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Friday, October 31, 2008

Stumbling Blocks

I have a new piece called 'Stumbling Blocks' up on the OU site in the 'Shabbat Shalom' section.

Go have a look

Meanwhile, we're pretty busy over here getting ready for Gilad's big Shabbat... so I'll sign off and wish you all Shabbat Shalom   

Posted by David Bogner on October 31, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (22) | TrackBack

Thursday, October 30, 2008

A glimpse in the rear view mirror

13 years flies by pretty fast. 

Here's a glimpse in the rear view mirror

[You'll need QuickTime (you can download it free from the Apple site).]

Posted by David Bogner on October 30, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (22) | TrackBack

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Help needed to deliver an overdue thank-you

I received the following comment and couldn't help thinking that while I'm off making merry with my family and neighbors, some of you nice people might be able to help out:


Trep, I'm not sure why I am totally convinced that you and/or your readers can help me, but I am.


Here in galut, it's almost Halloween.  Every year at this time I remember the chesed of my long-ago neighbor, Arnie Berg.  As kids, we would go trick-or-treating together, and one year I had to cut my participation short because of heel blisters.  Back in the day, little-girl sox were notorious for working their way down into your shoes, and if you didn't keep tugging them up, you ended up with blisters. So that year I limped home, alone, very disappointed. Later that evening, Arnie showed up with an enormous bag of candy, which we split. 

What a mensch!  And davka, what a mensch the grown-up version of Arnie must be!  Anyway, 60 years is way too long to go without letting him know that I haven't forgotten his kindness. 

Trep, how do I find him?  We lived in Chicago; in an apartment building on Courtland and went to Harriet Beecher Stowe elementary school.  Any ideas?



So what do you think?  You can help this nice lady track down her friend and deliver a thank you that is 60 years overdue.  Or you can click over and read Doonesbury.  Your call.

Don't look at me.  As you read this I'm dancing around in circles with a bunch of sweaty men.

Let me know how it turns out, mmmkay?

Posted by David Bogner on October 29, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (15) | TrackBack

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Bar Mitzvah Madness

We're making a Bar Mitzvah this week for Gilad, and things are a little, um exciting.

Did I mention that Yonah fell off the Jungle Gym at his gan today and broke his collarbone?  No?  Well, he did.  The doctor said to keep him from moving his arm for the next few weeks. 

I guess the doctor didn't notice that Yonah is a month short of being 5.  A very active 5, I might add.

So yeah... a little exciting around here right now.

Ariella is staying at my parent's place in Jerusalem just to try and get some sleep!

Posting may be sporadic over the next couple of days.

Posted by David Bogner on October 28, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (30) | TrackBack

Monday, October 27, 2008

A hangin' judge and some good bluejeans

A regular treppenwitz reader recently sent me an email to let me know that;

a) she had just finished reading the entire(?!) treppenwitz archives going back to when I started this thing at the end of 2003.

~ and ~

b) she had a question about something I wrote in my 2007 birthday list.

First of all, I'm blown away by the fact that anyone has the time and/or inclination to slog through almost 5 years worth of my archives.  We're not talking about haikus here... I tend to use a paragraph where a phrase will do nicely!

But her questions were interesting ones.. and I thought they might be worth sharing since it deals with one of my pet (albeit strange) preferences.

The section of the 2007 birthday list she referred to was as follows:

20. Their politics aside, I stopped wearing Levi jeans because my measurements are nobody's business but my own.

21.  Their politics aside, I would probably start wearing Levi jeans again if I could custom order the little leather tab on the back to display measurements of my choosing.

22.  No, I didn't go over to the dark side (Wrangler or Lee [~shudder~]).  I wear Cinch Jeans.

So this young woman, who seems to have way too much time on her hands, emailed to ask me if I was sure that Levis couldn't be ordered with custom measurements printed on the leather tab (i.e. measurements other than the actual measurements of the jeans).  Apparently she'd heard that such a thing was possible. 

And she also asked me where she could find Cinch jeans, since she lived in Europe.

Her email led to a late-night Googling marathon looking for the fabled Levis with the 'custom' name/size tab.  I found nothing.  So if anyone out there knows of such a thing being possible, please leave a comment.

However, as to her problem of finding Cinch Jeans outside of 'cowboy country' (rural areas of the US which tend to be their target market), I'm nothing if not a giver:

I used to go to Fort Smith Arkansas on business about once a year.  The people down there are really nice ... even if the big attraction in town happens to be the courtroom and gallows where 'hanging judge' Isaac Parker dispensed a record quantity of frontier justice back in the late 19th century.   

