Sunday, May 31, 2009

I'm after you and other Israeli manners

I just returned from the post office and now I remember why I try to avoid the place.

Let me set this up properly for people who have never been to a branch of the Israeli post office. In my experience, the small branches are little, two-room outfits at street level. If five people get in line, then anyone coming after them is forced to continue the line outside on the street. Line-ups on to the street are not unusual.

Today, I arrived just in time to be the fifth person in line and that also means that you often have to hold the door open as well. There is a door stopper but it never seems to do its job properly. In the summer months, being inside the post office makes all the difference to whether or not you wait in air-conditioned comfort or sweltering sticky heat.

I knew as I arrived that there was someone right on my heels, bearing down on me with the intensity of .... well, me! And let me say, I did not like it one bit. She tried to pass me on route, but I sensed her presence and sped up just enough to make her plans impossible to execute! Oh sue me.

So when I took position number five I knew instinctively that she was antsy and trying to figure out how to beat the line. And being very determined, here's what she did: she yelled out to one of the post-office employees to pass her a form that she needed to fill in, in order to send money to the US. Then she moved to the side to fill it out. It was right after that that there came what I consider the ultimate Israeli lining-up moment. She turned to me and said in hebrew: "I'm after you." Which of course, she wasn't because she was standing off to the side filling out her form.

Within the twitch of an eye another woman came into the post office and got behind me -- only to see her friend outside. She really wanted to talk to her friend, so she said to me again in hebrew (well, this is Israel): "I'm after you." To which the first woman who was theoretically after me yelled out: "No, I'm after her." And the second woman said" "Great, no problem," and then she left the post office to go outside and talk to her friend.

I know that this story needs diagrams but try to follow along.

Within a few more seconds an old man entered the post office and actually lined up behind me. Unwritten Israeli protocol demands that I explain to the old man that there are several the invisible people behind me -- and before him -- in line. However, I was not in a protocol-following mood and I think this whole "save-my-spot-because-I-have better-things-to-do-and-obviously-you-don't" sort of thinking is contrary to my Canadian instincts. Canadians are good liner-uppers (this does not include rude Russians and Israelis who now live all over northern Toronto).

Upon noticing the old man, the first invisible person after me gives him a sneering look. The lady outside doesn't even bother to budge from her conversation. The line continues to move and as I am leaving, I notice that the old man just takes his turn after me -- rightfully -- and ignores the invisible people in between us. He was obviously better versed at staying calm in an Israeli line.

This is Israeli line logic in action.

Once an old man started hitting me in the grocery store because I took his invisible spot. Soon as I started to explain and he heard my anglo-hebrew accent he started pounding on me and saying: "Oh you Americans. You think you're so great." Actually, a) I am a Canadian and b) I do not think I am great but I do not honour the invisible spot logic. As an aside, a few other people in the grocery store started yelling at him to leave me alone. But I just left my groceries where they were and told him he could have the spot back.

And this brings me to my last Israeli-manners logic story of the post. My friend Tammy and her husband bought a house and moved into it about three years ago. To this day, her next door neighbour parks partly in front of her driveway so that it is impossible for her to get her car in or out if he is there. When she approached him and told him that he couldn't do that, he responded by saying: "I have been parking my car here for 20 years."

He said some other crazy stuff as well, but the point is, that no matter how ridiculous the Israeli manners logic might be, there is no end in sight and those of us who don't agree will simply have to wage an invisible battle.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Of all the times to have a war drill

Yesterday, my neighbour Lynn and I were standing on our street just pondering life. I noticed a make-shift sign hanging from the street post on the corner, so I went to read it. All it said (in hebrew) was public bomb shelter, 125 meters, and an arrow pointing to where the nearest one is located. "What's that about?" I asked her and she said, "I don't know but Moshe (her youngest son) says that we are getting ready for a big war."

Well, that was enough of that conversation. We both shrugged our shoulders and went back to our conversation.

Now before I continue I want to state that everything "official" I am about to mention has already been addressed in The Jerusalem Post. So, to my ad hoc law committee, just chill, this isn't confidential information and I am not provoking the censors today.

As I was walking around the neighbourhood after my earlier conversation with Lynn, I noticed the temporary signs in a few different places, but frankly I didn't spend more than another 30 seconds pondering their purpose. My mother is visiting and I don't have any extra time for pondering.

Fortunately I couldn't sleep last night. At about 3:15 this morning I got out of bed and turned on my computer. I was going towatch television, but megavisions' 72 minute access limit shut me out of the program I had chosen. Instead I decided to do my favorite thing... read newspapers on-line.

About two stories into the first page of the Post I noticed an article talking about the Home Front War Preparation Exercise that is being held throughout the country next week. Generally I see that as a smart and responsible thing to do. You cannot live in Israel and not be prepared for every eventuality. In Israel, the "eventualities" tend to occur more than eventually. Apparently the Hebrew media have been prepping people for the war exercises for the past few weeks, but somehow I totally missed that. I would normally feel bad about that, but Lynn missed it too -- and her hebrew is excellent.

The problem is that my mother is visiting and I am already imagining what she is going to do when the test sirens start wailing -- without notice -- across the country next week and everyone is expected to run to a bomb shelter within a prescribed amount of time. My mother is not going to have any sense of humour about this and as a result, I am just dreading it. Of all the weeks available in an entire year, the Home Front had to pick a week that my mother was here? I really wish someone from the government had run this by me for my input during the planning stage.

