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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Development


The building across the street from where I work is building, expanding, developing, constructing, everything possible to bring more tourists around to encourage them to spend more of their money. I give them credit....instead of the standard microcalligraphy and jewelry, most of which isn't produced in Tzfat, they have sculptures, herbal cosmetics and creams and a lot of Tzfat crafts with the craftspeople working right on site. So there's a lot of creativity there. But there's a little sadness, seeing my sleepy town turn into a Judaica Walmart.

Of course, I could just be jealous too, since I don't have an ounce of creativity in my bones. I'd love to actually produce something creative (other than the web-content articles that I endlessly write, with titles like "Water Parks in the Detroit Area", "California Labor Board Laws", "Government Requirements of On-Line Education" etc.

I'm not complaining, even though it's wearing to go home and churn out these articles every night after working for a full day, taking care of house, home, and fairly minimally (oh, for the days that I was a REAL hands-on mother), the children, and running my little B&B. It grinds me down a bit. On the other hand, $15 per article has slowly built up this year and I now have the money to make some needed repairs and renovations on the house this summer. So, no complaints.

On the up side, this afternoon I'm on my way to Tiberias for a date(!) And I have the use of my neighbor's car, so I'm not limited to the buses. Whee!

Check out Modern Tribe for cool and hip Judaica

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Schizophrenic Israelis

Well, you know that I had to spell check that one, eh?

There are a number of times during the year that I'm sure that the Jewish religion actively promotes schizophrenia. We have so many sad and/or somber holidays or rememberance days, followed immediately by days of wild rejoicing. The current month, to my mind, encapsulates the phenomena. First you have Pesach with seven (eight for all you out-of-towners)days of "there's nothing to eat in this house" (depressing, especially if you're the person responsible for stocking the kitchen and keeping the fridge full) together with massive meals and fun. Less than a week later comes Holocaust Rememberance Day when the air waves are full of reminders of that horrible time and nightmares are the order of the day. The following week is Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers, another day of sadness and reflection on the young men and women who sacrificed their lives for their country (and us). And then, bang, Israel Independence day....fireworks, music, celebration, barbques, swimming, fun......it's kind of hard to get a handle on what you're supposed to be feeling on any particular day.

Yesterday morning, Memorial Day, I was walking by the cemetery in the morning. In Tzfat, the military cemetery sits directly next to the Old Jewish Cemetery with its ancient graves of Jewish rabbis, sages and kabbalists. Soldiers were already getting ready for the eleven o'clock memorial ceremony when thousands of locals come to stand with the families of the fallen soldiers and terror victims. The soldiers were setting out ice chests with hundreds of bottles of water which were to be handed out for free to the people who came to the ceremony. Tell me, is there any other country in the world that acts like such a Jewish mother? Not only water....they had bags of chocolate milk (in Israel, milk comes in plastic bags, and chocolate milk comes in little half-liter bags so that you can bit off the tip and suck the chocolate milk out). The soldiers set up right next to the entrance to the cemetery to make sure that everyone drinks enough. With all due respect to the combat soldiers, the pilots, the men and women who risk their lives for our country -- THAT's my army.

Last night was quiet, but today we went down below the city to an area with a natural spring to barbque with some neighbors. In a typical Israeli scene, the revelers next to us were a group of Chabad young men who coralled some of the secular boys who came to dip in the spring to offer them a chance to put on tefillin. Most of the boys actually agreed, and by the time we left, the Chabad boys and the secular boys were sitting together sharing a "L'chayim" (translation: a drink)

Saturday, April 03, 2010

End-of-Pesach-Musings

I am SO ready to not hear anymore "isn't there anything to eat around here?"

I wonder whether kids whose families don't eat gebroichts (matza or matza meal mixed with anything) on Pesach are just better behaved, more tolerant or better eaters than my kids. Or, maybe they simply starve for the week.

Best photo moment of the week was seeing an Arab vendor eating a matza sandwich at the shuk (open air market)on Wednesday.

This one week holiday probably doubled my monthly expenditures. In addition to food, we did some shopping, some entertainment, a bit of travel and new sandals and clothes. I should leave this blog alone and go write some articles and make some $$$.

A spritz of vinager+water in the ear of a dog who looks like she's developing an ear infection can prevent the infection from developing. Phew...I do NOT need a vet bill now.

Last batch of matza brei this morning! Thanks to my British cousins for teaching me that you can eat it with salt instead of sugar....much better.

Barbque tomorrow for lunch! I'm off kitchen-duty!

Have been invited out for coffee with my almost-14-year-old to celebrate my birthday.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Haiti

My thoughts these days are rarely far from what's going on in Haiti. The people have gone through the hell of a catastrophic earthquake and are in the midst of a second disaster, this one won't end with in a few moments.

What I also can't stop thinking about is why, a week after the disaster, the world rescue effort is so completely unorganized and inefficient. If the word "bumbling" didn't conotate something so benign, I'd use that word. Criminal is more like it.

Obama stood together with the previous two presidents, Bush and Clinton, looking presidential in their concern and caring....but America, the richest country on earth, and located practically next door to Haiti, is as clueless about how to help the people of Haiti as they were three years ago when Katrina hit New Orleans. How can this rich country, full of resources, not know what to do here?

