Tuesday, January 31, 2006


A few notes as we head into February, hurrah hurrah:

Yet another meeting with someone via the blog-zone...The first was with this person visiting Tel Aviv with her family. They generally live way over in the frozen hemisphere, more commonly referred to as Canada. I wrote about our get-together earlier in the month.

Today, the meeting was with a fellow Yank, New York ex-pat living half in/half out of HLC (Holy Land Central). We coffee'd, exchanged HLC lamentations and got halfway through life story spiels before having to run off to attend to our respective "other stuffs". We shall meet again. Very nice lady with moxy and heart. I'm privileged, you know. I get to meet people from my country of origin in coffeehouses halfway around the world from the jumping off point. What a cool, cut-to-the-chase medium this blog world is.

In other news, I extend a heartfelt thanks to Tel Aviv's municipality and HLC's banks for making online school sign up and account access painless and bug free. Would you guys mind picking up the phone to the cable, electric, water/city tax, gas, phone, long distance, cellphone and internet access providers to clue them in about online bill pay? Hello!!! We are not rubbing sticks together anymore.

And my final soapbox derby of the day: Have you seen the latest, Johnny Depp version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory yet? Ya gotta. Once again, I stand in awe and admiration of Tim Burton's talents. Ma, shield your eyes and click "page down" for this next part: I understand that it's all the rage among stoners, thanks to awesome visuals. I don't personally partake but I did try it once. Of course, I never inhaled.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Same Old Same Old

The cover story of Tel Aviv's weekly Ha'Ir (the City) this past Friday addressed homelessness. What familiar turf, coming from San Francisco where hundreds of millions of $$'s are spent annually in an effort to stanch the floodgate. SF's load is tremendous what with a teeming, 5000+ street-bound population (compared with Tel Aviv's 787 last year). Incidentally, this series about SF's problem is one of the best I've read.

But back to HLC (Holy Land Central).

On a personal level, I couldn't help but notice the change since I last lived here. Particularly when recalling the ONE, homeless guy living in the park near Tel Aviv U. who we overseas students so proudly supplied with fashion magazines. Like he was really going to apply perfume to his cleavage and at pulse points in an effort to follow CosmoGirl's hints for enhancing sexual allure.

Striking how the homeless problem bears universal qualities: mental illness, drug addiction, shelters, jails and the general consensus shared by outdoor dwellers of the shelter being a more loathed venue than the street.

Tel Aviv is no exception. According to the article's stats, 70% of the city's homeless are addicts, 25% are mentally ill and the other 5% are victims of unforeseen circumstances like job loss, over-extended spending, accidents leading to bankruptcy...

What surprises me is the candor with which some of the interviewees admitted to feeling claustrophobic indoors i.e. preferring a life on the streets where they needn't abide by society's dictates. I thought about that one: What a price to pay for freedom. Freedom or hell. Depends upon your view.

Whatever that view, for the most part homeless people here aren't strolling the streets barefoot or wearing cardboard shoes exposing severely, gangrene-infested feet. They aren't lying in pools of urine in Tel Aviv's bursa (financial district), defecating between parked cars in broad daylight or shooting up on door stoops. Talking to imaginary friends, screaming at invisible foes and physically lashing out at the non-imaginaries barely occurs. So far.

What's the solution? If only....

Friday, January 27, 2006

Hamas & the Elections

Well, there went the neighborhood, hmmm?

Speaking strictly as an armchair analyst, my guess is that either complete bedlam will erupt as factions vying for power begin in-fighting or Hamas will eventually go mainstream - and by "eventually", I'm talking YEARS. Look at PLO history.

If they don't adapt moderation, the kids on the other side of the pond - Condie and company - won't let them play in the sandbox with the rest of the bullies who faithfully adhere to their ADHD med regimens.

Either way you slice it, the popular message behind the vote is worth thinking about.

Stay tuned. Never a dull moment here in HLC.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Clarification in Order

I need to set the record straight because I fear my lamentings are giving the wrong impression. The pal who I blogged about yesterday expressed concern over the continued doom and gloom I broadcast in my postings...

That started me thinking about people who might be reading those posts - the same ones planning to move here in the summer or in a few years (you know who you are, girls) - and I felt compelled to send out a message:


Okay. Just foolin'.

