Thursday, March 31, 2011
I didn't know they even had an air force!
I was browsing the news sites this morning and was shocked to see the following:
I was like, dude, not only do they have an air force, but they decided to get in on the Libya turkey shoot. Kewl!
I was picturing Vatican pilots wearing flight cassocks with clerical collars... Rosary beads wrapped around the ejection handles... Latin crosses painted on the wings...
And then I read the blurb again and was sooooooo disappointed.
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
I loved these...
These landed in my inbox yesterday and I couldn't stop laughing.
1. Sometimes I'll look down at my watch 3 consecutive times and still not know what time it is.
2. Nothing sucks more than that moment during an argument when you realize you're wrong.
3. I totally take back all those times I didn't want to nap when I was younger.
4. There is great need for a sarcasm font.
5. How the hell are you supposed to fold a fitted sheet?
6. Was learning cursive really necessary?
7. Map Quest really needs to start their directions on # 5. I'm pretty sure I know how to get out of my neighborhood.
8. Obituaries would be a lot more interesting if they told you how the person died.
9. I can't remember the last time I wasn't at least kind of tired.
10. Bad decisions make good stories.
11. You never know when it will strike, but there comes a moment at work when you know that you just aren't going to do anything productive for the rest of the day.
12. Can we all just agree to ignore whatever comes after Blue Ray? I don't want to have to restart my collection...again.
13. I'm always slightly terrified when I exit out of Word and it asks me if I want to save any changes to my ten-page technical report that I swear I did not make any changes to.
14. I keep some people's phone numbers in my phone just so I know not to answer when they call.
15. I think the freezer deserves a light as well.
16. I disagree with Kay Jewelers. I would bet on any given Friday or Saturday night more kisses begin with Miller Lite than Kay.
17. I wish Google Maps had an "Avoid Ghetto" routing option.
18. I have a hard time deciphering the fine line between boredom and hunger.
19. How many times is it appropriate to say "What?" before you just nod and smile because you still didn't hear or understand a word they said?
20. I love the sense of camaraderie when an entire line of cars team up to prevent a jerk from cutting in at the front. Stay strong, brothers and sisters!
21. Shirts get dirty. Underwear gets dirty. Pants? Pants never get dirty, and you can wear them forever.
22. Even under ideal conditions people have trouble locating their car keys in a pocket, finding their cell phone, and Pinning the Tail on the Donkey - but I'd bet everyone can find and push the snooze button from 3 feet away, in about 1.7 seconds, eyes closed, first time, every time.
23. The first testicular guard, the "Cup," was used in Hockey in 1874 and the first helmet was used in 1974. That means it only took 100 years for men to realize that their brain is also important. Ladies...Quit Laughing.
Feel free to share any of your own truths...
BTW, I blew an entire lunch hour trying to locate an author to give credit to. If you know who wrote this, let me know.
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Light at the end of the tunnel
A couple of weeks ago we got what is likely to be one of the last big downpours of the brief Israeli rainy season. As luck would have it, I was riding my scooter towards Jerusalem, within sight of a long tunnel, when the skies opened up. But by the time I'd traveled the few hundred meters to actually enter the tunnel, I was completely soaked.
As I approached the other end of the tunnel (that I would momentarily have to pass through), I could see a a curtain of water falling into the roadway.
Due to the bright overhead lights and the heat generated by the passing cars, it was much warmer inside the tunnel than outside. And as got almost to the end of the tunnel, I started thinking about how the last thing I wanted to do was ride back out the other end, and into the cold downpour.
Just before the end of the tunnel there is a fairly large break-down bay, large enough for perhaps 5 or 6 cars to allow anyone with a flat tire or other mechanical trouble to safely pull over without blocking traffic. I'd noticed the break-down bay on many occasions as I passed through this tunnel, but thankfully had never had to avail myself of it.
But looking ahead to the torrential downpour, I made a snap decision and did a safe (but illegal) U-turn back towards the warm, dry break-down bay.
I hadn't even had time to get my scooter up on the center stand when a motorcyclist on an expensive BMW touring bike splashed through the nearby curtain of rain and entered the tunnel from the opposite direction from what I had been traveling.
Spotting me standing next to my scooter, the motorcyclist did a quick check of his mirrors and pulled over near me in the break-down bay to wait out the rain. Like me, his jacket and clothes were soaked through... and as he parked his bike and took off his helmet, I saw that we were fairly close in age.
The two of us took off our riding jackets and made small talk while we watched the cars zip through the tunnel in both directions... all streaming with rainwater. After a few minutes, a noisy, battered two-stroke scooter passed us... got almost to the exit of the tunnel... and made the same U-turn I had in order to join us in waiting out the storm.
The rain-soaked rider of the small scoot was a soldier in a wet uniform that stuck to his body like a second skin. He pulled off his helmet, hung his gun over the mirror of his scooter and started unbuttoning his wet shirt which looked more black than green. It was only the officer's bars on the shirt's shoulders that made it obvious it was part of a uniform and not a wet pair of pajamas.
While the three of us stood around checking out each other's modes of transportation and saying witty things about the weather (i.e. "I know we need the rain... but does it have to rain when I'm out riding?"), a fourth two wheeler - this one on a battered off-road bicycle - rode into the tunnel and skidded to a grateful stop in the break-down bay to make our little trio into a quartet.
The cyclist was wearing blue jeans, a fleece jacket and sneakers... and his head sported long curly hair pulled back into a pony tail... but no helmet.
Looking at our little group, I thought I had pigeon-holed everyone fairly well. But as the four of us chatted and passed around water bottles, granola bars and assorted snacks we had with us, it became clear that appearances aren't always what they seem.
To begin with, the soldier and the motorcyclist spoke Hebrew to me and to the bicyclist... but chatted easily in Arabic to each other.
It turns out the soldier was a Druse Arab stationed not far from my town. He'd borrowed the scooter from someone on his base so he could do a quick shopping run into Jerusalem without having to wait for the bus. The motorcyclist was also an Israeli Arab and was on his way to visit relatives south of where I live. And just when I figured that I had at least pegged the bicyclist correctly, he pulled a big knitted kippah (yarmulke) out of his pocket and pinned it onto his curly hair before accepting a handful of cashews from the older Arab gentleman.
The cloudburst didn't last long enough for any of us to really get to know each other beyond first names. But the short time we spent together made me chuckle at the absurdity of Israel being called an 'Apartheid State'.
Racial tensions exist in every society, and people often marvel (as I did there in the tunnel) at how normal and nice 'the others' are when the opportunity for a casual meeting presents itself. I suppose those who casually toss around terrible words like 'Apartheid' and 'Nazi' have no idea what those words really mean.
