Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Jacob and Noah: Bad news; there is no Christmukkah

This time last year my husband was heading to Canada for something or other. Someone he knows there got wind of his trip and asked him to please bring her some Chanuka decorations from Israel. In typical fashion, my husband sent me on the shopping mission to find said decorations. I probably went to at least a half a dozen stores where I did not find the decorations in question. Other than a few holiday colouring books and many do-it-yourself chanukiot, there was nothing. In other words, no home decorations for the sophisticated diaspora Chanuka celebrator age eight and up.

The reason there was no decorations was not immediately apparent to me -- many of you probably figured it out faster than I did. However, after a minute or two, it dawned on me: Chanuka decorations are the diaspora Jews ridiculous attempt to fit in at Christmas time. If all those Christians are going to have their conifer trees and lights galore, not to mention those fancy tree decorations, then the ever-uncomfortable-in-their-own-skin Jews of North America (I cannot comment on Europe), want decorations for their winter holiday too.

In Israel, Jews are Jews whether they actively participate in Judaism or not. There's no one to compete with and heaven knows there is no other religion or culture in the region that we want to emulate. In other words, we don't give a hoot what others are doing at this time of the year. Whether observant or not, there are very few, if any, Israeli Jewish children who do not know the story of Judah Maccabee and his brothers, and their bravery in the face of their Greek enemies. Chanuka is not only about the miracle of the oil but it also about how a little rebel Jewish army reasserted Jewish religion by challenging the mighty Greeks.

Ironically, in North America,  it is the exact opposite. Modern day Jews are doing everything they can to be more like the Christians at Christmas. On one hand, I don't blame them, it is truly a wonderful time of the year; everyone is in a good mood, everyone is dressing up and going to parties, holiday jingle musak is playing in the background everywhere you go and for a few weeks, shopping becomes a national sport. What's not to like?

But on the other hand, there is a sad message buried in all of this: Jews want to be Christians, at least partly. Here's a headline in today's Washington Post: "Jews Grapple With How To Celebrate Hanukkah During Christmas". What the hell is there to grapple with? Chanuka is Chanuka and Christmas is Christmas. And here's another doozer, from Bloomberg: "Menorah Tree Salesman Wants to Make Hannuka More Like Christmas.

First, I think it is interesting to note that no one in North America can spell Chanuka. How important can a holiday be if no one can spell it correctly? In Israel, we don't have that problem.....חנוכה. Chet, nun, vav, kaf, heh. There's nothing to discuss. It's important enough that no one screws around with the spelling.

Second, I keep seeing comments from North American Jews explaining Chanuka as the Jewish Christmas. Let's just nip that in the bud now -- Chanuka is definitely NOT the Jewish Christmas. Never was. Never will be. We have Judah Maccabee -- our brave and totally human hero. Christmas has the fake birthday of its messiah, which ultimately led to the creation of a religion based on post-fabricated nonsense, focused on hating the ancestral people of its man/god. Where are the similarities? I guess you could play the Jewish card but that really upsets the Christians so let's leave that alone.

And finally, this whole wannabe rationalization demonstrates yet again, why Jews outside of Israel are doomed. I am sure they don't see it that way and I am sure they don't care. To the, it is just another example of how disconnected diaspora Jews are from Israeli Jews. Of course, I doubt they spend even five seconds pondering this. They are all home busy decorating their Menorah trees.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Jewish Grandmothers Without Borders

My mother is visiting from Canada. I could digress on this topic for an hour but instead something my mother said yesterday reminded me of the first time my parents came to visit after we made Aliyah.

Let me begin by saying that when I told my parents we were moving to Israel 13 years ago -- and taking their grandchildren with us -- they smiled -- in that sickly green sort of way -- and then went to a quiet corner to fall apart. They were trying to be supportive but they weren't anywhere near the vicinity of happy. In all fairness, they eventually put on their best happy faces and got on board with our plans.

Approximately five months after we arrived in August 2002, my mother must have sent word to Saddam Hussein that she needed his help with her plan to get us home. Apparently he received her message because he publicly threatened to annihilate Israel in the lead-up to the 2003 Iraq War. I am sure that my mother thought that would scare us enough to send us packing back to Canada.

Long story short: it did not.

Unfortunately once Saddam had publicly announced his intentions, he was hell bent on proceeding with or without my mother. That's when my parents announced that if there was going to be a war in Israel and we weren't going to leave, then they were going to come here. "If my grandchildren are going to be in Israel for a war, then so are we."

If you think for one minute that those were soothing words to me, you are totally deluded. The last thing I needed in the midst of getting gas masks for our family, teaching a three-year-old to put that gas mask on, preparing our shelter and getting ourselves mentally ready for what might be Armageddon, was my parents.

Back to yesterday. In the midst of a brief exchange about people my mother has not seen on this visit, she mentioned how my cousin, whose married daughter lives here, jumped on a plane this summer when the war started; she came to help.

"Lots of grandmothers came," she told me.

I wasn't quite sure if she was peeved that we hadn't ask her to come (keep in mind that the lack of an official invitation didn't stop her the first time we faced a war here) or if she was just reporting the news. I'm still not sure. I simply chose to ignore the comment ... except that obviously it is still on my mind.

Granted this past summer's skirmish -- I don't think that it earned the official title of "war" for some reason -- was more intrusive than 2003. Although we all carried gas masks wherever we went for several months in 2003, we didn't hear one siren. The same cannot be said for this past summer.

And yes, my cousin was probably thinking more about her two-year-old granddaughter than anyone else (sorry guys). In fact, she might have actually been helpful in that capacity. Who knows; I wasn't with them.

There's also the possibility that she is cooler under pressure than my mother. Who knows, she might even have some useful first-aid skills.

Or .... my most assured suspicion ..... she might simply belong to the offshoot of Doctors Without Borders -- Jewish Grandmothers Without Borders. Here's their Charter:

Jewish Grandmothers Without Borders is a private, international Jewish association. The association is made up mainly of Jewish grandmothers and a few coerced grandfathers, as well as any Jewish professionals that the grandmothers deem worthy. All of its members agree to honour the following principles:

  • JGWB provides assistance to grandchildren in distress, particularly to victims of natural or man-made disasters, and to victims of armed conflict. They do so irrespective of how displeased they are that their children made Aliyah.
  • JGWB are neither neutral or impartial, and don't give a hoot what anyone says to the contrary when it comes to the well being of their grandchildren. 
  • Members only respect the Jewish grandparent code of ethics and maintain complete independence from all political, economic, or religious powers.
  • As volunteers, members understand the risks and dangers of the missions they carry out and make no claim for themselves or their assigns for any form of compensation -- being there is compensation enough.
If you are a Jewish grandparent who wants to join JGWB, call my mother.  No, she didn't start the group but heaven knows she is a charter member.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

So you want to be friends

An article in the Jerusalem Post yesterday quotes a representative of the EU saying that "if you want to stay friends with us, make peace." So there you have it; simple as that. The European Union will be friends with Israel if we just come to some sort of working arrangement with the so-called Palestinians (SCP).

Before I dismiss this ridiculous carrot without further consideration, maybe it is worth investigating a little further. With that in mind, can a representative of the EU please answer a few questions:

  • What precisely would this potential new friendship look like?
  • Would it include all citizens of the EU or just the ones who are already quasi-tolerant of Jews?
  • Would it end thousands of years of systemic anti-Semitism dating back to at least 400 CE?
  • Would you stop doing business with the Arab theocracies and monarchies that threaten our existence every week?
  • Would your member states continue to sell weapons and military expertise to our enemies?
  • Would you make a bold diplomatic statement that bombings of synagogues and people in the midst of prayer is unacceptable -- whether it happens in Europe or Israel?
  • Would Jews be able to walk to synagogue without fear of being stabbed to death?
  • Would Jewish children get to school in one piece without subtle, state-approved bullying?
  • Would you make tough decisions about your rabidly anti-Semitic Islamic militant citizens?
  • Would you finally get rid of the rest of those Islamic militants who live in your midst illegally or as perpetual social takers (and not givers)?
  • Would Israel get points from you for trying to live peacefully regardless of the bullies surrounding its borders?
  • Would you like us better if we were slimmer; you know, the pre-1967 lines when we were younger?
  • Would we only stay friends if we did things your way?
  • Would we be able to boycott your goods and services if you do something we don't like or is this just a one-way friendship?
  • Would it be a real friendship where we have each other's backs or would you just continue being the two-faced political union you have always been?
  • Could we speak honestly to each other?
If you answer "no" to two or more of these questions, then I think the best thing to do is go to a dictionary -- Oxford, if you prefer -- and check the meaning of friendship. Here, let me save you some time. Friendship -- in terms of nation states -- is: 

Oh right, it's all coming back to you now. You don't want to be friends; you want to be a player like the big boys in Washington. Guess what, they aren't such smart big shots there and your intentions are totally transparent. I think the more appropriate word that you are looking for is "frenemies" and thanks but we have more than enough of those right now. We also have bigger problems than false friends like you. You may have heard but roving Muslims who live in our country are on a murderous rampage and no one within the borders of our legal nation state is safe right now. You probably hadn't noticed or you would have surely voiced a little concern for innocent citizens, going about their business in their own country, being in such haphazard danger.

