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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Rain with a Chance of More Rain

You won't hear any complaints from me about the weather, though it is kind of difficult to get the dogs out for a walk. When the weather gets like this I stick a litter box with some sand in a corner for the cat, since she can't dig her holes in the courtyard, but she thinks that the sand is there for her to play "sandbox" and I keep finding it scattered all over the entryway. Though this morning there was a wet spot in the middle of the sand, so I guess that she has the right idea at any rate.

A few weeks ago I met my neighbor in the supermarket, and she mentioned that she'd made some fish for her family that past Shabbat that had turned out quite well. Since no one has ever praised my fish very much I asked her for the recipe, and instead of a piece of paper, my neighbor turned up at my house a few weeks ago saying "we're going to make the fish."

I should mention that this neighbor's husband is an artist, a sculptor, and I think that, for his wife, cooking his her art. She certainly puts her heart and soul into shopping and preparing food. She's Iraqi, and her husband is originally from France (Algerian) so they like their food spicier than we do, but she pared the hot peppers down for our Ashkanazi taste and it was a hit.

This week most of my kids are coming back for Shabbat and I decided to make the fish.

Vedad's Iraqi Fish -- for 8 pieces
  • Salt the fish and squeeze some lemon juice over it. Let it stand
  • Dice 2 regular-sized onions and about 8 cloves of garlic. Saute until soft.
  • Add:
    • 2 diced red peppers (large)
    • 4 diced tomatos (remove the skins first)
    • chopped cilantro -- a lot
    • chopped hot pepper (depending on your taste -- for us non-spicy eaters, I used about half of a hot pepepr
    • salt, pepper, paparika, curry powder and tumeric
·         Add water, enough to cover the fish.
·         Lay down the fish in the pot and spoon the sauce over it.
·         Cook for about ½ hour
Service with mashed potatos, rice or other grain


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

And There She Is

My new website

Actually, it's my old website, or all the old content anyway, uploaded in a new, easy-to-read, easy-on-the-eyes format.

Super excited. Of course, now I have to keep developing it which, considering that they wrote the Internet for Dummies books for people like me, is going to be a bit challenging. But maybe you can still teach an old bird new tricks.

To Egg or Not to Egg

Many years ago, when my middle daughter was in 5th grade, she began to experience headaches that often affected her for hours or even days. A natural practitioner-friend suggested that we check to see if it was some kind of allergy and instructed us to keep her off of wheat, eggs, milk products, chocolate and one other item -- which I can't remember now -- which are known allergens.

The idea was to clean out her system and then reintroduce the products back into her diet, one by one.

I remember, at the time, thinking "if it has to be one of my kids, it's a good thing that it's this one, because she's the only one who would put up with this kind of limitation. In the end, the headaches disappeared and her diet returned to normal, but I think of that incident often because she is still the most disciplined one of my kids when it comes to food.

Yochi is now at university and has become a vegan. She was a vegetarian for many years but starting several months ago, decided that veganism made more sense, so she's cut all eggs and milk products out of her diet.

Soy milk and tofu can substitute for a lot of the dairy, but how do you substitute for eggs? Yochi comes home every few weeks and, while she's pretty undemanding, we want to make sure that she has a nice time while she's home -- much of which revolves around food.

Whenever I know that she's coming home I try to prepare, with more-than-the-usual amount of vegetables, a good supply of tofu and soy milk and more-than-the-usual amount of legumes and grains in the menu. I've learned to make eggless challah (pretty easy, actually -- just increase the amount of oil) but it certainly quashes the opportunities for kugels and other baked goods.

This weekend, it's not my worry -- evidently she and her soldier-brother, who is also expected home, have prepared to take responsibility for the Shabbat cooking. My job is to stay out of the kitchen.

Monday, January 28, 2013

They Polled Me!

True, I was asked my opinion because I was home at noontime, but still....it was kind of fun to be asked my opinion about something.

