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Tuesday, October 31, 2006


I don't often dream anymore, but when I do, my dreams tend to be quite vivid.  On some level I think I am even aware of how vivid my dreams are because on the rare occasions when my dreams are clouded or confusing a small part of my brain stands rationally by and registers the observation that something is amiss.

Last night I went to bed later than usual and immediately (it seemed) began dreaming about being pressed down by something... but it was as though a hand was pressing down through a cloud.  I couldn't see anything, and the rational, observing portion of my brain dutifully noted that this was not typical and dragged me gently to the surface where I opened my eyes.

It seems I had been checking email on my laptop before going to sleep and the swivel arm of the computer stand next to my bed was still over my chest when I fell asleep (you can see the computer stand in this picture).  The gentle pressure of the computer stand through the comforter on my chest had intruded on my dreams... and ultimately my sleep.

I groggily swiveled the arm of the stand off to the side... noted the glowing time on the alarm clock - '02:10' - and went back to sleep.

Round one.

Almost immediately (it seemed) I was back in the fog and something was pressing on me, but this time from the side.  As before, I couldn't make out what it was... but it was cold and wet.  Again the rational observer cleared his throat and mentioned conversationally that this wasn't vivid enough to be a dream so I might want to drift back to the surface to have a look-see.

As I broke the surface of sleep and opened my eyes, I became aware of our dog's cold wet nose pressed insistently against the portion of my chest that was exposed above the fold of the duvet.  The old girl is usually able to wait until we get up to go out in the yard for her 'morning constitutional', but this time she was caught short and she apologetically stared at me from next to my bed waiting for me to get up and let her out.

I dutifully got out of bed and waited patiently at the front door while the dog ever-so-casually selected a likely spot in the garden.

After letting her back in and locking the door, I staggered back down to our bedroom... noticed the glowing number '03:26', groaned inwardly and dove back into sleep's embrace.

Round two.

Within moments (it seemed) a new force began pressing against me... this time from both sides.  The squeezing force was warm but firm... and I couldn't see through the fog to make out what could possibly be exerting pressure from two different sides.

Mr. rational cleared his throat again and offered the helpful suggestion that I might want to come up out of the murky depths for another peek.

As I opened my eyes I became aware of my wife's hip pressed firmly against the small of my back... and my almost-three-year-old son Yonah's warm little body spooned firmly in the hollow between my knees and my chin.  Zahava's nocturnal migrations are not new to me, but Yonah almost never gets out of bed without calling out for permission.  For all I know he may have asked and I may have answered... but I have no recollection of his climbing into my bed.

A quick glance at the clock - 04:47 - and I knew it would be a looooong day.  I didn't have the strength to try to carry Yonah back to bed so I simply adjusted him more comfortably in next to me and went back to sleep.

Round three.

When the alarm finally went off I had a moment of panic as it seemed I couldn't move.  But within moments I realized that my immobilization was due to Zahava still pressing in on the small of my back... Yonah snuggled deeply in from the front... and the dog curled up on the foot of my bed directly behind my knees.

Needless to say, I'm feeling a bit pressed today.

Posted by David Bogner on October 31, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (20) | TrackBack

Monday, October 30, 2006

Crying over spilt milk

The standard definition of 'chutzpah' is murdering your parents and then pleading for leniency on the grounds that you are an orphan.  Our Prime Minister seems intent on taking this working definition to the next level.

While looking over the news this morning I was stunned to see that our Prime Minister had made some remarkable statements about the as-yet-still unsettled settlers from Gaza and the northern Shomron.  Remarkable considering it was his word that those pesky, disloyal settlers were supposed to have taken regarding the terms of their resettlement and compensation. 

Incredibly, this Jerusalem Post article described, "Prime Minister Ehud Olmert lash[ing] out on Sunday at the red tape hampering the resettlement of the Gaza evacuees."

Hellooooo!  Memo to Olmert:  It was on your say so that more than 8000 people were thrown out of their homes and forced to abandon the lives they had built for themselves in the Gazan and northern Shomron communities.  Do you really mean to tell us that you didn't look at the resettlement and compensation apparatus before giving them your word?

According to the article, "While most of the evacuees now live in some form of temporary housing, only 21 families have made it through the bureaucratic process and obtained permission to build permanent homes. It is estimated that some 1,379 families still await authorization to build homes that replicate their Gaza communities. The remaining 300 families are assumed to have sought individual solutions [meaning they got tired of waiting and simply paid their own way out of imposed homelessness and unemployment]."

You have to remember that back in the emotionally charged days leading up to the disengagement there were several themes that came up again and again in any debate over the way the settlers of Gaza and Northern Samaria were responding to messages being sent to them (usually via the media) by the government.

One of these was the issue of the settler's patriotism/loyalty to the state.  The conventional wisdom held that by looking askance at offers of resettlement and compensation, the settlers were demonstrating a profound lack of trust that their government was acting in good faith.

I find it hard to believe that a Prime Minister who, with a couple of phone calls, can place a controlling interest in one of Israel's largest banks in the hands of friends and relatives can't find a creative way around whatever is standing in the way of the promised housing for a population whose lives were ruined at his direction.

For that matter, where are all the pro-disengagement people with whom I debated on and off-line back in the summer of 2005?   Where are those people who told me that the settler's distrust of the government's promises was unfounded and even unpatriotic.  Where are the pundits who shouted me down with statements like "[the settlers] need to do what's best for the State of Israel now and stop being so selfish!"  Why aren't all these people busy asking hard questions of the government they so vehemently defended? 

Can somebody please tell me what the headlong rush was all about back in 2005 if not to simply to cover Ariel Sharon's ample arse in the face of imminent legal woes?  Why was it so urgent that we make a hasty, unilateral retreat from these places without any hope of ensuring peace/stability in the power vacuum we would create?  Why doesn't the responsibility for looking after the Israeli citizens who were literally dragged from their homes deserve the same sense of urgency as the disengagement itself?

And most important, why has NOBODY stepped up to take responsibility?  This, in my humble opinion, is the most pressing question in Israeli politics today, regardless if one is a politician or simply a voter. 

It seems to me that one of the main reasons we, as a country, keep making the same damned mistakes over and over again is that we allow our partisan decision makers to act like some prom queen who just waltzed out of the bathroom with the hem of her dress tucked into the back of her pantyhose.  I'm sorry, you can't simply pretend that uprooting 1400+ families from their homes and lives didn't happen simply because it's embarrassing! 

Even if one tries to honestly say that there was no way of knowing what a security nightmare the disengagement would create (a claim that is still made despite the widespread warnings of exactly what would ensue after the pull-out), the resettlement of the refugees was, and remains, entirely the responsibility of the government Ehud Olmert currently leads.  It happened on their watch, yet they are acting like it is a troubesome, intractable problem inherited from a previous regime.

