Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Interesting post by Dutchblog Israel in response to today's double-suicide bombing in Be'er Sheva, which as of this writing has claimed 16 lives.
Nothing a little Chicken Patai can’t solve

I don’t want to go into too many details here, for obvious reasons, but suffice to say: I enjoyed my date with tie-dye guy, but 100 sheks says I’ll never hear from him again. Let’s just say that after dozens upon dozens – maybe hundreds, by now—of first dates, I have learned the following: It’s all in the goodbye.

A man might have a deep, deep two-hour conversation with you; he might look you directly in the eyes all that time; the conversation might flow comfortably, with each of you contributing around 50 percent; he might open up to you about personal things; he might lean in real close and look to any outside observer like he is really into you and hanging on every word; but if, at the end of the date, a man in his 30’s gives you a lukewarm goodbye and doesn’t explicitly state that he wants to see you again, it’s all over. He’s going, going, gone. May as well go back to perusing Jdate.

Could this time be an exception? Sure! Maybe my instincts are all wrong! And, you know, Mashiach is coming any day now.

It doesn’t help that this week I’ve also done a lot of running around in the hot sun in uncomfortable shoes, not feeling good about my work, went to a wedding (which was nice but weddings are very draining when you are 32 and single), and had my dry cleaner destroy one of my favorite outfits. Sucky week.

So I’ve spent the last 20 hours doing what any healthy single woman in her 30’s would do when she’s feeling fed up with dating, and trying not to become bitter: I stayed in bed, eating Chinese food and chocolate wafers, and watched several hours worth of “Sex and the City.”

Sunday, August 29, 2004

The Fencing Update

I realized that I never followed up on the whole fencing thing. For those who care, continue reading, otherwise, skip to the next post.

In short: My first bout felt so good. God, I missed fencing. I felt so free! Everything else just flies right out of my mind and there is nothing but me, my blade, and my opponent.

After the first bout, the reality that I suck set in. I was never a great fencer to begin with, and now not only have I not fenced for ages, but I was fencing a different weapon. Sucks to be me! Of course, I keep telling myself that "it's just for fun" but still, getting creamed is not fun. I did manage to score points here and there but I don't know how or why. A combination of a little skill, a lot of luck, and my opponents happening to lose their concentration at a critical moment.

My knickers being too long was not a problem. As soon as I started fencing, I stopped noticing that. They were actually very comfortable, as is my new jacket, thank God. However, my new epee is a piece of junk! Every time I scored a point it bent back the wrong way, and I had to do that thing where you run it between your sneaker and the floor to get it back to the right kind of curve. Piece of junk! I'm going to write to the manufacturer and complain. I paid a lot of money for that blade.

I did learn that now that I'm doing epee, I really should wear my shoulder protector. I don't mind getting bruised -- I tend to feel proud of my "battle wounds"-- but this time I came home with two pinpoint bruises on my chest and one on my lower arm, and two huge rasberries on my right shoulder. Very unattractive and rather painful.

The problem is that the shoulder protector will add bulk under my jacket, and I'll look really very fat. I suppose if that's my worst problem I'm doing OK. :-)

Oh, and I learned that a sabre is "cherev" (sword) and an epee is a "dekel," and to score a point with an epee is "lidkol," which is also the Hebrew word for "to stab."

OK, the rest of this post is for those who wanted to know more about the club in Jerusalem because you might want to try it; if you aren't in that category, you can skip to the next post.

I'll do this in bullet points because I am in a rush to get a lot done today:

  • The club is frequented mostly by a group of Israeli and Russian-Israeli teenagers, some boys and some girls, who are training for competition. Most of them pretty much ignored me, probably because I'm old and therefore not cool, and because they don't know me yet. However, after the fencing session, two of the girls showed me where the showers and lockers are, and they were very nice to me. One of them is a niece of one of the coaches. It's not that the boys and the other girls were mean, they just ignored me, unless I specifically asked them to bout. When I asked people to bout with me, they did. They didn't talk to me, maybe because they didn't realize that I speak some Hebrew, but they did bout with me.
  • There was also a Haredi man there, an American who made aliyah 28 years ago. He was the first person to approach me, ask me who I am, and offer to fence with me. He said he goes a couple times a week on a recreational basis.
  • Since the group was small that day, there was no "lining up" or any formal mechanism for determining who bouts with whom. It was informal; you just ask someone "hey, you wanna bout?" and then decide between you whether to bout to 5, 10, or 15 points. They said on busier days there is more formal lining-up, but not much. Everyone sort of rotated around, not in any organized way, to make sure they fenced against a variety of people over the course of the session.
  • My general impression is that the club is very much geared toward the young people who want to try for the Israeli National Team eventually, and anyone who is there recreationally is merely tolerated unless and until you prove that you will be coming often and be a good sport, at which point you become more "one of the group."
  • The coach who was there, Samuil, told me that if I come often then eventually I will get a locker in the room next to the fencing room. The teenage girls told me that they leave the lockers unlocked, but the room in which they are located is open (unlocked) only when there is fencing going on. Other than that the room is locked.
  • I saw Samuil, the coach who was there that night, give short private lessons to 2-3 of the teens. After the session, I asked him how I could arrange to get some lessons, too. It turns out that because of the lovely socialist way the club is run, there really is no mechanism for this. The city pays Samuil a set amount for keeping the club open; he doesn't get paid extra for giving private lessons, nor is he allowed to take extra money from students for this purpose. He said he gives lessons only to the top students. I said "how can I get to the top if I can't get lessons?" but he was right- there's no reason for him to do it any more than he feels like volunteering to do it. However, the teen whose uncle is the other coach told me afterward that the Haredi guy pays her uncle under the table to give him private lessons. So it seems to me that there is a stereotypical Israeli thing going on here -- which is actually the first time I've encountered this-- which is that "learning the ropes" means "learning who you can bribe to get what you want." I certainly don't mind paying more for lessons-- the amount that the Haredi guy is supposedly paying is peanuts compared to what I paid in the States-- and certainly the teachers SHOULD get extra money for private lessons, which is much more difficult for them than just watching a bunch of bouting. In other words, the "just" way for this to work is that the teachers get paid for doing more work, and I don't mind making that happen. I just have to wait until I can figure out the appropriate way to approach the other coach and make it known that I have the means and the desire to make it worth his while . . . (How does this fit into my "dinah d'malchuta dinah" way of life? It doesn't. I'm a hypocrite. Sue me.)
  • The session technically lasts from 5:30 to 8. However, it turns out that really what happens is that everyone gets there at 5:20, changes into their fencing knickers and t-shirts, and from 5:30-5:45 there is a group warm-up. Then everyone goes to the locker room to put on their fencing jackets and get their blades, and there is group bouting from around 6-7:30. Starting around 7:30 people start packing up to shower (there are shower facilities upstairs) and go home.
  • Despite what it says on their website, the club really doesn't have much extra equipment to go around. Samuil said they could accomodate someone whose body is small-to-average. But if someone is very tall or broad, then they have to come with their own equipment.
OK, that's it. If you have any questions, you can email me or ask away in the comments section.

