Saturday, November 29, 2008

Alyn Day One


Sunday, November 9th
Jerusalem- Patrol Road- Shekef
60km/37mi distance; 1540m/5050ft ascent
After the send off ceremony at Malha, Jerusalem we ride through the Mediterranean forest of the Shalmon and Koby ranges of the Judean Hills. After a long ascent from Koby Bridge we stop for coffee at the Menta gas station at Mevo Betar and rest after completing the difficult part of the day.

We cross Tzur Hadassah and join the Old Patrol Road, the length of which we will ride until the end of the day.

First, we will descend westwards on the slopes of the Sansan Range with views of the Ellah Valley near the route of the 35 fighters on their way to the besieged Gush Etzion. We will stop for lunch near Moshav Aderet and continue through the the Adulam Strip towards the Lachish Strip in the Judean foothills. Our winding route will take us past rolling chalky hills and views of many historical sites and the extensive system of hiding places used during the Bar Kochba rebellion.

We will end the day’s riding at Moshav Shekef with a short ceremony for the one day GalgAlyn riders. The bikes will be taken to Lahav and we will go by bus to Beer Sheva for the night.

The “Tip of the Blade” group – those who ride faster - have the option to continue to Lahav (FYI: “lahav” when translated into Hebrew means “blade”!!!) which is an additional 18 kilometers of fast riding. The latest time that this group can leave Moshav Shekef is 2.45 p.m. The “Tip of the Blade” Group will have transportation from Lahav to Beer Sheva.


I am so nervous that I will oversleep that I find it nearly impossible to sleep the night before the ride and find myself waking up every few hours to anxiously check the clock. By the time morning rolls around I am already wiped. When Natalie comes by to pick me up at 6AM, I discover she has had the same experience and is similarly tired. No worries—I am sure that there will be coffee waiting for us at the starting point. Shockingly, this is not the case. Fortunately, it turns out that Malcha Mall, in addition to featuring a huge parking lot just right for bike-ride send-offs and many fine bathrooms, also has an Aroma which is open and is doing a brisk business in sales of caffeine to sleep-deprived bikers. I buy myself a café au-lait for the road.

The Ride is officially kicked off with a deeply moving opening ceremony. In the interests of full disclosure, I do not actually know that the opening ceremony is moving because, as usual, I cannot hear a damn thing. Rather, I am making an assumption. I think my assumption is fairly safe; G-d forbid one have an event chock full of tourists (much less an opening ceremony full of tourists) without it being "deeply moving ".

And now, with the speed and grace of a drunk, obese water buffalo, over five hundred bikers try to hit the road, all at once. Fortunately, no one is seriously injured in the process. Eventually, I am off as well. Once there, I soon discover that my training was, to put it mildly, insufficient.

I mean, I knew it was insufficient. Mandy, my official Alyn Posse person, trained religiously all summer—going out to ride several times a week and really pushing herself on uphills and downhills. Every so often, she would check in by email. "My friends and I biked up and down Mount Hermon last Friday. I don't know…I mean, it wasn't that bad, but still, do you think I am ready?" As for me, for most of the summer, the primary action that my bike got was in the form of fifteen-minute (round trip) jaunts to Ibn Gvirol to get ice cream at Vaniglia and THAT was only because biking was faster and cooler than walking and because the cookies 'n cream ice cream at Vaniglia beats anything offered at the local merkolet, hands down. It was only once September hit and I realized "oh yes, I have a five day bike ride coming up in two months", that I really started to work. Alas, it was too little, too late and coming after several months of seriously heavy cookies 'n cream ice cream consumption.

So yes, I did realize I was in deep shit.

I just did not fully comprehend the depth of the shit I was in.

Now I do. I am to spend the next five days riding my bike up and down hills and through rocks and gravel and up and down hills covered with rocks and gravel…and not only am I not physically ready, I also do not have the slightest clue as to how one actually does this, apart from 1) walking my bike for five days straight or 2) falling off my bike and killing myself.