The inner questioning? Let's put it this way: My dad claims my mid-life crisis started at thirteen.

So, I'll always moan no matter where I am. It really boils down to crappy, insecure or...just plain crappy days. Nothing too scientific about it. As I expressed previously, those days will find us ALL no matter where we take ourselves.

So to the people coming over, come on over. Yes, there will be adjustment to go through, some culture shock, longings for things left behind. That's all natural. But remember that "breathe into it" stuff? I'm telling you, it works.

I know because yesterday, while torturing myself by getting onto Craigslist San Francisco & browsing pictures of apartments with hardwood floors, beveled glass windows, built-in fireplaces and walk-in pantries I started feeling a twisting agony in the mid-section. I nearly navigated away from the page then stopped and asked myself: "What is it you're really longing for? The space? The ornate-ness of things? Is it really that bad in the comfy, Tel Aviv 10-minute-walk-from-the-beach flat you have with an entire wall of glass windows overlooking orange trees? And let's face it: They were building PROJECTS next to your building in SF. Gun fire, 24/7 drug traffic and drive-bys are no fun at all, are they Stefie Stef?"

And guess what? The twist went away and I realized that relative to how it could be, my landing has been cushy-cush. So I'll get on with it now. Thanks for listening.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The Kindness of (non) Strangers

Yesterday, a journalist-type friend concerned that my current HLC (Holy Land Central) fall from grace might push me to pull on the wetsuit and flippers and start swimming west (I can't; the wetsuit's pre-pregnancy, custom fit), offered to take myself and Rapha "away from it all" for the afternoon. Collecting us in her American-size, 8-seater SUV, we were in Raanana in ten minutes flat thanks to the connecting uber-highway from Tel Aviv.

Once out in the country, I took in the surroundings: wide, open spaces, cottage style homes, greenery and a living room you could toss frisbee in. She doesn't really live in the country; with a population of 70,000 mid to upper class, mostly Anglo-Saxons, Raanana hardly qualifies as Green Acres. It doesn't fit into yuppy-ville either. It's a nice place to raise kids with a good school system and an extremely vocal community of movers and shakers. There.

Hanging for the day was cool- I perused A.'s overflowing bookshelves, met her bi-lingual kids and basically relaxed in a house setting for the day, escaping worries of deadlines, bills and bi-culturism.

Sweet, it was of her, to attempt rousing me with tidbits of Americana during my time of internal questioning. And in fact, blah-blahing and just hangin' with a sistah was fab. Towards the evening, we even got daring and left the kiddies with a sitter to traipse off to "Meatland", a specialty shop for getting your grub on if you've been chalishing Trader Joe's Barbara's cereals, Ken's Steakhouse BBQ sauce, Tofu frozen dessert, Marshmallow Fluff (oh my god, why?) or other assorted sundries from the U.S., England or South Africa.

Were it that the internal rumblings could be quieted by Reese's peanut butter cups alone. Unfortunately, regardless of domicile, the ill ease will persist. But here, again, is yet another example of human kindess. Can we come back and shoot hoops soon?

Tuesday, January 24, 2006


I continue referring to Madeleine Albright's memoirs 'cause I'm way into the book right now. Yes, I know it's been out for several years so big deal but until recently, it's been a shelf-stuffer, occupying bookcase space and serving as an illusory indicator of "well read person living in this home".

It's not just any old copy, mind you: When Tonny (my husband/partner-type person) heard me talking about plans to attend Albright's San Fran book signing years ago, he rushed out and got me a copy which now bears Ms. Madam's inscription to Stefie Stef. Tonny's a good guy, eh?

But I didn't come here to boast.

I'm still at the book's start. Madeleine - we're on first name terms since the book event - is writing about her term as U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., recounting the wars in Somalia and Rwanda. She prefaces by apologizing for Rwanda, saying that she was among the majority who didn't realize that the Hutu-Tutsi fighting was masking a wave of genocide of sickening proportions.