Oh, I guess that would ruffle the feathers of your other friends.

In case I have totally misread the situation European Union and in fact your intentions are genuine, I have a final question for you: with friends like you, who needs enemies?

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Ministry of the Interior: A Great Miracle Happened Here

It's not Chanuka yet but I noticed last week that the stores are beginning to sell dreidels. In other words, it is almost one of those times in the Jewish calendar when miracles are in the air. Most of you already know the miracle on which the dreidel is based. Quick update for those who don't: After a war with Antiochus and the Greeks (160 BCE), the leaders of the Jewish rebel army, the Hasmoneans, only found enough pure oil to keep the menorah in the Temple burning for one day but there was a miracle and the oil lasted for eight days until more could be made. In a country with a history chock full of miracles, this was impressive.

In case anyone thinks that the era of miracles in Israel is long since over (excluding the big whopper in 1948), last week I experienced a modern day Israeli miracle.

For the past two weeks I have gone to the Misrad HaPnim (The Ministry of the Interior) an embarrassing number of times in an effort to renew my daughter's expiring Israeli passport .

  • Visit number one: I arrived at a time that, according to their website, the office would be open, but it was not.
  • Visit number two: Later the same day when the guard who told me that they were opening later said the office would be open. However, upon arrival I noticed a hand written sign that had not been posted there earlier in the day, that stated that they would in fact, not be opening that afternoon. When I asked the guard why, he told me in Hebrew: "there was a change." A change of what? I still don't know.
  • Visit number three: I arrived to find about 50 other frustrated people who had been trying to get in to the office for the past few days, all rushing the door when it opened. Although the scrum at the entrance looked daunting, I managed to manoeuvre through the crowd and get to the information desk. The woman there told me that if I had all the paper work and the necessary photos I could just take them to the Passport window. WRONG. I made my way to the special Passport window only to find out that it was all a waste of time if my daughter wasn't there with me. "Why do you need my daughter?" I asked. "She's in school and I have all the signed forms, her photos and her old passport -- and the credit card. What's she going to add to all of this?" I still don't know the answer to that question.
  • Visit number four: With my daughter in tow at 7:30 am, we arrived at the Ministry. Have any of you been stupid enough to take a 15-year-old anywhere at 7:30 am? They may be moving but they are surely not awake.
That's when the miracle began although I didn't immediately recognize it.

There was a small group of people waiting for the office to open. No one was talking and no one was pushing. They were all just milling around. Then someone pointed to an ad-hoc sign-up sheet tacked to a bulletin board on the outer wall of the building. I realized that all that calm was because those who had arrived prior to me and my daughter had signed their names on the list and were confident that there was no need for anxiety. For a minute I could have sworn I wasn't in Israel. All that civility was unfamiliar to me.

My daughter signed her name and then leaned on the wall listening to her iPod.  I, on the other hand, started making mental notes of the faces of everyone in front of us. I did not have the slightest confidence that the list would be worth the paper it was written on once the doors opened. And I was already shifting into combat mode. 

My daughter looked at me and said: "You know you have a crazed look in your eyes like you are going to attack someone?" I didn't know that, but the news didn't surprise me or concern me.

At promptly 8:00 am the doors opened and the guard came outside to begin checking bags before people entered. Without a word from the crowd, he noticed the list, yanked it from the bulletin board and began calling out names according to their numerical order. You could have knocked me over with a feather.

No one tried to jump the line. No one pushed. No one complained. No one pleaded for special consideration. Everyone just lined up according to the list and took their turn.

If you live in your average western civilized country you are probably wondering when the miracle in this story is going to begin. And that's the great thing about miracles; you don't always fully appreciate them in the moment unless you are there.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Weddings: A Uniquely Israeli Problem

Most Jews assume that if they move to Israel they have increased the likelihood that their children will marry other Jews exponentially. That's true. And personally I think that is a good thing. But there's problem with Jewish Israeli weddings that Jews outside of Israel have never considered --probably because they are too busy worrying about keeping their children Jewish (or maybe they aren't worried enough but that will not move my story forward so forget it.).

The problem is geographical. Yes, you read that correctly. It's all about the location.

If you are a Jew living outside of Israel, this is not even on your worry radar. But after several years of multi-wedding weeks, it is on mine -- and I know I am not alone.

Here's the issue:

Since there are lots of Jews in Israel, we can let our marriage-age children wander hither and yon, never really worrying about the religion of the people with whom they come in contact. Chances are pretty damn good that any interesting/desirable person your child meets will also be a Jew. So far, so good.

But what happens when your child comes home with his or her potential mate and that person's family lives in The Golan, Metula, Jerusalem, Efrat or Beersheva -- and you live in the center of the country? They announce that they are going to get married and that is pretty much when the first white elephant enters the room; and it's name is Wedding Location.

Here are a few possible scenarios for what happens next. Keep in mind that everyone is trying to be on their best behaviour with the "new people":

  1. The person from Central Israel caves like a deck of cards at the first mention of this issue and agrees to get married in some almost-God-forsaken corner of the country. (It can't be a totally God-forsaken place because this is Israel and there are no God-forsaken places.)
  2. One or both of the parties are hell bent on getting married in the holiest city on Earth (hint: not Ra'anana)
  3. One family has more effective negotiating skills, and it is never the family from Central Israel  -- those urbanites are way too soft to negotiate with the hearty types who live on the periphery, possibly with goats.
  4. Everyone wants to make nice and be fair so the couple agree to get married half way between their parents' homes. Unfortunately one half of the couple is from Mitzpe Ramon.
  5. Somebody plays the "my extended family of 5000 kibbutznicks won't come if it is in a big urban center" card. (Guilt is a very powerful Jewish tool.)
  6. The couple want to get married in some place that no one they know has ever considered getting married, making it a very unique/hip venue that has not been selected for its proximity to central-Israel civilization or its sanity.
Next thing you  know, a location not-of-your-choosing has been selected and you have to send invitations to the peanut gallery of people who were previously your friends. They are only too happy to give you their input.
  • "You want us to drive where? I have never even heard of that place."
  • "Who the hell came up with THAT idea?"
  • "Didn't you consider saying no to that brilliant plan?"
  • "I really like you all but I am not driving two hours for your (son/daughter's) wedding."
  • "Are you offering a hotel room with that invitation?"
  • "If we have to drive two hours to get there, we are going to have to leave by 10 to get home."
In the end, almost everyone shows up and has a good time. There I said it -- but please note that that will not stop me from complaining for at least two weeks leading up to any such event. And because a greater power loves destroying any ridiculous plans I concoct, I am willing to bet that now that I have put this on electronic paper and told my children that they can only marry people who grew up within a 30 km radius of our house, they are all going to go out and do the exact opposite. 

In other words ... See you at my kids weddings in Beersheva?

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Sometimes the strangest things happen 150 meters from home

Everything went off the rails as I was in the final minutes of preparation for Shabbat this past week. I couldn't find the shoes I wanted. I couldn't find all my electric timers. I never put on make-up or  a pair of earrings. The kitchen was messy so I had to do a quick clean-up. The extra leaf for the dining room table wasn't sliding into place as expected. Really nothing catastrophic but enough to send me into a tailspin.

I managed to get to synagogue. Late. Very late. My seat of choice was already occupied as were most seats in the sanctuary. I am usually one of the early arrivers and that is the way I like it. This past week I had to search for a prayer book (thanks Sher) and a seat (thanks Pam) and my reading glasses (still searching). People who expect me in my usual spot, ultimately noticed me while they were gazing around aimlessly, and mouthed the words: "what are you doing way back there?" Damn good question.

But there is always something good that comes out of a bad situation. From my new, much higher vantage point, I could see the entire women's section without visual interference. Since I didn't have my reading glasses I couldn't read along. And since my husband and sons couldn't see me, I had the freedom to mentally wonder off without sensing their disapproval or seeing their hand motions for me to either stop talking or pay attention.

That's when I noticed a young woman on the other side of the floor wearing a white sweater with the letters WTF emblazoned on the chest in about 1000 point type. No, I am not exaggerating. I didn't want to jump to conclusions because I was sans glasses so I asked my friend: "Does that sweater say what I think it says?"

She automatically said no because it was pretty incredible, but at second glance (she is as blind as I am), she changed her mind. "Wow, I think it does."