The first question that they asked was, who did I vote for. Bayit HaYehudi (if anyone cares).

The second question was, if the elections were held again, who might I vote for. Now that was a bit more of an interesting question. I think that, since I paid more attention to the parties after the elections than I did before the elections (something psychological there? Or just laziness?) I have have changed my vote to vote for Yair Lapid.

My gut instinct against voting for Lapid was 1. he's the son of Tommy Lapid an incorrigible anti-religious crusader who was quite obnoxious in his hatred of the religious, so I figured that his son would have that same kind of outlook; 2. he campaigned on a platform of social justice (no arguments) and didn't really express his outlook about non-domestic issues (re: the palestinians/"Peace Process"/etc). I am sort of a pessimist when it comes to trusting the Palestinians and don't want to promote anyone who is going to advance their cause.

But immediately after the election he squashed the Labor/leftists hope that he'd join with them in a block against Bibi, saying that he wanted to work with the Likud to create a strong government. And, much to my surprise (OK, my fault, I didn't pay enough attention beforehand), #2 on his list is a rabbi! My kind of rabbi too....open-minded, committed to Torah but not committed to forcing anyone to adopt his brand of Judaism, interested in inclusion....hmmmm.

So the poll actually forced me to take a stand, albeit a week late.

As I was finishing this post, I found the transcript of Yair Lapid's speech that he gave last week at Kiryat Ono college (after the elections).

Yup, if I had to vote again, it would be for Yair.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Ye Ole Superiority Complex

A local resident posted the following on the Safed FB page yesterday:

"someone/ some people damaged a whole load of cars from one end of the old city to the other and then up to sariya on friday night. if you heard/saw anything unusual /or had yr car damaged even slightly (and perhaps thought it was an accident that just happened to you alone) please let the police know"

Well, that was disturbing enough, especially since I hadn't checked my daughter's car in the last 48 hours. (I use it once a week for shopping....I need to check it? Who would have thought?)

Anyway, one of the subsequent comments asked who they were. "local chiloni (non-religious)? local shababnik (trouble-makers)? local arse ("greasers")? what flavor of local?"

I'm not going to defend anyone who causes that kind of vandalism. But the idea that some of our community has, that trouble is always caused by "them" and never "us" annoys the hell out of me. 

Where's the outrage when Orthodox trouble-makers throw stones or burn garbage cans in protest against something or another that the non-religious do? (thank goodness, not here in Safed, but elsewhere...). Where are the public protests when certain elements of the Orthodox community threaten (and worse) women who sit in "wrong" area of the bus, or don't dress according to the standards?

When I see a little more of people speaking out about that type of behavior, I'll take the outrage against the broken car mirrors a bit more seriously. 
  

Thank You Daniel Gordis

Daniel Gordis plopped on my radar several years ago when he wrote a wonderful piece about why he has chosen to make his home in Israel.

I generally don't pay too much attention to "opinion pieces" but will always remember Gordis's article as a true expression of my own feelings.

This week he hit it on the head again, replied to Eric Yoffe regarding Rabbi Yoffe's demand that Bibi make religious life in Israel more accessible to the Reform and Conservative movements.

Admittedly, I am not a big fan of either. But even those who feel at home in a Reform or Conservative congregation should read Gordis's opinion because he has something to say that's worth saying.

http://www.jpost.com/Magazine/Opinion/Article.aspx?id=300823  


Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Street Folks

Ever since I can remember there have been beggars out on Safed's commercial street. Summer, winter, dead of cold or blistering hot days, they're there, asking for a few shekels.

I once attended a class about giving "tzdekka" -- charity -- in which the rabbi said that, according to Jewish law, if someone asks you for tzdekka, you can't refuse. You can give a few coins, less than the person requesting the money would have liked, but you can't refuse.

