Sunday, August 31, 2008

Help Asaf

I don't want to scare you guys, but Yom Kippur, the day G-d is going to decide whether or not to smite your sorry ass, is just around the corner. Have you racked up enough divine brownie points? No? Better get moving! Not sure what to do? SuperRaizy (via Baila) has a suggestion: find Asaf a kidney:


Elliot Jaffe, who writes the blog Weekend Hospitality, has a son who has been diagnosed with Chronic Renal Failure. Elliot writes "Simply put, both his kidneys are damaged and scarred from some infection or defect that happened years ago. They will likely cease to function sometime within the next six months... the best solution for Asaf is a kidney transplant... Live organ donors are considered the best option for kidney transplants. The percentage of successful transplants is higher from a live donor and the transplanted kidney has a longer chance of surviving in the recipient's body. Please contact us if you know of anyone who might be willing to donate one of their kidneys to Asaf. The process takes about six months and requires numerous meetings with doctors, social workers, psychologists and committees to make sure that the decision is freely made and will not jeopardize the donor or the recipient. The recovery time for the donor after the transplant can be as fast at 3-4 days."

You can read Elliot's entire post here . The Jaffes, who live in Israel, have also posted a letter about their search here on the Jerusalem Post website. Elliot says that Asaf will probably need a kidney transplant within the next 12 months. All of his close relatives have been eliminated as potential donors. To donate, you must be in perfect health and have blood type B or O. The Jaffes can be reached at their blog or at elliot_jaffe@yahoo.com.

Please help publicize Asaf's case by linking to Elliot's post or letter.

For those of you who are not that concerned with collecting divine brownie points, but do enjoy being snarky and contrary, please allow me to point out that this is an EXCELLENT opportunity for us to wield the power of the non-existent Jewish blogosphere community* .

Asaf, may Hashem grant you a refuah shleimah. For the record--I only have 1.5 kidneys (had kidney disease as a child) so I am not a good candidate. And I had thyroid cancer. I am not allowed to give blood; I am pretty sure an organ is out of the question. But hey, my blog is your blog.


*Yes yes Rabbi S, I know, the community is imaginary, just like Mr. Snuffleupagus.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Haveil Havalim #180: The Alyn Edition

Hello and welcome to the "Please Support me in the Alyn Ride " Edition of the Carnival! Want to support me? Instructions are at the very end, after all the cool links. (Jack & Muqata—hope you don't mind, but I have $1500 to go here…)


NBN-Aftermath

Tried to avoid it but in the end, I couldn't….

Muqata provides us with the best moment from the NBN conference. Over in South Jerusalem Haim Watzman considered blogging ethics. For those who felt that Bibi took up valuable time which could have spent learning about blogging, End of the World makes up for the loss with a post on blog building and Jacob da Jew provides a rundown of some basic blogging tools. On a (G-d knows much needed) lighter note, Rahel honored NBN and the conference with a story of her aliyah, Mrs. S celebrated ten years in Israel, Savta Dotty celebrated twenty years (sorry I missed your party—I thought you were still out of the country AND I was disconnected from the net all day until about 8PM) and Jewlicious celebrated a new arrival.

Kinda unrelated…but a big congrats to the Original Haveil Havelim Grand Poobah, Soccer Dad on being invited to participate in a pretty damn prestigious panel. Go you!

Adventure

Aaaaahhhh the last week in August…the week that everyone goes on vacation because the only alternative is spending a week with the kids in the house—and ultimately someone getting strangled. Treppenwitz enjoyed camping on the Kineret (see some photos aids from an unrelated post courtesy of Leora). Cosmic X also visited the Galilee, but the X family opted for a zimmer. RivkA decided that a better solution was a romantic tryst with her husband (and to just leave the kids in the house to kill each other). :)

But Israeli families aren't the only ones having fun—a fair amount is being had by non-Israelis and Israeli non-families. Child Ish Behavior went for a ride in the greener bits of New York City and I went to a Bikers' Playground. MoChassid (also an Alyn biker!) ditched the bike and went to Adventureland with the Toddler and the grandkids. Me-Ander also had some grandkid face-time at Camp Savta. Soccer Dad opted for the park. (Cannot help you with the whole fishing bicycle mystery). Benji caught the tail end of the Olympics. And Seraphic Secret got to combine two great loves: Shabbat, Israel and lots of guns. (Just for you—a bonus round, courtesy of Double Tapper).

Fashion

BadforShidduchim said Farewell to Black. Safranit creates her own fashion (and a group to create it in). Child Ish Behavior presents the latest in stylish home and car protection .

Deep Thoughts

Quietus Leo enjoyed a philosophical discussion while NY's Funniest Rabbi pondered the nature of conversation. Baka Diary considered gratitude. Hadassah wrote a love poem. The Rebbetzin's Husband writes about what to do when we just don't know the answer. Yael has one of those situations right now...though she calls it a mid-life crisis. (Trained with Bela and Marta Karolyi? Really?)

