Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Bamba and/or World Peace

With all of the buzz around now about the incipient Gaza invasion, collapse of the government or some combination thereof, I decided that the time had come to break my little rule and talk a little politics.

My take on the situation is that I feel really bad for Olmert right now. I mean, the guy is just so completely screwed at this point. It does not matter what he does--invade Gaza, not invade Gaza, find a cure for cancer--the print, web and television media will be chock-full of headlines about Olmert and his lack of a clue. In fact, it would not matter if G-d himself could come down from heaven and issue a heavenly decree that Olmert does, indeed, have a Plan and that G-d has seen the Plan and that the Plan is Good. All that would happen is that, within 24 hours, the extreme right would be running around Jerusalem, plastering every last godforsaken wall in the city with posters showing G-d dressed as a Nazi, G-d's picture with poshei oslo l'din (criminals of Oslo to justice), etc, and the extreme left would be doing the same thing in Tel Aviv, though their posters would show artsy-fartsy Betselem photos of random Palestinians just, like, standing there and lots of slogans calling for Peace Now! and condemning G-d, the occupation, carnivores and whatever other causes happened to be handy.

(The remaining 95% of the populations of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv would be tossing back lattes on Emek Refaim and Sheinkin, respectively, and trying to pretend that they lived in a normal country, like everyone else).

So, anyway, in this, our time of trouble, I thought I would try to raise your spirits by sharing with you a little story of how I tried to bring about world peace.

While I was in the hospital, I was inundated with gifts of food. Within a day or two of leaving the ICU, I had amassed an impressive collection of chocolate, cookies, and various other snacky stuff including a nice-sized bag of Bamba, a wildly popular peanut flavored baked snack. Children here are practically raised on it--think of it as Israeli Cheerios. For my part, I do not like Bamba, and so the bag just sat there.

There was an Arab patient in the room next to mine. One day his family, including two small children, came to visit. The children looked bored. I could not say I blamed them. Then it occurred to me: children=Bamba disposals! The next time their mother was in the hallway, I offered her the Bamba to give to her kids. Their mother looked at me as though I were offering poison, gathered up her children to her and scurried back into the hospital room.

At first, I was happy, because I thought "Walla! A point of commonality! Arabs hate bamba just as much as I do!" Yes, granted, it is weak, but hey, oak trees from little seeds grow blah blah blah. Unfortunately, one of the nurses burst my bubble by gently explaining to me that the woman actually thought that I was offering poison--that I had put something in the snack to kill her children. At which point I thought "Walla! A point of commonality! Arabs distrust us just as much as we distrust them!"

(Of course, I am not sure how well the theory holds up in reality. Granted, I only know one Israeli Arab, so I am probably not in a position to be coming to any conclusions. But whatever, not only does he have no fear that I am going to poison him, he is a big fan of my chocolate chip cookies. He will not eat my cornbread though. He thinks it is disgusting. But I digress. As usual.)

Anyway, so the moral of the story is that I did not bring about world peace though I did score a great story with which to irritate the hell out of the far right, in particular if told in Jerusalem, at a Shabbat lunch, in Jerusalem, during the hitnatkut (withdrawal from Gaza). "You would give up Jewish bamba? Have you not read what the Torah says on the subject??? Apikoras (heretic)! Nazi! Poshei Oslo l'din!"

Ahhh…those were the days. A bit dangerous perhaps, but wildly entertaining.

[Whoops! In the name of being fair and balanced and skewering both sides equally, I should include some verbiage about how the far left would have its own problems with the story. I don't know--I will think about it and post an update at a later date. Suggestions are welcome.]

All joking aside…wouldn't it have been great though, if the woman had just smiled, and taken the bamba? Then I would have a nice, optimistic and hopeful story to tell.

And frankly, I think that we could all use a little optimism and hope right now.

Equal opportunity skewering alert!

Liberal position: You only offered her Bamba? You were trying to poison them with the most non-nutritious food known to humanity. For shame! Don't you know that Arabs are denied the same right to fresh fruits and vegetables that others enjoy? Fresh fruits and veggies for all! Organic, of course.

Or: You were patronizing them by assuming they would be grateful to you for giving them the culinary equivalent of crack, or dirt? How dare you? Chutzpan!

Thanks to Ari. Of course, now I have skewered the far left more than the far right (2:1). Not good, not good....


JewishGal said...

You are not alone. I also hate Bamba (and most peanut-flavored foods that aren't actually peanuts or peanut butter).

tafka pp said...

She thought you were poisoning her with Bamba?!