I won't go into detail as to the questions this raises. Can you give money to someone knowing that they'll use it for alcohol, cigarettes or even drugs?  What is you don't know for sure that that's where the money will go, but you suspect the possibility? What do you do if you're feeling stretched yourself? What do you do if the person asking you is the fifth person to approach you that day and you're fed up? Are phone solicitations covered under this rule? What do you do if the person seems to be able-bodied and you just want to say "go get a job."

Well, that's a whole different post. What I started thinking about on Friday, as I made my way through my Friday-morning chores and found myself dropping coins in the boxes and cups of five different people, is....what happened to the people that I used to see? I sweet, gentle Russian woman who walked the street for years? She evidently used to teach English in Russia and was a voracious reader.

There was a heavy Israeli grandmother-type whose legs seemed to be in serious stages of gangrene from diabetes and, no matter what I gave her, would say "nothing more?"

One of the most memorable was a blind Russian man who would sit in front of the bakery and sing Yiddish songs. His wife, a little Russian lady, would come over to him sometimes to bring him food or drinks.

There were mothers who would stand out on the street with their babies. Other mothers who just told you about their kids at home. There was a sweet man who always smelled of alcohol. I can't even count how many others -- life was just getting them down.

You know that these people didn't leave the street because they suddenly won the lottery or something equally as great happened to them. They just faded away, but their places don't remain empty for long.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Can't We Just Get Along?

Well, in a few more hours, we'll know how our elections turned out. It's funny that living in a small, off-the-beaten-path, generally right-wing town, we are so removed from what's going on in other parts of the country. I can't think of too many of my friends of acquaintances who are voting for anything to the left of the center, but every once in awhile, I'm reminded that what we see here isn't terribly indicative of the mood in the rest of the country.

As I went to vote today (spoiler alert: I voted for Bayit HaYehudi but don't much care) I stood in line with two Hassidic men and two young women -- daughters of a neighbor. One of the girls had come back from her home in Tel Aviv to vote (a lot of the young people maintain their residents in the peripheral regions because of tax breaks) and stated, quite openly and loudly (thank goodness, in English, so at least the Hassidic guys couldn't understand) "I'm voting for X because I want them (nodding at the men) OUT of the Kenesset." Then her boyfriend came over and said, with a look at these same guys, "check to make sure that there are Meretz (left-wing party) slips in the voting booth."

Well, I don't live in Mongolia and I know exactly why the left-wingers are disgusted with the Haredim (ultra-orthodox) as much as I know why the ultra-orthodox are disgusted with the left-wingers. But where is it going to stop? Or is it time to simply say, flat out, that the Israeli society is going to become more and more fragmented, and there's nothing to do about it?

At least everyone comes out to vote.

Someone else in line was commenting about the "primitive" way in which Israelis vote. Basically, you go in, show your identity card, and receive an envelope after three monitors check, double check and triple check that you are who you say that you are and that you haven't voted yet. You then go behind a curtain and choose one of the slips of the parties who are running from among the 20 or so slips presented. Each party has a two-letter identifying code to make it easy. then you drop your envelope in a box, take your ID card and leave.  

The system is basically the same one that Israelis have been using since the first Israeli elections in 1949. And it's true, it's pretty "primitive." On the other hand, everyone is enfranchised. Even if you can't read, you can recognize your slip. The system ensures that no one votes more than once. There are no hanging chads. Election day is a national holiday to make it easy for everyone to vote. If you need to travel to your voting station, there is free transportation to and from your voting station on election day. Pretty amazing.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Elections and Soup

Yes, the candidates are pretty much all full of soup.

But aside from that, tomorrow's elections will bring my daughter home from Tel Aviv where she's a university student. She's registered to vote in Tzfat so she needs to return home to cast her vote.

I felt bad that, last week, when she was in the midst of a bad cold, I couldn't make her some nice hot soup, so she'll get it tonight. I wish that I was a better soup-maker, but I do make a pretty healthy pot of soup -- I follow my mother's lead and throw all the vegetables into a pot, boil the heck out of it for a few hours, and then season it or add in cut up vegetables or grains/legumes. No one complains too much so I guess I'm doing something right.

