Thursday, May 31, 2012
Their longing... and ours
Apprently you need some time to think on yesterday's post. Take all the time you need.
In the mean time, one of the things that I've noticed about Wikipedia searches for countries and groups with a national idenity is that they usually link to a wiki page showing the national anthem (in the original language, transliterated... and translated into English).
Being a musician and a student of literature, I often find myself looking at the anthem a country has chosen for itself because it tends to offer a glimpse of what they consider important.
Take for example the Israeli national anthem; Hatikvah (The Hope):
As long as the Jewish spirit is yearning deep in the heart,
With eyes turned toward the East, looking toward Zion,
Then our hope - the two-thousand-year-old hope - will not be lost:
To be a free people in our land,
The land of Zion and Jerusalem.
My country, my country
My country, my land, land of my ancestors
My redemption, my redemption
My redemption, my people, people of eternity
With my determination, my fire and the volcano of my vendetta
With the longing in my blood for my land and my home
I have climbed the mountains and fought the wars
I have conquered the impossible, and crossed the frontiers
With the resolve of the winds and the fire of the weapons
And the determination of my nation in the land of struggle
Palestine is my home, Palestine is my fire,
Palestine is my vendetta and the land of withstanding
By the oath under the shade of the flag
By my land and nation, and the fire of pain
I will live as a redemption, I will remain a redeemer,
I will spend my redemption - until my country returns
It's all about setting priorities, isn't it?
Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Talking to an African... about Africans
Some of you may recall a couple of posts I wrote about a wonderful visit we had about four years ago from a regular reader of this blog who happens to call Kenya his home.
Well, I've remained in touch with this young man over the years, and as a voracious consumer of news related to Israel, he has obviously been following with keen interest the various stories concerning the flood of Africans who have crossed into Israel and whose treatment/fate is now at the center of a heated national debate here.
For those who haven't been following the news, there is a growing number of illegal immigrants from Africa who have become the focus of a national discussion/argument. Some say they are legitimate asylum seekers who should be granted refugee status, while others say that the majority are simply illegal infiltrators seeking better opportunities than what they left in Sudan, Eritrea, Somalia, etc..
The reason this has come to the front of public discourse is the growing number of crimes that are being committed by these indigent Africans, not to mention the enormous strain they are placing on the country's security and social welfare infrastructures.
I've exchanged a few emails with my African correspondent to try to explain my own feelings on the matter. But you can imagine that any discussion of this topic with someone who was born and raised in Africa is fraught with potential landmines. He's asked me some very difficult questions about how plans to deport these Africans fits in with Jewish ethics and Israel's self-identity as a moral/just 'light unto the nations'.
I'm curious how some of you feel about this... and would ask you to couch your comments as if trying to explain your position to an African (which, in this case, you are).
I'll share my thoughts later in the thread or in tomorrow's post.
Thursday, May 24, 2012
Shavuot Goodness Redux
As the holiday of Shavuot is upon on 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 80s 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.
OK, other than getting hammered on ersatz black/white Russians, sombreros and mudslides, I'm sure you were wondering what else you could do with your stash of newly minted ersatz Kahlua®.
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.
Wednesday, May 23, 2012
I just got tenure!!!
Because of the nature of my work and the field within which I do it, I can't really mention the name of my company or specifically what I do. Aside from whatever security concerns might be at play, I also don't want to end up getting Dooced.
Suffice it to say I do international marketing and after sales support for a large government-run defense and aerospace company. Trust me, it sounds far sexier than it is.
Unlike the academic world where tenure is common (and those passed over for tenure are often exiled/sidelined), in most other fields, the very idea of tenure – or any kind of permanence/security in employment – is nearly unheard of.
One of the quirks of working for a government-owned firm here is that each year, the senior management and the leadership of the workers union agree to grant a small number of tenured positions.
Many people never get tenure, and not getting tenure is not seen as any sort of failing. And to be honest, other than being well thought of by your managers and your peers, I haven't the faintest idea what criteria are used to decide who gets tenure and who doesn't.
