Sunday, March 30, 2008

Friday, March 28, 2008

Dear God, you like pancakes?

Every year I do something to celebrate my bombing anniversary. Some years I do festive Shabbat dinners. One year I had real party complete with alcohol, but without the loud music. (My friends were so pleasantly surprised that I actually served alcohol that they did not think to complain about the lack of music. But—hello—my party and my house…why should I not be able to hear?). Last year, I bought a bicycle. In short, I have yet to do anything that could be remotely classified as commemoration, contemplation or an expression of gratitude to G-d. My friends' annual rendition of "happy bombing anniversary to you—we're glad you're not dead" does not quite hit the sensitive note generally called for in a commemorative event. As for expressions of gratitude, I suppose one could argue that the bike acquisition was kind of like turning my face to the heavens and saying to G-d: "Yeah, well...bite me."

(Luckily, He has not taken me up on that yet, but then, I am going biking tomorrow. If I get hit by a Mack truck, we will all know why. Of course, I am hoping that the bemused good humor holds….)

To get back to, and perhaps even complete the subject, I suppose that this is all part of the attitude I have adopted towards my bombing, which can be summed up as: If you absolutely, positively must be in bombing (which we do not recommend, as it tends to fatal, or at least highly injurious), but anyway, if you MUST…you may as well have a good time with it.

As you might imagine, not everyone shares my views. Similar to my views on trauma, every once in a while these vast differences in world view result in my completely putting my foot in it. Take the conversation I had with my friend, Inna who was seriously injured in the July 2002 bombing at Hebrew University. Her one year-anniversary had just passed and (do not ask me how) we got on the subject of what she did to mark the date. Without thought, and in fact without even asking her what she had done, I jumped into my usual memorial-ceremony-bashing-shtick: how the ceremonies are stupid, how all of this self-conscious melodrama is stupid, how having a party is so much more fun and/or appropriate. Of course, not only was she not having a party, but she did go to a ceremony and furthermore, she found the ceremony to be very meaningful. I cannot remember how I got out of that one; I probably just mumbled something like "Oh-yes, but of course, Hebrew University would have one—you guys are an academic institution—and my bombing…hell, we are just a bunch of Kmart shoppers". She bought it, and she is still my friend. Or she did not buy it and is pretending to be my friend for the cookies? Wait…I will have to ask her about that…. Okay, just got off the phone. Inna reports that 1) she remembers the conversation, 2) she still goes to the annual ceremonies and 3) she is still my friend both for the cookies AND because she had already taken the trouble to put me through the exclusive "Inna's friends training course", in which one learns all sorts of useful skills, like how to push a wheelchair over gravel, up over curbs, up the stairs, etc. all without dumping Inna onto the ground. Israel is not exactly what one would call handicapped-accessible. From Inna's point of view, I may be something of an idiot, but I am a useful idiot. (Hi Inna!)

Anyway, the point of all this is that my sixth bombing anniversary is April 12. This year, after much reflection, I have decided that the time has come for me to adopt a more mature attitude toward the day, to allow G-d in, to incorporate Judaism into my celebration of this day. Therefore, this year, I am having a pancake party.

Now I realize that, for some of you, and in particular the Christian somes of you, the connection between "pancakes" and "Judiasm" or "G-d" might be somewhat unclear. Allow me to cast some light. Pesach (Passover) is coming. During Pesach, Jews are commanded to eat no chametz, or leavened bread. Typical Pesach preparations include house cleaning to downright obsessive levels in order to rid the house of anything currently chametz or possessed of the ability to become chametz in the future. For example, I have two bags of flour in my freezer. Flour is an essential ingredient in bread. The flour must be used before Pesach or I will have to throw it out. I have a bag of chocolate chips. Chocolate chips can be added to bread dough to make chocolate bread. I have chocolate ice-cream, which is commonly coupled with chocolate bread to make chocolate ice-cream sandwiches.

Ergo, chocolate chip pancakes with a side of chocolate ice cream=Pesach cleaning =religious observance. I hope that this clarifies matters.

Alternatively, I suppose that one could also interpret the pancakes as a hidden message to G-d. "Dear G-d, I am sorry for being such a snot. Please do not turn me into one of these while I am riding my bike. Thank you. Much love, Gila". But frankly, I would rather not.

(What, you thought I was going to say I was going to say "prayer service"? Nu, be'emet....)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Haveil Havalim-The Purim is Over Edition

has actually been up for a few days at Jack's place....

Sorry for the delay Jack.....

More Perspectives

I started to write this as a response to a comment from RivkA, but it turned into a diatribe so I decided to post it. Unlike most of my postings, this is being written on the fly, first thing in the morning and without actual proper editing. So my apologies if the quality is a bit lower.

RivkA wrote:

1. feeling like I'm fooling everyone with my "positive attitude"

2. afraid to brush my hair and lose what's left

3. afraid my hair will never grow back (once my best feature -- long, red, and did I mention it was down to my....)

4. poor complexion -- I get cortizone with Herceptin and it gives me the acne I never had as a teenager. Oh yeah, and it doesn't go away because I heal so slowly, thanks to the chemo. (need I say more?)

5. lost (stolen) time, that I'll never get back! (TOTALLY SCARED of losing more, btw)

6. I am also "practical... pragmatic.... good at putting things into perspective." It's all bullshit.

If I keep moving, I don't have to think about how scared I am all the f***ing time.

Btw, it's 3:21 at night. After laying in bed, tossing and turning, I finally gave up and got up.

Cancer SUCKS!

Of course RivkA got me thinking….

In terms of losing is weird but I tend to think in seasons. For example: "I lost a spring and a summer," to the bombing. Three years later I lost part of a spring, a summer, a fall and a part of a winter to a series of catastrophes which hit over a nine-month period: thyroid cancer, severe hormone-deficiency-induced depression, a freak allergic reaction to the hormone replacement meds, the development of a hole in my macula and one random hand injury which required stiches and several months of physical therapy. (By January, in desperation, I decided to give up the fight and just go on the damn Prozac).
I do not know why I have this urge to quantify, though it probably has to do with my being an accountant. Or perhaps it is just easier to write off a chunk of time than to actually consider it part of your life. Or perhaps quantifying it helps us to feel as though we are in control?

Whatever. I am an accountant, not a psychiatrist. Keep it easy then. Lama? Cacha! (Why? Because!)

As for the upbeat bit--at the time, in the hospital, I remember thinking that if I was depressing, people would go away. Of course, with the cancer, when the aformentioned depression hit, a couple friends really did go away. (But a couple -stayed--thank G-d for them).
There is also the fact that most people do not know how to deal with a person who is depressed. I will never forget (or forgive) the woman who came along with a friend of mine on a post-radioactive iodine treatment-visit. This was after nearly eight weeks without thyroid hormones and mentally and physically I was not in good shape. She, of course, started feeding me all of the bullsh*t she had learned at Aish (happy-clappy, "you should not feel bad", "this is all for the best", etc). In short, trying to shame me for feeling bad.
I wanted to kill her, but frankly, I did not have the energy.

People tell you that they want you to be honest, but they don't really. Furthermore, it is not black and white. At least with me, it is not as though the feelings hit in nice convenient chunks where you can call up a friend. It is just there in the background, all the time. For example, right now I am cheerful but I am still self-conscious about the scars on my leg. (Well, actually, right now I am a bit irritated--the memories of that visit always do that to me but never mind), Anyway, what am I to do? Call up a friend every time I think about my legs? I live in friggin' Tel Aviv-that would be pretty much every day during the summer.
The time lost is the worst. I still ask myself: if I had not been held back and lost time and all that energy to the bombing and to the cancer and to a variety of other catastrophes which I will not go into here….maybe I would be married by now? Maybe I would have kids? What did I lose? This is there all the time. I just live with it. But I do not call up a friend every time it hits. It simply is not possible. This is woven into my life and my thoughts. I can no more do that than I could call a friend every time I feel grateful for a body that works and money in my pocket (thoughts which are also constantly with me).

