Saturday, February 26, 2011


On Thursday, I was supposed to  have an interfaith meeting. Somehow or other the Muslim coordinator again bonked out on me.  If I hadn't called an hour before the meeting, he would have sms'd me 5 minutes before the meeting was to begin to tell me he wasn't coming and neither was anyone else from his area.  He said he wasn't feeling well; he had a cold.  I think I ought to find a female Muslim coordinator who would be able to multi-task and who would go on with her life, even through a cold.  My experience with men on this planet, is that having a cold is akin to the end of the world or, at the very least, feeling as if they're dying.

I called a participant bemoaning the fact that there will be all these new people attending, waiting to meet Muslims for the first time in their lives in this type of social setting.  She called me back saying they still want to come and we could just discuss our meetings in general - it could be like a prepatory meeting.
A young teenage boy was the first to arrive. He had just moved to Israel from the US and wanted to meet Muslims because he felt that everyone living here should be respected for their beliefs.  Another knock on the door.  Two beautiful teenage girls arrived.  They studied at the local high school in Maaleh Adumim and were part of Seeds of Peace.  Normally our group is comprised of mostly (married) Jewish women and Muslim men. Two more men who had never showed up before arrived for the meeting and then some of the regulars.  This was a good mixed crowd.  We all were curious about Seeds of Peace in Maaleh Adumim,which seemed to be a novelty.  How did they join up?

One of the girls said that her sister went to their summer camp in Maine and came back a changed person. She obviously liked the change in her sister - who was probably a lot nicer, more tolerant - even towards her own sibling - never mind others in this country.

Actually  what happened is that one of their high school teachers walked into their classroom and asked the class  - who would like to go to camp in the United States?  All 40 hands shot up.  "The catch is", continued the teacher, "that the camp will be with Palestinians, Egyptians, Jordanians, Americans and Israelis."  Most of the hands went down, together with some groaning from the class.  Five hands remained up.  Their classmates were shocked that there would be even one person wanting to talk to the "other side" and warned them to "be careful." 

So those five 10th graders went to Maine last summer to meet with people they ordinarily wouldn't have ever come in contact with.  It wasn't easy at first, especially when some West Bank participants found out they were from Maaleh Adumim, and each one blaming the other for a lot of the conflict - even some screaming and yelling ensued.  But by the end of the camp, the "fighting" partners began to enjoy each other's company and looked forward to continued dialogue.

Another Jewish Orthodox woman who had been participating in our religious dialogue for two years stated that she first came to the meetings, wanting to change the Muslims, or the way they think.  In the end, she related how she herself had changed; that her soul was completely different.

I told them about our first gathering - and hope that in March we will have a "real" interfaith meeting.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Happy Hitchhiker

Because we are generally car-less, if I need to get to Jerusalem on a Saturday when there is no public transportation, I hitchhike from Ma'aleh Adumim to town.  It takes anywhere from about 5 minutes to an hour to find someone kind enough to take me with them. 

Both Hubby and I had a Cinderella weekend. We went to the Ball (a friend's wedding in Jaffa); and what a joy it was being able to dress up and get into a car, instead of taking a bus from the central bus station in our evening attire.  On Friday, we bought our one-of-a-kind tiles in a city over an hour's drive from Jerusalem, and saw friends we hadn't seen in 3 years.  We crammed everything we could cram into that weekend, focusing on stuff we can't do by public transportation.  So grateful to God were we, that we wanted to give back.

Saturday morning on the way to Ramah's Kitchen, where we had our dream brunch at a place which is accessible only by car, we saw someone hitchhiking - a middle-aged man - at the French Hill junction that also borders on some Arab neighborhoods.  I told my old man to stop and take the hitchhiker.  After all, I know what it's like to need a ride on a Saturday.  We stopped a bit further down the road and the man couldn't see us.  We had to back up and honked until he turned around and saw us.  He made his way to our car.  I told Hubby -

"This guy's an Arab.  I hope he'll feel safe enough to drive with Jews". 

