully built center to look at the panoramic view.

One of the young Arab kids came over to me. I seem to be a magnet for young Arab men who confide in me all their dilemmas about women.

He points to a pretty young woman in front of me.

"How do I show her that I like her? I don't want to tell her. I want to show her. How?"

My guess is he was asking me because this was his first encounter with Israeli women. He wasn't sure she'd go out with him.

"She might go out with you." I tried to assure him. "But then she may not because you're a different religion" - let's be realistic.

I told him to get her email address and correspond at first. He seemed satisfied and happy that he now has a goal and a new Jewish mother.

"Can I call you Mama?" he asked me.

"You can, or you can call me by my name."

Did the locals know we were Israelis? Apparently, people heard the shopkeepers and locals saying to each other "Yahud?" ("Jews?") and were pleased to hear that we were from various peace groups.

The Palestinians said they were pleased to see we were also given trouble at the checkpoints and say this kind of thing happens to them every day. So we were given a taste of what they go through.

One man from one of the local Bible schools, an Christian Arab refugee from the Jerusalem neighborhood of Musrara, spoke to us to tell us that there aren't any tensions or persecutions of Christians from the Moslem majority in Bethlehem, but what only annoyed him was the call of the muezzins disturbing his sleep or tv watching; which was especially awful during Ramadan - when people were always in the mosque.  His comment annoyed the Bethlehem Moslems who told him that church bells were also very annoying to them.  That should be the worst of their problems.

We said our good byes to the Palestinian contingent and hoped we could organize a Visit Israel day for them.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Looking at the other

Yom Kippur has come and gone. Thank God. I've heard everyone wishing me an easy fast. What's so easy about fasting, pray tell me? There is nothing easy about not eating and drinking for 25 hours. And anyways, I hate fasting. Hate it, hate it, hate it. But I do it anyway, because it will clean out my body as well as my soul from sins. I also don't sit in the synagogue all day and read from the prayerbook, because the synagogues in my areas have dry services for the most part, and reading from a prayerbook makes me nauseous and dizzy so I'd rather stay home, only venturing out in the evenings, when the weather is cooler.

My family has this perverse custom on Yom Kippur. They like to check out the neighbors. If someone's eating or drinking, they'll do it indoors and no one but God will see them. And most people, if they watch TV, will close their blinds, so that again, only God sees them. My 18 year old son is on the terrace after the fast started and yells for me to come look. He points to a building, two buildings away, where the blinds are not closed and the people are clearly watching television. The TV stations are closed for the day, so obviously it's a DVD they're watching. But this was the first time he had seen someone so blatantly violating the Day so he was really excited. Hubby and I used to take walks during the cool evenings around the neighborhood so see which lights are flickering, a tell-tale sign that the TV is on.

Last night,while sitting in the traffic circle with my daughter and her son, watching all the kiddie cyclists (no cars run on the holiday, except for ambulances,police and security), I looked up at a friend's home to see their lights flickering in their livingroom, and pointed out to my daughter that they're also watching videos. I guess watching other people sin more than us makes us feel more self-righteous.

This is the only day of the year when we leave lights on, don't use electricity, travel, eat, drink, etc. So what does one do, if one is not a synagogue go-er? I bought a 1500 piece puzzle and two Vanity Fair magazines (used, of course. since the price of a new magazine is around $15) for us to pass the time away.

My other daughter called me after the fast was over. They played Monopoly and when the mother-in-law went to the toilet, her and her brother-in-law took advantage of the break and helped themselves to money from the bank. Her Hubby saw this and was livid. "You're cheating during Yom Kippur?? How could you?!" "It's only a game" wasn't good enough for him. Yom Kippur is a day of no cheating. And that's final.

Friday, September 03, 2010


I celebrated a friend's 50th birthday on the rooftop of the new, posh Mamilla Hotel in Jerusalem. I walked into the lobby and everything was quiet, lights were muted, candles were lit and the air was perfumed. Not a convention center atmosphere at all. I felt like I stumbled onto or into a spa. I also felt that I don't belong - kinda like Ellie May Clampett of the Beverly Hillbillies. The place was so exquisitely beautiful, that the toilets had soft ecologic (?) paper towels and L'Occitane hand soap. MK Tzipi Livni was there too but not for my friend's celebration; she was out having dinner on the rooftop restaurant, which didn't appear to be overly expensive. The view of old and new Jerusalem is magnificent from the rooftop bar. While the sun was setting, around 15 of our friend's closest girlfriends toasted her over a nice (few) bottles of champagne. I was buzzed after just one glass.

But speaking of age, I'm growing out my hair and it's a grey blonde. In fact, I was highly insulted recently when a stupid, tactless, asshole Egged bus driver asked me if I wanted to buy the senior citizen's monthly bus pass. This is the first time anyone implied that I look like a senior citizen. Not that that's awful, but it's just not fair that when I'm blonde, people don't take me for being a grandmother and now bus drivers are trying to sell me passes for people who are at least 11 years older than I am.

Then when I got home I see that one can join the local Golden Age club in my town when you're just 55 years old. I'll be 55 in February. Maybe it won't be too shabby to be a golden ager after all. They advertised for their members quite a number of trips to spas and hotels for quite cheap. I asked a couple of my girlfriends who are over 55 if they'd join up, but they complained the club is full of Russians. "So what. If we join, we'll turn it into a half-Russian, half-English club." There is strength in numbers.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Macho Man

I have my computer back. I didn't have enough energy to wrestle our one family computer that Hubby bought for me but that was unfortunately placed in my son's room. Since then, he has claimed ownership, and I don't have the time to continuously plead with him for computer time.