I have every day planned and accounted for next week so that my mother has lots of things to do. But now, I am nervous to take her anywhere. I can just see myself trying to coax her to cooperate with the national security exercise from the streets of Tel Aviv, Netanya or Jerusalem. "I don't live here and I don't have to run to a shelter." I can hear the entire conversation in my head -- all with wailing sirens screeching in the background and young soldiers running at us and screaming for us to follow the damn instructions immediately.

The reasoning behind this real-life war simulation is that several of our enemies -- Lebanon, Syria and Iran, to name a few -- now have the ability to hit Tel Aviv, the center of the country, with their missiles. As a result, it is fair to assume that anything could happening and something might well happen.

We were first introduced to real life in the least popular country in the Middle East a few months after we arrived here. Within four months of setting down our new roots, the government started issuing gas masks to every citizen in anticipation of a chemical weapons attack from Saddam Hussein. (I would also like to add that my parents showed up in the middle of that war-pending moment as well.) We prepped our bomb shelter and got ready for war. Fortunately, it didn't come.

That does not mean that it won't happen this time.

My friends who have lived here since 1991 or longer have already experienced war in a way that the average American or Canadian can't possibly imagine. One of my friends had a section of a Patriot missile land on her lawn. Bet you don't expect that when you get out of bed in Toronto!

For those of you who don't live here, let me answer the question that is probably on your mind: I am definitely not afraid to live here. In fact, I cannot imagine living anywhere else. I don't feel safe when I leave the country. I feel very vulnerable in a way that I do not feel here. Here, I feel safe and protected.

So next week, on the assigned day, the sirens are going to ring out and I am going to drag my reluctant mother along to the nearest shelter which I hope to heaven is the bomb shelter inside my own house. At least then I can wait out the hypothetical war with a few good bottles of wine, several pieces of sporting equipment, the decorations for my succah, and enough duct tape to last anyone a life time -- a long life time living across the street from my equally not-concerned friend Lynn (who, by the way, is neither my water-abusing neighbour or my Mexi-Cali neighbour. But she is my only other -one-degree-of-separation neighbour.)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A note to my readers

Everyday someone writes to me to tell me what's what with my blog from their perspective. And those who don't write, stop me on the street or in my driveway to offer their thoughts on my blog. Let me start by saying, I love that. And thanks. Other than the fact that you are supposed to write your comments ON the blog, you are all wonderful for giving me your input.

For those of you who didn't comment (yet) here are some of the best recent comments:
• "I think you are getting too intense"
• "What happened to your funny stuff?"
• "You may have triggered incitement and you better be careful because it is against the law" (this is from one of my lawyer friends)
• "You are turning into a redneck"
• "You should not advocate death for anyone"
• Your blog background is giving me polka-dot headaches (that's why my blog is now pink)
• "You really need a decent photographer"

I get lots of positive comments as well, but it's the less-than-positive ones that make me work harder – and make me think. And in that category, I have to give special thanks to my friend Beth in Toronto who gave me homework to do concerning the Catholic Church. While Beth and I may not see the Catholic Church in the same light, I do understand how she got to her perspective and I respect the fact that she has that perspective to begin with.

My cousin in Toronto won't even read my blog because she finds me too offensive all-around. I don't really get that because while I am clearly offensive on some days, overall I just don't see the blog that way. I think that there are people out there who just can't cope with anyone who see things differently than they do.

It would be a very dull world if everyone agreed on everything. I like freedom of speech, within some pretty broad, but healthy boundaries, so I can't very well withhold the same right from others now can I?

Finally, I have to quote my friend Tammy who is also in Toronto and who said (and this is only a slice of her much-lengthier comments):

"The beauty of a blog is if someone disagrees with you they have every right to switch to another site, yell at their computer screen and hope somehow you hear it or be a brave soul and write back a scathing rebuttal that will make them feel better or provoke a good healthy sparring of a difference of opinions for all to read at their leisure.

As a blogger you have a responsibility to no one but yourself. You are free to say whatever you feel, think, know... Right or wrong. The beauty of us as human beings is that we are all different and have different opinions and that’s ok."

This is why Tammy and I are friends. I couldn’t agree more.

Before I finish I also want to thank Anonymous. I don't know if you are one person or many, but without your support on the days that everyone else thinks I have lost my mind, I wouldn't be able to go on. Well, I would probably go on but with less motivation.

So, going forward, I hope you will continue to read and I hope you will feel free to comment. I would comment if I were you.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Back to my reality

I was going to continue on my ranting path because frankly every day I read something in some newspaper somewhere that makes me want to rage against the man, whoever he might be. Today, I was going to write about how the US State Department does not get to make decisions about the borders of Jerusalem, but sorry, you are all going to have to wait for another day.

My local readers are getting emotionally exhausted from my ranting. (That's what happens when you walk to the corner store... people stop you to tell you what they think!!!)

Instead I am going to write about how at 7:15 this morning as I was driving my kids to school on almost empty streets, a police car pulled up behind me and via megaphone told me in blurry, loud hebrew that I was driving in the wrong lane.