I'm hoping to go again tomorrow and Tuesday. We'll see.
Should've taken German III and IV . . .

My rudimentary German and ability to read Hebrew are insufficient for me to understand this Yiddish blog post which links to my Ortho-hippie post and comments about it.

I know, for example, that in the paragraph before the link to me, he's saying something about his payot reminding him that he is an Eved Hashem, and Williamsburg vs. Manhattan, and something about being with an Italian gentile, and something about having a role in life. And then, right before the link, he's got three adjectives for my blog, but I don't know what any of them mean . . . see how I can skim along and get the basic gist, while still being lost at sea? Should've continued my German studies in college . . . but nooooooooooo, someone had to go and use Hebrew to place out of the language requirement . . . . . .

Anyone out there who can read Yiddish and translate this for me? If so, please write to chayyeisarah[at]yahoo[dot]com and tell me what it means off-list. I'll choose the best translation and post it here.

I'm especially curious to know whether the writer thinks that I'm not Orthodox. I kind of got the feeling that he thinks I'm not, but I couldn't be sure.

Again, I can't be sure, but in this subsequent post, it looks to me like YiddisherFarbreng.blogspot is apologizing for suggesting that I'm not Orthodox just because I'm not attracted to men with "long, chassidishe payot." If that's the case, apology accepted. And I wish I understood the blog better, because part of the fascination of blogs is that you get a glimpse into the inner worlds of people whom I normally wouldn't have contact with (I do have heavy connections to a Chassidic community in the US, but they speak English to each other, so I think they are a different ballgame. And I have a former roommate who worked in Kiryas Joel . . . . hey, SHE should translate the blog for me!). I hope YiddisherFarbreng continues to read my blog, and I hope I find someone who speaks Yiddish so I can continue to read his.

I'm fascinated by the concept of a Yiddish blog. If he communicates primarily in Yiddish, how does he come to have an Internet connection? And if he has internet for, say, business purposes, there is still the question of who is reading his blog. The number of non-Chassidishe Jews who can read Yiddish fluently had dwindled alarmingly. Points to ponder . . . .

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Why I like Odd Todd and his blog

He's hysterical. And he does stuff like this.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Hey, I'm famous!

My nice-taxi-driver story is the lead feature today over at Jewish World Review. (Don't worry, they got my permission, and all the edits were made together by the editor and me at his request.)

Thanks for the spotlight, JWR.

Shabbat shalom, everyone.

Reminder for Isra-Anglo Bloggers

On September 2 there will be a meeting/ get-together/ coffee clubhouse of people living in Israel who are keeping English-language blogs. It will take place in Ra'anana. The purpose is simply to have an opportunity to meet face-to-face and get out of virtual-land.

If you are an English-language blogger in Israel, and want to come, drop me an email (use the link on the right -- include the URL of your blog) and I will send you a link to the Evite. Rides are generally available for those who need them.

Be there or be square!

(Actually, one could argue that the act of blogging is a little square . . . but maybe we can discuss that at the party . . . )

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Go, mom!

So, Getupgrrl posted this article today, which scared the bejeezus out of me. I was born in 1972 and my mother has always been kind of sickly. Just the type of person who would have been given DES to prevent a miscarriage. I think she's also the kind of person who would have told me if she'd taken DES before I was born . . . . I mean, I think so. Maybe not? So I called my mom and was like:

Me: So I read this article today that scared me . . . . did you by any chance take DES while you were pregnant with me?

Mom: No.

Me: Are you sure?

Mom: Yes, I'm sure.

Me: Did you take any other drugs? Any pregnancy vitamins?

Mom: No. I'd seen pictures of babies whose mothers had been given Thalidomide, and I swore I'd never take any drug of any kind while I was pregnant. Nothing.

Me [breathing a sigh of relief]: wheeeew . . . .

This is not to say that a woman should ignore the prescriptions given by a doctor, but it sure gives one pause. Buyer beware, that's all I can say.

And, go Chayyei Sarah's mom!

In Memory of Jenny, Mikey, Miss Steiff, Seth, and Aaron

Well, I took all your suggestions and considered them carefully, but deep down I knew what I wanted to do.