 Now, I have been known to go out in my pyjamas and without brushing my hair. I could even be accused of wearing socks with flip flops on occasion. But who the heck wears at sweater with the letters WTF the size of a small child, to synagogue? Fearing that I was becoming an old fogy, I had to let it go -- even though I wanted to go to the other side of the sanctuary for a better look.

I went home and forgot all about it until the next morning, when I was back in synagogue and the next weird thing happened.

In the middle of Torah reading, some kid -- about 11 years old -- mozied up onto the bima (or the altar segment of the sanctuary if you aren't Jewish) while someone was reading the Torah and started to play catch with himself against the walls of the cabinet that holds to Torah scrolls. For those who don't see a problem: this is a big no-no. I mean a really big no-no.

Once again, no one reacted. And we have a synagogue where people are known to over react for lots of reasons (most, not good reasons). I had my glasses this time so I knew I could see what was going on, but there wasn't a peep from the otherwise overly vocal crowd. I was sure I was losing my mind.

I moved into a seat near a friend of mine who has five boys and asked her: "Am I the only one who sees a kid playing catch on the bima? Am I the only one who thinks that's a bit odd?"

She stretched for a better look and said: "yeah, but he isn't bothering anyone and I don't recognize him so he is obviously a visitor who doesn't know any better." And that was that. That will teach me to ask someone with five boys -- they apparently need to be in a burning building before they sense trouble.

"Am I being an old fogy?" I asked her. "Yeah," she said and then went back to her prayer book.

And with that, I realized that some weeks it is better to stay home. If you begin Shabbat on the wrong foot, there is no where to go but down ... and apparently you have to go there alone.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Immigrants on the move

When I was a thoughtless teenager, I remember making fun of the car loads of immigrants off on day trips. The families were larger than the number of available seats in their cars but that did not stop them from cramming everyone in and hitting the open road (this was Canada after all). I never said anything out loud but man oh man, was I an effective eye roller.

Well, the chickens have come home to roost and I recently found myself in a similar situation. Granted, we had several cars, but it was Hol Ha'moed Sukkot and since the kids were off school, etc... we headed out with approximately 40 of our immigrant friends on a mini vacation to Ashkelon.

Most of us do not have family in Israel with whom to spend our holidays so over time we have become a family unit of our own. Frankly, I would probably choose to vacation with these people even if we had family nearby -- these people are way more fun and I like them all!

This year, we decided to go south as a show of support for the merchants who had experienced such a difficult summer thanks to the constant missile attacks from Hamas. Plus, the beaches near Ashkelon are excellent, so it was an easy decision.

We stayed in little guest houses (with 5-star hotel prices) at a kosher kibbutz called Ein Tzurim, half way between Ashkelon and Ashdod. We've been there before because they have the largest sukkah we have ever seen and since eating in the sukkah is a big part of the holiday, the World's Largest Sukkah seemed like a good starting place.

The problem was that the WLS was only open for breakfast and that left another one to two meals a day that required comparable sukkah space.

Imagine the mixed reactions of the hostess of a lovely restaurant who was both thrilled and downright distressed when we called to make dinner reservations for 29 in the sukkah our first night in the area. After some intense negotiations she arranged for 18 seats in the sukkah for the men (who have an obligation to eat there) and a few of the women.

We arrived all at once with everyone loudly speaking English, which is comparable to arriving naked in terms of receiving the unwanted attention from other diners.

Once we were all seated (yes, an organizational event in itself), then came time for the ordering-by-family group. No one wants to figure out the bill for 29 people on a full stomach. Trust me, we tried that one year and I personally ended up with a bill for close to 500 shekels for two shwarma.

The second night we were 48 people so we decided to approach the dinner arrangements differently.

First we had to agree on a place to eat. You know the saying "two Jews, three opinions"? Well, multiply that by 12 and I can't even begin to count the number of opinions that resulted. First we had to decide where to eat -- Sderot, Netivot, Ashkelon or Ashdod. Everyone was standing in a loose circle in a corner of the kibbutz, Googling restaurants on their phones and calling to inquire about sukkah availability. Things I now know: never assume that a kosher restaurant has a) a sukkah or b) room for 48 people.

Next, everyone was trying to sell their restaurant recommendation to the group. Who wants a dairy meal? Who wants meat? Who wants a light meal? Who was really hungry? Who was prepared to drive for 40 minutes? Who was prepared to drive 30 minutes? Who was not?

In the end, yes, you probably guessed it, we ended up at the same restaurant as the previous night. The problem was that despite management's insistence that if we were returning we needed to contact them by noon, it was now 7:00 pm and we were driving there without any such warning. I would like to say that they were happy to see us, but they were not.

I would also like to say that I was happy to be there -- but I was not. I don't like meat and the last thing I wanted was two meat dinners in a row. I struck out on my own in search of anything but meat. It was a great plan but it totally failed in the first attempted execution. I resigned myself to returning to the original restaurant.

No sooner had we rearranged all the indoor tables to suit the needs of the women (all the men were squashed into the sukkah) in our group, then my friend Debbie came running in waving a menu from another restaurant. It was dairy. It was nearby. We promptly and noisily departed (for light dairy food). You can imagine how happy the original restaurant was at this point.

Now we were just the women. The new restaurant would not agree to our family billing plan from the previous night. Immigrants or not, we argued with them like real Israelis until we simply exhausted them into submission.

Then there were all the little girls amongst us who could not decided what to eat -- even after they had ordered. Let's just say that there were several order revisions before the waitress finally got our orders to the kitchen, and one revision after that! Order envy is a strong motivator with the under-10 set.

Somehow we all finally ate, paid, tipped and got out of there alive. No small feat.

I don't think I am exaggerating when I say that Ashkelon was glad to see the end of us. And it goes to show that no matter where you are, immigrants receive eye rolls from the locals. They may arrive in more cars and they may have more money to pay for their meals, but at the end of the day, they do things differently and well out of the comfort zone of the locals.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Remind me: What was the Fast for?

I jumped out of bed this morning ready to get on with my day and my life. All that soul cleansing yesterday left me many pounds lighter. I grabbed my cell phone to get a quick overview of what was going on in my neighbourhood and further afield. And that's when I read the bad news in the Jerusalem Post:

According to Iran's Chief of Flowy Bedroom Attire and Perpetual Hair Washing: " Contrary to their foolish aims, the Zionist regime and its supporters are very close to collapse and total extinction." Sheesh, was I pissed. My first thought was "and I wasted all that time yesterday apologizing for a bucket load of sins -- many of which I didn't even understand -- when I should have been living it up in anticipation of the eternal void?"

Now I had no idea how to plan my day. Originally, I had intended to walk the dog, go to Ikea to get a new blind for my pergola, go to the grocery store for more cooking supplies, teach a few English classes, and whip up a few challot before bed. Since we're on the verge of total collapse and extinction that list now sounds a little overly optimistic -- not to mention, totally pointless.

So, here is how I am going to spend my day instead:

  • I am still going to walk my dog -- why should she die without a good bowel movement?
  • Then, I am going to email everyone I know and apologize for any thing I did to offend them in the past. I will be hoping that they forgive me, but frankly, does it matter under the circumstances? (Oh yeah, I sort of did that a few days ago when life looked so promising.... so never mind)
  • I am not going to Ikea -- why leave any additional money in the pockets of anyone from Sweden since yesterday Sweden decided to be the first country to officially stab Israel in the back.?
  • I may still go to the grocery store because my kids are going to be "starving to death" right up until "the end". I guess there is no point in telling them that starving to death is the least of their concerns right now.
  • Then I am going to have a cup of full-caffeine coffee, a Skor bar, an ice cream, a slice of pizza, cream brule, fettuicini alfredo, and any other food item that I love but deny myself on a daily basis for health reasons. 
  • I am going to write a quick note to the two families having weddings this week to tell them that I will not be attending (neither will they, but it is not my place to give them the bad news).
  • I may try to get my 1961 group together to see if they want to move our trip to the Gaza border up by 34 years. I really don't want to leave this world without sticking it to Hamas in the only way I can.
I am sure that more last minute things will strike me as the day wears on so please do not consider this a final list. If you think of anything else, let me know. Many of you will be too busy getting ready for your own end-of-times since you either live in Israel or one of the few countries that officially support Israel on paper.

I actually feel bad for those countries right now. Most of your countries don't like Israel, but up until the Bearded Iranian of the Perpetual Pyjamas announced that the party was over, it has been a wise military/strategic decision to support the only Middle Eastern democracy for thousands of miles. Ironically all your citizens who never liked Israel to begin with are going to die right along side us because the guys they support don't see them as the true friends that they are. 

Maybe some of those anti-Israel/anti-Semites can still get to the airport in time to catch the last plane to one of those delightful countries before it is too late. I am sure they would be happy to have you. That way you can get up every morning until the natural end of your time looking forward to a day of grocery shopping, errands, coffee drinking and the likes without any Zionist entities to ruin your day.