I read somewhere that, if you leave the pot uncovered, the vitamins from the stock will dissipate with the steam, and if you cook the vegetables long enough, all of the vitamins from the veggies will become part of your stock. I hope so because I have a lot of stuff in that soup including the greens (dill, corriander, parsley), root vegetables (pumpkin, sweet potato, onions and a ton of garlic which is supposed to be great for warding off everything that comes your way).

Once the stock has cooked for a few hours, I'll take out most of the vegetables (but will mash in the pumpkin, which gives any soup a nice sweet taste) and will saute some carrots, zuccini, celery and onions in olive oil, and can then make a roux to thicken the soup which can be served over noodles.

And there you have it.....for 15 minutes of work, I can produce a healthy, hearty meal and feel like a great mom!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Free Share

How do you say to a person, nicely, politely, in a way that won't offend "I don't want a cheerleading section right now. I just want to express that I'm angry/frustrated/worried/all of the above without you telling me that everything is hunky-dory and I don't' have anything to be angry/frustrated/worried/all of the above about."

I've never been a big fan of the relationship experts who tell you how to respond in any given situation. When you're supposed to be empathetic, when you're supposed to be sympathetic, when you're supposed to give 'tough love'.....I basically think that these pearls of wisdom are offered more to sell books than to actually help anyone. Plus, obviously, there's not any one piece of advice that fits 100% of the population 100% of the time.

But here's a hint. If I say to you "something worries me" don't blow it off as though I'm an ungrateful fool for even thinking, much less expressing, my sentiments. If you don't have anything constructive to say (and, to be honest, most people can't really help someone else work through their issues), say "I hear you" or "I can imagine" or "it must be pretty aggravating" or ....oh, I don't know, I could write a list of optional comments.

If, however, you really want to be a friend, try to figure out a way to validate my feelings without making me feel like an idiot for even thinking something that isn't all sunshine and smiles.


Now, if I could figure out how to say that in 200 pages or so, I might have a best-seller on my hands.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Sacred Treasure

There's nothing like the feeling of going into a Shabbat with a good book waiting for you.

About a year ago I read a review of a new book that had come out, Sacred Treasure, about the Cairo Geniza. I remember thinking, even then, "ooh, ooh....."

However, in my little corner of the world, the chances of finding the exact book that you want are iffy -- our local English library, while a total blessing, is based on donations, both of books, money and volunteers' time, and it's not always possible to find exactly what you're looking for.

Last week, while checking out my Vanity Fair magazines (yes, sigh, i know that it's a high-class gossip rag, but it's fun) I saw the Sacred Treasure book on the table, but it had, alas, been reserved for someone else. When I arrived yesterday however, for my traditional Friday morning library visit (in almost 30 years of living in Tzfat, I think that I can count on one hand the number of times that I haven't made it to the library to start out my Friday) another patron heard me kvetching to the librarian about the book and said "oh, I just brought it back." 

So that's what I did for most of Shabbat (when I wasn't eating). The book was definitely worth waiting for. According to Jewish tradition, sacred texts cannot be thrown away. They are, instead, collected in a receptacle and eventually buried in a Jewish cemetery. In most areas, even if the texts don't get buried, climactic conditions will eventually destroy the scrolls and papers, but in Cairo, the large "Geniza" room was so huge that it never needed to be emptied, and the weather, dry, preserved many of the texts.

Rabbi Solomon Schechter succeeded in purchasing the contents of the Geniza in 1897 and he brought them back to England (Cambridge) to study and catalog. I've gotten about half-way through the book which, up until now, has been more of a chronology of how the Geniza was located and accessed, and am now reading about the texts themselves (which even now, a century later, have not been fully reviewed).