I read in amazement and horror, recalling a colleague's descriptions of being sent to cover the mess for Reuters, and being greeted by a putrid wave of warm air carrying the scent of decaying bodies as he de-planed on the tarmac in Rwanda. Despite seeing active duty in Israel's military and weaving in and out of the territories as a journalist, he had never witnessed anything of that proportion in his life. He came back affected. Surprise surprise.

I read this stuff and contemplate other genocides - the Holocaust, Bosnia, Sudan - and wonder: How do these guys keep the momentum going? In other words, how does a band of machete wielding rebels go into a hospital, slaughter the staff and then come back the next day to finish off the patients? What do they tell themselves in order to keep the hatred burning and the dogma alive day after day, enabling them to kill off millions of women and children? Psychologically, does the "war state of mind" turn Nazis, Hutus and Janjaweed into some sort of sci-fi, killing zombies?

Apparently so. Years ago I read Chris Hedges' War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning in which he discusses the lethal, addictive attributes of war. A NY Times and former Christian Science Monitor reporter, Hedges was in and out of nearly every, major war zone during the 80's & 90's, including spending time in HLC (Holy Land Central). He also goes into the addiction journalists covering conflict encounter. I suggest giving his book a read. It's a frightening, eye opener.

Over and Out for Now.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Getting Over the Humps

We attended our first HLC (Holy Land Central) kiddy birthday party yesterday: 30+ little ones from Raphael's kindergarten and a dozen assorted parents packed into an extremely modest-sized, Tel Aviv apartment noshing on bourekas, cut up veggies, hard boiled eggs and pita bread with hummus/chocolate spread.

Entertainment was an aging puppeteer doubling as magician who, I swear, is the flesh and blood embodiment of Krusty the Clown without the floppy shoes and white gloves. I nearly followed the guy outside after the performance to see if he'd take a swig from a breast pocket flask while lighting up. His dusty puppet & magic shows were in dire need of updating as was his music collection - I Need a Hero & The Macarena? Dude! They went out with bad toupes and oversized, Liz Taylor sunglasses.

But the kids seemed to have a good time dancing train-style as did the grandmothers, instructed to put hands over their tzitzeem while leading the Macarena.

I, however, in keeping with this week's theme of feeling out of sorts in HLC, experienced a renewed surge of yuck.

I can't really put my finger on what exactly had me squirming. Perhaps the lack of luster I'm accustomed to back in the U.S. of A. Call me spoiled. I got used to the standard cavernous, rented spaces with outdoor and indoor areas for running and playing, a catered spread fine tuned to both discerning adult palates and more simple, mini-pizza/pasta salad/mini-hot dog kid preferences, razzle-dazzle clown acts with balloons twisted into custom-shaped Jaguars for boys and Spanish speaking Bratz Dolls for girls, rented jumping castles for more energy expenditure and specialty cakes baked by gourmet patisseries running well over $100 for a double layer, sheet serving 20-25. And all of the above elements, I swear, were packed into a single, 2-year-old's party back in San Fran. Imagine how the stakes raise each year.

NOW, I'm not saying that the glitz and glamour is BETTER than yesterday's modest gathering. And in fact, the hype backed by shallow substance was one of the U.S.-isms I held in disdain.

But...Well...I simply need to get used to the way it's done over here. Because the kids doing the chicken dance looked just as happy as the ones eating gourmet cake. It's my mind that races and panics and starts to play Better and Worse games. I will continue breathing into it.

Over and out for now.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Breathing Into It

IN the late 90's, I spent a year learning about Anger & Conflict in Relationships & Love, Passion and Obsession in a course offered at San Francisco State University. Half the year delved into the anger aspect - individual, collective, societal, global, etc. - while the other half year was spent learning about the various types of love and relationships we get ourselves into and how to wade through them, surface to the top and make sense of it all in the process.

We sailed through mucho information that year and I took an entire binder-full of notes which I occasionally refer to when a bit of memory refreshing is in order.

I thought about the course today because I have hit the fork in the road Genevieve, our instructor, lectured about at length. It's the point in life, in a relationship, in a job and so on where you are sitting at the corner of "unknown" and "follow my routine path" and it's up to you to choose your destination.

In yoga, it's referred to as either pulling back from a particularly uncomfortable pose or breathing into it until the pain changes.