Entertainment

Lion of Zion takes on Jews in Beverly Hills 90210. Locally, Muqata (as channeled by Lurker), discusses Srugim. Lady Light provides some light apocalyptic literature. Jewish Blogmeister reviews the Jewish wedding music scene. Green Prophet brings us Sulha. Oh…and to make everything that much more pleasant, the Big Felafel brings us beer.

Home and Family

Lion of Zion has a son who acts like little boys do (if it is not moving, pee on it). Hadassah has a son as well, though at 12 he has apparently passed that adventure-peeing-as-a-hobby stage. Jack has a daughter ('nuff said) and an interest in sex and marriage (so long as said daughter does not consider it for herself for…say…20 years or so). What to Expect is still pregnant. Baila is NOT pregnant.

ProfK gives us a (very well-stated) lessons on the respectful way to treat household help. Ben-Yehuda fishes for Shabbat invites by intimating that he will be able to provide a unique spicy pepper-garlic salad. (You know, BY, it is a clever strategy, but it will not go so far among the Polani'im. If I were you, I would post another recipe. Like for coleslaw….. )

Judaism

Dov "he wants you to buy his book" Bear ponders brachot while Yonah Treppenwitz learns how to use them for fun and profit. Shira Salamone gives us a change of pace: modesty for men (yes, please please make them give up the short shorts and Speedos—they just do not fly after all that kugel) and tefilin for women.

Summer is (thank G-d) almost over and we know what that means—fall and the חגים are just around the corner. Frumhouse and A Simple Jew are already thinking about Rosh Hashana and tshuvah. Now is the time for us reinvent ourselves and try to see if we are creating our own spiritual and physical roadblocks. It is hard work, but Ilana Davita provides inspiration …as well as some honeycake for energy. The Rebbetzin's Husband is also quite aware of the season—apparently ימים נוראים takes on a whole new meaning for those in the Rabbinate. (Rabbi, if I may offer a suggestion—on number five, instead of wine, consider using something stronger, like vodka. Just add some red food coloring and no one will ever be the wiser).


Community

Emes v'Emunah praises a voice of sanity. A Mother In Israel wonders why about the cold behavior of a fellow shul-goer (my two cents…she sounds like a snot). Ellison has had better luck—his minyan cronies are both friendlier and possessed of bloggable life stories. ProfK calls for safer Shabbat urns (two articles—read them both). Shira Salamone mourns the state of her synagogue.

Israel

Well, we Israelis weren't the only ones looking for adventure. A bunch of adventurers decided that Disneyland was not going to cut it ths year…only Gaza would do. (More on that here). One of them decided that...gosh...maybe he would visit Israel as well? He was arrested. I have to admit--I was surprised--I expected zillions of posts on this escapade.... But then, perhaps ignoring them is the best revenge.

In other news, Shiloh Musings reports on Israel's loss of one mensch and one teacher (we really cannot afford to lose either). BakaDiary reports on thugs in tzitzit. Leah in Chicago gives us an overview of our guys (and girls) in uniform. Tzipiyah discovers what goes on after hours at the Arnona office. (Hmmm….I suspect you would have been significantly less forgiving if the two had been discussing relationship issues or current events). Risa shares her Jerusalem connection. MyRightWord has a great idea for Jerusalem.

On a more relaxing note, the Israel Situation provides a Guide to Israeli Cities. What War Zone explores Israeli lunching habits. Treppenwitz rounds it out with a review of a great place to eat lunch in the Israeli city of Beit Shean.

Finally, the Elder packages some old news in a new video.

The World

Simply Jews reports on the war on Jews in England, and those who are fighting back. Daled Amos reports on Obama's ties to terror. Judeopundit shares some news reports from Iran: reports of poisoned food.


And to wrap it all up….only in Israel.

*****************************************
Do you have an extra 20 NIS or $5? Have I (or MoChassid or Mandy or another one of the zillion hardy Alyn Bikers ) not managed to squeeze it out of you already? Well then, Plllllllleeeeeesssseeee sponsor me! It is fun and better yet, it is easy.

It is possible to donate money in several different ways:

1) The easiest way is to donate online in NIS or US or Canadian dollars. Go to the WOL 2008 Participants page. In the "WOL" dialogue box, select "WOL 2008". In the "search by" dialogue box, select "first name begins with". In the next filed, type "Gila". Hit enter. You will get a list of one name: mine. (As of now, I am the only Gila). Underneath my profile, you will see options to donate in various currencies and for various types of receipts. Click your favorite!

2) By telephone at the ‘Wheels of Love’ office in Jerusalem, at 02-6494235.

3) Dump it in the Tip Jar on the side of my blog and then email me at gila.weiss@gmail.com so I can go to Paypal and send the $ to Alyn. (Not the way to go if you need a receipt for tax purposes or if you are concerned I will abscond with it).