More experienced riders see me struggling and take pity on me. One of them, Moshe (G-d bless him), gives me a crash course in how to ride down hills. "Push your butt back as far as you can. Keep your back straight and your arms loose—put the weight on your legs and not your arms. Go slowly. Focus on the path ahead and not the part directly in front of you. Do not try to brake while riding over loose rocks or gravel". As best as I can, I follow try to follow these guidelines. For the next five days, every time I go down a hill, I keep up a running commentary with myself. "Slow, slow, ass backbackback….yes, you can do it. Tighten your thighs, weight back, push the back of the bike dooooooown. Keep the arms loose…loosen up your hands. No no no, don't look at that rock—you already know it is there, it is what it is—look ahead. Up you go! Down--don't panic, you got it. NICE! Good for you! Okay, don't get too cocky. Slow…look aheadaheadahead. Okay, gravel, watch the brakes Gila…. Youcandoityoucandoit. Ass back, bike down. Gently now. Don't brake here…no…wait…yes, brake now…okay and now let off the brakes. Go you!"

Not surprisingly, I am plagued with headaches the first three days of the ride. Furthermore, by mid-day of Day One, my thighs are cramping up from the unaccustomed stress. Apparently, keeping ones' ass back, especially when said ass is the size of mine, taxes the thigh muscles considerably. Each time I get a cramp I am forced to get off my bike and hobble along, sloshing back Gatorade, until the cramp passes and I can straighten my legs again.

Mandy, of course, is doing great.

Finally, finally, it is over. The "tip of the blade" fast riders (read "suckers") are to do another 18 kilometers. But I am not anywhere near the tip of the blade. I am more like the end bits of the ceremonial tassel on the hilt, so for me this is the end of the road. Granted, maybe in the morning, before we started, I did think that maybe I would like to do that extra 18 kilometers. You know, to challenge myself. Because I like to challenge myself. By lunchtime, I accepted that this was not particularly realistic. By the time I get to the end, all I want to do was collapse and die.

A few bananas and a cup of coffee later, I am slightly more revived. As the other riders watch the Deeply Moving Short Ceremony for the one-day Galgalyn riders, I call my friend Kayla to update her.

"Where are you?" she asks.

"Somewhere between BeerSheva and Jerusalem that has real coffee, bananas and that does not require me to ride my bike".

Somehow she manages to figure out from this that I am in Moshav Shekef. I am not entirely sure where I am. But the coffee is tasty and I have officially survived Day One so I am happy.

Evening
Tonight, at 6.30, we will have the treat of seeing and hearing about some of the children being treated at ALYN Hospital for whom YOU are riding this week and also about those whose rehabilitation has been supported from funds raised by those riders who have participated in previous WOL Rides. A very special and dramatic surprise is planned this year during this presentation by Brenda Hirsch. Not to be missed!!

The presentation starts as I am enjoying a chat with MOChassid. He is scooped up to attend. I, of course, do not attend. If there was one thing I have learned from my nearly seven years experience as a Poor Sad Heroic Victim of Terror, it is that anything denoted as "special and dramatic" should absolutely be missed. On a similar yet only marginally related note, over my seven-plus years in Israel I have also learned to avoid any class, seminar or lecture which includes as part of its title any one of the following words or phrases: spirituality, consciousness, mysticism, soul/neshama, self-expression, healing, interpretive dance, moving, emotional, relationship, search for happiness… and anything else which hints at happy-clappy content.

You know, this is probably why I am not married.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Proportionality

I should open this up by pointing out that I do not support the practice of house demolitions in response to terror attacks. It does not appear to be particularly effective. It is not just; it is not a safe assumption to say that just because an individual is a terrorist, his family is responsible. (Nu, think about it...you do not know anyone who has taken a more "radical" route in life or a completely different route in life than his or her family? Such as becoming baal tschuva or converting or moving to Israel?) And, perhaps most importantly, we do not use it on Jews who commit similar crimes. Just last week, a car bomb was used to kill a member of the Israeli mafia. Three innocent bystanders were injured in the attack. Did we demolish the houses of those responsible? Yes, yes, the average Israeli wants to. Nu, but did we?

Why am I thinking about this? A friend of mine lent me The Attack. I am reading it in what is my usual fashion--namely flipping back and forth and reading random bits of the book, including the end. At some point or another, I may actually read the entire book. Or I may not. Anyway, one section I read included a house demolition.

This morning I woke up with an interesting thought in my head. Israel often gets slammed for our "disproportional" response to Lebanese, Palestinian and terrorist attacks, right? In a twisted sort of way, house demolitions are proportional. Consider the following:

Suicide bomber walks into a crowded restaurant and detonates his explosive. In an instant, and with absolutely no warning, the lives of random people and their families are demolished.