As the light at the end of the tunnel grew brighter, signaling that the clouds were passing, we all mounted up and left the warm shelter of the tunnel... each to his own direction, and each to his own way.
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Terror Attack in Jerusalem
A large bus explosion was just reported near 'Binyanei Ha'Uma' convention center in Jerusalem. At least 30 injured (4 seriously) have been reported.
More gifts from our partners in peace.
More missiles on southern Israel
On my way to work this morning I got a call from my office telling me that a Grad Ketyusha rocket had landed in Beer Sheva in the early morning hours.
Within a few hours of arriving at work the sirens sounded again, and within moments of arriving in the shelter we heard the muffled explosion of another Grad landing somewhere nearby.
This morning Ashkelon and Ashdod have also been hit by missiles fired from Gaza, and seven mortars (so far) have landed in the Eshkol region closer to the border.
For the record, while I know there are certainly innocent people living in Gaza, I remain a strong proponent of giving 24 hours notice to areas from which rockets are being fired.... followed by carpet bombing of the entire neighborhood into rubble.
Only when there are no more urban areas for the laucnching teams to use as human shields will the rockets and mortars stop.
"Every attempt to make war easy and safe will result in humiliation and disaster."
"War is cruelty. There is no use trying to reform it. The crueler it is, the sooner it will be over."
"War is the remedy that our enemies have chosen, and I say let us give them all they want."
~William Tecumseh Sherman~
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
A loooong weekend
I treated myself to a long Purim weekend. Could you tell?
I checked email occasionally, but for the most part I managed to stay away from the computer.
I've been thinking deep thoughts though (deep, that is, for me anyway).
So stand by...
Thursday, March 17, 2011
I know that disasters and tragedies sell papers and boost ratings. But I find it inexcusable that most of the media reports dealing with what is going on in Japan lack even the most basic contextual reference points for laymen to be able to understand how bad things really are.
Some reports are tossing around meaningless terms like 'low level radiation', 'higher radiation levels', etc., when talking about the amount of radiation that has been released. And others are including values without helping the news audience understand what those values actually mean.
Unlike hurricanes, tsunamis, and to some extent even earthquakes, radiation is precisely quantifiable. Which makes it all the more egregious that the people in the know aren't consistently sharing the radiation values... and even when they are, the media isn't passing them along in a meaningful context.
I have found the chart below to be helpful in figuring out what the reports actually mean (source):
Radiation is to the Japanese as the Holocaust is to Jews. It is so much more than any historical or scientific explanation can ever touch or define. It is a wound in the national psyche that will never fully heal.
I can't imagine being Japanese right now.
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
[The long awaited] Apple Cake Recipe / Story
Over a recent breakfast at Jerusalem's Waffle Bar with a couple of friends, the lively and wide ranging conversation somehow turned to tax law; specifically how one can inadvertently run afoul of the law if certain steps are not carried out in the correct order.
Even if the financial end result is exactly the same, if one changes the order, or leaves out an intermediate step... the Martha Stewart wing of the Alderson Federal Prison Camp might end up welcoming a new resident.
So it is sometimes with Halacha (Jewish law).
Most people with even a passing relationship with Judaism are aware that Jewish law prohibits the consumption of meat and milk together. This comes from the Biblical prohibition against 'boiling a calf in its mother's milk'.
Over the centuries, Jewish sages have 'built walls' around this particular prohibition, to include poultry in what is considered 'meat', and have created a wide range of varied and confusing rules on how long to wait between eating one kind of food and another.
But even when you think something is fairly straightforward, you find that nothing is really simple in Judaism.
Even the concept of 'eating together' is the subject of discussion and argument among generations of Jewish scholars, with the result that few outside the observant community are well versed in the nitty gritty of the kosher dietary laws (and no, I am not about to try to educate anyone here).
A few years ago I related the story of a memorable family Thanksgiving feast which I had to miss due to work obligations, and Zahava had to miss due to being ill. This left our daughter Ariella, who was a toddler at the time, to join the rest of my family for the big meal.
Even though Zahava and I had told my family that they needn't go to the extra trouble of cooking with the carefully hoarded (for our benefit) kosher utensils, pots and pans (since we would not be there, and Ariella was almost certainly not going to eat anything), they went ahead and made an entirely kosher thanksgiving dinner on the off chance that our finicky little toddler might want a taste of something.
From that day to this I have made it a point to be very respectful of my family's efforts to procure and prepare kosher food for us. But this has required walking a bit of a tightrope.
On the one hand, I don't want to ask too many questions and come off sounding like I think they're ignorant (bad), or that I don't trust them (worse).
But on the other hand, one has to be concerned about the fact that someone who doesn't concern him/herself on a daily basis with the Halachic issues surrounding the preparation and consumption of kosher food, can sometimes mess up.
When my little sister found out I was going to be staying with her for a long weekend, she was delighted and immediately set about planning a kosher menu for my visit. Luckily several of her neighbors in her upper west side apartment building keep kosher, and they agreed to let her prepare things in their kitchens using their pots, pans and utensils.
The original plan was for Friday night's meal to be meat (see yesterday's Fried Chicken recipe) and for Shabbat lunch to be dairy. My little sis is an excellent cook and gracious hostess... and by the time I'd arrived, she'd assembled main dishes and side courses for the two big Shabbat meals.
However, in her mind, the dessert she had prepared for the weekend (the apple cake whose recipe you'll find below) was to make an appearance at both meals.
In theory, having one dessert serve double duty during a shabbat or holiday is perfectly ok, and is a practice we follow in our own home as well. But in practice, if even one of the meals with which the dessert is to be served contains meat, it is essential that the dessert be Parve (i.e. contain neither milk nor meat).
It wasn't until she was writing down the recipe for me this past week that my little sister realized with horror that she'd inadvertently served me a perfectly kosher dairy cake at the end of a perfectly kosher meat (chicken) meal... rendering the whole thing traif (not kosher).
Referring back to the tax law discussion from above, suffice it say that in among the minutea of the Jewish dietary laws, the order in which various kinds of foods are consumed is often of great importance.
Along with the promised apple cake recipe, my sister emailed a beautifully worded and sincere apology. Reading her heartfelt words, I privately wished I was as remorseful when I accidentally treif up something in our kitchen... or absent-mindedly ate something dairy after having tasted a simmering stew.
One might assume that the mistake of serving me a dairy apple cake after chicken would make me more suspicious of the meals my sister might prepare for my in the future. But quite the opposite is the case.
