Thursday, March 30, 2006

Updates from the Big HLC

Because I so infrequently venture out, I'm providing a "news glean" this fine and fair Thursday morning in HLC (Holy Land Central). I'll provide a few links to other people's efforts and thoughts because at the moment none of mine are original or exciting.

Before getting started, however, allow me to note that the weather here is absolutely gorgeous. Evenings are a tad cool for my tastes but daytimes are warming up to beach temperate, the orange blossom and jasmine are sending off the gift of fragrance wafted in through the window each day and the masses are out and about milling and cafe sitting.

If you're headed this way for Passover or Easter from, say, Toronto where at this very moment the temp is 1 degree C or 30-something Fahrenheit (ARE YOU KIDDING??) then you won't be disappointed. Shed those togs, mes petits choux...

For insight and election commentary it's well worth taking a stroll over to Allison's blog. Her passion, thorough reading habits and background as a D.C. journalist come shining through. It helps to know a bit about the players and issues before going but it's not essential. Also, check out veteran journalist Bradley Burston's take on jihad tactics as a unifying force for Israelis.

This commentary opens a window for the view on occupation from a Palestinian-American comedian/journalist's backyard. It's a bit ranty for my tastes and some of the phraseology is a tad ghetto i.e. big mouthed, loser Arab leaders... but it's an interesting read.

And LEST things get too serious over here at the Drive-Thru, check out this picture. What in the hell has happened to the Jackson clan? And how did LaToya's PR agent allow her to venture into the public domain looking like that? And why is it that this family keeps running into overzealous plastic surgeons?

Over and out.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The End & Beginning

Israeli election results are in and the big surprises are the Likud's demise, a pop-up-out-of-left-field pro-senior rights party and the far right Russian-led Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel is our Home). The lead victors are newly-formed Kadima and Labor who will coalesce. Read this colorful commentary for an overview.

I'm relieved that it's over but couldn't help but notice that as election returns were rolling in last night, the freshly approved Hamas government took time out of their busy schedules to knock off a bit of rhetoric:

The Koran is our constitution, Jihad is our way, and death for the sake of God is our highest aspiration ...leading Hamas lawmaker Hamed Bitawi

Charming. And I returned to HLC (Holy Land Central) - referred to by P.J. O'Rourke in Holidays in Hell as "God's Monkey House" - because....???

Back to this side of the Green Line (which is, by the way, who I voted for: Green Party i.e. environment. They did horribly which is a damned shame)... Now comes the work of rolling up the sleeves and forming a government. I write that as if I'm wearing my power suit and tie and about to head into a coalition meeting in five minutes. They'll form the government in Jerusalem. I'll go the kitchen and fix myself a sandwich and another cup of coffee.

Stay tuned...And don't forget to watch the Total Solar Eclipse! 2 a.m. San Francisco time, noon Tel Aviv local and 5 a.m. on the right coast. Watch via live feed on this site and get info from NASA here.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Vote Update

Apathy Shmapathy...After a very quiet breakfast with Rapha sans political discussion at neighboring cafe tables, we walked to my polling station at a local elementary school. Seated in plastic lawn chairs outside one of the designated voting booth classrooms were a dozen and a half people. You're all waiting to vote? I asked. One balding, forty-something with arms folded across his chest answered: No. We have an appointment with the doctor.

I laughed too. And split. Later on this. The place was swimming with people waiting to see the doctor. I'll come back when everyone's feeling a bit better.

Elections Elections, Step Right Up!

The whole election blase attitude: yawn yawn, who cares, oh it's that day already? But I'm getting my nails done... is almost like the whole Gen X, Y, Z Whatever chic. So I'll be the first to break the mold.

It's exciting. In a subtle sort of way.

How can it not be, really?

First of all, it says something when most of the country has the day off. Perhaps it says that this is a socialist country that hops on the vacation day bandwagon whenever possible. Think: France and holidays and strikes. But I don't think so. I'm imagining my friend George back in San Fran, a fairly allergic to work type, explaining to her boss: But today is election day. I can't come to work! Uhhhh ..No.

Also, any election is about fresh beginnings and renewed hope and that is always exciting. Perhaps THIS new party will do what no other party has done before. Maybe we'll have peace. Maybe this other party over here will finally patch up holes in the economy. Maybe there won't be any more bombings. Maybe things will work out with Hamas and there'll be negotiations and an agreement and the army will be disbanded and everyone will have olive groves for backyards forever.

