Monday, May 31, 2010
What me worry?
There is a topic I am sorely tempted to write about today, but I want to wait for all the information to come out and for as much speculation as possible to fall by the wayside. It can wait until tomorrow.
In the mean time, Yonah passed a milestone of sorts... he lost his first tooth. Is it just me, or does he look like someone?
Sunday, May 30, 2010
Who knew there were levels of cool?
Not only does my sixteen year old daughter love the look of my new shiny red Vespa, but on the Friday mornings when I've taken her to school on the back, she's mentioned that she's really enjoyed the ride. But equally important (at least to me), I've seen the appreciative reactions she's gotten from her classmates when they see her getting off the scooter, removing her helmet and nonchalantly shaking out her beautiful hair.
Deep down, every parent wants their kids to be well-liked (popular even!) in school. Given the means, who among us wouldn't drive our kids to school every day in a Ferrari or on a Ducati if it might enhance their social standing or help ease their way into the good graces of the 'queen bees' and bullies that seem to be the bane of every school under the sun?
Well, I don't have the means to buy a Ferrari, and even a Ducati is out of the question. So it made me happy to see that the other girls at her school had reacted positively to seeing my little girl on the back of my shiny Italian Vespa.
Well, it turns out that although she really likes my scooter, and enjoys getting rides on the back, my outing this past Friday with the Vespa Club of Israel didn't exactly fall within the parameters of what my daughter considers 'cool'. Apparently riding on a shiny red Vespa = Molto Elegante. But a bunch of Vespa owners getting together at an organized club event? Imbarazzare!
When I got back shortly before sunset and told her I'd been out riding around central Israel with a bunch of other Vespa enthusiasts, she smiled a funny smile, gave me an indulgent hug and whispered in my ear, "Oh Abba (daddy), you're so cute. I guess I should be happy you weren't at a Star Trek convention."
I wonder how much a Ducati costs? :-)
Thursday, May 27, 2010
Poor Man's Cappuccino
I was recently reminiscing with a friend at work about how even as recently as 25 years ago, Israel had relatively few so-called luxury products.
While most Israeli households back then had land-line phones (after up to a year's wait for Bezek to come do the installation, of course), cell-phones were unheard of... and renters and dorm denizens had to stand in line on the corner at pay phones where they would have to feed 'asimonim', special donut shaped tokens that could be purchased at the post office, into the slot to keep the conversation going.
Every home had ample stove-top facilities for cooking but again, renters and less established folk rarely had ovens. Microwaves? Only for the very rich! To get around this, there was a neat little Israeli invention called the 'Wonder-Pot'. This was a covered aluminum pot that looked like a bundt pan, that you used to bake cakes on the stove-top. You put it on the flame so the heat would rise up through the center hole and [theoretically] distribute evenly over all the surfaces of whatever was being baked. I had one of these in the dorm at Hebrew University, and can remember decidedly mixed results.
But during this recent reminiscing session at work, my colleague and I were mostly talking about the fact that long before the widespread availability of home cappuccino and espresso makers here in Israel, people would routinely make a poor man's version called 'Cafe Hafuch' (upside down coffee).
The way it worked was that you put a heaping spoonful of instant coffee (Elite 'Nes' worked best) into a big mug. Then you added a spoonful or two of sugar. Add in a couple of drops of water (juuuuust enough to barely dampen the coffee and sugar), and then stir madly for a few minutes with a spoon.
I can remember sitting in the common area of the dorms the night before exams at Hebrew U where everyone had a cup in their hands and was absently stirring their preparation of 'Hafuch' while studying and waiting for the water to boil on the stove.
After a little while of this stirring, you ended up with a bright yellow thick foamy paste at the bottom of the cup. To this you added boiling water to about three-quarters of the way to the rim, stirring briskly all the time to make sure all the yellow paste gets mixed nicely with the hot water. Then you immediately filled the cup the rest of the way with fresh cold milk. A thick layer of foam would immediately form on top of the coffee and even a poor student could enjoy a luxury drink as if he/she were sitting at the finest cafe in Paris or Rome.
There is a coffee machine down the hall from my office where I can get free espressos, lattes cappuccinos (and a few other concoctions I haven't yet deciphered) at the touch of a button. But I still enjoy making myself a poor man's Cappuccino -'Cafe Hafuch' - the the old fashioned way.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
18th Century Synagogue to go on display at Israel Museum
On July 26th, the Israel Museum will open the doors on the most recent addition to its 'Synagogue Route', a section of the Mandel Wing for Jewish Art and Life that features historic synagogues that have been rescued from around the world. Featured in the new exhibit will be a synagogue that was built in 1736 in Suriname (a small South American country on the Atlantic coast between Guyana, French Guyana and Brazil) which closed its doors after more than two and a half centuries of Jewish communal life.
Originally situated in Suriname's capital, Paramaribo, the synagogue, named Tzedek ve-Shalom, stopped functioning as a house of worship in the 1990s, and to prevent its historical and cultural heritage from being lost to future generations, the trustees of the synagogue agreed to allow the Israel Museum to restore and preserve the interiors and furnishings of the building for an exhibit at the museum facilities in Israel.
In related news, a Haredi kollel is slated to be established in this newly refurbished Tzedek ve-Shalom synagogue exhibit at the museum, and the public will only be allowed to view the historic synagogue's artwork and fixtures between 06:00 and 06:45 in the morning, and between 17:00 and 17:45 in the afternoon on weekdays during months that observe only one day of Rosh Hodesh. An additional fee will be charged for entrance to the synagogue exhibit to compensate the kollel for the intrusion on their studies.