Oh right, did I mention that it will be a hijab-free-day in Iran, before Zionist entity goes anywhere.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

So much for vows

Every fall, for the past six years, I tell myself (and anyone standing near me) that I am no longer making effort with the new batch of people who moved to our neighbourhood the previous summer. I am so committed to my annual announcement that I now have a list of reasons why I am just not going to put myself out there any more:

  • I have more than enough friends who I never see
  • Most new families are too young and have young families
  • They may not stay more than a year so why invest the energy
  • I'm too tired
  • I'm too busy
  • I have to wash my hair 
  • They are (American, British, Australian, etc...) so let their own countrymen take care of them
And every year, I break that vow.  Why?

I don't know. I think it's because I can't help myself. Don't bother suggesting that I am just a nice person at heart because I don't think that is the case. But after much thought I have broken it down into a few reasons:

  1. No matter how hard I try I cannot shake the memories of my early days here and the people who helped me through them -- most of them virtual strangers at the time. For all those ignorant Jews outside of Israel who insist that moving to Ra'anana is no big deal because it is just like any other big western city .... WRONG... It is very difficult. And everything you thought you knew about functioning day-to-day is out the window. Between language, culture, and local idiosyncrasies, you might has well have moved to Mars. Then add the fact that it is September and still hot, really hot, in fact, and you have yourself the makings of a total emotional stew.
  2. I can't help but admire these people -- particularly those who made Aliyah during the war. If there is one thing this summer's war taught me it is that the colour of your political stripe is not so important (I never thought I would see myself type those words.) What is important is that you are here. That is now the dividing line between Jews, for me. I am not talking about every individual case -- some people have good reasons not to be here. However, most do not. Most of the them are full of baloney.
  3. Some of these new people are people I would have wanted to be friends with no matter where or when I met them. Oui, some of them have added a beautiful dimension to my life. The fact that I had to move here to meet them was just a nice touch.
So, on that note, to all the new people who have just arrived, I would like to say thank you for packing up your lives and coming to join us here in Israel. I hope it will be all you thought it would be and I am willing to be bet it will be even better than you ever expected.

I cannot promise that I will meet you all, speak to you all, feed you all, or help you all, but I am thinking about you.

Shana Tova.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Now THIS is a plan

Have you ever received one of those emails that goes around and around on the internet listing all the technological, medical and scientific contributions Israelis have made to the world? Of course you have. Here's one of those lists.  Yes it is from a Christian website (circa 2005), but it illustrates my point. Here's another on that is more recent. If you Google "Israeli contributions to  .... you will find more list.

Every time I get one of those emails, I read it. Many of the items on lists are already well-known Israeli inventions, but in the chance that there might be something new added, I always read to the end. And I am never disappointed that I did.

Today, I was at a 50th birthday party for a good friend when another friend (he told me to refer to him as an acquaintance) casually presented a fabulous idea that addresses real politik and Israeli inventions. I told him it was a fantastic idea and that he should do something about it. He looked at me and said "I am. I am telling you."

That wasn't what I had in mind.I was thinking a little bigger that my blog. But who am I to turn down a breaking story? Since he refuses to promote his own anti-BDS, pro-Israel idea, it falls to moi to do so. Therefore, here, with his express permission, is his great idea: (drum roll)

Israel now, or in the very near future, will (God willing) make enough money from its off-shore oil and gas reserves that the government will be flush with cash. That will probably be a first in the history of the state. Fighting existential wars is very very pricey and keeps Israel comfortably ensconced in the red.

However, once the country's financial fortunes improve, my mystery friend thinks that the government should set up an agency to provide financial exits for any Israeli company, individual or university to sell its most recent remarkable creation. At that point, the remarkable invention will then belong to the State of Israel. Can you see where this is going?

Here's where his plan gets really good (and apologize if I don't get this exactly correct but frankly, he should have written this himself!!!):

The government agency now responsible for making sure the world can benefit from the blood,sweat and tears of Israelis (that's the marketing angle), will send its representatives out in to the mean, mostly anti-Semitic streets of everywhere to sell that newest, greatest, world-changing thing.

Of course every country from here to Timbuktu will want whatever we are offering. However .... here's the catch .... the only way a country, corporation or the like will be able to access a slice of Israeli brilliance is if they first sign a contract that states they are now in a working relationship with the State of Israel, and from this point henceforth, they are forever and ever Israel's greatest friend and supporter and must publicly act as such. (Maybe,since this is Israel, we could add something like "failure to comply will be immediately seen by The Omnipotent God who will, in turn, smite you.)

You want the know-how to save lives?
You want the technology to let paraplegics to walk again?
You want to cure ALS and auto-immune diseases?
You want the newest, fastest Intel chip?

All you have to do is put your John Hancock (or in this case your David Ben-Gurion) on the dotted line and wire the funds.

Of course, there is always another choice: stick with the Muslims and get the newest updates on algebra.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

10 reasons I will never be offered an ambassadorial post

Last night I went to hear the Israeli Ambassador to Canada, Rafael Barak, speak. I really didn't want to go because I knew there was going to be a lot of other speakers who were going to say things that would surely upset me. But my mother really wanted me to join her, so since I am leaving Canada in less than a week, I felt accommodating.

According to the most recent statistics I could find (that's not saying much), there are approximately 1500 Jews in Halifax, a city of approximately 350,000. I did a quick count last night and less than 100 showed up to hear the ambassador speak. So, as you can imagine, when one of the hosts for the evening stood up and said "we stand with Israel", I couldn't help but wonder who "we" were. And then, when he said that "we" are going through a very difficult time right now in the history of the Jewish people, I heard myself say almost out loud: "who is he talking about?' The "we" who are are living in Israel under regular missile attacks from Hamas or the more than 90% of the Halifax Jewish "we" who are so concerned about Israel that they didn't even bother to show up last night.

I told myself that I had to sit quietly in my seat and pay attention, no matter what was said. I promised myself that I would not grimace (tougher than expected), nor roll my eyes (almost impossible) nor stand up and leave (my feet almost betrayed me more than once). In the end I was glad that I stayed.

The ambassador spoke beautifully and appropriately. I am not going to review his remarks; if you want to read them, call the embassy and ask for a copy. What I will say is that he was a true diplomat at heart. I really don't know how he does it and here are 10 reasons why I could never do his job, which is unfortunate because on paper it looks really interesting.

10. Let's get all the obvious stuff out of the way first. I do not speak four languages fluently. (I don't even speak two languages fluently -- although my Hebrew wins the admiration of 3-year olds all over my neighbourhood). Second, I have not taken the foreign service exams nor done all the jobs required to climb the foreign service ladder.

9. I would never be able to stand in front of such a small audience and make them feel good about their almost non-existent commitment to Israel. (Yes, as always there are a few who do a lot and almost everyone else does absolutely nothing). I would have been guilting them anyway I could.

8. I could never keep a straight face while I talked about how good a friend Canada is to Israel. I know this ambassadorial post is considered prestigious, I just can't figure out why. Yes, the prime minister is a huge supporter of Israel (thank heavens) but the Canadian people ... ah, I don't think so. I guess the ambassador doesn't read all the comments following pro-Israel articles in Canadian newspapers.

7. How he made 88 people feel like 880 people is beyond me.

6. He managed to smile and nod politely through a performance of Hava Nagila -- a song I have not heard sung even once since I moved to Israel. I could have sworn I was at an NHL hockey game -- Hava Nagila gets a lot of play time during hockey games. Who picked the song list? So many good choices were available and not one of them made the final list.

5. I don't have the generic "diplomat face" thing under control -- and I doubt I could ever learn it. He did not roll his eyes even once while the other speakers tried to discuss how "we" are all in this Gaza war together and "we" are all experiencing this difficult time. The self control of a saint, I tell you.

4. He also displayed remarkable self control while speaking to a reporter on the 5:00 TV news prior to the stimulating program I attended. Of course, since approximately 15% of the local population is now Muslim, it might have been his survival instincts shifting into action.

3. He stayed around for a few minutes afterwards and let many people practice their Hebrew on him. In all fairness, if they had tried that on me, it would have been a wasted effort.

2. He let me squeeze in next to him and take a selfie of us for my friends at home. And then he said: "Oh, a selfie" as if he takes them daily.

1. He seemed like a very charming and genuinely nice man. He's wrangled with the PA and the EEU, and yet, he still had the energy to tolerate last night.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Out of Israel

I have now been out of Israel for one week now. One very, very, very long week feeling totally disconnected from my life at such critical juncture in time.

I've been thinking about it a lot as I watch the local and national Canadian news; as I shop in stores where people don't even know where Israel is. As I go through daily routines without meaning.