4) If you are of the “check’s in the mail” persuasion, checks made out to Alyn Hospital can be sent to: Alyn Hospital (figures, doesn’t it?) Public Relations Dept., PO Box 9117, Jerusalem 91090. Of course, please specify that you are sponsoring me! A receipt for the donation will be delivered to you in the mail.

It is also possible to donate through one of the chapters of the Friends of Alyn Hospital around the world. Further details are available on the ‘Wheels of Love’ website Thanks!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Don't Feed the Trolls

I decided to try disabling the comment moderation but alas...the trolls are back. So moderation it is.

I realize it is less fun for the commenters that way, but it is either that or risk having this nutcase ruin everyone's good time. Or at least my good time.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Bikers' Playground




"An amusement park for bikers!"

That was what I thought the first time I rode there a few weeks ago. As part of my Alyn training program, I went back yesterday to get some practice in and I decided that my original assessment was correct. The area around Tzomet Nachsom is a complete biking playground.


For the on-road bikers, there are well-maintained roads flanked by decent shoulders and framed by gorgeous scenery. The traffic is normally relatively light on Fridays and Saturdays--making biking safer and more enjoyable. For good measure, the area has been peppered with signs imploring drivers to please not squash the bikers.


The real fun, however, happens once you get off the roads. The entire area is liberally sprinkled with national parks which are in turn liberally criss-crossed with well-marked and well-maintained trails. For the more adventurous (also known as "not me"), there appear to be an equal number of narrower, more challenging trails. A single ride can take you across farmland, meadows and forests and up and down lots of big and little hills.




Nice grapes, no? פסטורלי כזה. I wanted to steal some but between the 1) driving on Shabbat 2) buying coffee on Shabbat and 3) buying druze pita on Shabbat, all combined with the presence of a plethora of large and potentially viscious rocks conveniently at hand in the event that G-d decided to exercise his wrath on me and my bike, I came to the conclusion that I probably should not push my luck.

Depending on which path you choose, you will stumble across all sorts of historical sites and artifacts from the War of Independence. The Burma Road (where I rode yesterday). Latrun. An old plane with picnic tables nestled under the shade of its wings. I would have loved to provide a photo of that as well, but I forgot that my cellphone takes pictures until long after I had passed it. Of course I will never find it again. You will just have to take my word for it. Really! A great big plane! In the woods! With picnic tables under the wings!

Just like any good amusement part, this one offers refreshments. The biker-friendly Menta at the intersection of Routes 3 & 44 has coffee, water (examples provided below), snacks (I ate the examples-sorry)
a bike shop, a good sized parking lot and reasonably clean bathrooms. And even better, in the woods, somewhere in Park Rabin (or in another park--honestly, I was just having a grand time getting lost on my bike), there is a pundak where one can get lovely labane and druze pita with gobs of olive oil (see picture to the right) and zahatar (natch). If I may offer a word to the wise--learn from my experience and only go there AFTER you finish biking. I did not, and all I wanted to do shortly after I finished and was on my way was sleep but, unfortunately I was on my bike and going up hills so this was really not an option. Had I been wise, and had I anything resembling a sense of direction, I would have done my biking first and then I could have curled up on the couches and napped. (Granted, the couches were pretty skanky, being outdoors and all that. But then, by that point, so was I.) Do to an unfortunate genetic heritage, I was born completely minus a sense of direction, and so while I did think of waiting until the end of the ride to have my pita and labane, I realized that this was a foolish idea. I had read about the place in my little book of biking tours but I had only found it by accident and knew my chances of finding it again were approximately that of a snowball's in hell. As such, I determined that the only sensible decision was to have the labane right that moment.


It was a good decision. It was really yummy labane.

Unfortunately, I got a late start yesterday and only arrived at around 11AM--just in time to enjoy the full effect of the August hot weather. Needless to say, I did not achieve quite as much as I would have liked (only 35 km), but it was fun just the same. Perhaps, in the future, I will consider forgoing 1) sleeping in and 2) screwing around on the net reading blogs in favor of actually getting my bike and myself on the road. Or perhaps I will have fantastic intentions and will nonetheless do exatly the same thing as I did this week.



Next week I am off to visit Asher's part of the world (Asher--if you want to start a blog now, I can link to it) and am looking forward to seeing how it compares.

Friday, August 22, 2008

More Adventure Blogging

Today I went on a tour of the West Bank with Gadi, Suleiman, another poor sad heroic victim of terror ®, some tourists, a left-wing American in love with Revolution and a passel of loud-mouthed, chutzpanim, Arabic speaking, Israeli right-wingers. To call it interesting would be an understatement.

I will write more about this particular escapade later (I took lots of typed and recorded notes). but thought I would start your Shabbat off with a particularly surreal moment.

