Monday, November 21, 2011

The Hitchhiker's Guide to Peace in the Middle East - in 15 minutes

Traveling to Jerusalem from Ma'ale Adumim can be a test of patience as a 15 minute trip can turn into 45 minutes with traffic. However we do have an express lane for busses and for cars with 3 or more passengers. This morning, someone who wanted to travel the express lane, offered me a lift. I've taken rides with him before.

As we drove along the highway, we watched as several young Arab teenagers crossed the highway and made their way through the fence up to an Arab village.

My driver muttered - "future terrorists".

I looked at him. "They're young Bedouins. How can you say that? What if they're not."

"They're all future terrorists."

"Why do you think that?"

I thought let me try to listen to him, rather than me lecture him for being small-minded. And that's when the conversation took a turn for the unexpected.

"Because of how we treat them."

"Go on."

"If you were in their shoes, and every day you had to go through checkpoints and have 19 year old soldiers humiliate you and tell you to put your hands up against the wall, you'd want to strap explosives to your body as well."

"I haven't seen that in quite some time. Not since the Intifada."

"Go to checkpoint 300. Have you seen these checkpoints? This goes on every day."

"What would be your solution?"

Now this is not me talking, remember. I'm just asking the questions.

"I'd get rid of the checkpoints and fences and walls. All of them. Everyone should have Blue ID cards (Israeli IDs) and get rid of the inequality. Why give everyone a hard time with permits and checkpoints. It's common sense that people who want to work aren't going to commit terror acts. They should just let them go without hassling them.

Then if anyone, and I mean anyone, commits a terrorist act because of race, religion - whether that person is a Muslim, Jew, Christian or jackass - we should forcibly move the terrorist's relatives, all their relatives - to a special place in the Negev and let them all rot. Then you will see how there won't be one single terrorist attack. No one would be giving out sweets, that's for sure."

Friday, November 18, 2011

Empty Nest

"Anyone have a basketball?" asked Hubby by the bus stop where this really tall woman stood in front of him. He never ceases to embarrass me in public. I was praying she didn't understand English. I'll have to do an awful lot of praying because it seems to be just the two of us around the house lately.

With the older two married, the third working 6 days a week and around the clock, the 4th daughter working in Salt Lake City, Utah and my son in army jail, it sure is pretty quiet around here. We have nothing to argue about. We're like these quiet old couples who just watch the sunset and walk up and down the block.

My serenity was spoiled this afternoon when I put on some Beatles music and the remaining daughter at home yelled at me to "turn the music down." Huh? Since when are we switching roles?

I celebrated our first Sabbath in a quiet home with just the three of us by ordering take away Chinese - advertised as a Shabbat special for about $35 - happy that I didn't have to cook this weekend. I had so much time on my hands, no one bugging me to get them this and that and borrowing money from me and the general torture kids put their parents through. Nothing.

I worried a bit about my daughter who is deep in Mormon country who had never travelled before in her life. She landed in New York a few days ago en route to Salt Lake City and was enthralled with the Big Apple - even though it was just JFK airport.

"Who is JFK?" she asked me. They don't learn American History here and I gave her a crash course in 1960s American history right then and there on the way to the airport this past Monday.

She loved the friendly and helpful people she met during her 5 hour stopover at JFK which seemed to reflect the general excitement of the city. She messaged me on Facebook in perfectly spelled English. I knew she had managed to cajole someone into writing the message for her. Her English spelling is absolutely atrocious and goes something like - "Hai mami, hoo ar yoo?"

This daughter is the partying type, which is another reason why I'm antsy about the fact that she's in Salt Lake. Mormons don't even drink coffee, so how is she going to feed her restless soul? I googled Festivals in Utah and got the following info which frightened me even more.

"In the fall, get lost and find your way out of a giant corn maze, cheer on pig races, and then shoot corn cannons and pumpkin blasters at the Cornbelly's Corn Maze and Pumpkin Fest at Thanksgiving Point."