Another example--every year, about this time, I get paranoid that disaster is about to strike...and particularly now, as 1) three years have passed since the last disaster, 2) I just started a new job and 3) things are going well. It is, more or less, the combination of circumstances that preceded the bombing and the cancer. (The cancer diagnosis was received three years, nearly to the day, of the bombing.) I will be freaked out until the Hebrew anniversary passes. I think that it is in May this year. Paranoid as in "really afraid and really convinced that disaster is coming". I joke about it with my friends. I joke about it with myself. But I really am seriously frightened.

Or maybe the eye surgeries this fall was the catastrophe, and G-d sent it early? That would be nice….

Oh…and Rivka, I have totally always wanted long red hair. I promise to be insanely jealous once it grows back. And in the meantime, I am so sorry. :(

Sunday, March 23, 2008


One caveat....this article was written nearly six years ago. I look much better now!

Though I have (unfortunately) managed to gain back all the weight (and then some) that I lost on the exclusive and oh-so-fab Machane Yehuda bombing Diet Plan.

If only I would get off the computer and get the butt to a gym....


June 2002

I am not dealing with the bombing nearly as well as everyone seems to think that I am. Everyone comments on my good attitude and how I am so “up” and positive and optimistic. Me, I don’t know if I would use those words. I am practical. I am pragmatic. I am good at putting things into perspective. Nonetheless, there are places where this ability has failed me completely and I have become hysterical.

The medical, financial and career related issues are easy enough to deal with. Yes, I was hospitalized for two weeks and was in danger of losing my sight. Yes, I am still undergoing treatment, and will be for the foreseeable future. But it could have been worse. Perhaps it should have been worse, seeing how close I was to the terrorist. I was actually unbelievably fortunate. As it was, I haven’t lost my sight and none of my other conditions are life threatening. All in all, they constitute a source or irritation and aggravation, not danger. I myself have seen others in far worse shape than am I.

True, I have been unable to work and am looking at a summer of not working or working half-time, at best. I am getting payment for the lost hours from National Insurance, but these are determined based on my salary through March…before the raise I received in April. That being said, if one were to do an accounting, I probably would be found to have come out ahead. The couple thousand shekels I will forgo in salary has been more than made up for by grants I have gotten from organizations which help victims of terror. (Sure, a chunk of that is paying for extra expenses which National Insurance won’t reimburse, but just the same.…) Add in the value of the computer I am typing on (a gift from the Hadassah chapter in DC, and nicer than anything I would have been able to afford) and I really have nothing to complain about.

Emotionally, it is a bit tougher for me to get past the fact that I pretty much lost the entire last semester. I was killing myself to get through my classes to prepare for the accounting boards. I lived, breathed and ate Israeli corporate, constitutional and employment law; I made such an enormous investment of time and energy. At the time of the bombing, the end was in sight. I was about two-thirds of the way through each of the classes and was registered to take the exams in May and June. Now I have to start the classes over and I won’t take the exams until November.

Even here, however, the situation isn’t dire. First of all, I have been set back six months. In the grand scheme of a lifetime (assuming I successfully avoid other life-shortening catastrophes) six months is nothing. As for having to review material I already learned, how well did I learn it in the first place? There is no doubt that I missed a fair amount of the material in the first place, just because of the language barrier. Plus, they offer the exam in English in November. All in all, I will have a far better chance of passing the exams.

So as you can see, up through this point, when I put it into perspective I see that it really is not that bad. I can deal with this.

And then I come to my face, my eyes and my hair…and everything goes to hell.

I have scars on my face. A pink scar is slashed across my forehead and brown spots are scattered on my cheeks, with an extra-large one on the side of my mouth. The right side of my jaw, where I took an extra dose of shrapnel, sports a combination of both brown and pink marks. My friends try to cheer me up by telling me that they look like acne scars. Right. They look like scars.

My right eye is surrounded by raised scars and requires plastic surgery to correct the shape. My eyes are framed by huge eyebrows I am not yet allowed to pluck and glasses I am not sure I like. My eyes are sensitive to light, and when I go out, I have to wear enormous sunglasses that fit over my glasses. You know the ones—the type senior citizens wear after cataract surgery. The only benefit is that no one can see my eyes. It cuts down on the “what happened to her” looks. My eyes are supposed to look normal after my plastic surgery; but what if the surgery isn’t successful? What do I do then?

My forehead, cheeks and jaw are full of shrapnel and are lumpy to the touch. The shrapnel damaged two nerves in my face, leaving portions of the right half of my face numb. You can’t see the lumps or the numbness, but I can feel them. I run my fingers along my jaw and it feels as though there is cotton between the lumpy, mottled skin and my finger. When I use the muscles in my face to speak or smile I feel as though I were stretching stiff rubber. The shrapnel may or may not come out on its own and the numbness may or may not go away.

My hair was shaved around my forehead so doctors could close up a gash on the top of my head with 10 inches of staples and stitches. I have a long white scar centered on top of my head. I cover the area with a headband and take comfort in the fact that my hair is growing in, and that I prefer to part my hair on the side anyway. The real problem is in the back of my head. I have developed a huge bald spot where my hair fell out as a result of the trauma. So far, not only is the bald spot not growing back in, but I believe that it is actually spreading. I am afraid to wash my hair, afraid to brush it, afraid to do anything which might cause more hair to fall out. After a lifetime of playing with my hair, twisting my curls, tossing locks back off my face, I hardly dare touch it. There is one exception. My bald spot is still covered by other hair, but it may be only a matter of time before that falls out. Whenever I move my head to the side I gingerly touch the area. Is the bald spot exposed? Is the hair which covers it thinning out? I am even more terrified by the prospect that my hair may never grow back, or will grow back thin or straight or both.

It is just not fair. I never saw myself as being particularly pretty but the weekend before the bombing I felt beautiful. I had started exercising very intensively about six weeks before and had lost quite a bit of weight. My roommate had a Shabbat lunch and I remember dressing for it quite carefully. Tan pants which showed off my improved figure. A simple white button- down shirt that fit me just so. My gold and silver watch, received for my graduation and simple silver earrings. My eyes and complexion were enhanced with neutral, barely- there makeup. I may or may not have put on foundation. I really did not need it, a point my roommate much envied. To complete the look—my hair gathered up into a simple knot on the back of my head. My version of a Grace Kelly look. I do not remember exactly how I looked, but I remember precisely how I felt: lovely. Less than one week later, all of my good features: my eyes, my complexion and my hair were destroyed, just shot straight to hell. And it doesn’t matter if I have makeup or headbands to hide the damage. I know it is there. I know that I am an ugly woman and that there is a fighting good chance that this is all I will ever be.

Sometimes, I look in the mirror and am struck by the overwhelming sense that I almost look like me. It is surreal. In the space of an explosive second, I disappeared, and was replaced by someone who is almost, but not quite, me. I look in the mirror, and see a stranger with a scarred face and thinning hair and I think, “I will never really be me again”. How do you deal with that? How can I possibly put this into perspective?

