Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The End of the World

I'm worried about so many things lately from two upcoming daughters' weddings, from Hubby being in between jobs and currently on unemployment, to seeing my overdraft rising and rising to worrying about if my son will continue his army service or will he continue stint #4 in military jail.

Friends and relatives are consoling me..."what do you need to worry for, if the world is ending on Friday?"

True. Then I may as well take a suite at the Dan Intercontinental and take my charge card to the limit.

Even meeting my Evangelical Christian speaking-in-tongues friend on the bus yesterday, put me to shame. He has total faith, while I ask him "what will you do when you come back to Israel after being away for 2 months and having given away all your furniture?" - he looks up towards the ceiling of the bus and says "He always provides."

So while I'm checking my lottery ticket waiting for Him to provide, Hubby is trying to console me this morning. Our daughter whom I had nicknamed the Complainer for the longest time, is finally getting married in February. She sulks because we don't have anything to give her towards her wedding and like the good Jewish mother that I am, I feel guilty I never saved anything towards the big day - or any of their big days, for that matter. Would I have given up on twice monthly breakfasts, the annual Film Festival, never buying a danish out so much like many Israeli martyr mothers my daughters always tell me about, who just live for their children and nothing else? I don't think so.

We laughed at the fact that her future father-in-law chose everything for them - and we didn't have much say in anything. He chose the venue, the food, the invites and the music.

"No money, no honey" exclaimed Hubby matter-of-factly.

"All I bought for her wedding is a girdle so I can fit into my borrowed dress!!" I kvetched to Hubby who was ready to listen, for a change.

"And all I am going to buy is a tie!!! What are you worried for, especially if the world is going to end Friday. And if it won't, let's just get her married and out of the house already!!!"

True. The world may not end, but we'll have one less mouth to feed and we'll have more room for us to guest people, couch surf or whatever. So long as they don't complain....

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Sirens in Jerusalem

Good thing I read in the papers just the day before that the best shelter from missiles, if you are living on the top two floors of a building is the building's stairwell. I was hoping to have a peaceful Sabbath, enjoying the fact that Hubby was at my married daughter's house for the afternoon, and I was joyfully alone, cooking the Friday night meal for my family who were due to come later. Nobody bugging me. Except for Hamas. While the dusk was setting in, the loud siren went off, and I was wondering if it was a drill or the real thing. Well, most warnings are anywhere between 15 seconds and 1 1/2 minutes, so I didn't have much time to figure out whether it was real or not and settled for the "real". I ran to get my phone, shut off the rice and headed for the staircase. I ran down the stairs to the 5th floor wondering how it would be if a missile headed through my building on the very same floor where I sought refuge. I called up my religious daughter, knowing she doesn't usually answer the phone on the Sabbath, but this was obviously an emergency. No answer. I called my husband. My daughter answered his phone.

"Dad is sticking his head out the window trying to see the missile. He's the only one looking out the window."

Of course he is.

No one was in the stairwell but me, though I could hear people talking nervously just inside their apartments. They seemed to be standing right by their doors. After about 5 minutes I went back into my apartment, relieved I hadn't heard any booms anywhere.

Everyone came in shortly afterwards for dinner, and it was like nothing had happened, except the grandkids were rowdier than usual, perhaps their way of acting out.

After dinner and after the family leaves, I'm reading Facebook posts, knowing more about what's going on from my Palestinian friends than from anyone else and feeling touched by the concern of my Syrian friends. I'm reading posts between people who are against any violence and people who feel Israeli strikes are justified. My eyes are closing, and I'm lying on the couch. I eat M&M's for comfort and wake up Hubby, who is sleeping in my son's room, to come to our bed. I usually never do that.