When I think about how we learned about Jewish history in Hebrew school, it was just a mix of names, with no real understanding of the chronology of the Jewish people, the development of the different texts, layers of scholarship, etc. Actually, until I did some research about Tiberias for some writing that I was doing last year, I never really understood the whole development of the Talmud, the differences between the Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmud, the different communities that developed and how they developed, etc. I can only say that, if somehow, Jewish educators could present this type of information in a more engaging manner (across the board -- the boring way that I learned about it in the '60s is pretty much the way that my kids learn in school) young people might have more of an appreciation for their roots and their connections to their own heritage. 


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Chickweed and Navalwort

Turns out that some of the weeds in my garden aren't really weeds at all, and are actually pretty useful.

A friend who is quite knowledgeable about herbs and plants came to visit yesterday. On the way out, she looked into my window box which, due to neglect, is completely overgrown with -- what I thought was -- weeds. "Oh, chickweed" she exclaimed. "This is great as a digestion aid, very healthy and delicious."

Well, I admit that I might have been just a tad skeptical, but she proceeded to pull a bunch and take a munch, and since she didn't keel over, I now have a new herb for my salads. (Will NOT tell my guests where it came from)

Then, while she was walking out of the yard, she looked over at the wall that encloses my yard. There were a lot of the usual green weeds growing out of the stones -- I usually clean them up in the spring. "Navelwort" my friend declared. "You can boil it and the water is very soothing for ear infections."

Next time this friend comes to Safed I have to take her out on a walk in the valley below town -- I can open my own pharmacy!

Navelwort 
Chickweed

navelwort 
chickweed 


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Informed and Swayed

So, remember when I promised to educate myself a little bit about the upcoming election?

The elections are next week and, except for asking my kids who they plan to vote for, I've done exactly zilch. Talk about apathetic.

Tonight a neighbor was hosting a parlor meeting for the Bayit HaYehudi, one of the more right-wing parties, but one with a platform that I think that I can support. So I got off my tush and went and actually liked what I heard.

Besides the right-wing Land-of-Israel stuff (which I pretty much support), they also talked about the goal of unifying Israel and Israelis, secular and religious and in-between, making Zionism -- the ideal of being engaged in what happens in this country -- a priority, rather than an old-fashioned concept that has lost its zip -- and, basically, strengthening all sectors of the nation. Since I've never really liked the sectarian nature of Israeli society (if you're ultra-Orthodox, that's who you vote for...if you're Sepharadi, that's who you vote for...)this all appeals to me and I'm ready to hand them my vote.

So if these elections seem ridiculous...who remembers Shmuel Flatto-Sharon? In the '70s Flatto Sharon escaped to Israel from France, running away from a charge of funny-money shenanigans. The only way that he could avoid being extradited to France for prosecution was by running for Kenesset, which he did.

Then, France refused to extradite Abu Daoud, one of the Munich terrorists who murdered 11 Israeli athletes at the '72 Olympics. And Israeli sentiment against the French became so incensed that Flatto-Sharon actually won! The guy actually won, if i remember correctly, two seats, even though he was the only one running on his ticket.  

Did I mention that Flatto Sharon didn't speak Hebrew? But he served in the Kenesset -- coincidentally authoring a bill that would have made it illegal to extradite Israeli citizens from Israel. 

I don't think that Israeli politics has ever gotten much more absurd than that.

And, if you speak...um...Korean....?

Monday, January 14, 2013

Vivid Dreams

Woke up this morning to a dream so vivid that it took me awhile to figure out if I had dreamed it (dreamt it?) or it was real. Basically, i was interacting with a person that I can created in my imagination, but the creation was so real that I couldn't come to grips, when I woke up, that the person didn't really exist.

Bizarre.

I guess that that's what happens when you start waking up late. I go to sleep at midnight, but can't get out of bed until 8:00a.m., which is way late for me. I like getting an early start, but at night I can't bring myself to finish whatever I'm doing and get the proper amount of sleep.