< /sarcastic snark>
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
At least they can't be accused of profiling!
At about the mid-point of my morning commute there is an intersection in the middle of nowhere (actually, you have to drive about six kilometers past nowhere to get to this spot), where a small rural road crosses the somewhat larger two-lane black-top road I travel.
At some point in the past decade or two a traffic circle was added (likely in response to a few-too-many accidents)... and next to the traffic circle stands a tall IDF pillbox that allows soldiers to monitor the road, and if necessary quickly set up a roadblock.
These days it is a rare thing to see a roadblock, and truth be told, I'm not sure the pill-box is even manned all the time. But this morning as I approached the intersection, I saw that there was a long line of cars waiting while a quartet of Israeli soldiers inspected them one by one.
At larger intersections and more formal roadblock locations there is room for two lanes of traffic in each direction... a device that allows the soldiers to wave through cars that don't fit the profile of whatever security threat they are looking for, and to spend more time inspecting/questioning cars and drivers that do.
But since this was a narrow section of twisty road, each time the soldiers felt the need to spend more time checking a particular car or truck, everyone in line after them simply had to wait. Unless, of course, they happened to be on a scooter. [~ahem~]
After waiting like a good boy for about five minutes and seeing that I was still a full football field from the checkpoint, I pulled out into the empty opposite lane and slowly putt-putted towards the roadblock.
When I got close to the roadblock, a driver in one of the cars pulled out as if to block me, but a soldier quickly jumped out in front of him and waved him back into line... while signaling me to go ahead. When the driver opened his window and started shouting at the soldier (in Israeli accented Hebrew) "Hey, why are you letting him go while I have to wait?", the soldier smiled, pointed at me and said, "He brings us drinks and cookies... what did you bring me?".
Now obviously the soldier wasn't really implying that he and his comrades were open to bribes to look the other way and let suspect vehicles pass. This was just his way of letting the driver understand that they recognized me... and didn't recognize him. It was just my good luck that at least one of the soldiers on duty had been the recipient of one of my (and your!) afternoon snack runs. :-)
Follow-up note: I should point out that it makes me absolutely insane when I'm stuck at a roadblock or some other traffic jam and I see cars trying to cut ahead on the shoulder or the opposite lane, and then moving into line further ahead of me. This makes me nuts, not because it's unfair (or uncivilized)... but rather because the process of cutting back into traffic creates an even worse traffic-snarl/bottle-neck, and adds to the delays everyone else further back in line will experience. Two wheelers, on the other hand, do not have this affect on traffic when they filter forward, and in fact cause no delay whatsoever to those they pass along the way.
If you don't believe me, you should go to You-Tube and do a search for some of the videos of the Paris Motorcycle protest a few weeks ago. It seems that the French tried to outlaw lane-splitting/filtering by scooters and motorcycles. So in protest, most of Paris' two wheeled commuters spent a day acting as if they were cars. They waited in lane at lights and behaved in every respect as if they had four wheels. The result was that Parisian traffic ground to a halt under the sheer weight of all the additional traffic that had previously moved unfelt between the cars.
Monday, May 24, 2010
A Delayed Revelation
[Today's post was written almost two months ago. But since Zahava was still kind of tender over the concept of me on two wheels back then, I opted to archive it for a while before posting it here]
This morning, about five minutes from my office, I found myself sitting on my scooter at a red light. I'd gotten to the quiet intersection first and decided to 'own' the lane by sitting just off center while waiting for the light to change.
I know some people recommend motorcyclists and scooterists move over to the edge of the lane or even onto the shoulder at intersections to avoid being rear-ended by texting drivers. But this doesn't sit well with the 'aggressively defensive' doctrine that many two wheelers sensibly recommend. If scooters and motorcycles are licensed vehicles and we pay our registrations fees like everyone else... we own our chunk of the road, right?
Anyway, whenever I approach an intersection I always check my mirrors to make sure of what is going on behind me (i.e. to make sure I don't need to bail out in a hurry due to on oncoming idiot). This time there was nobody coming up behind me, so I rolled to a stop near the center of the lane and settled in to wait for the light to change... gripping my brake handles every few seconds to flash the brake lights (just in case).
[At this point in the story I need to explain that among the other safety equipment I bought when I purchased my scooter (armored jacket, gloves, etc.), I selected a somewhat unconventional helmet. It is a full face helmet by a British firm that has a unique, patented rear-view mirror system built into the helmet itself. You can read more about Reevu helmets here on their site, but suffice it to say that the idea of being able to see the blind spot directly behind me was a big comfort given Israel's aggressive / careless drivers.]
Anyhoo... there I was sitting at what turned out to be an unusually long red light, and I was starting to get fidgety, fearing perhaps my scoot hadn't triggered the electro-magnetic loop for the signal. In the process of glancing up at the light my eyes couldn't help but also catch a glimpse of the rear-view image projected inside the center of the helmet just above eye level. In it I was horrified to see a pick-up truck approaching at high speed, getting bigger and bigger like something out of a Road-Runner cartoon... and showing no signs of slowing.
I turned the handlebars hard to the right and gunned the throttle to the stops. The rear wheel spun for a second on some gravel but finally caught traction and shot me onto the triangle of gravel between the right turn lane and the lane I had been in... just as the jack-ass in the pick-up truck locked up his brakes and skidded past me (and through the red light) into the intersection.