I normally drive my kids to school closer to 8:15 but today Zeve wanted to go very early because his class was leaving on an overnight sleep-away hiking trip and he didn't want to be late. As it turned out, he was probably the first kid at school, which made him anything but late.

Back to the police. I think that it was 7:15 and these guys must have been at the end of their shift and bored to tears. I was driving on a divided street with at least two lanes going in either direction. At some points on this road, there are even three lanes going each way.

This morning, at 7:15, there were two other cars on the road within a 25 foot radius of my car. Not exactly a bumper-to-bumper moment.

Nothing like looking in your rear view mirror and seeing the police bearing down on you with their squad car lights flashing. I knew they were talking to me but my hebrew is barely passable on a normal day and my fuzzy megaphone hebrew is even worse. Plus, I couldn't for the life of me, figure out what I was doing wrong. I wasn't holding my cell phone in my hand (at least not at that moment). I was wearing a seat belt. I wasn't drunkenly swerving.

Fortunately -- or not -- Chaim was in the passenger seat and he has no sense of humour for bored police officers. He doesn't like anyone who criticizes driving that he deems acceptable. (My driving is rarely acceptable to him, but how much trouble can anyone get into on an empty road early in the morning?)

So the police squad car pulls up beside us and the passenger-side police officer gets back on his megaphone telling me to switch to the other lane (even though I knew I had to be in the lane I was in because I was about to make a left turn at the upcoming traffic light). And then both police officers gave us the official police glare.

I would have glared back but Chaim gets antsy when I provoke people in uniforms, which I am prone to doing every now and then. From his perspective, I pick fights and then move out of the way so that he can do battle on my behalf. There may be the odd moment of truth to that statement but if I was a bigger person I would definitely fight more of my own battles.

What could I do? I moved to the right-hand lane..... for three seconds and the self-satisfied police officers sped away. As I mentioned, I had to make a left-hand turn to get my kids to school. What was the point of that exercise? If two parallel lanes going the same direction are both open, what does it matter which one a driver chooses? I really hope someone writes in and explains this to me.

I wanted to go to the police station and complain. Problem is that a) my hebrew is truly bizarre and there are only one or two English-speaking police officers in Ra'anana; b) they are the police and they can taunt anyone they want; and c) they don't care because they are the police and I am not.

The point of all of this is simple: The US State Department has no right to independently determine the fate of Israel. It's not their call. They don't have to live with the consequences of the decisions they make about things that are none of their business and they do not really understand. We never elected you or your government and in case you didn't notice, you live in and work for another country on the other side of the world. If the US State Department wants to interfere in another democratic, western country they should go to Canada or Mexico -- at least there are shared borders and shared concerns. But whatever you State Department types decide, if you want to help, then get to work helping and stop imposing your world view on us.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

I've solved the Jew killing problem

I think I have come up with a solution for all those people out there that want to kill a Jew. It's brilliant and I can't believe it took me this long to figure it out.

Last year, on a nice sunny Spring day, the Israeli papers blew the lid off one of the most disgusting stories I have ever read. It was about a group of extremist Jews right here in Israel, lead by a deranged "rabbi", who were abusing children among other things.

The details provided in the Jerusalem Post were so sickening that I refuse to let my mind wander back there. Even now, when I read about "Rabbi" Elior Chen's capture in Brazil and hopeful extradition to Israel, I cannot help but feel ill when I see his photograph posted in the body copy of the article.

I am not even sure if this guy is a rabbi because I noticed today that the Post is using quotation marks around his title. What I do know is that he definitely doesn't meet my criteria for a rabbi.

For those who don't know the story, here is a brief overview. People in a haredi (read: extremist) Jerusalem neighbourhood contacted police because of strange goings on there. A woman was arrested for severely abusing her children. It later became public knowledge that she burned them; she made them eat feces; she gave them alcohol to drink until they vomited; she hit them with hammers; she locked them up in suitcases. I think you get the idea.

Once in police custody she claimed that she did this under the instruction and guidance of one "Rabbi Elior Chen" who taught her this as a means to discipline her children. He promptly fled to Canada (already known as a great place to hide if you are an old Nazi, according to 60 Minutes, so why not a despicable-beyond-words Jew?)

Problem was that Canada and Israel have an extradition treaty so scumbag Chen had to hit the road again. This time he went to Brazil because it does not have such a treaty with Israel. Israel knew for a while that he was there but without such a treaty the Israelis couldn't just show up and nab him.

I am sure the Brazilians weren't exactly thrilled to have him either. They arrested him to keep him away from other innocent children.

So here we are a year after he arrived in Brazil and he is about to be extradited to Israel.

However, I have a better plan. Heaven knows that we don’t want him here. And I am willing to bet that the Brazilians want him out of their country. And I doubt there are any takers in any parts of the Western world. So, how about we give him to some of those crazed lunatics that want to kill Jews?

They don't care what Jew they kill. We don't care one iota about the life of child-abuser Chen. As far as I can tell, it's a win-win situation. Everyone would go home happy and perhaps that would save the life of an innocent person somewhere else.

I know my suggestion sounds rather cruel, but what Chen did to those children was more than a little cruel. And these are extenuating circumstances. Chen is not your average bad guy. He is a child-harming, super bad guy. My plan works for me. And unless you have a better suggestion … I am submitting this to the Israeli court system.