At the end of the event, Suleiman asked me to give him a lift to Pisgat Ze'ev where his brother was to pick him up. He made sure to show me his ishur (entry permit). (It is sort of like a certificate of kashrut, but for people instead of food.) He showed me the permit both in order to assure me that I was not engaging in any behavior that would incur the interest of the Shabak and so that I would have a better idea of the restrictions imposed on the Palestinian population. "I have it easy. Most of the Palestinians do not have this." Even with his relative freedom, he envied me Tel Aviv, he told me. "In Tel Aviv, you can just pick up and go where you want when you want. You do not have to think about it. We have to think about checkpoints and roadblocks and whether and how we can get in and out of places". For example, this morning, he told me, he was dropped off at the checkpoint at Pisgat Ze'ev, walked through, and was picked up by Gadi on the Israeli side. "I do have a car at home, but it does not have an ishur".

Me: Umm...excuse me?

Suleiman: I have a permit to enter Israel. But I could not get one for my car.

In other words, Suleiman is just fine, but his car is an enemy of the State.

All righty then!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

I am infamous....

A very quick (and woefully unedited) post:

A scan of some of the live-blogs that covered yesterday's conference yielded at least one person who found what I said--that I am not writing in order to serve Israel's hasbara machine and that I write for myself--to be a rather distasteful sentiment. In all sincerity, I can understand why I may have come across this way. In fact, after the panel I went around asking all my friends if everyone thought I was a misanthrope. Please allow me to explain and to offer my apologies for not being more coherant last night.

To be honest, I found both the inclusion of the long PR presentation and the moderator's comments to be somewhat offensive (for lack of a better word). Who the hell are you to tell me what I must do with my blog? Who are you to hijack my blog? Since when did I become your lackey? For that matter, who are you to tell me how I should approach my aliyah?

In my case, I am very conciously not an ideologue. I very conciously think of myself as an immigrant, and not as an "olah" and have done so since the moment I decided to make aliyah. I made this decision because I wanted to give my aliyah a fair chance of succeeding, and came to the conclusion that an "immigrant" mentality would be far more conducive to success than an "olah mentality". The latter term connotates someone who deserves a pat on the back, a welcoming committee complete with a brass band and lots of ass-kissing and handouts (a'la someone should give me a great job because I did this country the great honor of moving here). The former term connotates someone who should be prepared for abuse, being taken advantage of and years of working his ass off to make it in this new place. Less romantic and idealistic? Yes! But it worked for my grandparents in the States and I figured it would do just as well for me here. And indeed, I am at seven years and (B"H) counting.

Ahah! But didn't I know that the panel would be like this? Well, no, I did not. None of us really knew. Nor were we given any advance notice as to what the initial question would be. However, the title of the panel was "building Israel one post at a time". Mind you, it was not "serving Israel's hasbara needs one post at a time". Nor was it even "making aliyah every day" or "how to fulfill your idealistic leanings on your blog".

Nu, but what about building Israel? Hello, I am building Israel. As follows:
1) I live here.
2) I have built a life here. My friends are here.
3) I volunteer here. I give to charity here.
4) I work here and pay gobs of taxes.
5) I vote. I join political parties and (when I have the opportunity) I volunteer with them.
6) I have hobbies--biking, cooking and oh yeah, writing. I write about my life and whatever I have that is interesting to write about.

You see, for me, building Israel is not "making aliyah every day". It is not kiruv. It is not wearing rose-colored glasses. It is not being a part of Israel's hasbara efforts. Instead, it is living a perfectly normal life--that just happens to be in Israel and in Hebrew. It is also why I moved here. I do not want to be an ideologue. I do not want to consiously "on" all the time. I just want to be normal. (Incidentally, the links are just to demonstrate that the organizers knew, or should have known, what they were getting when they invited me).

All that being said, I did enjoy the conference, and look forward to attending next year!



P.S. I should also point out that the very idea of someone hijacking THIS blog is doubly offensive. I mean, I started this blog because I wanted to get my story--what it is like to be a poor, sad, heroic victim of terror ®--out there without having to worry about anyone's agenda or preconceptions. And another thing for those who 1) read my blog and 2) were there last night...did anyone else find it wildly amusing when the moderator started using descriptions of Machane Yehuda on a Friday afternoon as an example of what makes Israel unique? "The shouts of vendors. The children shopping with their Abba for Shabbat". Me: "the friendly neighborhood suicide bomber at the bus stop".

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A great new service for parents

Feeling busy? Overextended? Are your kids getting in the way of your social life or career goals? The ever-creative and cutting edge Israeli start-up industry has a solution for you.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The New and Improved (well, new anyway) Alyn Fundraising Spiel

So, I finally drafted my fundraising letter. Nu, what do you think? Will it work?





Dear ________,

Hi! It is that time of year again! Time for me to be in touch with you and to hit you up for money while apologizing for not being in touch for a zillion years. Or rather, to be more accurate, for one year. You know, since the last time I hit you up for money. No matter—once again, I have several thousand dollars to raise and it is time for me to dust off those tried and true desperate measures.

