Friday, January 30, 2009

Facebook Subversion

Let me start by saying that I always wanted children.... before I had them.

I didn't get married until I was 32 and once that was done, I was focused on what I figured was the next logical step.... expanding my gene pool (isn't that what men usually say about their sperm?).

I think we can skip all the details about getting those children but suffice it to say that I ended up with three. One came with the husband. That gives me a total of four.

Now generally I would have to say that I am glad I had them, and always thought (despite my friends' protestations to the contrary) that they would get easier with age. My thinking was that if I could leave them alone in the house for a few minutes or not have to go with them to the bathroom, I would be essentially emancipated from the drudgery of motherhood. I can barely stop laughing long enough to continue this post, which is a nice way of saying I WAS WRONG!!!

Which leads me to the events of this past week. Last Friday night my 13-year-old son's friends were hanging around in a local parkette. I am not a big fan of pointless hanging around, but the kids don't see it that way at all. Let me start by saying that my son wasn't there. However, one of his friends apparently showed up with a bibi gun. At this point, it is obvious that the story is headed downhill.

Why he had the bibi gun is a fair and logical question, but it is really tangential to the story and even if it wasn't, I don't know the answer. What is important is that one of the 13-year-old girls who was there ended up with the gun and inadvertently (?) shot some other kid in the face. Fortunately, it was the other kid's cheek that suffered the brunt of the pelleting, but as you can imagine, that kid was less than amused.

Apparently (I wasn't there so I feel obliged to keep saying "apparently") the victim walked up to the shooter, grabbed the gun from her hands and proceeded to crush it to smithereens. That, in turn, led to further decline in the festivities. (No surprise there.)

Suffice it to say that there was name-calling, personal fashion insults, and so on.
Which leads me back to the kid who owned the gun.

When his parents found out about it, apparently (see above) they were pretty much non-plussed because (so I heard) it was only "boys being boys". I am always speechless when civilized people in the 21st century say stupid things like that. Where do you go from there?

Okay, so now, without being directly involved in any of the goings on, I realize that I am really peeved. And to add insult to injury, I hear that this gun-toting kid's older brother has a nasty home page on Facebook. Yes, the parents supposedly know about that too and yet again, are unphased for the same reasons as noted above. And me, I am just getting more and more peeved.

I went home and reported the entire series of events to Chaim because I knew I was preaching to the converted. That's when we decided to try to get on to the older brother's Facebook page to see if all the gossip was true. (As one of my friends later asked: "And what were you going to do with this knowledge?" I don't know, but at the time that wasn't the point.) We were trying to remember that everyone is innocent until proven guilty. And if we couldn't, we were just going to have to go with our verdict of "Presumed Guilty".

This is when I learned a little something about the inner workings of Facebook. If you aren't invited to be someone's friend, you can't access their home page. And let's be honest here, there aren't many 15 year old boys inviting me to be their Facebook friend (not from lack of asking or even begging on my part).

When I told a friend about our attempts to access unfriendly Facebook pages she told me to call another mutual friend (who I cannot name here because I may need him again in the future) who is an unofficial (Facebook) Subversion expert.

When I talked to the Facebook Subverter he explained how complicated it could be to break into a Facebook page and that he (acting on behalf of my subconscious) decided that it was too much risk considering that my objectives weren't clear -- well, at least those beyond curiosity.

So, now, I am left to look at this kid and wonder if he is as creepy as I now think he is. He looks so innocent, but it's too late for that -- I have my suspicions. And I really want to have his parents sent to have their heads checked, but you can't go around insisting upon that in a democratic country.

And in the meantime, I am going to do everything in my power to keep my kids away from him/them.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Back to the past, which got me to the future

I have received some feedback from one of my readers who said that I never gave the back-story about how I ended up in Israel in the first place. So, in an effort to correct this intentional or unintentional (decide for yourselves) oversight I am going to give you the Reader's Digest version of the story.

Eighteen years ago when I began dating the man who would become my husband, he mentioned to me that the one thing that was important for him to accomplish in his life, was to live in Israel. Looking back on it, I’m not exactly sure when the “forever” part entered the picture.

Years later, we still disagree on this point.