Anyway, on one of these trips I found myself killing time between meetings and wandered into a western wear store on the town's main drag.  After all, I'd already seen the gallows, right?

What an experience (the store, that is... not the gallows)! 

First of all, this store had an entire department dedicated to a dizzying array of felt, leather and straw cowboy hats... and another even larger department dedicated entirely to cowboy boots!  The quantity and variety of these two accessories was truly amazing to behold.  And once you'd picked out your cowboy hat, there was a full-time hat consultant who would use a steam machine to mold and bend the crown and brim of the hat to exactly the position you desired.

No, I didn't buy any hats or boots while I was there (much as I was tempted), but I did pick up a pair of what would turn out to be the most comfortable, well fitted, jeans I have ever owned.  They were made by a company I'd never heard of before; Cinch.  Apparently Cinch caters primarily to the redneck, ahem, I mean rural outdoorsman crowd, and they are built to withstand farm/rodeo conditions.  I don't profess to engage in either activity, but I am hard on my clothing.

Those jeans (I bought the original green label) survived more than five years of really hard use (including many hikes and climbs around Israel's rugged landscapes), before starting to show real signs of wear.  So on a trip back to the states I went looking for a couple of replacement pairs.

Yeah right.  Try finding Cinch jeans in suburban New England.

I ended up having to call up that Western Wear Store in Fort Smith Arkansas (called 'Tip Top') to order my jeans.  The folks were as nice and helpful on the phone as they'd been in person, and within a couple of days I had my new Cinch Jeans... which by a happy coincidence I'm going to be wearing today.

So, in response to that patient young woman who slogged through my archives (and to anyone else who simply wants to find out more about these amazing jeans) you can either go here to check out the Cinch website, or you can call up the nice folks in Fort Smith and have them send you a pair:

Tip Top Western Wear
512 Garrison Ave

Fort Smith, AR

Phone: (501) 783-0840

Just tell 'em 'that Jewish feller sent ya' (I think I may have been the first and only guy with a kippah to ever walk into the store).

Posted by David Bogner on October 27, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Livni Fails (at least I hope she has)

At 5:00PM (Israel time) today, Tzipi Livni will reportedly be calling on President Shimon Peres to inform him of her inability to form a coalition government.  If Peres doesn't turn to another MK to try to form a coalition, this will trigger new elections.

This makes me happy on a number of levels... none of which have to do with the fact that I deeply dislike and distrust Kadima and pretty much everyone in it:

1.  I love that the media now has to eat its words after joyfully trumpeting that the Kadima primaries had selected the next Prime Minister.  Sorry guys.  As convenient as it would have been... heads of state don't get selected by a few hundred party hacks.  Not in a democracy, anyway.

2.  I'm not sure who said it, but the sentiment; 'Anyone who is afraid of what the electorate might do at the polls does not deserve to be in power' is a powerful maxim... and one that can't be repeated enough here in Israeli political circles.  I have one of my own:  'Other than the middle of an actual full-fledged shooting war... there is no bad time for elections'.  This crap of holding on to power based on the tired excuse that 'it isn't good for the country to have to go to the polls right now' sounds just a tad Bolshevik to my American ears.  Everyone has their 'phobias'... but I have never seen 'fear of the polls' on any valid taxonomy of recognized fears.

3.  On a related note, 'Anyone but Bibi' is not a valid political philosophy.  You may hate the man and hate his party (as is your democratic right), but that first word; 'Anyone' conceals a lot of truly horrible possibilities.  Bibi may be a scary prospect to a lot of people out there... but the idea of rockets falling on Ashkelon was called 'Likud fear-mongering' not too long ago.  Time to examine which fears are valid and which are not.

4.  One thing I've noticed is that when it is expedient for Livni to meet a party's demands during coalition negotiations, it is called 'deal making'.  When it is impractical (as with increasing child welfare payments) or impossible (as in promising that the division of Jerusalem is not being negotiated) to meet a party's demands... it is called 'extortion'.   I have a couple of new words that Livni and company should become familiar with: 'Opposition Party'.

5.  Most of all, I am pleased that the Israeli public will finally get to have a say in its own future instead of having to sit helplessly by while secret deals are negotiated and then presented as a fait accompli.  Not having a mandate to act on behalf of the people is bad enough.  Not having the nerve to let the people know what you are doing 'on their behalf' is criminal. 

