Monday, October 31, 2005

Needing Input

I am facing - not at this exact moment but within the coming year - the horrible decision of putting my dog Atticus to sleep. Aside from a gradual loss of eyesight, back leg movement and hearing, her hind legs are atrophying to the point of her dragging one leg behind, drawing blood yet not feeling the abrasion.

My honest question - i've thought of this in years past and still ruminate over it: Why do we put dogs to sleep? In other words, why don't we let them die "naturally" as we do with humans? I've heard the "putting them out of their misery" theory but if that holds true, then what of prolonged, misery-soaked human lives? If, supposedly, we are all created as equals, why is it okay to prolong one type of life but not another? Or alternatively, why are we put in the god-like position of choosing to end one life but not another? How can we condemn Euthenasing humans when we routinely "put down" animals whose only crimes, sometimes, are being homeless or unclaimed?

Yes, this seems like the rambling of a grief-stricken, dog person. Yes, I am grief stricken and my heart bleeds. But the horrible decision I am eventually supposed to make pushes me towards an honest quest for discussion and answers..Input?

Friday, October 28, 2005

The Death Thing

Between bites of roasted lemon and rosemary chicken this evening, I wept copiously.

The forewarning had been an extremely tenuous moment while preparing the pan-fried couscous side dish during which the longing for my large, San Francisco kitchen with walk-in pantry and oven vent was so overwhelming that I had to remind my cramped-in-the-kitchen-of-ant-armies self that these longings are for objects. And objects are insignificant.

But the dinner weeping was not over an object of desire. The dinner weeping was over Death.

Yesterday, I finally worked out the mystery behind the faint, blood streaks marking our beige, tile floors. No, my 12-year-old Retriever was not experiencing a rejuvinated womanhood nor had she tread on glass.

Her hind leg, so stricken with arthritis that it pains her to fully lift it while on our excursions, was being dragged along the pavement to the point of filing the nail into non-existence leaving a bloodied stump stood in its stead. Of course, she didn't complain or refuse to go on. She simply continued with us to the beach and playground and park, dragging that leg along, happy to be with us on an outing.

This is the second time within a 6-month-period that I have been reminded of mortality vis a vis my dog. The first came when she was unable to stand up to follow me outside one crisp, San Francisco morning. I wept then, too.

Between sobs and bites of chicken this evening, I mused to Tonny how we mortals think we control everything. How we believe we can change the world, increase productivity, carve out a future.

But over death, we have no say. There is nothing I can do to stop my beloved companion of twelve years from slowly winding down before my eyes.

Not coincidentally, the first suicide bombing since our return to Israel took place in Hadera two days ago. I instinctively knew the first one would leave me forlorn. You mean that even though WE are here now, there will still be suicide bombings? Wait a minute. Didn't everybody read the fine print before signing on?

And just how in the hell do parents go on living?

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

At the Playground

The Aging Woman and the Sea

There is NOTHING like the open sea for rejuvination, relaxation and realizing how very small we are...

Went out on a catamaran for 1st time ever, compliments of Sea Center Tel Aviv
Never mind that my job was to simply sit, observe and provide weight for keeping us balanced...It was great! Waters were choppy (15 knots) making for a very exciting excursion. I have really missed warm water and water sport in general.

Monday, October 24, 2005

A Moment of Melancholy

Glowy, Warm Ponderings and Speculation over....

- The realization that I will never re-experience the incredible burst of emotion felt when first visiting the beach upon arrival and sniffing the salty, sea air. The familiar scent of warm, sun-dried seaweed and the sound of the gently rolling waves prompted a surge of fond memories all buried in the unconscious for nearly a decade.

- The sharpness of observations: doves cooing in the early morning before traffic noises overtake, the enveloping, twilight stillness on holiday and Sabbath eves, the autonomy with which the elderly population continues flowing within the community, the speed with which laundry dries in the open air...This will eventually dull over time and I will eventually take things for granted

- The ease and enduring closeness of friendships lasting decades

- Eventually noticing the seams and inequities and questioning the decision to come here

How did I not notice date palms, visit the public library or set foot inside the art museum in years past?

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Love Parade, Tel Aviv 2005

lady love

Friday, October 21, 2005

...And then there was culture shock

We're now headed into month two of our return. So what would my evaluation include at the moment?

