Tuesday, December 27, 2011

It must be wonderful to be in the Holy Land for Christmas

Thanks to Facebook many of my old friends know that I live in Israel. Most of them are not Jewish and have never been to Israel -- yet they have an idealized vision of Israel at Christmas.

It's actually very funny because most people who have never been to Israel (predominantly non-Jews) seem to think that you are going to get shot by a sniper the minute you exit the plane at Ben Gurion airport.... unless, of course, it is Christmas!!!! And then for a few days, I guess they just figure that we are all walking around (safely) singing Christmas carols, hugging our fellow man and waiting for the three wise men to show up, hot on the tail of a really big star. Does anyone out there see the flaw in this logic?

Bad news for you non-Jews out there who have never been to Israel: you are sadly deluded. This past Sunday, December 25th, while you were all home waiting for Santa and turkey, we in Israel were experiencing a regular old Sunday.

Sorry about that. There's just no nice way to deliver bad news.

This past Sunday I got up, walked the dog, did a few errands, visited with a friend from Canada, cleaned my house a bit, did a load of laundry, and so went the day.

Now it strikes me that somewhere in the Holy Land someone must have been celebrating Christmas. It all started here and I am sure there are some stragglers who want to recreate that time and all the special feelings that supposedly went with it. I mean, it is possible. I have seen the odd Christmas tree in Haifa in previous years and I am sure if you hiked to the top of Mount Tavor, the Greek Orthodox church up there must have been preparing for something, but the truth is that Bethlehem and Nazareth are Arab cities and rest assured they don't buy the whole Jesus thing. Well actually, in terms of tourist dollars, I am sure they can fake it, but when have you known Islam to be tolerant of people with different beliefs? Exactly.

According to the website www.ajc.com there were almost 100,000 visitors to Bethlehem this Christmas Eve. As for Nazareth, my Google check didn't up much although there are more Christians living in Nazareth then you will ever find in Bet Lechem (Bethlehem to you).

Here's what Wikipedia (my favourite source for miscellany) says: "Christians are the smallest religious group of the Abrahamic religions in Israel. Most Christians living permanently in Israel are Arabs or have come from other countries to live and work mainly in churches or monasteries, which have long histories in the land...

"According to historical and traditional sources, Jesus lived in the Land of Israel, and died and was buried on the site of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, making the land a Holy Land for Christianity. However, few Christians now live in the area, compared to Muslims and Jews. This is because Islam displaced Christianity in almost all of the Middle East, and the rise of modern Zionism and the establishment of the State of Israel has seen millions of Jews migrate to Israel..."

So, there you have it. Jesus was Jew so of course he lived here. All the Jews lived here way back when ... Jesus was knee high to a grasshopper!

I hate to disappoint my old friends. Particularly the one who wrote to me on Facebook last Sunday after I sent him a merry Christmas message: "It must be wonderful to be in the Holy Land for Christmas."

Actually, it's wonderful to be here everyday.

November in December

For the first eight years we lived here, the weather ran like clockwork. Okay, some years had more rain, some had hotter summers, so had surprise flooding, but overall, I was prepared to bet my last dollar that, come the first week of November, the weather would become fall-like. I was so confident that the weather wouod reliably change in November that one day I said to David Mexicali, "you watch, come November, the weather will change." And lo and behold it did.

I think we were both impressed with my weather forecasting skills. And that should have reminded me, that he/she who gloats first .... ultimately gets a reminder from the heavens above that we have no control over our weather destiny.

This October 31st I started to mentally prepare for the change of season that was en route the coming week. Good bye flip flops in the morning. Get out the lightweight sweaters for late afternoons. Fall in Israel was about to begin. And I was excited because I love fall here. Cool mornings, but midday warmth, followed by cool evenings. Except this year it didn't happen that way.

Instead of November gradually preparing us for what I now consider the bloody cold of an Israeli winter (14 C/X F), God choose to skip my beloved transition phase and go straight into the rain and cold of December -- IN NOVEMBER!!!

I had to avoid David for a month on the off chance that he remembered my over-confident forecast from the previous year. And worse than that, I had to find my rain boots and my heavy sweaters a month earlier than anticipated. Oh the pain of it all. Yael's new rain boots weren't scheduled to arrive until the end of the month, with my sister. I'm telling you, life was upside down.

I had guests arriving from Canada at the end of the month and they were all expecting the great weather I had been bragging about for years.

And then something strange happened. As the last week of November arrived, so did the November weather. The sun shone, the days were warm. And it continued through most of December, which made me realize, November did come, but it was lost in December.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Browsing only in the corner store

I never really meant to take a four month hiatus. I had nothing in particular to say one week, and then I had something I really wanted to say the following week, but I had no time to do so. Next thing you know it's November and the Mexicali's are having lunch at my house when Mr. Mexicali says: "I check for new posts on your blog every now and then, but there hasn't been one for a while." All true. I just explained why so I am not going over that again.

And it's not like nothing happened during those months that was worth commenting on because heaven knows, while I can't explain it, I am totally convinced that if you simply get out of bed every day and leave the house, eventually something strange will happen.

Last week I was in our neighbourhood corner store -- yes, the same one that I boycotted for six months a few years back until I was suitably convinced that the owner got my point and missed me. Well, he may have missed me and I did return, but the people who work there are not less ridiculous than they were then.

I found a new product in the refridgerated cheese section -- actually, it was the low fat version of an existing cheese product that I really like but regularly refuse to buy because I wouldn't allow myself or my family to eat anything with 28% fat content.

I quickly scanned the label and put two packages in my cart. I continued with my shopping and made my way to the cashier. I placed all my acquisitions on the moving belt. The cashier finished with the man in front of me and started on my groceries. When she noticed the unfamiliar cheese product, she picked it up to have a better look. I thought she was quietly acknowledging the fabulous new product as I had done just a few minutes prior.


She looked over the cheese a few times and finally looked up at me and said: "You can't buy this."

As you may remember, I have had more than one scrap with the corner store and I absolutely refuse to go quietly into the night. I am not going to be bullied, intimidated or manipulated by any cashier that they may throw at me.

"Why not?" I asked her.

"I don't know what it is and I don't know how much it costs, so you can't buy it." That was all she had to say. As far as she was concerned that was the end of that.