That's really weird!

Anonymous said...

You are one of my new favorite reads and I want to thank you for sharing your story with us.

When I lived in Israel years ago I used the word 'walla' the way american's use 'like'.
Reading it on your blog brought a smile to my face and I know I am reading an "Israeli" blog, not an American one.


Jack said...

My kids love Bamba.

Ari said...

Love your writing. You make it look easy; that's how I know that you labor mightily behind the scenes to make it look effortless. (That, or you truly are a literary or conversational savant.)


Liberal position: You only offered her Bamba? You were trying to poison them with the most non-nutritious food known to humanity. For shame! Don't you know that Arabs are denied the same right to fresh fruits and vegetables that others enjoy? Fresh fruits and veggies for all! Organic, of course.

Or: You were patronizing them by assuming they would be grateful to you for giving them the culinary equivalent of crack, or dirt? How dare you? Chutzpan!

Gila said...

Jewishgal: love peanuts, peanut butter, candy with peanuts, peanut butter salad dressing, etc. Hate bamba.

Tafka pp: I think the "wierd" label can be attached to about 90% of the stuff related to the bombing.

Ari: Thank you thank you for your public service! I have added your bits to the article--with full credit of course. As for the working hard--ideas just kinda come and then I am obsessed until I write them down. But yes, it does take a fair amount of work and editing.

Baila said...

Walla!!! I love that word. I went to an Israeli movie the other night (great night, terrible movie) and every other word was Walla (not the reason it was awful). I only use it home because I'm afraid people will laugh at me since I'm such a green horn. But soon!

PS that's what I do, try to pretend I'm living in a normal country....

great post

Ye'he Sh'mey Raba Mevorach said...

Maybe her kids have a peanut allergy? LOL

Seriously! In America the peanut-butter-eating kids have to eat in a separate area or different room than anyone else because peanut allergies have become so common. In America, Bamba (particularly to a child under 1 year) IS poison!

Sigh. Glad I live here.

Mia said...

I love that line "trying to pretend that they lived in a normal country, like everyone else". That's so true.

Ye'he Sh'mey Raba Mevorach - They told us "Tipat Halav" not to give the kids Bamba until they were at least a year old.

Soccer Dad said...

Leftist take on the Bamba story:
A Jewish woman, in an effort to perptuate her country's occupation of Palestine, offers Bamba, a symbol of Israeli oppression, to innocent Palestinian children. Worse, by not checking that the children were not allergy-free possibly threatened their lives in addition to their freedom.

Jerusalem Artichoke said...

Yup, peanut butter is definitely an imperialist plot.

And kudos to Ari. Well done!

Another leftist take:
"If you keep eating that stuff how can you expect Israel to be accepted as part of the Middle East? We don't even grow peanuts here. Go back to Europe!" (where they also, I think, don't grow peanuts.)

Miriam Goldstein said...

Ah, now I understand why assorted US presidents have failed to broker Israel-Palestinian peace. It must have been the cornbread.

Yehudit said...

When I was in Israel last year, every other word was "b'seder". I rarely heard "walla." Of course there is very little about Gila's story which is b'seder. :-(

I think 2:1 ratio, spoofing, Left to Right, just in terms of connection with reality, is accurate. But I live on the Upper West Side surrounded by lefty Jews.

Speaking of which .... our local JCC is showing this film... (scroll down to "To Die in Jerusalem)."

I just wrote a letter to them taking issue with the moral equivalency of the blurb, and I gave them your URL, and suggested they hand it out to everyone who comes to the screening. I might do it myself, if I can stomach the film.

Gila said...

I just took a look at the film website. I do not plan on seeing the film (or maybe I will--depends on how likely I am to throw something at the tv).

Yehudit--if you go to the film, please feel free to use what I wrote below if it is useful.

I spent some time surfing the film website, and reading the descriptions of the mothers, the daughters and the event. One point struck me in particular. The website puts a great deal of emphasis on the fact that both girls had plans for the future. Maybe it is just me, but aren't "plans for the future" and "plans to blow yourself up" mutually exclusive?

Whatever her mother or fiancee might have thought, apparently Ayat did not have plans for the future, or rather, her plans were for a future expected (and intended) to be short. Her plan was to kill herself and others. What--she thought that after that, she would get up, dust herself off, and go to college?

I understand from others that losing a child is one of the most excrutiatingly painful experiences a person can go through. I appreciate that every person deals with grief in their own way. I respect the desire and the need of the mothers to try to find some meaning in the loss of their beloved daughters. Furthermore, without trying to get too much into the political end of things, I too believe that there is something seriously broken around here, and both sides-Israelis and Palestineans- need to seriously commit to fixing it.