It really hit me this morning as I sat in synagogue -- not my synagogue for sure. Approximately 60 people (compared to the approximately 500 I am used to spending my Shabbat with) were there and when the rabbi got up to give his morning sermon I suddenly realized the extent of the disconnect between my life and that of the Jews where I am right now. The rabbi, a very obvious Israeli export, was discussing this week's Torah portion in relation to the current situation. He talked about being a soldier in the IDF from a personal perspective and then he talked about the current Israel-Gaza war vis-a-vis the congregation.

It was a great sermon. But when I scanned the sanctuary I am pretty sure that almost no one was listening. He might as well have been speaking to a wall. Actually he was; a human wall.

Next the rabbi talked about how local Jews should deal with all the hatred swirling around them right now. He acknowledged the population imbalance -- the fact that 15% of the local population is Muslim while only .8% is Jewish - and how disconcerting that must be. (Gee, that must be sooo difficult.) He suggested that they take the opportunity to speak casually and non-confrontationally to the non-Jews with whom they interact everyday. It was a completely natural way to present the Israeli position and hopefully it would be food for thought for the odd person. Seemed like a plan to me.

Yet not an ounce of acknowledgement came from the crowd. No one nodded in agreement. No one turned to their neighbour to discuss it. (When there are only 60 people in a sanctuary that easily holds 500, it is easy to see who is doing what.) I have seen more activity in a graveyard.... on a day when no one was visiting. In our synagogue in Ra'anana we have more conversation than that during the silent meditation prayer.

I left the synagogue feeling really down and very alone.

Hours later, when I turned my computer on after Shabbat, there was an email from one of my friends in Ra'anana about how all the boys from our community who spent the past few weeks in Gaza, were all home and in shul -- and how wonderful it was. I was so envious that I was not there, I could have screamed.  I wanted to see them too. I wanted to say thank you and tell them how glad I was that they were all okay. I wanted to be part of something that really mattered.

Then it dawned on me that none of that morning's congregants were capable of presenting the Israeli position because not one of them actually understands what Israel's position is. And therein lies the disconnect. If there is one thing that Israelis do not suffer from, it is surely a lack of opinions on this (and any other Israel-related situation) and the reason why, sooner or later, there will be very little Jewish life out of Israel.

I really have to get home.

Friday, August 1, 2014

The Israeli war

I am old enough now to have watched my fair share of wars on television. I don't have a very clear recollection of Vietnam, but I have some TV-visual memories of all the big blow-ups since then. Unfortunately there have been many of them. Too many. But the one thing I am pretty sure of is that no country conducts its wars like the State of Israel and its governing overlords -- regular Israeli citizens (you thought I was going to say the USA didn't you?).

In the past day the army has issued several requests through television and radio news bulletins requesting civilians (they would say "demanded" but that would surely have the opposite effect) to stop visiting the military zone. Personally I don't even know exactly where that is, but apparently I am part of a very small minority, hence the problem.

The fact that the army has had to re-issue this statement several times tells you how effective they are at getting their message across to regular Israeli citizens. Civilians here seem to think it is their G-d given right to be on the physical edge of a major war, way too close to Gaza, giving encouragement to the soldiers.

The whole idea of supporting the soldiers cannot be argued. I am not even going to state the obvious. Every Israeli, with very few exceptions, is personally invested in this war. Our sons are fighting in Gaza; our countrymen in the South live in constant fear and danger; our very existence is being threatened. It is our war in every possible way. The most recent Israeli polls show that approval ratings for the war effort are at least 90%. Those are the kind of numbers any politician would kill to get.

That does not mean, however, that we should be dropping by the war zone. The last thing Benny Gantz needs right now is visiting delegations of ..... everyone.

The problem is that doing just that has become the norm. "Going to ______ (fill in the blank with your preferred dangerous location)" has become a daily activity for many people. No one even blinks if you tell them you were there that day. I think I am one of the few people I know who has not been near or at a Staging Area since the war began. Of course, if my son was in Gaza right now, you can rest assured I would be right in there with all the other worried Israeli parents and yes, not even the General Chief of Staff would be able to stop me.

I doubt that the Israeli mind understands this, but one can actually be effective outside the official military zone. Apparently the public request for underwear was so well received by the Israeli and non-Israeli Jewish public that the soldiers now have enough pairs of clean undies to last them five years. The same probably holds true for toiletries as well. And I will not even begin to discuss the food.

All of this is what makes this country wonderful. And all of this is giving the army an extra headache.

Here's a snippet of a discussion that took place in my house last night:

Person X (so no one has to deny this conversation later): "I just got a call from D. that the army doesn't want you to drive down to the Staging Area tomorrow. You are going to be in the way. The army cannot do its job if you are in the way."

Person Y (same logic as above): "I didn't hear that."

Person X: "Well, it was on the news more than once today."

Person Y: "I don't believe it. I just spoke to O (a reserved soldier at the border) and he doesn't think it is a problem."

Person X: "Did you speak to Benny Gantz?"

Person Y: "No, but O said it was fine."

Person X: "The army doesn't want you there. What isn't clear about that?"

Person Y: "A and D still want to go so I'm still going. Worst case scenario, you won't need so much fish for dinner tonight."

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

It's just an eye

We just got back from visiting injured soldiers at Bellinson Hospital in Petach Tikva. As usual, when my husband suggested it, I was nervous to go. I am not good with the unknown. What would I say to them? Did they want to talk to a total stranger -- particularly one who's Hebrew leaves more than a little to be desired.

Now that I am back, I can honestly say that I have never been so moved in years -- maybe not in my whole life. Nothing sticks out in my mind as being as important and memorable as the last two hours.

There were parents and friends everywhere, with the patients and milling around in small groups outside the soldiers rooms. At first glimpse it was more like the Food Court in the mall on Friday afternoon than a hospital. There were wall-to-wall people all holding food. There were friends bringing in pizzas and burgers. There were mothers with home-baked goodies. There were abandoned salads sitting on ledges.

It struck me, not for the first time, that Jews really do not know how to cope -- good or bad -- without food.

The first patient we visited happened to be our neighbour. We didn't know he was injured but I must say it made for a softer landing  into the labyrinth they call a hospital. Not to digress but Voldemort would never have found Harry Potter in the maze that is Bellinson. Okay, back on point, our neighbour is going to be fine.

Next we ventured out into the hallways, popping by rooms to visit other soldiers -- the non-English speakers. Every one of them greeted us with a smile and happily engaged, to the best of his ability, in conversation. Their parents and friends couldn't thank us enough for coming, but in truth, it is us who were (and should be) thanking them. When you say that -- particularly to their parents -- they hug you. It means so much to them that you truly understand what their child has given to keep you safe.

And then there was the guy who lost his left eye. He was surrounded by friends while his parents and sister were outside the room. His head is shaved on one side and you could see a very long scar that now traverses a significant section of his skull. The doctor who saved his life is a friend of mine. He told us that the difference between life and death in many of these cases is less than a half a centimeter. I almost fainted right then and there, but all I could think was "who am I to be falling apart on you?"

"It's just an eye," I said to my doctor friend, after we left the room. No, I would never say that to the kid who lost his eye -- he didn't look like he was feeling that way at all. His parents did. His sister did. His girlfriend did. But that observation really summed up our visit.

I wasn't being flippant. I was being a parent. A pragmatic parent.

It isn't that his eye doesn't matter -- it does. But, as any adult can tell you, life can go on pretty fully without an eye. You can still read the words on your ketuba. You can still have children and watch them grow up. You can still read to your children and to yourself. You can still admire your partner.

As my own son gets closer and closer to his induction date in March, I find myself having these crazy thoughts. "Well, you don't really need two (fill in any body part that comes in a pair)," I rationalize this sort of logic in the middle of the night. What the hell has happened to me? When did I start thinking like this?

I brought my children into the world with all their parts -- all working. I ran to the doctor countless times when they were small just to make sure that all their parts continued to work. And here I am looking at other mothers' sons so relieved that they have some working parts. "At least they are alive," I hear my subconscious whisper and I really mean it.

So there's the truth: I am just thankful that these boys are still alive. In Israel people understand these things. Girlfriends don't leave you because a little physical piece is now missing. Yes, it is just an eye, or just a leg, and just an arm. They are not the most important things that comprise a person.

These regular, yet remarkable boys, have served their country with great bravery. May they all go on to live very full lives knowing that their countrymen are safer because of what they sacrificed. I am honoured to have met them.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Moment of reckoning

So here we are. Exactly where we knew we would end up even though many of us had convinced ourselves otherwise. We knew the ceasefire wasn't a real ceasefire -- even before Hamas sent its first round of Enjoy-the-Ceasefire rockets within an hour of its commencement. They weren't consulted (yeah right) so they weren't playing.