But now? He's ousted from school, and decided to spend the year working as a waiter in a wedding hall so he can save money for driving lessons and a car. Weddings are thankfully held at night, which means the computer is free when I get home from work.

My young adult son loves to look at himself in the mirror and flex his muscles. "Look at my muscles" he'll tell me, while putting his biceps in my face. Nearly every day. He's so annoying. He does pushups in the living room while we're watching TV and lifts weights.

My daughters and I once gave him a lift to the local falafel shop (sort of like the local British fish 'n chip shop) and we laughed at him while he swaggered down the street - his arms arched by his sides.

"He looks like a gorilla" said my daughter.

"Why does he walk like that?" asked the other.

I have no words.

Then on Friday night, one of my daughters shrieked - "look at his feet!!!" We all looked and, yeah, he was wearing my daughter's blingy faux diamond studded, shiny, flip flops. All of us laughed until it hurt. Even macho man himself.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

It's Complicated

People are just being horrible, cruel and disgusting to each other.  Husbands and wives, parents and kids, bus drivers and name it, this week I heard it all.

It's nearly mid-summer and I feel like I haven't done much.  Summer is too expensive and too hot to travel, so I stay back in Jerusalem and make the most out of what the city has to offer.  Last week it was the Film Festival.  This week I tried to get Hubby out of the doldrums and told him about a concert for 25 NIS ($8), which is a bargain.  I had no idea who the band was.  The last band I saw at the Liberty Bell Amphitheater was Marsh Dondurma

and they were amazing and the place was packed.  The week before I saw Flamenco dancers and singers.


This time there was an avant garde dance troupe and a group called Terra Rosa.  I thought they were excellent musicians, but they were on the mellow side and Hubby was bored, calling it a waste of his time.  Fine.  I'll take friends next time.

Then my daughter, when we're on the bus togther, tells me her husband's sister is complaining about her baby girl.  She already had 2 boys and said girls were nudniks - she didn't even want a daughter because they're more difficult to raise. I'm furious with sister-in-law.  What an asshole.  I love my daughters.  They are such lovelies, even when they bitch.  My daughter laughed when I cursed the woman, telling her I hope her daughter steals all her makeup and clothing when she gets older.   My daughter added -

"Yeah, and I hope the girl stays out all night and takes money from her mother's purse" citing the things she did to me.

Then the bus driver ends up opening the back door and closes it immediately, while I'm trying to get out of the bus.  "WHAT THE FUCK?!" I'm yelling at him in English and he opens the door again and lets me out.  He doesn't want an irate Anglo on his bus and is glad to let me off.

Another bus driver on our way home on Thursday was also horrid to one passenger who came onto the bus with her stroller.  He kept on asking her repeatedly to fold the stroller.  She ignored him.  This bus wasn't picking up any more passengers as it was coming back from Jerusalem, so what did he care.  She wasn't blocking the aisles any more than the soldiers do when they come on buses with their huge duffelbags which I have to step on or over when I'm getting on or off the bus.  He finally ends up screaming at her - "Tembelit (idiot)!! When are you gonna fold up the stroller".  I looked at my friend.  I never heard a bus driver hurl abuse at anyone before.  What a dick.  I told him - "she just has to pay an extra fare when she doesn't fold up the stroller, so ask her for an extra fare."  I could see him glaring at me through the mirror.  Eventually, she tells him her husband works for Egged and he could go fuck himself.  He lost this fight.

On Saturday I watch the movie "It's Complicated" with Meryl Streep, and I'm hoping she doesn't get back with her ex, because her ex was an asshole who cheated on her and she shouldn't give him the time of day.  I get into this movie as if Meryl's character is my friend.  In the end, she does the right thing.  There are just too many assholes in this world....

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

9th of Av

I must admit, I'm less and less inclined to listen to the rules made by rabbis and instead am listening more to my own soul.  For me it's soothing. 

I took off work the day of the 9th of Av in the Hebrew calendar, the anniversary of the destruction of the 1st and 2nd temples in Jerusalem, and didn't know what I would be doing - whether I would fast the entire day, none of the day, half the day or what.  I had the option of going to Nava Tehilla's reading of the Megillat (scroll) of Eicha at the Nature Museum.  It's usually a very reflective evening, much different than in regular synagogues, where you would be writing down thoughts, etc.  And all this by candlelight.  But traveling in from Maaleh Adumim seemed tedious and I decided to stick close to home.  My other option was the Conservative reading of the Megillah on a lookout over Jerusalem, locally, but still difficult to get to, as I'd either have to scrounge for a ride or take two buses.  Once I'm home in the evening, it's hard for me to want to leave.  I settled for the third option to just stay at home and watch the History channel on Jerusalem, narrated by Martin Gilbert.

My kids trounced in at various hours, surprised that I wasn't eating or drinking.  I was especially put to the test by one of my daughters who put sushi on the table.  "I'll save it for tomorrow" I told her.  "You're not gonna eat it now?" she asked me.  "No do you want it" I asked her, hoping she'll say no.  She said "no" and I hid it in back of the fruit, not that anyone else in the family eats sushi.

The next day I was supposed to watch my grandson, but my son-in-law, the alien husband who never complains about anything, decided he'll stay home and watch his son.  I spent the entire morning, just cooking.  Cooking?  I wasn't eating and cooking and baking for most of the day, made up for my not eating.