As far as I was concerned that was only the beginning and I shifted into rebuttal mode. "If you place a product on a display shelf," I said, "then it is for sale. And if you don't know how much it costs then charge me the same as the regular version."

I thought that I had made two sound arguments and so did the irate customers in line behind me. Everyone was nodding in agreement and I was sure that I had won the debate.


"I can't sell it to you," she said. And with that, she took the cheese and placed it under her work area.

"Well, if it isn't for sale, then why is it on the cheese shelf?" I thought for sure that the conversation was over now and that she would relent.

Here's what she said: "we only put it there so that people would know we had a new product."

And with that, she told me how much I owed her for the other items had had just purchased.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

I remember when Sunday was a day of rest

After 40 years living in a Christian country, one becomes accustomed to the idea of Sunday as a day of rest. No school. No work. No synagogue. Lots of pajama time. In fact, after 40 years, the idea of Sunday as a day of rest is completely entrenched in my view of the world. It has nothing to do with religion. It is a cultural phenomenon.

Then I moved to Israel.

I am willing to bet my last shekel that if you asked most North American immigrants what they have found most difficult about their move to Israel, the overwhelming majority would say: NO SUNDAYS.

Well obviously there ARE Sundays but what they mean is that Sunday in not a day of rest because Israel is not a Christian country. In case you are thinking: no big deal, let me stop you in your tracks. It is a bloody big deal. A life altering change. And while living as a Jew in a predominantly Jewish country is a wonderful thing, it is not without a few downsides. Sundays is one.

After nine years I finally have my head around the Sunday-as-work/school-day. But no sooner do I say that then the Israeli infrastructure ups the ante.

Last Thursday I went to the city offices to cancel my son's judo class. When I asked the receptionist where I had to go to do this, she said: "Oh, you have to come back on Sunday between 8:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. when the woman who cancels after school programs is working." She looked embarassed to tell me this which means I was the not the first North American immigrant to look at her as if she had grown an extra head. Resigned, I left.

My next stop was an orthpedic surgeon who I hoped woulde take off my cast next week. I walked into his office and told him what I wanted. He said: "Where's the disk with the xrays of your hand?"

"I don't have a disk of xrays," I told him. (No one in hospital hell mentioned a disk of xrays.)

"Fine, then I can't help you until you go back to the hospital and get the disk. Come Sunday with the disk."

You may have noticed the beginnings of a trenddeveloping here. But wait, there's more.

My final stop was the Emergency Room that had previously helped me. (I use the term "help" in its loosest sense here.) I arrive in the Emergency Xray room only to be told that I cannot get the xrays until .... you guessed it .... Sunday.

WTF is happening Sunday? Is the Messiah arriving?

Apparently Sunday is the official day of reckoning in Israel on any given week. And more important, because Sunday is not a day of rest here, people start wrapping up their official week on Thursday in anticipation of a lazy Friday and a Sabbath Saturday.

So this Sunday, while North Americans will be happily ensconsced in their jammies, lazing around with the newspaper, the weekend newspaper crossword puzzles and a cup of coffee, I will be running around Israel doing errands on what still feels to me like it should be the weekly day of rest...Sunday.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

At this rate I am never going to get an electric scooter

As most of you know, I am turning 50 in less than two months. In anticipation of this milestone I have thought long and hard about what would be a suitable gift from my family. Several months ago I came up with a great idea. A hybrid scooter -- so that I could "scoot" around and do my errands without the hassle of our van and with the speed of something superior to my feet.

I immediately fell in love with my plan.

But every time I mentioned this to my children, my husband would call out from wherever he was: "Forget it, you are not getting a scooter because you are too clumsy. You will kill yourself." And with that my kids would scatter, with me running behind them saying: "Oh don't listen to your father. I want a scooter."

Well, yesterday he won by default when I inadvertently committed scooter suicide. Yes, I was walking home from a lovely morning at my friend's house when I miscalculated a crack in the curb, lost my balance and fell into the street, arms first.

I checked my throbbing arm when I got up and, while it was definitely sore, it seemed suitably functional. So I went home and entertained 16 people for lunch. It wasn't until several hours later that I realized the pain was increasing rather than subsiding, and that I probably had to address the matter.

After several hours in the hospital late last night, let me just say this: you are not truly Israeli until you have been out there with the dregs of society. And if you have never met the DOS it is probably because you weren't looking in the right places. Tip: they are at local hospitals late at night. Millions of them. And before you go off thinking that I am referring to the creepy clientele, let me assure you that many of the DOS work in the hospital.

Let me relay one quick scenario before I wrap up:

The Scene: me and my husband standing at the admissions desk in emergency outpatients services. I have had an xray but I am still in excrutiating pain waiting to get the results and possibly get a cast. There are several medical professionals mulling around so I ask if it is possible to get any help or attention. Several of them look at me and then turn away.

Finally Nurse Ratched approaches the desk and I say in a mixture of pain and desperation: "I've been standing here in pain, is it possible to get help?"

See looks at me, quickly assesses the situation and says: "No."

Apparently she also doesn't think I should get a scooter.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Once an immigrant, always an immigrant

I didn't realize how negligent I had been, but after a quick check I see that I haven't written since April. Apologies to my loyal readers.

Fortunately, not writing does not imply that there's been nothing going on. Au contraire. Lots has happened.

One thing about Israel is that is a country comprised primarly by Jews. This is not a news flash to even the most ignorant person out there. But what most people don't understand is that living in a country of Jews means that when it comes to getting a good bargain -- or not being a "fryer" (sucker) -- all of the most clever players are playing in the same ball park. Shopping and bargaining in Israel is sort of like playing in the NHL All-Star Game every day.

Last week one of my friends told me that if I went through my national medical insurer's dental program, I could get a better price on my daughter's pre-orthodontic xrays than if I paid privately -- which, until that little news flash, I had fully intended to do. And, being true to my nature, I am not one to pass up a good bargain.

Off I went in search of the necessary dental administrative offices.

When I finally found them, I entered and asked the receptionist about what I had heard. She looked baffled and then she went off to check with a few coworkers. After they all quizzed me and generally looked perplexed they collectively agreed that "my friend's" information was incorrect. I left.

Once outside I called my friend and told her what had happend. "No," she said. "You went about this all wrong. Just go home now because they will be suspicious if you return with different information. I will tell you what to say before you go back."

I felt ridiculous that I couldn't follow her instructions so I did as she said. I went home.