How can I put into perspective the fact that no one is going to want an ugly me? What hope is there for me? I am already 31 and I never had much luck in the romance department. The last “long-term” relationship I had lasted for about two months, and took place six years ago. In the 4 ½ years before the bombing, I had no boyfriends, and virtually no dates. No one thought I was interesting or pretty or anything enough to even invite me out for a cup of coffee. And now this happens. If no one wanted me then, who the hell will want me now? Or consider the flip side, even if someone were to ask me out, how could I possibly accept? I cannot, in a million years, ever imagine kissing a guy so long as I have a face like this; so long as humiliation is barely hidden under a headband and foundation. What else can I do but panic?

My doctors, my friends and my family tell me: wait. In a year, two years, I will see, it will get better. The pink scars will fade. There are creams to clean up the brown spots on my face. There are lasers to clean up the blue spots on my arms and legs. My hair will grow back—normally it starts within a year. Relax. Don’t panic. Give it a year. Give it two. Did I mention I am 31? Did I mention my birthday is in September? I’ll be 32? Did I mention that I was already thinking about looking into freezing eggs? How many years do I have anyway, before it is too late?

How can I put this into perspective? How do I rationalize this away? Unlike the health, the finances and the classes, there is no “at the same time” or “however”. There is no bright side. I lost something and I am simply not going to get it back. I have been taken away and been replaced by someone with a far lonelier, bleaker future.

What the hell do I do now?

Thursday, March 20, 2008

To all the lurkers out there....

....I was wondering if you would mind checking in, and letting me know where you are lurking (country/ state/ etc).

No particular reason--just curiousity. I did think of adding one of those little map things, but this is more fun.



Wednesday, March 19, 2008

****Completely New and Improved, as Version One was not Doing the Trick****

Recently, in an attempt to figure out in what direction to move this story, I printed out EVERYTHING, every article I have on my computer—all 133 pages—and sat down to make some order. My uber-talented friend, Rachel, graciously agreed to help me with this task. Rachel and I met again at Henriettas, where we feasted on soup and bread, played musical chairs with the articles and occasionally startled other patrons of the restaurant with sudden, and very loud, outbursts of laughter.

In the process, however, we noted a glaring lack. One would expect, in a story so dramatic, so moving, and so imbued with such a feeling of personal catastrophe and struggle, that our beloved Poor, Sad, Heroic Victim of Terror ® would encounter love, right? I mean, it was her single state that got her into this mess! How are my readers going to feel—after showing up week after week—when the nice, neat and appropriate happy ending does not materialize? Undoubtedly they will be confused, bitter and in need of therapy. Rachel and I both agreed that this was a serious issue that must be addressed. The World today has enough sorrows…must I add to them? I did have a moving and inspirational article I wrote about how I have now completely accepted and embraced my single state blahblahblah…and I suggested that I use that. Because that would also be a happy ending! Unfortunately, it is also kinda-sorta a bald-faced lie. As such, Rachel wisely suggested that I leave it out. Instead, we decided that honesty is the best policy.

So, as follows:

To My Dear, Gentle Readers:

I regret to inform you the Romantic Interlude and Happy Ending originally scheduled for this blog have been cancelled. Prince Charming has not yet arrived.

The bastard.

I do hope he did not get blown up by a bomb. Though it would serve him right if he did. Were he here, he would have been covered by my fabulous Poor Sad Victim of Terror Odds Reduction Protection Policy®.

But never mind that. Friends! I entreat you: do not give into despair! And if despair you must, turn to chocolate, and not to alcohol. Unlike alcohol, chocolate does not impair your driving. And quite frankly, the roads around here are bad enough as is.

Much love,

The Bombing Victim Muppet.

So now that this is clear, let us just move on, shall we?

(Oh--and a quick hat tip to Uber-Talented friend #2, Gayle--who provided her input via telephone. And who also really disliked the "I am a happy single" article. Ladies--you are wise....)

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Life as a Poor Sad Victim of Terror ®

June 2002

Some of you might be curious as to what the life of an official Poor Sad Victim of Terror ® is like. What do we do? How do we find meaning in our shattered lives? I do not know how representative I am, but as I am probably the only Poor Sad Victim of Terror ® that most of you know, you will have to make do with me. My days have been spent: shopping, visiting every last doctor at Hadassah and giving mounds and mounds of paper to National Insurance. Come! Let me take you into my life!

(Feel free to sob openly at the pathos of it all).

True, unless one is buying a bathing suit, pathos is probably not the most applicable word. Nonetheless, shopping is not nearly as much fun as it sounds. Despite the amazing success of the one-and-only "Machane Yehuda Bombing Diet Plan", my time at the mall has not been spent clothes shopping, but rather it has been dedicated to a crazed search for a computer desk. It became my passion, my obsession, my version of the Holy Grail: to find the perfect computer desk.

I was ultimately successful, and I am now typing at my new desk. I must tell you, I cannot dress well to save my life (another reason for me not to spend too much time clothes shopping), but when it comes to picking computer desks, I rule. My desk fits perfectly into the one open corner in my room AND has shelves for my printer and scanner AND shelves for random crap AND room for my screen AND did I mention that it really is a perfect fit AND I am going to shut up now, because I don’t want you to be insane with jealousy. Though you should be.

And yet, there is a dark cloud to this silver lining. Despite this amazing success and my newfound happiness, my obsession troubles me. Call me superstitious, but the last two purchases that I got so mental over were my glasses and my leather Naot mini-boots. Both items were destroyed in the bombing. Coincidence? I think not. Clearly, something is going to befall my desk. More to the point, I am concerned that whatever befalls my desk will befall me as well. Granted, the chances of my bringing my desk to the bus stop are rather low (I am not allowed to lift over 10 kilos, and besides, where would I put my computer?), but that befalling something could come into the apartment. While I don’t expect a terrorist to barge in, it is theoretically possible, for example, for a car or other large, destructive object to come crashing through my window, and land on my desk. Or it would be theoretically possible, but for the minor details that my apartment is: 1) on the second floor, 2) in the back of the building and 3) faces a tree filled lot and not a road. So, in this case, “theoretically possible” has the same weight as it does in the sentence “It is theoretically possible that Bibi Netanyahu is actually a giant squid”.

Though, to be quite frank, that really would not surprise me either.

In what can only be described as an outstanding show of courage and strength, despite the deep, dark shadow of doom lurking over me and my desk, I have managed to stay focused on my recovery. In the process, I have accumulated an impressive collection of medical personnel. At this point, I am up to eleven different medical professionals working on various aspects of my case. If you factor in the fact that every time I go to Plastic Surgery I get a different doctor then the numbers are even higher. For my purposes, I tend to view the plastic surgeons as one person whose name and appearance go through radical changes, and whose memory of my case mysteriously vanishes after each visit. The humorous part of all this is that I am not in bad shape at all, and in fact I am well enough to work full time, but unfortunately, am so busy with doctors appointments that I do not have time, and am stuck at two hours work per day.

Why do I have so many doctors? In part, the volume is attributable to my having a large number of smaller, irritating problems, My jaw muscle is damaged, parts of my face are numb, I have lots and lots of shrapnel, my eardrums have big holes in them and so on. The rest of the increase is through a game popular with medical personnel: “Bounce”. The object of the game is to see patients without treating them.