Yes it's naive and childish. But why not indulge fantasy for a day before the difficult tasks of forming alliances, brokering deals and ironing out our futures begins anew?

I'll drink my morning coffee to that while the neighbors' televisions blare stereo drone of talking heads. And I'll hum while surfing friends' blogs and news sites buzzing with tidbits surrounding the big day AND I'll butt into political conversations with gusto when Rapha and I venture to our favorite cafe for breakfast before heading to the polling station.

It's un-chic and I'm admitting it: It's exciting to be voting here again after a decade. And yes, I know who I'm casting for and no, I'm still not saying.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Almost Elections

Tomorrow is the big day, fah la la la la, la la la la. (Who cares? fah la la la la, la la la la)...

While waiting in line for the health insurance office staff to get around to actually helping people rather than gossiping about the upcoming staff meeting and the television program on the overhead monitor, I was privy to this conversation:

You see! The weather girl just said it's going to rain on election day!
Why not? Even god is crying over having to go to the polls every two years

Election day is no-school or work day here in HLC (Holy Land Central) so people will vote and then go shopping, out for picnics (the weather is gorgeous!) to the beach or back home to their computers where they will dully catch up on deadlines and cross out "to do's" on ever burgeoning lists.

My vote? It changes every day. Just this morning I was talking to a friend who swayed me in a different direction. Mum's the word but it will be left of center.

And because deadlines loom two quick notes:

1) Wanna get freaked out? Check out the documentary The Future of Food. It came on the scene in 2005 and is considered a "must-see" by the SF Chronicle AND my video store guy. Some of the DNA and genetics sequences get bogged down and I sort of wish the filmmakers had some different shots to work with rather than the recurring (and recurring and recurring) one of the canola fields...But the gist is the gist. Note to self: Find out Israel's policy on genetically modified food, food labeling and genetically modified food trade policy with U.S.

2) Read the book The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. It's reminiscent of Harper Lee's classic To Kill a Mockingbird vis a vis civil rights, the young Southern girl narrator's voice and the style... vivid, poignant, gorgeous and heart-string pulling. You can almost smell the peach groves, hear the chirping crickets and feel the ice cold plunge of bare feet into the creekbed. I started it on the 1/2 hour bus ride to Modiin yesterday morning and am halfway through.

**A wee share: To Kill A Mockingbird is my all time favorite book. Saw the film when I was nine or ten and it left an indelible impression**


Friday, March 24, 2006

Another Word..

For those who have followed the ordeal since it began earlier this month, I feel it's only fair to update regarding events which have transpired since I last blogged about it all.

Aside from the story appearing in the mainstream Hebrew & English press and on numerous websites and blogs, I have received e-mails and calls of support and inquiry from people wanting to take action, vent or write about the issue. One of the contacts came from a network television producer in the U.S.

This morning, webster Doug Fox of e-mailed to inform that editors of the magazine in question have removed the Website's list of dance companies by country originally showing Israel as absent. For the full text on it, read here.

Doug was encouraged by this move and his tone was upbeat. I'm not as optimistic.

But he did make a point worth noting about the speed with which the blog world banded together in protest over the issue. That is definitely worth looking at and thinking about in today's world of global connectivity.

Thursday, March 23, 2006


A few notable stats from the online press...

- There's been a 15% increase in return of Israelis to the "Mutterland"- 5,700 in 2005 compared with 4,000 in 2003. The driving force behind the migration? Feeling at home here in HLC (Holy Land Central). 88% feel more at home in HLC compared with 44% who feel more comfy in their adopted country of choice.

And here's a non-surprising stat: 81% enjoyed job satisfaction on foreign turf while only 51% are feeling it here...

- More numbers. Only 12% of Israelis are frequent flyers (!!!) Perhaps this is why job satisfaction is lagging?

Frozen solid: Members of the 10-person traveling peace delegation Breaking the Ice were turned back at the Libyan border after crossing the Sahara Desert - a 5500 km (3400 mile) endeavor - because two delegation members are Israeli and Libya doesn't recognize Israel. So the Israelis were invisible and it's against code to allow invisible people across the border...
Other delegates are Palestinian, North American, Afghani, Iranian and Iraqi...Read all about it. Cool in the warmest way possible was the team's decision to forego Libya in deference to their imaginary mates.