I'm looking at this HLC (Holy Land Central) place and thinking: Am I really back here again? What did I do that for?

I'm certainly not going to pull back from the pose (the usual routine) because where in the heck would I go where uncomfortability, which really boils down to the uncomfortable parts within myself, won't eventually find me?

So I have to breathe into it (unknown) and see where it takes me which sort of sucks because it's not a great feeling. Sometimes I kid myself into believing in a foolproof place where there is no such thing as uncomfortability. Too much exposure to Hollywood, I guess. (*heavy sigh*).
Where is Fantasy Island or Love Boat when you need it, huh?

Ech, I never liked either of those shows anyway.

Woman With Hat

Rabin Square, Tel Aviv

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Computer Literacy

Yahoo!!! The winner of the Stefanella Drive Thru Computer Literacy Contest and a free, all-day pass to (toasted) Coney Island is Gavriel...

Thank GOODNESS for forthcoming people who needn't read reams of documentation to actually understand the implications of pushing "send".

Thanks G. Can I call you "G"? I owe you.


BGU Sde Boker Campus, Wild Ibex Negev Desert
Negev Desert

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Input Time

Hello to my pals, anonymous shoppers and confidantes reading this post, wherever you may be.

Today is officially "Feedback Day" dubbed so because I genuinely need input on two very different fronts. Please flow forth freely because I am at a loss.

1) Notice how the main items on this blog have dropped all the way down the page? Can someone PLEASE clue me in as to how to change the HTML or correct the formatting to get the items back up to the top?

I've messaged blogspot, read tips on working with HTML , looked at the template HTML repeatedly and fiddled with it and e-mailed a friend all to naught. I offer a free, all-day pass to Coney Island in Manhattan to the person capable of solving this riddle.**

2) Am I the only person who detects incredible irony in an editor's comment: "Well at least we pay our writers"? Shucks, call me naive but where I was raised, you get paid for doing a job period. It's not a privilege or something to be begged for. Have I fallen into double jeopardy territory where payment for service is an anomaly? And just exactly how does one address the request: Don't get angry with our accountant for not paying you (on time and the full amount owed). It upsets her. How selfish of me to roil her delicate coif.

Comments, insights and suggestions welcome. Thank you. Shalom.

**Oh sorry. Coney Island closed last century

Miserable Company

Whoever coined the phrase "misery loves company" was clearly having a Scheissdreck day and did something nasty to co-workers like hiding all the coffee or letting cockroaches loose in the building, just to clap hands and laugh with evil glee as others squirmed.
I am having a Scheissdreck day. But being of saintly nature I am taking the high road and offering servitude rather than wallow in self pity of my own making.

In other words, I'm spouting advice to people in worse shape than myself. It makes me feel better and I get to say: Aren't I wonderful for doing that? And: Isn't my life quite grand, after all?

Except I don't use the word "grand" as a rule.

One of the things I do on a monthly basis is ring up people who have recently emigrated to Holy Land Central (HLC) to offer information, advice or help with the process of acclimating to good 'ol HLC. It can be QUITE the rollercoaster ride, getting used to life here. I know. Remember? I'm having a Scheissdreck day.

Some days, picking up the phone to wade through the hundred or so people on my list feels burdensome. Do I really want to chit-chat AGAIN about the Absorption Ministry staff ostensibly hired to aid ALL immigrants and not just their brethren from back yonder in Russia?

Other days - like on Scheissdreck days - speaking with people who haven't worked in 9 months, who have lost all their worldly possessions, which just arrived in a shipment to an apartment fire, who are being wheedled out of savings by cheating skeevers assuming they're "rich Americans" with bulging pockets and who, accustomed to corporate, powerhouse positions now sit jobless and listless questioning the move to HLC helps put all of that Scheiss and dreck right back in its place.

We all came here for different reasons and we all land in very different ways. It genuinely helps my landing when I aid others with theirs. Schoingemacht. Mother Theresa.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Holey Alliance

At the yoga studio the other day after class, bemoaning my yoga mat's stained state - dark, hand and feet marks I can't get rid of after 7 years of Adho Mukha Svanasana and traveling with the mat to Israel, Egypt, Singpore and Thailand - the instructor cheerfully informs: Oh don't worry. You should see my mat! And look: When I was in India, I used to practice in this underwear - no pants - and didn't care one bit.