I called the Orthodox Union Israel Center today and spoke with someone who runs a group called NESTO- Native English-Speaking Teenage Olim. I'd heard that over the years it's sort of morphed into a group that has a lot of very troubled kids-- serious rebellion, bad economic circumstances, lots of dysfunctional families, etc etc. Kids who need help. I don't know if all the kids are in that situation, but that's the reputation it has.

I told them how I used to work for NCSY (and gave them names of OU people who could serve as references-- please, no Lanner jokes, OK? It's not funny) and how I'd been a teacher in the Bronx, and asked if they would consider matching me with a "little sister" for me to meet with once a week -- you know, to help her with her homework, take her out to the movies, etc.

The guy in charge was ecstatic that I'd called, and said he'd definitely look into it -- but that most of their activities were in groups, and would I consider volunteering to come to the group events, too? Because they need help. I said sure.

So, he's going to get back to me after they make their schedule for the new school year, and we'll talk about whether I'll come to group stuff or adopt a "little sister," or maybe some of both.

I feel good! And I feel that Jenny, Seth, Aaron, Mikey, and Miss Steiff will help to arrange things so that I end up where I'm supposed to be, either doing group things or with one girl. Because this is for them. And for me.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

In which we prove that even Puritans can catch Jerusalem Syndrome

When Susan came to visit me from America a few weeks ago, she mentioned, toward the end of her stay with me, that she was glad to see that my move to Israel hadn’t changed me. That I’m still the same person. That I still have the same eccentric hobbies, the same unusual interests, the same sense of humor. I’m still good ol’ Sarah, just in a different geographical location. I think she’d been worried that moving to Jerusalem would cause me to “flip out” in some way.

Well, this week I did something that makes me wonder.

Recently I met a guy who is single, around my age, and Orthodox. He’s also a hippie. Total, Zohar-learning, Carlebach, souls-on-fire, coat-of-many-colors, payot-to-the-shoulders, baal teshuva, dance-with-your-eyes-closed-and-arms-waving-overhead, let-the-love-shine-in Orthodox Jewish hippie. Sooooo not my type. The first second I saw him and his payot I thought “Eeeew. So not my type.”

Then I talked to him, and while we were talking I realized a few things:

1. Yes, he is indeed a living stereotype of the Orthodox Jewish hippie. Every stereotype you have of such a person, he lives up to.

2. He has very nice eyes. Eyes that look you in the eyes. Eyes with the little lines around them that indicate that he smiles a lot. Smiling is attractive.

3. He went to college and talks like a normal person. Meaning, his conversational skills are much more normal than his hair and his clothes. In fact, his conversational skills are better than most guys’. Good conversational skills are attractive.

4. He’s self-aware about his hippie-ness and when I laughed at him, he laughed too. Self-awareness is attractive.

5. He’s an interesting person with passion for the world and a genuine interest in other human beings. Too many guys I’ve dated can sit around for hours talking about intellectual stuff, but there’s no spark of life. Passion and a spark of life are attractive.

Anyhow, I wrote it off, because, you know, he’s a hippie freak. But then I went home and I couldn’t stop thinking about him. I pondered how unusual it is for the guys I usually meet and date to have good conversational skills and a spark of life . . . and a genuine sense of spirituality. I realized – some of my friends (hi, Beth) have pointed this out to me, but I never believed it – that a part of me is the souls-on-fire type, too. I’m not all Boston, Puritan, intellectual, Soloveitchik, velvet-suit-wearing, legal-analysis girl. Part of me likes to, uh, commune with the One-ness of the universe and stuff like that . . . God help me.

So this week, I did two things I thought I would never do. I called him to ask him out.

That one action constitutes two things because it is outrageous on two levels:

1. I haven’t asked out anyone in 6 years. I promised myself I’d never do that again, because a girl asking out a guy never works in the long run. It is a stupid idea.

2. If I was going to ask out someone, I can’t believe it was coat-of-many-colors guy.

It’s insanity. It’s impossible. I must have caught Jerusalem syndrome. I must be losing my mind.

Or maybe I am simply intrigued because he’s, well, exotic. Maybe I’m tired of the preppy lawyer types I’m usually attracted to, because they continuously let me down in so many ways. Maybe I’m figuring that if I keep doing what I’ve always done, I’ll keep getting what I always got.

Or maybe I’m flipping out, and Susan will be disappointed to see what has become of me the next time she comes over.

He said yes, by the way.


(and this time I mean ISRAEL!!!!!!!!)

Gal Friedman won the gold medal in windsurfing -- Israel's first Olympic gold ever!!!

How cool that his name, Gal, means "wave" in Hebrew?

Hat tip to AKS for bringing both points to my attention.

Yay! Yay! Yay!

To the person who found my site by google-searching for "ELF SIMCHAS," I want to know who you are. It's my type of person who is looking for an Elf Simcha. Do you mean this type of Elf, or this type? What kind of music do you think Elves play at their simchas? What do they eat? You think they have those pigs-in-a-blanket?

Points to ponder . . . .

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Wedding Bells in Gerusalemme

(or "Sono lieti di annunciare il matrimonio dei loro figli . . ." )

Today I got a wedding invitation in Italian!

One of my favorite ulpan classmates, Filippo, who hails from Firenze, is marrying his long-time Israeli love, Efrat. I'm so excited to go to this wedding. Filippo is one of the nicest people I know; it couldn't be happening to a better person. Plus, some of my other favorite ulpan classmates, as well as our teacher, will also be there. The teacher, Ruti, had to leave our class a month before it ended because she had cancer. I'm happy to know that she's sufficiently better to come to Filippo's wedding.