A car coming from the right (with the green) whizzed through the intersection and just missed having his rear bumper taken off by the still-moving pick-up. If that car had entered the intersection even a split second later it would have been T-Boned!
The pick-up finally came to a smoky, shuddering stop about three car lengths past the zebra crossing on the opposite side of the intersection! After a few moments he re-started his engine (which had stalled) and drove on as if nothing had happened, leaving me alone at the now green light.
I let the light cycle through the colors a few times before I felt steady enough to ride. All I could think about was that if I hadn't caught sight of the oncoming truck in the Reevu helmet's internal mirror, I would either have been killed by the rear impact... or doomed by being pushed into the path of the car that had barely cleared the front of the truck in the intersection.
Yes, I know that if I want to 'own' the lane, I should continue to check side mirrors even when sitting at a light. But for someone who has spent most of his life driving cars, it is natural to focus forward once you are safely stopped at an intersection.
Bottom line, I owe my life to that tiny rear-view image which is projected just above the center of my field of vision in the Reevu Helmet. I'm sure there might be better helmets to wear in a crash. But there is no doubt in my mind that this helmet helped me avoid an unsurvivable crash.
Pass a link to this post along to anyone you know who spends time on two wheels.
Sunday, May 23, 2010
Why 'no' is the only answer Israel will ever hear
I don't know why we should even bother.
Proximity talks? What the hell is that about anyway? 'We'll talk in one room while they talk in another?' How can anyone conceive of two states peacefully sharing a border if the leaders of those states can't peacefully share a conference room? IMHO, Israel should simply say 'thank you very much... call us when you can bear to sit in the same room with us'.
But as if the ludicrous concept of proximity talks wasn't enough to make even the most optimistic observer laugh, several senior members of the 'moderate' Fatah party have recently gone public with declarations that if these doomed proximity talks don't lead to peace (i.e. to the realization of 100% of whatever the Palestinians are demanding), then they will return to armed struggle and turn back the clock to 1947 and U.N. Resolution 181 (yes you read that correctly).
Here are some of the problematic quotes:
"...there is a need to create and endorse new struggling tools, such as the popular resistance, and to increase our efforts in the international arena to isolate and punish Israel, prevent it from deepening its relations with the European Union and attempt to expel it from the United Nations.”
~Nabil Shaath, Fatah Central Committee member~
"... the PA should not repeat the mistake of the past, when it engaged in a 'deaf dialogue' with Israel for 18 years after the signing of the Oslo Accords.
~Abbas Zaki, Member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Member of the Fatah Central Committee and former Palestinian envoy to Lebanon~
"...the Palestinians may also demand the implementation of United Nations Resolution 181, which was adopted in 1947 and recommends the division of the British Mandate of Palestine into two states, one Jewish and one Arab, with the Jerusalem-Bethlehem area being under special international protection."
~Abbas Zaki, Member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Member of the Fatah Central Committee and former Palestinian envoy to Lebanon~
There are so many problems with this kind of talk that I don't know where to begin... but I'll try:
1. 'Popular resistance' is not a new struggling tool. It is terrorism; and while much older than the so-called Palestinian people... it was refined into an art-form by them.
2. The more efforts are made to 'isolate and punish Israel', the less reason we have to make concessions. When a country is forced to the negotiating table after being isolated and punished, it is called surrendering. We will never do this for the simple reason that we don't have to.
3. Expel us from the United Nations. Please. I'm serious. You'd be doing us a favor by removing the shackles of this corrupt and obsolete organization from our hands.
4. The Palestinians may consider the eighteen years following the signing of the failed Oslo Accords to have been spent in a 'deaf dialogue'. But this is likely due to the residual hearing loss caused by their own 'work accidents' and suicide (homicide) bombers.
5. Implement U.N. Resolution 181? Puleeze. Talk about wanting two bites at the apple! Someone should tell these jokers that they and their supporters rejected 181 (better know as the Partition Plan) and therein lies the root of their problems. The Jews were the only ones willing to abide by that pitiful U.N. resolution. The Arab response to this legal international instrument was to try to take by force what they couldn't get through diplomacy. We all know how that turned out. Israel keeps looking forward while the Arabs keep moving backwards. Up until recently the Arabs 'only' wanted to go back to the 1949 armistice lines. Now, it seems they want to turn the clock all the way back to the 1947 partition plan lines! No country in the history of the world has ever won an unprovoked, defensive war and then given the aggressor a complete do-over. Why should we be the first?
6. As to resolution 181's requirement that Jerusalem come "under special international protection"...the Palis should be careful what they wish for. If we were to place Jerusalem under 181's terms, they would find that this 'protection' was stipulated to be a very temporary measure... one that was to be revisited in the form of a local referendum after 10 years time. Then, as now, the overwhelming Jewish majority in Jerusalem would have voted in such a referendum to bring the entirety of the city under Israeli sovereignty.
But all this is just so much talk that will come to nothing. Wiser people than I have correctly (IMHO)pointed out that the Palestinians will never be able to make peace for the simple reason that they will never be offered a better deal than they could already have had in the past by simply saying 'yes'. And after all the senseless wars, bloodshed and terrorism, no Israeli government will ever offer them close to the fantasies they have constructed for themselves.