Nonetheless, I object very strongly to the air of moral equivalency that the film, at least on the basis of the website, projects. To my eyes-the similarity between the two girls starts and ends at their ages and appearances. Beyond that, one was a young woman with plans for the future. She was a victim. The other was a woman who forsaw for herself no future. She was a murderer.

Maybe you hate Israel. Maybe you think that Israelis are all evil rascists who somehow deserve to be blown up at coffee shops, the mall or at the park. Okay--you are entitled to your opinion. But remember this: it is not just happening here. People are being murdered by suicide bombers in England, in Spain, in the United States, in Iraq, in Afganistan, in the Philipines, in Eygpt, in Bali...and the list goes on and on. Until people everywhere take a stand and say "this is wrong, everywhere, and under all circumstances"... it will not get better. I do not see a real similarity between Rachel and Ayat. I do see a real similarity between myself and those injured in the recent suicide bombings in Pakistan. We are all innocent people, with plans for the future, who have had our lives torn apart because others feel like random, murderous violence against civilians is an appropriate means to achieve a political end. (I hope that any Pakistani reading this will not take offense at the comparison of myself, an Jewish, and proudly Zionist Israeli, to a Muslim Pakistian. Please, read it the way I intended it--comparing a human being with a human being).

How many people have to die so that you can walk away feeling somehow more enlightened the rest of us peons?

Some things are just wrong. There is no "well this makes it okay" here.


Gila Weiss

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Hi -

2 comments; It says above "This [blog] is a: politics-free" and yet by your own accord you skewer left and right? What gives?

Bamba is to Jameel as Kryptonite is to...

(1 piece, 30 seconds, and its time to call ZAKA)

Shabbat Shalom!

Yehudit said...

Thanks for the heads-up, Gila! I think I am going to call the JCC and see if I or they could have your statement and URL available at the screening, maybe as a guilt offering for running that thoughtless blurb in the first place. ;-)

At the least I'll post it on my blog.

Gila said...

Jameel: Yes, I realize there is a bit of a contradiction there. I hope you will forgive my slight deviation; I had been looking for a vehicle for the bamba incident for, like, years and once the idea popped into my head and I just had to write it down.

Davka--I skewer both sides in order to: avoid coming out on the side of one or the other, to minimize any potential offense and to make it clear that really, this article is intended as humor and probably should not be taken all that seriously. I should also point out that at least one of the readers contributing left-skewering is very left wing herself. But a very good sport, apparently. :)

Reading other blogs, I have been really appalled at the vehemence and the violence of the opinions expressed (carpet-bomb Gaza, carpet-bomb Tel Aviv, etc...and these people are f*cking SERIOUS). Given the nature of my chosen subject matter, my blog has the potential of being an extremist-magnet...hence the rules.

I suppose you would have to lump me with the 95% of the population, who just wants to pretend she is living in a normal country, like everyone else.

Honestly, that is why I moved here: to feel normal.

Shabbat shalom, and again, I hope I did not cause offense, and if I did, I hope you will take my article in the spirit in which it was written--to make you laugh at a time where we can probably all use a giggle.

Jack said...

I saw the movie. For the most part I found it to be pretty infuriating. One mother just tries to understand what happened and to get the mother of the murderer to admit that it was wrong.

And all that happens is that she spins her wheels. Very disturbing.

Yehudit said...

Jack, the director of the movie doesn't even get that it's wrong. I wrote a long vent to an email list I am on, so I will just paste it in here. (And Gila, if you want to delete it to just stop it with the politics already, I won't be offended.)

The director's statement

".... I tried to put myself in Ayat’s place. I tried to understand what would lead a beautiful girl just starting her life and with plans for the future, to wake up one morning, take a bag of explosives and put an end to her life — and in the process end the lives of others...."

This is SO disingenuous! "In the process..." ??? NO, her PURPOSE was to end the lives of others! If it wasn't she wouldn't have taken a bag of explosives to a site and time chosen for its concentration of many Jews shopping before Shabbat. She only had explosives on her body (designed and attached by someone else) because her purpose was to kill others.

Also, she did not "wake up one morning..." and decide to become a suicide bomber that afternoon - she was recruited and groomed and trained.

"....we can all identify with the individuals in this tragedy. Most of us have all been 17, after all. ...."

Uh, no. I don't identify with a suicide bomber. I didn't want to murder innocent people when I was 17, In that I am like most people, I would hope.