But I had already thought it over.  I'm not in exile any more.  I've liberated myself from the Diaspora and back in my homeland.  So I declared it a 1/2 fast day for me (due to the fact that the 1st half of the fast (for me) was in commemoration of the destruction of the temple and not the exile) and broke it sometime in the afternoon. 

My daughter took me shopping at the mega supermarket nearby and watched as my son went out of the car to buy falafel.

"Why is he walking like that?" two daughters asked me in unison.

He's been working out and he thinks he's Sylvester Stallone.  I tell them he thinks it makes him look tough that way.

"He looks like a robot".

We laughed and drove away....

I figured no one would be shopping during the fast day.  I was wrong.  Everyone was shopping and the place was packed.  Hungry people shop more and I was sure the store had people spending more money this day than they normally would.  What a coup for this store. My pregnant daughter laughed as she tried to swerve her shopping cart into the aisle I was in and she ended up turning around several times with the cart.  We both laughed and I think the Arab shopper near us, who was wearing a keffiyah, thought we were laughing at him.  I smiled at him as reassurance that we weren't and even thought of whipping out my interfaith business card to prove that we would never laugh at someone of a different race/religion. 

We just laugh at our own.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Be careful what you see

I was getting so tired of my son showing me the same scenes from his new favorite movie, Bruno.  So I was happy to run away from home to the Jerusalem International Film Festival. For the past 10 days I saw around 13 films. I usually go with a friend to the opening and to the Saturday films, but this friend decided to take a real summer vacation and go off to the U.S. of A.   I can't blame her.  Hubby joined me at the last moment for the opening flick Le Rafle about the French deportation of Jews during the Holocaust.  Very moving, very well done.  I'm not a movie critic so that's about all you'll get from me. I didn't know if he'd keep up with subtitles, but he actually did a good job.  He's not a foreign film person.  No one in my family is but me.

Friday I saw Melody for a Street Organ, a Ukranian film about two young children who search for their fathers because their mother died, and the coldness of the Ukranian winters and  the coldness of the people who shunted these children around, seemed equally harsh.  I get out of the theater and run to catch another film at a different theater a few blocks away. I'm already 15 minutes late for the film. A man with a child stops me.  He asks me for money for food for his children.  It's hard to say no. I had given him money  when I had seen him last.  I remember the kids in the film who were too proud to beg and no one helped them, and I was sad.  I was just as harsh as the people in the film, as I was late for my film and didn't want to scrounge through my purse for change.    Kanikosen was a Japanese film about crab fishermen in the 1920s and their cruel task master on the boat. It was a strong film about how they tried to take control of their lives and their fate.  I come home after that film.  One of Hubby's favorite reality shows is about crab fishing off the Alaska coast.  I don't know which he likes better.  Crab fishing or DayStar evangelical network on Saturday mornings.

I had to hitchhike into Jerusalem on Saturday morning and, fortunately, my driver was a nice young man, recently engaged to a non-Jewish Peruvian woman. He drove well and bemoaned the fact that it will be a royal pain in the ass for his fiancee to convert in this country. .

I began the day with a French Film, Barbe Blue (Bluebeard). Bluebeard was a beautiful film that took place both in the 1950s and 18th century, with scenes switching back and forth. In the end the young girl has Bluebeard's head on the plate. I love clever women.

I meet a friend in the lounge.  She is seeing twice as many films as I am - and also is seeing them alone.  She said that this festival is spiritual because things are happening to her that are the continuation of the movies we are seeing.  I relate to her what happened to me with the film I saw on Friday and the beggar who came to me right after the film ended.  Is this because the festival is in Jerusalem or do things like this happen in Cannes too?

The next film I saw was The Infidel - a British comedy about a Moslem family, the man of the house from Pakistani extraction whose son is engaged to a woman whose stepfather is an Al-Qaida type.  The father finds out he was born a Jew.  Hysterically funny film, and it was great to laugh with the entire audience.  I found that even sitting in theaters alone, I can still laugh out loud and not be embarrassed about this.  My kids ask me if it's not "fadichot" (embarrassing) to sit my myself, and I tell them no.  I think they're in awe about this.  On Sunday I went for my annual mammogran and sit next to a Moslem woman who is covered from head to toe.  I look for a pen and out pops the ticket to the movie The Infidel.  She looks at the ticket and I'm so amused thinking what a thing to pop out of my purse at this moment.  Maybe that's what I am?  Maybe that's what she thinks of me?  Infidel?

The next film, Tuesday After Christmas was a Romanian film and the only film I didn't enjoy.  Scenes dragged on much too long and I was bored.  The last film of that day was Please Give, a funny movie about a young  New York family and their old neighbor.  They bought her place, but can't renovate until she dies. The movie had some great scenes and I loved the daughter's character crying to her friend about her hippie mother who wanted to "fix the world and who brought home a homeless person to give him a shower in their house and he made a dump on the floor."  To my kids, I'm like the same kind of "mom who wants to fix the world but isn't it hopeless attitude" and by me bringing home Arabs - this  is nearly akin to bringing in a homeless person and the little upstarts should be grateful that at least "my" guests know how to use a toilet.

Un Ange de la Mer was a French film about a kid whose depressed father tells him that he will kill himself.  Up until then, the kid was a normal kid, but afterwards, he was obsessed with watching his father, then couldn't speak.properly..and became half mad like his dad

Friday I saw Korkoran, a great French film about Gypsies in 1943, and about how they just wanted their freedom above all, even though they were told they had to stay put for their own safety.  The French townsfolk consisted of some who wanted to rid France of "their vermin" and the mayor who tried to save the 15-member Gypsy family from the Nazis.