Here is how it goes. You go to a doctor with a problem. The doctor evaluates the problem. The doctor’s goal is to figure out how NOT to treat you. Based on how creatively he does this, he earns points. The department with the most points gets a toaster. The scoring system is as follows:

5 points: The doctor says that your problem is untreatable, or that it may be treatable, but that success isn’t actually 100% guaranteed, and so he isn’t going to try. Then he tells you to go away. Doctors don’t get a lot of points for this one because it doesn’t really call for much creativity. In fact, according to my roommate, this is the standard operating procedure for Israeli doctors. She explained that doctors would much rather not treat you because treating you is more work than not treating you. (I do have to admit that there is a certain logic to that). In response, Israeli patients have learned to ignore the doctors, and just continue to make appointments. As Pnina put it, “doctors are State employees, and they have to see you”.

10 points: The doctor tells you that your problem is treatable, but not right now, and that you will have to wait some indeterminate amount of time before he does anything. The trick is coming up with a plausible reason for the problem not being treatable. “The body should be given a chance to heal itself” is plausible. “Elul is a bad month for medical procedures involving your kidneys because the spirit of the month can create negative vibes that hinder recovery” is not plausible, unless the patient is from California, or affiliated with one of the crunchier Hassidic sects (Breslev, Carlbach, etc).

20 points: The doctor refers you to another doctor and/or department.

On occasion, if s/he is tired or not feeling creative or just generally just not feeling up to playing, the doctor will just treat the problem. In that case s/he gets no points. Most of my doctors fall into the five and ten-point categories, but certain departments have racked up an impressive amount of 20 pointers during the course of my treatment. Plastic surgery is the most skilled by far, probably because I really am not quite sure what they are supposed to be doing in there anyway. Whenever I go, and it does not matter what I go there for, they tell me that cannot treat me for a year, and in any event, I should go to Dermatology or to a specialist within plastic surgery to discuss the issue further. Maxilofacialar is also proving to be a real contender—they referred me to two different doctors in one appointment alone. (I was there because of damage to my jaw, and the doctor ended up referring me to a specialist for treatment of a scar on my arm. I think he got bonus points for that). Departments who are more closely associated with a particular bodily organ just cannot compete.

All in all, my medical personnel are multiplying like rabbits. Every week, I think to myself: “this week we will actually solve medical problems and next week I will only have two appointments and will be able to work half-time”. By the end of the week, the two appointments for the upcoming week have somehow become five or six, and nothing is solved. To top it off, all of these appointments have to be paid for, which means I have to supply…

National Insurance gets copies of everything. So far, I have turned in the following:

  • Copy of my discharge letter, noting the treatment I would need in the future
  • Copy of my discharge letter, amended to include the minor point (forgotten by the physician) that I no longer have eardrums, and as such, treatment by an ENT would be advisable
  • Receipts for medical supplies, cabs to doctors’ appointments and prescriptions. All of these have to be neatly taped to pieces of paper and submitted with descriptions and a summary sheet showing amounts due by type and total amounts due. Or at least, I think they have to be. I cannot help myself; I am an anal-retentive CPA. If I were a real Israeli I would probably just toss the receipts into a plastic bag and drop the bag off at National Insurance with a note asking for money.
  • Letters from my doctor saying that I cannot work, or that I can only work part time.
  • Copy of my eyeglass prescription and the receipt for the glasses
  • A letter from my ophthalmologist, explicitly stating that I need glasses, because the fact I had surgery on both of my eyes, and had a test for eyeglasses and I am (based on the prescription) pretty much blind as a bat, is not sufficient support.
  • Referrals from doctors authorizing me to visit yet another department in the hospital.
  • Referrals from doctors authorizing me to visit private physical therapists not in the hospital. Why should Hadassah get all the fun?
  • Copies of every other piece of paper I receive from doctors and/or the hospital. I have no idea if National Insurance needs them—I send them just to be sure. What the hell.
  • “Hazmanot” (invitations) for each and every appointment I schedule at the hospital.

The last item is, by far, my favorite. The way it works is that I get printouts from the hospital when I schedule appointments. I then send in the printouts to National Insurance. National Insurance reviews the appointments, and sends me individual confirmations, stating that they will pay. Yes! For each and every appointment with each of the ten (10), no sorry, as of today that it now eleven (11) doctors I am seeing, I have to get a confirmation. You might wonder, what would happen if, say, I were to get up in the morning and realize that I never received the confirmation for the appointment I had in plastic surgery at 9:30? At first, my solution was to make a panicked call to my National Insurance social worker to beg her to have a confirmation sent. But now I am wiser and far, far, far more experienced in the Israeli medical system and I have discovered that I can just hand over my Macabbi health insurance card to the clerks and let them bill Macabbi. That way, Macabbi gets to hound National Insurance, thus saving me time and energy. I think this is a far better solution than my doing it.

My second favorite item is the receipts. Receipts rank high in my list because, theoretically, National Insurance is going to give me the money back. I have not seen any cash yet, but Eli, the National Insurance clerk assigned to my case, has assured me that I am getting much closer. As I mentioned, I was recently officially recognized me as a Poor Sad Victim of Terror ®. This is actually a good thing, because now my payment for the period of hospitalization and recuperation can be approved and will hit my account in a week and I will start getting reimbursed for expenses within two weeks. Granted, one has to take into account differences between the standard definition of the word “week”: seven days, and its definition according to National Insurance: “random period of time which generally starts out with a base of seven days and is then, in accordance to some formula known (or not known) only to National Insurance, increased in some number of intervals of ten days”. Nonetheless, this is a step in the right direction.




Quietus Leo has just informed me that doctors really do play Bounce, but that they use the term "turf". "Bounce" is when the turf returns to its own department.

And you guys all thought I was being paranoid, didn't you? Vindication is MINE!

Haveil Havalim #158 is up!

This week it is the "Almost Purim" edition, over at Jack's place. :)

Thursday, March 13, 2008


“What was to become of Gila” was a topic of much discussion while I was in the hospital. No one was particularly enthralled with the concept of sending me home, where I would have to deal with everything on my own. (By this point, it had become clear that my roommate was not going to be a particular pillar of support). The hospital social worker, Barbara Jacobson, was in favor of my going to a sort of resort for a week. National Insurance was willing to pay for me and one friend; it would allow me the opportunity to recuperate in peace and quiet. Other ideas that were tossed around: my cousins in Ramat HaSharon, the parents of one of my friends who own a home with a garden in Zichron Yaakov and friends in Jerusalem with an extra bedroom.

I rejected all offers. I was adamant. I wanted to go home.

While he was here, my father got to know some of my friends. In particular, he really clicked with Nomi and Michael Albert. At some point, he and the Alberts decided that I would spend my first days of freedom with them. I cannot remember now if I was involved in the decision-making process, or how I felt about the delay in my going to my own home, but in retrospect, it was the best decision possible. The day I was discharged, I was exhausted and in a state of mental shock and was not in any condition to take care of myself. My father is a physician and it is entirely possible that he knew that this was coming.

And indeed, the days with my friends served as the breather I needed in order to get my head back on and take control of the situation. Nomi and her family made sure I rested—she actually instructed her two sons, ages sixteen and seven, to keep a close eye on me in that regard—fed me lots of homemade soup, kept the number and length of visits in check and got me through the first day of outpatient visits (itself a challenge). Shabbat I spent with Galia and Steve; we all agreed that I owed them a Shabbat since I had rudely not shown up the last time I was invited.

And yet, as kind and caring as my friends were, and as obvious as it was that I really needed the TLC, I spent the entire time chafing at the bit. I did not want to be with them. I wanted to go home.

On Sunday, April 28 Galia loaded my stuff into her car and drove over to my apartment. We walked up the stairs together. With one hand I held onto the groceries I had bought on Friday, and with the other I held onto Galia as she guided me up the stairs to my door. Pnina had made me a set of keys to replace my set that was missing. I inserted the key in the lock, twisted and opened the door.