At which point he promptly pulls down his shorts revealing rather "aerated" briefs, his toochas peeking through the holes. Is that divine inspiration or what?

In other, related news: Riding the wall-to-wall-packed-with-soldiers returning to bases after the weekend train to Beer Sheba this morning, I pretend to be reading my Madam Secretary Madeleine Albright Memoirs but am really listening to the three soldiers flanking me to the rear and sides.

Kids, proclaims one. You'll learn soon what tough really means. But now? You're both spoiled.

He couldn't have been a day over 21 and the "spoiled kids needing toughening" were 18-year-old newbies.
I busted out laughing and they totally caught me in the act...ahh!!! Now who needs to grow up?

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Tel Aviv, Blustery Saturday

Child, Hot Dog, Hungry Dog

Reading Power Plant Bridge

Coffee with Pooches

Sprite Advert


Well I'll Be!

Blow me down..I just found out (by accident) that this here blogsite has been nominated for 2005 Best New Blog in the Israel/Jewish Blog Award Competition. (Check out the nominee button to the left below) Okay. Enough already with the self flattery.

Death and Dying

Last night, the Tel Aviv yoga studio I frequent when I'm up to taking classes held a "movie night" for practitioners. 20 or so people showed up for a pre-screening "cocktail hour" of hot tea, wheatless/sugarless/additive-less/tasteless cookies, dried apricots and fresh strawberries followed by the Big Picture projected on the studio wall.

No, it wasn't Friday the 13th: Jason's Return...Think: Yoga People. The documentary (ahem, oh how very sophisticated of us) was on The Tibetan Book of the Dead . I was specifically interested in the subject because I attempted to slog through the book a few years back for the Buddhist take on death after having a series of detailed dreams on the after-death interim period.

My efforts were in vain, however. It was laborious reading so I opted instead for the remedial reader, 2nd best version: Sogyal Rinpoche's interpretation of the original, or The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying.

In short, the books and the documentary address the stages of death and after death or the Bardos - a 49-day, interim period between life and death after which the soul either enters Nirvana or is re-born.

There were numerous messages in the film: letting go of attachments to people, things and the living world when it's time to go, living a compassionate life so as to die a gentle death, striving towards awakening in life and understanding that all of life is a projection created by our experiences and minds.

Key for me was the message that even life is a bardo or interim stage - it's simply one where we are awake, not dead.

Then I got to thinking: What is Judaism's belief vis a vis an after-death interim period? So I turned to my bookshelf for consultation and right there in the very first sentence of the Olam Ha-Ba (Afterlife) section of Jewish Literacy was stated: ..."Olam Ha-Ba is rarely discussed in Jewish life"...So no wonder I have questions.

In my brief research, however, I found that Judaism does, indeed, believe in afterlife and in preparing for it. The intense, 7-day, month long and 12-month mourning and prayer periods are to not only help the bereaved recover from the loss but to help purify the soul as it prepares to enter the world to come.

Call me a sicko for delving into matters of death but it is a part of life, after all. Incidentally, my parents said they started to worry back when I was ten and reading the obituary page over my Cheerios each day at the breakfast table.

That said, here's the closing line of last night's documentary for ponder-ability: We enter this world crying while others are happy for our arrival and leave in silence while others mourn our departure. Perhaps we should question our perceptions?

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Corpse Movie

Tim Burton is cool. Don't take my word for it, though. Check out The Adventures of Stainboy, Edward Scissorhands or his latest, Corpse Bride.

I'm way into Burton's out-there vantage point, his fondness for Johnny Depp, the fact that Tracy Ullman voiced something like four of the Corpse Bride characters and the macabre humor inherent in his work. And who'duv guessed that was Emily Watson of Lars Von Trier's Breaking The Waves voicing the role of Victoria.

If you sense a cutting edge element while watching this film, you're spot on; Apparently it's the first stop-motion, animated feature using commercial, digital stills rather than film cameras. The characters are sharp and detailed and there's a sense of depth to the scenery and backdrops.