Lest original content be lacking, a photograph depicting the consequences of billowing curtain combined with curious kitten

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Kissy Face

I don't really get out all that much. In fact, I sit at home all the live-long day reading assorted literature, a task for which I am compensated generously. This is why instead of blogging about real world events like the avian virus strain in Israel, elections in a week, Hamas' newly appointed cabinet, Milosevic's death and burial, Ecuador's state of emergency and the newly crowned "Miss Israel", I continue to dish up tidbits from a certain book written by a certain former U.S. Secretary of State.

Today's offer regards kissing. I laughed so hard at the playground reading this entry yesterday - I do get out occasionally but only in short increments and only with written permission from a physician - that the other parents cautiously guided their children away from my general direction.

Maddie writes about mastering the art of "diplomatic kissing" in greeting, a job requirement that gets complicated by the fact that in some countries they kiss on the left, others on the right, some on both and some - like Botswana - four times.

Ms. Albright:
As for Arafat, he could only be described as dogged and unpredictable. Sometimes he would do one cheek, sometimes two, and at times both cheeks, the forehead, and the hand. He also tried to kiss President Clinton, who towered above him, so Arafat ended up laying his head beneath the President's chin.

So about that mysterious blood disease...

Sunday, March 19, 2006

My Man Mati

I'm talking to my ma on the phone and she mentions that her non-denomina-ffiliated hairdresser in Cincinnati is going to see..Mat..Matt..Matt..

Matisyahu? I offer.

You know him?

Well yeah, ma. He's sorta like huge in the Hassidic messianic rapper hall of fame. Not that I'm messianically inclined, Hassidic, a rapper or visit the hall of fame.

Oh...she says, pondering it all for a minute. Because my hairdresser says he's playing Bogart's and it's completely sold out. My hairdresser knows all the words to his songs. He asked me what mashiach means. I won't get to see Mat..Mat..What's his name again? But imagine that. You know who he is.

Ma, I say. I knew who he was before I moved 'oer here yonder across the pond. He was on television. Just now in January he was on Letterman. Ma, he was on MTV. Not that I saw the Letterman gig or the MTV bit but these things have a way of making the rounds.

Patty didn't manage to nab any tickets to the sold-out show but she's gonna head on over to Tower or Virgin and pick herself up a Matisyahu CD for the car.

And so it was that a Torahstafarian bridged the generation gap between Patty and Steph. Schoingemacht.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

TGI Saturday

10 days to Israeli elections...ho hum. Because I will probably not be providing information I defer to those who will: Lisa's posting at The Guardian's newsblog or Shai's or this ad campaign video about lessening the religious grip.

My pal Jeff the journalist gave me a very interesting schpiel last night covering economics, politics, foreign policy and domestic social reform vis a vis the parties and election. He told who he will probably vote for by process of eliminating the parties distasteful to him. He also informed that where at one time it was okay to ask people who they were casting for, it's no longer cool.

But you know what? It's Saturday and the weather is beautiful. So enjoy a second-hand glimpse of Tel Aviv's Saturday beach flockers...

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Madam Lady

I've droned on ad nauseum about Madeleine Albright's book which I'm FINALLY concluding...a few more chapters to go

My admiration for the lady is clear as is my enjoyment in reading and absorbing the years of her service via her vantage point. A few more reasons to like Madeleine:

Her depiction of the Wye River Memorandum negotiations are funny, poignant, sad and cringe-inducing. A share:

- Hoping to push talks through rapidly, the Americans scheduled three very tight meeting days for the Israelis and Palestinians. Both delegations "surprised" their hosts by heading out for shopping on Day One. Cringe. The talks ultimately lasted nine days

- This is outrageous! This is despicable. This is just chicken shit; I am not going to put up with this kind of bullshit. Former president Clinton's reaction during trilateral talks with Netanyahu and Arafat to the former's suggestion that Arafat "take care of" a particularly prominent Palestinian as part of a settlement agreement.

- The Israelis evidently didn't like our draft ....we received word from our administrative people that the Israelis had asked for help in getting to the airport; their suitcases were stacked on the lawn...Madeleine Albright. CAN YOU IMAGINE?? A top level, government team showing protest by putting their luggage outside on the grass??? Cringe, cringe, cringe.