(Late-dated addendum: Okay, now two of my lawyer friends have called to say that I cannot suggest that someone should be killed for any reason whatsoever. Therefore, let me add that first, Elior Chen has to be found guilty and they better find a really suitable punishment for him. And second, under no circumstance am I suggesting that someone take up the cause. It would solve many problems for many people but I am not a judge or jury. Too bad. So ... lawyers, are you more comfortable now?)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Boy I'm angry. I think I'll kill a Jew

For the past 2000 years or more, it seems that every time something goes badly for a person or group of people, the logical remedy is to kill Jews. I'm not really sure why. Do we die better than most? Do you think it will get you brownie points from your heavenly host? Will it solve all your problems? I doubt all of that, but for the life of me I can't find an answer I can live with.

There just doesn't seem to be any apparent logic.

Yesterday, in New York City, four men were arrested for planning to bomb a Bronx synagogue, a Jewish community center in Riverdale, and to shoot down US military jets with guided missiles.

That might not seem like much of a story to you, but here's the part of the story that really got to me. The reason that these misguided fools decided to bomb two Jewish landmarks was because one of the four co-conspirators was angry that his family, who are Muslims in Afghanistan, aren't being treated nicely there.

Well, I don't know about you but that seems like a perfectly good reason to bomb two Jewish facilities in New York City and kill lots of innocent people. That's really going to show those Afghanis who aren't being nice to Muslims a thing or two. Once they hear that some idiots in New York killed a few hundred Jews to send them a message, boy are they going to start shaking with fear -- just as soon as the partying is over.

I only wish that the Jews were the problem in Afghanistan. If they were, then we could get things wrapped up quickly over there. Jews, generally speaking, are not crazed people who want the world to accept their religion and their ways or die. Okay, there may be a few that do but 99.99 percent of the Jews ignore them.

So, how exactly, did these four fools (and they really are fools) come to the conclusion that by killing Jews they would be making a statement on the war in Afghanistan?

News flash to all you fools out there: the problems in Afghanistan have nothing to do with Jews. If you are angry at Afghanistan and you feel the need to kill someone, why don't you find a member of the Taliban and give it to him between the eyes? I don't advocate violence but at least that would be logical or sequential violence.

These four hoodlums also wanted to bomb US military planes. And once again, I am left to ask the same question. What would be the point of that? The US, regardless of how misguided and intrusive it might be, is trying to make Afghanistan a safer place for people of differing religions to co-exist. Didn't any of these guys do an ounce of homework? Oh don't bother answering that question.

Who the hell makes a political point by murdering the powerful, influential people trying to help them?

Killing innocent Jews I can almost understand because it is such old news. We have so been there and done that. That lack of logic doesn't even phase us Jews anymore. "Oh, you lost your job today? That's too bad. Hey, why don't you go out and kill a Jew. That will definitely make you feel better. It's been working for a few millenia already."

That's what makes Israel so important to some Jews -- not all Jews get it and not all Jews care. Chances of being blown up in Israel by a citizen of the country are relatively slim. Without Israel we Jews wouldn't stand a chance -- eventually everyone will have a bad day that they will conveniently blame on the Jews and then it's just a matter of time until they buy the tools necessary to blow us up wherever they can find us.

The bottom line is that these guys were caught before they could inflict much damage. But it goes to show once again that there are so many people out there who think that all the world's ills will be resolved if they just get rid of the Jews. My piss and vinegar side says: "Go ahead. Try it". But then I have to remind myself that they already are!!

And while the FBI caught this little ragtag group, the logic behind their thinking is still running rampant out there. One group down, millions more to go. And in the meantime, I am just hoping that everyone has a decent enough day to keep them from the inevitable conclusion of a bad day.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Israeli Daytime Drought

I haven't written much this week because I have been waiting for something blog-worthy to happen. Fortunately I didn't have to wait too long because my next door neighbours gave me all the ammunition I needed tonight.

Please note that I am NOT talking about my great Mexi-Cali neighbours, Batia and David. I am talking about my native-born Israeli neighbours who as far as I can tell are simply nasty and maybe evil.

What makes me say that, you may ask. Oh, I have good reason.

As some of you know Israel is in the midst of a serious drought. The water levels in Lake Kinnert (The Sea of Galilee to some of you) is at dangerously low levels. So low, in fact, that it is at risk suffering permanent damage to its ecosystem.

As a result of this drought there are signs everywhere – including the shower stalls at my club – stating that you shouldn't even dream of showering for more than about two minutes. And if you try lounging in the shower, the change room matron bangs on your shower stall door telling you that you have been in there long enough. No, I am not making this up.

Seems straightforward. There's a drought in Israel and Israelis have to cut back on their water usage. A+B=C.

But this is where the situation turns truly Israeli. Everyone in the country is being told through various media that they must be careful with their water usage. The government is talking about imposing penalties which it won't because … well, it won't.

But don't be mislead by the country's ineffective rhetoric. There is a huge problem, that is of course, unless you are my next door neighbours – a practicing lawyer and an ENT specialist who are so self-righteous and self-absorbed that they don't think that the water problem has anything to do with them.

True, most of the water in Israel is used for agriculture. But since we need food, asking farmers to cut back may not be the best long-term solution. Individuals are only minor water users, but many individuals using water quickly adds up.

