Sunday, February 21, 2010

My family's worth in gold

"See?  This is how it starts.  First you eat like that, and then you start inviting Arabs into the house." griped my son-in-law, as I gave my daughter, his wife, some healing foods for her ulcerative colitis.  Brown rice with broccoli and carrots, drizzled with flax seed oil.  I was amused by his theory, wondering if it were indeed true.

He shook his head.  He truly believes that granola eating hippies, like his mother-in-law, weren't always loving and tolerant human beings, but turned that way when they eschewed mostly junk food for a healthier lifestyle.  His wife was eating crap, like diet soda and fast food nearly every day, and the result is ulcerative colitis, which I'm trying to help her heal through food.  And if that will heal her body as well as her soul , then why not?  Because she'll turn into me?  Is that what he's afraid of? 

I laughed at the prospect of her turning into a peace-nik and inviting all the Arabs who live in Jabel Mukaber into their tiny West Jerusalem home, and him, another middle-east Archie Bunker, tearing his hair out.

My son's school has been calling me all month trying to get me to come to another one of their "emergency" meetings about my son who shows up in school, but hardly in class.

"There are teachers who don't even know who he is!" exclaimed his principal.

I tell the principal's secretary that I can't make it on the Sunday she wants me to come because my boss has a slew of meetings that day, and I have to prepare her on that day.

"Isn't your son important to you?  Don't you even care?  Is your job so much more  important than your own son?  We made this meeting with a lot of people involved and that's when they could come!!"  The principal's secretary is actually screaming at me.  I look at the phone.  I'm totally pissed.  She continues,
"they want to throw him out of school.  Don't you think that's important?"

I glare into the phone.  Unfortunately, she can't see me gritting my teeth.

"You never asked ME when "I" can make it.  Keeping my job is showing my kids how responsible I am.  If I don't have my job, then we'll be living in the streets. I'm not ready to sacrifice my job for a meeting in school.  Sorry."

I think she was shocked by my response.  There was silence on the other end of the line.

I continued. 

"If you want to throw him out of school, it will just have to wait another week." I shouted back at the secretary.  I made the appointment for the week after, when my boss will be out of town.

That afternoon I went into the local mall where one of the shops was selling pillows.  My kids were all sleeping on pillows that had seen better days.  But that day, I was only buying for one of them.   I ask her to show me a selection for my 20 year old daughter.  The shopkeeper shows me a latex pillow that is the most expensive one in the store.

"It's quite a lot of money." I complained to her.  "I'd like to buy her a mid-range one.  Not the cheapest and not the most expensive."

She looked at me funny.

"But it's your daughter!!!   Isn't she worth the best?"

I looked at the shopkeeper funny.

"Absolutely not."

And then I walked out of the store, seeing the shopkeeper's mouth still open....

Monday, February 15, 2010

While you are all snowed under....

here in the Holy Land, we are basking in the sun.  I usually don't like to make you people living with cold weather jealous, but today I'll make an exception.

We ate at Bariba overlooking the Yarkon River and Reading plant

Mullet fish over risotto in saffron sauce

The best mushroom gnocchi I've ever tasted covered with Parmesean foam (!)

All sorts of people passed by

That dog wants ice cream

some people went boating

some kids went swimming

The Farmers Market was in full swing

one of Hubby's favorite stores on Dizengoff Street with the latest fashion in undies (if you can call them that)

Road signs wishing travellers a Shabbat Shalom

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


I prepared so well, I thought, for the upcoming ticket sales in Israel for the Elton John concert in June.  I read the reports  of groups trying to get him to boycott Israel.  Yawn.  This is getting boring already.  They do this to every celebrity who books concerts here.  Most ignore the boycott pleas and threats.  I hope Elton has the balls to pay no heed to these party poopers.  Cancelling a concert will not make things better for Palestinians in this country.  It'll just piss me off and probably a few other peacemakers too. 

But getting back to the tickets...Advance ticket sales were available to Bank Discount members beginning from 7:00 pm last night.  I'm a member (or rather my husband is) - even though that bank pisses me off - except when they give their members perks such as this.   I called up the bank last week to make sure that my credit card was open and ok to accept purchases.  After all, it has been over a year since I used it.  The bank clerk told me that there is no problem with the card.  Yesterday I called another bank clerk to get more credit in case I want to buy more than 4 tickets.  He said everything is fine.  Wonderful.  I'm ready.

I did some errands then came back to the office at 6:45 pm and got the website ready on my computer.  Of course by the time 7:00 pm rolled around, it took me 20 minutes to get onto the site.  I finally got in.  Yay!  I filled out all the information they needed, picked out some fabulous seats in the front row on the side of the stage - very close to the stage, in fact -  and then took my credit card out.  I plugged in the numbers, my ID number, etc. and then I saw the expiry date.  I look at the card - remember, I had been planning this for a week already - and the expiry date says 09/09.  SHIT!  I tried putting in a random expiry date, but the computer is smart.  It doesn't take my card.  I use the other Visa I have, but the computer insists I use the Bank Discount credit card.  I leave the webpage open, just in case I never get in again because of all the people trying to buy tickets at the same time.   