I love that the wedding invitation is simple. A folded card with the information in Hebrew and Italian and a nice quotation on the cover. None of this ridiculous silk-lined envelope shtick, or reply cards, or millions of little cards falling out with information about related events. And in particular, I don't miss the ridiculously cliche and often ugly monograms that people make in the US. The first time I saw one of those monograms, when I was about 19, I thought "oh, how romantic, their initials are intertwining, just like their lives." After the 10th one, I knew it was just a style that everyone felt compelled to copy. (I just managed to insult about 20 of my married friends. Well, you have to admit, there's no law, Jewish or otherwise, that says the marriage is invalid unless you have a cutesy image with your initials hidden inside for the guests to puzzle out.)

Anyhow, for anyone looking for good news coming out of Israel, just know that soon a lovely Italian Jewish man with a good heart is marrying a very sweet Israeli girl. They should have many years of happiness and good health. Mazal tov!
Calling all desk dieters

Here's a funny site with toning exercises you can do at your desk.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Susan on "Garden State"

I just got this email from my friend Susan and received her permission to reprint it here. Consider it an update to this post.
I saw "Garden State" yesterday. I liked it a lot -- it was very true to life, definitely quirky, and cute. They use a lot of foul language, which I didn't like, and there were some other scenes that bothered me, but nothing horrible -- more depressing than anything else. Overall, however, it was definitely a creative, fun movie with some very touching moments. I really like Natalie in her role -- I actually wasn't so crazy about her before. And the music is very good -- did anyone buy you the soundtrack? And Zach Braff -- oh, what an adorable Jewish boy-next-door panim. And those eyes -- I'm melting. He even put some blatant Jewish references in his movie.

It's Elul, Zach. Teshuvah season. My shul has lots of empty seats.

I'll even invite you over for brisket and honey cake. Not that I've ever made either of those things, but for you, Zach, I will learn.

Susan said that she was "channeling Esther Kustanowitz when I wrote this."

I'm interested in hearing from other women whether you share Susan's, uh, enthusiasm for Zach Braff's panim and eyes, etc. To me, he's the sort of guy I'd probably find very attractive in real life, but I don't find him particularly stunning for a movie star. But maybe when I see the film I'll feel differently. Some guys have a "presence" that gives them more zsa zsa zsu than do their looks alone.

By the way, as far as I know, no one has bought me the soundtrack yet. My Hebrew birthday isn't until Thursday, so there is still time . . . .
Odds and Ends and Intermission

First, I must thank, and apologize to, all those who sent me e-cards and emails on my birthday. I have not had a chance to respond yet. I got your messages and really appreciated them. I will try to respond to each one personally, soon. Special shout-out to my family and my friend Rivka K. who called me from the US.

For my birthday, my relatives Meir and Suzi took me out to a meat place in Petach Tikva with really delicious food; Meir's birthday is around this time as well, so it was a double celebration (Happy birthday, Meir!). I had a chance to talk in depth with my second-cousin, Roni; we've never really had a deep discussion of any kind before this, just superficial stuff. He is a very nice young man with a good head on his shoulders. He recently finished his 3-year stint in the IDF and is now applying to medical schools. A very intelligent boy with good values. I was impressed.

According to Ari S., this Thursday is my Hebrew birthday. Sarah Beth wants to take me out on Wednesday, but I'm not sure I can make it. I could go out on Thursday night . . . if any of my friends want to arrange such a thing . . .

So I went fencing last night. It was mostly good but I'm exhausted today. After fencing I showered quickly and ran out to cover a story. I got home past midnight and practically fell asleep in my clothes. This morning I was supposed to go swimming with Beth, but cancelled because I literally could not get out of bed. I couldn't move. I'll (bli neder) write a full fencing update tomorrow. The upshot is that the people were nice enough, and the fencing fun enough, that I definitely want to go back (just as I thought, I never feel as good as I do during my first bout of a session. I need the catharsis). But it's going to be a while before I can get my own locker or private lessons. Also, they can only take beginners if you either have your own equipment or have a very average or below-average sized body; they don't have as much extra equipment as their website would lead one to believe. But it's a nice club for someone who is going to be dedicated about showing up pretty often.

Lots of other little things crowding the space in my brain, but I'm sooooo tired. Too tired to write anymore.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

En Guarde

I'm scheduled to go fencing in a few hours, for the first time in about 2 years. I am very nervous, for a few reasons:

1. Although I've been working out in preparation for this, my quadriceps are going to be very unhappy about 8 hours from now.

2. After putting my quads through hell, I have to go into city center to cover a story.

3. The instructors are Russian and teach in Hebrew. I'm not prepared for that.

4. I think most of the other students will be teenage Israeli boys who are training for competitions. Meanwhile, I'm a 32-year-old, pretty out-of-shape woman from America who has never fenced epee before. Even in foil I wasn't so good. (My line, when people asked me how good I am, was always:
"Have you ever fenced?"
"Then I'm better than you are.")

So I'm getting in a little over my head. I think.

5. I'm annoyed with my fencing knickers. I had them made to order in the US a few months ago, but they got the legs a little wrong-- they are a little too long and don't fit snugly under the knee. I should have gotten them altered, but didn't want to invest more money into my fencing uniform until I saw how often I'd actually go fencing. It's kind of a bummer to have a uniform that doesn't fit properly.

6. I don't know how things work at this club. In my club in New York, I had a routine. I had a locker, I knew where the showers were, I knew where to line up to bout, I knew how to sign up for a private lesson, I knew it was possible to rent a towel and where to find them . . . Here, I don't know if there are lockers available, I don't know what the shower facilities are like, and I don't even know if they do private lessons. It might be a group thing. Will we do footwork all together at some point, or will it be all bouting, with people doing their own footwork on the side and getting private time with a teacher, in turns? Lots of things up in the air for me. It's uncomfortable to be in a new situation.