- Paraphrase: History will judge you all and issues now separating the parties are small compared to the stakes. "After agreement," he continued, "both sides will look back and not even recall these issues. It is now time to finish, and to fulfill the responsibility you have to your peoples and especially to your children." Jordan's ailing King Hussein in a surprise visit to the struggling parties. He died several months later. Tears

- ..we finally had an agreement. I rushed to my cabin to change and leave for Washington. The only problem was I had eaten so much junk food in nine days at Wye, I had trouble fitting into my clothes. Fortunately I had a loose-fitting jacket...Madeleine Albright. Yelp of Joy!!! A former secretary of state shares her girth issues with the world? You Go Girl!

Peace out. On with the chapter on Iran.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Vocabulary & Video of the Day...

Two words I came across today - vituperation & dyspeptic. I like them. I'll have to casually squeeze them into conversation as in: His rather dyspeptic manner predisposes Charles to sudden vituperative outbursts. Eh? Eh?

On a less literary note we're now coming off of two days of Purim festivities which really means about 4-5 days since the whole thing gets stretched out over the weekend. Although custom dictates we tribal types are to drink ourselves silly, I didn't have the time or inclination. What a bummer. A decent margarita or cosmo right about now would be most welcome.

And lest the general Israeli aura be mistaken for prudish in tone, check out this steamy woman on woman video being put out by the Green Leaf Party, a body politick pushing for legalization of marijuana. As we head into elections - 13 more days (*yawn*) - apparently Green Leaf has more than weed on their agenda.

And speaking of weed, this comment from Daijabu on this blogsite regarding the recent heated debates:
What's all the fuss about? So they don't like Israelis ....I can live with that. I used to steam and puff and argue with people until I realized that one joint on a Tel Aviv rooftop followed by some alcohol infused night in a bar full of kusiyot (Hebrew for hot women), usually does the job much better than all the words...

Peace Out Daijabu...

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Happy Purim

Tel Aviv Festivities...


There is no moral equivalency between suicide bombings and bulldozers, between killing innocent people and building houses.
Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in her memoirs Madam Secretary

Education shmeducation. As long as the teachers aren't abusing the kids and the kids aren't beating each other up I'm happy.
Mother discussing her son's academic future, Tel Aviv

I'm calling to get a fax of my son's hospital report
We can't fax it; Mail only. But anyway your report isn't ready
I phoned last night and was told it IS ready and to phone this morning to have it faxed over
Sorry. Call back later this afternoon. It might be ready then
Can't you just make a note in the computer to mail it to me when it's ready? This calling is getting old
If I make a note someone will throw it in the garbage or it'll get lost. Call back later
Conversation with hospital administration, Tel Aviv

Honey, you can't hit me in the bottom with a stick. It hurts. If I hit you with a stick in your toochas, don't you think it would hurt?
..But yours is big
Conversation with 4-year-old Raphael

You have to come check out my new health club. It's fantastic
What...? State of the art? Great teachers? Swimming pool?
I dunno. But there's an on-call physician and it's right next door to a hospital
Conversation with pal Jeff

Honey, don't wave the sword in my face. Samurais don't hurt their mommies
(after a moment's thought) I'm a bad Samurai
Conversation with 4-year-old Raphael

Oh what a beautiful drawing!
Look! This is me on my bicycle, this is our house and this is the airport and here's Abba Tonny
Am I in the picture too?
Sure. You're inside the house
Conversation with Raphael

The boys are catatonic...Half of Washington is in a state of shock
Madeleine Albright, quoting Boston Globe columnist Tom Oliphant, on the day of her appointment as U.S. Secretary of State...Madam Secretary

Look! (Pulling down pants in kitchen) I have those things on my sides like sharks for breathing
You mean gills?
Yeah. Gills. They're for breathing
No, sweetheart, people don't have gills
I do. I'm not just a regular person. I'm a different person
Conversation with 4-year-old Raphael

Excuse me, can you tell me where the smoking lounge is?
It's all around you, mate
Exchange between visiting NBC (then) correspondent Brian Williams and former, NBC Israel producer Jeff at Tel Aviv studios

Oh sh*t! I forgot to put in my (glaucoma)drops
I don't have to put in eye drops
No you don't, honey
That's because I'm not so, so old like you
Conversation with 4-year-old Raphael

Are you happy with this kindergarten? Do your kids like it?
Very happy. It's wonderful. The teacher is very hard on the kids but aside from that...
Conversation with a parent during kindergarten & preschool open house day, Tel Aviv

Let me think..Should I cancel my dinner date with the queen to come over and wash the pile of dishes stacked in your sink? Now that's a tough one..
Either way you look at it, you'll still be having a date with a queen
Telephone conversation with an androgynous, male friend