What can one make of Olmert's statement that, "he had supported disengagement from Gaza and the four settlements in northern Samaria, but not the cumbersome resettlement process that had developed in the aftermath of the pullout."?  It sure sounds to me like Olmert is saying that he was in favor of knocking that glass of milk off the kitchen counter but completely against that big wet mess it made on the floor. 

You simply can't separate responsibility for disengagement from the tragic results!

I contend that there is a time and place to cry over spilt milk... and that time is now!


Posted by David Bogner on October 30, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (12) | TrackBack

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Funny as a crutch, Rich

Several friends have forwarded the following cartoon to me (original source: MideastTruth.com). 

[click to embiggen]

Like most jokes, the humor can be found in the essential truth behind the statement.  However, I have to say that the small fact of being an Israeli civilian (not to mention the father and husband of some other Israeli civilians), kept my guffaw from turning into a full-blown belly-laugh.

What troubles me is that the world still seems content to treat Iran's very frank statements about wiping Israel off the map... and their equally frank statements about continuing full speed ahead with their nuclear program... as innocent jokes.  In fact, cartoons like the one above seem to be the sum total of the world's response to the Iranian threats!

What has me feeling out of sorts right now is that, short of a pre-emptive nuclear first strike (not very likely with our current appeasement-based leadership), Israel's security from an Iranian nuclear attack is entirely in the hands of people who are trying to derail Iran through sheer force of personality.  So far that plan hasn't met with much success.

So what am I doing to help the cause?

Well, first of all... those pesky Iranians are pretty damned lucky that I can't draw, because I'd be churning out cartoons of Mohamed in some improbable poses and locations, let me tell ya! 

Just in case I can find a cartoonist to collaborate with, I won't give too much away... but suffice it to say that outhouses, rubber fishing waders and the expression 'bombs away' might all play featured roles.

Right now I'm surfing the web to see if I can find toilet paper with passages from the Koran or an image of the prophet Mohamed printed on it.  If I could find TP with both, it would certainly save some time, don't you think? 

I actually have a copy of the Koran at home (from my naive days of trying to understand what all the hate was about), but I'm worried that putting it into the toilet whole might clog up the plumbing.


OK, I feel a tiny bit better now.


Posted by David Bogner on October 29, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (15) | TrackBack

Friday, October 27, 2006

Photo Friday (vol. LXXXI) [touches of color edition]

My lovely wife Zahava is an artist.  She got her degree in Fine Arts, lives and breaths art, and is lucky enough to make her living from art. 

Me?  I like the old masters and a smattering of the impressionists... but I don't usually enjoy 'modern art'. 

This was often a cause of tension when Zahava dragged me kicking and screaming to the MoMa.  I usually got my revenge by stating loudly (and frequently) stuff like:

"Oh puleeeeeze!  You call that art?  I'm sorry, an unpainted white canvass with a black pencil line on it is not art.  And neither is a stool with a bicycle wheel mounted on it!  If I can do it... IT'S NOT ART!!!"

I would then pretend to be unaware of the angry looks from the nearby patrons of the arts... or my wife's furious glare.

However, I do have a soft spot for a certain type of modern art.

I love 'discovering' little bits of art in unlikely places.  Sometimes it can be a municipal or privately funded piece of sculpture.  Other times it is a bit of unauthorized artwork by a 'commando' artist (a great one of this genre that comes to mind is the famous Pink Lady of Malibu... this weekend being the 40th anniversary of the creation of this short-lived landmark). 

However, for me to like it, it must meet the following criteria:

1.  It must be unique (at least to me)
2.  It must be located where few people are likely to see it.

The sense of discovery I get when I stumble across such a piece feels a little like having a private showing, or even a gallery opening... just for me.

While driving near Tel Sheva (the archaeological excavations where ancient Beer Sheva is said to have been located), I came across such an understated, unique and remote work of art.   It was created by taking an existing part of the landscape  - In this case a high-tension wire tower - and adding small (relatively speaking) colored accents.

The effect is extremely powerful because of the muted colors that make up the nearby desert landscape... and by the dull gray frame of the metal tower.

I snapped shots from three different angles:




Best of all, there was no plaque... no credit given... no indication whatsoever who had created this work of art, or why.  It just... is.

I love that, and I thought you might too.

Shabbat Shalom.


Posted by David Bogner on October 27, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (16) | TrackBack

Thursday, October 26, 2006

goddess credentials

A couple of you made the observation on Tuesday's post that Zahava must be some sort of goddess after having been such a good sport about my shameless public leering at Caroline Glick's glamorous new headshot. 

Well, I've decided to give you another glimpse at Zahava's goddess credentials:

During our dating days, Zahava had many occasions to ask me the typical new couple question, "Tell me again how you know [so and so]?".  It is a testament to both her self-confidence and patience that she calmly accepted my unvarying answer, "Um, we used to date" without kicking me in the shins and simply walking away.

After awhile, whenever I would introduce her to anyone who happened to be female, Zahava started automatically asking, "Let me guess... you two used to go out, right?"

Before you get the wrong idea... it wasn't as if I cut such a huge swath through the population of eligible women in the greater New York area.  It's just that two opposite mathematical forces were being exerted upon my collection of friends:

1.  From age of 22 to 29 my circle of 'guy friends' was both small and static. Almost all of them were musicians... and my gig schedule in the evenings and on weekends didn't really lend itself to enlarging that social circle.  In fact I actually lost touch with some of the guys I used to be close with during this period because we didn't play for the same bands! So instead of being 'static', one could even say this group was actually shrinking.

2.  During that same period, pretty much the only social interaction I had outside of my small circle of musician friends was through dating.   Since I remained friendly with almost everyone I dated, my circle of female friends and acquaintances continued to steadily grow while my circle of male friends stayed static... or perhaps even dwindled. 

Net result:  I ended up with a disproportionately large number of female friends... and a relatively modest number of male friends.

I have to say that Zahava has remained a very good sport about meeting my ex's (thus the 'goddess' title).  But to be honest, my wife can't complain too loudly... since as I've written before, one of my old girlfriends introduced us!


Posted by David Bogner on October 26, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (15) | TrackBack

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Has anyone else noticed...

... that Caroline Glick's new head-shot in the Jerusalem Post is totally hot?


Wow, what an improvement over her old one. 


I used to think she was just brilliant and accomplished, but now... brains AND beauty too!  Who knew?

Oh puleeze, grow up people!  Don't even try to tell me I'm the only one who noticed this and had this thought!  Sheesh!


Posted by David Bogner on October 24, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (32) | TrackBack

Monday, October 23, 2006

The sound of commitment

The other night Zahava and I attended the engagement party of one of my regular hitchhikers who is also the daughter of one of our neighbors. 

The engaged couple is what I always pictured in my mind before we moved here when I day-dreamed about how our children might look as young Israeli adults.  They make such a striking couple that you would want to put them in an advertisement for Jewish singles tours to Israel ("Come to Israel and find a husband/wife that looks like this!").