No one of these things is a major problem, and ultimately -- I keep trying to remind myself-- the whole point is to have fun and get some exercise. But I loved fencing in the US, and I want to love fencing here, too, so I'm worried about being disappointed in the club or in myself. For me, the stakes are pretty high. I really hope that the people are nice and that I don't make a total fool out of myself.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Welcome to the House of Joy

That's the name of a new Isra-Anglo blog by my dear friend Beth. So far her blog provides some wonderful insights into everyday life on a yishuv (settlement) in the West Bank, where she's lived since moving to Israel a year ago.

Beth is very warm and funny and smart and "real," and her blog is very pink. I highly recommend you check it out. (And, of course, be gentlemanly in her comments section.)
And on a happier note . . .

The countdown begins!

Just four more days until Jerusalem's newly-improved fencing club opens for the new school year.

Unlike last year, you no longer need to bring your own equipment. Beginners are very much welcome. Of course, I am not a beginner (though I have never fenced epee; in New York I fenced foil, but here I'll have to switch to epee since that's all they do). However, it means I can bring friends along some time if they (you?) want to try it. I'm big into "fencing kiruv." It's great exercise, lots of fun, and the people tend to be good sports.

I'm so excited! I haven't fenced for almost 2 years and can't wait to go back. En guarde!

In the last couple of years, five people I was close to passed away. With one exception, all were under the age of 45. Three of them were under the age of 35.

When people ask me “weren’t you scared to make aliyah?” I sometimes tell them that I was in New York for 9/11, so why be afraid of Israel? And sometimes I tell them “Five of my friends died in the last two years. All of them died in America, of natural causes. If it’s your time to go, it’s your time to go.”

Sometimes I think about them and I get sad. I’ll be folding laundry, or riding in a taxi, and I'll suddenly remember Seth. Or Jenny. Or Aaron. Or Mikey. Or Miss Steiff. And I get tears in my eyes, like I am right now, because I miss them, and because most of them were so young when they died. It seems so unfair.

OK, so I’m crying now.

I feel like I should do something to honor their memories. I’ve been meaning to learn Masechet Makot (it’s short and I’m fascinated by the concept of eidim zomemin), but I keep learning the first few dapim, and then leaving it for weeks or months, and then forgetting the thread and having to re-learn it from the beginning. If they are up there somewhere counting on me to learn a masechet of gemara in their memories, I’m afraid I’m proving to be a big loser. I think I need to choose something that doesn't have a "thread" like that, something I can put down for a week and then pick up again, like a certain chunk of Mishnah Brurah or something. I'll work on figuring that out.

But I also want to do something “olam hazeh”-oriented, something that will help other people who are still here. Unfortunately, I don’t earn enough to give a ton of tzedaka, and I’m not so “into” volunteering for the old or needy, much as I hate to say that.

Any ideas? I’m particularly interested in hearing from people who knew these friends of mine. What would be a meaningful project? I’m hoping that if I hear enough ideas, eventually I’ll hear one that makes me say “yes, that’s perfect. It’s something I can do, given my time and my talents, and something they would be proud of.”

If I can focus on doing something positive, maybe I won’t feel so sad.

Women sabrists earn Gold and Bronze; first US Fencing medals in 20 years, first Gold in 100 years

This is an email update I got overnight from the US Fencing Association (yes, I subscribe to their email updates). I'm so excited! Yes! Yes! Yes! (and oooooo, now I wish I had a TV, and Cable . . . . )

Athens, Greece:

History has been made by not one but two US Olympic fencers.

Mariel Zagunis won the gold medal in the Olympic individual women's saber

With American flags waving in the sold-out stands, Zagunis (Beaverton, Ore.)
commanded the bout against Xue Tan of China from the beginning, running an
8-2 streak by the first break. Zagunis fenced with tenacity and imagination,
scoring for instance with point-in-line at 5-2.

After the break Tan rallied, changing her game and taking the score back up
to 10-6 to the chants of the large contingent from China. But Zagunis was
not to be denied and gritted out the next few touches to finally win 15-9.

She was immediately tossed in the air by her teammates, who rushed the

Just before the gold medal bout, Sada Jacobson (Dunwoody, Ga.) became the
first US women ever to win an Olympic medal and the first US fencers to
medal in 20 years.

Jacobson commandingly defeated Catalina Gheorghitoaia of Romania in the bout
for the bronze. She led the bout from the beginning and gained momentum
throughout, leading 8-5 at the break and 15-7 in the end.

Zagunis's win avenged Jacobson's earlier 12-15 loss to Tan. For her part,
Jacobson defeated Leonore Perrus of France in the quarterfinals, who had
earlier knocked younger sister Emily Jacobson out of the event in the round
of 16.

Stay tuned to see both young American stars on the podium and hear, for the
first time since 1904, the Star Spangled Banner played for our fencers.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

I'm sorry I have to do this

(or "it's not what you say, it's how you say it")

I used to enjoy maintaining this blog. I enjoyed writing the posts, and I enjoyed getting feedback. I enjoyed the feedback because it was usually positive, but also I appreciated that when it was negative, the disagreements were expressed in a mature, reasonable way. Even when I was challenged, the people doing the challenging were clearly intelligent, good-natured people engaging in an intellectual discussion.

Lately, a certain other blog has been "advertising" mine, and the readers from that blog-- who tend to be more contentious and treat the comments section as if it is a seventh grade playground rather than a place for exchanging interesting ideas -- have been coming over to Chayyei Sarah.