[Update:  She has postponed her meeting with Peres until 5:30PM giving rise to speculation that coalition negotiations are still underway.  This woman truly has no shame.  I wish she were as tough a negotiator with the Arabs as she is with the Jews.  Maybe then they'd respect us just a little. ]

Posted by David Bogner on October 26, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (14) | TrackBack

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The care and feeding of an ethical omnivore

I'm sure a few of you out there are already reaching for the mouse in order to leave a scathing comment saying something like, "There is no such thing as an 'ethical' omnivore!".  Give me a second to try to explain before firing both barrels, mmkay?

A few days ago our 14-year-old daughter, Ariella, asked me if she could take a day trip with a friend to a farm not far from where we live.  The reason for the trip was to see a lamb being slaughtered, inspected for kosher certification... and then, roasted so those in attendance could enjoy a nice meal.

I have to admit I was conflicted.

On the one hand I have a big problem with the fact that most urban and suburban kids grow up these days almost entirely detached from the source of the food they eat.  Some kids simply can't imagine fruit hanging on trees, vegetables growing in the ground or meat/poultry that isn't tastefully displayed under cellophane.

I've taken Gilad along with me a few times when a friend of ours has needed help killing and cleaning a turkey... and that hasn't seemed to affect his enjoyment of poultry.  So a big part of me really wanted Ariella to go and see where one of her favorite foods (lamb chops) actually comes from.

But on the other hand, I have known many vegetarians over the years (including my wife, when we first met) and I didn't relish the idea of Ariella potentially being so disturbed by what she would see that she would swear off meat. 

I have nothing against vegetarians, mind you.  But in addition to the small logistical hassle of always having to have a non-meat option on hand for the veggie in your life (something we have done countless times with pleasure for friends and family), there are the very real health issues for a young adult when they are denied regular access to all the beneficial stuff one gets from eating protein 'on the hoof'.

In the end, I told Ariella she could go to the farm... but I have to admit I was holding my breath all afternoon.

When I saw her that evening, I asked (as casually as I could manage) how her trip to the farm had been, and was relieved to hear her immediately launch into a detailed and enthusiastic description of what she'd seen.

It turns out they'd gotten there just after the lamb had been slaughtered, but before it had been fully dismembered.  This may seem a small detail to some people reading this, but I think the fact that she never saw the thing actually walking around before it was killed was probably a good thing for her first time around.

While she related the process of checking the animal for evidence of disease and/or internal injuries (to make sure it was both healthy and kosher), she admitted that it was 'kinda gross' seeing the animal's head 'staring at her' from a few feet away.  And she also admitted that she could have done without seeing the lamb's lungs being inflated (to check for holes that would indicate a particular type of disqualifying internal injury that would render it non-kosher). 

But apparently when they started roasting the tender, fatty meat over an open fire... all squeemishness seems to have vanished.  In short, Ariella enjoyed herself immensely.

I'm sure that some of the vegetarians out there - especially those who avoid meat for ethical reasons - are cringing at this point and preparing to delete me from their blogrolls and favorites.  But please hear me out.

I'm one of those people who believes that just as we were given a world filled with yummy fruits and vegetables for our enjoyment and health... we were also given the privilege (not right!) of eating meat.  But as with any privilege, there come responsibilities.  Sadly, any time most children encounter meat and other animal products, they are so far removed from the original form that they aren't really aware of what they are eating.

I've milked cows and helped slaughter and prepare both birds and large animals for their trip to the dinner table... and I think those experiences have made me more, not less, sensitive to how meat and animal products arrive at our end of the food chain.  While I'm certainly no PETA member, I do think it is important to have a clear sense of where food comes from... and to be fully aware that it comes at a cost beyond the mere money one pays for it.

I know that by exposing my kids to the 'messy' part of the food chain, I run the risk of  turning them away from meat and poultry entirely.  That isn't my goal, of course... but it is certainly a risk I am willing to take.  What I hope to achieve by letting them see where their food comes from is to give them a clear idea of what happens before their delicious food arrives at the supermarket. 

By showing them that picking fruits and vegetables is back-breaking labor, I hope I will cause them to make ethical decisions in the future about obtaining produce from sources that treat their workers fairly.  So too, I sincerely hope that seeing meat before it is tastefully displayed under cellophane will encourage them to make thoughtful, informed... and above all ethical choices regarding where they obtain the steaks, chops, roasts and poultry they'll serve to their own families someday.

Posted by David Bogner on October 23, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (27) | TrackBack

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

What worked for you?

