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.