Galia brought up my stuff and put it in my room. I thanked her, and she left to go to work. I shut the door. For the first time since the bombing, I was really and truly alone. Excitement bubbled up. I could make myself a cup of coffee! I went to the kitchen, put my groceries in the fridge, and made myself a cup of instant coffee which I then sat and quietly enjoyed.

To this day, that moment ranks as one of the happiest moments of my life. After two weeks of being a patient, a statistic and a victim, it was lovely to be once again be a ben adam, a human being.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A Unit of One

I arrived home to an empty refrigerator. Within a day or so it was full. The cleaning woman arranged for by National Insurance did a massive shopping trip for me and made me a pot of soup and a local chesed group brought me prepared meals. None of this diminishes the fact that I came home to bare shelves, save for those items that I bought and carried in myself.

In retrospect, this was the worst. I say in retrospect because at the time, it was not so bad. At the time, it actually felt rather cool. "Look how tough I am! My roommate does not have time to pick up milk and cottage cheese for me? Who needs her? I can take care of myself". After two weeks of being completely helpless and dependent, any chance to be self-sufficient was a delight. Looking back, however, I find the scene to be absolutely horrific. The mental image I have of myself—a pathetic, battered, blinded creature, being gently led up the stairs to my apartment as I clutch in my free hand a small sack of groceries—is so pitiable that it makes me want to cry.

This is not to say that people did not care. The opposite is true. From the very first day, people I knew and people I had never met showered me with gifts, help and offers of more help where that came from. Friends and strangers, individual volunteers and big organizations all pitched in to aid in my recovery and recuperation. They filled my hospital room with chocolate, flowers and stuffed animals, filled my prescriptions, arranged for my phone to be replaced and offered (and gave) financial assistance. My friends and my roommate's friends made sure that my days and evenings were packed with visitors. My American friends helped to keep my quieter moments entertaining with packages of large-print books and books on tape. Since the damage to my eyes made reading Hebrew tiring, the director of a local Anglo community center took a few hours out of his evening to come over and read to me the National Insurance pamphlet explaining my rights. And since I could not see well enough to venture out alone, friends, volunteers and one National Insurance home-help aide all took time out of their days to accompany me to the hospital, the bank, the mall and anywhere else that required going to. My every need and desire was provided for, be it scarves and headbands to cover my bald spot, dental floss and deodorant, or a night out at a Chinese restaurant.

Everything was filled save for my refrigerator. It could have been full. I know I could have asked someone to go shopping for me. Any number of people would have been not just happy, but literally thrilled to help. But asking for help is brutal and accepting help is worse. It makes no difference whatsoever that that the request is justified. It was all I could do to ask my roommate, and when she could not (I think she was out of town), it was almost with a sense of relief that I said to her and to myself "well, okay, I will do it myself". And so I did. When a friend came to visit me, I asked her to walk me to the corner store where I bought cottage cheese and milk, by myself and with my money.

Since that day, I have undergone four surgeries and one radiation treatment. I have become a sort of expert in the art of coming home from the hospital. Before I leave, I always make sure that my house is clean, that my laundry is all done, a pot of soup is cooked and that my refrigerator is full. Each and every time, this process of cooking soup and filling the refrigerator has the same exact effect: to fill me with melancholy.

About two years ago, I had a conversation with a man whose daughter was seriously injured in another bombing. He described the battle they had waged with National Insurance in order to get her certain benefits. At the end of his story, I looked at him. "Tikva had you to do all of this for her. She did not have to any of this?" He responded in the affirmative; whether he felt disappointed or chastened by my response I am not sure. He expected me to listen to the conversation, hear what he said about the fight they had waged, to compare it with my own, somewhat lackluster fight, and to be impressed. Instead, all I heard was the word "We".

More recently, in the fall of 2007, a co-worker's wife became seriously ill. My co-worker spent several weeks at his wife's side in the hospital. As chance would have it, this was around the same time that I underwent two surgeries on my eyes—another remnant from the bombing. The first surgery involved my being hospitalized over Yom Kippur, when the roads are literally closed. The second surgery required only an overnight stay; I did not bother to tell people I was being admitted. As a result, a good chunk of this time in the hospital was spent visitor-free. I had this in mind when I spoke to my co-worker on the phone. Even as listened to him describe his wife's condition and made all of the correct responses, in the back of my head, again, all I heard was the "we". She was not going it alone.

We did this. We hired a lawyer. We submitted forms. We are stuck in a hospital. Not Tikva, even though it was her injury. Not my co-worker's wife, even though she was the one who was sick. The family, the husbandwifemotherfathersisterbrother together. We.

"We", means that that the two or three or four….are actually a unit of one. "We" means that help is received by right. Help is received on demand, or even before demand. But I have no we. I am my own unit of one. In my world, help is for the asking.

I have to ask, to beg, to grovel. To ask means it is not self-evident. To ask means that the "askee" can say "yes" or "no". To ask means that it is charity. To ask means that I am a charity case—either because I cannot do on my own or because I lack anyone to do for me. My unit has only one. To ask means that the help will be limited, in accordance with the schedule and the needs and the personal strengths and weaknesses of the person being asked. I cannot demand. I cannot expect. I can only…ask.

And how much can I ask, anyway? Can I really ask another person to put his or her life on hold for a day or two days or a week to sit with me in the hospital? Can I really ask another person to put his or her life on hold for a month in order that she or he be available to come with me to doctor appointments—all so that I do not have to spend hours lining up individual volunteers to do accompany me to each and every appointment? Can I really ask another person to go to bat with National Insurance for me, to do all of the paperwork for me, to deal with all of the doctors for me? To deal with this whole stupid mess? Can I really ask another person to be with me all of the time, so that when I finally break down, there is someone there?

The day I finally broke down, really broke down, I had no one. The stress of the bombing, the medical issues, the administrative mess…everything…had been building up for weeks until it exploded. Over Shavuot I had a meltdown. My roommate was freaked out and pretty much useless. I sat by myself in my room, hysterical, my door closed so I would not disturb my roommate. Suddenly, there was a knock on the front door. By chance or by miracle, Lior and Yael had popped over; Lior’s candle had gone out; could he get a light from Pnina? As soon as Yael saw my state, she ditched Lior and stayed with me until I calmed down. I cried all weekend, and all weekend, like magic, people just appeared. Edith came over. My cousin Talia called—it just so happened that she was going to be in Jerusalem—a once in a blue moon event. Maybe she could stop by? They saved me.

Can I really trust in and depend on G-d to always send a person when I need them?

I hate to be dependent on another. Even when it is God.

Even G-d has His limits. Yes, I have help and yes, I have support…right up to the door of my house. From that point on, I am alone. There is only so far my friends can accompany me. Without the aspect of obligation, without the "we", we remain our own, separate units. As much as my friends love me, they can turn me and my bombing on, and also off. At a certain point each day, everyone, the friends, the volunteers and the well-wishers all go home and leave me alone with this mess and everything else I did not ask for.

If I never marry, this is what I will miss most: the comfort of knowing that some things are self-evident and do not have to be asked for. B'ezrat haShem, with the help of G-d, I will always be able to manage but this is what I will miss: the feeling of being a part of a functioning unit, instead of the dizzying, hollow sensation that I am the unit— a unit of one. I am alone.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

A Long Time, Sweetie

The weekend after I was released at the hospital I went to stay with my friends Galia and Steve. I was simply exhausted and depressed-as much from the challenges of getting used to handling the crisis as from my injuries themselves. Of Friday night Shabbat dinner I have only the foggiest recollections. Saturday morning I woke up, hung out with Galia for a bit and then went down for a nap. I woke up around lunchtime and joined Galia, Steve, Galia's mother, Michal, and their guests for Shabbat lunch.