I have to think fast.  I call up the credit card company.  I'm frantic.  I'm wondering if there are more frantic people calling them about Elton John.

"Look, I'm trying to buy Elton John tickets, and my visa date expired.  Can you give me a new updated date?  Please?"

It seems hopeful at first while the clerk puts me on hold probably to speak to his manager.  He comes back on.

"Sorry. You have to speak to your bank about this.  We don't give new expiry dates."

"But my bank doesn't open until 8:30 in the morning" I wailed. "Can't you give me a temporary one?"

"No.  I'm so sorry."  He really sounded sympathetic.  But there was no point in arguing with him.  I had to think quickly while the ticket sales website was still on the payment page. 

AH!  I remembered that a good friend of mine has a Discount Visa.  We tried doing this together, but she had a difficult time with the Hebrew instructions.  I guided her through but the transaction failed.  She doesn't have enough credit on her card.

Never give up.  My Complainer daughter has to do something good for her mother, doesn't she, instead of chronically complaining all the time.  I call her several times.  She doesn't answer her phone. 

It's 8:00 pm, and no tickets.  I go out for dinner with friends.  My daughter calls and apologizes (!). She was working and couldn't answer her phone, but if I'm in town, we can go home together.

Yes, and I could take your Visa, I thought.  She didn't complain when I asked her for it.  Not a flinch.  When I arrived home after midnight I went into my son's room where the computer is.  I let him rant and rave about me making noise.  I tried to bribe him with concert tickets but he's not interested.  I finally get into the site.  Most of the great seats are gone - except for the very expensive lawn seats.  I get a gate close to the stage, but 23 rows up.  Not bad.  Not as great as I could have gotten had I had an updated credit card, but they were good nevertheless.

So Elton, hang'll be a rocky road with every asshole trying to get you to cancel the concert.  Don't listen to anyone.  Just do what you have to do so we can all have a great time together....

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Cookie crumbles

Be careful who you start conversations with standing at bus stops.  It's not like people are dangerous here.  They aren't.  And it's easy to jump into a stranger's conversation.  The stranger who is talking usually looks around and talks to whoever is standing around.  Some are receptive and sometimes one can engage in fun conversation about all sorts of things while waiting for the bus.

So yesterday I jumped into a bus stop conversation about People.  Persian people and then Russian people.

"Not all of them are bad" said a woman to a man.

"You always get one bad apple in the tree" the man answered.

I interjected in Hebrew, "Well, what do you think about Canadians?"

Bad move on my part.  The man continued his tirade all throughout the 40 minute bus ride with me about his Canadian neighbor whose dog barked outside every day at 4:00 am. 

"I told her I was going to kill the dog."  He leered at me.  He clearly isn't too fond of Canadians.  Then he went on about putting talcum powder on the floor and I couldn't understand half of what he was saying.  I really just wanted to relax on the bus ride home and not talk to anyone. 

I got home and tried to make dinner.  The two men in the family began bickering.

"Who ate my cookies?" demanded Hubby.  Someone at work made chocolate chip cookies for me for my birthday  I brought them home and told Hubby that they were for him for HIS birthday this week.  He was so happy.  Before the cookies were eaten, that is. 

My son admitted to the crime. 

"There were only 10 left!"

"10!!!  YOU ATE ALL 10???? YOU PIG!!!" and a war of the words started, with name calling back and forth, which ended up with my son throwing Hubby's files out of our son's room, where they are kept, and then Hubby taking the computer monitor out of our son's room and putting it into our locked storage room.

And then I thought it is much easier dealing with strangers on the bus, who can talk the ass out of a turkey, than this.

Monday, February 08, 2010


It was bad enough when the water stopped running right before the Sabbath.  I was about to put on the slow cooker a dish called Hamin, which takes overnight to cook, and consists of everything basically - meat, chicken, beans, potatoes, stuffing, barley, and seasoned either sweet or salty or middle eastern.  The water shut off just as I was about to wash a bunch of scallions.  I was horrified.  I ended up washing the scallions in a pot full of water that had cooked the artichokes.  I felt good.  I was recycling.  The neighbors kept on going onto the roof to see if they could fix the water thing (whatever it's called), while the rain was pouring down at the same time.  For a few minutes they were successful and then --- no water from the taps.  Again.  We thought of a weekend with toilets full of shit and family members in sore need of a shower.

"I have my PERIOD!!" shouted one of my daughters during the meal.

"What's a period?" asked my bright 18 year old son.  He had no idea what that word meant in English.

