Saturday, May 11, 2013

some (raunchy) shabbat table conversations

Many traditional Jews on Friday night, when they sit down for their festive Sabbath meal, have intelligent conversations, discussing the Torah portion of the week, talking about work, singing songs, etc. While we did have festive food in common, I suppose the topic of our conversation this week was very different from other families.

That morning my son called us while we were doing our shopping in Jerusalem to tell us happily that he had a girl over on Thursday night and "there's a condom on my window sill".

I was happy that he was practising safe sex or, for that matter, any sex at all. I was worried because he hadn't been dating for a while. No one. He had brought home some girl right before he was drafted into the army because, as he said, "I don't want to die a virgin." I hadn't seen her since. But I was upset that he wanted his condom to be on display on his window instead of putting it in the trash.

I complained to Hubby.

"The cat is gonna find it and drag it through the house."

"Oh God. She'll probably put it on the dining room table where I make haMotzie (blessing over the Shabbat Challah bread)!!"

Not that we were having guests over, just the recently married kids, and that would put them in fits of laughter.

As we sat down for dinner, my son proudly boasted of his "date" last night to his sister and brother-in-law. The condom was still sitting on the window sill and the cat was smart enough or repulsed enough not to go near it. And then the conversation progressed to more graphic tones. My daughter, whose English leaves a lot to be desired, and whose husband's English is limited to "Hey daddy, how are you" and "Big Ass", told us that when she was a teenager, she knew of girls from religious families who had sex in other ways because they didn't want to lose their "vajournal".

The son and son-in-law continued their conversation in Hebrew - how to do what where and other assorted tidbits, while we laughed and munched through the coleslaw and quinoa salad with kale. And I'm thinking - so what if we don't have the conversations that normal people have around their Shabbat table. As long as there's laughter and good spirit, I think that's all that matters.

Thursday, May 09, 2013


My young friend looked at me aghast as I dipped into her stuffed grape leaves and told her to take some of my chicken salad off my plate.

She had told me that she wasn't used to being spoken to on public transportation. Swedish people are extremely reserved and quiet, yet, she prefered boisterous Israelis. And I had become one of them, calling loudly to our waitress, budding into conversations and sharing food. I wasn't the only one, as 2 other restaurant patrons looked at our food and talked about it with one another.

"In Sweden", she explained, "it's unheard of that people interrupt conversations to add their own 2 cents, they don't talk about other people's food in restaurants, and they certainly don't share food on their plates" she laughed, and her rasta-hair laughed along.

I remember horrifying another Dutch friend as well when she came for a visit in 1998. We were waiting to be served in a bakery, and the line wasn't moving. I wasn't being attended to, so I helped myself to 2 challah breads, while my friend put her hand to her mouth to stifle her laughter, and explained that THAT was never done in the Netherlands.

"Well, it's done here. As long as I pay for it, it's fine to walk around the counter and get it yourself."

I seem to be unintentionally shocking nice Europeans these days.

We went over to the Abraham Hostel after our meal. This was the funkiest, coolest hostel around and I had never ventured inside before tonight. The place was vibrant, colorful and full of assorted tourists of all ages and types. We went there because she was planning to write a children's book about Hebron and wanted to tell both the Jewish and Palestinian narratives of this holy and tense city. I know that dual-narrative tours leave every Wednesday from the Abraham Hostel and she might want to book herself a tour. Meanwhile, sitting on the couch in the lobby, I saw Eliyahu, who runs the Jewish leg of the Hebron tour. I introduced the 2 of them and she put out her hand for a friendly handshake, but since he's quite an Orthodox Jewish man, who doesn't touch other women other than his own wife, he simply put his hands together in a Buddhist-type greeting to welcome her. He gave her contacts on the Jewish side of Hebron, since she already had Palestinian contacts in place and told us a story of one tourist he guided, who went to inside Abraham's tomb in Hebron. On the Palestinian side of the tomb, the Moslem worshippers were complaining to the tourist bitterly that the Jews were being loud on purpose while they were trying to pray. When the tourist went over to the Jewish side, he saw that there was a circumcision ceremony going on and thus the reason for the loud whoops of joy accompanied by singing and dancing. Nothing was done to spite the Moslem worshippers. So there you have 2 narratives of people who need to understand one another by just going over to the other side (not possible at the tomb these days) to see what is really going on.

We ended our evening by walking over to the shuk, to show her the new restaurants that had sprouted up since she had last been here a year ago. She ordered us 2 beers, but because of my Jewish genes, I guess, I couldn't down the entire giant glass of brew.

"Sorry, I just can't finish this." I told her, leaving 3/4s of my beer intact.

"That's ok. I'll just take whatever's left," and she took my glass, pouring the entire thing into her glass and for that moment, she stopped being Swedish and became one of us...

Monday, May 06, 2013

Liverpool Legends

I looked at myself in the mirror in the ladies bathroom at the Steinberg Music Center and just stared. My hair was a mess, but it looked good, I had a wonderful flush to my face and my eye makeup was totally smudged.

"We look like we just had sex," my friend remarked. Ahh. So that was the "look" that stared back at me in the mirror.

We had just gone through two hours of Beatle ecstasy with a Beatles cover band from the US called Liverpool Legends, that had flown in especially for Israel's yearly Beatlefest. Nothing else over that weekend seemed appealing but this band, who was managed by George Harrison's 81 year old sister, Louise.

But it was in Holon of all places, and we were wandering around the music center 2 hours before the show began trying to find a restaurant that looked like it wouldn't give you food poisoning. I had ordered a capuccino from a decent looking bakery, only to find that the coffee tasted like water with a bit of coffee flavoring. Feh. I figured I wouldn't have much luck in the food department, as we walked around the working class neighborhood where elderly men were sitting around tables on the sidewalk, playing backgammon.

"I feel like we're in Bulgaria". It did seem like a different country from Jerusalem and altogether different from Tel Aviv, just a few miles north of Holon.

I hardly have time to travel these days, but I needed a bit of adrenaline and Beatle cover bands, especially if they're good, do just the trick.

I looked at the audience in the 600 seater place, and saw that it spanned the generations - little children came with their young parents and people older than myself were there looking ridiculous in their Beatles t-shirts. It's rare to see such a mix of ages at concerts. People were selling all sorts of Beatles-related kitschy stuff. I could do nothing but sigh. I had real Beatles memorabilia years ago, but sold much of it due to money shortages throughout the years.

The show started with the band coming on dressed as early Beatles, in their Beatle suits, c. 1964 and Beatle boots, then the Shea Stadium outfits, then with colorful Sgt. Pepper era duds and ending with the 1968/9 look - George, looking especially George-ish in his 1968 striped red pants. I had seen dozens of photos of that same outfit. They managed to pull off the sound and look magnificently.

We danced in the aisles, ran up to the front and danced and screamed and pretended it was really them and we re-lived each era that we missed because we were simply too young to go to any Beatles concerts in the 60s. I was only 10 in 1966 - the last year the Beatles were on tour.

After it was all over, we came out of the theater and people who were lined up to get into the later show must have seen our "just had sex" look. "How was it"? "Was it worth it?" After taking a look at myself in the mirror, all I could answer them was, "Can't you bloody tell?"