The meal was a disaster. The damage to my ears made it very difficult for me to participate in the conversation. (It would be two months until I got hearing aids, and a few months more until I learned the essential trick to managing group meals: sit on the end of the table—good ear in, bad ear out.) Beyond that, I was tired and spaced-out. Midway through the Shabbat meal I had to go lie down. Doing so, I felt that my friends and the other guests were rather taken aback by my excusing myself; how come I wasn’t well enough to sit through a meal? I was not offended, rather I agreed with them. It had been two whole weeks. What was wrong with me?

Galia and Steve do not use the phone on Shabbat, and I did not want to disrespect them, but I had to talk to someone. I closed the door to the guest room. I dialed my cousin, Talia. She picked up. I told her that I would have to hang up if anyone came in. Then I started to cry.

"I don't understand. I am so tired. It has been two weeks. I should be better by now".

"Gila, you are being ridiculous. You just went through a bombing. Of course it is going to take a while. You are just an overachiever ".

"But is has been two weeks. I thought I would be a lot better".

"Motek, sweetie, it is going to take a long time".

I don't remember what I said next. I think I may have just cried on the phone.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Haveil Havalim #157

The "Live From the Fleshpots of Tel Aviv" Edition

As an introductory note, in addition to depending on the carnival submissions, I put a fair amount of time into research (aka reading blogs) and all of the posts listed are posts I really enjoyed. In certain cases, people sent me one post, and I took another one from their blog instead. This was generally because 1) I liked it better or 2) because I already had five other posts on the same subject submitted (and generally in about the same vein). In addition, when presenting issues, I tried to bring in posts representing different viewpoints—that also required a bit of searching/selecting alternate posts to ones submitted. Finally, a large percentage of the posts were from bloggers who did not submit any posts to the carnival. As such (and because I really have to get off the computer already), if you know the posters and you think it possible that they don't know about the link, please let them know I listed them as I really mean it as a compliment.

And now LIVE from Tel Aviv, it is Haveil Havelim!

At Life Must Go on in Gaza and Sderot, two friends from opposite sides of the border describe the hellish situation and propose a solution. You can get a blow-by-blow picture of 36 hours in Sderot here.

TherapyDoc discusses the PTSD. Even the UN is hearing about what is going on (unfortunately, "Israel" is not exactly on their radar).

And if all this were not enough, Jameel reports that now rockets are falling on Ashdod. (more about that here). On the bright side, that means that I can start taking the train to do my shopping in battered areas (Ashdod has a train station) instead of shlepping all the way to Sderot. (Why be uncomfortable going off to get bombed when I can do so comfortably, on the train?) And, then we have the view from a Tel Aviv Rooftop.

Even if you cannot make it there yourself, you can still click to care.

From Sderot, it is but a very short ride (especially with a speed demon driving) to our next fave-buzz word: Proportionality!

Liza gives us a good overview. We can find an interesting, not to mention more positive, spin on proportionality at Zionation.

Several bloggers decided to take a more academic approach and do some research on the application of proportional response applied by other countries: look here and here . This Ongoing War asks a Question for Humanitarians. Yid With Lid asks why the press applies a double standard. Israellycool introduces us to green helmet guy's cousin—the creepy-ass black hat guy while Judeopundit focuses on Al Jazeera's approach.

Yael reports on the rather surprising result of a couple years of actually trying to achieve proportional response: good leftists gone right, or sort of. More from lefties Alison Sommer Kaplan and Stefanella here and here. NewZionist discusses Fifth Columns, as a potential, if highly unlikely, path to peace.

And if you are tired of reading about proportionality or lack of same, Rivka proposes a unique solution to all of the world's security issues. Oh-another cool idea, courtesy of A Fish.

Another pigua this week, in Jerusalem. Read more: here, here, here and here . We should all be focusing our thoughts and prayers on those who are struggling to come to terms and heal from injuries and horrific losses. Tzipiyah is planning to do something in the memories of those who died. Many bloggers reacted to the Palestinian celebrations but Daled Amos considers it traditional. On the other hand—one contributor to Middle East Youth posted a flat out condemnation of the attack. (The writer is Iranian; the last I heard they don't exactly have the same level of rights to free speech that we do, so for her to publicly come out with this is worthy of note).

Here again, the press was not at it's best. (Or perhaps it was—all depends one's expectations).

Other items of note…. Treppenwitz discusses Rabin's halo. Simply Jews discusses the serious case of Holocaust Envy Syndrome which seems to have broken out next door; Satiricohen touches upon this as well. OneJerusalem describes how the IDF is rebuilding.

There are, of course, non-security issues as well: women's day, environmental awareness and draft-dodging (of both religious and non-religious),

And there is good stuff here in Israel, and lots of it. a Soldier's Mother, Springtime and snow in weird places. We have a kickin' technology sector (Jeff Pulver (isn't he of Janglo fame?) is, apparently, a good guy to know if you are an Israeli start-up) and our hi-tech market is one of the darlings of the VC industry. We have hummos those of you b'hul can only dream about.

Oh, and some surprising statistics.

Ahhh….but man does not live by politics, bombs, hi-tech or even hummus alone. At least, Jews don't. Many bloggers decided to break up the serious talk with a bit of culture. Y-Love speaks in its defense. We have a bit of 60's music . Seraphic Secret gives us a biography of Theda Barr. For those who wish to create culture: you can be a wifeswapper. Jewlicious Festival 4.0 had some serious culture going on.

In Israel, we have reality shows and some award-winning movies. Oh, and a hilarious Blue & White Grindhouse flic (whatever that is—but it sure is funny, albeit rather obscene).

Hot topic number one this week is who is doing what, how they are doing it, and why. Wow, sounds a little kinky, no? Actually—it is not, it is hashkafa. (Unless you find that kinky…I mean, who am I to criticize?)

Bad for Shidduchim provides a general overview.

Shira from On the Fringe discusses Hashkafa's move to the right. Emes Ve-Emunah is also concerned by this trend. ProfK talks about Orthodox Judaism's love/hate relationship with computers.

Hot topic number two is "who is a Jew"—here are some varying treatments: a convert, a conservative rabbi, an orthodox journalist, an Orthodox (I think) mythical hero, and a Reform Jew.

Other cool reads: Burka Babes, noteworthy brachot, Yaakov Avinu, Moshe , well-known and little known religious observances, important archeological finds and (you will not believe this) REALLY good kosher cheese.

Oh, and for those of you looking for a mitzvah, you can help a rabbi come up with a Purim Costume.

And for more in the spirit of Purim: wine , wine and more wine .

Nu, I am single—did you expect me to neglect this angle?

First, something to give us courage. Next, an overview of shidduchim. We have shidduch resumes and shidduch shabbos. Little Frumhouse on the Prairie asks what we can learn from secular matchmakers.

Finally, Jack (thanks much for your help in putting this together!) provides those of us out in the dating pool with some words of caution.

Some random fun stuff
First, Leora (who hails from my Bubby's hometown) takes on pantyhose.

Dreams of Who had a celebrity encounter.

Jameel (who now officially owes me waffles) shared a story about the toll-free baby.

And for all of us who could use a chortle, Treppenwitz reminds us that laughter is the best medicine and SuperRaizy gives us something to laugh about.

That concludes this edition. Submit your blog article to the next edition of Haveil Havalim using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Sderot is the New Black, Part II

I wanted to spend a bit more time on the whole scene at the restaurant, as the whole episode has really been bothering me.