So how are things?
Okay really. Fine.
Yeah, just great. I mean, I'd rather blow up my apartment than clean it and I want to disappear to an Ashram in India for a few years but otherwise, things are great.
Conversation with a stressed friend

I'm looking for the black gun that was on this shelf yesterday. It was long, black, cost 20 shekels and was right here with the other guns..?
I have no idea which one you're talking about.
Okay. It looks like an M-16
Oh, that one! Follow me.
Conversation with female toy store employee, Tel Aviv

That Sharon fellow isn't doing too well. I guess that Yoo-Hoo guy will take over
90-year-old Grandpa Benny, discussing Israel's politics with my mother

You see! It starts with plastic. Then the next thing you know, it's real weapons, violence and someone ends up dead
(Retort following a few minutes' pause) Excuse me, but the little boy wants to know if you'd mind giving him your home address...?
Exchange with an elderly woman put off by Raphael's plastic, Ninja sword, on a Tel Aviv bus

(Emily Cohen)...loved bargains so much that she would even buy the wrong size bra if it were marked down
Madeleine Albright, referring to a lifelong, Jewish friend in her memoirs Madam Secretary

Thanks to your blogsite, I'm now running to my doctor for tests, completely paranoid about my health
Longtime friend Jeff, during a chance meeting in Tel Aviv

Here, Raphael honey: Put the thing on the counter thing up here
Nice English: The "thing" on the "thing"?
I didn't want to say "Ninja knife"; I thought we'd get in trouble
But it's made of plastic
Conversation with security guard at metal detector entrance to train station

What a f**k up! A complete loser and I wouldn't give him the time of day!
Dean of prominent, Israeli university talking on the phone to an unknown party, apparently forgetting/ignoring the journalist present in the room

Oh, I have a lovely kitten too! I named her after my daughter-in-law: "Jack*** Idiot!"
Potential babysitter during "get to know you" meeting

Bread with mustard on top
A favorite Tonny snack

McShwarma and McKabob
Menu items, McDonald's Tel Aviv

You know why I'm not coughing? Because my germs got tired and crawled outside to the grass to sleep with the worms and spiders
4-year-old Raphael's Theory of Cough-Free Living

Leave her alone while she's eating! You can do that after she finishes her sandwich!
Random, elderly gentleman admonishing Tonny for hugging me during breakfast

I was thinking maybe I should get a CT
Do you have any idea how long a CT stays in your body? Chernobyl! Now stop making problems for yourself and go home!
Receptionist/patient conversation, Physician's office, Tel Aviv

Hello? (tap, tap, tap) I'm here to pick up a package. I have this notice
We're closed for two days to upgrade computers
But what about my package?
(shoulder shrug & door slam)
Conversation with Tel Aviv, postal clerk

The theory of interdependence allows us to develop a wider persepective. With wider mind, less attachment to destructive emotions like anger, therefore more forgiveness. In today's world, every nation heavily interdependent, interconnected. Under these circumstances, destroying your enemy - your neighbor - means destroying yourself in the long run. You need your neighbor. More prosperity in your neighbor, you'll get benefit
The Dalai Lama from the book The Wisdom of Forgiveness

Don't worry. This isn't America. No one will take him
Supermarket manager sensing the dilemma of leaving 4-year-old Raphael seated at the store entrance while buying groceries

I'll wake people up
4-year-old Raphael's response when asked what he thinks will happen if he eventually reaches China during telephone, button-pushing sessions


Hebrew slang for "sex buddy" or "booty call"

Hello??? Can I get a different question over here, please?
Gay, San Francisco friend Antonio, answering an e-mail, questionaire query: Name a way in which you are typical of your gender

The person who wrote it was probably ugly as hell
Passers-by commenting on scrawled graffiti: You're beautiful just the way you are

What goes around comes around, my dear
Jeff, a pal of 15 years, lending insight into child-rearing challenges

The cost of an olive tree, a large clay pot and a 10-pound bag of soil at a Tel Aviv nursery

I'll tell him you're free on Tuesdays and Thursdays
No, no, NO!! .....Sundays
Cousin Orna referring to my husband, Tonny

There is no "Rehov Dargot" here. Turn around and go
Taxi driver in the West Bank city of Kalkilya, directing a lost tourist driving an Israel-plated car

It seems like the younger generation is mellower, somehow. Less yelling, arguing and fighting. Do you think it's a "new generation" thing?
No. We just smoke a lot of pot.