Monday, November 05, 2012

We're On The Road to Nowhere in the land of 1,000 cups of tea

The place was miles away from any known town or village on the map. The Rashaida live in the middle of nowhere, deep in the Judean desert. I had visited them for a one day trip 3 years before, but this was my first overnight with them (). My friend was having a birthday gathering/party and decided to have a campout with friends at the Bedouin tribe's encampment. Passing Maale Amos, the last remote settlement on the road, groups of kids stood on the road watching our convoy of about 7 cars pass by and waved and smiled. Some got out to photograph groups of camels and one young man excitedly ran over to our car - "Have you ever been to India? THIS is so much like India, the way the kids behave and the view!" His wonderful memories of a faraway exotic land were all coming back to him. I tried to GPS where we were and the only thing I got was a blue pulsing dot in the middle of a grey grid. That blue dot in the middle of nowhere caused so much laughter, the birthday girl passed aruond my iPhone showing the blue dot to everyone in the large tent.

We brought in the Sabbath and found a corner table inside the tent to light the Sabbath candles. Then when it got dark, over the kiddush and challot, we had our Bedouin dinner served to us. The younger Bedouin kids hung around us the entire time - they all looked under 7 years old and were so well-behaved we wonder why people think Bedouin are primitive. Their mothers were probably thrilled to have their kids off their hands. I asked one little girl - she must have been no older than 5 - if she wanted to eat. She waved "no" with her little finger. After we all took food, I saw the little girls take food for themselves. So different from our "civilized" brood who whine when they're hungry and tired. The Bedouin kids were adorable, filthy, but so well-behaved. We marveled at how they lived - and walked around on the stones barefoot as if it were just a regular carpeted area - not having changed clothing the next day. How many days did they wear the same outfit? Their hair was long and crackly dry. The adult men's teeth were all rotted and we thought it must be from the 1,000 cups of extremely sugary tea that they drink all day.

That night the local musicians came over and played oud, rabab and another strange instrument that looked similar but with more strings than a rabab. We took turns singing an assortment of Israeli classical folk songs and what seemed like Bedouin love songs. The friend who drove us there spoke Arabic and went over to the women's tent where the women of that family lived. Muhammad has 2 wives who actually say they get along. They seem to think it not strange at all for a man to have more than one wife. They're also cousins which makes it more familiar for them. They seemed to pity our single friend who lived alone. "They probably think your family rejected you and tossed you out into the big, wide, cruel world," I told her. After all, this doesn't happen in their communities. We were happy to hear that their oldest, a 12th grader, loves school and intends to go to university. In fact, all their kids seem to love school. That struck me more strange than anything. My kids and their friends, couldn't wait to finish their schooling. They certainly didn't love it. They coped with it.

Next day we woke up with the sunrise. We saw the little Bedouin children with their mothers sitting quietly outside their tin shack. Again - quietly. So surprising for me. The goats went out of their pen and Muhammad made some goat-like noises to get them back to where they belong. After a breakfast of fresh piping hot Bedouin pita, tea, coffee and cucumbers and tomatoes (no labane until the Spring, because the goats were pregnant, we were told), we headed out in the direction of the Dead Sea. It was a 4 hour hike, through several mountain ridges, with a different magnificent view every time you made a turn. I was happy to go with Muhammad as a guide because he knows every inch of this place. The view to the Dead Sea was beautiful, and on the way, people stopped off at wells and caves for some singing sessions. Luckily, their 2 jeeps came our way and took us back - a 40 minute roller coaster ride over the mountains.

A beautiful weekend spent in an enchanting place in the land of 1,000 cups of tea, in the middle of nowhere.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Traitor or Refusenik

I'm stepping over all these soldiers' duffle bags this morning, dumped in the aisle, trying to get off the bus. They're all going back to their base from home. My son is now in military jail and I get different responses from people, depending on their politics. I hear my left wing and Palestinian friends tell each other excitedly "Do you know her son is a Refusenik!!" and suddenly I'm a hero, even though I live over the green line. My right wing friends and family are disgusted with him because he's wasting his life because he's not serving his country. He's a traitor in some of their eyes. Some say you can't even find work if you don't have army service on your CV. I think that's mostly my concern more than any others...

Truth is - he's neither a traitor nor a Refusenik. He just wants money. He's nearly 21 years old and doesn't want to earn a soldier's measly salary of $100 a month. If he's a combat soldier, it jumps to a giant $200/month. He's not combatting anyone and so it's $100 only. While AWOL he found people willing to hire him for sporadic waiter jobs in ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods. They coudln't care less about AWOL soldiers.