Go, enjoy and if you're a parent, bear in mind that it's rated PG. Don't make the ridiculous mistake we did of searching in vain for the rating and subsequently relying upon the cinema employees' assuring advice: It's funny; Nothing scary. Don't worry.

Guess who's sleeping in our bed tonight?

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Excuse Me?

Can someone please enlighten me as to WHY the jankyest, bottom-feeder Revlon Mascara selling for $6.00 at Walgreen's in the U.S. retails here in Holy Land Central (HLC) for nearly $20?!?

I mean, I'm not overly girlie-girl-esque but I do fancy my eyeliner, lipstick and mascara; So I look up prices at Macy's and find that I can get a good, Lancome Magicils for $21.50 and a M.A.C. Splashproof for $10 (!). Of course, I'd also have to incur a $1000 plane ticket to actually purchase them but...

My question: Did the Revlon mascaras sneak through security, slip into the duty-free food shops and roll in Beluga en route to Tel Aviv? And am I doomed to buying janky, over-priced make-up here in HLC? For those in the know, I'm counting on you. HELP!! (Buddha Patiently Reminds: Were it that this was my greatest challenge in life)

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Repeating the Same Mistake

This particular entry regards my habit of repeatedly attempting to fool my own senses, only to be foiled by myself each time.

Specifically, I'm referring to my fish aversion. As I've noted and probably made clear based upon the frequency with which I delve into matters food-related, I enjoy a bit of the culinary. I like cooking, learning about cuisines, tasting and testing new recipes in the kitchen.

It's probably in the family genes. My youngest brother Josh, the true, family gourmand, has a degree from the prestigious, New York CIA and now stands at the helm of an upscale, Cincinnati eatery where he whips up delights for his regulars. Among his offerings one Christmas season was my mother's matzoh ball soup - a recipe he added to the menu for the fun of it.

Emulating Josh to my utmost, I forge into the kitchen with vim and vigor. This week, in fact, I spent three hours at Shuk Ha'Carmel gathering shallots, ginger, fresh lemon grass, Thai stick noodles, tamarind paste and a mortar and pestle to make authentic, Tom Yum Goong .

Back in my cramped kitchen, another two hours went into prepping, simmering the fish stock and adding the called-for ingredients until the broth was ready for consumption, noodles, prawn tails and all. I sat down, inhaled the vapors and froze. You have mine. I'll throw up. I told Tonny.

Familiar with my aversion he asked: It's the fish, isn't it? I nodded glumly, heading into the kitchen to fix myself a plain bowl of noodles with instant, chicken soup instead.
Why, oh why, do I continue to torture myself with this fish thing? I want so badly to fawn over baked salmon and ooze over steamed clams - and yes, there are some swimmers I can tolerate like a super mild halibut.

But why, when my stomach clenched in exactly the same manner some years ago while in St. Maarten after purchasing a live, 10-pound lobster at the pier and having the hotel chef prepare it in butter, do I push to the front of the line, begging: "Please sir, may I have some more?"

What would Buddha say I should learn from this experience? Were it that this was my most exacerbating challenge in life.

Monday, January 09, 2006


Tel Aviv cactus

Greenhouse - View from friend's living room window

first salon cut

Saturday, January 07, 2006

The Beauty of the Blog

Regardless of anyone's poo-poo'ing of the Internet, its supposed evils and how it will eventually lead us all into tarnation (the city right next to Boise), I am a huge fan of the World Wide Web.

It's where I shop, get news, keep in touch with friends and relatives, conduct research, drum up work, do business and of course, share a slice of my life and opinions with others via this blog.

Which, earlier in the week, led to a very nice, cyberspace-fostered encounter. An Israeli woman living in Toronto who has read my blog and offered advice when I was wringing my hands over Raphael's difficulty with the move to HLC (Holy Land Central), e-mailed last week to inform that she's in the country. "Why don't we get the two super-heroes together?" she suggested.

So we met at Banana Beach and after some initial sparring, the boys yucked it up, chased each other, shed clothing and splashed in the Med while we "adult types" exchanged stories, advice and information.

As Raph & I made our way home after dark, I marveled over the concept of spending the afternoon with someone literally by virtue of the virtual world. Now, could my mother have done that in her day using smoke signals? I think not.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Up & Down & Up &...