It was easy to be cavalier about spending a year or two in Israel when I was 29 years old and single. Heck, a life experience was a life experience; why not. All the while, my soon-to-be husband, Henry, was thinking he had found a woman who was committed to living out his dream of moving to Israel -- and living there forever. Neither of us realized at the time that we were living in parallel universes where the same idea was taking root in totally different ways.

I never really took the matter seriously for the next eight years. Yes, it surfaced once in a while, but his friends – all the while rolling their eyes in that “we’ve heard this a thousand times before” way -- confidently reassured me that he had been talking about this for years before he met me and he had never done anything about it, so there was no need to worry now.

I am not sure when I realized that now was precisely the time I should have begun to worry and that this hypothetical move was anything but that. It probably should have dawned on me when we made our first trip as a family to Israel in 1998. Picture it: a two-year old, a baby, an adolescent stepson and a partially deaf mother-in-law in tow … not to mention, my travel partner, the Ultimate Zionist.

As I try desperately to recall positive moments from that trip – any moment – it occurs to me that the whole trip is filed in my memory as a blur straight from hell. Babies adjusting to time zones, getting used to functioning in temperatures usually reserved for baking cookies, language barriers, an endless stream of Henry’s long lost and over enthusiastic relatives, cleaning vomit from children’s clothing and hair in dirty, out-of-the-way gas station washrooms. Did I mention the insects swarming me as I scrubbed those smelly clothes in that bathroom? Strangely enough, I remember that part very clearly.

Did I mention that the trip was hell. And I haven’t even mentioned that my stepson was continually lost – he came to Israel to peruse the gift shops. He spent the entire trip thinking about what he was going to buy for the people at home. He probably would have been just as happy in the Duty-Free section of Ben Gurion Airport for three weeks. And there, at least, he would have been much easier to find.

The trip was mostly miserable. In retrospect, it’s the “mostly” part that probably left the door open just enough for Henry to convince himself that all these years he had been right and that some day, some how, we were going to live in Israel.

Of course Henry is no fool. And he suspected that the trip had not been as good for me as it had been for him. I think the epiphany hit him as our plane from Israel landed on the tarmac in Toronto and everyone began clapping enthusiastically – except him. He just sat there glaring at me for being happy to be home. I think it was at that precise moment that he concocted his plan to have us practice living in Israel during our summer vacations.

Okay, that's enough for today.... more on the practicing part in upcoming episodes.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Going Batty

One thing that suburban Israel has in abundance that I have rarely seen in suburban Canada (which does not include the Okanagan and Annapolis valleys, or the Niagara Peninsula) is fruit trees – oranges, apples, grapefruits, bananas, figs, dates, olives, pomegranates and more.

Now who doesn’t like fruit trees? They smell nice, the blossoms are beautiful and you can pick the fruit and eat it on the spot. My husband has a theory that if you are going to be a starving person, Israel is the best place to do it. Not that that is anything to aspire to!

Well, that is all nice and dandy, but the most important thing I have learned about fruit trees is that they are the home base for fruit bats.Many, many fruit bats.

We have fruit bats swooping overhead on our street every night during fruit season – which is a pretty long season in Israel. And they really do swoop and twirl because they are bats and as the saying goes, they are blind.

Walking down our street any given night I risk dodging fruit bats flying helter skelter barely over my five-foot-three-inch head. I really feel bad for all the tall people on our street. The truth is that the bats probably don’t swoop as low as I think they do, but when it comes to bats, anything less than 25 feet of personal air space is just too little for me.

The first time I noticed them, we were new in Israel and I thought they were birds out for the winged equivalent of a night time stroll. It’s amazing what you can convince yourself of if you try. The moment of truth came when I noticed one of these night birds hanging upside down from the fig tree across the street from my house. All of a sudden reality hit me in the face – they’re bats!

Desperate times called for desperate measures so I calmed myself by reminding said self that it could be worse -- they could be mice (or rats) and they could be at ground level.

But I can honestly say that on more than one occasion, I have been held hostage by those crazed bats. One night, after returning home from the grocery store, I sat in my car for twenty bloody minutes waiting for a break in the overhead action – or morning light – which ever came first. Finally, as my meat and ice cream were defrosting in the trunk, I knew I had to take a chance.

I maneuvered the car as close as I could to my house, reached over three rows of seats and grabbed all the temperature-sensitive groceries. The rest, I figured, could wait until morning. With a firm hand on those cheap plastic grocery store bags, I bolted out the side door of my van, slammed it shut and never looked back.

