Monday, March 30, 2015

Jewish dog or Lena Dunham?

I wasn't going to read the original New Yorker article but I just couldn't help myself. The last thing I wanted to do was to add another click to the page count, but in the end I just had to know what the hell was so awful about Lena Dunham's quiz. 

I totally agree that comparing Jews of either sex to dogs is very uncool and demonstrates a real disconnect with 50% of who she is. Obviously it is the weaker 50%.

Maybe that's just the point. Dunham thought she had the right to poke fun at Jews because her mother is Jewish, which unfortunately makes her Jewish – at least biologically. She thought that having 50% of the genes gave her an in. While for some people, that might be a fair assumption, for her it was not. Jews are great at making fun of themselves – within the parameters that real Jews understand.

But my guess is that she is anything but Jewish in any way, shape or form beyond a slice of her gene pool. It seems to me that at least half of New York City seems Jewish at any given moment so I am guessing that Dunham had a big hankering for deli or lox and bagel, and she thought that was enough to play the Jewish card.

So, in her honour, I have rewritten the quiz she published in the New Yorker.

Do the following statements refer to (a) my Jewish dog or (b) the full-of-herself, supposed "It" girl who loves to be naked on television much to viewers chagrin?

1. The first thing I noticed about her was her eyes.
2. We love to go on walks together on Shabbat afternoon.
3. She’s crazy for cream cheese.
4. It isn't always easy, but we live together and it’s going O.K.
5. She never remembers our anniversary.
6. If it were up to her, she would spend her day having her belly scratched.
7. But she will settle for an unexpected snack of chicken or meat.
8. She is thrilled about the food I serve her. When I make something from scratch, she is so happy that she rejects her store-bought food.
9. This is because she comes from a world in which mothers apparently do not give their offspring enough attention and the children will go to any lengths to get some.
10. As a result of this dynamic, she wants to be waited on hand and foot by the people in her life, and anything less than that makes her depressed.
11. I wish she were less excited about spending time with my friends.
12. I wish I didn't feel bad every time I leave her behind.
13. I wish she didn't like driving with her head out the window even in the middle of the winter.
14. When we go out of town, she fakes being okay with it but cries when no one is watching.
15. When we get home, she just wants to catch up on all the love and attention she assumes she's missed.

16. My cleaner loves her and says she’s a “good, good girl.”
17. She enjoys nature and I don’t, which would be fine except it’s important to share interests.
18. She hates cats and but insists on chasing them, even when they don't put up much of a fight.
19. Her best friend is named Buddy.
20. In addition, she is openly hostile toward gardeners and motor cyclists, focusing most of her rage on the noise they make.
21. She once vomited at my friend's house and then walked away as if nothing happened.
22. She’s adopted. 

You probably guessed by now that each of the above items pertain to my Jewish dog, who I love. Why on Earth would I waste my time writing about a woman who just wants attention at all costs -- no matter how insulting or degrading it is? I am still trying to figure out how she became the voice of a generation.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Lessons from the Israel 2015 election

There is no point in discussing the ins and outs of yesterday's national elections. Heaven knows it has been analyzed to death and this morning, it is all over but the crying -- for some, tears of joy and for others, plain old tears.

But as with everything in life, there have definitely been some valuable lessons learned.

1.The Israeli media screwed themselves. It is a commonly known fact that most of the media in Israel is left leaning and overwhelmingly anti-Bibi. For the past two weeks, as election day neared, they were falling over themselves to play up the ever-increasing gap between the Zionist Union and Likud, particularly since the polls continued to predict that the Zionist Union was heading to a healthy and inevitable win. What they did not anticipate was, that while that may have seemed to be the case, the tedious message definitely got through to people who were either on the fence or arm-chair rightist who may not have voted, to get their acts together and vote Likud.

2. Israelis need a Sunday. Maybe not actually Sunday because that is kind of Christian-ish but a real day off once a week. People were everywhere yesterday, just enjoying the day. Yes, basic services were open but most people were out with the families or relaxing at home. It was civilized beyond words.

3. Rabbi Ovadia was sms'ing people who did not vote for his old political party, Shas. After being the guest-of-honour at the largest funeral ever held in Jerusalem and bringing traffic in the holy city to a screeching halt for several hours on October 8, 2013, I think it is a little chutzpadik for him to be sending hate mail now. Even from Olam Abah, he can unnerve people and make them rethink their election choices. The lesson here: Never upset a great man -- even after he is dead.

4. When polling and campaigning ends .... your neighbours will step in to fill the gap. I purposely left to go vote at a time of day that I thought would be less popular with most of the voters in my neighbourhood. Wrong. I found myself walking and talking with people who know me superficially or not at all. Of course, they quickly sized me up as a religious "American" (apparently it only takes about five seconds for the experienced eye) and proceeded to tell me why I had to vote for the Zionist Union rather than my original choice. It's important to add that they did not know who my initial candidate of choice was, but they assumed that it couldn't be anyone they would vote for. I learned more about what the average wo/man on the street in Ra'anana thought of the election than I did from weeks of reading the news.

I am sure there are many more lessons that will become apparent over the next few weeks as Bibi tries to put together a coalition (who many of those who voted for him will barely be able to tolerate). I am sure that there will be regrets and hopefully a few pleasant surprises. I also hope that whoever governs this country will have good sense and moral fibre. And in the end, we all know that in Israel coalitions never last and we will probably be back in the midst of a national election within two years.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

I'm so proud I could vomit

Twelve years, eight months and eight days ago we arrived at Ben Gurion Airport, our one way tickets used up. I am not going to tell the whole story again; it's already written somewhere in this blog. Let's just agree that I was sub-happy ... more like hyper traumatized. As you all know, over the years I have grown to love living here more than I ever could have imagined. However, the one loose thread that has always dangled just out of resolution's reach is my sons' compulsory army service.