You'd think that they would have learned how to act in a disaster. How to rescue people and treat the survivors. Yet seven days after the earthquake, in an age that allows the American military to pinpoint a bombing strike onto the exact meter that they want to hit from a distance of miles away.....the only country that is efficiently operating to rescue survivors and treat the wounded properly is Israel.



Proud? Of course. But it's basically what we Israelis (and Jews) expect of ourselves. It's not exactly brain surgery to realize that Haitian survivors will need antibiotics, triage care, an operating theater, and other BASICS of medical care. So why are patients at the American hospital dying of infections and gangrene because their country can't figure out how to get the right kind of medical care to Haiti? We're talking about the lack of cheap antibiotics.

And why, as one American doctor said, have the Israelis been able to fly in an entire field hospital from the other side of the world, complete with the latest state-of-the-art equipment. They've set it up within EIGHT HOURS and are treating the patients that none of the other governments hospitals are equipped to treat?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NdplDDY9MGA


It's time for the Americans to call their government to account for this. All Obama's supporters -- all the people who were sure that he'd be more capable, more caring, more humane than Bush -- it's time to admit that he washed out completely on this one. Maybe it's not politically correct to criticize him, but I don't see a single bit of proof of a social conscience here on his part, much less on the part of his advisors, underlings, appointees, or anyone else who could get his wealthy country to do what a nation 1/200th of America's size and with a GNP that's much less than his country, has done.

I live in Israel, and even with the constant threats and uncertainties that go with living here (Iran's atom bomb threat, for just one little example) I know that I can count on my government to do everything that is needed to protect me. Americans, I don't think that you can say that any more.

Don't know why these links won't embed into the blog, but here are some videos to see.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oSsCBuBVzQw&feature=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qbcUAFbXGBI&feature=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q3yTptugzPI
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OWJtLEqY9Mw&feature=related

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Chatting

Every once in awhile some of the birthright people who pass by the street where I work come in to look around. Yesterday I got into a conversation with a couple of them, twentysomethings from South Florida. Both are grad students, bright and articulate. They were having a great time on their trip but expressed the view that, if I'm repeating this correctly, Judaism is something that it's nice if it's passed down from generation to generation, but if it doesn't happen, that's life. One of the guys said that his family kept kosher, nominally, and his parents were interested in maintaining traditions. The other guy had some connections with Chabad on campus.

For his college thesis, one of these kids wrote a piece called something like "Why Religion Will Destroy Humanity". He said that the rabbi that he consults told him that Judaism's creed is "do what you have to do".

I am -- stunned. If someone told me that the essence of Judaism was "do what you have to do" I'd head out too!This was a rabbi who told him that? A Jewish leader?

This morning I read an article about a new Israel 20somethings tour where the participants are exhorted to "marry Jewish, have Jewish babies, raise Jewish kids". It's better than the generally parve "don't-open-the-whole-issue-of-Jewish-assimilation" attitude of most of these programs. But....why? Why marry Jewish? Why have Jewish children if Judaism is just a kind of "do what feels good" religion? That wouldn't hold me for long either.

Judaism teaches that Jews should search to find what God wants them to do. Yes, God -- the only four-letter-word in existence that's really just three letters. The word God isn't supposed to be uttered by modern free-thinking progressive Jews, but it's time that it is. Jews are God's Chosen People, not because Jews are better than anyone else, but because Jews are chosen to seek out God's will and try to fulfill it.

Maybe God wants us to "do what we have to do", but if we go forward with the knowledge that it's a Higher Power that wants us to behave and act in a certain way, it will put our spirituality in a new and stronger perspective and hopefully give an understanding of why it's important to adhere to our heritage by each and every one of our actions.

I'm afraid that I wasn't very politically correct when I was talking to the guys -- when the one guy told me that that's what his rabbi said, I just burst out "that's b.....t". Sorry, rabbi.

Monday, January 04, 2010



This is Mica, a lovable mutt that was brought to us by my son and his then-girlfriend (now his wife) last year when they found her huddling in a bomb shelter doorway. They asked if we'd keep her until the wedding when they'd be able to take her. That didn't work well -- a young couple that's never at home can't do much with a young active dog, their landlord wasn't interested in having a dog there, and besides...by the time they were ready to move into their own digs the rest of the family would have had a fit if Mica would have left. (Me included)

So, when she disappeared on Saturday it was distressing to everyone. Mica has a friend down the street, Buddy, who was found at about the same time. They look alike (Buddy is black) and we suspect that they are siblings. Anyway, when the two of them see each other they immediately head off to the wadi below the city, but always return by the evening. This time, Buddy came back but by Saturday night Mica was nowhere to be seen.

What can I say? You get attached to these critters. By Sunday night the atmosphere in the house was one of mourning.

Then I remembered that there's a segula, a kind of good luck charm, that you can say when you loose something. You give tzdekka, charity and say "Aloka Meir Anenni", a reference to Rabbi Meir Ba'al HaNes who is kind of the patron Rabbi of lost items. Both Margalit and I did it, and Monday morning, guess who was sitting outside our gate!

As I age, my skepticism about some things kind of cools. I'm a sucker at heart.