Thursday, May 20, 2010
Tipping point: When boycotting Israel carries no downside
There have been rumors and urban legends (mostly unfounded, as it turns out) over the past few decades of various musical artists making public announcements that they don't want a particular religious or ethnic group to buy their albums or attend their concerts.
On the face this kind of alleged behavior is fairly easy to debunk since it would be the height of stupidity on the part of any artist to deliberately alienate a group of potential album/ticket buyers. Think about it... with downloading, file sharing and various other forms of piracy, even the most successful artists are feeling the pinch.
At very worst, if someone truly felt antipathy for a given group, the conventions of political correctness would demand that they be circumspect about where and when they gave voice to their feelings.
So when an artist comes out on so public a forum as their own web site and makes a statement that not only supports the boycott of a group, but announces his/her participation in said boycott... well, you have to assume that they have done the math and decided that either indulging their hatred outweighs the potential economic downside, or that their position is so mainstream as to carry little or no potential danger to - and might even enhance - their career.
Such is the case of British singer/songwriter Elvis Costello who recently canceled two scheduled concerts in Israel with the following statement on his web site:
It is after considerable contemplation that I have lately arrived at the decision that I must withdraw from the two performances scheduled in Israel on the 30th of June and the 1st of July.
There are occasions when merely having your name added to a concert schedule may be interpreted as a political act that resonates more than anything that might be sung and it may be assumed that one has no mind for the suffering of the innocent.I must believe that the audience for the coming concerts would have contained many people who question the policies of their government on settlement and deplore conditions that visit intimidation, humiliation or much worse on Palestinian civilians in the name of national security.
I hope it is possible to understand that I am not taking this decision lightly or so I may stand beneath any banner, nor is it one in which I imagine myself to possess any unique or eternal truth.
It is a matter of instinct and conscience.
It has been necessary to dial out the falsehoods of propaganda, the double game and hysterical language of politics, the vanity and self-righteousness of public communiqués from cranks in order to eventually sift through my own conflicted thoughts.
I have come to the following conclusions.
One must at least consider any rational argument that comes before the appeal of more desperate means.
Sometimes a silence in music is better than adding to the static and so an end to it.
I cannot imagine receiving another invitation to perform in Israel, which is a matter of regret but I can imagine a better time when I would not be writing this.
With the hope for peace and understanding. Elvis Costello
The truth is, by deliberately taking this decision in so public a manner (as opposed to not scheduling any concerts in the first place), Mr. Costello is indeed taking a place beneath a particular banner.
By playing a concert in any country, an artist is not assumed to support all policies of that country's government. But by actively participating in the boycott of a country, little doubt remains as to the artist's loyalties.
Not only has Elvis Costello not "dialed out the falsehoods of propaganda", but he seems to have firmly embraced them. He has subscribed to the intransigent Arab narrative of senseless absolutism, and embraced the prevailing anti-Semitism that fashionably masquerades in his country (and around the world) as anti-Zionism.
In truth, by joining and publicly endorsing the boycott of Israel, this artist has thrown in his lot with the anti--democratic, anti-woman, jihadist movement that seeks the subjugation and eventual destruction of not only my country... but his own.
I used to think that it was counter-productive to demand that people choose sides. I naively thought that thoughtful people could hold nuanced views about the myriad issues within this regional conflict; deploring the excesses and omissions of both sides in any conflict. But so long as those who seek my destruction demand and receive such exclusive loyalty, I feel I have no choice but to demand the same so that I can finally know who will support me in the coming time of need.
Simply put, I now feel that you are either with Israel or against us. No matter how he has tried to make it seem otherwise, Elvis Costello has chosen sides. Have you?
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
I Know! I just keep on giving! :-)
Thanks to all the people who stepped up and made donations yesterday, There is no time limit on this, so if you haven't done so... please feel free.
In the mean time, as the holiday of Shavuot is once again upon us, I thought I'd once again share a couple of recipes that lend themselves nicely to a dairy menu.
The first one is a recipe for ersatz Kahlua® I inherited from a friend back in the early 80's while we were undergraduates at Hebrew University on Mount Scopus. A batch of this stuff costs a tiny fraction of the real stuff... and it tastes exactly the same!
- 4 cups water
- 6 teaspoons instant coffee
- 2 cups white sugar
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 1 ½ cup vodka (use the cheap stuff)
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon chocolate syrup (optional) *
1. Bring water to a boil and add instant coffee and both white and brown sugar.
2. Immediately after pouring in sugar turn down the heat and simmer for 20 minutes (stirring occasionally)
3. Remove from heat, add vanilla and chocolate (if used) and allow to cool.
4. Once liquid is cool, add vodka
Once all the steps are completed give the whole mess a good stir and immediately pour into empty bottles (using a funnel) and close tightly. The whole process shouldn't take longer than an hour start to finish!
Note: You can safely double this recipe, but I've had bad results when I've tried to triple or quadruple it. Also, if you want to make ersatz Tia Maria® instead of Kahlua®, just use rum instead of vodka. They are otherwise identical recipes.
* If you want to keep your ersatz Kahlua® Parve (meaning non-dairy), make sure to use non-dairy chocolate syrup or leave out this optional ingredient.
I'm glad you asked:
Chocolate [ersatz] Kahlua® Cheesecake
- 8 oz. Chocolate cookie crumbs (I use Oreo® crumbs if I can find them)
- ½ cup melted butter
- 2 envelopes of dessert topping (e.g. Dream Whip®)
- 1 cup milk
- 1 lb. cream cheese (splurge and use the Philly!)