Saturday I saw Crazy Heart, a film with Jeff Bridges and Me Too, a Spanish film about a man with Down's Syndrome who falls in love with a "regular" woman.  I nearly cried when another Down's Syndrome couple fell in love and the 24 year old woman explains to her friends that "he's my soul.  He's my soul"  It made me think of a Down's Syndrome guy who always had a bunch of flowers in his hand.  When he saw me, he'd give me one of them and a hug.  I haven't seen him in months and wonder how he is.

The Double Hour was an Italian suspense film.  Really good.  I tried to convince my family they would like it but they "poo poo'd" foreign films, telling me they know they're boring.  Stupid people. The last film - a French flick called Un Poison Violent was a story about a family living in a small French village, whose life centered around their Parish church and the priest, while the daughter was beginning to have these lustful feelings for one of the boys in the village and didn't know whether she should take communion (or is it "have" communion?).  One scene I believe the priest is in love with one of his parisioners, but won't show it or won't allow it to happen.  He cries himself to sleep at night.

This afternoon I went to an interfaith meeting in Beit Jala.  Some of my favorite people were there including someone I have a bigger-than-slight crush on.  There are young women from Italy, France, US, and India.  I love the whole scene.  It's relaxed and the headache I had at the beginning disappeared.  The Man is telling everyone to wait until I finish eating.  I tell them don't bother, I'm never finished eating.  Everyone laughs and then we go on to discuss why Jerusalem is holy in our three religions.  Afterwards, the Man gives me a hug and tells the crowd he's so happy to see me. That I'm his soul friend.  He repeats the word "soul" again.  And I nearly cry.

Saturday, June 19, 2010


"He's not just an asshole.  He's a FUCKING asshole".  I was deep in conversation with my daughter on lessons in life, describing to her exactly who is a good performer and who isn't, which depended on whether they cancelled their performances in Israel or not.  The asshole is question was Elvis Costello. 

Boycotting Israel won't do anything for the Palestinian cause. I'm thinking what did Elvis Costello or the Pixies doing to help the Palestinians. Did they help them by cancelling? I'm of the mindset that if you want Israel to suffer economic or cultural hardship, as a result of various boycotts, just remember that we and the Palestinians are intertwined.  Like it or not, we are bound together. If we suffer hardships, so do they. If our economy is good, theirs is better too. Things are far from perfect for them, but this is how it is generally.

We were on our way to the Elton John concert in Tel Aviv, travelling by train to avoid traffic and wanting to get there early, without hassle.  It seems that anything that was more "hassle-free" would be the direction I would be taking. 

In Jerusalem 10,000 police or so were gearing up for Ultra-Orthodox demonstrations.  They expected tens of thousands of demonstrators.  What was all this shit about?  Again?  How long will I have to smell burning trash each time my bus passes by their neighborhoods.  Fuck.

The State of Israel had wanted to desegregate Ashkenazi kids from Sephardic kids in a school up in a small  place in the West Bank called Emmanuel.  Seems the school had the kids in separate classrooms, and those that didn't want to desegregate their kids, kept their kids at home.  In turn, the parents were about to go to jail for two weeks for disobeying the order.  Assholes.  Is this what will bring the Messiah?  Yeah, yeah, we know about the different customs between the two strains of Jews but so what?  Can't they just have just a tiny bit of unity.  Just once?  I commented to a friend how my daughter had married into quite a religious Sephardic family, who didn't care that we weren't Orthodox.  That would never have happened had it been an Ashkenazi family, who would have looked at us like Pariahs - as they look at everyone who isn't like them.

So together with Elvis Costello, and the Pixies, the Ashkenazi Ultra-Orthodox Jews pissed me off this past week too. 

I needed a break, and Hubby was getting on my nerves with his complaining about the army of ants invading our kitchen, blaming it on my housekeeping or whatever semblance of housekeeping I do have, and also complaining to me about my youngest daughter who uses an entire tube of toothpaste when she brushes her teeth, leaving sloppy remnants of overflow toothpaste all over the bathroom sink.  I was going to go to Elton with Hubby, but since he was like "I'm never going to go with you to anything" I reined in my Complainer daughter (who complains a lot less lately), telling her to take a day off work.

I was feeling rather queasy that day.   My daughter met me at work and decided to treat me to lunch.  Fair deal, since I treated her to the concert.  The won ton soup and sushi seemed to do well for me.  In a matter of an hour I felt back to normal and was so grateful.  Sushi heals!  So does leaving work two hours early.

So we hopped on the bus, which we waited for quite a while, since the the demonstrations were underway at the time.  We made it to the train just in time.   Bnei Brak was the station closest to the stadium, and we were both a bit nervous since it was an ultra-orthodox neighborhood in Tel Aviv, and we weren't dressed for that 'hood with our sleeveless tops and all.

"If they try to start up with me, I'll fucking kill them.  I'll spray them with deodorant." my daughter exclaimed to me.  A police officer sat with us.

"There" I said.  "See?  We have police protection already." 

We got out at the station, which wasn't exactly inside the neighborhood and there were large signs pointing outdirections to the Stadium.  We got there 2 1/2 hours too early.  Once inside the stadium, we couldn't leave.  It was steamy hot in Tel Aviv.  We're not used to humidity, us Jerusalemites.  So even though the train seems to be the way to go, taking a later train would have meant getting there too late.  The best thing would have been to stick around the local mall for an hour and a half.  We quenched our thirst with expensive cups of water (yes, cups) which cost 10 NIS (around $3).  And we waited for Elton, while the sound guys did their checks, over and over with a loud "ONE......TWO" getting the sound just right.