Yes, I'll probably try to offer helpful suggestions about kosher menu planning... but seeing the purity of her intentions and the sincerity of her contrition, I can't help but feel lucky to have an extended family that completely respects the religious choices I've made, despite their own personal choices being quite different.
Without further ado... the recipe for a sinfully good dessert:
Apple Cake with Toffee Crust
[This recipe by Lara Atkins is from 'Food & WIne']
3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 cups vegetable/canola oil
2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
2 large Granny Smith apples - peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2 inch dice
1 stick unsalted butter (113.4 grams)
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Toffee Sauce Ingredients
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter and flour a 9-inch springform tube pan.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk flour with salt and baking soda.
3. In a large bowl, whisk the oil with the granulated sugar. Then, whisk the eggs in one at a time.
4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and whisk until smooth. (This mixture is, let me warn you, just unbelievable thick and sticky and that is ok. It will seem strange or wrong and will challenge the strength of your whisk and arm, but rest assured, this is how it should be.)
5. Fold in diced apples using a spatula (and your strength to move this heavy batter), making sure apples are fully distributed through the batter.
6. Scrape batter into prepared baking pan (and it will look like lumps to be distributed around the ring, which it is) and bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes. And, yes, it really takes that long! I always check after 1 hour and, because I have a convection oven, it is usually ready then. It is done when a toothpick emerges clean.
7. Let cake cool slightly while you take a medium saucepan, in which you combine the butter, cream, and brown sugar and bring to a boil over moderate heat, all the while stirring. As soon as it begins to boil, remove from the heat, mix in the vanilla.
8. Place the still warm cake (still in its pan) on a rimmed baking dish (so glaze won't run all over the table). Pour the hot glaze you've just made over the cake, evenly, and entirely, allowing it to seep into the cake, poking the cake lightly with a toothpick to encourage the seepage.
9. Let the cake cool completely - at least two hours. Invert the cake onto a plate, and invert again onto another plate in order to get it right side up.
Enjoy! The great thing about this cake is if you keep it covered (I believe a layer of plastic wrap which is then covered with a layer of aluminum foil provides the best coverage), it can be enjoyed and snacked from for nearly a week.
The first time I [my sister] had it, it was brought to a dinner party with the express intention of it being a breakfast treat for the hosts. I thought about it for almost five years before I finally got the recipe and made it myself.
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Let's talk turkey...
... or more correctly; chicken.
I can't think about politics anymore this week, so instead I'm going to share a recipe for the best fried chicken I have ever had in my life (that I had at my little sister's house a couple of weeks ago):
[Based on a recipe from the 'Blue Ribbon Bakery Cookbook' but presented here with a lot of editorial notes and adjustments from my sister Elizabeth]
Northern Fried Chicken (serves 4)
6 cups soy or canola oil (or amount necessary to fully submerge chicken pieces)
1 3-pound chicken, cut into 8 pieces
4 large egg whites, whisked
1/2 cup matzoh meal
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
Salt/finely ground white or black pepper (you want to combine the two ahead of time into a shaker, for reasons that are clear below): 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons salt plus 1 teaspoon finely ground white or black pepper are the proportions you want, shake to mix well.
Fried Chicken Seasoning (see below)
Honey or Honey Dijon (which is grey poupon mixed to taste with honey, something close to half and half proportions)
1. Fill a large pot with oil to a height that will allow the largest piece of chicken to still be fully submerged. Heat the oil over medium-high heat until a thermometer reads 375 degrees. This may be quite obvious to you, but as someone who has never fried anything, I was startled at how long you have to heat oil to reach this temperature and how crucial it is that it be allowed to do so before cooking anything in it.
2. Rinse chicken pieces, pat dry with paper towel. Place the egg whites in a large, shallow bowl. In a separate shallow bowl, combine the matzoh meal, flour, and baking powder. Dip each chicken piece in egg white and let excess drip back into the bowl. Next, press each chicken piece in the matzoh mix and tap off excess, making sure the piece is well-coated.
3. Working in batches, fry the chicken until dark golden, about 10 minutes for white meat and 13 minutes for dark meat. (This is my editorializing: you will be tempted to take it out before it is truly dark, but you really want to control the urge to remove the chicken prematurely.) Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and immediately, while glistening and hot (and I did this to each piece as I removed it, not waiting to get the whole batch out and risk it getting at all cool) and sprinkle first with the salt and pepper mixture, and then liberally with the Fried Chicken Seasoning. Move on to the next piece of chicken while the newly seasoned bird cools.
Serve with honey, honey/mustard, or gravy
*Fried Chicken Seasoning (I've adjust quantities to suit your taste for less spicy things, as I did when I made it for you) (also, I doubled this for a single bird, and found the quantity more appropriate - I recommend you do the same.
1 teaspoon hot paprika
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
smidge, considerably less than the 1/4 teaspoon called for in the recipe, but you still want to have a bit of it for flavor, cayenne pepper
Apparently my sis is a giver too. :-)
Tomorrow I'll post the long-awaited apple cake recipe... which comes with a story.
Monday, March 14, 2011
It's how you say it
Overheard in the hallway at work:
"Of course it's terrible what happened to that family. But those people have to accept some responsibility for what happened to them. Living there was a blatant provocation!"
Funny... if I (a 'right wing settler') were ever to say out loud that I thought the Palestinians were a racist and infantile people, incapable of resisting their most violent and bigoted urges, I'd probably be fired.
But it's apparently okay for a lefty to say that the Palestinians can't help but be provoked to murderous rampages by the mere presence of Jews in their vicinity.
I guess it's not so much what you say, but who you are and how you say it.
Sunday, March 13, 2011
The sick defending the sick
After every terror attack I promise myself that I won't read the 'talkback' comments on the various news sites and international forums.
And then I read them anyway... and find myself wishing I could take a large billet of wood to some of these truly sick people in the world.
Here's a comment I saw a few minutes ago which could be a composite of all the truly ill-informed and hateful comments of its kind:
"Why not show the pictures of the Palestinians slaughtered by the IDF in Gaza or lynched by settlers in the West Bank, and the Lebanese blown to smithereens by Israeli fighter jets in Beirut as well?" [source]
First of all, how about a little context?
Did the IDF go into Gaza and Lebanon one day because they were bored? Maybe because they were overstaffed and wanted to cull the herd with a little high-risk gunplay?
Did you miss the thousands of rockets and mortars that were fired from within civilian areas of Gaza into civilian areas of Israel after Israel unilaterally handed all of Gaza over to the Palestinians (in the name of peace)?
