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.