I love the holiday of Sukkot.  I especially love the rituals in synagogue involving the Arbat HaMinim (four species... see definitions below) where everywhere you look you see bright green and flashes of yellow amongst the worshipers.

But one of the things I always mean to do at the end of the Sukkot Holiday is ask friends about their successes and failures in keeping their Arbat Haminim fresh and usable.

To make sure everyone is on the same page, the Arbat HaMinim consist of:

Lulav (לולב) – a single ripe, green, closed frond from a date palm tree
Hadass (הדס) – three branches with leaves from the myrtle tree
Aravah (ערבה) – two branches with leaves from the willow tree
Etrog (אתרוג) – the fruit of a citron tree

Some assign physical symbolism to each of the species, with the most common correlation being:

Lulav = the spine
Hadass = the eye
Aravah = the mouth
Etrog = the heart

Now, the Etrog and Lulav both have their small vulnerabilities. 

For instance, some Etrogim come with a 'pitom' (a little protrusion on the end opposite where it was attached to the tree) that can render the fruit problematic' (by many opinions) if it breaks off.  I always go with the 'Pitom-less' etrogim in order to avoid this issue. 

Moving on... by many opinions, the tip of the Lulav should not be split, and in fact just before the holiday you can see shoppers expending ridiculous amounts of time and energy using magnifying glasses to make sure that the tip is not broken or separated. 

But in truth, many, many respected Rabbinic authorities agree that you have to work pretty hard to make either the Lulav or Etrog truly unacceptable for use on the holiday.

Which brings us to the two problem children of the four species family:

Pretty much everyone I know has a method they rely upon for keeping the Hadassim and Aravot moist enough to retain their leaves (a requirement).  These methods range from putting the branches in vases of water between uses, to wrapping them in alternating layers of wet paper towels, plastic wrap and tin-foil.  I've even heard of putting one or both in the fridge!

The problem is that nothing seems to work.  By the first morning of Sukkot the synagogue smells slightly moldy from the dead, black leaves of the Aravot.  And by mid-week, the place smells like a poorly tended compost pile.

Now, I happen to live in a place where the myrtle leaves hold up pretty well, and the willow branches can be obtained fresh every day of Chol HaMoed (the intermediate days).  Not only that, but because we keep only one day where there is a prohibition of work (including obtaining new branches) the freshness issue isn't as critical as in the old country. 

But I can't even keep the willow semi fresh for just the first day of the holiday!

So I'm asking - while it's still fresh in your minds -  what method do you use to [try to] preserve your ritual greenery on Sukkot... and how reliable is it (really... be honest!)?

Posted by David Bogner on October 22, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (22) | TrackBack

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Red Eye Sox Nation

I'm not complaining, mind you... but between the recent clock change and the whole 'Red Sox fan living abroad' thing, my sleep cycle is seriously out of wack. 

I need a nap.

Posted by David Bogner on October 19, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (15) | TrackBack

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Just my two cents

You know it has to be a pretty clear cut case of dumb when something gets me to agree with one of our fifth columnists Arab Members of Knesset.

I mean seriously... this has gotten completely out of hand. 

An Arab driver - by accident or design - drives through a Jewish neighborhood in Acre (next to Haifa) on Yom Kippur and the Jewish residents react as though he has killed someone.  Then the Arab community of Acre circulates a rumor that the Jews have killed the Arab driver and start riots of their own.

Wackiness ensues. 

For years these two dirt-poor communities have lived side-by-side in what passes for peaceful co-existence in this part of the world.  Yet tensions have obviously been close to the surface seeing as it took such a small provocation to light the fuse on almost a week of rioting.

It should be pointed out that the leaders of the Arab community were quick to make a public declaration denouncing the Arab driver for having driven through the Jewish area on Yom Kippur... a gesture that should have been the beginning of the healing. 

Yet once again the Israeli police have decided to ignore their promise of a new era of 'community policing' and have instead opted for the most heavy handed 'solution' by arresting the Arab driver for allegedly speeding during his Yom Kippur drive. Idiots!

I rarely see eye-to-eye with Arab MK Ahmed Tibi, but he makes a good point when,in response to the Arab driver being arrested, he asks "Will police arrest Jews for eating on Ramadan?" 

MK Tibi is right.  I can walk through an Arab area in Jerusalem eating a falafel at mid-day during Ramadan and nobody is going to arrest me.  Heck, I could do so while driving my car at twice the posted speed limit through any Arab neighborhood and the most I'm likely to get is a hefty speeding ticket and possibly a suspension of my license. 