Life is fun in military jail - they do nothing during the day and at night, he and his 3 roomies watch either soccer or whatever film is on the national station. The food is edible with chocolate spreads and pudding for breakfast, which he doesn't even get at home. But he's itching to go out and work because "girls will only go out with me if I have a car." Even here in the Middle East,the chicks are spoiled.

Lately, I've heard that there's an army program which lets you work for 9 days and then do army for 5 days. The program is called 9/5 or something like that. Looks like there'll be some compromise and he'll be neither a "refusenik" or a "traitor" to his country.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

a very different tour of Jerusalem

I thought I had seen it all. I have toured Jerusalem countless times. Even though I live here, I still sometimes feel like a tourist, rather than a resident. It's the wonder and beauty of Jerusalem that does it to me every time.

I saw a post on Facebook that there will be a dual-narrative tour from Mejdi , and I thought that this would be a unique tour and would give me different perspectives, and maybe I'd even learn a thing or two.

Lucky it is still summer and work at the office is slow, so I was able to take the day off. Through Facebook, 3 other friends of mine found out about the tour and joined too, as well as connecting with a few other people whom I hadn't seen in a while - from the wide circle of peace people.

Standing on a scenic hill by Mt. Scopus, the guides, one Palestinian and one Jewish, began their narratives. They went something like this...

"Remember when the tunnels by the Western Wall were dug? They sparked riots from the Palestinians who were nervous that the Israelis would destroy the buildings above the tunnels or try to get to the Temple Mount from the underground passage."

"Riots?? They weren't riots. They were protests." remarked the Palestinian guide, and explained that language is a big part of the dual-narrative, that it's used in different contexts for both Jews and Arabs. He called cities over the green line "settlements" and she called them "communities". And so it went on like this for the day.

At Ammunition Hill, standing by a tank, one Jewish member of Mejdi told us of the dilemma he faced as a young soldier during a covert operation. On the hill was a young Arab boy reading a book. The soldier didn't know what to do with him, and called his commander who told him to tie the kid's hands and feet together. Of course, the child was terribly frightened. The soldier pondered whether to untie the child or not, looking back and seeing how terrifying this was for the poor kid who was at the wrong place at the wrong time. The soldier returned, untied the kid, who promptly ran as fast as he could to his village, obviously alerting the people to soldiers in the area. Needless to say, the operation failed, but this guy had cleared his conscience.

We stopped by a t-shirt shop in the Muslim quarter and the guide explained about the cartoon character Handala on one of the t-shirts. I knew nothing about this. The t-shirt merchant swung both ways,as many do in the old city, catering to all, with Free Palestine t-shirts next to Uzi Does It and Don't Worry America, Israel is behind you. When we remarked about the pro-Israel t-shirts, the merchant looked flustered..."They make me sell them!! They make me sell them!" Who makes him sell them, we never found out, but who knows what he thought of us. The unknown could be quite scary.

The funniest part of the tour was when our Palestinian tour guide ended up at the Western Wall and put on a kippah. The chabad rabbi came up to him.

"What is your name"


"Azi. Come with me..."

and he proceeded to put on tefillin on the startled guide. He then walked him over to the Wall and said "Pray for whatever your heart desires."

I hadn't gone with them to the Wall, preferring to remain in the shade of the entrance, but heard about it from him, who was like "You'll never believe what I just went through."

I asked him - "So, nu? What did you ask for when you went up the wall?" I smiled because I knew what he asked for. And I was right.

"Free Palestine"

And I, of course, burst out laughing.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The heat is on

Summer has been unbearably hot this year. I usually enjoy the heat, but this year seems to be more stifling, and I'm so much more uncomfortable.