We citizens of central Israel, meanwhile, have become very adept at integrating warning sirens into our day:

  • We pick our grocery stores according to the best shelter arrangements by location (it's all word-of-mouth and is based on size, friendliness of store staff, toilet arrangements); 
  • We decide when the best time of day to shower is so that we don't end up wet and running to the shelter in a towel; I know some teenagers who have this all figured out. I'm too old to care about getting caught in public in my towel.
  • We get really peeved when the sirens go off when we are watching a good movie while riding the stationary bike at the gym; Ten minutes to get to the shelter, wait out the boom, and get back to the gym really disrupts the story line of a TV movie.
  • We try to figure out if it is worth the drive to Tel Aviv to see a dance performance at 7:00 pm because that is another popular bombing time; I mean who wants to get dressed up just so you can pull over on the side of the highway, jump out of the car and lie on the pavement in your good clothes?
  • We wonder if we need to wear pajamas in case we have to jump out of bed in the middle of the night for another shelter rendezvous. Okay, towels are one thing but nudity is a totally different story.
  • And when the guy painting your house mentions that his son is one of the Iron Dome soldiers you want to kiss him and thank him for contributing his sperm to such a worthwhile project.

The problem is that very few of us olim really considered the implications of Hamas being so irrationally suicidal that the Israeli government might actually have no choice but to introduce a ground war. Don't bother saying you knew it was coming -- I am out there everyday with the rest of you and I can tell you that there was a lot of sidewalk discussion about soldiers sitting around twiddling their thumbs. Truth be told, we didn't mind.

And then it happened. 

I know I wasn't the only one refreshing Google News for the millionth time yesterday when the news bulletin popped up. I felt like I had just hit a brick wall going 90 miles an hour. Somehow you can feel total panic and numbness at the same time. And then as the numbness starts to subside, fear begins to fill the void almost instantly. Nature really does abhor a vacuum.

Then as you try to regain any inkling of clear, rational thought, you start to remember everyone you spoke to the previous week who mentioned that their son was sitting near the border with Gaza awaiting instructions. 

All of a sudden the war is real. All of a sudden you are scared -- not for yourself, but for the implications for all of us. All of a sudden your clever mental adjustments for sirens fall away and if you are me, you start to cry. I am not a big crier, but it just overcame me. I couldn't help it and I couldn't stop it.

So as we go into Shabbat -- July 18, 2014 -- I wish all of Israel quiet. I wish all the members of Hamas to be swooped up in the Islamic version of The Rapture so they can all go straight to their 72 virgins and I can go back to my otherwise wonderful life here. I really do not want to lie on the ground in my good clothes.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

I am past my super-saturation point

I am just not built to keep my thoughts to myself. I can't help it. When people say things that really upset me, I try as hard as I can to stay quiet. I really do. Generally, I am successful but once in a while, when emotions are running high due to circumstances beyond my control, I just bubble over and explode. I am at that super-saturation point now.

First, before I get to what is bothering me, I would like to thank all my friends and family who have written to inquire about our well-being over this past week. That was very nice of you and I appreciate it. I would also like to thank my mother who has called me more in the past week than she has the past year.

Now for the people that I would like to disappear off the face of the Earth. In no particular order because I think you are all ignorant, misinformed and deluded individuals.

1. Those armchair Israel supporters outside of Israel who say the most ridiculous things -- all the while trying to sound like they either know what they are talking about or act like they are really concerned about what is happening here. Stop giving me and everyone I know "likes" on Facebook when we post about the war. And for heaven's sake, stop posting your own crap concerning a ground invasion into Gaza. Did the IDF ask for your input? I didn't think so. So stop giving it.

I can't say too much because I don't want to start my own personal Holy War, but I will say this. If one more person who supports Israel, from outside the borders of the State, insists on posting their opinion on a social media site that I follow concerning what the IDF should do, I am going to get on a plane and come throttle you.  I ran an ad hoc survey in synagogue last night and everyone agrees with me (lefties and righties) that if you continue to do so, they would be happy to join me. Trust me, it will go a lot faster if I have help.

If you do not have a horse in the race, then just shut up and be supportive. We are not interested in your opinions or your "likes". Your input is cavalier and you pride yourselves without cause. It's not your sons, sons' friends, friends' sons, etc... whose lives are at risk. You have no right to say anything. If you actually want to do something useful, write a letter to your government officials telling them how they can influence the situation (they won't, but you will feel better and I won't be so upset with you). Better still, go collect money and toys for people in the southern communities of Israel who are too busy running to their bomb shelters to write any letters. There are definitely ways you can be helpful; lots of them. Giving your thoughts on military strategy is not one of them.

Now in the name of balanced commenting, one of my friends suggested that when Jews outside of Israel give money to Israeli causes they fully expect to be able to give their accompanying opinions.  Let me just nip that whole idea in the bud; stop expecting something in return for your money – it compromises the quality your generosity. And if you can't give money without giving opinions, then keep your money. We don't need it. There is no comparison between the importance of your donation and the value of our children.

2. The western media – take a look at a few of the most recent doozers. Breibart.com and BusinessWeek. Essentially what both articles say is that Israel has an unfair advantage over the so-called Palestinians (SCP) because we have the Iron Dome. And we are losing the battle for international support because of it. First of all, FYI, we don't care. We aren't in the battle to begin with. And second, what would you expect your government to do if you were being attacked constantly by a bunch of madmen? If the government has to call everyone it knows in far flung locations before it makes a move, we will be suitably dead and then we will surely gain heaps of international praise.

I really could say more but if that doesn't say it all, I don't know what will. If being the only democracy within at least a thousand mile radius doesn't give Israel credibility, nothing will. The only kind of Jews the world likes are dead Jews. I have said that before and if necessary I will say it again. If you don't believe me just check The New York Times, the Grand Pooba of anti-Israel bias in the guise of a respectable newspaper  with fair reporting. I just can't wait until all the radical Muslims move into your neighbourhoods and want to impose Sharia Law on you or want to wipe you off the face of the Earth. I'm not joking. I can't wait.

3. The rude woman in Sobeys grocery store in Thornhill, Ontario, who, six years ago, interrupted my conversation to say: "I overheard you say you live in Ra'anana. chatter.... chatter.... chattter....Well, Ra'anana isn't really Israel." Rude lady, whoever the hell you were, I am sitting here now while my totally Israeli son is on his way back to his totally Israeli yeshiva in the West Bank (at 11:00 pm Saturday night) and I am stress eating my totally Israeli popcorn that I bought in my totally Israeli grocery store, so you can bite me.

Now I feel much better.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

What next? Strangling newborns?

Never, in a million years, did I think I would be writing this post.

In my wildest nightmares, I have never -- not for even a split second -- imagined that there were Jews who could murder innocent children in cold blood. My first reaction when I heard that 16-year-old Abu Khdeir had been murdered by Jews was that it must have been a mistake that would soon be uncovered; that in fact, it was some Arabs who wanted to make it look like Jews had done it. But frankly, I was sure that within a few days the Israel Police would expose the TRUTH. I really believed that. I even voiced that sentiment out loud in the past few days, since this second, horrific crime took place. My personal conviction was that Jews simply don't behave that way; they aren't wired that way!

Apparently I am as misguided as my long-dead paternal grandmother who believed that there was no need for jails in Israel (this was in the 1970s) because Jews didn't commit crimes. When she said that, 30 odd years ago, I thought it sounded suspicious and I chalked it up to her inflated, idealistic Russian-Polish-Jewish view of The Land of Milk and Honey.

Now I am forced to admit that I am as dupe-able as she was.

The problem is that I don't think I am alone. I have spoken to several people who are just walking around gobsmacked. They were barely coming to terms with the deaths of the three kidnapped boys when they were suddenly faced with reconciling themselves with the news that six Jewish young men (I use the term "men" loosely) decided they would take a national crisis in hand and personally mete out justice to the Arab population. They believed themselves to be sufficiently qualified to make decisions on who deserves to live and who deserves to die. Of course, they didn't have the guts to go after the real Hamas culprits; no, they went and picked on two innocent children who were younger and weaker than they were -- one was luckier than the other. Very impressive.

And in doing so, they have managed to kick an already precarious tinderbox off its shaky legs. Wow, I can't imagine what kind of egos were at work whereby they decided they were suitably qualified to guide Middle East detente. The truth, as well know now, is that they didn't decide anything -- they weren't smart enough. They behaved with animal instincts, which is exactly what animals do. Just a bunch of pathetic yahoos out to appease their basest instincts.

The most recent news report I read, I think in the London Telegraph, says that Israeli authorities have stated that they are going to send the whole evil crew off for psychological testing.

What for? They are seriously disturbed human beings with limitless delusions of grandeur (sheesh, I can diagnose them from here and I only took Intro to Psych). The only way to communicate with the likes of them -- and any other total idiots considering a repeat performance -- is to treat them exactly as Israelis expect the police to treat the Hamas scum who killed the teenage Israeli hitch-hikers the week before.