- 2 tablespoons [ersatz] Kahlua®
- ⅔ cup sugar
- 12 oz chocolate chips (melted and cooled)
- 1 cup whipping cream
- One square bittersweet chocolate
- 10" (or two 8") ungreased spring-form pan(s)
1. If chocolate cookies aren't pre-crumbled, crush them into a fine crumbly mess and place in a mixing bowl.
2. Add melted butter to cookie crumbs and mix thoroughly
3. Press buttery crumbs into an even layer on the bottom of the spring-form pan(s)
4. Bake for 7 - 8 minutes @ 350° and then put in refrigerator to chill
5. Process dessert topping with milk until stiff
6. Add cream cheese and mix until smooth (no lumps!)
7. Add [ersatz] Kahlua®, sugar and melted chocolate chips
8. Process until smooth and then pour over chilled cookie crust(s)
9. Lick bowl until face and ears are sufficiently chocolaty and then wash mixing bowl
10. Process whipping cream until stiff (but not too much or you'll end up with butter!!!)
11. Pour over chocolate layer using a spatula.
12. Garnish with shavings of bittersweet chocolate
Note: Refrigerate for minimum of 6 - 8 hours before serving!
Don't thank me... I'm a giver. :-)
Monday, May 17, 2010
A Worthy Cause (IMHO)
Long time readers will recall that one of the things I like to do throughout the year is drop off the occasional hot or cold drink (depending on the season) as well as the odd bag of cake or cookies for the soldiers I pass along my daily commute.
Up to this point these small gestures have been funded entirely by the ad revenue generated by this site. However, as the revenue from the sidebar ads has been, ahem, a little slow in the past couple of months... I was hoping that some of you might like to step up and join me in participating in this small, but meaningful, gesture.
Needless to say, if you already support one of the many fine organizations that are doing nice things for our soldiers, please continue doing that.
But as the hot summer months approach (it got up to 40C /104F yesterday), I'm trying to deliver cold drinks as often as possible to the men and women stationed all along my commute route... and your contributions will help me do this even more often.
To participate, just click the button below:
Sunday, May 16, 2010
Branding (not naming!) my Scooter
I count myself among the folks who are uncomfortable anthropomorphizing inanimate objects. It's bad enough that my neighbor occasionally catches me out in the yard talking to one or both of the dogs ("Who's a beautiful girl? YOU are! That's right... YOU are!!!" [glance over shoulder... instant shame]). But just because my scoot isn't worthy of a name/persona, doesn't mean I don't want to personalize it... maybe even brand it.
So being a marketing guy, I started casting about for something that had strong associations with things vintage, the open road, nostalgia... and of course, the color red.
And all of a sudden, I flashed back to the birthday gift Zahava had given me for my 'mid-life-crisis' at 40... sending me off on a solo drive along the entire length of Route 66, from Chicago to L.A.. On that trip I'd spotted some vintage advertising signs (almost certainly recreations) along the old road near St. Louis that fit all of my current requirements.
I mean seriously... what could be more vintage... more nostalgic... more evocative of the open road... and of course, more red, than turning my scoot into a moving Burma Shave ad?
Yeah, I know... a little nutty. But at least my neighbor isn't going to catch me talking to my scooter.
Oh, and needless to say, as you can clearly see from the last photo, since traffic isn't my primary concern on my daily commute, maybe I'll fabricate a set of Burma Shave signs in my spare time and put them up along the winding road I take to work. :-)
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Another reason I love this country
There is a very large supermarket - part of a big, national chain - within a block of my office. Because of its proximity... and also because the prices are better than in the smaller market in our town... Zahava often asks me to pop in and do some of the weekly grocery shopping on my way home from work.
One of the things we Israelis get used to when going into stores and malls here, is finding a security guard at the door who will want to search your bags and run a metal detecting wand up and down your body before allowing you to enter. Seeing as I'm usually armed, I simply show the guard my gun license and ID card and he/she waves me in without the search / scan.
Over time, I've come to recognize the regular guards at the stores I frequent, and some of them also recognize me... waving me in before I've even had a chance to fish my wallet out of my pocket.
Such has been the case with the regular security guard at this supermarket near my office; an older secular Israeli of Russian extraction. In all weather, cold, heat, rain, sandstorms... he's almost always there, keeping the store safe, and invariably ready with a smile and a handshake for the regulars.
A couple of days ago I was about to leave work when I remembered that Zahava had asked me to pick up a bag of laundry detergent. So, before heading home, I made a detour to the local supermarket. But when I got there I saw a line of people stretching from the door to the parking lot waiting to get in... something that wouldn't happen even on a busy Thursday, much less a slow Sunday evening.
When I craned my neck over the crowd to see what the hold-up was, I saw my friend the regular security guard standing in his regular position. But instead of his smiling, clean-shaven countenance, he was wearing at least a week's worth of beard on his somber face. I immediately understood that sometime during the week I had been away in India, the guard had lost a close relative, and had just returned to work after sitting 'Shiva'.
As I got closer to the door, I could hear each of the busy shoppers pause to exchange a few words of condolence and support... the beard having offered the only clue they needed under the circumstances. Nobody pushed or shoved, and there was no sign of the the typical impatience Israelis have honed to an art-form. It was an orderly queue worthy of a shop in Kensington or Chelsea.