For the most part, we are faring well. I'm getting published regularly, Raphael is in school, Tonny and I are barely bickering and we are all adoring the weather, the beach, the sunsets, the immersion and the culture. Raph & I have had some heated tussles over his obsessive, Spiderman costume habit, but it could be worse (no it couldn't, i.e.: guilt)

People - my mother, friends who made aliya, other friends who have moved on the global scale, etc. - cautiously ask how I'm doing. Optimistically I report about goings-on, providing upbeat accounts of the day-to-day and marveling over the apparent culture shock gone missing. I effervescently relay to friends and relations: "I keep expecting the floor to drop out, but so far it hasn't happened! Wow! Did I escape it?"

And then yesterday, whilst listening to an NPR Radio report my San Francisco pal Jo e-mailed, I startle to find tears streaming down my face. "What brought this on?" I internally muse.

And the retort, much as I loathe admitting, is that culture shock has been lurking somewhere in the shadows simply waiting for Jo to send that link. The link with the radio announcer whose voice oozes ease, fingerpaintings taped to the fridge, dry cleaning, car pools and over-sized mugs of freshly brewed, horrible tasting Folger's coffee.

A lifestyle I would slash my wrists over. But one, nonetheless, that doesn't involve screaming at government clerks, sitting in a car for four hours in darkness on the Jerusalem/Tel Aviv highway awaiting roadside aid or attending an upscale fundraiser in a cheap, chiffon style (okay, polyester blend), ankle-length skirt/ matching top and being the most over-dressed female in attendance.

Yes, my old friend culture shock has arrived for a visit, or so the symptoms would indicate. "why have i been in such a crap mood these past few days?" I ask tonny innocently. And now I know.

So the floor didn't fall out, after all. There was simply a thunder storm and the roof leaked.

Make a Wish: Champagne, please?

This week, went to a Make a Wish Foundation fundraiser in Abu Ghosh with my friend Steve. This is the worldwide group that grants terminally ill children their heart's desire: a trip to Disneyland, a pony, a visit with Bill Gates (why, oh why, young innocents?)

So let me preface by saying that the event locale - Abu Ghosh - is a study in economics versus politics. A mixed, Arab/Israeli community 10-minutes outside Jerusalem, the co-habitation really works and everyone gets along. But when you're a relatively well-to-do city with running water and no open sewage in the streets like Jabalya Refugee Camp in Gaza,for instance, it's probably easier to forego that Molotov cocktail at the end of the day.

Anyhow, the evening's festivities included an impressive Capoeira display by local teens, Debka dancing, chefs carving mounds of lamb over baked rice, pre-teen girls swathed in maroon veils performing traditional dance and a hauntingly beautiful choral performance in the town church marred significantly by its 2-hour-without-pause running time. Squirming in their seats, half the audience members rushed out at the 45-minute mark.

It was all very nice, the effort and determination that went into it was clear, the performing kids were proud, the organizers were proud, the choir was proud...

And yet Ms. Nasty-Ella (that would be me) came away thinking: Is that it? Why didn't I wear my casual, Friday cheenos and flats instead of the unbearable, spike heels and the long skirt? Is this as good as it gets? Is this what a fundraiser with government minister in attendance looks like? Self service meal and jeans? Where were the servers with the small, silver trays of mini-quiches, sashimi and smoked salmon en croute? No shaved ice between courses to cleanse the palate? And how difficult is it to throw together a few petit fours for the dessert table? A little champagne to wash down the lamb, maybe? Okay, forget champagne. Some simple, French table wine? Oops, forgot. This is a Moslem village.

Well at least it was for a good cause, eh? And bless Steve and his colleagues for their work and thoughtfulness...

I didn't say this blog would be nice. It's culture shock, that's what it is. Great collection plate for fits of misery ongoing long before this move...

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

My Pride & Joy

A Special, Holiday anecdote:

It's early morning - before 10 - on a holiday. Rapha wants to wear his Spiderman costume but...

1) it's in the 80's (30-something Celsius) outside and polyester doesn't breathe (go explain THAT to a 4-year-old)
2) because it doesn't breathe and said 4-year-old wears the costume from morning to night, it's well overdue for a visit to the laundry

I tell him no, explaining the above reasons. A temper tantrum ensues.