And then the lights dimmed, the crowd cheered and  Elton began with Funeral for a friend/Love lies bleeding.  After a couple of songs, he said to the audience "Shalom, we are so happy to be back here! Ain't nothing gonna stop us from coming, baby,"  "Musicians spread love and peace, and bring people together. That's what we do. We don't cherry-pick our conscience."   At that moment, there was this sense of overwhelming love for this guy - he touched 50,000 souls.  I screamed out "I LOVE YOU ELTON" hoping my voice will reverberate down to the stage, while my amused daughter looked on.  And I clapped and cheered like a crazy.  He is definitely not on my Wuss list.

When he sang Yellow Brick Road the audience went wild.  Everyone stood up and began singing along with him and dancing.  Behind me, people stood and danced in the aisles, while the French woman next to me yelled at a couple of people behind her to shut up as they were talking (not singing) and it was disturbing her.  I found the sound to be good, in general, though the first two to three seconds of many of the songs, Elton's voice seemed to be down in the mix, but the sound people corrected it and we then heard him clearly.  As I don't remember set lists, my friend sent me her recollection of the list.  It was:

Funeral for a friend
Philadelphia Freedom
I guess that's why they call it the blues
Madman across the water
tiny Dancer
candle in the wind
sat nights all right for fighting
lover song (didn't know it)
I'm still standing
benny and the jets
Rocket man
Don't let the sun go down on me
Crocodile rock
sorry seems to be the hardest word
encore -Circle of Life
Your song
And, again, thank you Elton for not cowtowing to pressure to cancel your concert.

Sunday, June 13, 2010


I have to remember never to say that Hubby is a pain in my ass because perhaps God is punishing me and has smitten me with hemorroids so painful, I couldn't sleep a wink last night until I talked myself into sleep by saying "You feel no pain.  You feel no pain."  And I think I slept three hours. 

The past couple of weeks have been stressful no doubt, with the flotilla incident - and a day later I had to speak to a group of interfaith people from the US in East Jerusalem, who yelled at me after my talk for living on stolen land. Doesn't good action count for anything anymore?  I almost yelled at the Asian woman that she was living on stolen land too - Native American land.  But who needed more aggravation.

Two days later I hosted a group of 24 Compassionate Listeners for Shabbat.  I cooked up a meal for 30 because part of my family would be there too.  Hubby was hysterical as if he were the cook, yelling at me - "what the fuck did I get myself into cooking for such a crowd."  I told him plainly - we have to be a light unto the nations, don't we?  After all, we definitely need a whole lotta light,because not much is emanating from this place, unfortunately.

The "service" began.  For the multi-religion crowd, I played a cd from my community, of Psalms that Nava Tehilla, the Jewish Renewal community, sing on the Sabbath - really beautiful stuff and original music.  I transliterated the words into English letters so that even the non-Jews could sing along.  I strummed a guitar to Shalom Aleichem, the first time I've strummed a guitar in 37 years.  Pretty good for someone who's forgotten the B and F chords, but thanks to YouTube, regained that knowledge.  The food turned out excellent and the company was wonderful.  I brought in someone from Nablus who is part of our interfaith group so that they could get his perspective too.  And they left me small trinkets like organic soaps, which I love and a folding nylon bag that I can put into my purse effortlessly so that I won't need to mess with those plastic bags when I go shopping.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Little Nazis

I was so distraught at the bickering and fighting going on in my home last week, I just sat in a semi-vegetative state in front of my computer googling Jonathan Rhys Myers to find out if the Tudor King hunk is in fact Jewish.  And I stumbled across this site saying that his mother's maiden name is Myers and that if he plays the "Jewish card" in Hollywood, he'll be alright.  Well, I looked at the site I was on, and it was some neo-Nazi site called Stormtroopers.  Somehow I got into it because they were just going on about how the Jews control this and the Jews control that, and suddenly I didn't feel so depressed any more because, well, we're just so in control of everything.  Especially good to read, since I felt so out of control at home.  I perused photos of the members (don't remember how I got on to that) and see a bunchy of just regular folk, some, whose dislike for Jews stemmed from the fact that when they were among Jews, these White folk often felt ignored, transparent, left out.  Jews can be cliquey.  That's true.  Whatever.  I guess we better start inviting more neo-Nazis for a Shabbat meal at our homes to make them feel welcome :-).  

I read on and saw that their descriptions of how to detect a Jew were oh, so, 1930s/1940s.  I remember flying on Lufthansa with Israelis and the flight attendants must have mistaken me for one of "theirs' because they spoke to me in German (and I answered back in that language - my folks were Austrian).  My husband is also an Aryan Jew.  Big blue eyes and blond hair.  Hell, I bet if he posted his photo on that site, he would be their Aryan poster boy.  The site insists that Jews are a race. Hmmm.  A trip to Israel might confuse them with our multi-race Asian, African, Nordic, Semitic Jewish brothers and sisters. 

And it's Saturday morning, and I'm back on the site, grinning like mad. The site insists that Jews don't do blue collar work like paint and fix cars.  Hubby works at a construction site.  He's one of the crew.  He's a proud, blue collar, Aryan Jew.  So maybe we can't buy everything we want to buy.  We should.  We're Jews.  We should be stinking, filthy rich. But we don't even own a car.  These White Power guys do.  Even if it's a pick up truck.  What the hell happened??!  I should have made it in Hollywood.  Something! As a Jew, I should have some success in my life.  Shouldn't I??  At least that's what the members of this White Power web site believe.