When I finally reached the door, the security guard greeted me with a sad smile and a nod, and explained that his father had died. We exchanged a few words and he told me a few details about how his father had lived... and how he'd died. I offered my condolences and entered the store... allowing the next customer to step up and put a sympathetic hand on the guard's shoulder.
As I grabbed the bag of laundry powder off the shelf and went to get on line at the cash register, I once again realized my incredible good fortune at living in a country where even the nameless strangers we encounter in the course of our busy days and weeks... are never truly strangers.
!כל ישראל ערבים זה לזה (All Israel is responsible for one another)
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
A Yom Yerushalayim tradition
[This is the sixth year I'm posting this. Sorry, but I can't improve on the original. Go ahead... close your office door, turn out the lights, turn up the speakers and try not to cry... I dare you!]
It's Yom Yerushalayim today... the anniversary of Jerusalem being reunified during the Six Day War.
Every year on this day, no matter where I am in the world, I find a way to listen to the recording of the radio broadcast of the recapture of the old city by Col. 'Motta' Gur's Paratroop forces.
Yossi Ronen was the news broadcaster reporting the event. Rav Shlomo Goren, who was the Chief Rabbi of the IDF at the time (and also held the rank of General, having served as a soldier in the Haganah - Israel's pre-state army), joined the Paratroopers at the Kotel HaMa'aravi (Western Wall) and led them in prayer. Colonel 'Motta' Gur was the Military commander of the forces that recaptured the old city.
This a pretty fair translation that was done by IsraCast*. I strongly recommend that those who understand Hebrew go to their site and click the player (about a third of the way down the page in the middle) and listen to the recording. It might help to read along with the translation as the sound quality is sketchy.
[update: It seems they have edited and cut down the original recording drastically. If anyone has a link to the full recording please post it here. In the mean time, you can read the transcription below.]
[Update to the Update: Thanks to Tzip for finding a YouTube clip with most of the recording on it]
To properly appreciate this you need to imagine being somewhere in Israel at the time, listening to this broadcast over your radio at home (likely in a bomb shelter)... or wherever your reserve unit was stationed at that moment. Go get the tissues before you start listening!
Colonel Motta Gur [on loudspeaker]: All company commanders, we’re sitting right now on the ridge and we’re seeing the Old City. Shortly we’re going to go in to the Old City of Jerusalem, that all generations have dreamed about. We will be the first to enter the Old City. Eitan’s tanks will advance on the left and will enter the Lion’s Gate. The final rendezvous will be on the open square above.
[The open square of the Temple Mount.]
[Sound of applause by the soldiers.]
Yossi Ronen: We are now walking on one of the main streets of Jerusalem towards the Old City. The head of the force is about to enter the Old City.
Yossi Ronen: There is still shooting from all directions; we’re advancing towards the entrance of the Old City.
[Sound of gunfire and soldiers’ footsteps.]
[Yelling of commands to soldiers.]
[More soldiers’ footsteps.]
The soldiers are keeping a distance of approximately 5 meters between them. It’s still dangerous to walk around here; there is still sniper shooting here and there.
We’re all told to stop; we’re advancing towards the mountainside; on our left is the Mount of Olives; we’re now in the Old City opposite the Russian church. I’m right now lowering my head; we’re running next to the mountainside. We can see the stone walls. They’re still shooting at us. The Israeli tanks are at the entrance to the Old City, and ahead we go, through the Lion’s Gate. I’m with the first unit to break through into the Old City. There is a Jordanian bus next to me, totally burnt; it is very hot here. We’re about to enter the Old City itself. We’re standing below the Lion’s Gate, the Gate is about to come crashing down, probably because of the previous shelling. Soldiers are taking cover next to the palm trees; I’m also staying close to one of the trees. We’re getting further and further into the City.
Colonel Motta Gur announces on the army wireless: The Temple Mount is in our hands! I repeat, the Temple Mount is in our hands!
All forces, stop firing! This is the David Operations Room. All forces, stop firing! I repeat, all forces, stop firing! Over.
Commander eight-nine here, is this Motta (Gur) talking? Over.
[Inaudible response on the army wireless by Motta Gur.]
Uzi Narkiss: Motta, there isn’t anybody like you. You’re next to the Mosque of Omar.
Yossi Ronen: I’m driving fast through the Lion’s Gate all the way inside the Old City.
Command on the army wireless: Search the area, destroy all pockets of resistance but don't touch anything in the houses, especially the holy places.
[Lt.- Col. Uzi Eilam blows the Shofar. Soldiers are singing ‘Jerusalem of Gold’.]
Uzi Narkiss: Tell me, where is the Western Wall? How do we get there?
Yossi Ronen: I’m walking right now down the steps towards the Western Wall. I’m not a religious man, I never have been, but this is the Western Wall and I’m touching the stones of the Western Wall.
Soldiers: [reciting the ‘Shehechianu’ blessing]: Baruch ata Hashem, elokeinu melech haolam, she-hechianu ve-kiemanu ve-hegianu la-zman ha-zeh. [Translation: Blessed art Thou L-rd G-d King of the Universe who has sustained us and kept us and has brought us to this day]
Rabbi Shlomo Goren: Baruch ata Hashem, menachem tsion u-voneh Yerushalayim. [Translation: Blessed are thou, who comforts Zion and bulids Jerusalem]
[Soldiers sing ‘Hatikva’ next to the Western Wall.]