As described in the book: Israeli soldiers approach the home of the terrorist and inform the family members that they have 30 minutes to vacate. Thirty minutes later, the lives of those living in the house are demolished.


One demolishes the physical home. The other demolishes the individuals making up a home. The only difference is that our choice of lives to be ripped up is not random. This is nothing if not proportional.

Is it fair? As fair as a suicide bombing.
*****
Completely unrelated addendum....I do not agree with Olah Girl on all things, but this was very well said and expressed a lot of what I was thinking.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

I just got back home from the Alyn Wheels of Love Bike Ride. In a nutshell--an large number of body parts hurt, and in particular those parts that took the blow when I slammed face and chest down, on top of my bicycle, after wiping out on some rocks. If you will allow me to share some of my new-found and hard-earned wisdom, trying to brake while riding really fast, downhill and over loose rocks and gravel is not a good idea. Having a good helmet, on the other hand, is an excellent idea; I am quite grateful for mine.

I will post more about the Ride but for now, one question.

Suppose you are pulling into Alyn after a grueling five day ride which was made even more grueling because you (ahem) barely trained all summer. And suppose that you are exhausted and sore and filthy and your digestive system is kind of acting up a bit after five days of gatorade, bananas and granola bars. And suppose that you are also really, really cranky because thanks to the rain, instead of doing a fun, off-road route to Jerusalem, you ending up having to do the On-Road-Ascent-To-Jerusalem-From-Hell (approximately 5000 kilometers, all of them uphill) followed up to the Death-Defying-Approach-to-Alyn-Through-Jerusalem-Traffic (also 5000 kilometers, and also all uphill). Okay? So imagine, that you are in this state of mind and you finally, FINALLY, get to the godforsaken end and are just straggling in with your bike, with your only goals in life being a hot shower and your bed and maybe taking your bicycle outside and smashing it with a large rock so you will never be tempted to ride again.

And then some lunatic dressed in some white cotton Purim costume blows an enormous shofar at you. And that sucker is really f**king loud.

If you then grab the shofar, and use it to whop this joker upside the head, is that considered a crime? Or would the items I noted above be considered adequate mitigating circumstances?

Right--I have achieved the shower already. Now: bed!

(For those of you concerned, my bike is still safe and sound at Alyn. I think I will leave it there for a few days, until I like it again.)

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Howdy! And see y'all in a week!

Over Sukkot, my friend Talia gave me a crash course on country music. This was while we were heading up to the Kineret to look for 1) genuine cowboys and 2) crash-able mangalim or 3) a combination of one and two. In the end, we found massages instead.

Of course, as much as I would love to post about that little adventure, unfortunately I have no time to do so right now, seeing how I am supposed to be on my way to Jerusalem to meet up with some friends and get my spirits up pre-ride. The problem is that not only did I promise Talia I would blog it, I actually brought along a tape recorder with me that day and spent the entire, several hour trip pestering Talia to come up with witty comments that would work in the blog. Whenever she did, I would shriek "Oh, that is DEFINITELY going on the blog", which would then be followed up by a spell of mad cackling.

(Really, I am surprised she did not drown me in the Kinneret when she had the chance.)

Anyway, since I really do have to shower and go, in lieu of an entire post, here is a genuine country singer, Tim McGraw, singing a genuine country song, "Live as Though You Were Dying". Talia, here's lookin' at you kid. Thank you for not drowning me in the Kinneret or dumping me out of the car at the turnoff to Jenin and telling me to hitch a ride home.

(And a hat tip to Leah for the song).




I considered putting up another one of his songs "Don't Take the Girl". The problem is that the song is so wretched, dreary and moaning that the entire time I listened to it, all I wanted to do was pat Tim on the head and say "There, there Tim, don't fret. We will just shoot you now and put you out of your misery".

Friday, November 7, 2008

Mind-blowing

A common complaint raised by the right wing is that the IDF and Shin Bet act more stringently toward the right wing than the left wing. As you might imagine, the left wing makes the exact opposite argument. Both sides claim that they are as kind, gentle and pure as the driven snow, and entirely undeserving of any police or military interest.