And Palestinians lynched by settlers? That's a new one. I know of some Israelis that have been lynched by Palestinians... but with the exception of two aberrant attacks in more than 60 years (which were roundly condemned by Israelis of nearly every stripe), I haven't a clue what you could be talking about.
In fact, you should know that I'm not legally allowed to even enter Palestinian areas because of the very real likelihood that I'd be lynched.
Take a peek at who has to have security guards posted at the entrance to every store, restaurant and mall. I'll give you a hint... it isn't the Palestinians.
And you want to bring up the Lebanese? Seriously?
Hezbollah stages an unprovoked cross-border raid, killing/kidnapping several Israeli soldiers... and then proceeds to launch hundreds of missiles into Israeli civilian population centers... and we're supposed to do what? Negotiate? Yeah right.
IMHO, the IDF should have vaporized every Lebanese village and neighborhood from which missiles were fired. The residents there knew about the missiles years in advance... and by remaining silent, it was as if they were giving their stamp of approval.
The @sshats you are championing with your ignorant comment are no better than a mean drunk in a bar who picks a fight and then cries foul when someone actually fights back.
No, I take that back... your precious Palestinians are worse. Because I have never met a mean drunk - no matter how mean or how drunk - who would pick a fight, get his @ss kicked, and then go murder the other guy's wife and kids to 'get even'. That's not mean. That's sick.
And so are you if you can defend such a heinous crime!
Sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words
Since late last night, the Israeli media has been reporting that the government is wrestling with the decision of whether to release photographs of the terror scene (including those of the victims) to the international media.
Under normal circumstances this is not done; not just out of respect for the victims, but because it is feared that it plays to the basest desires of those for whom the sight of dead Jews is not necessarily a bad thing.
However, there are a growing number of people (in and out of government) who feel that if left to the various media outlets to carefully chose their own words to describe terror attacks, the reality and horror of these events is largely lost in the translation (which is likely the goal of carefully crafted reporting).
I should point out that of all the terror attacks against Israeli targets that were reported in the International media when I was a kid... none is more vividly etched in my memory than the Munich massacre of the Israeli Olympic team by Palestinian terrorists. This is because the international press were given bloody photos of the scene... and of the victims.
Sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words.
No official decision has yet been made by the government, but apparently the Fogel family (what remains of it, anyway) has co-opted the decision makers and made a decision of its own. They have released several EXTREMELY GRAPHIC photos that were taken of some of the victims as they were found by security and medical personnel.
Here is what has been published:
Photos of the murder of the Fogel family in the town of Itamar, north of Jerusalem, on March 11, 2011 by Arab terrorists.
WARNING: THESE PHOTOS ARE EXTREMELY GRAPHIC AND NOT INTENDED FOR CHILDREN.
These photos were released by the family. They have given full permission for their use in order to report on the horrific reality of murdering children and babies in their sleep, "simply because they are Jewish."
I post this link for the benefit of those who find it convenient to draw moral equivalency between the act of living peacefully on disputed land, and the wanton slaughter of innocent children in their beds.
Dismantling a part of the terror apparatus
I generally don't rely on Arutz 7 (Israel National News) for accurate reporting on regional events any more than I would rely on the New York Times. Both have a clear editorial bias, and both consider at least part of their mission to sway, rather than just inform, their readers.
However, when it comes to finding out gritty details and facts on the ground in the aftermath of events in Judea and Samaria (the 'West Bank'), Arutz 7 has far better access to the raw information from the people involved than other media outlets, and they tend to have an unfiltered channel to the local security apparatus... both of which allow it to provide a clearer picture of breaking news specific to my region than anyone else.
For instance, while almost all Israeli media outlets and all of the international press are still making blanket pronouncements about "five members of a settler family [as if 'settler' were some less worthy sub-species of homo sapien] being killed by alleged terrorists", Arutz 7 already has a detailed time-line up on their site which indicates that no matter how horrific the results of this attack, it could still have been far, far worse.
According to arutz 7, it is now known that the 12 year old daughter - Tamar Fogel - who came home shortly after midnight from her youth group event and discovered the carnage, had hosted many of her friends at her house earlier that evening for a meal.
In fact, based on the time-line which starts with the first alarm from the electronic fence (which was tragically ignored by the security guard who thought it was caused by an animal), and ends with a second alarm at the same spot; indicating the exit of the terrorists from the town, the terrorist(s) was already inside the town of Itamar, and likely inside an empty house next door, before the daughter and her friends had left the Fogel home.
I won't go into the rest of the gory time-line here, (although I urge you to read the full account), but according to the report, when the Army was finally alerted and were able to determine the terrorist(s) infiltration and escape point, they noted that "At 03:30 a.m., military trackers discovered footprints leading to the Arab village of Avrata."
Now here is where we go from what may, or may not, have been - as some contend - one or two individuals acting of their own volition (i.e. not with the sanction and sponsorship of one of the known Palestinian terror organizations), and moves into the realm of communal responsibility.
I'm sure few of the people reading this have ever wandered near or through an Arab village in the middle of the night. But having spent several years on my town's anti-terror response squad, I can assure you that nothing comes or goes in these small villages - even in the wee hours of the morning - without someone being aware.
The murderer(s) who came from, and returned to, the village of Avrata on Friday night did so under the eyes, and likely with the cooperation of, the residents. And this makes entirely moot any claims and counterclaims of wider responsibility.
Although there isn't the slightest chance that it will happen, IMHO at this point our Defense Minister should issue a simple directive: Interview every man woman and child in the village of Avrata, and unless someone identifies the terrorist(s), the villagers should be given 24 hours to remove their belongings... after which they would all be driven to the Allenby Bridge and deported.
Once the village was cleared of people, the bulldozers would be ordered to move in and erase every trace that a village had ever existed on that site; leaving not one stone on another.
Once this minimal justice had been accomplished, the Prime Minister should then direct that the land on which the village had sat be surveyed, divided into building plots, and sold at auction for the development of a new Israeli town, with the proceeds placed in trust for the surviving children of the Fogel family.
Given the active collusion of the Palestinian Authority in such matters, we will likely never know for sure who ordered the attack, and maybe not even who carried it out (although the IDF and General Security Services seem to have an uncanny way of laying their hands on the terrorists themselves).
But one thing is clear to me: Terror - like any complex military endeavor - requires planning, funding and logisitc support; at least the latter of which was certainly provided by residents of the village of Avrata. They should be given a very limited opportunity to cooperate with the authorities, and if they refuse, they should be labeled an active part of the terror infrastructure... and dismantled accordingly.
Saturday, March 12, 2011
Were we really just discussing the poor Palestinians?
Shabbat has just ended here in Israel, and the first glimpse at the news is horrifying.