The heat also manifests itself in other ways. Take my son, for example. He's been AWOL on and off from the Israeli army for a year. This past week I was off work on a much needed "staycation", and while he was gallavanting around town with friends in the wee hours of the morning, the military police came twice looking for him. They scared the living daylights out of one of my daughters - by banging loudly on the door and shouting - who opted, as a result, to stay the remainder of the week at her boyfriend's house. Maybe I should be thankful for the military police visit? That's one way to get rid of your kids. I felt like I was in some kind of action film, but not getting paid for it. The first visit was at 12:30 a.m. and the next visit two days later was at 2:00 a.m. I'm sure the intruders felt as if they were in an action film as well.

"His bed is hot! His bed is hot!" one burly guy shouted in triumph. They seemed to think they were hot on my son's trail.

"Why is the bed warm? Who slept in it?" he asked me. I insisted that my son left 2 1/2 hours earlier and maybe the hot weather kept the bed warm. Either that or our new kitten had slept there.

My son had left home at 11:30 that evening, and he stays out all night. I asked them, if they wanted to catch him so badly, why they don't come during the day when he is sleeping? They don't do day catches, one of the soldiers informed me.
Too bad. It's your loss, isn't it? They searched inside our kitchen cabinets and other ridiculous places. Meanwhile, their very powerful flashlights shone on the rooftop of our building, on our neighbor's porch - as they thought he jumped from our terrace onto theirs.

My daughter was embarrassed by the fact that they were on our terrace screaming out his name and neighbors in the building next to ours came out in their undies to check out the scene. She began to cry "Look, all our neighbors are watching this!!!"
I tried to reassure her. "Don't worry. Do you really think that if it happened to them, that dad wouldn't be out on the terrace in HIS underwear watching everything?"

Then the group of 5 military police ran downstairs looking for him in the bushes, where all they found were terrified street cats.

My kids called me up the next day when they heard what had happened and asked if we weren't terrified by the night raid. No. Not really. Next time they come, Hubby promises we'll answer the door in our birthday suits and say it's the heat that's bothering us - not them....but they can search as they please...

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Haifa Trip with Arab and Israeli women

Summer has started in Jerusalem. It's hot, it's sizzing during the day, only to cool off quite drastically in the evenings. The weather catches people off guard, tourists especially, and they now know they have to bring sweaters after the sun goes down.

But speaking of non-tourists, I went to Haifa with a group of Palestinian and Israeli women who like to eat. Couldn't find a better group for me. Muslim and Jewish foodies. Fuck the politicians. Women and food will bring peace to the region, I'm convinced of that. The group is called Kitchen of Languages. When I signed up to go on what was advertised as a "trip for Palestinian and Jewish women to Haifa", I had no idea who these people were. I get on the bus with 2 friends - the bus had already picked up the group from the Hebron area, Tarkumia more exactly, and they were already blasting Arabic music and dancing in the aisles. I was nervous beforehand because I just didn't want the group to be "political" because politics stress me out. It was Friday, my day off, I wasn't cooking and I refused to get stressed, especially that I was away from my family. I also found out that these woman could hardly speak any English or Hebrew and they knew as much of those languages as I did Arabic. So no heavy discussions there. I got up and danced, and one of the organizers suggested a dance contest.

"No way" I told her. "I'm not gonna compete with Arab women who've been belly dancing since the age of two."

So I was happy to find out during our trip that this group gets together to cook in each other's homes.

We make a pit stop to pick up some women from Tulkarem and I see some of the women picking a certain kind of weed with short leaves out of the grass.

"What are you doing?" I asked one of them. She understood me enough to answer in halting English.

"We cook with this".

Someone else chimed in - "But you can eat it not cooked"

That's all the English you need to know sweetheart. I just love learning from the natives!! I hoped no dog pee'd on it, I thought, as I put the leaves in my mouth.

We get to Haifa and we put our pot luck lunches on the benches. The Jewish women brought pasta salads, cake, fruit and I brought a rather tasty quinoa salad. I thought let me stick with western food because last time we had a women's Arab/Israeli pot luck, I bought mejeddra and it's certainly nowhere near as tasty as theirs and so half of it was left uneaten. I had more success with "my" food as the whole thing went quickly. The Arab women had homemade bread stuffed with lamb meat. That seemed to be their staple food for the day.