Saturday, May 15, 2010


I hate politics and am not too fond of politicians either.  They ruin my interfaith meetings.  On the day of our latest interfaith meeting, where we were going to get together to watch the film "Arranged" about a friendship between an Orthodox Jewish woman and a religions Moslem woman, I got a call from one of the Moslem participants.

"We won't be able to come to the meeting, because the issue of settlements is hot right now."

"Isn't it always a hot issue?"

"Yes, but the PA police in some areas are not even allowing Palestinians with work permits, who work in the settlements, to work in the settlements.  They are confiscating their permits."

"Huh?  But no one is working in a settlement at our meetings.  This has nothing to do with politics."

"It doesn't matter. It's too risky to meet with settlers right now." said the voice on the other end of the line.

"Your permits will be taken away if you visit us?"
"It could be."

"Thinking about it, don't you think it's good in a way that your people are cracking down on settlement building?  Isn't that what you really want? No settlement expansion?"

"The people have no other income.  Their income is being taken away.  It's terrible."

"Indeed.  What if the PA people who get all this funding from Europe and all these other places, use that money to specially compensate the workers who are no longer allowed to work in settlements by their own Palestinian police at your own checkpoints" asked I, surprised that there were also Palestinian checkpoints.

"That's a good idea. "

Yeah.  I'm a real whiz at good ideas.  Maybe I should even be in politics.  But I'll admit.  I'll be similar to our politicians.  I'll take bribes.  But they'll be selective bribes.

Say, some land dealer wants to build Arab-Jewish housing on the perimeter of Jerusalem, and wants to win the tender.  Sure!  I'll take some bucks and give him the tender.

But if they want to tear down a beautiful Arab historical home in West Jerusalem to build a 10 storey housing project and offer me millions, hmmmm.  I won't do that.  Not for any money. And I'll grant thousands of building permits for East Jerusalem residents who never were able to get permits before.

But I'm stuck in my mini-political world.  I called some other Moslem participants who come from a different part of the country the afternoon of the meeting.  They had a different story.

"X told us yesterday that there were permits for us.  But today, he said that he's not bringing anyone in because of the 'situation'.  But when he found out we might come anyway, he then told us there were no permits.  What's going on?"

I don't know.  I really don't know anymore.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Holy Cities in the Holy Land

We had our last interfaith meeting in Abu Dis.  Our coordinator tells us this may be our last meeting at his office because the main supporter of his NGO is upset with the fact that he is meeting "settlers" and withdrew all funding.  He tried to tell them that we don't talk politics and it's a meeting over our religions and around other "safe" cultural themes, but unfortunately, these people don't see beyond the trees, and are stuck on the rigid green line thing. They make their own fences and walls it seems. As it so happened, I was the only "settler" at the meeting.  The rest were from Nablus and Christians from Germany and Norway -and a Reuters reporter. 

We were told that Abu Dis may become area A in a matter of a couple of weeks.  The guy who told me seemed so happy.  It's a step for the Palestinians but to me it means I won't be able to visit the city legally.  I'll either have to sign a 10-page army document or come in illegally.  What a fucking drag.

We spoke about Holy Cities in the Holy Land.  It could have been a charged subject, but it wasn't.  I simply noted that Judaism considered four cities in the Holy Land.  And I didn't mention the more "charged" political entities of Palestine or Israel - thinking perhaps that we should rename the area to just plain The Holy Land with the coexistance symbols of the Sulha.  Oh, so getting back to the presentation, the cities are Jerusalem, holy to Jews for over three thousand years, corresponding to the element of fire - because of the ancient Temple sacrifices.  Then there is Hebron, where our forefathers are buried.  That city relates to the element of earth, because of the holy burial place.  Safed is the city of the Kabbalists - so that is corresponds to the element of air because of its spirituality.  Tiberias is the city where the Jerusalem Talmud was written as well as the home of many great rabbis in the 18th and 19th centuries - and corresponds to element of water because it's on the Sea of Galilee.

The Palestinians asked me about the the Hebron thing and that it caused quite an uproar because Bibi named it a top Jewish Heritage site.  I told them, that because Bibi did it, that caused the uproar.  If it was me telling Hebronites that the Cave of the Patriarchs is like the 2nd holiest site, no one would have said boo.  But you can't change these facts that it's a Jewish holy city, as the Koran can't be changed, I told them. 

Being that there was no Christian presenter, I read through a list of lesser known cities where Jesus walked and talked and performed miracles.  The Christians laughed because I made no mention of Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nazareth.  Revisionist?  Not really.  I just, well, didn't mention them because I focused on the lesser known places and it totally slipped my whatever-is-left-of-my-mind.  Silly Jewish girl they must have thought.

Jerusalem is the 3rd holiest city for Moslems, and what I never knew was that before the Kaaba was built in Mecca, Moslems faced Jerusalem.  Just like us Jews when we pray.

And speaking of similarities, I attended a lecture in Jerusalem of Tzvi Misinai who spoke about the Jewish origins of Palestinians.  The audience was mostly Orthodox Jews who were curious and never heard of such a thing.  "What about the Arab massacres of Jews in Hebron?" one asked, when discussed how we lived in harmony at one time.  The lecturer said that the rumor that Jews were murdering Arabs in Jerusalem spread to other parts of the country and outsiders came in and perpetuated that lie to instill fear - the deadly F word - in its Arab inhabitants. 