He is a tall, handsome, young man with close cropped blond hair who is a reserve officer in the IDF and has an air of casual command of which I'm certain he is completely unaware.  His easy smile might be taken for shy if one didn't also notice the constant gleam of mischief in his eye.

She is a tall, slender, beautiful young woman with shoulder-length brown hair that falls somewhere between 'windblown' and 'dreadlocks'.  She dresses almost exclusively in loose-fitting long cotton tunics and harem pants (what her father jokingly calls 'the Bedouin look') and my daughter Ariella considers her to be the final word on fashion.

Between these two young people, their combined circle of army and university friends looks a bit like a casting call for an Abercrombie & Fitch catalog photo shoot.  Seriously, I can't remember ever seeing such a collection of tall, tanned, beautiful, athletic-looking kids in my life!

So we arrived to the engagement party fashionably late (we had to watch D.H., after all) and the festivities had already spilled out onto the street.  Most of the people outside in the front yard were the the Abercrombie & Fitch catalog crowd... with a few of them playing guitar and banging on various sized drums while the remainder sang loudly and danced around in dizzying circles.

Inside the living-room/dining-room and kitchen was where most of the Parent's friends had gathered and every horizontal surface was set with plates and trays of cakes, dried fruit, olives,cheeses, drinks, nuts and about a million other treats. 

As with the celebrations going on outside, there wasn't an inch to move inside, and periodically the group would spontaneously pause to dance around with the parents of the couple.  The only thing that occasionally brought the crowd to a semblance of decorum was the clink of a glass as someone in, or close to, the family stood up to say a few words of blessing for the couple.

It was shortly after one of these lulls that Zahava and I heard a muffled crash from another part of the living-room followed by a joyous shout of Mazal Tov.  We looked at each other and wondered out loud if we had simply heard a plate or tray being dropped or if they had actually carried out the religious ceremony of 'Tena'im'.

[Skip the following paragraph if you already know what ''Tena'im' is]

Tenaim, which translates as "conditions," is an Ashkenazic tradition of engagement, a pre-Ketubah contract setting out the terms of the marriage, including the date and time of the wedding ceremony (chuppah). After the witnessed signing and reading of the Tenaim, a plate is smashed, traditionally by the future mothers-in-law, symbolizing the impending breaks in their relationships with their children, who will soon take responsibility for feeding each other. In recent years, many Orthodox rabbis have encouraged the Tenaim to be scheduled very close in time before the wedding, if at all, out of concerns that it has a binding effect under Jewish law and requires a get (writ of divorce) if the engagement is called off.   Source:  Here

You see, while in Europe a century ago it was quite common for the formal announcement of a couple's engagement to be accompanied by ''Tena'im'... in our circles in the US, we had become accustomed to the ''Tena'im' being delayed until the day of the wedding immediately before the actual ceremony was about to begin.  As noted above, this practice was done because according to many Rabbinic authorities, though the couple isn't fully married after their parents perform ''Tena'im', they aren't fully single anymore either.  They are now in a funny middle ground where they are legally betrothed to one another... and technically, if they call off the engagement they will need a formal 'Get' or divorce under Jewish law.

Since we couldn't see all the way to that part of the living room I'm not sure if what we had heard was ''Tena'im' or simply a dish or tray being dropped.  However, I would not be surprised to find it was, in fact, the former. 

You see, in addition to the tendency of post-army Israelis to 'cut loose' a little bit, traveling the world... letting their hair grow long... establishing themselves outside (and often at odds with) their parent's sphere of influence, they are also much more serious and worldly than their typical American counterparts.  Their life experiences have given them the tools to make decisions that many young Americans happily push off for a decade or more.

I suppose I can now add to the long list of stuff I didn't recognize before we moved here: 'The sound of a commitment being made'.


Posted by David Bogner on October 23, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (14) | TrackBack

Friday, October 20, 2006

Under the weather

Well, that title is a bit misleading as it is a glorious early fall day here in Israel... blue skies, wispy clouds here and there... warm air with just a hint of chill.

But am I out enjoying it with my family?  Noooooooo.

I can't put my finger on any particular reason why I always seem to get sick on my days off (Friday or Shabbat)... but there it is.

I woke up this morning with a headache, stuffy nose and a nice assortment of aches and pains.

Now that I've vacuumed and done sponja (washed the floors), I am going to crawl back into bed to see if I can shake this thing with a serious dose of sleep.

I'll let you know on Sunday how it all worked out.

Shabbat Shalom.

Posted by David Bogner on October 20, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (16) | TrackBack

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Verbal shortcuts and random telepathy

It has taken me a few years... but I've finally coming to terms with the fact that I will probably never fully grasp the entire lexicon of abbreviations, contractions and acronyms with which Israelis habitually pepper their speech.

First of all, many of these inscrutable 'words' trace their origin to the Israeli Army... and like all militaries, the IDF looooves its acronyms. 

Add to this the inherent Israeli predisposition for cutting corners, improvisation and finding short-cuts... and you end up with a bumper crop of words in Hebrew that sound like gibberish to anyone who hasn't grown up here.

However, the most puzzling bit of verbal shorthand has nothing to do with the IDF, and isn't, in fact, actually a word, per se.

It works like this:  If an Israeli is speaking to someone and wants to explain that something is not as the listener presumes... they have two choices.  They can take the long route (not bloody likely) and say:

"It's not [insert long explanation of what isn't meant/intended], It's actually [insert equally long explanation of what it is meant/intended].

Or, the speaker can take a verbal shortcut and simply say:

"Listen, it's NOOOOOOooooooooooooot..." and end the sentence right there.

In Hebrew it comes out sounding like:  "Tishmah, Zeh LOOOOOOOOOoooooooooooo…" stretching the word for 'not' out to about six syllables of widely varying pitch. 

And the incredible part is that a native Israeli listener instantly understands (through a combination of shared experience and telepathy) everything that would have been included in the speaker's lengthly (and apparently unnecessary) explanation.

This particular verbal shortcut/mind-meld never ceases to amaze me!


Posted by David Bogner on October 19, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (12) | TrackBack

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

"Those [religious] people..."

I never get used to hearing secular Israelis complain loudly and unabashedly about "those [religious] people". 