A few days later, armed with a much more clever and subtle approach, I went back to the national dental administrative offices. I took a number to open a file in my daughter's name. After sitting for about 10 minutes, one of the women at the service counter (who appeared to be doing nothing at all but definitely wasn't servicing anyone) called out in Hebrew: "What do you need?" Apparently I looked out of place.

Armed with better information, I explained in Hebrew what I needed and once again I got that perplexed, baffled look. I was starting to wonder if it was something about me or my hebrew that was throwing them off.

"Come here," she said. "Now tell me again what you want." And I proceeded to do so.

"There's no such thing," she told me curtly.

"I heard there was," I responded -- undeterred.

"Where did you hear this?" she asked.

"From one of my friends in synagogue," I responded.

"Oh," she said subtly rolling her eyes in that immigrants-in-synagogue way. How long have you lived here (it is blatantly obvious from my Hebrew skills that I am not a native)?"

"Nine years," I muttered a quietly as possible. I knew what was coming next.

"Really? Why isn't your Hebrew better? And why don't you know what to do? How long has your friend lived here?"

Since I had so many options on which question to answer first I said: "My daughter didn't need braces until now so of course I didn't know what to do." And then I added: "where do you think immigrants get their information? FROM EACH OTHER!" I skipped the question about my hebrew skills altogether.

"Okay," she then said in very good English. "Here's what you have to do," and she proceeded to explain the whole process to me.

"I understand everything now," I answered in English. "Thanks for all your help."

And as I got up to leave, she smiled a little smirkishly and said: "No problem and say hello to your smart friends in synagogue for me."

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Bnei Brak: the city that never sleeps

I received a strongly worded message from my brother to hurry up and post something new so that Goldstone would no longer be the opening salvo on my blog. Ironically he made that request because he didn't like the article; I, on the other hand, only chose to oblige him because I didn't want to give Goldstone any more air time.

Okay, time for a new story.

Generally speaking cities such as New York, Paris, London, Las Vegas, Rio are the first ones that come to mind under the heading: Cities That Never Sleep. That's precisely why the nocturnal Bnei Brak is such a find. I live 20 minutes away and I didn't know about that BB until two weeks ago. Nothing like being a surprised tourist in your own country!

The entire unexpected adventure began two weeks ago on a Monday night when my friend suggested that we go to BB in search of something we couldn't find in Ra'anana. We had to go that night because Pesach preparation was starting to bear down on us and it was a now or never situation. So, at 9:30 p.m. I found myself standing on a corner in my neighbourhood waiting for two of my friends to pick me up. I was still in my yoga clothes -- and a cover-up skirt -- because I knew we were headed to Bnei Brak.

For those of you who don't know, Bnei Brak is a city located on Israel's central Mediterranean coastal plain, just east of Tel Aviv. It is one of Israel's centers of Ultra-Orthodox Judaism. It is also one of the poorest and most densely populated cities in Israel, which in my mind comes hand-in-hand with being ultra orthodox. But that's a story for another day.

It is also a great place for bargain shopping because poor people who spend their days studying Torah instead of working -- and having families of at least six children who they can't feed -- don't have lots of money to spend, but they still need lots of stuff to be ultra-orthodox Jews.

We arrived at almost 10 p.m. and that's when I got the first shock. The streets were packed with people and traffic resembled Tel Aviv at rush hour.

After breaking several traffic laws (which is de rigeur there) we found a parking spot. We hopped out of the car and my friend who initiated this mini-road trip took one look at her two passengers and said: "Oy, I should have told you to dress appropriately."

We looked at her slightly baffled since we are both religious women (albeit Modern Orthodox) and we were both in appropriately long skirts (yes, with yoga pants underneath) and my other yoga panted friend had her head covered. "No," said friend #1 quasi jokingly, "I am going to have to walk ahead of you. You are going to stick out like sore thumbs because you aren't wearing THE uniform." (The uniform she was speaking of was a long skirt, a long sleeved shirt, sensible shoes and preferably a wig.)

At that point I promptly took my large scarf and wrapped it around my head. The two of them burst into laughter as I asked in heavily accented English if anyone knew the way to Bethlehem. I was looking for a manger. In fact, I looked like I had just arrived directly from the sound stage of Lawrence of Arabia. But there was no avoiding it -- I was covered.

Our first stop was an ad hoc business operated out of the apartment of the business owner. Apparently there are thousands of these little businesses throughout BB -- probably all off the records.

The business was run out of the livingroom where the business owner (a woman; men don't work much in BB) and her daughters sat on the edge of the sofa assessing us -- apparently two of us did stick out because we weren't in uniform. Friend #2 had to go to the washroom but after the cold glaring reception we received, she didn't have the nerve to ask.

That home business didn't have what we wanted, so we left.

Once outside we decided to hit the official retail areas. By that point I had reorganized my scarf away from the Beduoin look into a more traditional Modern Jewish woman look. My travelling partners were silently relieved.

The main shopping streets in BB are like the wild West. There are no rules. People are crossing the six-lane main street wherever it suits them and regardless of oncoming traffic. Cars are turning here and there even where traffic signs clearly state that it is forbidden. Flocks of young children are out on their own -- no adults in sight.

At one point we saw a baby carriage sitting unattended on a sidewalk in front of a store. We went into a children's wear store where we found clothes that were being sold in Ra'anana for twice the price. After 30 minutes of tsk-tsking over the arbitrary price differences we left the store -- and that damn baby carriage (with accompanying baby) was still sitting there unattended. Correct me if I am wrong, but in most places people go to jail for leaving their babies lying around without supervision. Lucky I wasn't in the market for a baby -- that one was such easy pickings.

Oh, did I mention that Friend #2 still needed a toilet? Well, she did. So we started asking around for a public toilet. We approached one of the few approachable men on the streets of BB -- a man wearing a knitted kippah, but not dressed in the all-black uniform of men in BB -- because protocol states that the uniformed men do NOT speak to women that they are not related to. He told us there was a toilet across the street.

In true BB fashion we headed across the street -- not at the crosswalk and not waiting for the light to change in our favour because there really is no such thing. When we arrived in the small courtyard to which we had been directed we realized that we were outside a synagogue and that the men who study there all day (and apparently all night) were staring at us with suspicion and disdain.