He mentioned the rituals of some of the local tribes, especially the lighting of candles on Thursday and Friday nights (the Thursday night was to throw the Turks off track to prove that it wasn't a Jewish Sabbath thing) and praying in caves and marrying within the clan.  He even mentioned one Palestinian family I know and said they know they're from Jewish origin.  Indeed, I had even asked that person once about his origin and they looked at me and said they didn't know.  But I remember the look on his dad's face.  His dad is in Palestinian politics.  They don't like to be found out.  It was a disturbed look as if I did indeed uncover a family secret. 

Tzvi is distributing pamphlets in Arabic, Hebrew and English about the origins of and testimonies from Palestinians.  He believes in one state for one people - but that one people would include the Palestinians who wouldn't  have to convert to become the People of Israel.  They would be first-class citizens - all with Israeli ID and Israel would be fully democratic.  Interesting thought.  But that would mean people would have to see them as brothers instead of enemies.  A complete change in the mainstream Israeli mindstream would have to happen.  I wonder if  the lecture changed the mind of some of the people in the audience who probably never had any deep heart-to-heart conversation with any Palestinian. 

In the 11th century, there was an edict in the Holy Land that if one does not convert to Islam, the remaining families would have to leave the land.  Rather than leave, they converted to Islam.  This also is probably the reason why there is such a fierce tug of war over the land.  Because if they would do anything, absolutely anything, to stay on their land, then nothing and no one could ever take it from them.  And we shouldn't have to.  We should live on it together. 

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Independence and confusion

Last Friday at Nava Tehilla, the Jewish Renewal monthly service I attend, the Rabbi spoke about the upcoming Israeli Independence Day.

"There are many people here working in Israeli/Palestinian dialogue.  With Israelis celebrating Independence Day this coming Tuesday, we have to realize that one people's celebration is not always that for everyone.  It's a sad day for others living in this country... and this causes a lot of confusion."

I had come home from that service so happy that the Rabbi acknowledged this, and also because my dinner guest had mentioned that she would be interested in joining my interfaith group, because of what the Rabbi said.  We have to understand one another.

And talk about confusion.  At the home front, things are most confusing.

"Black is such a negative color" my husband remarked to me one morning.

Huh?  He's always complaining that I'm so fat.  Doesn't he know that black makes me look thinner? Fool. I kept the black outfit on.

Meanwhile this week, he's been having withdrawal symptoms from trying to quit smoking.  It's been 4 days now since he's taken a butt and he's miserable, and the scowl on his face seems to me to be a permanent facial disfigurement.  He had been calling me an average of 25 times a day, while I'm at work.  I'm ignoring most of those calls.  I tell him he's only allowed to call me once or twice at the most.  He doesn't listen and catches the office manager on the phone, to tell her of all my sins. 

"Did you know that she eats Halal meat?" referring to non-kosher meat but rather the Arab version of "kosher".

I sighed when he told me he told her.  He loves to point out my sins to others.  Like when we were Chabad chassidim, and I used to go Israeli dancing with both men and women, which is taboo in the Chassidic world.  But he made sure that everyone in our religious neighborhood knew about it, when we had a tiff or two or three.

Yesterday, my office closed early for Memorial Day for Israel's fallen.  I've always thought it should be a memorial day for both Israelis and Arabs who died in our what-seems-like-an-eternity-of conflict.  I thought I'd head over to the YMCA where a joint memorial day ceremony for both Israelis and Arabs was being held.  I couldn't stay the full three hours as I had promised by daughter that I'd attend the local Independence Day celebration in Maaleh Adumim where her boyfriend was going to perform.  At the joint memorial ceremony, I listened to an older man talk about his boyhood in Ramle, where up until 1948, it was an Arab town.  People were involved in agriculture.  He knew nothing as a child of any conflict, Arabs and Jews.  All they wanted to do was play.  Until the War of Independence where he lost his home and described weeks of going without food, being sheltered in a local church, and the fear and loss they experienced. His last words were something like "Israel does not have complete independence yet", and I agreed with him.   I had to leave after an hour, but I knew that they would also hear an Israeli speak about their loss during a terror attack.  I would miss the listening workshops and the candlelighting.  I had to rush home to celebrate.

"I told them all about you" said my daughter about her boyfriend's parents.  "I told them you love Arabs and that you are trying to make peace between Arabs and Israelis.  His father asked me 'What ! Does she want to give back Maaleh Adumim?' but I said I really didn't know what you do, and that he should speak to you."

What a fabulous first impression.  I'm about to meet them in about two hours for the first time.  I put on my contact lenses, and fresh makeup so I could look nice.  Let them not think Arab lovers are all dykey-looking, makeupless, grungy people who wear clothes that need serious ironing.

We took a cab over to their home.  I expected a bit of a confrontation, but there was none.  They treated me with kindness, smiles and two large glasses of Coca Cola.  They were going to sit in reserved seats in the VIP section, and they wanted us to sit with them.  We got into the VIP place, I walked passed the mayor while my daughter's boyfriend's parents shook his hand.  I nodded at him, wondering if he already knows I had been to a joint Palestinian/Israeli Nakba/Memorial Day ceremony.  And I sat down to watch the beautiful fireworks display and the various performers in the crowded park from my up front VIP seat. 