I was recently called into our General Manager's office. When I arrived, my boss, the head of the Worker's Union and the head of Human Resources were already there. You could have knocked me over with a feather when they handed me a certificate which stated that I was now a tenured (permanent) employee.
In other words, unless I kill someone or burn the place down, I have a job for as long as I want it... or until I reach the mandatory retirement age... whichever comes first.
Making aliyah is full of question marks and uncertainty. Aside from the adjustments to a new culture, learning a new language, finding the right place for ones family to live, and a thousand other things... employment - the ability to put food on the table and pay the mortgage - looms large on the list of things that keep Olim (immigrants) up at night.
I never dreamed I'd have this kind of job security; not in the U.S., and certainly not here in Israel. But now that I have it, it is like a dream come true!
Tuesday, May 22, 2012
I must be mellowing with age
I've been getting a lot of feedback - good and bad - on a post I wrote about an encounter I had at the Interior Ministry.
I won't rehash my whole unpleasant, potentially ugly, encounter with the Israel-hating moonbat again... feel free to go back and read about it. What I really want to share today is my delayed reaction to the many comments people have shared since that post was published.
The theme that seemed to be running through most of the comments was 'Wow, I really admire your restraint'. And looking back, I'm honestly shocked that I didn't get into a verbal - or even physical - confrontation with the idiot.
Here's a response I wrote on another site where my post had been shared that pretty much sums up my current thinking:
"Once upon a time I would have tried to make her see the error of her thinking. But I've matured. I realize that everyone (myself included), is crazy and unreasonable about something. And once you recognize that someone is in their crazy place, it is a colossal waste of time trying to move them from it. As the saying goes, 'Don't bother trying to teach a pig to sing. It will only waste your time... and it annoys the pig'."
If I wasn't already quite happy being Jewish, I think the statement above would become the core tenet of my new religion. I must really be mellowing with age!
Monday, May 21, 2012
A Badge of Honor
It has become a bit of a running joke in my family that I can't seem to get through an entire Shabbat or holiday without seriously messing up at least one white shirt.
It's not that I'm a messy eater/drinker (although I'm not above the occassional dribble or soup splash). No, the culprit is usually one (or more) of my wonderful children.
I'll admit, it used to get me angry that I couldn't go more than a few hours in a white shirt without someone laying their dirty hands on me. I mean, how hard is it to wash/wipe your hands before touching someone's white shirt, right?
Well, it's taken me a long time, but I've finally figured out what an ungrateful jerk I've been. It came to me this past Shabbat as I was standing standing in shul, when the guy behind me leaned over and said, "I see he got you again".
I must have looked nonplussed, so he explained; "Your shirt... it has two chocolate hand prints on the back... here and here", while touching the back of my shirt about where my kidneys are.
In my mind's eye, I could clearly picture our eight-year-old, Yonah, giving me an enthusiastic hug after dinner the previous evening; his dirty hands grasping me tightly right about where the hand prints now adorned the back of my shirt.
As I pictured that hug in my mind's eye, I could almost feel his warm cheek pressed against my chest. And sure enough, when I looked down, there on the front of my shirt was a small cheek print which appeared to be a combination of grape juice and chicken gravy.
I shrugged at my friend who had brought the stains to my attention and said, "Yup, he got me again".
But in my head I was thinking, "I'm the luckiest guy in the world that I get to wear my kids' hugs around like a badge of honor for all the world to see!"
Sunday, May 20, 2012
A reminder to place Jerusalem above our chiefest joy
It's that time again. Although we should be thankful every moment of every day that after so many centuries of praying for the return of/to Jerusalem, today marks the anniversary of the miraculous events during the Six Day War when 2000 years of prayers were finally granted.
Jerusalem is once again in our hands (b'yadeinu)!
Close the door to your office... turn off the lights... put a box of tissues within easy reach... and press play:
Partial Transcript / translation:
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!] *
Thursday, May 17, 2012
Nosey to some... like a warm, motherly hug to others
One of the many neat things about living here in Israel is the fact that even the storied Israel Defense Forces (IDF) sometimes acts (of necessity) like a nosey Jewish mother.