And it is also a fact that many cities in Israel provide water to residents through their reservoirs. However, the bottom line is that if there is no rain in the winter, then the reservoirs can't possibly be full.

Either way, by not taking a tough stand with citizens, Israel risks wasting what little water it has.

When Chaim mentioned their unnecessary water use to our next door neighbours, they gave him the grin-and-ignore treatment. There is another term for it but this is a G-rated blog.

Finally, tonight, I cracked. After listening to my neighbours hose spilling out what seemed like gallons of water for well over an hour, I called the City for clarification. Here was how the conversation went:

Me: Hi. I am just calling to confirm that Israel is in the midst of a drought.

City Hotline guy: Yes, you're right.

Me: And am I correct in saying that citizens are being asked to use water very judiciously?

CHG: That's right.

Me: So why is it okay for my next door neighbour to water her lawn for more than an hour every night?

CHG: Oh, that's within her rights. It's not against the law to water your lawn at night.

Me: Oh, so there is no drought in Israel at night. It's only a daytime drought?


Me: Hello. Is anyone there?

CHG: It's not against the law and that's the way it is.

Me: Okay, no problem. I know this isn't your fault but I am going to make sure I tell everyone I know how stupid the State of Israel is.


Me: Good night.

CHG: Good night.

And with that, the City Hotline guy hung up and I opened my blog to start writing.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Arafat, you owe $116 million

Today a US Court ruled that Yasser Arafat owes the children of Israeli/Americans Yaron and Efrat Unger $116 million for murdering their parents.

Does anyone see any problems with this or is it just me?

First of all, in case you missed that news when it occurred, Yasser Arafat is dead. The Jerusalem Post announced it in big bold black letters at the time it occurred. I, for one, wasn't too sad to read it. In fact, I don't think it could have happened to a better guy.

Second of all, when he was alive, Yasser Arafat was a terrorist. And... as a general rule, terrorists who steal from their own people and murder indiscriminately those whose citizenship they don't like or acknowledge, are not that keen to pay up on their obligations -- legal or otherwise. It is totally out of character for the average terrorist. Kill someone for no other reason then you don't like their politics AND then when called on the rug for it, pay a humungous penalty for doing so. I have never been a terrorist, but I a pretty sure that that is not part of the Terrorist Code of Ethics.

Third, the US Courts expect the Palestinian Authority to make good on Arafat's debt. Yup, that seems reasonable ... if you are living in Fairy Land and your best friend is a cute little gnome with green hair. Do you really think that the PA is just going to say: "Oh heavens, we are just so sorry for what our old friend/boss Arafat did and we just want to do the honourable thing. Where do we pay?"

Once again, I am not on a first name basis with any members of the PA, but I willing to bet my last nickle that they aren't thinking this way. As a general rule terrorists don't value human life. They don't really care who they kill as long as it makes the front page of the biggest newspapers and makes decent people think twice before tangling with them.

Originally the PA simply said that it did not recognize the US Legal System. That didn't work. Then they said that they didn't understand the US legal system and they wanted a break for that. And when that didn't work, they moved to the best argument used by five-year olds worldwide: "It wasn't me; it was him (in this case Hamas)."

I am willing to concede that this entire legal exercise may have been worth the effort strictly for its public relations value. Maybe one percent of the people who read the judge's decision will change their views of Arafat and rethink all those warm and fuzzy thoughts they harboured for him.

But please Unger family, don't bother opening a bank account because the money isn't coming.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Lag B'omer wrap up: better late than never

I was sidetracked by the pope this week and I didn't get around to writing Part Two of the Lag B'Omer Story. I'm going to squeeze in a few remarks even though Lag B'Omer is a thing of the past for 2009 and I have about 333 days before I have to think about it again.

So, here are a few housekeeping notes on Lag B'Omer 2009.

- I would like to thank Zeve's friend Noam, whose father was kind enough to bring his truck and hoist the rotting wooden roof that was sitting in my driveway for five days onto the top of his truck and drive away with it. I don't even care where he took it. I am just glad that it is no longer locked with a very sturdy bicycle lock to a metal pole on the side of my driveway.

- I would like to thank my across-the-street neighbour Dov who found our missing Little Tykes wagon which had been stolen by other neighbourhood kids who probably wanted to use it to haul wood. I don't even mind that some unknown kids took it; I just wish they would have brought it back when they were finished. That said, when Dov called our house to say he found it, it was like Christmas in May!

- I would like to thank Yael's friends' fathers who started a very impressive fire for the girls in Third Grade. I would also like to thank one of her friend's little brothers who worked like a puppy placing rocks around the perimeter of the fire just so he could be part of gang. Then, of course, he stayed long enough to eat a few suitably dirt-drenched hotdogs and went home to bed against his better judgment.

- I would like to thank the teenage girls who happened upon our Third Grade bonfire just as we parents had decided that we had had enough bonfiring for one year and it was time to try to figure out what to do with the fire. It's not like you can just walk away and leave it burning. The teenage chicks fortuitously arrived on the spot and when we offered them our fire, they jumped at the chance to take over a fire that they didn't have to start.