Since I am not intimidated by such stares I went ahead and asked where the toilet was located. Talk about giving someone an opening. These men started in on us in hebrew saying that is was only a toilet for men and that it wasn't appropriately modest for us to be there. Cut to the chase: my friend still needed a toilet.

We finally found one in the store we had just left. Well, it was sort of a toilet. I wouldn't normally subject my delicate derriere to such a place, but desperate times called for desperate measures. We all went to the washroom (and I use that term loosely.)

We headed out of the store again, only to find that damn baby and its carriage in its seemingly official spot. And now that we were getting used to the baby being there, we stopped and took pictures of ourselves with it. Why not? It was obviously there for some reason -- must have been a tourist attraction.

The events of the evening carried on for another few minutes. You really don't need all the details. Many people stared at us and our unusual non-uniforms that were obviously religous, but not BB religious. We laughed, sucked up our surroundings and finally left.

What is important is that there -- in the middle of Israel -- was a piece of Jewish history being played out in real time 2011. These are a few of the people Mr. Goldstone was ready to sell down the river. I hope he never needs a baby at 11:00 p.m. at night. And I hope I managed to get another jab in, against him. Sorry Peter.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Goldstone: the worst kind of anti-semite

(Spoiler alert: I'm in a very bad mood so if you can't stand the heat, get out of my kitchen. I have to stir the pot or I am never going to be able to sleep tonight.)

My father was a federal judge. He became a judge when I was in university and my brother and sister were still in high school. When he received his appointment from the prime minister of Canada, the one and only demand my mother made of us -- his children (well, probably only me since I was the most likely candidate for causing trouble) -- was that we never do anything to embarass my father and damage his good name. It was a reasonable request and until the day he died I am pretty sure that we never did anything to cause him public grief.

For his part, he did us all proud. He was honest and fair. And most important, he never forgot where he came from or who is was. The fifth of six children born to poor Eastern European Jewish immigrants who came to Canada to escape the pogroms and build a better life.

One of the many reasons he accepted the appointment was because he was Jewish and at that time there weren't a lot of Jewish federal judges in Canada. Being Jewish was a signficant factor in his decision.

Which brings me to that poor excuse for a Jewish judge: the scumbag Goldstone.

I cannot even say his name without triggering a wave a nausea.

My Jewish readers already know his story. He was selected by the UN (no friend of Israel) to lead in inquiry into Cast Lead. He did and the results were very damning to Israel. Israeli Jews were shocked by his findings because he laid equal blame on the Israel Defence Forces (a legal army protecting a legitimate country) and Hamas (a terrorist organization elected in fake elections). Yes, I know that there are lots of people in the world who see it that way, but none of them come from the rational, impartial camp.

The results of his inquiry did more damage to Israel than anything in recent or not so recent memory. As Churchill once said, rumours get half way around the world before the truth even gets its pants on. The damage was done.

And then, what did that jerk do? A year or so after his report was made public, he turned around in an interview in the Washington Post and recanted his committee's findings. Oops, he said, I might have been wrong.

The only thing that he was wrong about was the reaction that the Jewish world would have to him. The man is a known career climber of monumental proportions. He never once stopped to think about the implications of his actions -- all he was thinking about was his future career options. He never expected the Jewish community of South Africa, from whence he hailed, to virtually ostracize him. The only way he could attend his grandson's bar mitzvah last summer was with a pack of body guards.

That speaks volumes: what kind of Jew needs body guards in a synagogue? It is a virtual contradiction of thoughts.

And I doubt he would survive more than 24 hours upon arriving in Israel as a private citizen, although given his feelings about Israel, I don't think visiting here is on his schedule. Just as well. He would make Jimmy Carter look like a welcomed guest.

All I want to do is make sense of a completely nonsensical sitution. I simply can't get my mind around the idea of a Jew who would sell Israel down the river, lock stock and barrel. I understand that there are lots of Jews who don't love Israel and there a lot more who never even think about Israel at all, but when someone in Goldstone's position chooses to stab his own people in the back in the most public of forums -- in front of the entire world -- for the sake of his own career advancement, I am compelled to conclude that the world really must be coming to an end.

The holocaust concluded a mere 67 years ago. There are still enough living survivors of the death and labour camps, hidden children, and righteous gentiles alive to remind us that in the 20th century -- in a country as modern as Germany -- bad things can happen to Jews. And they can happen in the blink of an eye.

Where the hell was Goldstone when we Jews were all learning that important lesson? And where was he when the State of Israel was born and for the first time in 2000 years the Jews of the world knew that there was a country out there that had their backs? If they were ever in trouble simply for being Jews, Israel would get to them.

The State of Israel has gone to the rescue of Jews in every crazy corner of the world. Entebbe. Addis Ababa. Kenya. Would the Americans do that? Ha. Would the Canadians. Double ha. And let's not start with the European countries.

Apparently Goldstone is so arrogant that he believes he will never need Israel. And for his sake I hope he never does .... because I don't think any Israeli Jew would agree to spend one agurot of public money to save his sorry ass.

For my part, I am packing a lawn chair, a cooler, and blanket, and I am driving to Megiddo -- which, according to the Book of Revelations in the New Testament it is the site of Armageddon, the end of the world. It's only an hour and a half from my house, and I want a good seat to watch Goldstone go down. I can't think of any living person that I would rather watch rot in hell.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Buddy Double

I grew up in a small city where people not only knew their neighbours, but also spoke to them on a daily basis. We weren't necessarily best friends but we all knew the basic details of each other's lives. And if you needed to borrow an egg, you didn't have to introduce yourself at a stranger's door first.

Toronto couldn't have been more different. We lived on a one block street and at best, we knew about 30 per cent of our neighbours. If you needed an egg, well, good luck to you. There were probably two families on our street that I would have even considered asking for one.

Then we moved to Israel. As I have said many times in the past, it is partly the Anglo thing and partly that in Israel your business is your neighbour's business. Without going into a long song and dance, I have so many egg-friendly neighbours that I could collect a dozen without effort.

Several of my neighbours' numbers are in my cell phone and I speak to them daily. That's why when my new American neighbour across the street called the other day and said: "Oh my God, can you please come over here now ...", I walked out the door and across the street while I was still talking to her on my cell phone.