The most common themes found in these rants are:

1.  "Those people are unpatriotic because they don't serve in the army." - An interesting/convenient generalization since the number of secular and religious Israelis who ask for and receive deferments from compulsory service in the IDF is about equal.  Conveniently glossed over (or simply ignored) are the following:

a) There is a very distinct difference between the Chareidi (black hat/Hasidic) and Dati Leumi (religious nationalist) approach to compulsory army service.  While there are a relatively small number of Chareidim who now serve in special combat units in the Israeli army, most Chareidim ask for a perfectly legal exemption under the law.  However, virtually all Dati Leumi men not only serve... but as a group they tend to gravitate towards the most elite of the IDF combat units. 

b) By comparison, a large percentage of secular Israelis who receive exemptions from army service do so on much more shaky legal grounds (i.e. personal convenience or politics rather than core ideology).

c) Among women who request exemptions from army service, there is a very interesting distinction that falls along religious lines and which is ignored by people who complain about 'those people' not doing army service.  That distinction is called 'Shirut Leumi' (national service).  Secular girls who ask for and receive exemptions almost never perform some alternate form of national service while religious girls (at least in the Dati Leumi camp... I don't have a clue about how the Chareidi girls handle this) almost universally do.  This service can take many forms, but is often performed in the capacity of hospital volunteers, teachers, and youth advisers in development towns...roles that benefit both secular and religious Israelis.

2.  "Those people are parasites living off the government." - Again there is a seemingly willful glossing over of the very real distinction between the two main religious groups in Israel; 'Chareidi' and 'Dati Leumi'.  However, even if one was to lump these two very different worlds into one big bag... I would be interested to see how the ledger of government payments (including welfare, child support and other benefits) stacks up along purely secular and religious lines.  My guess is that yes, the religious community overall may receive a slightly larger percentage of such payments... but that the secular community is not far behind in terms of those who either can't or won't work/support themselves and/or their families.  If anyone has some hard facts to support or discredit my assumption I would be happy to post them here.

3. "Those people teach their kids to hate us." - This is the one that hurts me the most.  While there are certainly religious parents that point at some of the more unsavory aspects of secular society as a cautionary tale rather than as a lesson in brotherly love/tolerance, I am equally certain that there are plenty of secular parents who expose their children to the full catechism of "those [religious] people..." statements which I have listed here (and many more).  The difference can be found in which statements are considered more politically acceptable by Israeli society. 

The best litmus test of what is, and isn't, PC can be found in the statements that are entered into the public record by our politicians.  To illustrate this point I'd like to share the following:

a) At the start of the most recent Knesset session, MK Chaim Oron (Meretz) ascended the Knesset podium and actually proposed the following be codified into Israeli Law:

"Any person who attempts to influence a minor, to become more religiously observant of Judaism,(להחזיר בתשובה) will be subject to arrest and imprisonment for 6 months."  *

I was stunned when I read this.  It sounded like an edict handed down under Greek or Roman rule... not something that would be uttered in the Israeli Knesset!  To my knowledge MK Oron didn't propose a corollary law stating that anyone who influenced a minor to become less religious,(להחזיר בשאלה) receive a similar punishment. 

b) Entire political parties have been established (and widely supported by the Israeli electorate) on platforms made up almost entirely of anti-religious initiatives (Shinui being the most unapologetic example).  While there are several pro-religious political parties in the Knesset whose goals include advancing the agenda of the religious community (or some sub-set thereof), I don't know of any parties that have had a platform exclusively built upon advancing anti-secular initiatives.

Once upon a time in the US there was no social barrier/taboo to using pejorative and demeaning terminology when speaking about minorities.  Today if one were to use the 'N' word in a public setting or even call a black man 'boy', he/she would be publicly excoriated.  Likewise, even the casual use of the phrase 'Those people' when referring to any group is considered insulting and demeaning.

Yet here in Israel there is no such social barrier to making the sweeping statements vilifying large swaths of our society.  That politicians and private citizens alike feel completely comfortable making bigoted, wrong-headed statements about "Those people..." is a frightening indication of the hatred (and often self-hatred) that has been allowed to infect Israeli discourse... and society.

* Source

Hat Tip goes to my friend Jameel, proprietor of The Muqata


Posted by David Bogner on October 18, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (31) | TrackBack

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Hook, line and sinker!

I've written in the past about my unfortunate susceptibility to the glowing blue tractor beam known as television.  For some reason I have this uncanny ability to become personally invested in shows that, quite frankly, I have no business watching.  By this I mean shows that are often not particularly 'manly'.

The last crisis I had in this area was when my wife managed to get me - completely against my will - hooked on 'Sex and the City'. 

I know... I know... I'm so ashamed.

Anyway, my evil wife has gone and done it again.  I swear this woman would pour a drink for a recovering alcoholic and give free casino vouchers to someone with a gambling problem!

I was perfectly happy watching West Wing once a week.  But then she went and introduced me to the gateway drug of 'CSI'.  Now I'm up until all hours watching CSI Miami, CSI Vegas, CSI Spokane, CSI Peoria and CSI Fresno.  Zahava didn't tell me that there was a version of CSI for every city in America!  Funny, did that just happen to slip your mind honey?

At least the CSI shows had enough violence and gore to be acceptable fodder for any self-respecting male viewer.

Still, I thought I had things under control.  I told myself I could stop cold turkey any time I wanted.

But could my little Cassandra leave well enough alone?  No... she used her feminine wiles to lure me onto the couch while she watched "something new".    That something turned out to be the first episode of 'Desperate Housewives' (we're a bit behind the times here in Israel).

The opening few minutes of the show were promising from a masculine viewer's point of view; pretty female leads... gratuitous gun play... a messy suicide.  I settled in with a tumbler of bourbon on ice thinking this would be a nice, albeit brief, diversion.

Well, here we are almost halfway through the 'Desperate Housewives' season and all I have to say is, "Hi... my name is David and have a TV problem."

I've tried to keep up appearances.  I've pretended I don't care what happens to any of the characters.  I've even tried to make Zahava believe I'm indifferent about watching the show from week to week.  But I think she's onto me.   you see, any time we have stuff scheduled in the evening like Parent Teacher night... dialysis... funerals... I ever-so-casually ask "uh, that's not the night Desperate Housewives is on, is it?"

Dammit Zahava, you've done it to me again!!!

I think I need an intervention.

[hangs head]


Posted by David Bogner on October 17, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (39) | TrackBack

Monday, October 16, 2006

Small acts of kindness

[Setting:  Standing on line in a bakery on Friday afternoon, casually eavesdropping on two women having a conversation behind me]

Woman 1: I'm running really late today... I wonder if they've already locked the cash registers.

Woman 2: 'Locked the cash registers?'  What does that mean... they won't take our money?

W1: Yeah... basically.  30 - 45 minutes before they officially close, the owner goes around to each cash register and locks the drawers... and then goes home.  The cashiers have instructions to tell anyone coming after the drawers are locked that they have no way to accept money so whatever the customers have picked out is free.

W2:  I don't get it... why would the owner do that?

W1:  Don't you see... it's just like in Machane Yehuda [the open air produce market in Jerusalem] where a lot of the vendors who sell perishables slash their prices an hour before closing for shabbat.  That way the poor people can 'buy' the things they need for shabbat with dignity... and the vendors basically give things that can't be stored over shabbat to a worthy cause.  And because some of the people doing last minute shopping really are simply running late, there is no shame for the poor because nobody knows who is who.

W2:  Wait, so you're telling me it's an open secret that poor people come here during the last hour before closing and they get their baked goods for free?