They are all rabid animals. And they all deserve to be put down like rabid animals.

I am ashamed to be a member of the same tribe.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

The mourning after

Judaism, for those who observe it, comes with a very clear set of rules of how to mourn the loss of a family member. Seven days of shiva, 30 days of the shlosim and a year of avelut. Each has its own set of restrictions and behaviours that, in their own way, bring great comfort to the mourners.

But what does one do when the mourning is not for a family member, yet not a stranger either? This is the situation in which many Israelis find themselves right now.

We are not the immediate families of the three kidnapped boys who were discovered dead outside Hevron last week. But we are also far, far, far from being complete strangers. Many of us feel like they were the next best thing to our own sons and the situation in which they found themselves could have been the horrifying situation in which any one of us might have found ourselves. Emotionally, it hit waaaaaayyyyyyyy to close to home even though we never met them. We all have children, friends, or friends of friends, who did.

We can't help ourselves when we read every last morsel of news that might shed some clarifying light on the situation. It's not because we are voyeurs but rather because we are trying to understand how something like this could happen. Many of us have cried ourselves dry of tears with each new piece of information.

Even the Jews outside of Israel, who were originally saddened by the turn of  events, have gone back to their routines. You can't blame them. It wasn't their loss. But it was ours.

Personally, I feel uncomfortable about getting back to my blog routine. Normally -- when innocent Israeli blood isn't being shed -- I have more than enough happy and funny content to fill these pages at least once a week. Life here never ceases to amaze me.

This past week, as we all continued to do our best to be happy at the simchas we attended and with the guests around our Shabbat tables, the conversation was never more than 30 seconds away from the boys and the predicament in which we, Israeli Jews, find ourselves right now.

It's not like we can discuss it with others outside our little world. As I said last week, no one really cares or cares to understand.

This past Shabbat I bumped into the daughter-in-law of my neighbours. She, her husband and their very cute little baby live in the Arab quarter of the Old City -- a risky and idealistic venture at the best of times. The riots of the past week have left them homeless. They went out for a quick dinner with the baby (thank heavens) and literally could not get back to their home -- at least not alive. So here they are, stuck in Middle Israel, with the clothes on their backs, a roof over their heads, and not much else.

It's really not time to stop mourning yet.

Monday, June 30, 2014

I have never felt so sad, so helpless or so angry

Rule number one in public communications: do not speak when you are in a heightened emotional state. Rule number two: plan your words and speak carefully. Rule number three: do not attack your opponents; try to see the world from their perspective.

Rule number four: SCREW THE RULES

Rules are for civilized people dealing with other civilized people. What good are the rules when you are dealing with the lowest scum of the Earth?

You lefties have a problem with that? Bring it on. I am so, so ready for you.

The worst possible thing has just happened. The IDF has found the bodies of the three, young, innocent, sweet kidnapped, Israeli yeshiva boys on the outskirts of Hevron.

I heard the rumour first from my daughter and I ran to my computer. There was no news and I was hoping she was wrong. She's 14; what could she know? She, in the meantime, called my son in Eli and apparently he confirmed our worst nightmare.

This is all before one word hit the internet.

I just checked again – NOW that the boys are dead, the media has a story. NOW Newsweek, HuffPost, USA Today, and all the other media cretins will be coming out of the woodwork with their angle on this tragedy. NOW this is interesting.

The bottom line is that Jews are only interesting to the world when they are dead. No one likes a living Jew – at least not enough to take any interest in what is happening to some young, innocent boys who's biggest crime was ..... um, nothing. Three teenage boys trying to get home for Shabbat are kidnapped by an enemy that the world insists we let live in the only real safe place we Jews have. Nothing interesting there.

But now, take the Arabs – they are interesting all the time. The Arabs say something and the world takes notice. Those poor, poor Palestinians. Those poor, unfortunate Syrians. The Sunnis said this about the Alawites. The Shiites did such and such to the Sunnis. Did you ever stop to consider that all these Arabs are the authors of their own misery? Of course not, because that's not the story the world wants to hear. It only becomes a story  when it involves Israel because the world is comfortable believing that Israelis are the bad guys keeping the Arabs down. If it wasn't for Israel, according to the world, everything in the Middle East would be great. All the Arabs would live in peace and harmony. 

The fact is that the only ones keeping the Arabs down are the Arabs. They let madman, lunatics and scumbags run their lives and they get what they deserve. Unfortunately, we Israelis also get caught in the crossfire and we don't deserve to be part of their sub-human game.

So world, I really hope you are happy tonight. Years and years of enabling the Arabs, by joining their boycotts of Israel, by financing their made-up causes, by buying into their stories of victimization, and by justifying their barbaric behaviour, are finally paying a sweet, little dividend. May you all go to bed with the blood of these boys on your hands tonight. It belongs there. And in my heart of hearts, I hope the stain never leaves you.

It will never leave Israel and it will surely never leave the three families who have suffered this incomprehensible personal loss. Baruch Dayan Ha'Emet. May these families never know more sorrow.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Bring Back Our Boys

Bring Back Our Boys

You must watch this and if it doesn't effect you then you can click on something else and get on with your day. But, if does have some effect then share it with everyone you know.

God Willing, if we all work together, we will have our prayers answered and Gil-ad, Eyal and Naftali will be home safely very, very soon.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

And life goes on ... sort of

Now I know what surreal means. I used to use the example of purple spaghetti when my kids asked me what it meant after an art gallery visit. That might have satisfied their little minds years ago but now I understand it on a deeper level and I think they should too.

Surreal is when life goes on -- we go to work, we walk our dogs, we eat, we go to synagogue, we meet friends for coffee, we exercise -- seemingly as always, but underneath the surface appearances, something has profoundly changed. Something is not as it should be.

This past week, I participated in the bar mitzvah celebrations of one of my 7th grade English students. At this stage, more often than not, when I am at a bar mitzvah, I am there because the parents are my friends and not because I know and like the bar mitzvah boy. This past weekend I was there because I am invested in this kid's life and I was proud of him. I really enjoyed throwing whatever candies I hadn't already eaten while I was waiting for the candy-throwing moment, at him, and I was really caught up in the festive atmosphere that typically follows when every little kid in the synagogue runs after those candies with wild abandon. I have seen my dog maintain more self-control when confronted with treats!!!!

Then, just like that, my head sent out a quick reminder that there are three innocent boys who could not have participated in a celebration like this even if they wanted to. 

Good-bye joy. I forced myself to sit a little longer but then I decided to leave. (full disclosure: I frequently leave early so I didn't make a huge departure from my routine.)

As I left I was trying to figure out if I was the only person thinking this way. The sun was out, the weather was beautiful, it was Shabbat and people were chatting on street corners. By the time I arrived at my friend's house a few minutes later, I had my answer: the fate of these boys was on all my religious friends' minds. No matter what we all talked about for the next hour, all conversation doubled back to the boys and every piece of news and speculation we have collectively read in the past nine days. "I heard ..."; "I read ..."; "So and so told me .....".

This morning, as I walked my dog, I started to wonder if perhaps it was only religious people who were worried about the boys. After all the boys are religious and in Israel, many issues divide along religious and secular lines. And I am sure that hitchhiking in the Territories is one of them. So, since I like to view this as a statistically valid blog, I ran an  ad hoc interview with the secular woman who irons my family's shirts. She was born and raised here. I am not sure that a survey of one is a valid sample size, but I do have a life to live so that's my sample size!

She explained to me in Hebrew (because she does not speak any English) that everyone is concerned and everyone runs to hear the news at the top of the hour to see if there has been any progress made finding the psychopaths who took the three innocent boys. But, she said, this is the cycle of life in Israel, and we cannot stop living just because there has been a tragedy. Then she said, if we did (stop living for tragedies) there would be years where nothing productive was done.

Of course, if I am being totally realistic, I have religious friends who are very left-wing and I am sure that right now they are seething inside -- dying to scream out: "It's their (the boys) own fault for being out there and they are getting what they deserve." I am sure that they are all letting out their true feelings when they meet up with other anti-Israel Israelis living in Israel (don't ever say we don't have all types in this democracy) for reasons that I don't really understand. However, they are demonstrating impressive survival skills -- keeping their thoughts to themselves for the time being.

So life goes on. Tonight I am going to a wedding. I am sure it will be fun and I love seeing young happy couples beginning their lives together. But at some point, I know I am going to step back and think that this is a real-time example of my surrealistic world.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

From laughter to anxiety in a split second

I had planned to write about my humourous trip home from New York on El Al with a middle-aged American dancer, a sheltered Haredi woman straight out of Muncie and moi, but thanks to the obstinate indifference to (Jewish) human life displayed by Hamas and Co., I am now forced to reconsider my original plan.