By 9:00a.m. I was taking my daughter to school -- I usually refuse, because I don't want to turn into a chauffeur service, but she was late and she had a test and had studied and wanted to do well and....well, what parent can resist that?

I figured that, at the same time, I'd get some shopping done -- Monday is usually my day for my big weekly shop. Somehow, in the supermarket, my cart got mixed up with someone else's cart and I ended up at the check-out counter with half of my stuff and half of his (unfortunately, I know that it was a "him" because an elderly man came up to me while I was shopping and asked if I had taken his cart, but by then I'd been using it for awhile and all the rest of my stuff was in it, so I said "no, of course not."  Yup.

Once I figured that some of my purchases were missing, I ran back to the fruit and veggie section and found my original cart, but by then I'd already paid for a good portion of this other guy's stuff, so I came home with a lot more than I needed. It's going to be "share with the neighbors" time.

And it's not even 11:00a.m. yet. It's gonna be a LONG day. 


Sunday, January 13, 2013

Reasons to NOT Work at Home

And the other side of the coin

1. Jammies at 10:00a.m.  Not cool.
2. Kids, neighbors, everyone expects that because you're "at home anyway," you have plenty of time to chat, help everyone out, etc.
3. Five feet away from the kitchen. Problematic.
4. Conversation with another human being can be sporadic.
5. Things that you didn't use to notice (leaves piling up, cat's scratch marks on the furniture)...you start to notice.
6. You can nap in the middle of the day -- and do so.
7. Your kids think that you've become a bum. 
8. When the weather is bright, sunny and warm, especially after a stretch of rainy cold weather -- you want to be OUTSIDE... and since there's nothing stopping you....

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Rockin' Round the Clock

Last night was my first online class. I taught a group of teens from a synagogue school in Chicago.  For them, it was 6:30p.m., but for me, it was 2:30a.m., and I had to figure out how to manage the activity and my need for sleep.

To be honest, I hadn't been looking forward to the class -- the whole technology thing makes me nervous, and I hadn't been near a classroom in several years. Not to mention the middle-of-the-night gig.

In the end though, I enjoyed the class. There were 2 groups, one after another. They were lively and engaging and had great answers to the questions that I put out. Actually, quite mature, considering their ages - I was impressed. Plus, they seemed to enjoy the class, and that gave me a lot of confidence that I was on the right path.

One of the elements of the lesson involved watching a short video clip and using it as a basis for further discussion. Both groups really enjoyed the clip, so I must try to include more videos in future lessons.

It's a challenge to teach a lesson online when you can't see your students very well (one at a time, and I'm always worried that the technology will fail at any minute and I won't have a clue of what to do to fix it) but, aside from the 2:30a.m. issue, I can say that I had fun. I also suspect that if my more kids had a more interactive class structure, they'd enjoy school a lot more. I know that I would have.

The snow did, in the end, fall and we had enough of a build-up for a few good snowmen and some snowball fights in the neighborhood. The jokes about the flooding in the center of the country ran thin by yesterday, when it was clear that many people were distressed and suffering. But there were still a few that deserved notice.

Laurie Sendler Rappeport

And, of course, snow in Israel is always good for a few "only in Israel" moments.

Snow falling on a winter day in Jerusalem. March 02, 2012. Photo by Yossi Zamir/Flash 90     

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

the flooded Ayalon freeway near Tel Aviv

Also 


Yes, it's raining in Israel this week, but we're not talking about a monsoon here. Even so, the weather is all that anyone can talk about this week. And, as the pictures above illustrate, a lot of people are having a lot of fun with the flooding and infrastructure problems. 

Once I saw that the weather was everyone's topic of the day (Facebook) I decided to back off, but some of the photos that have been popping up, including a photoshopped submarine surfacing in the Tel Aviv Ayalon river, were too good to pass up. (I'll try to find it, but they're passing by on my FB feed pretty quickly. 