Last night in the town of Itamar, at least one palestinain terrorist (do I really need to be so redundant?) cut or climbed over the fence that surrounds the small town, broke into a private home through a window, and proceeded to fatally slit the throats of five members of a sleeping family in their beds.
Among the dead are both parents, and three children aged 11, 3 and two months. Two other child sleeping in another room survived, as well as their 12 year old sister who returned from a Bnei Akiva (youth group) event to find her family slaughtered.
Itamar is in an area where several key IDF checkpoints had been removed in recent months as a 'confidence building gesture' to the Palestinians.
The following statement from the Palestinian Authority's foreign minister al-Maliki, pretty much sums up who we're dealing with:
"No Palestinian in the past killed an infant and butchered people in such way based on a nationalistic or vengeful motive," he said. "This raises doubt as to Israel's rush to accuse the Palestinians of committing this act." [source]
While I stand by most everything I wrote over the past couple of days, I don't for a minute regret any of the inconvenience caused to the Palestinian population in the name of security. Their leadership fills the news and education curriculum with hateful incitement, and then when the inevitable terror occurs, they refuse to even own their own blood-soaked history.
Not surprisingly, most of the countries who closely follow Israel's real and imagined transgressions must have missed this latest murderous rampage. Or so it would seem by their silence.
Thursday, March 10, 2011
I know it was International Women's Day this week, and that was probably what Prime Minister Netanyahu's staff had in mind when they arranged the photo op with female IDF officers during his visit to the Jordan Valley:
But one has to wonder about the wisdom of such an image for a leader who has had some, ahem, fidelity issues in the past.
For context, would Bill Clinton's staff have allowed him to pose for a photo with attractive female US army officers after the Monica Lewinsky scandal?
I'm just saying...
Wednesday, March 09, 2011
Today's post is a rarity here on treppenwitz. It is directed at one person. That one person is my old friend Larry.
I have known Larry since my university days, and can say without reservation that my deep respect and genuine love for him has only grown from those days to these.
Larry was our children's pediatrician for several years, and if I were to ever become independently wealthy, I would fly him in to treat my kids' every sniffle and cough before letting anyone else touch them. And then I would buy him a house right next to mine.
But Larry and I do not agree on many things political. That's fine. I don't demand that my friends agree with me... and I assume they grant me the free expression of my mind. But that doesn't mean anyone should smile and nod without giving a response when they don't agree with something a friend says. Intelligent people can continue to be friends while expressing their profound disagreement, no?
That is what I intend to do today. I am doing it publicly rather than in a private email because my friend Larry is no crackpot with unique or crazy ideas about the world. No... his opinions are extremely mainstream and are shared by many people. So even though this post is meant to be a direct response to a comment Larry left on yesterday's post (see below), I encourage others to read along since it might also address opinions you hold:
Larry's comment on yesterday's post:
"If you are a Palestinian Arab and live in Ramallah, how do you fly to Paris? Is it an easy process, like if you live in Efrat? Can you vote in national elections (ie Israel's, since there is no internationally recognized Palestinian state)? Do you have representation in Parliament? Do you really believe they have equal rights under Israeli law? If not, do you believe the Palestinian authority is completely self-governing? Should they have their own state so that they can have a voice in their daily lives? I'm not saying that there is an obvious solution, or that there is any tenable solution to the political crisis, but your post seems to ignore the rights that the average citizen of a democracy takes for granted that Palestinians lack. I'm not pointing blame, but I think one has to face reality. Larry"
Heres' my response:
If you read yesterday's post, you will recall that I freely admit that the Palestinians have far from a perfect existence. In fact, I went so far as to say that the past hundred years has been a profound trial for most of these people, albeit only recently due to anything israel may have done (or not done, as the case may be).
Since you mention international travel as your litmus test for a free people, let's talk about that.
I'll admit I didn't know the first thing about the subject when I saw your comment, so I did a little research. It turns out that since April of 1995 the Palestinian Authority has been issuing passports to anyone born in Palestine who requests one. It remains unclear how they define 'Palestine', but suffice it to say that anyone under their authority who wants a passport can apply for one and will likely receive it.
That said, a passport is only as good as the number of states who will honor it. So I did some more research. It turns out the following countries recognize the passport document issued by the PA: Algeria, Austria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Colombia, Cyprus, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, India, Italy, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Malta, Morocco, Netherlands, Pakistan, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States and Yemen.
It is worth noting that Lebanon and Syria adamantly refuse to honor Palestinian Passports and will not allow a Palestinian to travel to, from or via their territory unless they hold another valid passport issued by another country. That means that Palestinians in those countries are prisoners and cannot leave or travel.
Even though there is a long list of countries who accept the PA Passport, that doesn't mean instant admission, of course. There are visas and immigration policies to be considered, and I have no idea how free any of these countries are with admitting PA citizens or anyone else for that matter.
In the course of my research I found out that if a PA passport holder also holds citizenship of another country (such as Jordan or some of the Gulf states, which is quote common among the Palestinian population), they are required, according to the terms of the Interim agreement with Israel, to enter and leave via Israel's Ben Gurion International Airport. Otherwise they may come and go either through Israel or Jordan.
That's in theory (and largely unenforceable).
In practice I don't have any way of telling you how easy it is for a Palestinian to reach Ben Gurion or Amman for an international flight. I know it happens all the time since Palestinian big wigs are turning up around the world in the news all the time, and the gulf states and north African countries are full of Palestiian workers who got there somehow.
But my guess is that given that Palestinians raised Hijacking to an art form in the 60s, 70s and 80s, anyone holding a PA passport is going to be asked a few extra questions by security in any airport in the world.
Moving on... You asked about voting in National elections ("i.e. Israel's") and their having representation in Parliament.. I'm confused. Why should they vote in Israeli elections when they have an internationally recognized government body (the Palestinian Parliament and Authority) for which they can cast their vote?
There have been elections already, as you know. Hamas was chosen by popular vote, although the PA has not honored the results of that election. This is actually quite telling since Israel is being asked to enter into an agreement with the PA when the PA doesn't even honor agreements made with their own citizens.
Do the Palestinians have equal rights under Israeli law? No, nor should they (at present). They have their own government, representation and laws. I don't have equal rights under P.A. law and they don't have equal rights under Israeli law. [~shrugs~]
Do I think the Palestinian Authority is self governing? Yes. Does Israel have unhealthy influence over them? Yes. But then there are few countries in the world who aren't beholden to richer, more powerful countries when forming policy and pondering action.