Knowing that we each have the same fears about the other, it was certainly a fact that the hitchhiker may not feel totally comfortable taking a ride with  Jews. 
But we were in a rental car and he must have thought we were tourists.  We spoke English to him.  He needed to get to Abu Ghosh where he works in one of the many restaurants.  He was so grateful to have gotten a ride, he immediately invited us for coffee at his place.

"We'll take you up on it another time." said my husband.

"!  Today!" insisted the rider.

Maybe...we told him.  We're going to Nataf to have brunch.

He was curious about us.  Where were we from?  How long have we lived here?  Do I have friends in the West Bank?  Are we Israeli?

I told him that I'm a coordinator of an interfaith group that meets in my home.  He looked confused.  Such groups really exist?

"What do you think about the peace?" he asked. 

He agreed with me that most people living here want peace, and want to live together in harmony - but that the governments on both sides fuck it up. Hubby gave the guy his business card to keep in touch.

We dropped the happy hitchhiker off at his restaurant and continued on to ours.

"He's probably telling everyone in the restaurant about his ride." said Hubby.

"Yeah, you're right.  But what if he tells his wife when he gets home that he was picked up by two Israeli Jews from Maaleh Adumim.  How do you think she'll react?  'Sufyan....are you CRAZY?  Taking a ride with Jewish settlers???  They could have killed you!!!'

It would have certainly been the same reaction I'd have gotten from some of my family/friends, had I hitched a ride with him.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

On the Evils and Joys of Capitalism

"What is he kissing?" I asked my daughter of her husband, as he was blowing kisses through the windshield of his car while driving me home from Friday night services last week.

"Just the Mercedes that passed us by" she told me, as if it were an everyday occurrence.

Feeling an overwhelming wave of generosity come over me because of 4 family birthdays in February, which is also in the joyous Hebrew month of Adar, I told him I'd buy him a Mercedes when I win the lottery.

He shot back immediately - "And when I win a lottery, I'll buy you a mosque."

How kind and considerate of him....:-)

This past weekend Hubby and I rented a car, which we hadn't done in over a year, just relying on public transportation, but we wanted to buy decorative Arabesque tiles  for our home which was over an hour's trip to Petach Tikva -

Thursday night we picked up the car and drove to a friend's daughter's wedding at the Caliph in the old city of Jaffa.  Jaffa's main street Yefet is quite run down and in need of immediate refurbishing/renovation.  It looks abandoned and deserted.  But just in back of that street is an entire neighborhood of cafe's, restaurants and bars, in beautifully restored old buildings.  I had no idea such a paradise existed from the main street that I walked on one Saturday afternoon in the summer.

Friday we went to pick up our tiles and got lost finding the place.  Our rental car doesn't have GPS.  Knowing it was near a cemetery, we went there and asked the men in the kiosk just outside for directions.  One man came over, gave us directions and then asked us for a dollar.

"What the fuck for?  For giving us directions?"  This was incredulous.  Are people in Petach Tikvah crazy?  We drove off. All  I know is I never want to be buried in that cemetery.

We drove up to the Galilee to visit our friends on a kibbutz whom we hadn't seen in three years, because neither of us own a car.  Hubby and I just had to take advantage of our Cinderella moment.  It was a gloriously beautiful day, with unusually warm weather for February and we both felt so spiritually connected with God, with the Holy Land as we drove past the sea on one side and the rolling green hills on the other.  It was also unusual for us to be both in such good moods at the same time. 

There was a woman on the road who beeped us and yelled that our back tire was running out of air.  Hubby was skeptical because he felt no difference in driving.  We noticed the Tire Checker was looking at every car's tires and telling a few other people that their tires needed air.  We figured it was the heavy load of 150 kgs of tiles in the back that weighed down the tires, because when we checked them, they were fine.