I'm pretty proud of myself -- house is ready, fridge is full, gutters are cleaned and hot water tank is hot (to keep pipes from freezing over at night). Not bad for a girl who used to say to herself "thank goodness that my husband takes care of these things." Ha. I even unplugged a stopped-up sink yesterday. 

There's something comfy about sitting around in your house -- alibet with 6 layers of socks (I kid you not -- my tootsies get very cold very quickly) while the weather does its thing. 

Also, my son is on his way home from the army for Shabbat, so that will be even nicer. Once he's home we don't sit and chat for long periods of time -- I'm not really great at small talk and half the things that he tells me about army life, I don't really understand -- but it's just nice having him home (plus the lightbulb needs to be changed and it involves a high ladder climb -- his job).  

Over the summer I registered as a teacher for an online education company. We did a course in which I learned to teach groups in any part of the world online, but I didn't really pay  much attention to the time factor. For instance, if a Hebrew school wants to do a class at 6:30p.m. THEIR time, that's 2:30a.m. MY time. 


Well, tonight's my first class. I'm excited, a little nervous about the technology, and really not pleased about the time issue. But it's all part of my work-at-home strategy -- don't' say "no" to anything and then figure it out. So far it's worked, and I've learned to do a few new things to boot (who knew that I could figure out someone's website design so that I could operate it?) But 2:30a.m.?  AWK. 

ah yes, here's the submarine
    

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Sanctioned Lashon HaRa

Lashon HaRa -- literally "bad tongue" -- is the Jewish way of describing gossip. From the translation it's pretty clear that gossiping is not looked upon very favorably in Jewish tradition.

Even within Jewish communities....even within Orthodox Jewish communities...you can find varying degrees of attention to the details of the laws regarding lashon hara. I know people who will tell you about an incident that disturbed them but will simply leave out the name of the offending individual, and I know others who will tell you in such a way that, if you can't figure out who they're talking about, you've been living in a cave. (actually, one of the advantages of working at home is that, in fact, I know very little of what's going on in the local community unless it's posted on our Tzfat Chevre Facebook group). But, at least they try.

This Shabbat I had a copy of one of the latest Hadassah magazines. Sherri Mandel, a well-known American-Israeli author, had written a piece about hosting guests for Shabbat and I was looking forward to reading it.

The thrust of Sherri's article was her frustration at hosting people who complain, don't appreciate your work and can even be insulting in word or deed (or both). I host my share of "characters" and I can relate to the tension that sometimes occurs when you have so many different personalities sitting at one table. There's a bit of bickering sometimes, or one person says or does something that gets on someone else's nerves. And heaven forbid that the conversation turns to politics....whoa. I rarely express a political opinion to keep the heat from rising, and I'm fairly centrist.

Sherri's article was pretty specific about the incident that annoyed her, and I can only hope that the offending person never reads the article. I can sympathize with Sherri....when you put yourself out, and feel as though you're being insulted, it's aggravating.

But does that make it right for her to have shared this experience -- in which the person involved could definitely identify herself -- with the world?

And where were the Hadassah editors? Shouldn't they have said something? Do bad manners justify embarassment? 




Friday, January 04, 2013

Mind Your Own Business? No Thanks

It's not simple to live in Israel. The political and security climate can be...well...daunting. The financial opportunities are..well...more limited than many olim, especially olim from Western countries, would find in their home countries.

On the social level as well, there are different norms and modes of accepted behavior that take a while to get used to. One of those particular Israeli quirks is the inability of Israelis, no matter whether they're Sepharadi, Ashkanazi, old, young, more-educated or less-educated to mind their own business.

Israelis, especially the women, feel no hesitation to let you know that your new hair color isn't as fitting as your old hair color or that  you've thinned/thickened/look better/look tired. And they will continue on to give you advice for whatever they've diagnosed.

I've had cashiers at the supermarket giggle because I was buying a "couscousairia" -- special pot for making the Moroccan couscous. (Evidently Ashkanazi women are viewed as incapable in this area -- my experience actually enhanced that perception and now, I just buy the "add hot water and stir" ready-made bags of couscous). Perfect strangers have, on more than one occasion, looked into my shopping basket and asked me what I planned to do with a specific vegetable that they'd never seen before.