How the hell am I supposed to talk about the peculiarities of our ad hoc travelling trio under the circumstances? I had such a funny story planned. So now, I am more pissed at Hamas than I was when I heard that they had actually followed through on their long-standing promise to kidnap more Israelis.

Actually, I don't think that pissed off was what I felt at the moment I heard about the three teenage boys -- civilians -- captured while innocently hitch hiking home for Shabbat. I think it could be more accurately described as traumatized and worried sick about those boys and their families.

This incident has hit way too close to home. I also have a 16-year-old son and an 18-year-old son who .... hitchhikes from the Territories. He swears that he only gets rides from within the yeshuv (settlement) where he studies and then, once inside the Green Line, only from the official hitchhiking spot. Right now, I really don't see the difference. I want him to stop hitchhiking and he says it will take him hours to get home if he does not. Yes, I told him, it might take hours, but at least he would get here. I honestly thought he would agree with me but instead he said: "first of all, Ema (mom) things happen on buses too and second, how can we let "them" win? If we stop living our lives, then they automatically do."

The silence on my end was deafening.

In theory I agree with his points. The problem, particularly in the case of the second point, is that I agree ... IN THEORY.  IN PRACTICE, I am not feeling so bold and cavalier right now. I am not talking in abstract concepts. I am talking about my son. You know, one of the people in any of our lives for whom a parent would throw themself in front of a bus without an ounce of hesitation?

I do, however, have a question for Abbas and Mashal -- or whoever is in charge in that madhouse. If you want your own country and you want the world to take you seriously as a potential country, then why do you continue to let the inmates run the prison? Or should I say the clowns run the circus? Or the wild animals run the zoo? Why don't you focus on building up your people and your infrastructure instead of constantly looking over the border at us?

Sadly, the answer doesn't really matter because we all know that no matter what the so-called Palestinians (SCP) do, the world is going to line up behind them and suppport their demands. They are going to argue that Israel is responsible for the tragedy it is experiencing yet again.

Yes, a few countries will register a diplomatic slap on the hand, but that's about it.

By the way, where's the Pope who was busy praying at the security wall just a few weeks ago? Was he only praying for the SCP children?

For fuck's sake, they are only boys.

The fact is that the SCP never have to grow up and learn how to behave like civilized people because absolutey no one on Earth (but Israel) demands that of them. The more barbaric they behave, the more likely they are to have their demands met. The western world seems to think it is better to humour them than to challenge them to act like human beings.

It makes me shake my head in utter bewilderment at how entrenched anti-Israel sentiment/anti-Semetism are in the world. I honestly don't get it.

So maybe you do have to keep hitch hiking to defend your sovereignty.

Too bad, my plane story was really good.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

For once can we just call a spade a spade?

I was sitting in front of my computer yesterday, waiting for an email, when all of a sudden I heard the heavy bass of traditional chassidic music shaking my house. I looked at my watch and remembered that at 6:00 pm the local religious elementary school was holding a Hachnasas Sefer Torah ceremony, moving a brand new set of Torah scrolls into a synagogue -- or in this case, their school. Since the scrolls were donated by the mother of a fifth grade teacher, there were kids everywhere. The ceremony included street dancing from a nearby synagogue where the scrolls were completed, to the school. Fortunately for me, my house is located along the route. So, I ran outside to be an active bystander.

There were a few police officers on motorcycles -- one at the front and one at the back -- clearing the way for the happy students, their parents, siblings, their teachers and the odd grandparent. All the kids were waving large Israeli flags and in the middle of the crowd was a van sporting gigantic speakers that were pumping out that addictive music. It's impossible to ignore chassidic music because it just begs you to get up and dance.

As I was standing there waving to the kids I knew, saying a few words to their parents, it dawned on me -- not for the first time, but for the first time in a while -- why I live here. And then it also occurred to me that I can't for the life of me figure out how a real religious Zionist could bear to live outside of Israel.

So now you are wondering who died and left me in charge of making that call? Fair question.

The answer is that if you are asking the question you are obviously feeling uncomfortable with your present circumstances. No one left me in charge. No one needed to. Every parent who walked past me said pretty much the same thing. Maybe a little tamer, but that's not my style.

What it came down to is: it's moments like this that confirm the soundness of our decision to live here, and it's moments like this that justify every misgiving or moment of angst we have experienced since we arrived. Did we make the right choice? Absolutely. Are we always clear about that? Not so much.

I didn't say it was easy. I said it was right.

And what I am saying now is that there is no way you can have the Israel experience outside of Israel. You can  visit. You can visit a lot. You can walk in the depressing Yom Ha'Atzmaut parades in your own city. You can go to the Israel rallies. You can wave your mini-Israeli flags. You can throw around hebrew words and phrases here and there. You can attend the events for every Israeli speaker who visits your city.

But you will never really get "it" until your children go to school here; until the first time you have to buy a "klasser" for your child and you have no idea what it is; until you realize that everyone goes to synagogue in sandals; until you let your young-ish kids walk to and from  neighbourhood friends alone even after the sun sets; until you understand that Mo-ed Alef is just the first kick at the cat; until your sixth grade son is proud to wear his father's army greens on Yom HaZikaron and can't wait until he gets his own; until you hear the morning radio hosts on every channel saying Chag Sameach because it is Yom Yershalayim; until you feel safer when you see an 18-year-old in or out of uniform carrying an M16; and until you dance down the street as part of a Hachnasas Sefer Torah ceremony and your insides are just bursting with pride and happiness because you are doing it in Israel.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Hello Pope: Tips for visiting the Holy Land

I have a long personal history with Catholicism. Not in a participatory sense, but rather as a vistor. My maternal grandparents lived four houses away from the local Catholic rectory -- just far enough that by the time I reached the rectory on my Sunday afternoon bike rides from my grandparents' house, I was suitably hungry and often dropped in for afternoon tea. I was six and they were already boiling the kettle, so why not? As I saw it then, it was a win-win: cookies and tea for me and the opportunity to have some quality kid time for a bunch of guys who were chronically childless.

I am pretty sure they knew who I was and that I was Jewish, but cookies and tea superseded any religious barriers that might have arisen between us. No one at home ever told me I couldn't go there and no one at the rectory ever said I couldn't come in. At the time, I can say with all honesty that I was a big fan of the Catholic Church.

Unfortunately, 46 years later, I am no longer a fan of the Catholic Church. Most days I am simply indifferent and that is good enough. But I have to say that Pope Francis is testing my resolve. From the day he was elected Pope and then promptly hopped in a cab to go back to his hotel to pay his bill and pick up his belongings, I have liked him. That's why I want to speak up now before he makes any irrevocable faux pas during his Middle East visit.

  • According to the Vatican envoy to Jerusalem, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is Christianity's most important site. That's great. Now don't go back stepping when the Arabs try to convince you that Bethlehem and Nazareth are equally important. Why? Because they are only saying that so that they can use your comments against Israel at some point in the future. You are a pawn in their dirty game.
  • It's very nice that all the different Catholic sub-denominations agreed to meet with you in the CHS, but once again, don't get too excited because they all don't like you either and they too, just want to show a unified face so that later they can tell the world media how Israel is keeping them from actualizing their Catholicism in Palestine (read: Jerusalem) or some other cockamemie thing. 
  • Although it is a big deal that the Lebanese Maronite Bishop Bashara al-Rahi is flying in to party with you -- the first Lebanese patriarch to do so since 1948 -- trust me, he is going home to a likely hail storm of bullets for daring to step foot in Israel to do anything but kill Israelis. And what if, heaven forbid, everything goes really well? What are the Israel-hating Lebanese going to do then? Oh yeah, he's not long for this world.
  • Don't start up with this State of Palestine business. There is no State of Palestine. Leave the rhetoric and dialetic to the politicians. 
  • Inviting a Muslim and a Jew to Rome to pray with you? Are you expecting them to kneel as well? Trust me, you are headed down a rocky road. If they comply then that's not saying much for how either man perceives his own religion and if they don't, my guess is that Catholics worldwide will be offended. This is a no-win situation.
  • And for heaven's sake, will you please get in that damn PopeMobile. You are giving Israel's enemies a potential gift from Heaven. Think about it. If they can shoot you in Israel then they can spin that into a story that Israel hates Catholics or that the security was lax because you aren't important. Do not play into their hands -- they have no civilized limits. Not only are you screwing up traffic even more than the average dignitary, but already the Israeli Christians are saying that Israel is trying to deny their rights by removing their chance to be close to you. It doesn't take much to start a brouhaha here.
Israel may not be experiencing its best period with its Christian minority, but at least they are still alive, unlike in Syria. Islamic extremism is a way bigger problem for them but they are surely not going to miss the opportunity, when the world is watching, to play it up.

So Pope, welcome to Israel. Don't be naive. You are playing with the Mean Boys now -- and there aren't enough cookies on Earth for them to just drop by and enjoy the day.