I'm wondering how will she survive?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Jailhouse Rock

"We're going to jail" said Hubby to the kid sitting next to him on the bus, who smiled as one would when you're sitting next to someone you think is crazy. We were actually going on what I've been calling "an adventure" to visit my son in military jail. He turned himself in last week, good boy that he is, and he was utterly despondent at withdrawal from Facebook, Cola, sugar, Samsung Galaxy phones, and his computer. Plus he called me on Friday night, nearly in tears because his Sabbath food was absolute shit. What does he expect? He's in prison.

In order for us to visit him, there's this procedure where you have to pick up this permit slip, with your ID #, allowing you access to visit the jail. I applied two days before the visit to ensure that we will be able to get a permit. The young woman assured me it will be faxed to my office before 10 am the day of the visit so that I'll have ample time to get there.

"Can't you email it to me?"

"We don't have email"

How primitive.

Then the day before the visit, my son calls to tell me he's moving to a jail further north. Way north,near Haifa. Fantastic. Now I have to do this bureaucratic crap all over again and make a new request for a permit. Somehow at that moment, I felt very Palestinian, waiting for details on my permit to be able to enter some place in Israel and not knowing if it will come at all. Looking at the bus schedule, I calculate it will take us 5 hours and 3 buses to get there. We'd never make it by 1:00, our designated visiting time. I had to think fast and knew that the only way to do this was to rent a car. This was gonna be an expensive day out. I get to my work and there's no fax. No permit. I'm livid. It's a 2 1/2 hour drive and I have only 1/2 hour before I need to get on the road. The military office in Jerusalem is not answering the phones.

"They're probably just sitting there drinking coffee while the phone's ringing" said one of my co-workers.

I get to the office and storm upstairs to get my permit.

"You were supposed to have this permit faxed before 10 am to my office. I'm supposed to visit my son today!!!"

"There's no visiting hours today." said the girl.


"Only Mondays and Wednesdays"

It was Wednesday and this idiot hadn't a clue what day it was. After convincing her that it is indeed Wednesday she ran to get the thing stamped and off we went, while another person in another office called me on my cell to ask me where to fax the permit. "Sweetie, you're late with faxing and we're on our way."

"But you can't get in without the fax!"

"Exactly. Which is why I didn't wait for you. I went straight to the head office."

By this time, all this bureaucracy was making me dizzy and nauseous.

We drive in the pouring rain and when I say pouring it's like a monsoon, without the strong wind, for a good half an hour and the highway is flooded in a few places. We drive real slow. I'm thrilled that Hubby is a good driver and can get through this. We see a lightning bolt hit a power line and we both jump.

We get to the jail 1/2 hour before 1:00 but it's 1:20 before they let us in and only because some giant gorilla of a man, one inmate's dad, banged hard on the metal door and yelled "HEY!!!! THERE ARE PEOPLE WAITING HERE TO GET IN. WHAT'S GOING ON???" and you'd think with him banging and screaming like that, they'd purposely make us wait more. But I guess force works and in a minute the door opened for us. There was a Druze woman who was visiting her son who didn't want to serve in the IDF at all. She said her other sons did but he, the youngest, didn't want to. After 7 years of being AWOL, they finally picked him up and carted him off to jail. Seven years!!!

We hug our son, who is growing a beard because they took away his electric shaver. We hug him some more and feel sorry for him, but he seems happy. He likes his new jail.

"I know so many people here, my good friend is here and the food is much better than the other jail. I had 4 plates of pasta for lunch! My tent is heated too."

They wake him up at 4:30 in the morning for roll call and he goes to bed by 8:00 pm. Far cry from the all nighters on his computer.

We gave him two chocolate bars, the fancy ones he wanted with the rice and M&M's. That's all he asked us for. Other people came with bagfuls of junk food and home-cooked meals, and it's like a family picnic during a holiday when the parks are full. After 45 minutes an officer tells him visiting time is up. They are strict with time.

Everything we spoke about, he was like "no problem". "No problem this" and "no problem" that. We kind of like this new obedient child of ours.