"....Could I help close the gap between them or would cultural differences and hate ultimately stand in the way of reconciliation?...."

The moral and emotional blindness of this woman is really disturbing. Cultural differences???? How about one women's daughter deliberately murdered the other woman's daughter and another 20 or so of her fellow citizens and left many more maimed?? What do cultural differences have to do with this, unless you mean that suicide bombing is part of Palestinian culture? (Which it is, but I doubt the director means that.) it's about mass murder!!

What if some ambitious documentarian put the mother of the gunman in Chicago yesterday in a room with the mother of one of his victims? No cultural differences, right? But same issue! mass murder!

It is despicable to even speak of reconciliation in this case. And totally contrary to Jewish teachings on sin and forgiveness, which I doubt the filmmaker knows anything about.

The lengths to which she goes to avoid acknowledging that a mass murder was committed ... gee, kind of like the Palestinian mother....

ok I'm done.

Anonymous said...

btw you are probably the only person in this country today who actually feels bad for olmert...

Gila said...

Yehudit--will leave your comment since it deals with suicide bombings without getting too much into the whole political side of things, but let's leave the topic for now.

Actually, you gave me a great idea for a (hopefully) funny article. Will try to do it this week. :)

Anon-hmmmm...could be, could be.

But let us not discuss this further. We are getting dangerously close to an actual political discussion.

How come no one has commented on my references to Sheinkin, Emek Refaim or Lattes? Anyone have any favorite coffee shops? I am quite fond of the Coffee Mill or whatever it is, on Emek Refaim, myself. Not to mention that it is so small that no self-respecting terrorist would waste a bomb there.

In T"A-Great places to drown my Israeli "I want to be normal" angst: Aroma, little place on Arlozorov, near the Supersol (good french toast too) and Henrietta's (can go there in my pajamas--it is that close to home and kinda in the middle of nowhere).

Emek Refaim--Capit=blind date central. To be avoided.

the sabra said...

i am crackin crackin crackin up.

thanks gila-poyfect timing.

Mia said...

..."it is so small that no self-respecting terrorist would waste a bomb there." reminds me that there is a small non-intersting cafe in Ziv square in Haifa where one of the buss terrorists had coffee before he got on a bus looking for a place to do more damage. The waitress though something was strange about him but by the time the police got there he was gone (got on a bus) and they couldn't find him, then a little later there was an explosion. I think it was the one where "Blondy" Zur (you have a link to his memorial on your front page) went, but I'm not sure.

I jump to lots of associations from this blog. You can see another one mine, if you are interested.

aliyah06 said...

Love Emek Refaim....I'm married so blind-date stuff is out, but I have a choice of many coffees in a few short blocks. The Coffee Mill is my favorite but frequently too full to sit in......

...and if I didn't spend my time pretending I was in a normal country, why would I stay? For Jews, maybe this IS normal? Here we are living our lives, spinning our culture(s), enmeshed to one degree or another with Jewish history, religion, ethics and each other---and outside are The Others who hate us for not being Just Like is this (in the light of several thousand years of Jewish history) not normal?

QuietusLeo said...

I love Bamba! It's the main reason I made children: to have an excuse to buy Bamba.
OK there were other reasons, but they don't taste as good.

faith/emuna said...

one of the many funny things about this country is that yrs ago arab workers built most of the houses in many settlements, including a good part of my house , and many of us had good relations with them. none of them were scared of me poisoning their coffee (which in my experience many workers in israel seem to demand every couple of hrs)and were very happy to take home my chametz to their families b4 pesach. anyway as a rightist im not sure why you think we would be offended by you offering bamba to arab childre.
but my real point, gila, is i think you should consider that maybe they were scared of YOU poisoning them bc you were just seriously injured by an arab suicide bomber? i would think that in their eyes you might have a reason to want revenge?

satiricohen said...

Obviously, it was the wrong hechsher.

Gila, how could you be so insensitive?

Ralphie said...

What I never understood is how Israelis love bamba yet hate peanut butter. But maybe that's the same thing as hating bamba but loving peanut butter, only... opposite?

Of course they do have that chocolate spread, so maybe there's just no more room on the pita.

Hmmm... you got your Bamba in my chocolate spread! You got your chocolate spread in my Bamba...

Anonymous said...

Dr Taylor teaches us how to attain deep inner peace - easily, simply, without drugs, anytime we want it. Forgive me for doing everything I can to be sure everyone reads this book and sees this video, but I think all of us benefit and in the larger sense, if everyone reads this, our world will benefit in a very large way.