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.