When you have 13 years to anticipate something, you can wilfully choose to put it on the mental back burner time and time again. You can even convince yourself (after every war) that there won't be another war for a long, long time. Oh can you rationalize: the last war totally destroyed the Hamas tunnels, the Ayatollah will finally succumb to his cancer and the new Ayatollah will be a moderate, Egypt will see the light and publicly support us.... Rationalization is a powerful tool.

Well, yesterday was the day I officially stopped deluding myself. My son began his military service. Oh yay.

Don't worry: My blog isn't going to become a diary of my sons' military service now. There are lots of those blogs out there -- and they write nice things, so suffice it to say that that isn't for me. But I will provide a few observations of what yesterday felt like for a nice Canadian Jewish girl who never considered living in Israel and never, ever liked guns.

It's been 24 hours since I left my son at the Induction Center, and already have learned several things:

  1. Every "kid" going into the army is nervous. And any one that doesn't seem nervous is either in remarkably deep denial or on some excellent psychotic drugs.
  2. Every parent is proud beyond anything words can fairly describe but at the same time capable of tossing their cookies if left alone with their thoughts for more than 11 seconds.
  3. If you haven't mingled with people from every conceivable part of Israeli society, today is the day that changes. And for the next three years you will have more in common with them then you ever could have imagined.
  4. There's a secret club of parents of soldiers that you never knew existed, until you joined them. You always knew the actual members; you just didn't get the secret society part of it. Secret society members will ask you lots of questions -- even though they already know all the answers.
  5. You can separate from your child -- particularly when the infrastructure of the IDF insists upon it. You are no longer the final word in your child's life and your permission is worth bubkas.
  6. You have approximately six months before things get "real". I heard that about 20 times yesterday and I am still not ready to consider what that truly means.
  7. You consider searching the internet for Hassan Nasrallah and Khaled Mashaal's email addresses or phone numbers so you can contact them and try to talk some sense into them. You are almost convinced that you can make a case that would finally have them see the light.
  8. You reconsider every and any left wing position you ever held.
  9. You learn the prayer for IDF soldiers that a rabbi handed you on the street the day before -- and you start to say it.
  10. You start to hold your breath and know that you are going to have to do so for three years.
I am sure I will learn more as time goes on. In the meantime I am off to get my password for the secret society website!!! (for anyone reading this who doesn't know I am joking, I AM JOKING)

Monday, March 2, 2015

Funerals -- Israeli style

A lot of Jews want to be buried in Israel. They don't want to live here -- heaven forbid -- but they want a first-row seat after the fact just in case the Messiah shows up and there is the possibility of resurrection. I am sure that there are some genuine people who had a good reason for not living here but needing to take up a piece of the scarce and valuable burial real-estate while they wait for the big day when they get their just reward.

Yesterday my husband and I drove to Jerusalem to attend the funeral of my friend Lea S. Lea made Aliyah from Montreal two years ago, at 73. I would never have considered missing her funeral, but as soon as I realized that she was being buried in Jerusalem, instead of Ra'anana, I knew we were in for a funeral "event" and I was right. If the average Canadian or American participated in an Israeli funeral they would probably think that they were unsuspecting participants in a Candid Camera episode.

The funeral was scheduled to begin at 11:00 am, which in Israel is really just a suggested start time. True to form, everyone was in the parking lot of the gigantic cemetery on the outskirts of Jerusalem promptly at 11.

That's when the fun began.

The Hareidi-controlled Chevra Kaddisha in their black hats, long black coats and foot-long grey beards, drove up in their blue funeral van with Lea inside. One of them jumped out and started to explain to the crowd how we would have to get back in our cars and drive to where she would ultimately be buried. Yes, it's a huge graveyard. And frankly it more closely resembles a perpetual construction site than a peaceful graveyard. There's not an ounce of greenery to be found; rather what seems like miles and miles of Jerusalem limestone slabs.

So the crowd, who had all just finished finding parking spots, went back to their cars to drive to new parking spots about a kilometer away. Back the way we came and then left up a hill to an area that really wasn't that parking friendly.

We got out of our cars and started to walk.....and walk .... and walk, down a slight incline, turned right and headed even further down another incline. Probably another kilometer. At which point, the blue funeral van pulled up out of nowhere and flung open its back doors.

Then, right on the spot, the funeral began. The body was still in the back of the van and the participants were crowded in -- at least 12 deep -- behind the open back doors of the van. Various family members stood in front of the van's open doors and spoke. For those of us at the back of the crowd, it was almost impossible to hear. In fact, we almost missed the transfer of the body to the actual grave.

It's important to explain that there are virtually no coffins in Israel. Jews here are wrapped in shrouds for burial and placed directly in the ground. It is very disconcerting the first time you see what looks like a mummy in front of you. Your imagination really goes to work on the visuals. For some people, it is always unnerving no matter how many times they have witnessed it.

Yesterday I heard that burial land has become so scant that they are going to start burying couples in plots one on top of the other. In the Jerusalem cemetery they were building sort of an apartment building for corpses. I really don't want to think about that too much because it seems so desperate. Like hoarding gone mad. When my time comes I will be very glad not to know exactly what happens.

Which brings me back to the Jews who didn't want to live here but want a piece of the very meagre burial space that should be reserved for people who actually lived in the country and were active parts of Israeli society before they died. Call me crazy -- I am sure many will. I am sure I will hear about it for the next few weeks and some people will even cut me off their Rosh HaShanah card lists. Yes, there are exceptions, but I think that if you want to reap the benefits of something then first you have to do the work. Plus, Isn't a life well lived more important? It should be.