2008 OFFICIAL WHEELS OF LOVE ALYN INTERNATIONAL CHARITY BIKE RIDE FUNDRAISING SPIEL

Once again I have decided to participate in the five-day, nearly three hundred kilometer Wheels of Love Alyn International Charity Bike Ride and I am asking you to please, please, PLEASE sponsor me. Alyn Hospital, a private non-profit hospital in Jerusalem, is one of the world's leading specialists in the active and intensive rehabilitation of infants, children and adolescents (regardless of religion or ethnic origin) and is Israel’s premier center for the rehabilitation of young children and adolescents. Over the years, the hospital has developed a wealth of expertise in the treatment of: trauma and head injuries from road and domestic accidents and terrorist attacks, neuro-muscular diseases, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, congenital deformities, patients needing intermediate ventilation, special feeding management, pediatric orthopedics and rehabilitation of cancer patients and those with severe burns. Alyn takes the kids that most other places cannot, and works miracles. But these miracles cost money and that is where I (and hopefully you) come in. Your tax-deductible donation would help cover the shortfall that Alyn has for each child, each day. Last year, the bike ride raised over three million dollars for the hospital.

And now, the moment we have all been waiting for: 2008 OFFICIAL WHEELS OF LOVE ALYN INTERNATIONAL CHARITY BIKE RIDE FUNDRAISING SLOGAN

"Help Gila to Actualize her Subconscious Death Wish!"

For those of you who were expecting something as…ummm…quirky as 2007's "Help Gila Get Laid" slogan, I apologize. My mental energies have been rather taken up with a new job and then coming home and catching up on CSI reruns. I did think about reusing the 2007 slogan on the basis that it was creative and—based on the fact that I made my fundraising quota—effective. I decided against it, on the basis that 1) it was funny the first time but not likely to be quite as amusing in a second showing and 2) having actually participated in the 2007 ride, I now know that that "getting laid" and "doing a five-day bike ride with a lot of married Haredim (ultra-orthodox Jews)" are mutually exclusive. As such, use of the slogan would comprise false advertising at best and fraud at worst. Now, as an accountant, I really cannot afford to have my name mixed up with any fraudulent monkey business. Or fraudulent lack-of-monkey-business, as the case may be.

Accordingly, this year's slogan is simple—less titillating, but probably more accurate and to the point. I mean, I am going to hurling myself down MOUNTAINS at enormous speeds and on a bicycle? Why in the name of G-d am I doing this? Why can I not be satisfied with writing a check? Perhaps I need more hobbies? Perhaps I need to up the dosage on the happy meds? Or perhaps I should take up drinking, or use of illegal substances? Perhaps a combination of the above; I could make drinking and smoking crack my hobbies? Whatever—I am still trying to figure it out, and will probably still be wrestling with the question in November, even as I dodge large rocks and gravel and try to keep all of my major body parts and organs intact through the end of the ride. In the meantime, as a temporary measure, I am chalking it up to a subconscious death wish. Because it is already August and I need to start fundraising already. I hope you like it. More to the point, I hope you like it enough to sponsor me.

Because, you know, the helping the little kiddies is not a good enough reason.


It is possible to donate money in several different ways:

The easiest way is to donate online in NIS or US or Canadian dollars. Go to the WOL 2008 Participants page. In the "WOL" dialogue box, select "WOL 2008". In the "search by" dialogue box, select "first name begins with". In the next filed, type "Gila". As of now, I am the only one. Recognize the photo? No? Means you have not been reading my blog. Bad you! But never mind, I will take your money anyway. (I am just nice that way). Underneath my profile, you will see options to donate in various currencies and for various types of receipts. Click your favorite!

By telephone at the ‘Wheels of Love’ office in Jerusalem, at 02-6494235.
Dump it in the Tip Jar on the side of my blog and then email me at gila.weiss@gmail.com so I can go to Paypal and send the $ to Alyn. (Not the way to go if you need a receipt for tax purposes or if you are concerned I will abscond with it).

If you are of the “check’s in the mail” persuasion, checks made out to Alyn Hospital can be sent to: Alyn Hospital (figures, doesn’t it?) Public Relations Dept., PO Box 9117, Jerusalem 91090. Of course, please specify that you are sponsoring me!

A receipt for the donation will be delivered to you in the mail. It is also possible to donate through one of the chapters of the Friends of Alyn Hospital around the world. Further details are available on the ‘Wheels of Love’ website

Thanks!


Love,


Gila

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Why I did Last Weekend

I do not exactly know why Gadi brought me to the dinner. But I do know why I went.

I went because I want the Palestinians to be disturbed. I want them to be haunted. I want my face to pursue them.

When Jamal or his wife or his father or the closed-face young men hear about a glorious shaheed on his way to his reward of 72 virgins for his brave attack on the Zionist enemy…I want them to see my face. When they listen to a speech given by a political leader about how all Israelis are evil and should be driven into the sea…I want them to reconcile that image with that of me, an actual person. I want them to be shocked when they hear about a bombing. If I cannot achieve shock, I would at least have them disturbed. And if not that, I would at least have them think.