Back to the current situation here: It's very strange this up and down with Arik Sharon's health and welfare. In and out of lengthy surgeries, bleeding that seems to flow anew each time the team of doctors stanches it, the population in a slowed down, wait and see mode. Everyone can pretty much guess the state of his mental faculties should he ever re-gain consciousness.

Which, in speaking earlier in the day with someone "close to him" while he was undergoing yet another surgery, we agreed that it's preferable he depart leaving his current legacy than remain alive in a tremendously marginalized state.

Arik Sharon is an Ox of a man and most people would prefer not to see him incapacitated.

Whichever way it goes, I wish him and those close to him the least amount of pain possible.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Pausing for Politics

I don't usually write about the political scene here. Not because I live in an Israeli version of Never Land where I play with the Llamas and chimps all day and retire to my oxygen tank at night, impervious to the country's goings-on.

Rather, I worked for years in hard core journalism here and part of the reason I left was burnout. So after spending just under a decade within the soft, gentle borders of San Francisco, I am trying to take the Zen approach: Observe impassively.

BUT I have to admit my alarm this morning upon reading about Arik Sharon's massive brain hemmorhage and current "struggle to hang on", as described by the Hebrew press.

What happens now? Even if he recovers, paralysis, impeded motor skills and loss of speech are probably guaranteed. He's not leading anyone anywhere anymore, period.

So is his attempt at forming a middle of the road, somewhat progressive party going to go down the drain or will Ehud Olmert, his 2nd in command, take over and lead the party to March elections? And does this mean that, horror of horrors, Bibi Netanyahu has a fighting chance of becoming Prime Minister AGAIN?

This could be scary or very positive...

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

In Search of Painless Payment

Some months ago, I raved and ranted about being paid for services here in Holy Land Central (HLC). Linked to a personal issue, the saga was FINALLY resolved earlier in the week.

The gist: Before moving back to this fountain of generosity and forthcomingness, my good friend & ex-colleague Jeff who writes for the German press was kind enough to set me up with some writing work ahead of my arrival for one of the country's two, English language newspapers. Assigned work immediately, my only niggling concern was payment - this newspaper, which shall remain nameless but is the more established of the two in the country (okay, you know which one I'm talking about) has a rampant reputation of not paying writers.

Unfortunately, the reputation proved absolutely valid. Among the run-around techniques I encountered: Call back later, Sorry wrong number, She doesn't work in accounts payable anymore, We didn't receive the fax, We need the original-not a fax, Can you re-fax all of the paperwork? Call me in an hour, I'll call you in an hour, He/she's out to lunch, What invoice?

And although I'm prone to drama, this is no exaggeration. Dozens of phone calls, and fax upon fax culminated in my finally drawing the line 2 months after payment was overdue.

I'm coming to get my check this afternoon, I announced to Mr. Accounting who replied: First, call Ms. Accounting (the same one who is rumored to have been instructed not to answer her phone or return calls and lives up to the rumor)

Sorry, did that already. I'm not playing anymore. Either there's a check or I start legal proceedings, I tell Mr. Accounting. Threats don't work on me, he replies. And I don't work for free and this isn't a threat. It's a promise, I counter.

So he says there'll be a check at 2 p.m., I shlep to the offices deep within the city's auto mechanic warehouse district of side streets and leaking engine oil and upon arrival:

Mr. and Ms. Accounting are out to lunch, says the receptionist.

Look, I tell her, affecting my thickest, New York accent even though I'm from Ohio but it makes me feel tough I'm not leaving here without a check in my hand so if it means sitting here all night, I will. I'm not doing the "out to lunch" thing, okay? You find them. We had an appointment.

And guess who popped out of the Accounting Department a minute later waving my check?

So here's the message to all of my writing, creative, freelance and other associated brethren who know THE RUN AROUND:

1. If it stinks, it stinks. If you think you're being led in circles, you probably are. Don't make excuses for the other party at your own expense "They're probably just busy" "Maybe I'm over-reacting", etc. Call them on it. Bring it to the surface and say exactly what you see. They won't admit it but you'll feel better for articulating the problem.