- I would like to thank my kids. Ari thank you for coming home at a reasonable hour of your own volition. Saved me from having to send out a search party. Zeve, thank you for calling home to at least tell us you were sleeping at a friends. And Zeve, thanks again for calling home at 2:30 a.m. to see if we had extra blankets you could pop by and take. We really appreciated that phone call. And Yael, thank you for bringing home two friends to sleep over when we specifically said that one was probably enough. And again, thanks so very much for staying up until 2:30 a.m. when your father said: "I think I hear the television. Go check." Unfortunately, we were up anyway, thanks to Zeve's blankets.

- And finally, thanks to all the people who did not come to my neighbourhood this year to light your fires. I really don't know where you all went but honestly... I don't care. Because you did not celebrate the holiday near my house we actually had enough room to walk to and from the bonfire without fear of being run over by your cars. And while we're at it... don't come next year either.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

I can't mention everything, every time I speak

"He can't mention everything, every time he speaks." I love that line. That's what the pope's spokesperson from the Vatican said today when contacted to comment on what the pope DIDN'T say when he visited Yad Vashem.

And rather than review what the pope said and what Jews and Israelis think he should have said, I think we should review that fabulous comment.

I was a public relations person for almost 20 years before we came to Israel. I have had more than my fair share of media interviews on behalf of the companies I represented. I have said things innocently that were spun so far from reality that I couldn't figure out how the interviewing reporter even got to that point. And frankly, I have made a few off-handed remarks that I naively thought were innocent, only to have my husband open the Toronto Globe and Mail the next day and burst into laughter. "Oh, you are going to love the way they quoted you," he said, before waving me off to what could have easily been my last day at work.

Fortunately the executives at American Greetings had a sense of humour.

So I know how interviews can spiral out of control. Been there. Done that.

Which gets me wondering if that is what happened to the Vatican spokesman.

Okay, I am finished wondering now because as a media spokesperson myself I already know the answer. This Vatican spokesman probably speaks to the press at least 10 times a day. Maybe more. The Vatican is a much more media-interesting place then anywhere I ever worked -- at least most of the time.

Also, Vatican spokesman is not a junior position for the newest priest in town. No organization as big or as important as the Vatican is going to hand over such a responsibility to a newbie. And if the Vatican is anything like places I have worked over the years (which it is), there is a very strict code of conduct for speaking to the media. Who speaks on which topics. What approvals are required before anyone speaks. Who approves the remarks prior to media contact. There is a whole to-do list before anyone gets on the phone with a reporter.

Yes .... mistakes happen. I already mentioned that above.

But that's the point. This was NO mistake. It might have been frustration. It might have been exasperation. It might have been that this guy doesn't suffer fools well and he has categorized The Jerusalem Post reporters as fools. And most important, it absolves the pope of all the things he should have said during his visit to Israel, but didn't.

If I am being totally honest, I have to admit that I only wish I had used that line a few times when I was in a tight spot between a rock and a hard place with a really aggressive reporter. And I think I will submit it to some of the public relations chat groups that I belong to. There must be an award category in one of them called: "Best Weasel Word Media Response of the Year". It would win hands-down.

I could go on listing more reasons why I think that the spokesmen showed his true colours and those of the pope, but I won't. There is so much more to say on this topic, but I can't mention everything, every time I speak.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Catholics and Jews share an inseparable bond? Really?

I would like to apologize up front to my Catholic readers. Now excuse me because I have to tear a major strip of your pope. I am sorry to have to do this but he asked for it. Here goes.....

As you know Pope Benedict (a.k.a. John Ratzinger of Barvaria, Germany) is in Israel. However, before entering Israel, he spoke from Mount Nebo in Jordan (okay, at least he officially insulted the bejeebers out of Jews worldwide from outside Israel) which is where Moses reportedly looked down into the Land of Israel that he would never enter. Pope "El Deluded" Benedict spoke about the "inseparable bond" between the Jews and the Catholics. And I would just like to know in as precise detail as possible, what the hell is he talking about?

Is he talking about the 2000 years of anti-semitism? Is he talking about the fabulous life that Jews experienced under Augustine, Abelard, Constantine or the myriad other Catholic leaders who did everything humanly possible to destroy the spirit, soul and physical being of the Jewish people. Or is he talking about the fact that my stepson was verbally attacked in his 2008 Canadian university classroom by a classmate who argued: "We should kill all the Jews because they killed Christ."

Yes siree, that is one heck of a shared bond. Who could possibly be closer than the Jews and the Catholics? Perhaps the Iranian president and the Israelis. Oh wait, I forgot Hitler. Yes, we were possibly closer to Hitler.

Pope Benedict all I can say to you is PLEASE HAVE ALL THOSE PEOPLE WHO WORK FOR YOU IN THE VATICAN DO A REALITY CHECK OF BIBLICAL PROPORTION. Doesn't anyone in the entire Vatican have an ounce of sense? Okay, if they don't have sense, do they have televisions or books or computers? I am not telling you anything that isn't well documented and covered in any number of media.

I am sorry to break this to you Pope B. but you hate the Jews. Not you personally perhaps, but why should you be absolved from that guilt if we Jews are still being penalized for killing Christ? Fair is fair. An eye for an eye. I know the last pope nixed that Jews-killing-Christ thing, but guess what? It didn't catch on so well. Most of the world's 1.13 billion Catholics never got the message.