A few of these readers have taken to leaving comments that are mean-spirited and provocative. Two have called other readers names.

I feel like someone who was throwing a great cocktail party, and then three high school kids crashed it, rip-roaring drunk, and threw up all over my living room floor.

I can't prevent you from stopping by, but I can kick you out of the house.

Effective immediately, any comment that I deem to be mean-spirited in any way will be removed as soon as I catch it. If in my judgement the comment was posted primarily to provoke, or to insult, it will be removed. Comments that constitute a nasty argument between 2 readers will be removed (maybe I'll warn you, and maybe not). Comments that are irrelevant to the topic at hand will be deleted at my discretion.

A tip: If you are really, really angered by another reader, then direct your response to me, not to them. At least that way we can avoid having two seventh-grade boys in a violent scuffle on the floor while the adults are trying to enjoy their martinis and civil discourse.

If you don't like this policy, then stop reading Chayyei Sarah. I won't mind.

(My apologies to those readers whose comments have always been interesting and reasonably stated. I hope you'll go back to your Cosmopolitans now and enjoy the rest of the evening.)

Monday, August 16, 2004

I am so proud of Noa!

And, welcome to Mia! I actually don't know Mia so well, but we have a close mutual friend whose judgement I trust, and so I'm very happy to have an opportunity to get to know her better, now that we live in the same, holy, city.

Yay, olim!

Sunday, August 15, 2004

On one of the listserves to which I subscribe, someone posted a notice about the creation of this website, with an interactive quiz about diabetes. Since I have, unfortunately, almost every risk factor for diabetes, I went right over and took the quiz. (I also have almost every risk factor for skin cancer, which is unfortunate since I love the beach.)

I did very well on the "Diabetes Basics," and "Exercise and Fitness" sections. Also on the "Stress and Relaxation" part I got almost every question right, even though I had no idea that high levels of stress can affect one's glucose levels. Who knew?

Yet one more reason to try and maintain one's mental equilibrium! I'm going to start practicing right now, given how annoyed I am by some of the comments on my post about my non-date with Ephi.

Deep breath . . . woooooooo . . . . deep breath . . . . wooooooo . . . . .

Friday, August 13, 2004


Just a reminder to my good friends who are reading this blog: Wednesday is my birthday.

Keep the fun and heartwarming e-cards coming, and if you want to buy me a gift, I won't say no.

What a wonderful evening I just had.

My dear, dear friend Ephi is in from the States. We met this afternoon in Tel Aviv and took a taxi to a nice restaurant in Yaffo, where we feasted on couscous dishes in various excellent sauces. Then we strolled to the beach, where the sun was setting, a huge orange ball suspended over the blue Mediterranean water. As the sun went down, we walked along the promenade, talking and laughing and exclaiming repeatedly that the sea is so beautiful and we couldn't believe we were both there (and Ephi exclaiming repeatedly that he couldn't believe I'd never been to the beach in Tel Aviv).

After dark we took off our sandals and strolled back -- it must have been about two miles-- in the sand, in the water, on the promenade, back to the water . . . the water was warm and splashed up to our knees. Ephi was a mensch and carried my bag for me. Finally, close to 11 pm, we ended up at a beach restaurant, in chairs facing the sea, resting and talking and running our toes through the sand for about 45 minutes, until I left to catch the last bus back to Jerusalem.

The whole thing was so beautiful and romantic and comfortable. Ephi is such a great guy. And, he's very handsome.

sigh . . . . If only he were attracted to women.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Elf, of Apikorsus Online, has a very interesting link, post, and comments today about a family's decision to get rid of their TV.

I am all for that.

First, a disclaimer: TV is not inherently evil, and in fact does have some uses. Sesame Street is terrific. Lots of the educational shows trump anything you'd get in a book or online. And even some of the "garbage" shows can be a fun "escape," if taken in moderation by adults. I certainly empathize with those who clear their schedules to watch their favorite shows; I used to be hooked on Babylon 5. And of course, TV is the great cultural equalizer; I feel a special connection with others of my generation who can sing every word of the theme songs to "Facts of Life" and "Diff'rent Strokes" (why knowing those lyrics is of any value is beyond me, but hey, it connects all the children of the 80's.) I do consider sometimes getting TV service here in Israel, to help me learn the language and gain more exposure to Israeli culture.

But --and this is a big "but"-- the disadvantages of TV far, far outweigh its minimal value. There's the issue of kids, of course: the violence and sex they are exposed to, too young, and the games they could be playing and talents they could be developing instead of watching TV for hours a day (and as the link from Apikorsus points out, limiting your kids to only an hour a night doesn't really work). Sure, I used to watch plenty of TV, and I think I came out OK. But when I remember how much homework I didn't do, or did badly, because of TV, and all the drawing and imaginative play and reading I could have increased, it's sort of sad.

Also, as I posted on Apikorsus, I can point to specific images that went into my head from the TV that traumatized me. And it wasn't because my parents were lax. It was because I'd be watching "appropriate" TV, and an "inappropriate" commercial would come on. Or I'd go into the room where my father would be watching and I'd catch a glimpse of something too violent or sexual to be age-appropriate. And sometimes I'd even stick around to watch more. It's not a good situation.

Then there's me now, as an adult. I have no kids, so why not watch TV?

Well, first, because the TV is really, really addictive. Once it's on, the eyes stay glued to it for hours. And I'm trying to get other things done in my life, like blogging for example, which is at least interactive and engages my brain (I think). If I had a TV, I know I wouldn't limit myself to Hebrew-language programs. I'd spend hours a night watching murder mysteries and reruns of "Gilligan's Island."