She opened the door holding her adorable miniature poodle, Buddy. And since we are both dog owners I began the conversation by addressing Buddy. Except, it wasn't Buddy. It was the same size as Buddy and the same colour as Buddy, but she assured me that it wasn't Buddy. In fact, she said calling to her seven-year-old daughter, here's Buddy now. And with that, her daughter entered the room the the real Buddy in her arms. I just stood there amazed. And with that, my quiet Sunday afternoon came to an abrupt end.

As it turns out, one of the daughter's friends left school earlier that day and saw a dog that she was sure was Buddy in the middle of the street in front of the school. Thinking she was doing a great deed, she scooped up the little dog and headed to my neighbour's house four blocks away to return Buddy.

However, when my neighbour opened the door with Buddy in her arms, she got the shock of her life to see Buddy's Double in the child's arms. A complicating factor to say the least.

Buddy Double had no collar and no apparent identification. That's when she called me to help her figure out what she should do next. In retrospect it's funny because according to my husband, thinking things through isn't my strong suit.

After consulting with our friend the City Veteranarian, we headed off to the nearest Veteranary Clinic to have the dog's computer chip read. All the way there the little girl who found Buddy Double was planning her life with her new dog.

If it had been a mixed breed without identification, that might have been fine, but in a small country the size of Israel, a new purebred in town can only have come from one or two places and presented with the challenge of finding the owner, the vet we went to see turned into a private dectective on the spot.

The dog didn't have an identification chip because he was too young. To me, that pretty much settled the matter. No ID meant that we couldn't find the owner and therefore, the little girl was the proud owner of an adorable miniature poodle puppy.

The vet/detective didn't see it that way. He started making calls to his contacts in search of the rightful owner. Fortunately for the almost-new-dog-owning-child, the vet was batting zero and I was starting to apply pressure. "It's ownerless," I said, "and she wants to keep it. So we're leaving."

And just then, while the vet was stalling and trying to convince us that we had to put up posters to try to find the real owner, the door of the clinic opened and a teenage boy walked in, took one look at Buddy Double, and said: "Sonny!"

And with that, the day took another 90 degree turn.

"Hey, not so fast," we all yelled. "How do we know it is your dog?" (Of course, we knew in our hearts it was his dog, but we had already made plans for Buddy Double, and we weren't in a hurry to adjust our thinking.) "How did you find us?"

So here's the story as it can only happen in a small place.

The kid gets home and realizes his dog has escaped due to human carelessness. He goes out into the street near his house (which was a few feet from the public school) and starts asking if someone has seen his dog. He has a picture of the dog with him. Some kid sees the photograph and says: "I saw a girl pick the dog up and take it home. I think her name is ....."

Next, the teenager and his father go into the public school and ask where this kid lives. THE SCHOOL ACTUALLY GIVES OUT THE INFORMATION. (Mindboggling to North Americans) and then they go to the girl's house to get their dog.

Of course, the mother knows the whole story and tells them that their dog isn't there because it is at the vet. She tells them which vet and next thing you know they are at the door to the vet's clinic.

And with that, our little neighbourhood adventure comes to an abrupt end.

However, the next day I was in the corner store getting milk and in walks the teenager with Sonny. "Sonny," I sort of yelled out and the dog lurches for me to give me a few licks. Now we are neighbourhood friends.

Friday, March 18, 2011

What goes around eventually comes around

In the midst of a mini torrential rain blast last Friday morning, I found myself driving to the Moked to have my son's hand "seen to". The Moked is the Israeli answer to people who need more medical help than they can get in a doctor's office but less than they could get at a full-fledged hospital. In theory it is a great concept. And in practice I like it too -- I just wish the closest branch wasn't located half way to Tel Aviv.

By the time we got in the door of the Moked we were soaked and I was expecting a very long wait. I have been to the Moked in the past and spent hours sitting there waiting my turn. It might be more cost effective than wasting a hospital's time, but customer turnaround time is rarely better than any hospital environment where you don't arrive on death's doorstep.

We went to the first check-in counter and the woman there explained all the steps we would have to go through. First you see the nurse, then you get an x-ray and finally, you see the orthopedist who gives you your final diagnosis. In other words, I was mentally hunkering down for the duration.

And that was when I noticed the signs that said "Wi-Fi". Within seconds my entire day was starting to look better. I pulled out my iTouch and started to review my unanswered emails. At some point during my email review they must have called my son's number. Fortunately he was listening and once I realized that he was headed somewhere I quickly gathered up our things and followed him.

The nurse at Stop One checked his hand and asked a few questions. But since his hebrew is so much better than mine, I left him to deal with her and continued to scan my emails.

Back to the waiting area.

A few minutes later, my son was called in to get an x-ray. Since visitors are not allowed into an x-ray area, I waited outside. As I said, he is almost 14 and his hebrew is far superior to mine.

He returned from the x-ray and took up the seat next to me while we waited for Stop Three -- the orthopedist.

When our number was called, my son -- the same son who is connected to an electronic device almost every waking hour that he is not in school (at least I hope that's the case) -- stood up and almost yelled at me: "Ema, take those earphones out of your ears and pay attention. You cannot listen to your iPod and know what's going on." And with that he walked into the doctor's office.

I just stood there and realized that we had reached a watershed moment in our relationship.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Perception and Reality

I have experienced the following incident more than once now and I am sure that I am not the only North American-Israeli out there to have found themselves in this position.

It goes like this ....You arrive at the airport to meet someone who has never been to Israel before. They enter the arrivals area of Terminal 3 at Ben Gurion Airport with their eyes darting from side to side. No matter how nonchalant they are trying to look, the fact is that they are anticipating trouble. I honestly believe that at least one of my first-time-in-Israel guests was actually expecting shooting to break out in the airport at any second.

They see me and the smile as bravely as they can (but their eyes are yelling PANIC).

Skip ahead to the end of their trip. We are back in the airport and they can hardly believe that they arrived here with only the vaguest hope of ever leaving alive.

You think I am joking, but I'm not. I have calmed more than one anxious arrival promising them that they would eat their words by the end of their trip. Thank G-d, so far, I am batting 1000.

What I never really considered, however, was just how common that sentiment was. To me, it seems fairly obvious that I wouldn't uproot my family from dull, quiet, reliable Toronto to move them into a war zone. I have beliefs and principles but I do not have a death wish. And after all the work I did bringing those children into this world, I have no plans to offer them an early exit.