Suddenly, from the neighboring apartment a woman screams: "SHEKET!" (QUIET in Hebrew)

I say: "She's right, Raphael. It's a holiday morning and you're waking people up."

He goes very quiet and seemingly contemplating the matter, walks to the window sill and peers out to ostensibly get a look at the neighbor. Instead, he throws back his head and shrieks: "SHEKET!" into the silence.

That's my boy. Such an angel. I was laughing so hard I completely missing her shouted reply.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Tel Aviv Various, 2005



Hilton Beach


Gan Meier Flower Market

Girrrrrls....Come On Already!!!

A word of advice to women the world over and particularly those in this country who have not yet evolved:


In other words, don't treat other women in a snake-like, vicious fashion unless they have truly earned it for behaving very badly.

What do I mean?

Well why don't I just illustrate with a personal example, hmmm?

Sitting in on a broadcast session earlier in the week for a potential voice-over job. The minute I walk into the room, the woman I'm ostensibly to learn from gives that vibe...You know the one. It's the look-you-up-and-down with spite and disgust, can't be bothered to glance in your direction again, don't you dare address me directly if you know what's good for you body language.

Clearly I don't know what's good for me because the minute the program director exits the room and we're alone together, I attempt to seize the opportunity - after very politely verifying that an interruption is appropriate - to ask her advice on negotiating a rate for said broadcasting position. Her clipped reply?

"Now is not the time to ask me. Maybe later. But just so you know, there is NOroom for negotiation. This is a pilot series. I don't get paid enough and we're all getting the same rate."

So it wasn't the time but she had the time to spew all of that other garbajeeolah in my direction? Like three words - two hundred dollars - would've been a strain? But it "wasn't the time"...Puuuuulleeeeezzze. Give me a break, Ms. I'm Too Important to Be Bothered with You.

Advice: Women in this country, you want to be evolved and have equal rights and rid yourselves of male oppression? Then stop treating other women like full time rivals out to steal something you have.

As former secretary of state Madeline Albright replied during a San Francisco Q&A to a question regarding her decision to make politics rather than motherhood a full time career:

(paraphrase) I don't think every woman is intended to be a full time mother
nor do I think every woman is cut out for a full time career. We're
all individuals with different needs.

But I will say, there is a special place in hell for those women who
treat other women badly for choosing one path over the other in life.

My heart still swells when I recall how the room exploded with applause.

Enough Said. Amen Madeline. Love you. Kiss kiss.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

The Work Ethic in Socialist Realms

A True Story:

My friend Steve who lives in the Netanya area was between jobs and receiving government unemployment benefits. Towards the end of the benefit wagon, he began job seeking, successfully interviewed with a company, negotiated terms and was advised by management: "We'll call you tomorrow and give you a start date."

It took two weeks for them to call, at which time, of course, they asked him to start the very next day.

"Just one minute," he calmly countered with the smug assuredness of the person who knows he's clinched the spot and the other party is desperate. "I still have a month left of unemployment benefits and next week, the World Cup starts. So I just don't know about starting right now."

On the other end, silence and then a counter proposal some hours later:

"How's about you start next week and on the days England plays, you can stay home and on the other days you come in...?"

When's lunch break again?

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

So why Stay?

What keeps us here in lieu of the headache, hassle and bureaucratic hell?

It's home - the short answer. Nowhere else has felt this much like home. In fact, the entire concept of "home" comes into question, I believe, when a person has grown up in one place and yet finds the feeling of well being in another place altogether. Almost like a calling or longing. Very deep.

Medium length answer: Gorgeous, sea-side sunsets, summer dresses and sandals in October, an un-bridled sense of freedom, subsidized education, not being afraid of walking through the park with my son after dark, subsidized agricultural and dairy goods, not having to be terrified of letting my son out of my sight on the playground or in public.

The long answer shortened: To loosely borrow from David Horovitz's A Little Too Close To God, The Thrills and Panic of A Life in Israel , being alive at a time when Israel actually is in a state of statehood, impinges a sense of obligation regarding dwelling here. And no, I'm not religious. That's the more philosophical, not hugely in-depth but could lead to a lengthy discussion answer.

Monday, October 10, 2005

It Gets Thicker...