Second, most of the programming really is garbage. When I go to someone else's house and watch their TV, it's unbelievable to me what garbage it is. I wonder whether the programming has gotten worse, or whether I've become sensitized, having not had TV for almost 8 years now (I do have a monitor and VCR to use for videos). Either way, the level to which TV has descended is shocking and disturbing, or should be, even to people who aren't frum. You don't have to be frum to be appalled by "The Bachelor." But especially if you are frum, it's appalling. Not because it's "the outside world" but because the behavior on the show is inherently antithetical to Judaism.

I have nothing against people who have a TV. I certainly don't believe that they are any less "frum" than I am. I didn't make my choice to live a TV-less life because I'm religious. I did it because I want to be able to look back on my life and know that I limited how much time I wasted. There are people who really need the TV as an escape. I have my own escapes. But I certainly urge anyone who has TV, especially if they have kids, to consider getting rid of it. In America, it seems that most people don't even consider TV a choice. It's deemed a necessity. But, truly, it's perfectly expendable. And once gotten rid of, it's not missed.

Treppenwitz is in "re-runs" this week, and he's re-posted what I believe is one of his most thought-provoking posts ever. Check it out.
My life is just boring right now

I just wrote a post about the excitement I feel over finding an Israeli version of Drano that works wonders. I posted it, and a minute later realized how pathetic that is.

All I can say is, when you live in a place that everyone thinks of as a war zone, "boring" is very good.

But this really is a good brand of sink-unclogger. It's called Chik-Chuk. I think that's funny.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Some blogger news:

1) Congratulations to Noa over at Jerusalem Revealed, on her acceptance to the Hadassah/Hebrew University nursing school. This is a big career switch for her -- always a brave thing to do. I'm so impressed that she is following her dream. Go, Noa! And, her parents are making aliyah tomorrow. Double mazal tov!

2) A former colleague of mine has started a new blog in which she plans to reflect on the death of her adult daughter, as well as on where she is in the mourning process currently, five years later. Welcome to the blogging world, and may you find comfort among the mourners of Zion.

3) Yasher Koach to "Adam Ragil," who successfully persuaded the Rabbi of his shteibel to allow the congregation to sponsor an arts and crafts event for the girls, despite opposition from some members (see his entry for August 6). I hope the girls have a wonderful time.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

My sister has resumed blogging. She is in fine form, as usual.
Things My Shaliach Never Told Me

Friday. I wanted to go to Hashmonaim for Shabbos to visit Ari and Sarah Beth. I took a taxi to the Central Bus Station to get the public bus to their area. When I got there, the little hut for all the buses to Modiin and its environs was empty. Usually there are a lot of people, waiting to catch a pre-Shabbos bus to Modiin, Hashmonaim, or Kiryat Sefer. Emptiness is not a good sign. I waited around, watching all the other little huts emptying out, and I knew I'd missed the last bus. I'd have to see Ari and Sarah Beth some other time.

I was particularly disappointed because Sarah Beth's brother, Matthew, was going to be visiting with his wife and family, too; I'd met them years ago and found Matthew, in particular, to be a very inspiring person. His divrei Torah are great and there's something about him that makes me want to be holier. I'd been looking forward to seeing them. I silently cursed myself for not confirming the bus schedule on the internet that morning.

The local grocery store would be closing soon, so if I wasn't going to Hashmonaim, I knew I'd better be on my way to get food I could cook for myself for Shabbos. I got into a taxi and asked the driver to take me home to Katamon. He put on the meter, and I sighed and told him my tale of woe, how I'd been supposed to visit friends in Hashmonaim but missed the last bus. He said "well, I can take you to Hashmonaim, no problem." I said "I don't think I can afford that." I knew I could not afford it. It would be ridiculous to pay what cabs generally charge for a private ride from Jerusalem to Hashmonaim. He called the dispatcher.

Driver: How much is the fare from the Central Bus Station to Hashmonaim?
Dispatcher: It's next to Modiin.

[I mentally calculated how much I'd be willing to pay to get to Ari and Sarah Beth's house. How badly did I need to get out of the city? How much could I afford? How disappointed was I feeling?]

Driver: I know that. How much is it?
Dispatcher: 140 shekels.

Like I said, ridiculous.

Driver to Sarah: See, it's only 140 shekels.
Sarah: I'm sorry. I really can't pay more than 100 shekels.
Driver [thinking I'm trying to bargain]: I'd do it for 130.
Sarah: No, really, I can't pay more than 100 shekels for this. It's too much. Sorry.

At that point I called Sarah Beth on my cell phone to tell her what was happening. The driver started talking to someone on his cell phone. Just as I was apologizing to Sarah Beth for not being able to make it, the driver said "No! You can go! 100 shekels is OK!"

At first I thought that I'd successfully bargained without even trying. But it turned out that he'd found another driver who was willing to take me to Hashmonaim for 100 shekels. I was confused. Why would any driver take only 100 shekels to go to Hashmonaim, when the going rate was 140? And why was this driver willing to give up his fare to Katamon? The driver explained but I just couldn't wrap my mind around what he was saying. The driver pulled up at a bus stop a couple of blocks from the Central Station, and called the other driver to tell him where we were. I started to get out of the taxi, to wait for this other guy.

"You stay in here," the driver said. "You won't recognize which taxi is your new driver. I'll stay here with you to make sure you get on your way all right."

Sarah: Thank you very much. This is very nice of you.

Driver: I want to make sure you have a nice Shabbat with your friends. Not everything in life is about money.