If you have spent any time in the English-language Israeli blogosphere over the last few weeks, you will have learned about how the settlers are persecuted and maligned by the media, the police, the IDF, the public and just about everyone else apart from G-d. G-d, of course, is firmly on the side of the settlers and right wing, as per instructions He received from Rav Ovadiah Yosef and various other Rabbanim whose names I cannot keep straight and none of whom know me, but all of whom believe that I should wear a lot more clothing than I regularly do.

As such, imagine my surprise this morning when I read the following:

The Israel Defense Forces has asked the Shin Bet security service and the police to provide it with information on left-wing figures active in the West Bank so it will be easier to issue restraining orders against them, Haaretz has learned….

Among the activists the intelligence services were asked to provide information about is Yonatan Pollack of Anarchists Against the Fence.

(Full article here):

I am of an astonishing assortment of minds about this. (Apparently, my attempts to work myself to death have made me somewhat schizophrenic.)

Mind Number One is a staunch supporter of free-speech and non-violent protest. Regardless of the violence implied in the name "anarchist", if all that they are doing is getting together and screaming and yelling, without actually hurting anyone or anything…that is their right.

Mind Number Two is an equally staunch opponent of violence, and in particular when that takes the form of citizens throwing rocks at the soldiers who regularly put their lives on the line to protect their sorry asses. If you are throwing rocks at soldiers (or at civilians, for that matter) you should be sentenced to time in prison for assault. This should cover Jews, Arabs, random tourists here to support the brave and noble Palestinian struggle and random tourists here to support the brave and noble Jewish struggle. The random tourists should then be sent back to their home countries to create problems there. (Hello, we need to import crazies? We don't have enough of our own?)

Mind Number Two also asks Mind Number One if it is for real. Anarchist=non-violence? On Mind Number One's home world, maybe.

Mind Number Three would like to remind Minds Number One and Two that even verbal and written protest has its limit—and that is when it crosses the border into incitement. It would remind those minds that we Jews do not find it particularly harmless or amusing when non-Jews engage in verbal attacks on Jews and/or Israel. It proposes we employ a simple test to determine whether an Israeli's language has crossed the border. Take the statement. Replace the "Arab" or "Palestinian" or "Haredi" or "Secular" with whatever you are. If the statement would not have you calling for the arrest of whoever spouted it, it is kosher. If not, it is not kosher. For example, take the following popular statement:

ירדן היא המדינה הפלסטינאי "Jordan is the Palestinian State"

I now change it to fit me:

נוי יורק היא המדינה היהודי "New York is the Jewish State". Clearly, this is very offensive. How dare someone imply that I am a New Yorker?

As such, arrest is clearly warranted.

Mind Number Four believes that we should be a country of law, and not of anarchy. The law should apply to and be enforced equally in respect to all parties subject to it. It proposes another simple rule of thumb: if you would arrest the Palestinian for it, arrest the Jew. If you would not arrest the Jew, do not arrest the Palestinian. It also suggests that said rule of thumb can be easily amended with such groupings as "right wing-left wing", "secular-orthodox" and "corrupt politician-corrupt government clerk".

(I realize that the anarchists will disagree with this, as they like anarchy*. They are, of course free to disagree, so long as they act within the boundaries of the law.)

Mind Number Five has found the silver lining to this state of events:

"Pollack also said he presumed that 'since there's a lot of talk now about restraining orders against right-wingers, they would use that against us to show balance, although there has almost never been a case of a left-wing activists suspected of violence and certainly not of violence like that of the right-wing activists.'"

Finally—something that the Far Left and the Far Right can agree on. Well, at least the first part of the statement. But that is something, no?

Right then, my vast collection of minds and I are now off to drop off my bike at Alyn in advance of next week's ride!


* If a person supports anarchy, should that not automatically result in him being precluded from ever complaining that the government is enforcing the law unfairly? That IS anarchy. He should be happy, no? Oh, it is so confusing!


VOTE BARKET-HITORRERUT YERUSHALAYIM ON NOVEMBER 11.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

גם אנחנו יכולים Yes We Can, Too

I have not been posting recently as I have been working approximately five million hours a week, trying to wear and stress myself out enough that I will really and truly be desperately in need of my vacation next week.

But just a few thoughts about the US elections.

I have the right to vote in the US elections. This year, for the first time since I have been eligible to vote, I did not exercise it. This is not because I found both candidates appalling. I mean, I did, to an extent. But as I always have the option of writing in Dave Barry, this is no excuse. No, the reason I did not vote is because I determined that it would be hypocritical for me to do so.