On to the Bahai Gardens where we were met by bilingual guides who spoke mainly in Arabic because there were more of them than Israelis. The gardens are beautiful, but not my style. They're too pristine. I enjoy looking at jungle-like gardens, not perfectly manicured ones. The day was hot and everyone was "schvitzing", especially the covered up Arab women. Once inside the theater where we gathered to watch a short film on the Bahai religion, one beautiful but sweaty woman threw off her head covering yelling "Fish Islam" - which kind of meant "to heck with Islam". I understood and laughed. Of course back on the street her head covering was back on and she was in Islamic mode again.

We landed afterwards on the Hof Hacarmel beach - our entire busload. We plopped ourselves down on a shaded area of the beach and noticed many Israeli Arab families there, staring at our group like we landed from a different planet. The women in these Israeli/Arab families were secular, in bathing suits and I could feel a bit of tension coming from the elderly covered up Arab women from the West Bank towards the Israeli Arabs. They weren't interested in conversing with one another, even though they could speak the same language, and I was frankly surprised. Could that even have been a glare from some of the women towards the Israeli Arab families? I thought I did notice that. I wondered why. What were they thinking? That they're sinners because they're secular? That they're traitors because they're Israeli? That they're jealous because they're Arab Israelis and free to go to the beach whenever they want or to travel all around the country whenever they want not needing permits? It could have been all three.

I watched the surfers - the waves were perfect for surfing and with another woman who couldn't speak my language, nor hers, we walked together, picking up unusual shells and rocks to take back home. I wonder if her family will be jealous that she went to the beach and saw the sea. Most haven't been to the sea since the 2nd intifada - 10 years ago or so.

Back on the bus -less dancing,less animated talking. We were all tired and it's a few hours to get back home - for all of us. But we promised to meet after Ramadan and cook food for each other to our heart's delight!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Sonny Side of Things

We love our empty nest. I must have mentioned this before, but I can't help mentioning it again. Most of the time my daughters are at their boyfriends' homes. Occasionally they spend one day in the week with us and sometimes a weekend. Now that my son is army-bound, he's not home during the week either. He was supposed to learn how to drive and was at his base for 3 weeks. But they - whoever "they" are - didn't put him on the driving list and he ended up staying on his base, bored out of his mind. And when an ADHD kid has nothing to do all day, oy vey, watch out. He calls me during the week, and our conversations are like this.

Me: What's doing?

Him: Nothing

Me: So why did you call?

Him: Nothing. (long pause) The army is fucked up. I'm the only one not driving. They lied to me again this week.

Me: You're still not driving?

Him: I don't want to drive anyway. I want out of the army. I'm coming home.

And I spend every day trying to convince him why staying on his base is a good thing and that the government of Israel should pay for his drivers license, and he should use his Android phone to play more games, watch videos and go on Facebook. But he's miserable and hurt that everyone on the base is learning to drive but him. And there's no one for me to speak with. I tried calling the City Officers' office in Jerusalem which is who you call when you need something, but it's usually a dead end. I call up the office and there's a young girl on the end of the line.

Me: I need to find out why my son is the only one on his base that is not driving. I want to know if he did something they didn't like. Are they punishing him? Can you give me his commander's number?

Officer: I'm sorry but we're not allowed to give you that number. It could be that because he was put into the unit at the last minute that there were not enough instructors. And we need his permission to speak with his commander.

I call up my son and put him on a conference call with the officer.

Me: Tell her you give her permission to talk with your commander.

Son: What the fuck for? They don't care about me!!! They just don't care!!! No one cares. I'm leaving the army!!! I don't want to drive anyway.

I hang up on the conference call and am not even embarrassed that the officer on the other end of the line heard that conversation.

The next day, I'm at the bus stop in Jeruslem on my way home and someone taps me on the shoulder. It's my son. He passed his theory test and was one of the 22 out of over 60 who passed. They all got let out on Thursday for the weekend. He was thrilled to be in the army at that moment. We get off at our stop and cross the street. He spots a group of young under-dressed girls and makes a dash for the bus shelter across the street, hissing at me not to follow him. I see him out of the corner of my eye taking off his army shirt quickly and I'm thinking, - what the fuck is he doing?? Who does he think he is, Superman - changing into his "outfit"??? He runs to the girls. He's wearing army pants and a white undershirt. He knows them and hugs the pretty blonde one with the long legs.