The PA isn't a full fledged state, so it can't do many of the things that states can... but they have representation and missions around the world, and have assumed the ability to enter into binding agreements with foreign sovereigns even though it is not clear that they are legally allowed to do so under international law.
Larry... you are a doctor (and a damned fine one), so I will frame the following in terms that I hope will resonate with you:
States are not created in the laboratory or delivered whole in a sterile delivery/operating theater... they come to be in the real world, many times under less than ideal (i.e. 'field') conditions.
Let's say you are out driving when you come upon a multi-car accident and being a doctor, you get out to see if you could help treat the injured.
When you get to where a crowd is gathered, you see another doctor trying to treat a gravely injured patient who is stretched out in the dirt next to his destroyed car. Instead of lending a hand, you begin criticizing the doctor loudly enough for the gathered crowd to hear: "Hey, you can't treat a patient like that? Where is the sterile field? Why doesn't he have a neck collar on? Why aren't you wearing a cap, gown and double gloves? Have you sterilized all the instruments and bandages you are using to treat this man?..." and on and on you rave.
My point is that yes, I agree with you that the Palestinians are not getting the gold standard of care when it comes to a people trying to assert self-determination. But that is not the fault of Israel. We were handed a gravely wounded patient on the battlefield in 1967, and that patient's wounds had been inflicted by multiple parties... and ignored for so long that the patient's condition was already critical.
Admitedly, Israel bungled the decision of how to treat this patient by thinking it could take a wait and see approach. Critical patients rarely thrive on such a regimen.
But at this point the one thing that everyone agrees upon is that something must be done. What that something is is open to debate, and while we debate, the patient's condition worsens.
Worst of all, many of the 'doctors' who have been performing first aid on the patient since long before Israel came on the scene (the UN, various GOs and NGOs) have created a situation where the patient may never be able to be weaned off of life support and breathe (much less stand) on his own.
Should the Palestinians have their own state? That's the $64,000 question. Most of the world (and much of the Israeli political spectrum) says yes. I'm not among them.
Personally, I have always been in favor of annexing the west bank and giving all the Arabs Israeli citizenship. The myth of the demographic time bomb is just that. I could go on, but I'd rather link to an excellent article that lays out this idea for more eloquently than I ever could: Enjoy.
I hope you take what I have written in the spirit it was intended, and that you won't stop offering your opinions here (or anywhere you see fit).
Tuesday, March 08, 2011
Israel Apartheid Week
It never ceases to amaze me when, with all the truly backwards, racist countries in the world, Israel is singled out for Pariah status due to its alleged racism and 'apartheid' policies towards its Arab citizens and towards the Palestinians.
Although few make the distinction between these two populations (Israeli Arabs and Palestinians), it is an important one for the sake of an honest and open discussion; something few who call Israel an Apartheid state seem interested in having.
I've mentioned in the past that many (although certainly not all) Israeli Arabs self identify as Palestinians, and are more sympathetic to the Palestinian narrative than to the Zionist one. This is not a problem as far as I can see since, having grown up in the US, I am comfortable with the concept of hyphenated self identification. However, problems arise when a self identification tends to perpetuate a group's status as second class citizens (such as was prevalent with many minorities in the US) rather than being simply a matter of pride.
Such is the case (IMHO) with Israel's Arab citizens. Without a doubt they are viewed with suspicion by many of their fellow citizens, and are often singled out for additional security scrutiny due to their open sympathy for the Palestinian 'struggle'.
Additionally, despite efforts by the many government ministries and agencies to provide Arab citizens with better/fairer access to prestigious education tracks and employment opportunities, the Arab sector remains less educated/blue collar, and therefore lags well behind the Jewish sector in terms of representation at Universities, and the kinds of jobs to which academic degrees generally provide a gateway.
But this is a relative problem, and cannot be discussed without looking at trends over the last half century, as well as comparing the education and employment opportunities afforded to Israeli Arabs alongside the opportunities open to Arabs of other countries in our region.
To be sure, there are plenty of Arab doctors, lawyers, accountants, and members within other high level professions in Israel. I know from personal experience that when our son Yonah had his surgery a couple of years ago, the surgeon, anesthesiologist and scrub nurse who performed his life-changing operation were all Israeli Arabs.
Getting back to the issue of self-identification and a sense of 'otherness' that can, and often does, lead to subtle forms of racism... this isn't unique to Israel. Almost any country on the planet with a multicultural population contends with some of its citizens being viewed as lower class, security/safety risks, or both.
Ask a 3rd of 4th generation Parisian how he feels about some of the north African immigrants living in France. Then ask if he would accept them as neighbors, employees, sons/daughters-in-law? No, Israel is not the only country that is struggling with racism.
Israel has struggled mightily with prejudice even within the Jewish community (ask any Sephardi Israel about this, and they will have plenty of stories to tell you). In the past few decades Israel has made both social and legislative efforts to address internecine and general issues of prejudice and racism. We're a long way from a Utopian society... but then so is every other country in the world.
What I would ask some of our detracters to do is to go to any Israeli university and note the huge percentage of Arab students. Visit any Israeli hospital and you won't find a floor or ward without Arab doctors, nurses and technicians.
This gives me hope that we, as a society, are at least working on our racism issues.
Israeli Arabs are full citizens under the law. They are exempted from military service (at their own request) but many Druse and Bedouin do serve proudly in IDF combat units.
However, whenever legislation has been proposed to require Arab citizens who don't do compulsory service in the army to do some kind of national service - even within their own communities - their leadership protests loudly at the attempted 'Zionization' of the Arab population.
Is it any wonder, therefore, that many Israelis take exception that a large portion of our population is receiving equal access to services and benefits under the law... but do not feel any sense of obligation to contribute equally to the betterment of the society which provides the services and benefits?
Add to this the sad fact that some Israeli Arabs, and nearly all of their leaders/representatives, enthusiastically provide support and encouragement to organizations and governments hostile to Israel... well, you can see why not everyone is ready to sit down around the campfire and sing 'kumbaya' just yet.
This is obviously a much more difficult issue. As a result of defensive wars, Israeli has won for itself some breathing room and more defensible borders (albeit borders that are not recognized by a good portion of the world). But within those new borders we also inherited an Arab population whose citizenship and loyalties were a quandary long before they came under Israeli rule.
Under Ottoman rule the Palestinians were rarely full land owners, and were mostly stateless (unless they held citizenship from another country from which they had emigrated).
After WWI, they came under British responsibility, and some suddenly became citizens of the previously unknown kingdom of Transjordan when the British created that country out of whole cloth (and a big chunk of the territory that it was legally obligated under their mandate to hold in trust for the creation of a Jewish Homeland).