But I want to haunted as well. I want to be shocked when I see the long lines at the checkpoints--the checkpoints that I can whiz by. When I hear the stories about Palestinians forced to travel hours out of their way to get from A to B, I will continue to see "my terrorist" and her bomb, which were no doubt smuggled in via one of these checkpoints. Perhaps she was passed off as an innocent passenger in a taxicab. I will remember that other terrorists have been smuggled in using fake (and real) medical permits and that ambulances are used to smuggle in bombs and weapons. So, yes, the need is real. But at the same time, I will also see, and I want to see, Jamal and his wife stuck in their car with four restless, cranky children in the back.

It does not hurt my character to be aware of just how much is being paid for my right to be secure, who is doing the paying and in what currency

I went because I want to know. I came because I want to have views and to know what they are and why I have them. I am sick of saying "I really do not know that much about the situation". I could try reading the press (or even blogs), but most of what I will find is a collection of various agendas. The Israelis/ Palestinians/ right wing/ left wing/ settlers/ peace activists/ religious Jews/ secular Jews/ [fill in your favorite group here]…are pure and innocent and any negative news is lies and propaganda. The Israelis/ Palestinians/ right wing/ left wing/ settlers/ peace activists/ religious Jews/ secular Jews/ [fill in your least-favorite group here]…are evil, violent and conniving and any positive news is lies and propaganda. Does one visit mean I "know" the situation? Of course not! But then, when did I say it did?

I went because I love Israel beyond any measurement and beyond reason and I cannot bear to think of my beloved country in this bind…and my sitting on the side doing nothing. I have to do something. I have to try to make things better. Even if it fails, even if the naysayers are right and peace is impossible at least I can say I tried. I do realize that we are more likely to fail than to succeed. But I also realize that most social revolutions and great changes do not start with people sitting around saying "it is impossible". They start with a few, derided crackpots running around with crazy, impossible ideas which somehow, inexplicably, catch on and become accepted and very possible.

Who would you rather be?

I went because I am tired of just accepting blindly that this is the way it must be.

Because, surely, this can not be the way it should be.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

JBloggerama

First, my apologies to Stephen for taking so long to post the badge! It is now up...

I have been reading, in countless posts across the Jblogosphere, various gripes and criticisms of the makeup of the panels. So for the record:

1) I am really not quite sure why I was invited to be on a panel. My blog is new. It has traffic, but not THAT much traffic.

2) For all my confusion, I am honored.

3) I suspect that I was selected because my blog featured a bombing. The jokes about the bombing probably did not hurt either.

4) I am going to have to come up with something good to follow up on the bombing thing, no? So far, I seem to be leaning towards "adventure-based education". I did the dinner. I have been invited to go on a Palestinian-guided tour of the West Bank. RivkA offered to hook me up for a weekend in Hevron. Ummm, that would be with a Palestinian family, right RivkA?



5) Warning: I do not actually look like the photo on my blog. Actually, as you probably guessed from my most recent posts, I look rather like the emoticon featured above.

What I did Last Weekend, Part V

At some point before I spoke, an older gentleman in a traditional headdress entered the house. I had no idea who he was, but everyone else seemed to. Quiet descended. One by one, he greeted each of us. It was only after he greeted me and moved on that I realized that everyone else was standing in respect as he shook their hands. Oh no. Not good. I leaned over to X and asked in a whisper: who is he? The answer: Jamal's father, and not just that, but apparently someone rather important. Who I had just (probably) offended. How utterly embarrassing, not to mention frightening. Did I really want to go around giving the proverbial finger to people who know people who could kill me? Later on, more out of dismay over my lack of manners than fear for my life, I made sure to apologize, and explain that I simply did not know the custom. The gentleman laughed it away.

Once I had finished speaking, the gentleman spoke. He talked of how his son, our host, had been seriously injured by Israeli soldiers during the Intifada—though I did not catch which one. The gentleman did not say in what context these injuries were sustained. Was his son an innocent bystander caught in the proverbial crossfire? A victim of some bored Israeli soldiers looking for action? Or perhaps he was caught with an explosive belt, lobbing rocks at soldiers or going after a soldier with a knife? I did not ask for details.

The gentleman finished his remarks with a wish that things will be more peaceful. Once he finished, the official, "let's all be friends" part of the evening came to an end and the gathering morphed into a normal dinner party complete with mingling and small talk. Jamal's wife and some of the other women retreated to the kitchen to put the finishing touches on dinner. The guests socialized. Some of them continued chatting while curled up in the comfortable couches in the living room. Everyone else converged on the on the patio in front of the house. Chairs were pulled into a circle and conversations flowed in Hebrew, Arabic and English. Jamal's children ran around. The older ones practiced their English on us and the younger ones, and in particular a beautiful seven year-old girl, enjoyed being the center of attention.