Earlier this evening I had the good fortune to see some video snippets from a series of US focus groups sponsored by a pro-Israel organization. Although the real objective was not really clear to the focus group participants, their answers to questions pertaining to their perceptions of Israel left me speechless.

For the records, I haven't been speechless since 1967 -- and even then, I was just trying to freak out my mother.

The focus group participants were not Jewish and none had been to Israel. They were, however, educated beyond high school. These focus groups were carried out across the US -- 62 in all -- in 2004. Remarkably the answers for all the focus groups were very consistent.

Here is how the average, post high school, non-Jew living in the United States, views Israel. They think that there is nothing here but cement and barbed wire -- oh, and a little rubble thrown in for good measure. They think that everyone is an orthodox Jewish man who would not be open to having any kind of foreigner visiting Israel. They also believe that women stay indoors and that men carry on all outdoor activity on behalf of the family. They think that Israel is overwhelmingly dangerous and that there is no life so to speak on the streets. They do believe that there are tanks everywhere.

For anyone who lives here you know how laughable that is -- well, laughable, when you aren't crying about it. And for those of you who have never been here, please bear with me while I refute a few points.

- Israel is suprisingly green. There are tons of trees. The boulevards are lined with huge palm trees that resemble the boulevards in Florida. In fact Israel is so green in the winter that I often forget that I live in the desert. Yes, there is barbed wire, but you have to drive out to the borders of the country to see it and it is there for damn good reason: to keep out the kind of scum who enter the country illegally and murder sleeping babies and their parents while they sleep. Yes, this happened last week in a small community called Itamar.

- Eighty percent of the Jewish Israeli population is secular. And of the 20% who are religious, only 25% are overtly religous looking. Israel is full of non-kosher restaurants (I don't say that happily but it is true.) You can buy pork and sea food. Israelis come from countries all around the globe and as a result, they have different skin colours and different mother tongues. The fact is that Israelis don't care all that much about ethnicity or colour -- they care if you are a Jew.

- Oh, and they love tourists. It is a mainstay of our economy and last year there were more tourists in Israel than any year in its history. We all encourage you to come and see the country for yourself.

- Now to my favorite misperception. It will be a cold day in hell before I leave my husband responsible for taking care of all of our family's out-of-the-house business. If he had to go grocery shopping we would have to subsist on beets, apples and ice cream. The irony is that he probably spends less time outside the house than I do. The economy would be in ruins if only men went outside -- they are lousy shoppers for the most part and they aren't the best coffee shop customers.

- Soldiers carry guns. True. And I thank G-d that they do. I am always happy to see a young soldier on the street -- although I rarely do -- carrying a gun. I am also happy when I see them on public transit and in public places. It is precisely because of them that there isn't normally shooting on the streets. (Unfortunately this does not include the crazy vengeful mobsters who insist on occassionally fighting their personal battles on the streets of Lod and Netanya.) Without those brave young men who unfortunately do have to carry guns, this place would be overrun with Muslim fanatics in no time.

- There is so much night life in Israel that I often wonder how people get up and go to work in the morning. And not just adults. Come summer, it is not unusual to see small children sitting in cafes late at night with their parents. When my kids were little they were home in bed, but they were probably the only ones.

- And there is no room on the streets for tanks because there are too many cars in perpetual traffic jams because everyone -- men and women alike -- are going out to work or en route to doing something fun.

The point is: if you don't know what you are talking about then you have two choices. 1) shut up or 2) make it your business to find out. Oh, and then there is the third option -- my favorite. Get on a plane and come see for yourself. That's the only way to align perception and reality.

I will meet you at the airport.

Monday, March 7, 2011

I think my dog is an anti-semite

My dog, Pepper, has a pattern of behaviour that leads me to believe that she is either an anti-semite or at best, a covert member of Meretz (Israel's most obvious anti-relgious political party).

That may sound a little dramatic but I have proof.

When you first meet her, Pepper is the cutest little Cairn terrier. She is the visual reincarnate of Dorothy's Toto in the Wizard of Oz. But that's where the similarities stop. Toto was dedicated to his friend Dorothy. They ran away together and later survived a tornado together.

Pepper, on the other hand, is a rebel.

You can call her name for an hour and she will stand there -- 10 feet away -- looking at you like you grew another head. If there is ever a tornado I will not stand around expecting cooperation from her.

This leads me to her anti-semitic inclinations.

Every Friday afternoon, and dusk sets in and the Jewish Sabbath begins, Pepper gets antsy. By this time the male segment of my family has all left for synagogue and I am home, trying to get ready myself, with yappy Pepper getting apopletic over something or other.

Last week, for the fourth time in the 16 months since we got her, Pepper was having a pre-Shabbat tizzy fit. There was something outside our door and it was sending her into spasms of angst.

My first mistake was to respond to my dog's needs. I opened the front door to see that all the fuss was about, and there on my front step was a big white dog with a red collar. I barely had time to collect my thoughts about how this dog got into my gated yard, when Pepper went bolting out the door to state her territorial claim.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on how you view things, I was ready for synagogue, so I tried to recapture my crazed territorial dictator of a dog. Let's just say that she has better moves that I do, particularly when I was in high heels and she was not. Within minutes the two dogs had run through a hole in the wall in my backyard and were off.

Normally Pepper squeezes through the hole into my neighbour's yard and mozies around until I come and get her. But since it was Friday evening, and I was supposed to be in synagogue, she decided to run for it.

This is not her first Friday evening escape. And each time she pulls this stunt I foolishly try to find her and put her back in the house before I got to synagogue.

I did chase her for a few minutes because if the dog catchers find her first I am looking at an 800 shekel fine.

But then it dawned on me, Pepper's prefered escape time is often Friday evenings. I am usually dressed in nice clothes -- and more importantly, nice shoes. I am supposed to be somewhere doing something much more important than running around like an idiot trying to coax my no-coaxable dog to come to me. And that is when I decided that she was on her own. Yes, I cut her loose so to speak and went to synagogue.

I sent my reluctant daughter in to the men's section of the synagogue to tell my husband that the damn dog had, yet again, run away but that I was here and not going to track her down. He couldn't have cared less.

It was about half way into the Friday night service that I noticed my husband signalling me that Pepper was outside the synagogue. Needless to say, he had no intention of leaving to go deal with her. I think he would say that separate sex seating has its advantages -- and this was one of them. I couldn't get to him so I had no choice but to leave the service and get my dog.