Yet, many stateless Arabs living in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Egypt were relegated to refugee camps and left to fester under the watchful eye of international aid organizations created exclusively for their sustenance. Yet well before Israel was ever created, nobody was running to confer citizenship or rights on these Arabs.
Then came the Partition Plan. The U.N. voted yes... the Jewish government of the proto-state of Israel said yes... and the Arabs (at least those who had a say) said no.
Then came the declaration of the State of Israel, followed immediately by the unprovoked attack by all of Israel's neighbors (and even some countries who had to travel long distances to take part in the fighting).
When the cease fire was declared and signed, Jordan was in possession of what is today called the 'West Bank' and all of the Arabs living there. The Jews who had been living there were ethnically cleansed, and their land and property confiscated without compensation.
From 1948 - 1967, Jordan did not rush to bestow citizenship upon these 'Palestinian' Arabs... and these Arabs made no demands of the Jordanian monarchy, since it was assumed by all that the next war would result in the Jews being thrown into the sea, and all these 'refugees' would be resettled in the newly vacated Israeli lands. Problem solved.
But until that day arrived, the Jordanians (and Lebanese, Egyptians and Syrians) kept their Palestinians cooped up in refugee camps and largely ignored them.
I would never be so foolish as to suggest that the so-called Palestinians have had an easy go of things over the past century. They were forced to sit on the sidelines while everyone else in the region was getting countries, citizenship, education, opportunities... while they remained stuck living in a virtual prison on handouts from the U.N..
But the Six Day War in 1967, and Israel capture of the West Bank, should have changed their plight. To be sure, since Israel didn't annex the west bank, these Arabs still lacked citizenship. But by comparison to their status under the Jordanians, their situation had certainly improved. But instead of coming out of their refugee camps, their own leadership and the aid organizations that existed exclusively to help the Palestinians, urged them to continue living in squalor so that the world wouldn't make the mistake of thinking the refugee problem was solved.
However, instead of lobbying for Jordanian or Israeli citizenship, the Palestinians stubbornly held out for their own country; at first in place of Israel, and then grudgingly, alongside Israel (although this latter point is far from a consensus within the Palestinian community).
Forget that there has never been a culturally or politically unique population known as 'Palestinians' in the history of the world. But since the lack of a unique cultural heritage hadn't been a stumbling block for the Jordanians, the reasoning went that the Palestinians shouldn't be held to that standard either.
The big problem is that in pretty much every other conflict in the world where refugees were left un-repatriated, they had a choice of either integrating into the society where they found themselves, or seeking redress from one or more of the parties to the conflict that made them refugees.
But in this case, not only were the Arabs living in the West bank not citizens of any party to the conflict... many of them had not been displaced, and had lived for generations as stateless people, exactly where they still found themselves.
In typical fashion, the world powers ignored the fact that it was Israel's neighbors (who had instigated each of the wars which had caused, or at least worsened) that caused the Palestinian refugee problem, and looked only to Israel for a solution. None of Israel's neighbors were expected to give up any of their own territory for the creation of a Palestinian State... and certainly nobody was lining up to give these stateless people citizenship.
No, it was left to the tiniest country in the region to carve out a piece of its already scarce territory for the sake of a theoretical state about which nobody knew even who would be in charge!
Yet, despite all the difficulties of the legal status of the Palestinians in the West Bank, their standard of living improved dramatically under Israeli rule. To be sure, the international aid they received helped a little bit. But the majority of that aid found its way into the Swiss bank accounts of the Palestinian leadership and the coffers of various competing terror organizations all claiming to be the sole representatives and champions of the Palestinian people.
At the end of the day (I hate that expression!), it was the Israeli government that was physically responsible for this population, and under Israeli rule they prospered as never before.
Until, that is, their nationalism heated up. Then in less than a decade the Palestinians managed to destroy their own economy by launching first one (relatively mild), and then another (bloodier) Intifada against Israel. Cafes and school buses began blowing up all over Israel, and in order to defend itself, Israel threw up checkpoints and walls... and launched increasingly draconian operations against militant hotbeds in the Palestinian areas.
Which is where we find ourselves today. Even though under the Oslo Accords, the Palestinians have autonomy over many areas on the west bank, it might surprise many that if anyone has limitations on their freedom of movement, it is the Jews, not the Arabs.
For example, as a Jew, it is illegal for me to enter any of the Area "A' (Palestinian autonomous) towns and cities, or travel on many of the roads connecting them. However, an Israeli Arab can legally do so.
Also, despite many rumors to the contrary, Palestinians can travel on all roads throughout the West Bank, while I, as a Jew, am prohibited from traveling on roads leading into and out of (or between) PA controlled population centers.
The point of this long-winded tome is that if one is honestly looking for racism over here... there is about as much as you are bound to find anywhere in the world.
But if one is looking to point a finger at official policies enshrined in law that prohibited innocent people from free movement because of their race or religion, you will find this only in the areas controlled by the Palestinians.
And that, my friends is Apartheid!
Monday, March 07, 2011
An old dog learns a new trick
Back in the early '80s I became friendly with a young Swedish woman named Birgitta who I had met while she was volunteering on the kibbutz where I was doing a summer ulpan (intensive Hebrew language course).
Once I'd passed my Hebrew professions exam and had started studying at the Hebrew University, Birgitta came to Jerusalem to visit me a few times. And I remember quite clearly that she always wore a small knapsack with the incomprehensible (to me) name 'Fjällräven Kanken' printed on it.
As knapsacks went, the Fjällräven Kanken wasn't much to look at. It didn't have the padded straps or ergonomic design of the then-current (or later) knapsacks. In fact, based on it's boxy design and minimal external pockets, it seemed to have been designed to hold something about the size of the Manhattan Yellow Pages... and not much more. It also wasn't made of the rough Cordura that was the norm for nearly all knapsack/backpacks of the day (and since).
But something about that Swedish knapsack always intrigue me (maybe it was the little dots over the 'a').
It held its boxy form, thanks to a removable foam rubber insert that could be pressed into service as a seat pad. And the way the narrow straps were attached in a double stitched criss-crossed arrangement pretty much guaranteed that they wouldn't tear loose (the way padded straps were wont to do).
On her last visit with me in Jerusalem, Birgitta gifted me the little Fjällräven Kanken she had seen me admiring so often. She said she had had it for years, but it seemed nearly new, but for the bottom being a tad shiny from use.
Shortly after I came into possession of this quirky little knapsack, my parents came to visit me in Israel and also fell in love with the Fjällräven Kanken. I don't recall exactly how we tracked down a source, but within a short time, my parents were the proud owners of what would be their first (in a series) of these sturdy little packs.