Conversation with a 20-something, Israeli friend

Does screaming help in getting things done?
Not really. But try crying

Two male immigrants from England waiting in line at Tel Aviv's Interior Ministry

Is the copy machine working?
I don't know. It's not my department. Is it working?
I'm a customer. That's why I'm asking you.
It's broken.
But you just said you don't know if it works...
I don't know
Conversation with a postal clerk, Tel Aviv

Mommie, you've got boobies!
Preschooler seated on his mother's lap at a trendy, Tel Aviv cafe

Well they completely demoralize their writers and nobody's been paid for months. But that shouldn't stop you from filing stories
Editor of one of Israel's well-known, English language newspapers addressing freelance writers

Would you look at this, Menachem? They even have a hand-rinsing station!
Ikea Israel customer commenting on the restaurant area catering to Orthodox Jews' pre-meal ritual

But Stephanie, don't you need Sperm Protection?
Tonny, asking about my anti-virus software bundle

My daughter lives in a neighborhood where all the buildings have marble exteriors, doormen and swimming pools... Just like in America
Tel Aviv playground, proud grandmother out for the day with her grandchildren

Doesn't your daughter care about her son?
My mother's U.S. colleague upon learning I had moved back to Israel with my family

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Exit Stage Left

Since the dance saga started late last week it has taken on a life of its own billowing into commentary, argument, exchange, hurled insults and slurs. I have observed from the sidelines as remarks are laid down on this and other blogs and these are a few of my thoughts...

- Responses from the dance magazine editor and advertising head regarding the issue were forthcoming to Jewish Chronicle of London writer Rachel Fletcher in her story. An excerpt: an editor, I am entitled to choose what to print. It is my prerogative. Mr Kaul was more forthcoming, telling the JC: We are opposed to the occupation. If any company in Israel co-operates with us by adding a disclaimer saying it is opposed to the occupation, settlements and everything else, we will co-operate with them.
(What does "everything else" refer to...? slf)

- It takes little genius to understand that this incident has touched upon heartfelt complicated issues defying singularity. Tied in are historical, political, social, artistic and personal implications. In the past days I have seen the terms stormtroopers, Nazi, apartheid policy, Zionist machine, and Anti-semitism bandied about in the context of open exchange and mean spiritedness.

I have ruminated quite a bit over my own use of the term Anti-semitism; Were I to re-write the original posting would I opt for a less loaded term like "discrimination" or "anti-Israel bias" or "boycott"? I'm not sure.

- It is, indeed, an editor's right to publish according to his or her standards or guidelines. It is also the reader's and advertiser's right to be informed of the standard prior to visiting the newsstand or placing an ad. See Allison's eloquently written commentary on the subject.

A final, personal note:

I left Israel in the mid-90's when suicide bombings, Oslo II's downfall and Rabin's assassination were still fresh. A journalist for several international corporations for nearly a decade, I was exhausted from years of intifada (Palestinian uprising), peace negotiation, funeral, negotiation collapse, war, funeral, demonstration, funeral & infiltration cover.

Living in San Francisco for ten years I successfully divorced myself from the situation here convincing my conscience that with newfound tools gained through lectures, workshops and discussion groups I could return to Tel Aviv, write and stay away from hard news and politicking. I haven't owned a television in 8 years.

Silly me. Six months into my return and a dance story of all things brings me right back into the thick of the same dilemma, the same moral questioning and doubting, the same rumination and the same complicated issue that can spin your head around until you spit out everything you learned and re-think the entire situation anew.

No, art and politics cannot be divorced one from the other. Clearly not in this region. But I still think we can strive to reach understanding by being open to the message. Because the message can come from mediums one might have never thought possible.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

The Dance Speeds Up

This morning I received an e-mail from a writer for the dance magazine I blogged about earlier this week in response to a scathing e-mail I sent to the magazine's editor and advertising head following our exchange..

Excerpts below; More about this writer's views here (scroll down to the first article). Judge for yourselves...

As a writer for Dance Europe magazine and a long term resident of Ramallah I ... have to confront the reality of the Israeli occupation possibly more than even you do, and whilst I do not claim any universal solutions to the Middle East conflict, I know that verbal or physical confrontation never works.

Similarly, I have learnt that in such a highly politicized environment, it does not take any moral courage to divorce art from politics, but it does lead to serious moral consequences...
Discussion, listening and sharing of perspectives is a far greater remedy to the political strife in the Middle East than sensationalist abuse and accusation, wouldn’t you agree?