Just to clarify: my issue is not that Mr. Politician was there. Someone to whom I related this story reacted very negatively to the presence of politicians. But seriously, did he have a choice? The way I see it, Mr. Politician has two choices: to go or not to go. If he does not go, then he is definitely a worthless scumbag. No ifs, ands or buts. If, on the other hand, he does go to Sderot, he still might be a worthless scumbag, and what is more, one who is opportunistically using the situation in Sderot for his own devious political ends. But it could also be (no matter how remote that this chance may be) that Mr. Politician is a genuinely dedicated public servant, who truly cares about the citizens of Sderot, who believes in showing solidarity and who really wants to understand what is going on, in the hope that this will allow him to make better decisions in Knesset and to find a soluti….now stop that! Stop laughing! I mean, just because Mr. Politician is in politics, does it necessarily have to follow that he is an asshole?


Right, so let us move on, shall we?

Anyway, my problem was not Mr. Politician, but rather with the whole circus atmosphere that surrounded him. It was positively surreal. Nearly all of the vital elements for a wild, patriotic celebration were there: the accordion, the bad singing, the jolly hand-clapping, the alcohol, the guy wandering around with an Israeli flag attached to his knapsack, the official t-shirts and the requisite passel of hora-dancing hilltop youth. Really, all that we lacked was free falafel, some jugglers for the kids…and any actual Sderot residents. With the exception of the people working at the restaurant, everyone present was a reporter, a tourist or a politician. The absence of Sderot residents in the Sderot city center was complete to the point of being downright eerie. Most of the stores—stores that would be bustling on a Friday morning in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem—were empty. My guess is that most people keep their excursions to the bare minimum, and prefer instead to stay as much as possible in their homes. Yeah, homes are being bombed too, but I suppose if you are going to be bombed, it is nicer to do so at home than while out browsing cheap sweaters.

My knee-jerk reaction toward the circus was one of contempt: G-d forbid that we do a good deed without fanfare, without making a big deal over what good mitzvah boys and girls we are! G-d forbid that we do a good deed without being paid for it in some way or another. Upon reflection, however, I believe that the answer is more complex. We want to visit Sderot, but we do not want to be in a place where bombs are falling on a daily basis. Perhaps that is the point of the circus: to allow us to anesthetize our senses, to be at once in Sderot and not in Sderot.

But does this not defeat the purpose? How are we, the visitors, the fellow citizens, the "Supporters of Sderot" supposed to get an inkling of what is going on there if we insist on closing our eyes? There is nothing festive or fun about having to duck in and out of makeshift bomb shelters countless times during the course of a day. I was in the city for about three hours; experienced two Code Reds and one big boom. While I would not say that I was afraid, I did find myself intensely aware of just how exposed I was, and remembering that, many times, the missiles fall without warning—death falling out of the sky. Every time Ellie and I were separated, I found myself thinking: "what if a Kasam falls now?" (As though it could not fall when we were together).

To live there…can you imagine?

If you want to help, help. Go there. Spend your money. Bli neder, I plan to go back on Friday. If you want to try to understand the experience of those living there, experience it. Forget the musicians, and the dancing and the sing-a-longs and the t-shirts and the slogans and the celebrations. Instead, be quiet. Be aware. Be afraid. And ask yourself: "what if I lived with this fear all day, every day, for seven years".

No, we cannot imagine. Really, we cannot. But we can at least try.

And as for the booze and entertainment…my vote is to axe the accordion, but to send the booze to the actual residents of Sderot. Lord knows they could probably use a stiff drink or two by now.

Sderot is the New Black

I, like many others, have wondered what I could do to help the folks in Sderot. It is really frustrating—you want to help, but there does not seem to be anything one can do. And then someone came up with the simply brilliant idea of doing one's shopping there. I mean, really, shopping and brunch? Hello! Can you say "perfect task for a Tel Avivit"? So this past Friday morning, armed with only a burning desire to help and our credit cards, my very hip friend Ellie and I boarded a mini-bus for a trip to the land of poppies and missiles.

Now, some of you might think that this is a foolhardy mission for one who has already been through one bombing. In fact, the opposite is true. As my friend Kayla will tell you, the odds you will be in two bombings are much lower than your being in one bombing. Ergo, I am a walking, talking odds reducer! I made sure to share this knowledge with Ellie. She, very sensibly, pointed out that the anti-bomb protection only applies so long as we are actually together. So, if you are with me, and you want to take advantage of the Poor Sad Victim of Terror Odds Reduction Protection Policy®, remember not to stray more than a bomb's distance away.

Incidentally, Kayla has asked me to point out to my readers that 1) she is actually very intelligent and 2) she is aware that she is employing faulty logic and 3) we all really like the faulty logic, and intend to keep using it. Thank you for your understanding.

But I digress….

On the way down Ellie and I shared our respective precautions. She put a note on her Facebook account saying that she was going to Sderot, so that if she did not come back, people would know where to look for her. In addition, she arranged for her relatives to check in with her at a certain time. She also told me that her mom's phone number was in her phone.

I had a pedicure and I wore my Naots. I made sure that Ellie knew my toenails were red. As for the phone, nu, be'emet! If I blow up it's going with me. Who cares whose number is on it? Obviously, I did not share this thought with Ellie. Why freak her out unnecessarily? Besides, I might want her to come with me again to Sderot.

In no time at all (our driver was something of a speed demon) we arrived in Sderot. It was time to shop. A girl from the mini-bus offered to take us to a supermarket a bit further out from the center of town; one that is probably not benefiting too much from Sderot's sudden surge in tourism. The three of us piled into a cab and headed off. Sderot is a relatively small town, and as it turned out, our "guide" knew the cab driver. Once she told him that Ellie and I were from out-of-town, he decided to take a roundabout route, so that we could see a bit of Sderot.

I had expected Sderot to look like a beat-up slum, full of ugly, crumbling apartment buildings, a'la Petach Tikvah. Now, the city center is on the decrepit side; it bears more than a passing resemblance to the Be'er Sheva Central Bus Station, itself not exactly a contender for any urban design awards, unless there is a special award for "ugly, but functional, use of concrete". The residential areas, on the other hand, are for the most part quite pretty and peaceful looking—lots of white houses with red roofs and trees and flowers. Granted, some of the houses were a bit run-down, but many were really nice. It was easy to see why people would want to live here. Right on the edge of the city is a park where the calaniot (poppies) were in bloom—the area is famous for them this time of the year.

I mused out loud that, in a place as peaceful as this, it was hard to imagine bombs raining down and people living in constant fear. Then our driver took us to see a bombed out car where we also saw (like a kind of extra bonus) an old lady sweeping up the Kassam wreckage. What can I say? There is nothing quite like a visual aid to help you visualize.

The tour over, the driver let us off at the supermarket. Over the next forty minutes, the same amount of time it took us to travel from Tel Aviv to Sderot, Ellie and I made it to four stores in two completely different neighborhoods, bought a respectable quantity of stuff, and experienced two Code Reds. The first time, the owner shooed everyone into a storage area/bomb shelter to wait for the bomb to fall. I heard nothing, though everyone else did (not an unusual occurrence for me). The second time, there was no bomb shelter at hand. Instead, everyone just hurried to the back of the store to wait it out. This time, I did hear the boom—it scared the crap out of me. In front of me a woman started to shake uncontrollably; I think she was having a panic attack.