True, it was a small and temporary victory. But in the meantime the advantage was mine.

Me: 1, Bats: 0

Thursday, January 22, 2009

No news is not good news

One of the first things I learned (the hard way) when we moved to Israel seven years ago is that if you read the newspaper everyday and listen to the news every hour like real Israelis do, you will go nuts. I am not joking. You won't recognize the symptoms immediately but slowly you will notice that you are dragging yourself around and feeling the weight of the world on your shoulders. It happened to me. I couldn't figure out what was bothering me so much until one day a friend asked me if I read the newspaper everyday and when I said "absolutely" she told me to stop immediately.

For a news-a-holic like me that was like giving up cigarettes or coffee cold turkey. The mere suggestion sent me into a full-fledged panic. However, I was curious to see if she was right, so I reluctantly (if you have read my previous posts, you will notice that I have a life history of reluctant behaviour) decided to try it.

Oh Lord I hate when people say things that I think are stupid and they turn out to be right.

I was raised on reading the paper. My father had a rule when I was a kid that no one was allowed to dismantle the newspaper until he got home in the evening and had the first turn reading it. I used to bend back the pages delicately trying to grab whatever I could from the page segments, without disrupting the paper one iota.

Later, when I went to work, reading the papers in the morning was part of my job (how convenient). Keeping an eye on the business and political world was actually expected of me.

And then I reached the pinnacle of Newsville when we moved to Israel where, in many cases, life pretty much comes to a grinding halt when the hourly news reports come on the radio. Just try to speak out loud on a city bus when the bus driver (and most of the riders) are listening to those hourly reports. You can try it -- if you don't mind walking the rest of the way after the driver and the riders scream at you and throw you off the bus. I am only exaggerating very slightly here.

We also have good friends from Jerusalem who won't visit us for a Jewish Sabbath because they know we don't use electricity during the Sabbath and the husband of this couple can't imagine 25 hours without the news. The thought of it literally leaves him speechless. My son Zeve -- who is only 11 -- follows the same rules on weekdays.

This simply doesn't happen in Canada. And I don't say that lightly. I read the Toronto papers every day hoping to find some real news. (This does not include the daily shootings -- which have become so routine that I don't consider them newsworthy anymore.) According to my non-scientific study, real news occurs approximately once a month and Canadians, as a result, are not news sensitive. Who can hold their breath to see what is going to happen next, when "next" could easily be 30 days away????

Here, the next crisis is usually about 20 minutes away. Either someone new hates us, someone wants to threaten our very existence, someone managed to try to threaten our very existence and therefore all traffic to Tel Aviv is at a standstill..... you get the idea. Living in Israel means never relaxing and forgetting where you are.

And don't underestimate what this does to a person. Spend a week telling yourself that the better part of the entire world's population blames everything from world hunger to nuclear proliferation to the world economic crisis on you. I'[m telling you.... it wears you down.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Wimps need not apply

As we were walking home from synagogue last Friday night, I noticed that my two younger children, Zeve and Yael, were literally hanging off a young guy who's parents live on my street. He is such a nice guy and he was engaging them in the kind of conversation that had them rolling in laughter. Oh, I should also mention that he is one of those evil Israeli soldiers who the world media continue to write about. He's about 6'4", still kind of pimply faced and he has a proper British accent. In other words, he is totally likeable.

Finally he asks me why he has never babysat for my kids?And that was followed by a chorus from my kids saying: "yeah, when can Tzvi babysit?" Well the answer to that is manifold: Tzvi is 21 and probably has better things to do; his younger sister Dalia is one of my great babysitters so who needs him; and well, it just never came up.

Apparently those reasons were not good enough for my son Zeve, who then added in a pleading voice: "Please Mom, please let Tzvi babysit some time.... he has an M16!"

Saturday, January 17, 2009

I should watch my back

My kids are driving me crazy. And at the risk of sounding paranoid, I think they are doing it on purpose.

Since I am now officially in Mourning for one year, I cannot go to social gatherings. In my case, that includes a lot of bar mitzvahs and the likes. Now since people consider me to be very social, they think that that will be a problem for me. Well, it isn't. (and while I am at it... a pox on their houses for thinking that!)