I also feel obliged to say that I wasn't there when Jesus died and I am pretty sure that neither was any Jew I know. In fact there is lots of academic evidence to suggest that the whole anti-semitism thing was a bait and switch sort of arrangement. The Romans are the ones you should have been murdering, ghetto-izng, terrorizing, torturing, isolating, starving and all-around blaming for the past 2000 years. Of course, that would have been a scary thing to do because at the time of the unfortunate passing of Jesus THE JEW, the Romans were scarier than the Catholic Church turned out to be. Why pick on the real culprit when you could pick on the Jews?

Don't bother answering that. There is no good and legitimate answer.

I think that Jesus himself must have been looking on from heaven above today wondering what the heck you were talking about. He's YOUR lord so you can run from him but you can't hide. According to you, he sees all, which means he must have seen right through your propaganda.

And in case anyone thinks I am making this up, here's a little snippet from the pope's speech today, as reported by The Jerusalem Post:

"The ancient tradition of pilgrimage to the holy places also reminds us of the inseparable bond between the church and the Jewish people," said Benedict. "From the beginning, the church in these lands has commemorated in her liturgy the great figures of the patriarchs and prophets, as a sign of her profound appreciation of the unity of the two testaments."

Pope B. I thought we had agreed last week that you were going to visit your followers in Bethlehem, Nazareth and other such places? Instead you came here under false pretenses and conveniently erased 2000 years of really miserable history.

So Pope B, I apologize, but as your close friend, with inseparable ties to you, I feel I have to tell you that.

The Dead Soldiers Society

This story explains one of the ways that life in Israel is so very different from my old life in Canada. And I suspect that the same could be said for how different it is from life in the US and the rest of the Western World. I won't bother speculating on the remainder of the world, because I don't profess to understand anything about their ways which totally baffle me.

Friday morning I unexpectedly found myself on a fund-raising walk with my Chief of Ideas and Planning (Yael) in memory of a British-born, Israeli soldier who was killed in the Second Lebanon War. His name was Benji Hillman and his parents live somewhere in my neighbourhood although I don't think I actually know them or would recognize them. He was 27 years old, three-weeks married and an officer.

The Second Lebanon War, as most of you know, was probably the biggest military fiasco in modern Israeli history. Benji was one of its heroes. So much so that when he died it was impossible to drive on the main thoroughfares of Ra'anana because there were so many people walking in his funeral procession to the military cemetery.

Here we are three years later and his family is raising money to build a home for soldiers who come to Israel of their own volition, to volunteer in the IDF and in turn, to protect the Jewish people. They come from all over -- Canada, the US, France, Russia, and other places. And they leave everything and everyone behind to serve the greater Jewish good.

As I looked around at the crowd gathered to participate in the fund-raising walk I was reminded once again of things that I generally prefer not to think about.

First, every Israeli soldier killed in the service of his country feels like your own son. Each death, whether you know the kid or not -- and trust me, they are kids -- cuts to the core of your being and involuntary provokes you to pray (even beg) God to spare your child and the children of others, when their turns come.

Second, the army is the one thing that makes many of us hesitate about making aliyah. There is really no way to avoid conscription without perpetrating a major life cop-out. Oh, some Israelis do it. They say they are pacifists (most aren't), they fake illnesses (yes, fake them), and they say they are too religious to participate (that whole argument makes me so sick that I don't want to digress into the malestrom of that discussion).

However, most immigrant children do their national service. They came here knowing the importance of a Jewish state. Fortunately most soldiers get through the three-year commitment intact. And for that, we are all forever grateful. But then, there are some who don't. And that lies at the heart of our greatest life fear.

Third, almost every Israeli family has a story. Someone close to them has died in the on-going battle to protect our tiny slice of land and freedom. The country is only 61 years old which means that most living Israelis have lost someone in one of Israel's existential wars -- they are all existential wars here.

But for us immigrants it is an entirely new experience. That may be why the bulk of the walk participants are immigrants. It's not that the native-born Israelis don't care, but rather that they have lived with this awful reality always. We immigrants are trying to cope and understand something that is truly beyond comprehension. The price is just too great.

The saddest irony of the day was that while we were walking one of my friends was at the funeral of a Canadian-immigrant soldier who had died the day before in a battle against Hamas.

Everyone of us who still has children too young to go to the army tries to convince themselves that by the time their child is drafted there will be peace. We all know that that isn't true, but we try to tell ourselves that it could happen. Of course, pigs could fly and hell could freeze over as well. All those possibilities are equally likely.

And while we wait for the totally unrealistic arrival of peace, we all continue to walk in walks, raise money for activities that commemorate the brave young men who paid the ultimate price and pray for a better day so that no more Benjis will die for us.

Monday, May 4, 2009

And finally, the laundry

Since I mentioned doing laundry in the tag line of my blog title, I think it is time I got to that subject. And coincidentally, I have a laundry story today.

This morning was one of my carpool mornings. When I arrived at the school parking lot where I drop off the kids, there was a giant box in the middle of the lot. It was about five feet by five feet to give you some idea of its size. In it were all the unclaimed school sweatshirts, t-shirts and various religious undergarments that have gone missing throughout the school year.

Since Zeve loses more than his fair share of jackets and the likes, I jumped out of the car hoping to recoup a few items. In particular, I was looking for one sweatshirt jacket that he managed to lose the very first time he wore it. I figure he lost sight of it somewhere around the noon soccer game. And since it was new, it was ripe for the picking.