He is no longer Clark Kent.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Smiling Arabs

I didn't let my son-in-law crush me with his usual anti-Arab rants. After all, missionaries, no matter what their agenda is, have to remain steadfast in their beliefs and withstand all sorts of stumbling blocks - and racist people are included in those blocks. Needless to say, I consider myself a missionary in my work for peace. He and my daughter picked me up from the International Convention Center after I had just returned from a lovely trip to the Caesarea area with a group of Israeli and Palestinian women this past Friday evening, after the Sabbath came in and no buses ran, to take me home for Friday night dinner. "You don't know Arabs" he ranted on to me. "You only meet the smiling Arabs." I sighed..."Well since I've been doing this for 10 years and pretty much every week I go to one peace activity or another, I meet new faces all the time. So that makes for a lot more 'smiling Arabs' than you think." I've tried telling him various reasons why I do what I do - and thought of telling him that today I went on an intercultural picnic with Arab women because their food is so much better than Israeli food, but I let it go. The trip began from Jerusalem at 8:00 am. There was an Arab woman from Hebron who covered her hair in a cap instead of a hijab. It reminded me of the Jewish Orthodox men we used to see in Toronto who would take their families on excursions into the countryside and cover their heads with a cap instead of a kippa, so you couldn't really tell if they were Jewish or not. It served us well passing a checkpoint and the driver telling the soldiers we're all from Jerusalem. She did have a legitimate permit to get into Israel proper, but we just didn't want to be held up more than we had to. On the way we picked up more people and then picked up Palestinians from Tulkarem and Nablus at the Sha'ar Efraim checkpoint. We waited and we waited. The women finally came and told us how difficult that particular checkpoint was. They were made to stand for an hour before the soldiers at the checkpoint finally let them through (from what I saw, it's not a busy checkpoint like many others - it seemed like a very small, quiet one); then they had to go through about 10 gates, each time showing their permits and listening to soldiers shouting at them. Why do they have to shout at them, I thought to myself. After nearly two hours they came through, exhausted but relieved and thrilled at the prospect of going to see the beach which is so close, yet so difficult, if not impossible to get to for them. We tried to go to the Caesarea port and discovered the cost was 35 shekels per person (even as a group). That was a lot of money for some of the Palestinians who had brought their children with them. I wished I had had enough money to pay for them to see the beautiful port with its boutique restaurants, shops and picturesque antiquities. We boarded back onto the bus and got off at Beit Yannai beach, which was a lovely beach with picnic tables. Tons of food on the table -the Palestinian women made their stuffed bread with a variety of stuffings - cheese or meat or zaatar (hyssop) and stuffed grape leaves which were better than anything I had tasted in any restaurant. There's something very connecting about sharing food together.

The kids ran to the water, and though it was quite chilly, that didn't faze them one bit. For them, a trip to the sea is one of the biggest thrills in their lives and it was a joy for me to watch their happiness as they screamed with delight at each rough wave thrashing through.
We let the kids and a few adults stay on the beach while we returned to Caesarea's shopping mall for a workshop and to view a short film made by an organization called Peace It Together. One woman from Nablus had never been to a dialogue with Israelis before and came out of curiosity. One of the Israeli women said "next time you see a soldier, you'll realize that we are their mothers" which prompted a rather harsh conversation between the two - but then one of the coordinators stepped in to say it was much too early for a political dialogue. Eventually, perhaps, but now we women have to get to know one another as humans, as friends, and that will exclude political dialogue for now. On the way back to the checkpoint near Tulkarem the Palestinians asked for a pitstop at McDonalds. For them, it's another treat in a world of theirs which feels boxed in and to which they have rare access to what we Israelis take for granted. The smiling faces of these women with their happy kids with their happy meals, made me feel more patient than usual, even though I knew I was going to come into Jerusalem after the buses would already have stopped running because of the Sabbath. We hugged and kissed each other goodbye and explained to the soldiers at the checkpoint about our special group of women, as "missionaries" love to do. I thought what a great way to start the Sabbath - seeing so many Smiling Arabs.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Empty Nest