To this end, and whilst I understand that labeling people “anti-semitic” might serve as an effective bulwark against your own moral introspection, I would urge that you learn to distinguish between the Jewish people and the military policies of the Israeli government. To not do so not only blemishes Judaism, it also presses your own argument over the brink of hysteria.

...In the meantime, you might consider reaching for some peace for yourself and others by drafting an apology to Emma and Naresh for some of the more derogatory accusations you presented in your email and weblog...if there is one thing that I have learnt from years of having to confront a harsh military occupation on a daily basis, abusing others (whatever your position) is simply an abuse of power- the illusory power of being unreachable and unscathable. It is only when you are willing to come down to a more vulnerable level of sensitive, human interaction that you find solutions and inner, as well as outer, peace.

Breaking this down to its simplest components, this is about a dance story and a magazine's policy. I haven't lived under occupation but I know what discrimination feels like. Neither is okay.

Monday, March 06, 2006


Warm weather has arrived and with it some fairly strange antics here in HLC (Holy Land Central).

ASIDE from bizarros lighting off fireworks inside a church and instigating riots in Nazareth...

  • Witnessed a genuine knifing over personal issues ($$$) today in Tel Aviv's Carmel Market. That the market is seedy and all mobbed up is no secret. But to actually watch one guy get angry and then run back to his cigarette vending stall (now if that isn't a tip off to less than kosher ties...), grab his knife and go use it...Pretty shocking ladies and gents. Nobody intervened and the two disappeared into the crowd. I exited stage left.
  • The exit, however, only propelled me further into zanesville. Right there at the corner of Sheinkin - hip street with trendy shops & cafes and a happening scene a la East Village on a teensy scale - a group of earlock guys adorned in zitzit pulled up in their 1960's, magic bus splashed with images of Rebbe Lubavitch. They set up shop on the sidewalk playing bongos, dancing and generally conveying the impression that if we paganites also find god then we'll soon be merrily dancing on street corners just like them. I still say that "happy pills" are the most efficient prodders of "happy feet".
  • THEN I bicycle cross town to pick up my little 'un from his friend Ariel's house where I hang for coffee with Ariel's Grandma Regina. She's a cool lady what with her high top red Converse, black leggings, oversized black tee shirts and semi-Goth eye make-up. She watches Ariel after school each day so that daughter Shiri can study pastry chefing. Smack between sips of sweet Turkish coffee and bites of Shiri's honey sesame seed cookies Regina lets it drop that there's a lice outbreak at the preschool. "We'll have to get out the Rosemary oil to ward off the little critters," she casually snickers. "Another cookie?"
  • And of course I'm now itching all over, checked Raphael's scalp twice and plan to hit the natural remedy store tomorrow. Another perk of living in HLC: frequent lice outbreaks in school...I'll get into it another day

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Tamar Goes to Shul

I like living in Holy Land Central (HLC) because I get my cultural identity fix through osmosis. Synagogue not being my hangout of choice on Saturday (or any) morning, I derive the benefits of custom by simply being here. No need to leave home because history and culture surround.

This rather convenient perk gets even perkier when spiritually inclined friends share religious goings-on. I get the hand-me-down scoop on what their Kiryat Arba relatives discuss over Friday night roast chicken dinner, my friends get to share and according to the Jewish Codebook (copyright 1978, all rights reserved) we all get bonus points for playing nice.

Over the weekend my pal Tamar attended a bar-mitzvah conducted within a pluralistic setting. The tone was set when she turned to the woman sitting beside her to ask if something tragic had happened to the bar-mitzvah boy's absent father. He's a sperm donor child, she informed.

With a 7.5-month pregnant rabbi, women reading from the Torah and a lesbian Gabbai (lay person performing ceremonial duties) ... Heckee shucks. Sounds like just another day where I come from!

For Tamar, however...
"It was thrilling to be present at this service, in Israel, where the players came as they are! Where it's possible to be yourself in a shul that isn't only for LGBT (lesbian gay bi-sexual transgender) or for families where a child is conceived w/donated sperm or where the rabbi is not necessarily a male and so on.

A place/community where whoever you are or are not, you are welcome. All these pleasures despite the chorus of little voices in my head replaying the cruel, ignorant comments I have heard about the reformeem this and the reformeem that. I say: GOD BLESS THE REFORMEEM."