So why is this Arab driver sitting in Jail right now? 

My guess is that our police (and their political bosses) are simply used to ignoring the laws they are sworn to uphold, and instead decided to make up the rules to suit the political climate of the day.

I love that in this country kids can ride their bicycles the length of Tel Aviv on the Ayalon highway at mid-day on Yom Kippur.  Obviously those kids have a different sense of the day than I do (to say the least).   But for them, the day of Yom Kippur is completely unique... something most Diaspora Jews can't even imagine. 

There may very well be a law on the books that prohibits drivers from using the roads on Yom Kippur, but it isn't the law that keeps the cars off the street.  It is a consensus... an agreement by everyone that certain norms will be observed on this day.  And like most laws in a democracy, if at any point even a small minority of the population decide to ignore them, the laws becomes unenforceable.  Just a few cars on the Ayalon would make bicycle riding impossible.

The problem is not a legal one, but rather a social one.  Someone violated the social charter that had been in place for many years, so the first attempt at a solution should have been an effort to repair and reinforce the social charter... not impose an inappropriate and punitive legal penalty.   

The first steps that should have been taken (after order was restored, of course) were to get community leaders together with local government to review the consensus and emphasize the important role that the status quo plays in protecting everyone's rights and sensibilities. 

Rioters who destroyed property and/or harmed people should obviously have been arrested.  But this driver should not be sitting in jail.  Even if it turns out he sped through the Jewish residential area on purpose rather than by accident, the most he should have gotten was a hefty fine and maybe some points on his license.   

In a country where cultural insensitivity is nearly a national pastime, it seems pointless and counter-productive to make it a jail offense.

Just my two cents.


Posted by David Bogner on October 15, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Glad I kept my mouth shut!

I'm told that many fathers become hyper-observant of their daughter's habits when they (their daughters, that is) become 13 or 14.  We start looking for tell-tale signs of our little girl's interest in the opposite sex... and any sign of 'grappling hooks being tossed over the wall' by the local boys in the community.

That transition from 'little girl' to 'young woman' happens amazingly fast...nearly overnight, it seems!  And once a father notices a boy looking overly long in his daughter's direction, or worse, his daughter looking back... well, sleep becomes a fleeting, restless thing. 

The only person who might be able to understand the unsettled feeling that comes over fathers at this stage of life would be the owner of a shiny new Ferrari who is forced to park it on the street every night in a sketchy neighborhood.  The Ferrari itself is as blameless as it is beautiful.  But the world seems suddenly and unusually full of reckless drivers, vandals and thieves.

So it was with some disquiet [understatement alert] that I recently noticed that Ariella had taken up crocheting. 

For those who aren't from the 'Dati Leumi' crowd, a young girl acquiring that skill can indicate only one thing.  Young girls in our world don't crochet lace hankies or coasters to put under cold drinks.  No, they crochet kippot (yarmulkes)... and those kippot are intended for BOYS!

Even more troubling, instead of asking me to show her how to crochet... she'd asked my wife, Zahava!

[side note: Yes folks, I've known how to crochet since university.  In fact, a regular reader/commenter on this blog and her roommate (back when the three of us were students at Hebrew University) can take credit for having taught me how to crochet.  I had apparently gotten one too many terribly crocheted pastel-colored kippot from girls I was dating, and decided that enough was enough.  If I wanted a kippah that was a specific color, size or shape... I needed to learn to do it myself!]

Anyway, the fact that Ariella had sought out her mother to teach her how to crochet (even though I was equally available to teach her), did not bode well.  I smelled a boy. 

Ariella even came to me on a couple of occasions to show me the progress she was making on her first kippah and went through the motions of asking advice.  But I knew she was simply trying to see if she could get me to become a typical overbearing father full of intrusive questions.

But I didn't say a word.  I just smiled and complimented her on her work. 

Each day I watched as the kippah got bigger and the 'dugma' (pattern) began taking shape, but I kept my mouth shut.   However, I admit to taking special pains to see who was watching Ari when she was hanging around in the crowd of young people at synagogue after Shabbat services.

Finally, this past week I noticed that she'd finished working on the kippah... but it was nowhere to be seen.  She'd given it to someone!  It had been far to small for me (my kippot tend to be somewhat bigger due to my, ahem, receding hairline), but I also didn't see any boys in the community walking around wearing that dark blue kippah with the band of green design around the edge... and let me tell you, I looked!