W1:  Exactly, only everyone's dignity is protected by the fact that some shoppers are actually running late... and by the owner's little charade of the locked cash registers.  This way everyone wins; The owner of the bakery performs a 'hesed' [roughly translates as an act of kindness]... the cashiers get to take part in the act... and the recipients can just as easily be genuinely running late as poor... so there is no embarrassment to anyone at being on the receiving end of the act.

W2:  [after a brief pause] Y'know... sometimes I love this country!

[Author's note:  Me too!]

While driving home from the bakery my mind replayed the conversation I had just heard... and then wandered to a memory of a wonderful fish restaurant in Brooklyn that Zahava and I used to frequent.  This kitschy little kosher seafood place had an incredibly wide selection of really fresh fish on the menu at all times, and the owner would often come to the table to recommend new selections or advise diners on interesting new ways to have their old favorites prepared.

After one of our dinners there I was raving about the place to a friend who also knew the place, and I wondered aloud how this little restaurant could afford to have so many different kinds of fresh fish on the menu.  Surely the law of averages suggested that they must end up throwing out a lot of fish since not every portion of every type of fish would be ordered by the customers every day. 

My friend's reply was an eye-opener. 

He explained that every night at 'closing time', many of the poor, and/or homeless people from the neighborhood knew to come to the restaurant.  The manager personally seated them at tables set with clean linen tablecloths and napkins, and had his chef prepare for them whatever fish would not be perfectly fresh the following evening.  Rather than let the fish go 'off' and be thrown away, he opted to have his chef work an extra hour preparing it for people in need of a good meal.

Fiscally speaking, TurboTax is not going to find any extra deductions for this service and a cost accountant wouldn't really care about where the 'wasted' food went at the end of the day... because gone is gone, and an old loaf of challah is the same as day old fish to someone looking only at a ledger.

I like to think that these business owners are keeping two sets of books (and not in the criminal sense); one that tells them how they are doing right now... and one that will only be checked when they are audited at the end of their days.

I'm sure there must be thousands... maybe even tens of thousands... of stories like these floating around out there.  Such 'small' acts of kindness must occur every day under our very noses, yet unless we overhear someone talking about them in a bakery line... or have a friend fill us in about what happens to leftover fish at our favorite restaurant... we may never hear about them. 

And that's a shame.


Posted by David Bogner on October 16, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (29) | TrackBack

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Washing away a bad taste

Back at the start of the recent war in Lebanon I cranked out a hastily-written post called 'A difficult Lesson' about a bar fight I'd witnessed in the Philippines... and used that experience to illustrate my thoughts about what Israel should (but ultimately would probably not) be allowed to do in it's fight against Hezbollah.

Almost overnight the post 'grew legs' and was being linked around the conservative end of the blogosphere.  The piece was read on the air by several Radio talk show hosts (including Hugh Hewitt and Wide-Awake Radio's Terry Dillard) and I actually did a couple of on-air interviews. 

Within a few days the post had gone viral and had been copied into emails by a number of well-meaning people who distributed it to their entire mailing lists.

All of this attention was quite flattering, but I really didn't have a chance to enjoy it because within a few days of publishing the 'Difficult Lesson' post I started getting puzzling emails from people all over the world asking if I was the author of the post.  This seemed odd since it was published quite clearly under my name on treppenwitz. 

But the emails soon started to make sense when I realized that at least three separate people had removed my name before emailing the post to their distribution lists... and one had even added the attribution of a real Nebraska Newspaper and the byline of a fictitious retired Navy Captain named 'Dave Wilson'. 

One of the first emails of this sort that I received was from that Nebraska newspaper's editor telling me he had received hundreds of phone calls and emails asking about this non-existent Op Ed piece by 'Captain Wilson'.  He had never published such a piece and a quick google search directed him to my post on treppenwitz.

Long story short (I know, I know... one of these days I'll actually be able to use that expression honestly), by the time the emails started rolling in asking me about the essay (some actually accusing me of plagiarizing Captain Wilson!), a search using anti-plagiarism software turned up no less than 58 web sites that had published 'A Difficult Lesson' without attributing it to me!  Some had it attributed to Captain Wilson, some had it unattributed... and a few even made it appear that the site owner had written the essay!

Needless to say, I was seeing red by this time.

I've ranted in the past about the importance of providing accurate attribution for EVERYTHING we forward around the 'net, whether via our blogs or in emails to friends and colleagues... but little did I guess that I would become such a victim of people ignoring this basic responsibility.

Any pleasure/pride I might have taken in having written an essay that resonated with such a large group of people was swallowed up in my anger over having had my intellectual property stolen from me so casually.

When the war in Lebanon came to its unsatisfactory (yet predictable) conclusion, I had little taste or energy for a follow up.  Despite the fact that every single one of my predictions had come to pass... there were families here who were suffering far more than the loss of intellectual property.  It seemed petty to tell the story of my AWOL intellectual property rights... so I wrote a short 'I told you so' post and moved on.

Then a few weeks after the end of the war I got an email from a well-respected blogger I have followed for quite some time named Michael Totten.  It seems that he and Doubleday editor Adam Bellow (son of Nobel Prize-winning author Saul Bellow) were working together on a publishing project about the war in Lebanon and wanted permission to include my essay. 

An excerpt from his email to me:

"We will publish a small book (64 pages or so) that will be sold on the Internet that tells the story of the recent war in Lebanon between Israel and Hezbollah. We want to tell this story by republishing the best short essays written on Lebanese and Israeli blogs. One of the articles you wrote is, in our view, one of the best and we would like to include it in the collection."

And just like that, whatever bad taste that remained in my mouth from having had my work separated from my name was suddenly washed away.  Here was a well-respected writer not only complimenting my work... but actually asking permission to republish it!

I'm bringing this up today because I just got an email from Michael saying that the book has been published.  Besides being extremely flattered to have been included in such a collection of essays, I'm honestly interested to read what else was being written during the war... by both Israeli and Lebanese bloggers. 

You see, during the fighting up north, many of my J-blogger colleagues actively sought out out their counterparts on the 'other side', as well as dissenting voices closer to home. 

I simply couldn't bring myself to do this. 

In time of war I didn't have any interest in viewing anyone 'over there' as human.  They were the enemy.  Full stop.  I was afraid that seeing the human stories from the other vantage point would make it difficult or impossible to advocate prosecuting the war to it's logical (and IMHO necessary) conclusion.  However, I promised myself that at the end of the war... whatever the outcome... I would take the time to see what else was being said. 

Now is my chance.

If any of you would be interested in acquiring a copy of this publication, here is a handy link (the collection is called "Blog Digest #1: The Hezbollah War; Edited by Michael J. Totten").


Here's Michael's post about it (including his introduction to the book).   I'll be interested to hear your thoughts.