Not only does every family have the cell phone number of their child's commander (presumably to yell at them if their son/daughter isn't given weekend leave often enough), but even the super-secret elite special forces which require their members to be away at undisclosed locations for extended periods of time have special liaisons whose job it is to periodically call up parents and assure them that their kids are okay (I don't remember anyone calling my parents while I was sailing around the Western Pacific for 6 months at a time!).
Aside from such mundane tasks as helping soldiers to make up unfinished high school studies, improve their language skills, prepare for college exams or even learn a useful trade before discharge... one of the important things that falls to the IDF is having commanders make periodic home visits to observe and document where their soldiers live when they are on leave.
Since the IDF has conscripts from so many segments of Israeli society, it is not uncommon for soldiers from vastly different socio-economic backgrounds to be serving together... and going 'home' to very different situations on their weekends off. So it falls to the commanders to make sure nobody is falling through the cracks.
Based on the findings of these home visits, the commander might make a recommendation that a social worker become involved (say, if the soldier is living in an abusive situation, if a soldier's family seems to be living in poverty, or if the soldier is living on his/her own without obvious familial support).
In some cases, if it is found that soldiers are working during their off hours to support their family or helping out at a family owned small business that would struggle without them, extra time off and/or additional help to the family might be recommended.
Of particular interest to the IDF is the welfare of the 'Lone Soldiers' (soldiers serving in the IDF whose families reside abroad).
The IDF makes an effort to pair up lone soldiers with families who will host them for their weekends off and holidays; basically giving them a 'home away from home'... a place they can call their own where they can decompress, have a soft bed, laundered clothes, home-cooked food... and as strange as it may sound, have the comfort of knowing that someone is worrying about them.
Of course, not everyone wants this kind of arrangement, and the IDF can arrange for a rented apartment if a lone soldier prefers to be 'on his/her own'. But for a wide range of obvious reasons, having an adoptive family is usually preferable for all involved.
For the past couple of years we've been privileged to have the son of some American friends living with us while he does his IDF service. We're used to his comings and goings, and try very hard to make sure he feels like a member of the family (i.e. that someone is, indeed, worrying about him).
But the IDF doesn't take our word for such things.
So, yesterday we got a phone call from 'our' soldier's commander saying that he was on his way over with another senior soldier, and they would like to stop by for a home visit. We checked their driving directions and were told to expect them within the hour.
Being a Jewish mother, Zahava's first instinct was to tidy up the house and make sure there were ample refreshments on hand. For my part, I was just concerned that a stranger looking at our home would be able to clearly see that 'our' soldier had a place that was truly his.
The visit itself was very informal (although I'm sure there will be formal paperwork filed).
Our slightly nutty dog Lulu made sure the two visiting commanders knew who was really in charge, and that she was 'keeping an eye on them'. The commanders themselves refused Zahava's strenuous and repeated efforts to feed them, and only accepted cold drinks.
After 15 minutes of chit-chat in the livingroom, I asked them if they wanted to have a look around... you know, see our soldier's bedroom? They smiled and said that it wouldn't be necessary. They said that based on the fact that we'd known our soldier all his life... and that we didn't seem to be 'struggling', they could submit their report saying that this particular lone soldier was receiving the recommended allotment of Jewish mothering.
For all this country's problems and idiosyncracies... I love that around every corner is evidence of its nurturing Jewish soul.
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
No idea why I'd expect you to know this...
... but the only dumb question is the one left unasked, right?
Who knows... maybe it was just economics and the runs weren't profitable enough.
Whatever the reason(s), it is tantalizing to be so close to places that are perfect for scooter touring, yet not be able to take my own scooter on a vacation.
Sure, I could rent a scooter in pretty much all of the places I mentioned above. But I know, like and most importantly, trust my scooter.
Also, most of the eastern Med rental places offer 125s and 150s, while I like the GTS 250... especially if my wife will be riding cupcake (I'm gonna pay a price for that expression, I'm sure).