Then on Friday night when we got home from synagogue and it was time to bless the children, I took Gilad's bowed head between my hands and began reciting "May you be blessed like Ephraim and Menasheh...".  But when I opened my eyes, I found myself staring down at the dark blue kippah Ariella had crocheted... sitting proudly on her brother's head.

Boy am I glad I kept my mouth shut! 

Posted by David Bogner on October 12, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (26) | TrackBack

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Alone with the dishes (reprised)

[I wrote this post back in 2004 to describe the mental preparation that goes into this period between Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur.  I haven't been able to improve upon it. yet.]

One gets to do a fair amount of thinking late at night… alone with the dishes.  Zahava does her fair share of the dishes, but for the big jobs… particularly after dinner parties, large Shabbat/holiday meals, etc… I’m the guy left surveying the wreckage and not knowing exactly where to begin.

So it is (for me) with the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur. 

For me, they are like the aftermath of an enormous, wild dinner party… one where invitations were extended to far more people than the house could comfortably accommodate…. the kind of rollicking soirée that is talked about and savored for months.

But such a party comes with a price to pay.

Rosh Hashanah (for me) is roughly analogous to standing [aghast] in the doorway between the kitchen and the dining room surveying the damage.

What was I thinking?

Every horizontal surface is stacked high with dirty glasses and dishes. 

Half-empty bottles of merlot, syrah and chardonnay stand abandoned beside empty bottles of bourbon and scotch. 

The sinks overflow with greasy dishes, and the dessert service (dishes, tea cups and saucers) seem evenly distributed between the dinning room table and the various kitchen counters.

Linen napkins sit balled on (and under) chairs, and glasses of every description seem to wink at me from wherever the wandering conversationalists abandoned them.

On Rosh Hashanah I stand slumped in that imaginary doorway trying to make the insurmountable seem… well, surmountable. Trying to place the soiled contents of my slovenly year into some kind of framework where things can be addressed in an orderly fashion.

Anyone who has been left to clean up after a big dinner party understands the daunting nature of the task. At first glance it seems the house will never clean again.

But then I pick up that first wine glass (with the half-moon of lipstick on the rim) and place it in such a way as to demonstrate to the long departed guests and sleeping house that this spot on the sideboard is where the crystal will be gathered. 

And so Rosh Hashanah begins (for me)… nothing getting washed just yet… just making the insurmountable seem surmountable.

Several circuits of the house bring more wine, whiskey, and water glasses than I ever knew we owned, to join the first there on the counter.

Then, emptying one of the sinks of its precariously balanced contents, I draw a basin of steaming hot soapy water.

As the sink fills I designate other places for dishes and cups and saucers… each to each… all according to size. Warming to the familiar task, I take comfort in the muffled sound of the water under its foamy cloak… almost like a prayer.

And so Rosh Hashanah continues (for me).  Nothing getting washed just yet… just making the insurmountable seem surmountable.

Next the sterling flatware and serving pieces are gathered into a soup pot full of soapy water, and the linen napkins are bundled with the tablecloth into the hamper in the laundry room.

With the leftovers put safely into the refrigerator and the trash bundled to the bin, the place is starting to look more sane… not one iota cleaner, mind you... but the illusion of order has begun to emerge.

Now pots and pans of every shape and size are filled with soapy water and placed on the stove to soak. Measuring cups and carving knives are placed beside legions of serving platters. Spices are returned to their places and canisters of flour and sugar are placed back on their shelves… each gestures creating a bit of space… and the comforting suggestion of emerging order.

And so Rosh Hashanah ends (for me)… nothing having been washed just yet… but the insurmountable seems… surmountable.

I stand again in the spiritual doorway between Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur… balanced on the threshold between what I have created during the year…and what I have consumed. I haven’t yet washed a thing, although some of the bigger problems have been identified and have been placed in to soak. The glasses all sit with their fellows and the dishes are stacked according to size. Everything still bears the smudges and smears of too much fun… too much indulgence.

But now as I look around, the task seems manageable… surmountable. 

As I stand listening to the soft ahhhhhhhhhh of the soap bubbles as they settle in the sink, I am ready for Yom Kippur. I know what has to be washed… and I know (hope) that after the necessary amount of work I will find myself at the end of Yom Kippur’s fast with the dish towel in my hands, surveying the sparkling china… the lovingly polished sterling… the immaculate crystal… each in its place, and the house looking (and feeling) ready for a fresh beginning.

May we all be inscribed and sealed for a good year.