Rabbi Goren: We’re now going to recite the prayer for the fallen soldiers of this war against all of the enemies of Israel:
El male rahamim, shohen ba-meromim. Hamtse menuha nahona al kanfei hashina, be-maalot kedoshim, giborim ve-tehorim, kezohar harakiya meirim u-mazhirim. Ve-nishmot halalei tsava hagana le-yisrael, she-naflu be-maaraha zot, neged oievei yisrael, ve-shnaflu al kedushat Hashem ha-am ve-ha’arets, ve-shichrur Beit Hamikdash, Har Habayit, Hakotel ha-ma’aravi veyerushalayim ir ha-elokim. Be-gan eden tehe menuhatam. Lahen ba’al ha-rahamim, yastirem beseter knafav le-olamim. Ve-yitsror be-tsror ha-hayim et nishmatam adoshem hu nahlatam, ve-yanuhu be-shalom al mishkavam [soldiers weeping loud]ve-ya’amdu le-goralam le-kets ha-yamim ve-nomar amen!
[Translation: Merciful G-d in heaven, may the heroes and the pure, be under thy Divine wings, among the holy and the pure who shine bright as the sky, and the souls of soldiers of the Israeli army who fell in this war against the enemies of Israel, who fell for their loyalty to G-d and the land of Israel, who fell for the liberation of the Temple, the Temple Mount, the Western Wall and Jerusalem the city of the Lord. May their place of rest be in paradise. Merciful One, O keep their souls forever alive under Thy protective wings. The Lord being their heritage, may they rest in peace, for they shalt rest and stand up for their allotted portion at the end of the days, and let us say, Amen.]
[Soldiers are weeping. Rabbi Goren sounds the shofar. Sound of gunfire in the background.]
Rabbi Goren: Le-shana HA-ZOT be-Yerushalayim ha-b’nuya, be-yerushalayim ha-atika! [Translation: This year in a rebuilt Jerusalem! In the Jerusalem of old!] *
We should never forget or take for granted the sacrifices that were made so that we could have our city back under Jewish Control after 2000 years! It makes me sad to think about how many people would re-divide Jerusalem again in a second on the off chance that it might buy us a few weeks of a shaky 'truce'.
How soon they forget.
Monday, May 10, 2010
These kids with their newfangled expressions...
The other day my daughter Ariella was telling me that she had been late for a tutoring session in Jerusalem (getting, not giving). It seems that when she made up the meeting place with her tutor, they had agreed on a coffee shop called 'Cuppa Joe' in Jerusalem.
Unfortunately, Ari didn't realize there are two 'Cuppa Joe's in close proximity to one another, and naturally she got off the bus at the first one she saw. Needless to say, the tutor was waiting at the other one... which was about a 15 minute walk up a hill (in unseasonably warm weather... for Jerusalem, anyway).
So, in the course of describing her slog up the steep hill to meet her tutor, Ariella explained that by the time she arrived she had a 'bunny rabbit' on her back.
I'd heard of having a monkey on one's back, but I didn't think this was what Ari had in mind... so at the risk of sounding like an, oh-so-un-hip parent, I asked her what it meant to have a bunny rabbit on one's back.
Being sixteen, Ariella was incapable of keeping her eyes from rolling back in her head. But once that prerequisite had been satisfied, she explained that after you walk in hot weather with a backpack full of books, you are left with a sweaty mark on your back from the pack and its straps that looks like, well, a bunny rabbit.
Sadly, by the time I get an opportunity to use this little tidbit of information, everyone will have moved onto some new expression. It's scary, but I feel like I'm about ten minutes from going out on the front porch and yelling at those pesky kids to get the heck off the lawn, dammit!
If only we had a front porch. Or a lawn.
Sunday, May 09, 2010
Even the dogs knew better
I got back from India before Shabbat and used the day of rest to catch up on some much needed napping. But Saturday night my internal clock was still telling me it was on Mumbai time... so I tried to stay up as late as possible to force my system back onto Israel time.
I finally went to bed Saturday night at around 1:00 AM after setting the alarm on my mobile phone to wake me at the usual 5:15 AM, and drifted off to sleep almost immediately.
After what seemed like about 30 seconds, I was jolted awake by the sound of the mobile phone alarm blasting accordion music in my ear (hey, you use whatever works). I was so tired that I almost went back to sleep. But the rest of the family counts on me to get the coffee going and set the table for breakfast (not to mention wake them up once everything is ready). So with a heavy sigh I hauled myself out of bed and staggered up the stairs to start my morning routine.
The first thing I noticed that seemed out of sorts was the fact that Lulu (the younger of our two black Labrador mixes) didn't come out of her sleeping spot and try to trip me on the stairs, as is her custom. Also, when I got to the main floor of our house, Jordan (the elder of the two black lab mixes) wasn't waiting for me at the top of the stairs, as is her custom. Strange.
I went into the kitchen, turned on the lights, ground the coffee and set the nectar of life to brewing. Once the coffee was up, I set the table for breakfast (everyone gets their own special mug... even Yonah). and took out the milk, cream, cereals and various yogurts and cottage cheese.
Hmmmm, still no sign of the dogs. Odd. By this time they'd usually be dancing at the front door and scratching to be let out. No big deal, I thought to myself. They might be locked in one of the kids rooms... it wouldn't be the first time. I made a mental note to check on that when I woke the kids.