And that is why I think Pepper is anti-semetic or anti-religous. She had all week to make her standard escape, but she choose to wait until the least appropriate minute of the week to do so. It's obvious -- she is no friend to the Jews. I think I'll call the Weisenthal Center.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

My Big (Happy?) Dysfunctional Family

A friend of mine previously from the US Midwest moved to Israel a year and a half ago with her family. She is one of those really nice, always smiling, always positive types that you expect to come from the heartland of the USA. Basically, she's their poster child. And that's why her observations (made originally to her husband and later to me) about our neighbourhood and our synagogue are all the funnier.

About six months into their move to Ra'anana she said to her husband: "Isn't it nice to come to a place where there are no shul (Yiddish for synagogue) politics?" As an aside, let me add that her husband, a native New Yorker, had a less delusional perspective.

I can never hear that story or tell that story enough times. It cracks me up as much now as it did when I first heard it. And after last week, it cracks me up even more.

I promised my AdHoc Overseerers Committee that I would not discuss the issue that brought our synagogue to its philosophical crossroads last week, but suffice it to say that the members of our community spent the last month in the midst of a discussion about how we view ourselves within the framework of Modern Orthodox Judaism. Left, Right, Center, Indifferent, Left with Right Leanings, Right with Left Leanings ..... you get the idea.

In the days leading up to the great vote, emotions were running so high in some quarters that there were many synagogue members who really thought that this issue would irrevocably destroy our community.

Then came Saturday night and the moment of reckoning. After weeks of over-thought angst the members of the synagogue voted last Saturday night and the matter was put to bed. But more important, the synagogue did not implode as a result of the final vote. Admittedly, there were winners and there were losers (and I suspect there were many people who were just glad the whole matter was behind them).

Which brings me to last night and the engagement party of one of our friends' daughter. (Try to follow along with my convoluted thinking here.)

The party was packed with people from our synagogue (and many other people as well). It no longer mattered what side people voted for the other night.

The question any naive outsider could reasonably ask was: "How could you go from the brink of destruction to non-partisan party mode in 48 hours?" And that, my friends, is an interesting question.

When people move to Israel from North America they leave behind a lot -- family, friends, emotional comfort, to name a few. In my mind, they gain a lot more than they lose, but that does not minimize the fact that they have paid a big price to recreate their lives.

And the people who play the biggest role in their new lives (at least in my neighbourhood) are the other members of the shul. People who may have nothing else in common but this one gigantic life experience. They may not share the same political views (trust me, they don't) and they obviously don't share the same views on the observance of Judaism, but at the end of the day, they are the people who will do your carpool if your car breaks down 10 minutes before pick-up. They will feed your children when you are home in bed with the flu. They will drive you to the airport when your parent dies in North America -- and they will be waiting there to bring you home when you return from the shiva.

The grandfather of the groom-to-be spoke last night at the engagement party. He was a very polished, knowledgeable speaker who recounted how, 70 years ago, he managed to survive a pogrom in Romania that left many in his shtetl dead. He also talked about surviving the Shoah (Holocaust). And now, he said, here he was, in Ra'anana, celebrating his grandson's engagement on behalf of all those who never knew there could even be a Jewish state where Jews could live any type of Jewish life they wanted, freely.

And when all is said and done, that is really the ONLY point that matters.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

They're kidding, right?

Yesterday I received a message on Facebook from someone working at my undergrad university whose job it is to find alumni that have fallen off the university's potential donors list. Egads (for those young folk out there, it sort of means "yikes" although it is actually a slang form of OMG)!!!!!!!! Can you imagine a university going to such lengths to find its alumni?

Of course you can.

Debbie, my new friend from McMaster University's Data Entry Department, sent a lovely inquiry letter asking if I was me and apologizing if I was, in fact, someone else. She wasn't sure I was me because one of my Facebook pages only lists me by my married name and not the maiden name that she probably has on her list.

That's one of the big problems with having an unusual first name. Even if someone doesn't have all your data, partial data will probably do the trick. And together with a quick Facebook search of graduates from McMaster .... voila, there you go. Yipee doodle, I was found.

Frankly, I have been happily lost for years. I wasn't hiding but I also made no effort to be found. They did catch wind of me about 12 years ago when I realized that I had lost my undergraduate diploma and I called them and asked for a new copy. Once they had an address to which they could send the diploma, they felt free to start sending me all sorts of crazy junk mail. However, the joke was on them -- the address I gave them was my parents'. The point being that if I really wanted to be found, then I would have given them my correct address at that time.

I never thought about them again after I moved to Israel. As wonderful as those university years were -- and they were all that and more -- it was part of my past.

Of course, that was before Facebook.

Thanks to Facebook and my need to put down just enough information to make me reasonably "findable" (I know that's not a word, but remember, my blog, my vocabulary) to old friends, some unwanted people found me as well.

I just realized that I have digressed so far from my point that I will have to take a bus to get back to it.

Okay, so I wrote back to Data Entry Debbie and she sent me a link so that I could become a member of the McMaster Alumni website. I should have just ignored her message, but my need to click a link wherever I find one was too strong to ignore. Next thing I knew I was at the "register to login" page and since it also had a link .... I started clicking again. I figured that I would just register. No one was actually going to come after me for money ... I live to far away. I'm inaccessible.

And then came the ironic moment. In fact, the MUA website was inaccessible because one of the first pieces of information they wanted was my student card number.

First I checked to see if that was an optional question but as it turned out, it was one of the questions with the little red asterik next to it, which means that it was compulsory. I just looked at it, and looked at it, and looked again.

As I see it, it was the hand of G-d slapping me back to reality. I think what He was saying was that He also doesn't want me to give money to McMaster; He would prefer that I do all my charitable giving in Israel.

My biggest problem is that I can't help but look a gift horse in the mouth. After a message straight from G-d you would think I had the sense to just move on to another web page, but noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo, I have to have the last word (G-d also gave man free choice, and in my case, I don't always use it wisely). I wrote back to Data Entry Debbie and asked her who the heck remembered their student card number 28 years after graduation?

Now, I am just waiting for her response. If she responds that people actually do remember theirs, I will eat my hat. And then I will sit around and wait for my graduate school university to find me as well.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Six months to the big 5-0

I haven't written much lately because ever since the Georgian clocked ticked its way into the new year, I have been preoccupied with the fact that this is the year that I turn 50. No matter how many times I say it -- and trust me I say it a lot -- I can't get over the fact that come July I will be 50 years old.