My boss was getting irritated at the clicking of my keyboard and wanted me to just sit still while she read some reports. I understood how she got to be irritated at such little noise. After all, Hubby and I are very much getting used to the empty nest in our home. My two eldest are married, and the younger two daughters stay most of the week at their boyfriends' homes. I see them only once or twice a week. My son is finally esconced in the basic IDF training course after being in army jail on and off during the past 6 months and we're so happy at the peace and quiet that reigns in our home.

What was the problem with the army and my son? He wanted to be in the horribly macho unit of the border police and the army wanted to give him the lesser status of military police. Then after going AWOL twice, he turned himself in to the army where they put him in jail and then sent him to basic training. I'm grateful the army knew what they were doing and didn't put him in with the border police. They could be brutal. My son is not. Now we speak once a day while he's in basic military training. The first week was wonderful for him, then less wonderful the second week, and by the third week, he sounded depressed.

"Everyone does what they want and when I do one small thing wrong, they punish me." He had been on guard duty at 3:30 am and then at 7:00 am went to his tent to lie down for 10 minutes.

He's devastated by the fact that they docked him 50 shekels ($13) from his pay and believes he's getting the rough treatment because he's not from the tougher North African lineage, and often it seems like he's blaming me for having given birth to him in North America.

I try to instill some sense of "don't do what everyone else is doing, just do what's right", but it's not instilling.

Meanwhile, Hubby is elated at the peace and quiet at home and we worry that our son will get placed in a unit where he'll be coming home every day, instead of the usual one weekend every two weeks.

We looked at each other like the Al and Peggy Bundys do when they know they're being bad parents and laughed. The army better not do this to us, we said out loud. Don't they know our food bill has been slashed in half because he's not in the house???!!

"Don't worry" said Hubby, trying to cheer me up. "If that happens, we'll just change the locks,"

Friday, January 27, 2012

Friends in a Vegan World

I was cleaning my bag out yesterday, at a Jerusalem vegetarian/vegan club, careful that no one should see the recipes I had printed out for chicken lo mein with ginger and a variety of other prohibited dishes. My friend whispered to me, while looking at someone wearing a t-shirt with a picture of an angry cow that read 'I'll eat YOU fucker!' - "watch it, they're fascist vegetarians". None of us really knew what the word "fascist" meant, even though she's got a Masters and we laughed about it. We just know it's mostly used to describe people/regimes that hate/are intolerant. One day I'll look the word up in a dictionary.

But the Jerusalem Veggie Society is situated somehow in a luxurious neighborhood, across from the prime minister's house, and I wondered how on earth did this Society afford such digs? While we waited for what my friend called our zen (vegan) pizzas "one with everything", I cried bitterly on her shoulder and laughed hysterically at her "zen pizza" request.

I cried because Hubby lost his job 3 weeks ago and I'm nervous as hell as to how to pay our bills and eat, plus my son is avoiding the army, even though it'll give him the discipline he so desperately needs. I bemoaned the fact that I had bought him a Galaxy II phone and am paying for it dearly, but it was on condition that he serve in the army, which I thought he would do in August. Plus I think he's becoming a gambling addict and this really, really worries me. What little money he makes from waitering he runs to the local shop and buys soccer Toto tickets.

My friend and I find a big airy quiet room where I can cry to her, laugh, and we speak in lines from various Beatle movies, as we have done since we were both 14 years old. It's so comforting to act the same way you did when you were 14 and didn't have such adult worries on your head.

Someone comes into our room and sits down by the big piano and plays Dylan and Leonard Cohen. The chai tea, the surprisingly good vegan food and the quiet guests milling around and sitting on bean bags soothe me. It almost made me want to trash those darn meat recipes hidden deep in my bag.