Once the fresh coffee was ready, I poured it into the thermal carafe so it would stay hot throughout the morning rush. That done, I rinsed out the coffee pot and was about to put it back in its place when the digital clock on the oven caught my eye: 02:55!!! That couldn't be right!
I went into the living room to look at the wind-up ship's clock I have on one of the shelves, and sure enough; 2:55! And there on the floor beneath the shelves lay the two dogs on their beds... snoring softly as if to mock me. As I stood there contemplating how this could have happened, Jordan lifted her head and turned a questioning eye towards me as if to say, 'What's wrong with you?".
Then it hit me.
While I'd been in India, I'd been using an Indian cell phone provided by my company. But at one point during the trip I had needed to look up a couple of phone numbers that were stored in my Israeli mobile's memory, so I had turned it on for a few minutes.
My Israeli phone has a function that automatically keeps the time and date synced to the local network. That way I don't have to worry about daylight savings time or re-setting the time and date on the rare occasions when I take out the battery. So when I had turned on the phone in India, it must have automatically adjusted the time and date to Indian time... two-and-a-half hours ahead of Israel time.
What puzzled me (and continues to do so even now) is why the stupid phone didn't sync back up with Israel time when I landed here and turned it back on. Murphy's Law, I guess.
Anyway, I went back downstairs to bed... a little embarrassed that even the dogs knew enough not to get up when I showed up and started making morning noise. The only up-side to the whole episode was that I was able to catch another two hours of sleep before my alarm woke me up... this time at the correct time.
Oh yeah, there was one more silver lining; Instead of having to go up and make the coffee and set the table, I got to stay in bed for a few extra minutes... and share this with you!
Wednesday, May 05, 2010
It was only a matter of time...
The only thing missing from the terms and conditions announcement is: "G-d may smite you at any time of His choosing".
Tuesday, May 04, 2010
It's a small [Jewish] world!
Zahava and I get a call every month or two from the folks who run an American high school semester abroad program in Jerusalem asking if we can host a couple of their girls for Shabbat. Unless we already have a full house, we almost always say yes, since the girls are always very nice and, well, we enjoy having a house full of guests for Shabbat.
A few weeks ago we got such a call and quickly agreed to host a couple of girls. But within a few minutes they called back with a follow-up request. It seems that another couple of their students were also going to be visiting (a different family in) Efrat for Shabbat and they were stuck for a ride... would I be able to pick them up when I went into Jerusalem to get 'our' girls.
Of course I said 'no problem'.
Fast forward to that Friday afternoon. I pulled up in front of their campus and the four girls got into the car with their back-packs. On the drive to Efrat we started playing Jewish Geography; 'Where are you from?'... 'who do you know?'... etc.
It turns out one of the girls who was going to be staying with the other Efrat family was from Florida... but when she heard we had made aliyah from Connecticut she volunteered that her family had lived in New Haven when she was much younger. I told her we had lived in Fairfield before moving to Israel.
After a couple of seconds of silence the girl from Florida/New Haven said, "This is going to sound crazy, but do you have a daughter whose birthday is January 4th".
I answered in the affirmative and asked her how she could possible know such a thing.
She explained that her best friend in four-year-old nursery had been a girl named Ariella who lived in Fairfield and shared the same birthday with her. She and Ari had gone to different elementary schools and then, of course, she and her family had moved to Florida. Other than hearing a rumor from one of her old classmates that we had made aliyah, she had completely lost track of Ariella.
This was too good not to share with Ariella, so as we entered Efrat I started dialing her cell phone number. The girl in the car stopped me because she said she was sure Ariella wouldn't remember her. I told her she might be right, but assured her there would be no harm in checking.
So I called Ariella and told her to come out and wait for us in front of the house... but didn't tell her why.
As we pulled into our street, the girl behind me squealed with delight, "Oh my G-d, that's her!"
When I parked the car, Ariella came over and I explained to her that there was a girl in the car who thought she knew her from when we lived in the states... and she and Ariella shared the same birthday.
Without missing a beat Ariella screamed, "Oh my G-d... Miriam?!", followed by much hugging and general happy girl noises.
Although Miriam and her friend were staying with another family at the other end of town, the girls managed to get together for much of Shabbat, and this past week we managed to host Miriam at our house for a proper visit. She and Ariella stayed up late into the night catching up on old times.
While I'll admit this wasn't exactly the meeting of David Livingstone and Henry Morton Stanley on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, I never cease to be amazed by how we Jews seem to stumble over friends and acquaintances over and over throughout our lives.
May all our meetings be happy ones.
Monday, May 03, 2010
Sometimes we need to remind ourselves...I'm sitting on a flight to India right now... so until I get to an Internet connection, enjoy: And yes, I know this was made a couple of years ago. Everything in it is still true. Ooooh, another friend just sent me this (thanks Leah!)
Sunday, May 02, 2010
An interview with my French 'Blog-daughter'
There are a few people I'm proud to count among my blog-children; meaning they started excellent, relevant blogs - at least in part - because of me. It's a really nice feeling to watch them develop as writers and to see them attract a well-deserved readership of their own.
Well, one of my blog-children who lives in France - Ilana Davita - has started a regular Sunday feature on her site where she interviews fellow bloggers... and I'm flattered to say she's decided to kick off the interview series with me.
If you haven't followed the links from the timely and thoughtful comments she always leaves on my site, you should definitely use this excuse to go visit her site and become a regular reader.
Oh... and even though she is French, her English is probably better than mine. :-)