Posted by David Bogner on October 8, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (14) | TrackBack

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

37... and counting

Last night I was telling my kids about an upcoming business trip I have to take.

Obviously they are unhappy when I'm not around, but their disappointment is usually tempered by the anticipation of the swag I bring home for them.  But this time I was a bit perplexed by my daughter's reaction.  She said "You're so lucky that you get to travel all the time!  I never get to go anywhere!" 

I just stared at her and marveled at what a different perspective my kids have as compared to where my head was when I was that age. 

She and her sibs have been flying since they were babies... across the U.S. and around the world.  For them, getting on a plane is as routine as getting on a bus.  Heck, Zahava and I didn't think twice about putting Ari and Gili (12 and 14 respectively) on a flight to the U.S. this past summer... with a connection in Rome!

I, on the other hand, had never been on a plane before my Jr. Year of High School... and I nearly peed myself with a combination of excitement and fright during that first take-off.   But touring most of Western Europe with a Jazz band between my Jr. and Sr. years of High School, four years in the Navy sailing around the Pacific and Indian Oceans, and plenty of business travel, have pretty much eclipsed the memory of that initial shock.

But each time I return from one of my trips abroad with gifts for the kids, I watch them handling the exotic tchotchkes and can see in their eyes that they have already caught the wanderlust for which Israelis are so famous.  In fact, Ariella is already planning her post-army Safari to Africa... and she's only 14!

Anyway, in the course of our conversation about my impending trip, Ariella asked me how many countries I'd visited so far... and I honestly didn't know.  So, for Ari... the following is a map showing the places I've been so far (not counting the place I will be visiting soon):

Trep has visited 37 countries (16.4% of the world)
Create your own visited map of The World.

[Disclaimer:  The map automatically displayed Alaska in red when I selected the U.S., but Alaska is actually the only U.S. state I have never visited.]

Posted by David Bogner on October 7, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (19) | TrackBack

Sunday, October 05, 2008

So that's what I've been eating!

I know this is going to make me sound like a complete idiot... but what the heck, that shouldn't shock many of you.

A couple of years ago I started wearing reading glasses.  It began with drug store readers to deal with the typical 'getting older' thing... and eventually landed me in an Optometrist's office where I discovered that a lifetime of dyslexia was actually caused by poorly aligned eyes.

Anyway, as my reading prescription has gotten steadily stronger, I've had to come to terms with the fact that in order to see anything within arm's reach, I need to have my glasses on.  So you'd think that I'd also realize that in order to see what's on my dinner plate, the glasses might come in handy.  Makes sense, right?

Well, I'm embarrassed to admit that this never occurred to me. 

Reading... working on the computer?   Obviously I need glasses.  But eating?  No thanks... I'd rather spend years pushing stuff around my plate until it falls onto my fork and then surprises me by being a slice of sweet potato instead of a carrot.

Like I said... idiot.

This weekend I had a bit of an epiphany when I got up from reading on the couch and sat down to eat lunch without taking off my reading glasses.  I was shocked to actually see what I as eating!  All this time I've been thinking of them as 'reading' glasses and using them as such.  But now I realize they're also 'eating' glasses.

Who knew!?

Posted by David Bogner on October 5, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (20) | TrackBack

Friday, October 03, 2008

'Round up the usual suspects'

At the end of 'Casablanca' the phrase 'round up the usual suspects' was a cute way for the writers to resolve the plot.  But in real life it is a not-so-cute way for people in positions of power to deflect assign blame where their prejudices feel it belongs.

After a recent criminal attack on a far-left academic, Israel politicians and pundits immediately began making accusations and pronouncements before the police had collected so much as a single clue from the crime scene.  Forget the fact that photographs of the crime scene show a small hole in the glass of the victim's door (damage far more slight than any of dozens of politically/religiously motivated attacks Israeli motorists endure every day without comment or action from our leaders). 

But because the people who have been most critical of this academic  (i.e. the settlers) were the targets of his repeated verbal attacks, the assumption is that they, as a group, must have gathered on his porch to plant the [what appears to have been a cherry] bomb.

Despite a complete lack of supporting evidence, Ehud Olmert rushed to breathlessly declare that the attack was proof of the existence of a "New Underground".  Tzipi Livni, with equal haste to please the media, bleated that this was a modern echo of the dark days of the Rabin Assassination.  Other MKs also weighed in with their own dire warnings about the dangers of going easy on 'Jewish terrorism'.

The clear message being broadcast is that someone must pay for this attack... and that 'someone' is everyone living over the green line. 