However, the downside to my forced seclusion is that while my husband continues to go to all these parties, I am home with my overtired and selectively deaf children. How many times can you say: Go To Bed? It seems clear enough. Three basic words. But no one listens until I go ballistic.

Or, like tonight, my nine-year-old daughter comes into my office when she and her 11-year-old brother should both be in bed, and she says to me: "I am very sorry to say that you should be ashamed of your son." (If I didn't recognize her immediately, I would have sworn it was my ninth grade teacher speaking to me.) Of course, I don't even want to know what I should be ashamed about because I know from previous experience that this can't go anywhere positive. Even though I refuse to acknowledge her presence, she just can't wait to tell me that he is trying to break into a website by giving its home page false information.

I know that he can try all he wants because it isn't going to work. She doesn't. She is indignant that he would stoop to such levels and now he is angry because she has not only told on him -- but she has labeled him as shameful. I just want them both to go to bed. So, I go ballistic and balance is restored.

Normally that would be enough for one night, but my older son has been away for the weekend and apparently he doesn't want to miss all the fun of driving me nuts. I call him an hour and a half before he is supposed to be at his predetermined pick-up point. I specifically ask him if the bus is on schedule and he says yes, but that he will call if it looks like it is going to arrive early. I say: "Fine, let me know because I AM GOING TO PICK YOU UP."

So fast forward almost an hour and a half, when I jump into the car in the rain, and drive off to get him. As I am entering the highway I see a wet hitch-hiker who I stop to pick up. (Generally I am opposed to doing that, but in Israel my rule is: only pick up hitch-hikers wearing yarmulkes. I also do a quick visual screening thing, but I will address this further in some future post.)

I ask the fellow where he is going and he gives me a vague answer in Hebrew slang: "To the Center." This sort of means the Tel Aviv area or thereabouts. I tell him where I am going and he decides it is good enough so he hops in. We proceed to have a lovely chat until I hear my cell phone ring. It's my 13-year-old son. I answer the phone and tell him that I will be there in about 10 minutes, at which point he yells into the phone: "No mom, I AM home. I got a ride. I asked Dad to tell you before he went out."

I am not even sure who I should kill first.

Keep in mind that I am out in the rain with a nice stranger -- now driving somewhere for no particular reason other than feeling that I owe my hitch-hiker the decency of dropping him off where I said I would drop him off. It's not his fault my kids are trying to drive me crazy.

Friday, January 16, 2009


Yesterday one of my good friends in Canada sent me an email to tell me that she had mistakenly sent me a condolence card at my old address. She was worried that it might not arrive. I just smiled.

While I doubt that what I am about to say would hold true in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem or Haifa, it surely holds true in smaller cities like Ra'anana.... The postman (or woman) knows us by name and as long as we don't move too far from our original location, he or she will find us. Or, as we would say here... Davka, he or she would find us.

Which brings me to the word "davka". It's a great word that has no real English equivalent, which is really too bad. It is a great word and I have incorporated it enthusiastically into my everyday English speech. Davka essentially means not only will the condolence letter's address be inconsequential, but in fact, it will find its way to me. In spite of our move -- the letter will arrive.

I found a good explanation of the word davka half way through the blog article at the following website: And so you don't waste too much time looking for it, let me add that it has it's own heading about half way down the page.

Feel free to use Davka anytime you want. It may stump whoever you are speaking to, but hey, that's their problem. It is a truly useful word that you will soon find you cannot live without.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

War? What war?

I was going to say that I was mad, but in fact I am not mad -- either in the literal or misused sense of the word. In fact, I am perplexed.

I cannot ignore the fact that the people most inclined to leave feedback and comments concerning my blog are not Jewish. In terms of religious choices, this is neither here nor there. I am perplexed because my non-Israeli (NI), Jewish readers are reluctant (I chose this word because my 8th grade teacher used it when she caught me copying from someone else's work. She said I seemed reluctant to work. I had to go home and check a dictionary. She was right.) to discuss the elephant in the room -- the war in Gaza.

Don't worry, I am not going into a tirade on war. But I cannot help but notice that my non-Jewish readers think nothing of saying what they think about the war. I think that's great. Most of my NI Jewish readers on the other hand are taking the "War?-What-war?" approach.