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Gymboree Party, Tel Aviv

Gymboree Birthday party, Tel Aviv

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Death & Taxes

'Tis the season and the tax man ringeth incessantly at the front door. If you're a u.s.a.-ite I'm not enlightening you. In fact, you lugged that shoebox out of the closet last month. Yes I know it's on the dining room table and you'll get to it today. I believe you.

For all the ex-pats don't feel left out! Surprise surprise go find your shoe box too. Now that you're multi-national all sides want a little sumpin' sumpin'.

I'm oversimplifying but technically abroad-dwellers are supposed to file or risk being chased down at the local falafel stand by a bureaucrat waving a red, white and blue flag.


I don't eat falafel but being a model citizen and all I attended a lecture on Israel and U.S. taxation vis a vis North American citizens last night. Okay I'm lying. I had to be there to bring cookies and juice for the people who signed up. Another of my side jobs: bringing people cookies and juice. Okay still lying. But who cares? Of course I'll share highlights and tips - all by the way from the lecturer, an investment specialist, not me.
  1. Apparently it's okay to talk about hiding assets in Israel. When in San Fran my accountant wouldn't even whisper tax reducing tips for fear of being nailed by the IRS. Our American cum Israeli lecturer, on the other hand, blatantly talked about hiding funds, offshore accounts, money laundering (he wasn't advocating the latter but mentioned that it goes on in abundance). I was stunned
  2. If you have lived abroad for about 10-15 years or longer and have opted out of filing your American taxes you might reconsider. Apparently a designated IRS person is sitting in Washington pinpointing the 15+ year outdwellers who aren't paying up. The steadfast pencil pusher picks off 1000 Israel based evaders per month (not sure if I buy that one)
  3. Double filing can be a good thing particularly in lieu of the child tax credit. Upper income bracket earners receive the maximum $1000 per dependent
  4. According to treaties in place between Israel and the U.S. the two countries can disclose your account and holding info to each other without notifying you
  5. Once again, according to our lecturer the worst thing you can do is to go independent in Israel. Once a freelance file is open at the income tax bureau you're on the radar screen and doomed to blip-dome forever. They will hassle, nickel and dime and make life hell. Also, as an independent in Israel you pay more tax to the U.S. Better to work as a contracted hiree through an agency that takes a cut. Mental note: Arrange urgent meeting with accountant
  6. New immigrants should get into their respective professional fields and begin working as soon possible. Leave ulpan (language school) to later. This is because in the first three years income tax breaks are HUGE but once that time passes it's gone. You'll learn Hebrew at work and network at the same time (again, the lecturer speaking here)
  7. File taxes on either side of the fence with a knowledgeable and experienced accountant relevant to the taxes being addressed. It behooves you

There's much much more I could go into but won't for the sake of not entering a realm I know next to nothing about. The bottom line: Attend a lecture or informational session, call up an accountant and get advice and don't forget to file an extension if you won't make it by the 15th!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

And Now A Word from our Sponsor...

I'm sick up and fed with writing about sick children, politics and hospitals. So it's time for a Neverland Break....Kool Aid anyone? Of course I don't have the special purple kind. Shipments from Guyana stopped a long, long time ago.

This just in: I struggled to find a word last week during a conversation with a pal but now retrieved it from the dungeoness recesses (not to be confused with dungeness crab): Collective Unconscious. It's a Jungianism maintaining that we human citizen types are on the same mental thread most of the time regardless of space and time. So if I,over here in HLC (Holy Land Central) am inventing the wheel, for example, according to this theory Stefan I. Elluh is doing the same in Podunk, Iowa. Get to the point! Get to the point!

Over the past few months I've heard several girlie types expressing creative outlet ideas. Check this out if you're a girl, a boy, a boy that wants to be a girl, a girl that tried to be a boy but ...just check it out.

Digression: When my pal Jeff had an Internet column some years back with a paper that will not be mentioned here, he wrote one of the best lines I've ever read. I paraphrase:

I tried to log onto the Klu Klux Klan website today but was unsuccessful. I guess with a last name like Abramowitz they figure they can't really count on me to keep those crosses burning.

Yesterday I came across the 2nd funniest literary witticism written since the days of Jeff while surfing this site. TWO SNAPS WITH A CIRCLE! Am I right or am I right?

And surprise surprise this not-so-dressed-to-the-nines lady was recently on a secret undercover mission to HLC for kabbalah reasons...It's okay, Esther. She's keeping up the faith.