Our friends have lived on this kibbutz for 15 years and since we last saw them, the kibbutz was going through the sad but necessary process of privatization.  Kibbutzim were going bankrupt all over the country one by one and the government would have to bail them out.  The country was not the mostly agricultural country it once was and the socialist ideal was quickly fading, with most young people leaving the kibbutz for greener and more profitable pastures in the city - for high tech and other capitalist endeavors.  This kibbutz had no choice but to privatize. When it did, more members were added - mostly young families who are very active in the Conservative movement. It sold off its agricultural lands for outside people to come in to build magnificent villas on its property.  Driving up to the kibbutz we saw what looked like a small village, with beautiful homes on what was once farmland.  It was a gated community and we waited until the guard opened up the electronic gate to let us in.  We drove up to the older kibbutz homes where our friends lived and noticed that the old, dinky, tiny kibbutz homes were now being renovated - some have added second floors, some were totally refurbished on the outside, painted terracotta with blue window shutters.

We hugged and kissed our old friends whom we hadn't seen in so long.  We mentioned that the entire place looked different and how did it feel with this new life breathed into the tired place, which had only around 5 families as members when we were last there.  It looked so lively with all the kids' toys lying around in the various yards.  I mentioned the blue house.

"Oh the Flintstones..." she rolled her eyes.  Apparently, she wasn't enjoying the kibbutz's transformation as I thought she would.

She missed the communal meals in the dining room. 

"I worked 15 hours a day, 6 days a week, and I didn't care.  I had everything I needed.  Now my husband and I work less hours and I even have a day off, but it's not the same.  I used to finish work and not have to cook or do laundry (since it was all done communally).  I had education for my kids taken care of as well as health and dental care.  If we wanted to go somewhere, we took the kibbutz cars. Now everything is money.  If I work on my day off, you have to pay me.  If I want to use the kibbutz car, it's two shekels a kilometer plus a fee for daily rental.  We used to fight among ourselves all the time but now we're like sisters.  We all miss the way it was."

I walked passed the dark dining room, where our family spent many holidays in communal dinners with the kibbutzniks and their families.  The family from India would lead the Rosh Hashana seder with the various blessings made over an assortment of vegetables and then there was the dairy dessert contest they had on the Shavuot holiday, in which I was made one of the judges.  Though the members used to fight over petty things, they were no more than family fights.  And the family was now gone.

Services in the kibbutz synagogue were lively and various activities and parties and get togethers for the week were announced. There was life in this place.  If we had younger kids, I may have wanted to make my home here.

My friend's Shabbat table was filling up with people.  Who were all these people.  It was beginning to feel like kibbutz again.  Her brother and family have moved onto kibbutz and her husband's mother was now living there too.  Their sons and girlfriends came as well with their very friendly pit bulls who came over to give me wet licks while I asked them "aren't you guys supposed to be dangerous dogs?"  Everything on kibbutz seemed to be safe.  We told our hosts, they may have lost some things, the simpler way of life and now they have to struggle to make money like everyone else, but their Shabbat table is full every week with the large and lively family they now have and so they did gain in other ways. 

We drove back home to Jerusalem past signs posted on the highway, protesting the new extension of the Express Highway 6 which will be   built over farm fields, but which got us back to our home in two hours instead of the 3 1/2 hours it would have, had this highway not been in existence. 

Progress is not always such a bad thing....

Saturday, February 05, 2011

A bum rap

My daughter was looking at me enviously as I downed two laxatives and drank the decent-tasting, fizzy orange Peco-lax last night.

"You'll lose weight right?  Maybe I should try that?"

"Do not try this." I said, hiding my drugs, as I ran to the toilet in-between sentences, feeling grateful that my meds weren't over-the-counter so she couldn't have easy access.  I did wish I had a scale at the moment thought because  I'm sure I dropped a couple of kilo. 

Hubby was too nervous to sleep in our room, telling me he was scared I'd poop in bed.  The bathroom is two meters away and though I woke up every hour because of the laxatives, I managed to make it in time.

My colonoscopy was slated for 10:00 am Friday morning.  By Friday, the runs had died down and I just drank the water they told me to drink, wondering how anyone could down so much fluid at one time. 

Being I'm a rookie at this recta-test, I was feeling quite nervous.  How would I feel during the test?  Would it hurt?  Will I sleep through it?  Will I recover?  Will I hallucinate? Do people die from it?  What if the doctor finds something?  What would I do?