Without going into my opinions about the war in Gaza, I will say that in most ways life in the center of Israel is relatively normal. It's not completely normal because so many reservists have been called up that there are gaps in everyday life. My garden, for example, is a mess because my gardener is off protecting the citizens of Israel.

I would also like to add that every Israeli is concerned for the well-being of those boys in Gaza and we just want them to come home safely. Today they are someone else's sons but sometime in the not to distant future (unfortunately) they may be my sons. I would also like to say that generally speaking most Israelis are sad about the average Palestinian's suffering. However, unlike the world press and much world opinion (at least in Europe), we do not hold ourselves responsible -- we hold their leaders responsible.

So now I have let my squeamish NI Jewish readers off the hook. That may not have been the best idea I have had today, but I need closure and if you aren't going to give it to me, I am going to get it for myself.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

I say tomato and you say tomAto

As I see it, Canadians are inherently rule followers, and Israelis are inherently rule breakers. I'm not talking about the BIG rules like do not kill (that seems like an obvious rule to respect for all decent people). I am talking about rules like do-not-leave-your-groceries-on-the-conveyor-belt-and-go-to-pick-up-a-few-more-things-and-then-expect-your-place-in-line-back! Generally speaking Canadians just don't do those things -- it runs against the collective grain. Israelis, on the other hand, do it daily and can't understand what the fuss is about.

So, for a native born Canadian like me, I spend a lot of time on the verge of blowing a gasket. I recently had to boycott my neighbourhood mini-market because when I tried to explain to the manager that using your Coke bottle to save your place in line is simply not acceptable, he said "what can I do?It's (prime minster) Olmert's fault."

At first I naturally assumed that since my hebrew is nothing to write home about, I must have misunderstood him. I'm sure the perplexed look on my face was screaming: WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT????? But when he repeated it in English I just stood there speechless. Where do you go from there? Where do you even begin to look for compromise under the circumstance?

So, I boycotted the store.

Upon hearing the story, my friends and neighbours all agreed that I was right but inevitably they all asked the same question: "How can you possibly exist without the mini-market?" Apparently truer words have never been spoken because after my inital gusto for my cause wore off, I started sending my kids to do my shopping there. I also started hopping in my car to go to the next nearest mini-market where I arbitrarily decided that the employees were more reasonable. That went well until I absolutely needed something the other day and my kids were at school and my husband had the car. I caved.

And as if entering the mini-market wasn't enough crow-eating for one day, the first person I bumped into was the manager. He knows I've been boycotting his store because I told him so and because he sees me every day going into the bakery next door. It's a small neighbourhood and it is difficult to escape notice.

So what does he say to me on THAT day? "Oh hi, welcome back." And where could I go from there?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Death and other adventures

I just returned home to Israel after an urgent trip to Canada. Unfortunately, my father died soon after I arrived there. It was completely unexpected for me and I spent the next 12 days in a surreal blur. However, after almost two weeks I had no choice but to force my way out of the fog, get on a plane and come home. Someone has to drag the kids out of bed every morning, do the laundry and field complaints about everything for menu choices to curfews.

Yes, my husband could have done it. He is more than capable. But let's face it... my kids need their hyperactive, irrational, inconsistent mother to keep their lives moving forward. Where would we all be if I didn't ruin their every day?

It wasn't easy to leave my mother and siblings but one of the things I have noticed about being an adult is that your responsibilities lie with the people who scream the loudest for your attention.

So here I am back in Israel, sad about my father and not feeling much better about the dangerous situation in Gaza. On the plane, on the way home, I read in the newspapers about the world's view of Israel's evil soldiers. I couldn't help but roll my eyes because sometime I wish we really did have evil soldiers. We could use them. In fact, many of those soldiers are my friends' sons -- some of whom were called up for active duty in the middle of the Sabbath. They may seem like evil soldiers to the world media (no surprise there) but to me, they are the big kids who live around the corner and babysit my kids. The soldiers I know are polite, smart, and eager to get on with their lives. They have girlfriends, wives, jobs and children of their own.

The one thing I have learned after living in Israel for the past seven years is that to be an Israeli requires on to have incredibly broad shoulders. Being unpopular on an international, worldwide basis is a way of life. And you thought it was hard when your supposed best friend dropped you in high school for a new model best friend. Ha.