"YOU tell him" I ordered my son-in-law.

But before our meal, while this water shortage thing was going on, I had smelled smoke coming from the air vents.  I panicked because Hubby was over at my married daughter's house in Jerusalem and called the fire department.  Two men came into the house, looking like professional ...ghostbusters or whatever.  Oxygen tanks on their backs, contraptions which measure or find the source of the smoke.  The odor was quite strong.  They were with me in the apartment for a good 20 minutes.  Then I lift up one of my pots that was on the stove and see a little rattan coaster sticking to the bottom of the pot.  It was burnt to a crisp.  I found the culprit and I felt so stupid. 

The firemen looked at me and smiled.  They must go through this often, I thought (perhaps others would be as mindless as myself).

Meanwhile, Hubby returned as the men were leaving.  He didn't care if the house was burning - he was just thrilled to be able to eat on paper plates, as his dishwashing duties was temporarily suspended.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

An evening with the ADL

I went to an ADL-sponsored dinner the other evening.  About 40 visitors from Connecticut were here from that organization - the majority of them clergy people.  This dinner was held at the Begin Center in a restaurant called Teresa.  I think the abundance of food shocked the Americans. There must have been an assortment of at least 10 salads, and then ravioli was passed around.  We had thought that was it for the main course, until we saw two large plates of Drumfish (unfamiliar to the Americans) and salmon come around, as well as wonderful cakes and coffee at the end.

We sat at four tables of about 10 people and  two people from our respective interfaith groups sat at each table to get to know the guests.  I sat with an Armenian woman from the Old City in Jerusalem.  I had met her once before, but we only knew each other vaguely.  She was talking about how the Christians are leaving the country, since there are no opportunities for them, and they are finding work overseas.  Also, they have been feeling tormented by the Ultra-Orthodox Jews passing by in the neighborhood, on their way to the Jewish quarter, who don't find fault with spitting on their priests, especially with those carrying large crosses.  The spitting is getting worse - done by the old and young - and the young Ultra-Orthodox Jewish kids, my new friend says, never sleep.  They study in yeshivot during the day and are up all night walking around, shouting through the gates of the Armenians' homes. The Armenian residents can't sleep.

"It used to be good with the Jews years ago" she confided.  We used to help each other and we used to turn on their heat and lights on the Sabbath for them.  These Jews are a different kind now.  It's getting worse.  When the tourists come in the summer, they walk into our shop  -  I once saw a boy who was very thirsty.  He went to take a bottle of water in the fridge and his mother said 'not from here!  We're not far from the Jewish quarter. And the son was complaining to the mother that he was so very thirsty, but she wouldn't let him buy from us.  Why?  What did we do to them?"  She looked at me, her eyes filled with hurt and pain.

I thought that perhaps one day our interfaith organization should have a vigil by their homes/churches so that if we see spitting and curses flying, we can confront the perpetrators.  But because it seems like a tough thing to organize for the moment, the woman resigned herself to inviting me over for coffee in her home - which I hope to do in a couple of weeks.

Meanwhile, we laughed over the fact that what I had thought was authentic Armenian pottery was just local pottery from Hebron.

"They say their name is Mike, but it's probably Mohammed."  she said of many of the store owners on the Christian Quarter road - and laughed.

"So you'll take me to the Armenian places? And we could go out for coffee and knafe?" I asked.

Certainly.  Her family came to live in Jerusalem after the Turkish massacre of Armenians in the early 20th century.  She knows the neighborhood really well.

There was a Pakistani-American woman there.  She had been living in the US now for 20 years and considered it her home.  But the events of 911 and suspicions over her heritage and extra precautions taken with her at airports and other places because of her Moslem name, have saddened her.  She turned to the ADL.  I talked to her later, telling her about my knowledge of the "lost 10 tribes of Israel" and that it is assumed that the Pathan tribes are descendants of these lost tribes.

"I'm an Afridi."  she told me.  "My name is Afridi!"

It was like I found a long-lost sister. 

"WOW!! You're from the tribe of Ephraim?!! "  I hugged her.  It's not everyday that you find a long lost tribal sister.

She told me "But the Rabbani tribe are the most extreme of the Taliban."  They're considered to be descendants of the tribe of Reuben.

"Jeez.  Why?  What were they thinking?" I said to her. 

My attention switched to the people conversing on the other side of my table.  Seems a young and charismatic modern-Orthodox Jewish rabbi  was learning the language of the African American woman sitting across from him.  I had no clue what they were saying.

"You just presented" she told him.  "I'm gonna tell everybody that you presented in Jerusalem"

There was so much laughter.  I had no idea what was so funny about the word "presented".  They continued on.

"You've just been served.  You've been housed.  You have to give it right back."

I have to admit.  I'm totally lost.  When I go back to the US for a visit, I do hope there is a school for learning this new, unfamiliar language.