Allow me to explain. Every so often, I hear arguments that 1) Israelis overseas should be able to vote in Israeli elections and/or 2) all Jews, worldwide, should be able to vote in Israeli elections. I find these suggestions to be ludicrous, at best. Why on earth would we allow people who do not live here and who are not going to end up footing the physical and financial bill for government policies determine what the price tag should be?

Note to Israelis b'hul: you already voted. With your feet.

Note to right-wing Jews abroad who want the vote here: remember, if you get the vote, so do those crazy left-wing Jews who simply do not understand the realities of the situation here (or reality at all, for that matter) and who want to give Israel to the Arabs and/or devoid Israel of its Jewish character.

Note to left-wing Jews abroad who want the vote here: remember, if you get the vote, so do all those crazy right-wing Jews who simply do not understand the realities of the situation here (or reality at all, for that matter) and who want to carpet bomb Aza and/or turn Israel into an ultra-orthodox theocracy.

Note to center-wing Jews abroad who want the vote here: remember, if you get the vote, you will have to endure months and months of fear-mongering, mud-throwing and remarkably vicious and hysterical campaigning from the left-wing and right-wings. Nu, you did not get enough of that from your own elections?

(In other words, to those Jews abroad...you think you want to be involved, but really, take it from me, you do not. "Ugly" does not even begin to describe it. As a case in point, by the end of the current round of elections, everyone and his grandmother, including yours truly, will have been defined by someone as a Nazi. And that is just for starters. Just count your blessings that you are missing the insanity, and keep on coming on vacations and sending the checks. Israel is great in small doses, isn't it?)

So how can I hold these views about non-residents voting in the Israeli elections and still justify my participation in the US elections? I can not.

Do I want the United States to continue to be a staunch ally of Israel? Yes. That being said, if the people who live in the US and who will be responsible for picking up the tag associated with that policy determine that it is no longer worth the cost-that is their right. Just like any other country. I mean, I would love it if all of the EU and all of Arab countries were to become staunch allies of Israel. And I do not get to vote there either. ( Of course, one could argue that in certain cases, even the actual resident citizens do not get to vote, so who am I to complain? But you get the idea, right?) Why should the US be different? Why should those in the US not be allowed to choose what they want and what they believe in?

The People of the United States of America have chosen.

Yesterday, the American people chose Barack Obama to be the next President of the United States. I have to admit that I am not a particular fan of Barack Obama. I distrust his lack of experience. I distrust his lack of voting record. I distrust his collection of questionable associations. I distrust his proposed economic policies. I distrust his lack of foreign policy experience. Had I voted in these elections, I would not have voted for him.

And even so, I am thrilled by these elections. I am thrilled because I am inspired. Not by Barack Obama, but by the American people. They did this.

Forget about the media and the political machine. Yesterday, it was the American people that got up and went to vote. It was ordinary American citizens who--instead of turning election day into an excuse to take a very long weekend or a daytrip-- elected to stand in line for hours, in record-breaking numbers and in who-knows-what-sort-of-weather in order to exercise their right to vote. It was the American people, each individual acting in the privacy of a voting booth and in accordance with his or her beliefs and concience, that submitted the ballots that have turned the political establishment on its ear by voting in a previously unknown, African American candidate.

I am not inspired by Barack Obama. He has words and I am an action girl myself. I am very inspired by the American people. They have action in bunches. They ditched the apathy. They demanded a change. They voted.

Whether or not Obama makes good on his promises of change, the fact remains that the American people believe that change is possible and are willing to act on that belief.

If they can do it, we can do it.

Some months ago, I stood at a busy intersection with members of the (now defunct) Tafnit party, handing out flyers calling on Olmert to resign. The overwhelming response I received was one of apathy, frustration and despair. ? מה לעשות? יש מישהו אחר What can one do? There is no one else.

Maybe there is not. Maybe not yet. But as the United States just proved, there can be. And as the Americans just proved, when there is, if we want that change we can make it happen. We are entering into a round of elections right now, starting with the municipal elections on November 11. You have a voice? Let it be heard. *

גם אנחנו יכולים.

Yes we can, too.

*Unless you are voting for Porush in the Jlem elections. In that case, please stay home. (just kidding!)

GO BARKAT/ HITORRERUT YERUSHALAYIM!