We've had a helluva week...As one becomes more thickly entwined with this culture, the daggers begin to flash and all flightiness is reserved for end of the day madness which boils down to an exhausted dinner or a walk in the park with child and dog.

I mean, who'dve thought that signing a child up for preschool would take four hours and hinge upon a city tax bill being placed in the preschooler's mother's name? Who'dve thought that because the apartment the preschooler lives in is owned by a dead woman who never left an inheritance letter, the procedure of changing over said tax bill would necessitate numerous letters, official papers and multiple appearances at the municipality? Who'd have thought that ultimately, city clerks - paid nominal salaries for sitting behind desks and telling people to come another day because they're too busy 1) talking on the cellphone 2) eating yogurt 3) discussing weekend forays with the neighboring clerk - would ultimately suggest a way to cheat around the system? Suffice it to say that the day spent at the municipality was one from hell of many, I daresay, to be relished in the future.

I simply don't understand:

1) why it takes 4 hours to open a checking account (my mother thinks it's because the more steps and people involved in a process, the more jobs created)
2) how people can think they're pulling one over in broad daylight

Tonny asked tonight if I think Israelis are not all that great at business...Funny that. My reply can be offered via a shuk vendor's description of the dish towels he was selling:

"They look thin but really, they get thicker each time you put them in the laundry"....

Welcome to Israel. Have a Nice Day

Sunday, October 09, 2005


Rapha started preschool...his first day. Oh what proud parents we were. And so thrilled for him to FINALLY be cavorting with peers again. A full month here without it and for the poor, sweetie it was sorely missing.

He was so excited carrying that Spiderman lunchbox, watching the other children as they arrived, attempting to communicate with the few, Thai kids that speak English.

Most of my focus was building towards this day. Find an apartment in order to have an address in order to be zoned in order to sign him up in order to not schlep him around with boring adults (us), in order to give him normalcy and routine, in order for him to be happy and so it goes....

The main differences between San Francisco preschool and the Tel Aviv equivalent:

- there are 32 (!) kids in class here, 3 teachers, no parents. That's a damned high ratio of child to teacher. In SF, it was one paid teacher and four working parents per day - That's 5:1. But part of the commitment of being in a co-op was parents' obligation of working one day per week, participating in committee work, fundraising, bi-annual clean ups, monthly meetings, monthly snack duty, monthly art project duty ...Oh My God!!! It felt like a black hole.

- class runs 6 hours each day as opposed to 3 in San Fran. The cost? Around $150 in Tel Aviv versus $230-250 in SF and that higher bill doesn't account for donations, time commitment, snacks, obligatory purchases, etc.

- The entire food approach is different. Here, the child eats at home, arrives to school at 7:30-8 with a sandwich for 10 a.m. snack, a bottle of water so the teacher can monitor liquid intake and 2 pieces of fresh fruit to add to the collective fruit basket divided among all at 11:30. At 13:30 kids go home for lunch. That's one meal and 1.5 snacks spread over 6 hours.

At Haight Ashbury Co-Op, Raph's San Fran school, the kids arrived at 09:30, ostensibly with full stomachs from breakfast. An hour later, snack - not to be taken lightly in these parts, as "snack" can mean macaroni & cheese, pizza, chicken sticks, oatmeal,....(obesity ain't rampant for nothing, kiddies!)

An hour and a half after snack was lunchtime. Full meals of sandwich, fruit, yogurt, chips, drink and so on from home.. Assuming the child wakes up at 07:00, that's 3 meal-sized portions within 5 hours. ponder.

- Structure. School here has a defined, daily structure with clear goals: Developing coordination and social skills, teaching learning and motivation skills and so on. To reinforce this, each day is divided into time slots with focus on these skills for a set amount of time.

At HACNS it was open play all day every day aside from music each two weeks and a tumbling class every other week plus Friday show-and-tell. I prefer structure but okay..Free play does lead to creativity.

- And the clincher: On Fridays there is kabbalat shabbat and before the holidays, kids make decorations for the Jewish New Year and succot - not Easter or Christmas. This satisfies me immensely.

Raph hasn't a clue yet but these differences - subsidized education, book reading, an emphasis on learning, affordable education, food not being the focal point of structured time and celebrated holidays being Jewish rather than Christian are some of the strongest motivators which pushed me to return.

It is extremely rewarding to watch these pieces fall into place.