So I got to thinking that there are still a bunch of cruise ship operators that stop in Haifa. I wonder if it's possible to bring a scooter on a cruise ship?
Anyone have any experience, or even wild guesses?
The next step is obviously to start calling the cruise operators. But clerks tend to fall back on the default 'no' answer if they aren't sure... and the likelihood of getting the right person on the phone who actually does know for sure one way or the other is pretty low.
Thanks in advance for chiming in.
Thursday, May 10, 2012
Accommodations may vary. Be flexible.
If I was asked to offer one piece of advice /information to someone who will be taking a job that requires some travel... it would be the title of this post.
This week's accommodations in rural Africa:
Sunday, May 06, 2012
I guess I've been living under a rock!
Nobody, but nobody can do a mortified eye-roll like a teenager faced with a parent who has just discovered some artifact of popular culture that is weeks, or [gasp] months old.
Multiply that eye-rolling by two and you'll have an idea what I faced this past week when I expressed my appreciate for a YouTube phenom called 'Walk Off The Earth' to my resident teenagers.
Walk Off The Earth does some extremely creative covers of existing hits... but they also have some original stuff.
Here are two vids to get you started. Just put them on when your teenagers enter the room and watch the eye-rolling begin. For added effect, tell them the band is 'redonkulous'.
After this you're on your own... you'll have to find your own ways to prove to your kids how behind the times you are.
Wednesday, May 02, 2012
It ain't gonna happen
I had to go to the Misrad HaPnim (Ministry of the Interior) today to check on a passport that was supposed to be delivered... but hadn't been (long story for another day).
At the entrance to the government building where the ministry is located, there is a typical Israeli security screening set-up, and citizens who are armed need to hand over their weapons for safekeeping (no guns are allowed inside).
After I had handed over my gun and was waiting for my receipt from the guard, a woman who was waiting to go through the metal detector began talking to me in English in something between a loud spoken voice and a soft yell:
"Hey, You... why do you have a gun? Are you a settler? Is it so you can harass, threaten and murder Palestinians? Is it so you can take their land at gunpoint?"
As she spoke, her volume slid slowly up the speak-yell continuum until everyone in the large lobby was staring at her (and me). She was clearly a foreigner - northern Europe or Scandinavia would be my guess - with a non-descript accent that could have been from anywhere... but certainly not a native English speaker.
She was blond and dressed in faded jeans, leather sandals, a loose cotton shirt, and had a red and white Kaffiya looped around her neck. She also wore a cloth purse slung over her shoulder that was made of a material bearing the same check pattern as her Kaffiya.
I've encountered crazies before, and knew better than to feed her mania. So I simply took the receipt for my gun from the guard, assumed my place at the end of the line for the metal detector... and studiously ignored the lunatic.
Not willing to be ignored, she left her place ahead of me on line and walked back to where I was standing... all the while continuing to loudly share her suppositions about my sordid career as a thief of innocent Palestinians land.
In my experience, there is nothing you can say to people who are able to get their crazy on in public before you've even opened your mouth. So I just smiled at her and began shaking my head while softly repeating, "It aint gonna happen" every few seconds as one might say 'amen' in response to another's prayer. I wanted her to understand that I was not going to be drawn into a public, political debate. No way, no how.
Very shortly one of the female security personnel came jogging over and gently (but firmly) steered the woman away from me towards a nearby side-room.
Within seconds two male security guards with curly ear pieces fell in ahead and behind them... and before you could say "Ahmed's your uncle" the quartet had disappeared behind the slamming door of whatever room they reserve for such 'guests'.
Everyone went back to shuffling through the metal detector... and before long it was my turn to go through.
When I was putting my keys and change into the little plastic tray, the guard working the machine leaned in and asked me what I had said to her.
I assured him that I hadn't said anything to set her off.
He said, "But I could hear you saying something over and over to her. I just didn't understand it.".
A little light bulb went on over my head, and I explained the slang expression "It aint gonna happen" to him.
He smiled and whispered, "I'm sure she's probably going to hear something like that in response to her request to extend her tourist visa".
Insha'Allah! (G-d willing)