So I jumped out of my car this morning and approached the box. I hesitated when I got there because it was full of what was now really grungy clothes. I guess my cleanliness instinct went into gear, but I couldn't afford to humour it because I was on a mission to redeem Zeve's many missing items.

Looking through the box is sort of like a really gross day in Filene's Basement. You have to have no shame to wade into the pile of clothes. Fortunately I was able to leave my shame in the car and get to work.

Keep in mind that almost everything in the box is some shade of school-approved blue. That's why Yael's grey and white fluffy sweater quickly caught my eye.

"Yael! This is a Shabbat sweater," I said (she was right beside me watching the goings on). "What is it doing in the Lost and Found Box?"

"Oh yeah, I wore it to school one day," she said.

A few seconds later, I noticed another very familiar Shabbat sweater of Yael's. And again, I dragged it out of the box and inquired about how it got there is the first place. Same answer.

Then came the moment that nothing in the previous few minutes could have prepared me for. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed an off-white sweater in the sea of blue sweatshirts. I looked a little closer and noticed that it had an unusual stitching. Then I grabbed for it, and checked the label. It was a Liz Claiborne zip-up fancy sweatshirt..... and I knew instantly that it was mine!!!

"Yael! How exactly did my white sweater end up the Lost and Found Box at school????" As if I didn't know. And that nine-year-old pilfering she-devil looked at me and said fake-innocently: "I don't know. Maybe you lost it and the school found it."

Then she just left and went up the hill to her class. "Yael, don't you ever take my clothes to school again." I think I said that more for me than for her. I am willing to bet that she has no intention of abiding by that rule.

I was so shocked that I mentioned the entire event to my friend Esther. Then she said the funniest thing. "I remember the day my daughter's feet outgrew my shoes. It was a great day." I knew instantly what she meant.

The other moment of reckoning today was that after all that searching, I found two of Yael's previously unknown-to-be missing sweaters, one of my stolen sweaters and only one of Zeve's myriad missing items. The one item I specifically got out of the car to find remains missing. And all the other items are in their second run through the washing machine.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Gun envy

For as long as I can remember I have wanted a gun. Not a little, cute, keep-in-purse number, but rather, a really big super Uzi. Preferably one with an attachment for the top of my car. In all honesty, this is one of the things that most concerns Chaim about me.

On Friday I was walking down the street in my sort-of-suburban neighborhood. I bumped into my friends' son, Yishai, heading home on leave from the army. Yishai is one of those all-around nice guys who probably wouldn't voluntarily hurt a flea. He was dressed in his uniform and the obligatory, yet informal, army fashion statement, very cool sunglasses. He sort of looked like the Poster Boy for the IDF.

Yishai is doing his compulsory service in an Education division of the army which means he is not a combat soldier, but almost immediately, I noticed his M-16 slung over his shoulder.

"Hey," I blurted out. "I thought that you were in Education?"

"I know, I know," he responded because we both knew I was looking at the gun. "I've had this for a year and a half now." He seemed less than thrilled.

But as I passed him I realized that I was thinking: "Well, if you don't want it, I could take it off your hands." He probably would have loved to hand it over because it seemed like an albatross around his neck -- of course, he would have ended up unhappily ensconced in the stockade for a good long time if he had even lost sight of the gun for an instant. The IDF does not have much of a sense of humor when it comes to its guns.

I know that guns are dangerous and I even shot an M-16 a few months ago at a firing range set up to teach citizens how to participate in community protection groups. Chaim and the kids couldn't get to their turns fast enough but when it was my turn I took the gun reluctantly and only agreed to have the teacher put three bullets in it.

Firing that thing gave me the creeps. My whole body vibrated from the "backfire" of the gun. My arms buzzed for the next 15 minutes. All I could think the entire time I was holding the gun was that I could end someone's life with the item in my hands. The implications were horrifying and overwhelming.

Which brings me back to my gun fantasy. For years in Toronto I used to commute daily across the top of the city on what is probably Canada's busiest highway system. Every other day or so I encountered someone I deemed to be a driving idiot who deserved to be knocked off on the spot.

That, of course, would have required an Uzi perched on the top of my car with a red firing button placed somewhere strategically near the steering wheel. Some days the only thing that got me home with an ounce of sanity was the thought that someday I would get my car Uzi.

Now I live in a country where guns are commonplace. Some of the nicest, gentlest people I know own and wear guns in their belts every day. Some of them even carry their guns on Shabbat. If I had even seen a person carrying a gun in Toronto I would have run for cover, but here I am often relieved to see a gun-toting soldier get on my bus to Jerusalem, or to line up in the grocery story in an outlying part of Israel behind a person with a gun in his belt (admittedly, I only know one woman who totes a gun.)

I think it is easier to say you want a gun than to actually have a gun. My need for my vigilante justice plays beautifully in my head. People do stupid things. I see them do those stupid things. I shoot them. Then I go home and have lunch knowing that the world has one less stupid person.

However, in reality, I forget that there is another step. Those people are dead.

Therefore, despite my gun fantasy, I am going to leave the guns in the reluctant hands of people like Yishai who really wish they didn't have a gun and would rather do anything but shoot it for any reason other than the protection of their country.