2. Heed the rumors. Yes, false rumors can destroy and hurt people - remember the year at Hogwart's when everybody turned against Harry Potter? But hey, we don't live in a wizarding world where owls retrieve our paychecks for us so when it comes to money, if two or three people say they've heard Company X doesn't pay, turn around and walk. Don't make the mistake of thinking you're the special one who will be granted asylum

3. Unless you have a trust fund or don't need the money - and I know such a cash-fat journalist who continues to write for this publication despite 8 months of non-payment - STOP working for a questionable business immediately. It doesn't matter if you're mid-stream a graphics project, article or whatever. It's about valuing yourself and your time

4. Check out legal options and if you are willing to pursue them, flex it. If you have no intention of going to court but threaten legal action, it will only weaken your stance in eventually recovering cash when you don't make good on the promise.

5. Once the saga ends, DON'T jump back into the fire. So what if the editor of another section wants you to write a cover spread? The accounting people are still the same accounting people and the overall company culture applies to the ENTIRE company. You don't need the headache.

And with that: Happy Creative Endeavors and May We All Get Paid Without Hassle on Time. Amen.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Random Photos...

Jesus' favorite for bargains

Raph & friend at sunset



The other day while riding public transport, the news announcer coming over the driver's transistor kept using the Hebrew words for "pneumonia". Of course having just enjoyed a month of this affliction, I strained to hear the report but couldn't.

When I got home, I got online to read the Hebrew news and it appears that Steph is quite the trendsetter. Okay, this isn't funny.

500 soldiers were evacuated from a southern base because an apparent outbreak of pneumonia hit. Something like 13 have it and two are in critical condition, unconscious and on respirators...

Whoa. That's some serious stuff.

Sunday, January 01, 2006


As part of the quest to fill up Hannuka vacation time, we kept ourselves busy with various fun and interesting adventures and outings this week. A trip to the mall to check out the traveling Press Photos of the Year, treks to the playground, a train ride to Aunt Babe and Uncle Irving's for spaghetti lunch and TELEVISION (!!! - we don't have one) and a playdate with not one but two of Raphael's female classmates.

On the playdate, a tip: When they say "three's a crowd", believe it.

For exactly 22.3 minutes the three got on fine, laughing and enjoying each other's company. Then everything went potty.

Raphael's Mom? She insulted me
Raphael's Mom? He yelled at me
Stop looking at me
Don't touch me
Go away!

And then there were tears, declarations of never playing with each other again and just as a complete breakdown into the physical realm began, the mothers showed up to take their darlings home.

A very right decision on the excursion front, on the other hand, was yesterday's trip to the Roladin Cookie Factory in Kadima. Joined by friends Steve & Natasha and their twin, 8-year-old boys, we saw how things are done on the baking floor, watched a mouth-watering film about the delights Roladin produces and then got to do a hands-on with the kids rolling chocolate mousse balls in sprinkles and coconut, cutting out hearts, stars and rounds in butter cookie dough, dousing chocolate crinkles in powdered sugar and then inhaling the magnificent aroma as the goodies baked.

In business since 1987, Roladin is a mid to upper tier bakery supplying cakes, cookies, bread, quiche, mini-mousse desserts, and during Hannuka donuts, to 19 shops in Israel. Their "gimmick" is that each and every one of the thousands of delicacies shipped out each day is made by hand. There are literally, no machines.

The factory offers year-round tours and it's well worth the NIS40 for hands-on fun. Plus, parents get complimentary coffee (espresso/latte, etc.) after the tour and kids get a bag of their own, personal-baked loot to enjoy later until the sugar high kicks in and then...

Happy Eats!

It's 2006

...And a Happy One, at that, to People in BlogLand Everywhere.

I write often about my family - Rapha, Tonny and Atticus the dog.
Since re-locating to Holy Land Central (HLC), we expanded to include a calico kitty discovered yowling pitifully sans mother in the front yard. Raphael dutifully dubbed her "Kalickee".

Back to the thread: I intend to write a "backgrounder" on Tonny at some point since he is the truly interesting character in all our clan, rumored "the mystery guy" by acquaintances.

Meanwhile, in celebrating the New Year, a few pickies of ma famiglia...Kalickee, Atticus with spotted pal Max and Tonny...