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


On Thursday I was invited to be a part of the 1st conference of the Euro-Mediterranean Abrahamic Forum in Amman, Jordan.  Luckily, I was able to take time off work for this convention.  Because we are Israelis, we couldn't go to the much closer Allenby Bridge, but rather had to go over the Sheikh Hussein bridge near Beit Shean Valley, a 2 hour ride north of Jerusalem.  On the Israeli side of the border was a large photo of the late King Hussein lighting up the late Yitzchak Rabin's cigarette.  They're both smoking.  "Oh look, they're killing each other," I mentioned to one of my travel mates.  On the Jordanian side of the border, as Israelis we had to report to the Tourist Police before our passports were stamped.  I guess they want to take a talley of how many Israelis come into the country and to keep an eye out.  We're touchier tourists than others. 

Driving on the other side of the Jordan River, we passed by rows of small Bedouin villages and small shops.  I had seen the same vistas in photos of Pakistan, Iraq, etc.  They were remarkably similar. Photos of King Abdullah were everywhere, nearly at every intersection.  Our young driver told one of the women in our group who was fluent in Arabic that his parents were refugees from Jerusalem.  Ooops.  Sorry 'bout that, but please get us safely to Amman.  The climb up from the valley to the top of the ridge was slow, and the van had a rough time going up the steep road.  Eventually we did make it to Amman, to the hotel. 

But the hotel menu needed some fine tuning

We introduced ourselves and it was quite interesting to meet new faces - young Jordanians, Belgians of Turkish descent, Polish buddhists, Greeks, Lithuanians and Tunisians.  We branched out into 5 groups and one of the most interesting people at the conference was a Belgian man of Turkish descent, who was or will be running for mayor of his town, and who had written a book "who is afraid of Islam" - or something like it as the book is in Flemish, so I'm not sure I translated the title correctly.  He likes to push buttons so one of his chapters was titled "Belgian people are lazy" to counter the claim that Turkish people are lazy.  When the Turks arrived in Belgium, they were put to work in coal mines because the Belgians didn't want to do that kind of work - so, hence that chapter.

That evening the young Jordanians took us out to Books@cafe in Western Amman - with a pub, dj, funky colors, etc.  something you'd expect to see in any Western country. We passed Rainbow Street, a street of cafes and interesting shops - this was modern Amman.  They served liquor at the pub, and I was surprised to find so many liquor shops all over Amman - even in the more conservative downtown Amman area.

On Friday I invited a friend of my friend Ibrahim from the Mt. of Olives, whom I met on Facebook, to come join us for some of the sessions.  Mohammed, a man in his 50s, came over to the hotel to meet me.  He laughed when I wrote down my contact information.

"You write just like Obama" - and he curled his hand over the paper to show me that the president and I do indeed have that odd way of writing.

My Israeli Jewish roomate had gone with the Moslem women to the local mosque.  Of course, the women put on the special cover up over her head and body before she entered the mosque.  She apparently knew the prayers being fluent in Arabic. And we prayed the Jewish prayers in the mezzanine of the hotel above the lobby, being that the hotel management didn't want to give us the private room upstairs so we had held our sessions in the dining room.  Well, Jewish prayers aren't quiet and there was a lot of singing so we pretty much freaked out the hotel staff, who were nervous about the other guests hearing us (many of course from other Arab countries) and wondering what the hell was going on.  I guess the staff thought - enough is enough - and allowed us the use of the private room from then on.  Which goes to show you - when all else fails....pray.

Doing the Debka

Taking the chairs out from beneath you

when the girls did it - they got it right!

That night one of the local young women took us out to a traditional "coffee shop" which isn't like Starbucks or Cafe Aroma in Israel, but rather like a traditional nightclub.  We walked to one close by and as soon as we walked it, my Brazilian friend and I looked at each other.

"Did anyone slip us some drugs?"

That's what it felt like.  It was one of the trippiest places I had ever been too (and photos don't capture it), and unfortunately, we weren't allowed to take photos (other than the ones we snuck in), but I'll try to describe.  We walked into a place where families sat together, most of the women were traditionally dressed with Hijabs and a few were dressed modern. I looked behind me to see a couple of women seated together, tons of makeup, with head coverings, but with ample cleavage showing.  Huh?  But never mind.  To each his/her own.  We arrived just as the Bingo game (yes, bingo) was winding down, with the prizes being household items instead of money.  Then an Iraqi singer took the stage and sang for like three hours.  Our waiter wore a black suit and his bangs were like pasted onto his forehead. 

This place was not 21st century I'm telling you.  Another young man had a foot-high pompadour haircut.  The menu was all in Arabic which I was happy about.  I didn't want to go to a tourist spot, and obviously I hit the right place.  We ordered desserts which were these giant strange conconctions of fruit and ice cream, which lit up in the middle.

And we danced and danced.  And my Jordanian friend told the singer I was from Canada.  I wasn't sure if this was a place where you can be openly Israeli, and at 2 am, I wasn't sure I wanted strange reactions so I left it at that.

The next day we strolled to downtown Amman to eat knafe at this famous little shop.  Downtown wasn't modern, people dressed more conservatively, though I did see small groups of tourists.We passed by the oldest mosque in Amman.

the oldest mosque in Amman

perfume sellers - I bought Turkish Rose

The tortoise and the hare - fighting for a red pepper - for sale on Amman streets

By the end of our stay, many of us had bonded closely with one another.  On Sunday we headed out to Madaba and Mt. Nebo, and said our goodbyes before our bus took us back to Israel.  Lots of hugs and kisses and teary eyes.

Mosaics workshop at Madaba

carpet weaver

Old Greek Orthodox church at Madaba

This is the famous oldest mosaic map (7th century) of Jerusalem (see the Cardo in the center)