It is difficult for me to describe the atmosphere because I am not sure where the real atmosphere ends and my own opinion of such gatherings (my own mental atmosphere) begins. For instance, it is entirely possible that the others, who already knew each other rather well from previous events—including a week-long tour in Bosnia— were having a great time. But to me there was something contrived and forced about the evening. Everyone was on his best behavior. Everyone was smiling and laughing. Everyone was polite. It would be easy enough to give my feeling some sinister undertone—that I was sensing an undertone of hatred. But an alternative, and far more mundane, explanation is that the good cheer was real, resulting of people genuinely liking each other and enjoying each other's company, and that the negative vibes I was feeling stemmed to my dislike of large social gatherings in general, and in particular when said gathering is full of people I do not know. (I am the greatest of oddities—a Tel Avivit who avoids both bars and parties like the proverbial plague). Just because an event is politically correct is no reason for me to enjoy it.

Another reason for my confusion is that I may have been attributing my feelings to everyone else. It is possible that everyone else was sincere; I did feel as though I were acting. I bent over backwards to be polite. I smiled. I was agreeable. I complemented everyone on everything. I was diplomatic. I held the baby for a bit while he ate some yogurt, just to show that I am a nice person who likes children and that I hold no grudges against this cute little tyke. Well, I do like children and I do not hold grudges against the cute little tyke but still…where did the real me end and where did the politically correct, nervous, ill-at-ease, I-hope-they-do-not-kill-me me begin?

Your guess is as good as mine….

Eventually, our hostess called us in for dinner. Finally—something I can do! No need to say anything, just watch everyone else to pick up the accepted table manners and complement the hostess on the cooking, even if it is crap. Of course, the food was not crap, and in fact it was incredibly delicious and provided in huge quantities. After the dinner, playing the role of the perfect guest, I offered to help clean up. I went to the sink to do some dishes. I opened the tap. A slow trickle of water reluctantly plopped out. They had no water. The hostess, in a flurry, said something somewhat incomprehensible about the water running out.

My mind, which had been calming down during the relatively low-pressure eating segment of the evening, went back into overdrive. "Oh no—this can only mean that they are out of water because they are Arabs, in the West Bank and Oppressed and Occupied. Even now, the hostess is probably thinking 'you evil Zionist bitch…you always have water in your illegal settlement of Tel Aviv. Someday, we are going to kill you all and take your water and cappuccino! My children will ride your bike! We will spit on the ruins of Azrieli! Allah Akhbar!!!!!'"

Right—so maybe it was time to leave the kitchen. I smiled politely and beat a retreat to the living room. Suleiman, Gadi's Palestinian equivalent called over to me. We started to chat. Suleiman is very proud of the group; he and Gadi are putting a lot of time, effort and passion into building it. To be more accurate, he and Gadi are pretty much dedicating their lives and a good portion of their waking hours towards bringing peace and convincing both sides that there has got to be a better, non-violent, non-destructive way of living. (At least when it comes to Gadi, use of the word “obsession” would not be inappropriate”). Of course, I admire and respect them, even if I do not necessarily share their optimism. A case in point—the following exchange:

Suleiman: (Referring to the collection of 20 and 30-something men at the meal) You most of these guys spent a lot of time in Israeli jails.

Me: Yes, I know.

Suleiman: Now they are trying to find a better way. They want peace.

Me: (Touched) Yes, we all do.

Suleiman: (With obvious pride). Some of them were part of terrorist organizations. Some of them just decided to join up with us recently. Some of them, just last month. Before that, they were part of Hamas!

Me: Oh, well, isn't that nice! (to myself) Gosh, I hope they don't change their minds again about terror until after I go home.

At this point, I excused myself yet again. The only place left to go was outside. Someone had broken out nargila's and Jamal’s wife had brought out trays of fruit and cake and decanters of strong Turkish coffee. Ahhh…there was the American—Gershon Baskin. English speaking. Similar cultural background. Jewish. He was sitting with X. I sat down next to them. Here and there, X translated the jokes made in Arabic. I laughed—and she laughed at my laugh (apparently it is amusing).

For the most part though, I just watched the people. In light of my conversation with Sulieman. I paid close attention to the collection of 20- and 30-something men with new eyes. I was not particularly concerned that they would kill me right then and there. From what I understand, that would be a violation of the rules of hospitality and would create some serious bad blood on their side. Nonetheless, it was odd, and more than a little uncomfortable, to sit with people who would have been willing, able and perhaps trying to murder me a mere 30 days before and who might try to murder me in the future. Their faces were closed. I wondered what was going on behind their faces. Who were these men? How solid were their conversions? Were they really rehabilitated? What would it take to push them off the path, for them to give up on this non-violence nonsense and to return to bombs and knives and guns? Another invasion? A change in the local power structure? A failed peace process? A particularly convincing Pallywood production?