My husband doesn't understand why I keep telling people that I am turning the big 5-0. I bring it up in pretty much every everyday situation in which I find myself. He's more from the school of thought that believes in turning 39 for the next 45 years. I do not subscribe to this school of thought at all.

Most of the people I am friends with in Israel are in their early 40s (and a few are still in their mid 30s) and day-to-day that is neither here nor there. They are my friends and age doesn't factor into it. But I noticed, that beginning about eight months ago, I became very conscious of who my contemporaries in the neighbourhood were. And since then I have decided that I prefer the company of people my own age. That doesn't mean that I like my old friends any less -- I don't. What it means is that I like my contemporaries even more than I did before.


It's simple. We have a common bond. We come from the same place.

For those of us who grew up in the 60s, there were embarassing bell bottom pants and the ridiculously thick and funky belts that held them up. We had Lite Brites, Creepy Crawlers, Easy Bake Ovens and Etch-a-Sketches. Our home telephones had rotary dials and they weighed enough to really injure someone. We listened to The Jackson Five and The Osmonds. And when we got a little older and cooler we listened to Led Zepplin, Cat Stevens, Seals and Crofts, James Taylor and Simon and Garfunkle. We drove in cars without seatbelts and rode our bikes without helmets. We ate white bread and sugary cereal. We played outside all day and no one knew where we were or could call us on our non-existent cell phones -- and no one was worried about us.

It was the tail end of a simpler time. Not like my friends who were born in the mid 70s and came of age in the 1980s when the world was already changing beyond recognition.

I love that I am a child of the 60s. Much cooler than those nerdy kids born in the 50s and more innocent than the kids born in the 70s. I was an impressionable eight year old when women were burning their bras and a nine year old, when newly rebellious teens were hitchhiking to Woodstock. Many of my later ideas were initially formed by Gloria Steinem. I was old enough to absorb all the amazing changes that were going on without having to be the experimental guinea pig.

1961, the year I arrived on the scene, was the year that the US cut its ties with Cuba. It was the year that JFK actually went to work as the president of the United States. The Beatles performed for the first time at the Cavern Club in Liverpool. The trial of nazi Adolf Eichman took place in Jerusalem. Yuri Gagarin became the first human to go into space. The US civil rights movement was gaining momentum. The New Democratic Party was formed in Canada (albeit, not world changing, but I had to get Canada in there). Russian ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev requested asylum in France. The first MLB All-Star game to end in a tie occured. Construction of the Berlin Wall began. West Side Story was released. Catch-22 was published. And Barbie got a boyfriend, Ken.

So to all my friends born at other times (mostly much later), read this and weep! You may be younger but I wouldn't change a thing. I remember when the Beatles played on the Ed Sullivan show. I got to stay up late to watch it. You only saw the replay on You Tube!

There's an email that circulates around the internet and surfaces on my computer every other year. Basically it says that the objective of life is not to show up at home plate looking perfect and all in tact. The whole point is to slide into home looking dirty, gnarled and like you have really lived. Kids born in the 60s aren't afraid to get dirty. They never were. Happy birthday to everyone born in 1961. May we all slide into home, looking like hell, at 120.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Welcome to 2011: It's Still A Man's World

(Spoiler alert: for anyone who doesn't like when I am serious, turn back now. Today I am angry and in a serious mood.)

Yesterday a very old friend of mine who I haven't seen in about 28 years sent me an old photo of us at another friend's wedding. The picture is 30 years old and I can't believe that I have a picture of myself as a young adult that is THAT old. I was so young then and I really believed that the world was open to women. I honestly thought that everything was possible. However, when I read the lead headline in the online edition of the Jerusalem Post this morning, I was quickly reminded that no matter what women achieve, it is still a man's (pathetic) world.

The lead story on January 3, 2011 (27 Tevet 5771 in Jewish time) is about the tapes that the ex-prime minister and now convicted rapist Moshe Katsav gave to the police to initiate an investigation on complaints of blackmail by an ex-employee. In the tapes the woman tells Katsav that since he ruined her life he should give her money so she could get the psychological help she needs. In the tapes she said that she could no longer work or function as a normal human being because of him. She went on to say that if he gives her the money she will keep her mouth shut.

Ironically the tapes were ultimately used against Katsav because the attorney general suspected that there was more to the story than the then prime minister provided so he began a little investigation of his own.

Please keep in mind that Katsav was recently found guilty by an Israeli court of a series of rape/sexual assault crimes and therefore it would be reasonable to think that the women he abused had received justice -- too late of course, but some degree of acknowledgement nonetheless. Not so.

As if often the case, the most interesting parts of the story were still to come.

The most telling part of the article isn't in the body copy but rather in the comments following the article. They are so sickening that the only conclusion one can come to is that in 5771 years nothing has changed. Women are second-class citizens. Men's thinking has never changed: if a woman is raped it is her fault because she must have been provoking the man. And you know men, they just can't control the urge to ram their penises into anything that they perceive to be deserving.

Let me read you a few of my favorites:

"The whole thing is starting to sound fishy.... The more I now here from "Aleph" (the complaintant), the less credible it all sounds."

"The case against Katsav is a total crock cooked up by leftist lawyers and radical feminists. If Bill Clinton is walking free so should Katsav!"

"I was pretty sure this whole case was a political-judicial lynch and this latest news seems to confirm it. Wonder who was behind it..."

"Rape? No. They had an affair and she got dumped. That's what it sounded like to me. What rape victim talks like that? If you're a woman whose been raped you don't call your rapist and say "My life is over - you have a life I don't how about $250,00?" "

"Is the whole case against Katsav bogus?..."

Journalists are trained to report the facts and in theory, keep their personal opinions out of their reporting. Granted, it doesn't always work. However, the Comments section is for people to voice their feelings about the issue and the story. That often makes them more telling.

It is not unusual to read opposing views in the Comments section following a story but in Israel's case they are usually placed there by her adversaries who hold a different world view. You might not agree with them and they may even sound crazy but you know where they are coming from.

But this is a universal issue that knows no borders. What the comments on this story tells me is that nothing has changed from when I was a young adult smiling naively at the camera at a friend's wedding -- and honestly believing that the world was open for women.