Posted by David Bogner on October 15, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (17) | TrackBack

Friday, October 13, 2006

Photo Friday (vol. LXXX) [Rock & Roll Fantasy edition]

Every so often I start to think that in addition to simply living my ordinary suburban life I'm also subconsciously collecting experiences.  That's not a bad thing, mind you... but it sometimes makes me want to pinch myself to see if all this is real.

Take for example my arrival in Israel.  Most people book a flight and fight their way through customs before wandering alone to find a cab at the curb.  I (meaning we) had the good fortune to be welcomed to Israel like visiting heads of state.   When I wrote about that experience, I tossed off a casual comment that it was an experience that everyone should try at least once in their life.

Well, this past week I found myself in another setting where all I could think to myself was 'savor this moment and burn it into your memory because most people will never get to experience what this feels like'.

For the past few years during the Sukkot vacation there has been a big corporate-sponsored outdoor concert held in Beit Shemesh here in Israel.  I've been fortunate enough to be asked to play with one of the bands (Shlock Rock) almost every year (last year was rained out), and each time I'm up there on stage in front of that enormous screaming audience I catch myself thinking "this can't possibly be real".

This year I asked my wife if she would mind snapping a few shots from her vantage point with the kids about a quarter of the way back in the crowd so I could see what it looked like. 

When I first saw the results I was a little disappointed.  Using my little point & shoot digital camera, Zahava had collected what looked like views through a broken kaleidoscope.  When she saw my reaction she said, "Don't worry... I'm a Photoshop® genius!".

When she emailed me the photos I was impressed with how well she'd cleaned them up.  However I told her, "If you're such a Photoshop® genius why didn't you give me a full head of hair and take 20 pounds off my gut".  To which she replied "I'm a Photoshop® genius... not a miracle worker!".

So here's what she came up with:

That's me there on the right (stage left) with the trombone.  The drummer is Mike Roth... the keyboardist is Lenny Solomon... the sax player is Danny Block.  Our Regular guitarist was out of town so we 'borrowed' the guitarist from the band 'Reva 'L'shevah':

A little closer:

Another view:

The miracle of zoom:

The miracle of zoom AND cropping:
I hope I get a chance to play the concert again next year.  I mean, where else can a bald, overweight, middle-aged husband/father stand up in front of thousands of screaming people and have a bunch of teenagers down front singing along... waving their hands in the air... and basically doing a damned good impression of open adulation?

When I left the U.S. I also left behind the music business.  I can't tell you how nice it is to be able to get a taste of the old life now and then... y'know, just to be able to hoard a few more experiences for my collection.  :-)

Shabbat Shalom and have a great Simchat Torah (for those celebrating).

Posted by David Bogner on October 13, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (15) | TrackBack

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The two most important things in life:

1.  Don't reveal everything you know.

[Disclosure: I spent about two hours last night trying to figure out where I'd heard this one.  I searched all my email accounts (even the abandoned ones)... checked the Internet... even asked a few friends.  Nothing.  All it took to remind me where I'd heard it was one little '*ahem...*' in the comments section.  Sorry 'a'.]


Posted by David Bogner on October 12, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (16) | TrackBack

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Very funny 'til someone breaks their neck!

One of the things my older son, Gilad, and I have have in common is a sincere appreciation of a good night's sleep.  He and I can, quite literally, sleep until woken.  12 hours?  No problem.  15...18?  Bring it on.  As much time as we are allowed... we will sleep.

So you can imagine my surprise at finding Gilad - on a non-school morning - sitting in the living room fully dressed when I came upstairs to make the coffee and bring in the newspaper.

OK, the truth is I wasn't all that surprised.  You see last night we gave Gilad his birthday present (he's 11 now, kenainahara!) and I was pretty sure he would want try it out first thing in the morning.

A little back-story is required  at this point.

When Gilad wants something he can be absolutely relentless.  He's not rude, mind you... just doggedly persistent. 

About a year ago Gilad mounted a one-man harassment campaign for a pair of in-line skates.  I didn't even wait for Zahava's input on the matter.  I said no.  I said no the first, second and 55th time Gilad casually brought up the topic.  No amount of reasoning or pleading on his part made the slightest headway with me.  I even heard myself quoting well-worn nuggets when he tried to explain that everyone else had them ("if everyone else jumped off a bridge...").

The simple truth is that I am an over-protective father.  Not about all things... but things like skateboards, roller-blades, etc., yeah... totally overprotective. 

There, I've said it.

I told him that I had put my parents through seven levels of hell as a kid with all my injuries and that the local emergency room and orthopedist's office had had pre-printed forms filled out with my name, address and insurance information on hand... just in case.  I told him I had no intention of being put through that as a parent.

Every night as I walk around the house turning off lights and pulling blankets up over sleeping children, I look at their perfect (tfu tfu tfu) features and smooth unmarked bodies and cringe at the thought of cuts, bruises and broken bones.

I am beginning to understand the agony my mother must have experienced each time the phone would ring and a school nurse would open the 'conversation' with the dreaded words "Now don't worry Mrs. Bogner, David is going to be OK, but...".


Each time Gilad raised the topic of in-line skates, all I could picture was my perfect little boy with broken arms and legs... and chipped teeth.  The last time he asked I simply handed him a pair of scissors and told him to run around the house with them... that it would be a faster (not to mention cheaper) route to the inevitable tragedy.

However, as Gilad's birthday approached I started thinking about the fairness of my knee-jerk veto. 

While driving around our community I noted that quite a few of his peers did indeed seem to have in-line skates.  Also, the kids on our street ALL seemed to have them.  A week ago I came home from work to find Gilad sitting on the curb in our parking lot watching a bunch of his friends playing a pick-up game of roller-hockey.  The sight of Gilad sitting there with his chin cradled in his hands nearly broke my heart.  It moved me in a way that none of his arguments had ever been able to.

So yesterday I called Zahava from work and asked if I could surprise Gilad after dinner with a trip to the mall to pick out a pair of skates for his birthday.  There was a long silence on the other end of the phone... but sensing that this was indeed a profound sea-change in my parenting philosophy, she didn't offer any objections.

On the way to the mall that evening Gilad could barely sit still.  He chattered away endlessly about all kinds of specifications and details related to selecting the right pair of skates.  I had no idea he had done so much research.  It made me feel even smaller for having denied his request for so long.

When we got to the sporting goods store the salesman immediately tried to steer us towards a pair of in-line skates made from platinum and diamonds (I'm making a guess based on the price).  While Gilad was busy looking over the selection I quietly whispered to the clerk that if he wanted my business he had better show me something appropriate for an 11-year-old boy.  He quickly led me to a rack of very reputable skates that seemed to be made of less exotic materials... but which were by no means cheap. 

Gilad picked out a pair that met his demanding specifications and I gave them my blessing. 

But before I let the cashier ring them up, I told Gilad that in order to get the skates he would have to agree to buy a complete set of wrist, elbow and knee pads (with his saved allowance money) and wear them - along with a helmet - at all times while skating. 

It was the fastest 'yes' of his life.

When we got home it was nearly his bed time, but I let him put on the skates (and protective gear, of course), and take an inaugural spin up and down the street on his new skates.  When he finally came in 20 minutes later he was bathed in sweat and grinning from ear to ear.

I gave him a kiss and sent him off to get ready for bed.  Instead of sitting down to take off the skates he started heading for the stairs and jokingly (I hope) asked if he could walk up the stairs wearing the skates. 

I couldn't stop myself.  Before I could call it back, the words "You'll break your neck!" sprang unbidden from my mouth... and right then and there I knew I had finally become a full-fledged parent.

Happy Birthday Gilad.  Please be safe.



Posted by David Bogner on October 11, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (31) | TrackBack

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


In the interest of being a good neighbor I have avoided any mention of a certain couple since the great beehive wars of 2005

Seeing as it is only a few days after Yom Kippur one would think I would continue with that trend. 

But one would be mistaken.

There is a basketball hoop in the courtyard outside our garden gate where many of the neighborhood kids (including ours) gather to play ball.  The location (OK, the very existance) of the basketball hoop caused a bit of a flap a few months back, so in the interest of appeasing certain elderly [read: difficult] neighbors, the parents of all the children who use the hoop got together and agreed on specific hours when kids could - and couldn't - play. 

That should have been that.

However, kids being kids... they sometimes stop dribbling a few moments after 2:00PM... and toss a few anticipatory baskets a second or two before 4:00PM.  It doesn't happen often... but it does happen.

This elderly couple must sit by the door staring at the second hand on the clock... waiting for such violations of the neighborhood playtime treaty, because every single time this happens, one (or both) of them springs from their front door like a jack-in-the-box, screaming at the offending kid(s).

Well, the other day a young boy from the neighborhood committed the cardinal sin of actually bouncing a basketball 30 seconds before four o'clock, and suddenly found himself being roundly harrangued by an indignant elderly woman.

So there she was... hands on hips... screaming down at this little kid (in Hebrew),  "Don't you know it's forbidden to play between two and four?!"   [Ata lo yodeah sh'asur lisacheik bein shtayim l'arbah?!"]

The little kid stood there like a deer in the headlights, not knowing what to say... but finally responded plaintively, "But I'm not between two and four... I'm six!" [Aval ani lo bein shtayim l'arbah... ani ben sheysh!"]

Do you remember that scene at the end of 'How the grinch stole Christmas' where the grinch's heart, which had been "two sizes too small" grows and swells, and finally bursts the frame of the window through which we are viewing it... and then he returns the sled full of toys to Whoville, and everyone lives happily ever after?  Do you???

Well this was nothing like that.


She was so shocked by his response that she stood and glared at this little kid for a full minute, unable to think of anything else to scream at him.  Apparantly this sweet little boy's innocent misunderstanding of her rant completely threw her off her game. 

In frustration, she finally just turned around and stormed back into her house.

I may buy that kid ice cream and krembo for the rest of his life.


Posted by David Bogner on October 10, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (26) | TrackBack

Monday, October 09, 2006

Truncated: A fitting symbol

We Jews are big tree planters.  This is especially true since the early 20th century when, for the first time in almost 2000 years, it looked like we might actually have a shot at having our own country again. 

Since then, we have admittedly become a bit obsessed with planting trees.

Long before the state was actually established, the little blue JNF (Jewish National Fund) 'pushkes' had already become the symbol of our longing to replant the roots of Jewish sovereignty over the Land of Israel.


[Photo: © Jewish National Fund]

In the 30s and 40s, school kids would go door to door and even stand on street corners with these JNF boxes collecting funds to plant trees in every corner of what was then referred to as Palestine. 

And as the forests spread, the act of planting a tree continued to be associated with building the state.  There was even a time when the JNF certificate ("A tree has been planted in Israel in your name...") was almost as ubiquitous a Bar/Bat Mitzvah gift as the fountain pen.

Yet this obsession with trees isn't new. 

Trees have always featured in Jewish symbolism and theology.  Take for example the Tree of Knowledge ("... of good and evil.") in the Garden of Eden.  There is also the Tree of Life... a common euphemism for the Torah (Eitz Haim He L'Machazikim Bah - "It is a Tree of Life for those who cling to it....").

But in my opinion, there are few uses of the tree in Jewish symbolism more poignant than Jewish gravestones hewn in the shape of (or featuring the image of) a tree trunk with it's branches cut off.  This expresses the very essence of 'being cut down' in the prime of life... of having one's life truncated.

Those of you who've been reading me for a bit know that this line of thought is leading somewhere.  I may ramble... but I rarely do so without a destination in mind.

Every morning I drive to work through the south Hevron hills.  Many of my friends consider this a bit foolhardy considering the route takes me through many Arab villages and past areas where countless attacks have taken place. 

I don't really have an answer for them other than to point out that even after having taken the same college-level statistics course a record three times before passing (with an abysmally low grade, I might add), I still know enough to recognize that I am no more likely to be involved in a terror attack than a shopper in a Natanya mall or someone sipping coffee in a Tel Aviv cafe.   

You see, statistically, terror attacks are as random as they are rare.  To say to oneself "I won't go there (or there or there), and am therefore safe from attack" is a fool's game which, if taken to it's logical conclusion, ends with Israel as a nation of house-bound agoraphobes.  Many people who have made a study of terrorism as a tool believe that this is actually one of its primary goals.

Coming abruptly back to my original point... trees are sometimes used to mark the site of terror attacks, and there are several such monuments to terror victims along my commute. 

About a year and a half ago I wrote a post describing one of these monuments at the site of an ambush where several Israelis - most of them members of the same family - were gunned down just a few hours before Shabbat.  The picture I took was cropped, but near the stone marker is a small stand of trees planted by the survivors of the attack and lovingly tended by them throughout the year.

Just before Hanukkah last year an Israeli man... Yossi Shok, a husband and father of five children (ranging in age from one month to nine years old)... was driving home with two sisters (hitchhikers) along the same road I travel to work.  Terrorists in a passing car sprayed his vehicle with bullets fatally injuring him in front of his passengers.

When I heard about this tragedy, I knew that before long a monument to Yossi Shok would appear near the site of the shooting... and I didn't have long to wait.  It is a large, rough-hewn block of Jerusalem stone surrounded by a small area of colored gravel sitting on the shoulder of the road where his car came to rest after the attack. 

And of course, a couple of trees were planted nearby as well. 

However, almost immediately the new saplings were uprooted... presumably by local villagers.  So the family had a couple of mature trees brought to the site and planted near the monument... and they set a schedule to come to water them and tend to the memorial.

Within a few weeks another act of vandalism had taken place at the memorial and both of the mature trees had been cut down to small stumps:


Notice the ground around the trunk shows signs of having been recently watered.  As I stopped to take these pictures the Arab women (who can be seen just to the right of the monument in the second photo) started pointing at me and screaming something over and over.  The Arabic word for 'Jew'  ('Yahud') featured prominently in the chant:


As I stood there looking at this memorial a few thoughts crossed my mind.  First came the more obvious observation: 'But for the grace of G-d (or luck, statistics, karma, etc.) that could easily have been my name on the stone'.

But then I began to look closely at the trees with their sawed branches drying in the mud nearby... and I realized that the Arab vandals had inadvertently evoked an even more powerful image for the memorial.  As I mentioned earlier, few things symbolize a life cut short more aptly than a tree trunk with it's branches removed.

As I walked back to my car in the early morning chill, I had to smile just a bit thinking how Yossi Shok's family and friends could have easily prevented these acts of vandalism had they only made clear to the Arabs the appropriateness of the result.

The irony is that in their ignorance and blind hatred of Jews, the Arabs who cut down these trees unwittingly created the perfect Jewish symbol of a truncated life.


Posted by David Bogner on October 9, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (18) | TrackBack

Friday, October 06, 2006

Photo Friday (vol. LXXIX) [Emu Feather edition]

Way behind today with Shabbat and Sukkah preparations, but it was in a good cause.  I was with a group of visiting Aussies from the Multinational Forces in Sinai (as well as from the Embassy in Tel Aviv) touring the WWI historical sites around Beer Sheva (I wrote about it here).

Since I sort of cheated you out of a photo Friday, here's a shot of our Sukkah with the table all ready to be set (hmmm, I think that's my job!).

The hat on the table is an authentic Australian Army slouch hat which was a gift from Captain J.T. (I'm not sure if he'd want me to publish his name) of the Australian Army.  He is rotating back to Australia in a few weeks where he has a new fiance waiting for him (Mazal Tov!).  This morning was the first time he'd ever heard of Sukkot... so in his honor the hat he gave me has a place of honor in the 'hut'  about which he is now well versed.

Oh, and as to the title of this edition... the distinctive feather in the slouch hat is an Emu feather.

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach!

Posted by David Bogner on October 6, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The mountain comes to Mohammed (so to speak)

Although I find it interesting that people don't think twice about relocating thousands of miles within their home country to pursue promising professional opportunities or for retirement, it is somehow accepted as a given that one of the more serious stumbling blocks placed before anyone considering 'Aliyah' (moving to Israel) is the difficulty in leaving loved-ones behind. 

Obviously there are a few mental hurdles to be cleared when considering moving to a new continent/culture, but with the advent of modern air travel, the physical difference between a separation of 6 or 12 hours seems an odd hook on which to hang the decision not to move to Israel.

Before anyone jumps in prematurely, let me reassure you that today's post is NOT meant as a criticism of those who opt not to make aliyah (for any of a thousand perfectly valid reasons).  Moving to Israel is an extremely personal and complex decision (not unlike the decision to become more or less observant), and it would be wildly unfair to suggest it is the correct decision for anyone but oneself.

That having been said, I will freely admit that for us the comfort of having most of our immediate family living close by in Connecticut/New York weighed heavily on us when we started making concrete plans to relocate to Israel. 

My parents lived within 20 minutes of our house (as did one of my sisters) and our kids enjoyed a particularly close bond with them in no small part due to being able to see them once or even twice a week.  My other sister's place in Manhattan made visits a little less spontaneous, but still there was a sense of easy accessibility that preserved an intimacy to the relationship.

However, as an example of how people can and do relocate far from family, after completing his graduate studies, my younger brother decided to stay in the San Francisco Bay area... and has settled down quite comfortably there with his wife and kids.  My parents go out to visit them every year (just as they come to see us), but our significant physical separation from my brother and his family certainly makes preserving the informal intimacy of our relationship a task at which I have to consciously work.

The reason I've brought this up today is that my parents called a couple of weeks ago to talk about an upcoming trip to Israel.  I was a bit taken aback since after their last trip (last spring) we had all agreed that they would probably not be coming this summer... rather, we would come to visit them in Connecticut. 

It turns out they weren't talking about a spring/summer visit.  They were talking about arriving at the beginning of November!  As if this wasn't enough to baffle me, I started getting really confused when they began talking about renting an apartment.  You see, we have a nice guest suite in our home (some of you may have even enjoyed its hospitality), and for the month or so that they usually come (with their two dogs, of course) it is a perfectly comfortable arrangement for everyone. 

But it finally started to became clear when they told us they were planning on staying until the end of March! 

FIVE MONTHS!   YAAAAAAY!  This was beyond the scope of a simple tourist visit... this was temporary residency (at least in concept)!

When I went to check out the Jerusalem apartment they will be renting (overlooking the King David hotel, no less!) I sensed a possible complication.  You see it is a fully furnished flat with a kosher kitchen.  I mention this because I was raised in a home where matzoh sat comfortably beside bread in the kitchen on Passover... Bacon Lettuce & Tomato sandwiches were a dandy mid-week treat... and a fancy restaurant meal more often than not included either Chinese (think 'Mushu Pork', not 'Moshe Peking') or New England Surf & Turf. 

Though they are not particularly religiously observant people (unless one counts the fact that they read treppenwitz religiously), my parents are extremely proud/committed cultural Jews and have maintained lifelong affiliations with either reform or conservative synagogues (usually the former).  So you can imagine my surprise when I asked my parents if they wanted me to box up and put away the kosher dishes and utensils that came with the apartment they replied "don't be silly, if you, Zahava and the kids will be spending time with us in the apartment we'll keep kosher while we're in Israel".


Needless to say, the idea of having my parents within a 20 minute drive again has all of us giddy with anticipation.  And when the kids heard that the apartment has a second bedroom for guests, they immediately started talking about over-night visits and rolling out of bed to the aroma of grandpas famous pop-overs.

Over the next few weeks we will be making arrangements for their Internet access, memberships at the Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel, the American Cultural Center and the Israel Museum (including getting the respective schedules of their upcoming events and lectures).  We'll also start compiling the concert schedule for the Jerusalem Symphony and the Jerusalem Theater.  Other suggestions are welcome.

Who knows... maybe I'll even get them into an ulpan (Hebrew language immersion) class once they're here.  :-)

Can you tell I'm a little excited?

We left the U.S. a little over three years ago with heavy hearts at having to leave behind family that had been extremely close in both emotion and proximity.  Never in our wildest dreams did we imagine that they would come for anything more than short visits.  I hope that at least part of the reason behind this extended visit is that during their previous trips they became comfortable living here in Israel. 

But I'm  guessing that having the big kids visit at their place for a couple of weeks this past summer was just too big a tease for my parents, and they decided that if we weren't going to spend more time in the US., the mountain would simply have to come to Mohammed... especially as the mountain is retired and free to travel.

Count-down to arrival: T -28 days and counting!!!!


Posted by David Bogner on October 5, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (33) | TrackBack