I've also worn out a couple of these knapsacks, and Zahava has too. But for more than two decades, I have always had at least one of these handy packs in my closet... ready to be pressed into service for day trips, or even overnights.
Fast forward to this year when I became the proud owner of an iPad. Like many early adapters, I watched the gadget wires closely to see what kind of innovative cases would hit the market. Some were new-agey and full of extra pockets and padding, while others were retro takes on the time tested military map pouch. But what they all shared was that, at best, they they made the bearer (wearer) look like they were a messenger... and at worst, as if they were carrying a purse.
For women, the purse thing was no big deal. But for men, once you're past your early 20s, you can't really pull off the messenger look... and no man I have ever met has managed to wear a man-purse without looking like their wife/girlfriend has stranded them at the cash register while they go to try on just one more bra.
I was about to dispair of ever finding a convenient way of carrying around my iPad when I noticed the internal slot of the Fjällräven kanken which held the foam pad/seat cushion. I realized that there was enough room in that slot to also slip in the iPad, and that this arrangement would not only protect the device from bumps from outside the bag, but would keep it nicely segregated from the other stuff inside the knapsack (can't have the iPad fraternizing with dead tree products, now can we?).
So I slipped the iPad into the slot... and suddenly a chorus of angels began to sing. Not only was it a perfect fit, but after looking at the Fjällräven with fresh eyes, I realized that the top handles would be perfect for carrying the knapsack on my Vespa scooter's 'curry hook' (a little ring for suspending a bag of groceries between one's knees).
They say you can't teach an old dog a new trick... but I have news for the folks at Fjällräven (who are still manufacturing the Kanken exactly as it was when I first laid eyes on it): If you aren't actively marketing your flagship product as an iPad case... you're simply leaving money on the table.
Don't thank me... I'm a giver.
[Update: Several people have asked about the dimensions of the classic Kanken (approx. 40 x 30cm) vs. the mini Kanken (approx. 29x20cm), so I have listed them here. I have the classic Kanken which is a very nice fit for the iPad. The mini might be too snug a fit the iPad (which is approx. 25x19cm)... espeically if you keep it in a protective cover. But even if it does fit, it might (IMHO) look a little girly on big guys.]
Sunday, March 06, 2011
It's not the scent... they dig the scooter!
Thursday, March 03, 2011
On trying to be everywhere and see everyone
Three days (especially where one of them is Shabbat) is not sufficient for seeing everyone one wants to see, and going everywhere one wants to go.
I knew that before I ever stepped on the plane last week. But the trip held the prospect of surprising a lot of people in a very short period of time... and not incidentally, seeing as the father of the bride had emailed me a plane ticket, I decided to go.
In addition to not wanting to tip off the people I was fairly sure I'd get to see... I didn't want to have the ones I wouldn't get to visit emailing me to ask, 'what am I... chopped liver?'.
That was the reason for the whole 'Idlewild' thing a couple of days ago. It was meant to throw some people off the scent. Most people read for context, and if they don't recognize a word or place, they generally skip over it.
I figured most people wouldn't connect 'Idlewild' to JFK and would therefore assume I was traveling somewhere else (i.e. not within visiting distance of them).
Friday was spent collecting some of the stuff Zahava had ordered online for the kids, as well as doing some shopping in Manhattan:
Exciting purchases (for the inquiring minds) included:
- A copy of Seventeen for Ariella
- Some #11 Exacto blades for Zahava
- Some Old Navy and TJ Max clothes shopping for me
- A liquor store run for some decent bourbon
- A side-trip to Bed Bath & Beyond to pick up some Soda Stream Diet Root Beer concentrate (I guess that falls under 'Beyond')
- A drop off and pick up at the dry cleaner so I'd have a pressed tux for the wedding.
Friday night I stayed at my little sister's place on the Upper West Side and davened around the corner from her place at Ohav Shalom. After an excellent dinner of Fried Chicken, the most mind-blowing toffee covered apple cake I've ever eaten, and some quality time with two of my nieces, I lapsed into a coma.
Saturday morning at 1:00AM my Israeli body clock decided it was time to go to shul. So I read for a couple of hours before lapsing back into a coma.
After a few more hours of sleep, I got up to have some coffee and some more of the mind-blowing apple cake, and was delighted to find all seven metric tons of the weekend New York Times waiting for me to explore.
I tore myself away from the Times to go to back to Ohav Shalom for morning services, but snuck out of davening early so I could be back to see my older sister, my sister-in-law and another niece who had stopped by for the afternoon.
Lunch and a good chunk of my extended family... heaven!
Later afternoon was spent wading through the Times and snacking on that damned cake... until Shabbat was over.
Saturday night I stole my sister's car and drove out to Teaneck. I showed up at my friend Shmiel and V.V.'s house hoping to surprise them, but they were both out ferrying kids around. Their younger daughter was home, though, and let me in. Together we plotted to get her parents back to the house... and in a short time I'd managed to surprise them both.
After a short visit, I headed over to Teaneck's main drag to a kosher BBQ joint called Smokey Joe's where a bunch of friends were playing old-timey New Orleans and Chicago jazz (SJ's hosts live music most Saturday nights).
In addition to surprising my old friends Jordan Hirsch (vocals/cornet), Heshy Max (bass), Pete Sokolow (vocals/stride piano) and Bob Mastro (violin)... and meeting the talented Dave Licht (drums), I managed to sneak up behind Jordan's wife, Marjorie(who was there), and got her to scream loud enough to make diners in the back stand up and crane their necks!
I can report that unlike most rib joints north of the Mason Dixon, Smokey Joe's actually seems to understand that 'BBQ' is a noun and not a verb.... as in, "Those ribs were great, can you bring me another plate of that BBQ and some more corn on the cob?" (something I said to the attentive waiter more than once that night).
Woke up Sunday morning and had to look a couple of extra times at my watch to determine if I could put milk in my coffee. After a nice breakfast and a crisp walk around the upper west side with a niece, my sister dropped me at the Sheraton Meadowlands for the wedding.
Aside from the pleasure of surprising scores of old friends (too many to name), and playing with my old horn section, I got to celebrate a truly special day with the bride's family (I babysat for her when she was a baby, and her brother (whose diapers I also changed) is living with us while he is serving in the Israeli army).
After the wedding I stayed overnight at the Sheraton, and in the morning the father of the bride gave me and his son (the soldier) a ride to the airport to catch the red-eye home.
Before drifting off to sleep on the plane, all I could think about was all the places I hadn't managed to visit, and all the people I hadn't managed to see.
Oh well... there's always next trip.