But now, in case you thought it was impossible to out-do such baseless and undemocratic hate-speech, Larry Derfner has jerked his knee so fast that he's managed to kick himself in the teeth.  In his current screed, he states:

"As I write this, Sunday morning, a teenage Palestinian shepherd has been found shot to death near Nablus, which is surrounded by more Baruch Goldstein wannabes than anyplace else in the country except for maybe Hebron. Some Palestinian witnesses say they saw a white car with settlers in it chasing the shepherd. Recently I interviewed a Palestinian shepherd near Nablus who said the settlers in the area harass him all the time, killing his sheep. He complains to the police, the police do nothing. I'm sure they'll do nothing this time, too. Another unsolved murder of a Palestinian in Israel's "heartland." "Nationalistic motives" - Jewish "nationalistic motives" - are suspected. What's new?"

Does that pile of steaming crap really need to be fisked?  OK, if you insist. 

This intrepid 'Journalist' has, by his own admission, put pen to paper moments after hearing that this Palestinian shepherd has been found dead.  He has no basis for his accusations except his own bigoted opinions. 

He was not privy to any evidence beyond what some un-named 'palestinian witnesses' had shared with the press (and presumably the police), and he used another uncorroborated and unrelated report of another Palestinian shepherd in order to render his verdict: All these crimes are being perpetrated by 'Barch Goldsteins' with Jewish Nationalistic Motives!!!

Yet the Jerusalem Post was forced to insert a disclaimer in his piece stating:

"(Note: After this column went to press, police announced that forensics tests showed the shepherd had been killed not by gunshots, but by shrapnel when a shell he picked up exploded) "

The first question that occurs to me is why the JPost ran the online version of Derfner's piece at all if it had been proven completely false?  The second thing that crossed my mind was why did the disclaimer have to be offered several paragraphs into the piece rather than at the beginning?  If this is how the Jerusalem Post is condoning settler bashing, I can only imagine the free-for-all going on over at Haaretz!

But sadly, Larry Derfner is simply giving voice to what many people believe with all their hearts;  That there is a group of people in this country who are guilty until proven innocent, and if it turns out they aren't guilty of this particular crime... well, they're sure guilty of something, so lock em up!

It sounds like Mississippi in the early 60s.

I have made these observations in the past, but I will share them again: 

If you tell a group often enough that they are evil, violent and completely beyond redemption... some of them will come to believe it.   

If you assign the most evil and immoral attributes to an upstanding and moral group, they will begin to produce demoralized, disenfranchised members worthy of the charges.

If you continually strive to disenfranchise an entire segment of society simply because you feel that they are not worthy of equal rights under the law, you will find an increasing number of them going outside the law to get satisfaction.

As I said to a commenter (who has since softened her stance), the criminals who attacked this academic (and who carry out criminal attacks against Arabs) are not advancing my agenda nor are they attempting to harm people I wish to see harmed. 

When a drug addled punk from Tel Aviv knifes someone in a club or a mafioso puts a grenade on some mayor's porch, should all secular Tel Avivis be punished for not doing more to stop them?  That's nuts, right?  Yet this is exactly what we, who live over the green line, are being told.  Because we are a handy target, any time someone (presumably) from our midst acts badly, we are all assumed to be complicit.

Could the average Te Avivi be doing more to stop drug dealers, criminals and mafiosi in Israel's center?? Not really... and certainly not without putting themselves at risk.  Well guess what?  I have just as much power over the criminals over here. And don't hand me that crap about 'Oh, but you're a good settler David... you're not like them!', because we're all good settlers.  Except for the few individuals who aren't. 

And if anyone is looking to the 'settler leaders' to actually do something about these criminals, they will wait a long time. They are not elected officials and have absolutely no power to enforce their empty rhetoric.

Larry Derfner is just a dope with no real power except to piss off a few hundred readers who seem to follow his column for the sole purpose of being pissed off.  But when the real media and Israel's elected officials try to give themselves political cover by rounding up 'the usual suspects' - a group of law-abiding, tax paying citizens - they shouldn't be too surprised when some of those 'suspects' don't come quietly.

I see dark days ahead.

Posted by David Bogner on October 3, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (16) | TrackBack

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Limitless Potential for Good

When trolls and bigots keep me up nights wondering why I bother to maintain this site, stories like this remind me of blogging's limitless potential for good. 

Please join me in wishing a continued and full recovery to 'A Simple Jew's son.

What a great way to start off the new year.

Posted by David Bogner on October 2, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack