Thursday, July 29, 2004

Overstuffed Sandwich

My life is currently out of control. Not really, but very overstressed. I am moving apartments in 3 days time, and have packed only 6 boxes and 2 large bags. That emptied out 1 bookshelf and my winter clothes (sweaters, coats).

The other night my 2-soon-to-be-ex roomates decided to clean out the storage room. This made a bad situation worse, as every inch of floor and table in the house was covered with the contents of the room. And when I woke up in the morning I was barricaded into my room by the amount of stuff that was mine and had previously been in the storage room, or stuff they assumed was mine and had previously been in the storage room. Clearly they could think of no better place to stick it then in front of my bedroom door, while I was sleeping. Why am I moving apartments you ask?

My parents are moving here (from America) in less than 2 weeks. Their apartment is currently totally empty. Not one item in it. I ordered their beds yesterday, and a second-hand fridge I bought them to tide them over til their lift arrives is due next Thursday. I've made a list of everything they'll need for their first day and night here, after which I hope we'll have the energy to go shopping. They will be relying on me completely for the first while, since they don't speak the language, don't know their way around. Also, the ship that currently holds all their material possessions is meandering towards Egypt or Greece instead of Ashdod thanks to the port strike. For the pleasure of waiting several extra weeks to receive their items, my parents get to fork over an extra $800 (not to mention the cost of buying all the temporary items to tide them over til their stuff arrives). Meanwhile, the dockworkers get to sit on their asses, get paid, and fight for bigger pensions! Can you sue the dockworkers for violating the decision of the National Labor Court?

The D. saga is still ongoing....not that this shocked anyone. Fortunately (never thought I'd say this) he is living on his army base for the next 3 months, coming home only on weekends, while he heads up the army's law school course. I'm proud of him for that, but also annoyed because it means he's not around.

My boss and I had a little chat the other day (which she relayed to my secretary the next day) about whether I was suited for the job (I've been here for almost 10 months) and (from my side) whether this job was suited for me. The semi-conclusion was that I would be better elsewhere and she would be better hiring someone else, though we have set no time to do this. I hope she at least lets me ride out the month of August, because I have no energy to go job hunting now. I'd rather work August, take September off and start looking in October. Or maybe go back to school....maybe this is a sign?

So my life is a little overwhelming right now.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Hands Across the Holyland

Yesterday I had the opportunity to be a link in the chain of Jewish survival in Gaza. Along with about 200,000 other people (130,000 if you believe the left-wing Israeli media, 70,000 if you follow CNN) I held hands across Israel, from Nissanit in the Gaza Strip to the Western Wall, in the Old City of Jerusalem. It was truly a sight to behold.

The whole logistical organization was incredible. Roughly 90-some kilometers of roads were covered, with the goal being to have people holding hands all along the way, no major gaps. And from what I saw, there weren't many. The organizers broke the route down into 7 different sections, and depending on where you were from in Israel, you were assigned a certain section. Being a Jerusalemite myself, I was assigned to Jerusalem; I figured there would be more than enough people there, so my friend Daniel and I headed to a less popular area, or so we thought. We met up at the Shoresh junction, along the Jerusalem-Tel-Aviv Highway. 

This is where we were standing. (c) 2004 Israel National News

When we arrived at 5 pm (organizing the chain was to take place ftom 5 pm til about 6:45) there were already several thousand people there. By 6:30 I would guess the number was well over 10,000. We fanned out in both direction, in order to meet up with the groups fanning out from the meeting points to either side of us, some 15 kilometers away.

We ran into our buddies Malkah and Yishai Fleischer of Arutz Sheva carrying an Israeli  flag on a pole so large and tall we had what can only be termed "flag envy". People were wearing t-shirts that said "I am a link in the chain"....both physically and metaphorically. Helicopters were flying overhead, cars honked as they passed by, people cheered. It was wonderful.

I was wondering how they were going to get everyone to join hands and simultaneously sing Hatikvah, the national anthem, since the "sadranim" (organizers) seemed to be equipped with nothing more than t-shirts that said "Sadran". At about 6:50 we heard this clanging noise, and realized that somewhere along the highway someone was banging on the guardrail. Because the guardrail is connected most of the way along the highway, we could hear people banging on it, before even realizing why. Everyone caught on and started clanging away. Eventually the noise reached a crescendo, and when it did, we stopped banging, held hands and sang "Hatikvah" -- "The Hope".

Some of the people (in the area we were standing it was mostly folks from the Binyamin region -- aka "settlers") stayed on to sing the song Ani Ma'amin -- "I believe with a complete faith in the coming of the Messiah".

As we drove back to Jerusalem we saw people trekking back to their meeting points (some were 5-7 kilometres away), praying by the side of the highway, singing, still holding hands.

I was very proud to be Israeli and a link in the chain of Jewish survival in the Jewish homeland.

Monday, July 19, 2004

High Fidelity

So, today's New York Times has this article. About a gene discovered in some voles (rodents -- sounds like a weird mole) that causes the males in one species to be very monogamous, and the males in another one to be, well, males. Scientists are developing this discovery into a gene therapy, that men could undergo which would make it much more unlikely for them to commit adultery or cheat on their significant others.
My favorite line is this one: "But I'd be willing to wager that the majority could lock down the opposite sex within a month or two by agreeing among themselves to make the therapy a precondition for intercourse. "
I think the author is onto something that Aristophanes had down pat in his play Lysistrata. That is, women could rule the world if they used sex to their advantage.
Not too long ago, I heard of a religious community where the women of the town used the age-old denial of sex to help one of their own. There was a woman who was an agunah, that is, a Jewish woman whose husband refused to give her a Jewish divorce, leaving her unable to remarry. Jewish law provides some solutions on how to deal with the problem, including beating the brains out of the husband. Rarely are these solutions used.
Anyway, one of the first things done is to excommunicate the husband. Not to socialize with him, allow him into synagogue, and so on. Sadly, this too often gets ignored, and people don't like to make a fuss so they allow this husband to go about his daily business.
The women in this unnamed community were furious. Their own husbands were not enforcing the excommunication, and they weren't doing anything to help. In their minds, this was a womans' problem. So the women made it a guy's problem too. They created a sex ban. None of the wives would sleep with her husband, until the agunah was freed. And like the Trojan War in Lysistrata, the agunah was freed. The husbands, denied of sex, took their energies and beat the husband so soundly he relented and gave his wife the divorce.
Now, I'm not advocating a sex ban. Nor can I verify the above story (though I've heard it about 2 different communities).  I do advocate doing what is necessary to help agunot and mesuravot get. I'm just looking at the power of people who ban together for a common cause, where no one gives in until the cause is met! Power to the people!
And if anyone can verify the above story I'd love to hear it.

Monday, July 12, 2004

Knock, Knock - Its The Property Reassesor

Last night I arrived at home to find an extremely happy little dog jumping up and down and a note tucked into my door. The note was disturbing even before I read it, as it was in my door -- as in the door had been opened and the note was halfway in my apartment and halfway out of it.

It was from the municipality of Bnei Brak, a town I don't live in nor have ever been to. And from what I could gather someone owed somebody else money. The letter was addressed to the son of my LOL (little old lady) landlord. He apparently owes a parking fine from several years and since traditional attempts to collect the fine have failed, the city sent a reassesor 'round to say that if the bill was not paid in 7 days, they would enter the house and reasses the contents of the house up to the value of what is owed.

Very nice. So the deadbeat son has been using our address (which he could not have lived at for at least 8 years) and if he doesn't pay the money he owes by Sunday, we're gonna find some things missing. One has to assume that the municipality took some steps before sending a propoert reassesor all the way to Jerusalem. And clearly the deadbeat son didn't seem to acknowledge those, or pay his bill.

My roomate thought we should call the son and tell him to pay. Right. Because the threat that someone else's stuff will be repossesed is going to make him pay up, while the other tactics I assume they've used haven't yet worked.

We called the municipality to explain them the scenario. They said we'd need to fax them our contract, plus a letter stating our story, and we can cross our fingers and hope they believe us.

So if you see my stuff for sale somewhere....

Sunday, July 11, 2004

For Some The Years Go By So Fast

And for others, they go by super slow. Case in point:

Today my mother told me that my adorable, favorite (and only) niece Adina said her first *bad* word. [I put bad in ironic highlights because as my eigth grade English teacher Dr. Smerd once said, "There's no such thing as a bad word. Its only the meaning society attributes to it."] Apparently (being the only grandchild on both sides, she's quite spoiled) when she doesn't want to do something she's asked to do she says "NO WAY!". Today my mom asked her if she wanted to go on the potty. Her answer? "NO WAY IN HELL!!" Now where did she learn that from? Mind you, she's not even 3 yet.

D., my erstwhile boyfriend, told me with great pride just now that I was wrong. If he washes his underwear in the sink, and hangs them on a fan to dry overnight, they WILL be dry in the morning. Then he proceeded to mention something about "his office", which made me giggle. D., is a lawyer, has a fairly decent post in the military as an officer, and yet still manages to get to the point where he has absolutely no underwear left such that he must wash them in the sink and air dry them on a fan.

Yes, some people never do grow up. I'm ashamed to mention D.'s age here. Suffice it to say he was born in the 70's.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Two Short Years Ago...

Today is the two-year anniversary of my aliyah (immigration to Israel). I remember thinking so many crazy thoughts during those first heady few days. So many worries, so many fears, so many shocks to my system (which I had previously thought was unflappable).

How would I ever learn the language?
How would I ever learn my way around?
Would I find a job?
Would I find friends -- real, true honest friends?

I remember being so overwhelmed with emotion. When I arrived, it was the height of the current intifada. Suicide bombings were occuring on a daily basis. More or less literally, by the way. That scared me far less than my concerns about adjusting.

And two years later....

I am mostly fluent in Hebrew. When I come across a word I don't know, I usually know another way to say what I mean. I have gone on job interviews in Hebrew. I meet with clients in Hebrew. I have gone on dates in Hebrew only. The first one, however, I remember thinking "Hey--not too bad. You understood about 75% of that!" Which was great until I started thinking, "So what happened during the other 25%?" Did I agree to marry the guy, tell him I hate him? Who knows?

I can argue, for hours, in Hebrew. I no longer even know where my "good" dictionary is. Time was, when I had an important conversation I either dragged a "translator" along, or made sure to look up all the words I thought I would need I just jump right in.

I have always been one of those highly approachable people. In a group of 50, I will be the one the tourist approaches to ask directions. And these days, I totally know them. I can give driving directions, bus directions, walking directions almost all over Jerusalem.

The 2 jobs I have held since moving here (one for 11 months, one going on 8) I found within hours of starting my job search. I am actually in better financial shape here than I was in America. I make the same salary more or less (which either means I was severely underpaid in America, or overpaid here) but my expenses (rent, etc.) are much less.

And friends....I have met so many wonderful people and found real true friends. That I can share my heart with, my feelings with, my worries with.

And yet, despite my adjustment to this beautiful and special place, I have made a conscious decision not to become inured to the magic that is Israel, and particularly Jerusalem. Everyone has an "only in Israel" story, and I am no exception. but I make sure to pay attention, and remember that life wasn't always this good.

I was going through some old emails, and here's one I sent about a week after I arrived. I think it sort of captures the head-over-heels in love feelings I had at the time. And though the love has matured and hardened with difficulties and time, I'm still loving living here.

"Almost a full week has passed since I last wrote, and
the marvels of living here have been coming so fast
and so furious, that I have barely had time to sit
down and write about them.

I went through all of the paperwork and lines that
other Olim have complained about, in about a day and a
half. In fact, in most places, all I had to say was
that I was one of the 400 Olim who came from America,
and the clerk would hug me, thank me and bless me, and
then whip through the paperwork. I'm not sure how
much this will last before I too will get to deal with
the realities, but for now this is wonderful.

One particularly amazing thing has happened so far,
truly illustrating that I am, in fact, in the Jewish
homeland. Most Israelis will probably think this was
de rigeur and not focus on it. While I was signing up
for a new cellphone, the man behind the counter asked
me "At Shomeret Shabbat?" (do you observe the
Sabbath?) When I responded that I was shomeret
shabbat, he told me that the cellphone company has a
"Shabbat Plan". I get 60 free minutes a month for not
using my phone on Shabbat. The real kicker is, that
if I use it to dial anything besides
police/fire/ambulance during the Shabbat, I get
charged a hefty fine!!!
G-d must be the CEO of the cellphone company!

While I was signing up for health insurance this week,
I again encountered what I hope is the face of Israel
forever. When the clerk who was helping myself and my
friend found out we were on the flight of 400
Americans, she thanked us so profusely, with tears in
her eyes. Over and over again she thanked us, and
blessed us. And the funny thing, she moved here not
so long ago from Russia, but she was still thanking us
for doing the same thing!!!

A similar story happened in the grocery store on
Friday, Erev Shabbat. I was shopping with a friend,
marveling at all the American "conveniences" that were
completely available in Israel (some items were
cheaper here than they are in America). In fact, I
realized that half of the items I imported in my lift,
thinking I was being such a jappy American, were right
there on the aisles.
My friend and I were speaking in English, and this
elderly woman came up to me and asked me when I
arrived here. Before I could answer she decided to
share with me a special recipe for tuna casserole from
her native country of Uruguay. I'd share it with you
but she made me promise to keep it a secret (one she
happily offered to me, just because I was a new olah).
After writing down the recipe, she again asked when I
arrived. When I said Tuesday, she asked me if I was
on the now famous flight of 400 Olim. I told her I
was and she too had tears in her eyes, as she blesed
me and thanked me for coming. She gave me her phone
number and address, so that I could come for shabbat
and introduced me to her daughter. Realize that this
woman came from Uruguay, which means she's an
immigrant as well. I can't wait until the day when I
can welcome people here as well!

Shabbat was beautiful. While singing the Shir
Hamaalot (a psalm that is recited before the Grace on
Shabbat), I was struck dumb by the meaning and how
fully I had just lived through the Psalm.

"When G-d returns us to Zion it will be like we were
dreamers". I can still picture myself floating off
the plane in Ben-Gurion. In fact, I still am in a
trance most of the time. The pictures and videotapes
will help me snap out, maybe.
"Then our mouths will be filled with laughter, and a
song will be on our tongues". I've described the
airport scene before, and as you can see from video
footage, we were all singling, laughing, and crying,
something the Psalmist refers to later on.
"Then the nations of the world will say how great is
the G-d that has done this to Our People, and we will
be happy" There were media personnel from so many
countries. The story of our mass aliyah made the news
everywhere. The nations of the world had to sit up
and take notice.
"G-d will return us like springs of the Negev" At the
moment tourism in Israel has somewhat dried up, and
dried up the economy along the way. But here we were,
400 of us, streaming into the country, like water in
the Negev.
"Those who sow in tears shall reap in happiness". We
all cried as we arrived, tears of happiness. Our
existence in Israel, I pray, will be joyous, and
though we acknowledge that life here can and may be
difficult, the benefits of living here will be reaped
plentifully and joyously.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

File Under "S" for Sucks...

[Update: After I wrote out this whole posting yesterday, Blogger did me the favor of deleting it. So I am now re-writing how much my day sucked. Yet another sucky thing]

1. On my way into work, which consists of 2 buses, the second one being over an hour long ride, I began to feel violently ill. And then I was violently ill, fortunately after I got off the bus. I walked into my office, was ill some more and realized I had to go home, and the bus was not going to be the preferred method. So I took a taxi home, at a cost of 120 shekels. So, to summarize -- I spent 3 hours, 120 NIS and it still got counted as a sick day. For this I got out of bed?

2. My little doggy Sharona (I will post pictures soon) has been acting weird lately. She's been hanging out and sleeping under the bed instead of in it, not eating much, and generally moping. I thought this Jerusalem heat was getting to her, as I too sometimes just want to crawl under the bed, but no, it turns out....she's pregnant. I am not.

Conveniently Sharona is due the week I am supposed to move apartments. Yay! I even know who the father is. A few weeks ago, while Sharona was in heat, this little dog I named Jack followed us everywhere. He was kinda cute the way he whined and cried when we wouldn't let him "fishizzle" Sharona. I tried explaining to him that crying and begging was so not manly. He would really follow us too. We'd be in a restaurant in downtown (25 minute walk) and come out, and there'd be Jack panting and smiling in anticipation. Visit friends? There'd be Jack. He was everywhere. It got to be that we could not go to parks or for walks really.

Well, 3.5 weeks ago, one day, he followed us home from the vet. Taking care to bolt the gate shut, Sharona and I retreated to the safety of my apartment. I was on the phone in my room, and I came out and caught Sharona and Jack in flagrante delicto in the middle of the kitchen.

In the middle of my kitchen!!!! Onemight wonder, who let him in? the answer is....Jack. He must have jumped the fence (I saw him do it on the way out) and opened the door by himself. I saw another dog do that a few days later. They all wanted a piece of Sharona...little slut.

I did what any normal person would do...I got out the digital camera and started snapping away. 20 minutes later, while the young lovers were smoking cigarettes on the porch, I scooped up Sharona and ran down the street to the vet, to inquire about doggy morning-after pills.

Turns out, there is some sort of shot available, but it didn't seem pleasant, and for various biological reasons we thought she wasn't pregnant. So we skipped the shot and now it turns out she's PG and there is NO WAY we can have those puppies. So, pro-choicer that I am, we have scheduled a dog abortion (and spaying) for next Thursday. I never really wanted to spay her (at least not at this age -- 3.5) and now I have no choice.

I'm thinking I am going to take the digital camera, and go to Jack's owners. And somehow, I am going to get them to pay for at least 1/2 of the abortion. I mean, they let their not-neutered male dog walk around freely. And he broke into my house!! Its not like its my fault for letting my dog run around outside while in heat. And I have the pictures to prove it. I am such a pervert.

3. Meanwhile the D. problems continue. Someone, please just take away my cellphone and email and let the dead horse die!!!

Also, I poured myself a bowl of cereal, and the freshly opened, not-past-the-expiration-date milk was obviously sour. EEEEWWWWW. I hate sour milk. Not like anyone likes it...but I hate it more than most.

Friday, July 02, 2004

The Sun'll Come Out Tomorrow

Last night I went to the wedding of a friend, JJ. I was seriously debating not going, because I knew D. would be there (I'd met JJ through D., though I'm probably in better touch with JJ than D. is). In fcat, when the invites had gone out and the RSVP cards sent, D. and were still a couple and had been invited and RSVPed as such. And I knew that I would have to be the one to explain to anyone who asked that D. and i were no longer together, and why. And honestly, its pretty painful to attend a wedding with someone who repeatedly tells you they don't want to marry you. Particularly when the couple getting married have dated 1/4 of the time D. and I have.

But I decided I would fox myself up, look glam and gorgeous, and go have fun. And i mostly did. Sure, about 4 or 5 times during the wedding, I had to excuse myself to go cry in a bathroom stall - once during the chuppah, 2 times during dancing, once when JJ sang Eishet Chayil [Woman of Valour - a "love song" taken from Proverbs, Chapter 31] and once when both JJ's parents and his new wife Bayla's parents were honored with the mezinka dance. The dance actually always makes me cry. I think there is something so beautiful about old love -- two people who loved each other, built a home, raised a family and did such a good job of it that they get to see the last kid married off, and starting the cycle all over again.

When the bride walked down the aisle towards her groom, JJ's face lit up in a way I thought was reserved for lightbulbs. Everyone remarked how happy he looked. He's generally a bright and sunny guy, but this was 1000 wattage happiness. And I realized, I want that. I want my husband to smile like that when I agree to be his wife. Not like D. who repeatedly tells me "Its not that I don't love's just I don't think we're ready to get married" Actually, it is because you don't love me. If you loved me you'd want to show me that, and you'd want to be with me, instead of making up excuses.

I deserve someone who will be that happy, and who will be madly in love with me. Instead of selfishly one-sidedly in almost-but-not-quite love with me.

My thanks this morning to getupgrrl from Chez Miscarriage who provided me with the most honest and truest advice I've received. Someday I know she'll make a great mom. Considering I cried myself to sleep last night, waking up to her wisdom was really needed. Also to the folks at Cafe Hillel for finally getting my breakfast order right and giving me the good tomato jam instead of the nasty fig jam. And two jams instead of one, to go with my brioche challah. Yes, sometimes the sun does come out "tomorrow".

Thursday, July 01, 2004

More from the "People-For-Whom-The-Eight-Amendment-Is-Null-And-Void" Category

Again--these folks make me sick.

What happened to these people as children that they can treat God's creatures this way? Seriously.