But the most fascinating part of our visit—more fascinating than the calaniot, the bombed-out car or even the bombs, was the restaurant. No, it was not because of the Tel-Aviv-style prices, though it is true that the ridiculously overpriced latte goes far in making a city girl feel right at home. Rather, it was the company: a whole passel of local bigwigs and one Knesset member (from here on out referred to as "Mr. Politician"), their wives, their aides, their groupies and other random hangers-on were holding court at the table next to us. The owners of the restaurant brought out the good stuff: wine and whisky and the group proceeded to have a nice, leisurely breakfast, interspersed with chats with reporters and journalists from what appeared to be pretty much every televised and print news publication known to man.

(I should point out that, miraculously, from the moment that Mr. Politician and the bigwigs appeared on the scene, all of the bombs stopped! Ellie and I each have our own pet conspiracy theory in respect to this point. Another time, maybe.)

And then, as if this were not enough, two musicians (using the term very loosely) suddenly appeared on the scene. They immediately launched into full volume accordion, tambourine and guitar renditions of Hava Nagila and many other equally beloved classics. (I would tell you what they were, but I seem to have blocked out the memory. I think it is a sort of subconscious protective measure). Most of the time they just played, but here and there they would actually sing. Again, using the word loosely. The Bigwig/Mr. Politician group loved it. It was truly…something, watching our leaders as they clapped their hands to the music and sang along. At one point, a group of what could only be hilltop youth, overcome with joy at the music (or perhaps it is whatever they smoke in them thar hills) started to dance the hora.

And then suddenly, out of the blue, it struck me: the musicians had made a mistake! Clearly, I mean, CLEARLY, the musicians intended to cheer up the folks of Sderot, like the woman who had a panic attack, and not Mr. Politician and Co. I decided to see if citizen action could correct the error. I approached Mr. Politician.

Me: Hello, Mr. Politician?

Mr. Politician: Good morning.

Me: Ummm…don't you find (pointing at the now wildly gyrating accordionist) this rather bizarre?

Mr. Politician: (mumbles something unintelligible about wanting to be with his supporters or to support Sderot).

Me: Like, don't you think it would make more sense if they were on the other side of the street? At the stores? With the people who live here? To cheer them up?

Mr. Politician: (mumbles something unintelligible about wanting to be with his supporters or to support Sderot)

Me: I mean, if I were to say something, no one would listen to me. But you are important (work on his ego…work on his ego)! If you were to, say, suggest to them that they go across the street to the stores, and play for the actual residents of Sderot, they would listen to you.

Mr. Politician: (mumbles something unintelligible about wanting to be with his supporters or to support Sderot).

Me: Thank you! Shabbat shalom!

So, the woman with the panic attack never got to hear the musicians. Though of course, this may be for the best. They may well have caused a relapse.

Whatever…. After breakfast and the shirat b'tzibur (singalong) from hell, Ellie and I decided to check out the stores on the other side of the café. One had a nice selection of sheets and other linens. I bought a new bed last week and had been thinking of getting a new set of sheets for it—why not do that here? That way, instead of having to look at the purchase as spending money I do not actually have (because I spent all my money on the damn latte), I can consider it tzedakah (charity). And as an added bonus, since I bought the new sheets, I was able to donate an old set of sheets to the Darfur refugees. Savta Dotty is collecting stuff for them, so Friday afternoon I loaded up two bags with the sheets, some pillows and other random items I had wanted to get rid of, including a pair of lovely, but thoroughly impractical, high-heeled shoes. You know, in case one of the Bnei Darfur decides to find employment as a hooker.

[Just to clarify—I do think it is a good thing to go shop in Sderot and intend to go back this week. It is just that the atmosphere was rather weird, to put it mildly].

Saturday, March 1, 2008

The Long Day

Fear can make your body do many things. It can make your brain work faster, your legs run harder or your ears more sharp. Or sometimes, it can make everything—your ears, your eyes, your body and your mind—shut down completely. That is what happened to me.

On Tuesday, April 23, the doctors decided that I was well enough to go home the next day. Fantastic! I was elated. On Wednesday April 24, I woke up and realized that elation was the last thing I should feel. The appropriate feeling was panic, and lots of it. That morning, for the first time it really hit me: I, Gila Weiss, had been seriously injured in a suicide bombing. Not somebody else—ME—and I was supposed to deal with it. I had to deal with doctors. I had to deal with National Insurance. I could not even leave my house alone; but I had to figure out how to buy groceries, fill prescriptions and get to and from the hospital. For that matter, groceries, prescriptions and cabs require money, and I could not work. Yet another thing to deal with! I had to do all this half deaf and mostly blind. I had to do all this in Israel and in Hebrew, which were to me still essentially a foreign country and a foreign language, respectively. Worst of all, I had to do all this all alone. My father had left on Monday night.

Clearly, this was impossible. To do this in the United States, in English and in familiar territory, would have been like learning to walk a tightrope. To do this here and under these circumstances was learning to cross a tightrope on a unicycle, backwards and with a wedgie. I absolutely, positively, could not do this. Nononono. I was not going to do this. My body, agreeable as ever despite its injuries, immediately went into full “not-going-to-do-this” mode and shut down. It was as though I had taken four heavy-duty cold tablets. My already limited sight and hearing got even worse, my entire body was tired and ached, and I felt more tired than I had ever felt in my life.

Barbara, my social worker, tried to boost my spirits and confidence while walking me through the steps involved in getting discharged and moving to treatment on an outpatient basis. She sat next to my bed and spoke quietly to me. "Really, you will be fine. It will not be that bad. We will help you." Unfortunately, she did so while rounds were still going on. From across the room, one of the doctors (undoubtedly getting revenge for my incessant questions) turned around and screamed at me. "What is wrong with you? You had had your turn, and now you are disturbing everyone!" That was the last straw. While Barbara went off to give the doctor a piece of her (very pissed-off) mind, I pulled the curtain around my bed, curled up with my teddy bear and burst into tears. Throughout my hospital stay, there had been a certain element of trying to be the perfect patient, the perfect victim of terror (do not ask me why—I am an accountant, not a shrink). And now, on top of everything, I had done something terribly wrong! I was bothering the doctors! Not only was I supposed to do things I clearly could not do, but I was also a selfish, worthless brat. Now the nurses joined my social worker in trying to cheer me up. One by one, they came by my bed and told me not to cry. Zeh beseder-it’s okay. You did not do anything wrong. The doctor was wrong; he should have seen that you were speaking with your social worker. Nothing helped. I felt wretched.

Fortunately for everyone concerned, my friends arrived to save the day. Barbara gave up on trying to tell me what needed to be done and told my friends instead. Debbie dealt with admissions, Valeria packed my bags and Nomi handled everything else. A volunteer from Sela, an organization which aids immigrants in crisis, showed up and made sure I had cash to cover immediate costs. At Nomi's request, the department nurses put together a collection of medical supplies to get me through the first day or two. All the while, I lay in bed, in a daze.

By the early afternoon the discharge work was complete and I was free to go. Debbie and Valeria came back to my room to collect me. They bundled me into a cab and whisked me off to Nomi’s where I was to spend my first couple days of freedom. Once there, I ate something and went right back to sleep. In the evening, friends came to visit. I sat there as though drugged. I could barely hear a word they said; it was as though everything was coming from far away. All the while, my mind was in a state of panic. How could I do this on my own? What was I going to do? My friends were a bit freaked out at my depressed state; up to this point I had presented an unfailingly cheerful countenance. Was this to be the new Gila? They left after a very short visit. I went to bed early.

Sometime in the night, somehow, the fear left me. I work up in the morning and the paralysis was simply gone. From that point on, I managed.