Nowhere, however, does this phenomena display itself as clearly as when children are involved. Throughout the years that I was raising my children I would get stopped on the street because my sling was, according to these ladies, placed incorrectly, making it impossible for the baby to breath. My policy of no candy (at least not the teeth-destroying chewy stuff, and at least not in the supermarket) was challenged over and over by well-meaning shoppers who felt that I was practically committing child abuse by not indulging my offspring in whatever junk they happened to see.

I can't count the number of times that I was questioned about why the screaming baby didn't have a pacifier (NONE of my kids would take a pacifier, even though I would have paid a king's ransom if they would have agreed to take one -- starting with child #2 and for every subsequent birth I would take a pacifier with me to the hospital so that after the birth, the child would have the "motzetz" and would get used to it...no dice, as soon as they figured out that there was something else that they could suck that brought more satisfaction -- about a day after they were born -- the pacifiers were discarded).

Today, while coming home from town, I saw a young mother, a daughter of a friend, walking up the street with her baby in a carriage. I stopped to admire the baby and the mother removed the blanket that was shielding the child's face -- she had felt that it was too windy. "Oh, you should take it off now" I said before I caught myself. "It's nice and sunny now".

And then I realized. I had actually become one of the old busy-bodys that I used to make fun of. After almost 30 years in Israel I'm almost a native! All I need is a huge overdraft and I'll be right there. 

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Reasons to Work at Home

1. More exercise. (2 dogs + four pleading eyes = an extra daily walk)
2. I don't have to go into a tailspin when the repairman is scheduled to come.
3. I don't have to go into a tailspin when it starts raining and the laundry is hanging outside.
4. When an upcoming course is offered that interests me, I can say "yes". First time in my life.
5. I can jump from project to project as much as my ADHD-self wants...as long as it all gets done in the end, who cares.
6. Lots of time to experiment and try new things, projects, ideas
7. I pay so much for my house...I get to enjoy it!
8. Sun streams in as I work....I may not shock my doctor the next time that I have a blood test when she says "you haven't got a drop of vitamin D in your body"
9. 10:00a.m. in my jammies? No problem
10. People in my guestroom? I actually get to talk to them! (isn't that what it's all about? I mean, remember Bob Newhart's old show with the Vermont inn? And all the interesting people who stayed there? Well, now I can finally do the same thing, across the pond....)
11. Good coffee (or as good as I buy)
 

I No Understand

For years, whenever someone has called with an "offer" for some great "deal" that I have no intention of taking advantage of, I've fantasized about stopping them in the middle of their spiel and saying, in a THICK, THICK English (American) accent "do you speak English? I'm sorry, I no speak Hebrew."

It would be a lot easier to say to these people (who I know are making peanuts, trying to sell a little something for a lousy commission, so I don't want to be rude to them) "I'm sorry, but this isn't something that I'm interested in."

But they won't take a 'no.' They continue to rattle on..."why won't you buy? It's a wonderful opportunity. You'll never get another opportunity like this ever again. Just try it and see what you can win!......"

Well, you know and I know that, for instance, the Israel lottery doesn't have a multi-billion shekel profit every year because they pay out all of their earnings in prizes...somewhere, someone isn't winning. So I don't play because I know darned well that the someone is going to be me. 

But the salespeople start up on the phone and I can't get rid of them. And I'm too polite to just hang up, which is what I should probably do to begin with (as I said, I know that the people making these calls are earning bubkas and that they, themselves, aren't jerks...their employer is).

So today, when the lottery salesperson called and started her endless pitch, I just cut her off in my thick American accent and made it seem as though I couldn't understand a single word that she was saying.

End of story. And I figure that if God has a few million extra shekels out there for me, I'll get them one way or another.