I took everything I saw and heard that morning as terrible signs.  Three black ravens faced me on the terrace.  Was that a terrible omen?  I turned on the TV and nothing was on except for the E channel where the show featured celebrity stalkers.  Eerie.  It was raining outside, a bleak day.

I dared not take public transportation - pooping on a bus would be disastrous. At least we knew the female cab driver, a friend of hubby's.  The taxi got us to the doctor's office right on time and the radio played the Stones' Wild Horses, which Jagger wrote while Marianne Faithful, his girlfriend at the time was in a coma.  This didn't look good.

Hubby wasn't impressed with the clinic, which was in one of Jerusalem's poshest neighborhoods.

"This office is quite old, isn't it?" he questioned the receptionist.

"Yes it is..." she looked at him, wondering what was his point.  Point was that even though this doctor is one of the tops in his field, he thought nothing of renovating his ancient clinic.  They called my name.  I went into the room where the procedure will be done.  The decor was very 1950s.  I expected the doc and his assistant to light up a cigarette right there and then, the way they did in Mad Men. 

The doctor's assistant, herself a doctor, was asking me my family history and I wasn't in the mood to have small talk.  I hadn't eaten since 3:00 pm the day before and I was in desperate need of a coffee and for this to be over. 

She covered me with a large paper towel - no nice cotton sheets here.  I asked them to turn up the heat.  I was feeling cold.  Then the doctor came in singing "Don't Worry, Be Happy" and I thought of the drugs he would be giving me.  I asked him if it was better that I was up for the procedure.  He said that each person reacts differently to it.  They put the IV in and whatever went in, made me feel quite relaxed. 

"Turn on your left"

I turned to my right.

"Facing me."

I turned the other way.  And other than mild cramping, I didn't feel that uncomfortable. The assistant held my hand, while the apparatus twisted its way and blew air into my colon.  They asked me to see the procedure on a monitor, and whatever it was, looked like some kind of reptile moving around. 

"Beautiful!" the doctor said loudly.  He seemed excited at my clean colon, while swinging the camera in every direction.

"How many colons do I have?" I asked him because it just seemed so fragmented on the monitor.

"Only one big one."


After the procedure the assistant put me on another bed and told me to "let the air out".  I guess she didn't mean out of my mouth.  I was left alone, and  I unabashedly let loose, and so whatever air was pumped into me, was pumped right out.

"Everything is fine." the doc told me after I walked to the reception area.

"No polyps? nothing?" I asked,
"Nothing." He smiled.  It's good to tell someone there's nothing wrong.  "See you in five years"


You can't imagine how  relieved I was at the good tidings and thanked God for the rest of the day.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

When the shit hits the fan

"They're going to throw us out of the staff lunches." laughed my friend at work.   We were discussing my upcoming colonoscopy - the first for me - and the people around the table were trying to figure out why I won't be eating the following day.  And why were we interrupting the serious conversation about the chaos in Egypt.

"Ahhh, it's Rosh Chodesh (new Jewish month)" said one wise man.

"Of course not.  And it's not Ramadan either" I retorted.  "More like Rama-bum"

My evil friend and I couldn't stop laughing.

I took off today because I didn't know what shape I'll be to cook the Shabbat meal.  I did my shopping in the morning, borrowing my daughter's car and thinking - wow!  This is what it must be like to be retired.  You don't go in the evening when you're exhausted.  You go to the supermarkets first thing in the morning, when no crowds are present.  Even at the tender age of 55, I can now join the Golden Age club in my city and be the youngest of all the Alta Kakas there.  You can go on trips and swim for next to nothing.  Sounds good to me, although there are hardly any English speakers in the Club - mostly Russians and Spanish-speakers.

I made a three course dinner for my kids, cleaned the fridge and bathrooms.  It was a productive day.  And I'm tough.  Really tough - probably tougher than the laxatives I had to take in the early evening.  So far - nada.  It's been 2 1/2 hours.  Will "it" keep me up at night?  Probably.  I was nervous about the procedure but I hear it's less harrowing than going to the dentist.  I'll keep that in mind tomorrow.