What did these closed-face men see when they looked at me? Before, when they were terrorists, they would have had no qualms about killing me. They would not have seen a nice person or person at all. They would not have seen me, Gila. Instead, they would have seen an Israeli and a Zionist and a Jew. They would have seen another point, another notch in the belt. A thing to kill.

Last night, I thought about the scene again. Another picture came into my mind—a scene from Shark Tale, in which sharks who have become vegetarian participate in an addiction counseling meeting, a'la AA. I could see these men, sitting around in a circle, trying to convince themselves that they did not hate Jews, that they did not want to kill us…that they just wanted to be friends and live in peace.

But then, what do I know? I have never been Palestinian. I have never been a terrorist. I have never been a reformed terrorist. I have never seen the world through Palestinian eyes.

Eventually, Gershom broke into my thoughts. He asked me how I liked my first visit to an Arab village.

Me: Really eye-opening. And they did not eat me. That is good.

Gershon: Yes, luckily enough for you, there was enough chicken. They decided to go with that instead.

He was, of course, joking. But then, it is much easier to be peaceful when there is chicken and fruit and enough for everyone.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Haval Haveilim #177 is up...

At Snoopy the Goon's establishment! Thanks for including me, even though I forgot to submit!


Oh, and surely I cannot pass up an opportunity to display the Elders' banner.





(giggle!)

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Whose Story is it Anyway?

He finds me interesting, the photographer, precisely because I am not particularly interesting. He finds my profound average-ness intriguing. His mind is sparked by my simple ignorance.

I think he also likes my sense of humor. My recap of my stand-up routine in which I talked about a sex-toy party I hosted particularly amused him.

I first met him at the dinner. He and a photographer friend/colleague filmed the evening. They filmed all of us. He was at my house a week later, when I met with the group founder and two more group members. I was a bit taken aback when he pulled out a camera and proceeded to film (what the f*ck???), but I let it go.

He is doing something—I am not quite sure what—with the material he filmed. As he was leaving the meeting at my house, he mentioned a documentary. He wants to feature me. He said so at the end of the meeting at my house. I demurred. "I am not particularly interesting". "But that is what makes you interesting" was his reply.

I let it go; on the basis that there was nothing to worry about until there is something to worry about.

Two days ago, there was an email in my mailbox. "I hope you remember me. Please send me your phone number. I would like to talk to you about continuing filming".

It was official. There was now something to worry about.

Or, at the very least, to be disturbed about. If only I could figure out precisely what was disturbing! I simply could not put my finger on it. It certainly was not that featuring me would be violation of my privacy. I mean, I have gone on speaking tours in three continents. I have a public, non-anonymous blog. When it comes to the bombing and anything even remotely related to the same, I have done a pretty good job of raping and pillaging my privacy all by myself. Just call me a poor, sad, heroic, exhibitionist victim of terror®.

Nonetheless, there was something wrong....

Is it that this would make me look like a publicity hound? See above. I have already done a pretty good job of that on my own.

Is it that I disagreed with his politics? No. I had not the foggiest idea what his politics are. Well, that is not true. I could guess. But I never discussed them with him so I could not honestly say that I disagreed.

Is it....? Oh hell. נמאס לי כבר. I was sick of this. I did not know what it was. I decided not to respond. "If I ignore him long enough", I reasoned, "maybe he will go away".

(When it comes to strategies for dealing with unpleasant and difficult tasks and decisions, I am particularly fond of avoidance).

Today, I went biking. For ten hours. Apart from being in charge of avoiding cars on the road and big rocks, gravel and sand off the road, my mind really had very little in the way of responsibilities. It was bored. It started to think. It drifted. It (for some inexplicable reason) happened on "To Die on Jerusalem". It started to toy with it, like a cat with a dead mouse.

Suddenly, the answer happened.

I started my blog because I wanted to finally tell my story, without having to worry about taking into account anyone else's needs or expectations. But I have given away my story before. I know the drill. Once I let someone else tell my story, use my story, direct my story, mold my story… it is not my story anymore. It is someone else's story. It is whatever he wants to make of it and however he wants to cut and shape and paste it. I am whatever he wants to make of me. I will support his agenda, whatever that may be and whether I agree with it or not.

No.

When I got home, before I showered, before I napped (but after I ate—there is a limit to everything, after all) I wrote him back.

"I am sorry, but I am really not interested in being in your film".

Friday, August 8, 2008

Hi everyone! Sorry for being so out of touch recently (especially as I have left you all waiting for the godforsaken chicken). I started a new job this week and that has taken up a lot of my mental energy.

Posting will resume.....

*************Update***************

Baila just suggested that I have a contest where people make up the end of the story. I think that this is a great idea! Anyone who is so inclined, please feel free to propose your version.

Ummm...for obvious reasons, the comment moderation will remain in effect for this contest, but I will try to approve comments promptly.