So, this middle-aged driver sat and waited with me for a good five minutes while we waited for the other cab. Meanwhile, some people from the bus stop came over to inquire about taking the taxi to their destination, and the driver told them "I'm not available." To make sure I had a nice Shabbat, he not only gave up his fare to Katamon, he also gave up these other fares.

Finally the other taxi pulled up, and my driver wished me a Shabbat shalom.

"Let me pay you something," I said, "for the time you spent."

He said "OK, whatever you think is reasonable," and I gave him 15 shekels, a little more than half of what he'd gotten had we gone all the way to Katamon. I wished I could give him 100 shekels, too. I thanked him profusely and said "tizkeh l'mitzvot [may you merit many good deeds]."

The driver in the new taxi was a young guy. I sat in front, hoping he was talkative so we could converse on the way. It's a good 25 minutes or so to Hashmonaim.

The new driver's name was Yaron, and he was indeed a talkative, friendly fellow. He explained to me what had happened. Yaron heard the first driver ask the dispatcher about the fare to Hashmonaim, and when Yaron heard the answer on the radio, he knew that probably the passenger wouldn't want to pay that much. But Yaron lives in Modiin and would have to drive home pretty soon for Shabbat himself, anyhow. He's not shomer shabbat, he told me, but his wife is.

It's against taxi etiquette, Yaron explained, to offer a lower fare over the radio, since then the passenger would hear that another driver wants the fare, and it would start a bidding war. So he used his cell phone to call my driver, and privately offered to take me to Hashmonaim for whatever I was willing to pay.

"Wouldn't you earn more by staying in Jerusalem for another couple of hours?" I asked. "There are all those people there who need rides before Shabbat. I don't understand how this is cost-effective for you, going home early."

"It's nothing," Yaron said. "I want to get home early to see my kids. They've been in Be'er Sheva all week visiting their grandmother, and I can't wait to see them. This way, you have a nice Shabbat and I get to see my kids earlier."

Yaron and I spent the drive talking about the differences between how Israelis view religion versus how American Jews view it, our conversation punctuated by phone calls from his 6-year-old on the speaker phone. It was one of those great discussions where what matters isn't that you agree or disagree, but that both people in the discussion are nice, and respectful, and want to learn more. It was the first time in a while that I felt that I was really connecting with a non-religious Israeli and having a warm exchange. A connection. I started to feel that maybe God had his reasons for making sure that I missed my bus and had a chance to talk to Yaron for half an hour.

Yaron drove me straight to Ari and Sarah Beth's door, where their daughter Nechama came out to welcome me and give me a hug. Yaron smiled.

"How much did you and the other driver work out that you'd pay?" Yaron asked.

I realized that he'd never heard me offer 100 shekels. He'd really meant it when he said that he'd take me for whatever I was willing to pay.

I took out two 50-shekel bills and gave them to Yaron.

"Shabbat shalom," I said.

"It was very nice to meet you," Yaron replied. "Shabbat Shalom."

Yaron drove away.

And I did indeed have a very nice Shabbat.

Friday, August 06, 2004

A few odds, ends, and ramblings:

1) A few days ago, Beth took me swimming at the pool in Rimonim, which has women's hours sometimes. Wow! It made me realize that it's summer! (it's only August, you know; about time I had a vacation, if only for a few hours.) This pool is incredible. There's a big pool for the adults and older kids, with a deep end. And also a little kiddie pool for the toddlers. And lots of grass all around, with lawn chairs and these tent-thingies so there is shade in some areas. And the view! The view from the pool is of . . . green, rolling hills all around. No "settlements," no Arab villages. Just hills, grass, and sky.

It was a bit surreal, when I stopped to think about the fact that I was having a great time swimming in this beautiful pool with an incredible view, and it's in the West Bank. From where I was standing, it was paradise. But when you stop to think about it, it gets weird. Especially since, as far as I know, the Arabs in those parts do not have access to a pool (I might be wrong. I don't know.) Swimming pools are so important in places where it gets so hot hot hot. I felt a bit guilty.

But, for all that I feel bad for those who do not have a pool, my not using this pool wouldn't help them get one, so I went and enjoyed myself. And boy did I need that! I needed to get out of the city and dive into a pool of water real bad.

Thanks, Beth, for a great day!

PS Maybe if they ever figure out what Arafat did with the money he stole, they can use some of it to build nice swimming pools? It might seem frivolous, but when you stop to think about it, it's not. There are reasons that crime rates in New York go up in the summer.

But let's move on . . .

2) From the Things My Shaliach Never Told Me File:

In America, motorcycles have a certain cachet. There's a "toughness" associated with this particular vehicle. The people who choose to drive them are generally conveying a message about their personalities by their choice. Or they might be conveying a message about their mid-life crisis. Either way, there's a message.

But in Israel, a lot of folks drive motorcycles simply because a motorcycle is cheaper than a car.

So in both Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, I've seen lots of rabbi-looking types on motorcycles, helmets and all. With their long white beards and tzizit blowing in the wind.

Frummies on motorcycles. Makes me smile every time.

3) From the Things My Shaliach Never Told Me File:

I'm telling you, the dogs in Israel are human brains in canine bodies. I'm not sure what the leash laws are around here, but I see a lot of folks walking around with their dogs lagging far behind. But more interesting is the number of dogs I see walking around apparently by themselves, with no owner in site.

Often, I've been walking down the street minding my own business, when a dog with a collar comes trotting toward me from the other direction. He is not interested in me. He just trots right on by. He's got places to go and things to do, you know? It's different dogs each time. There must be hundreds of dogs just walking around Jerusalem on their own, running errands or trying to burn off calories.

The best part is when they stop at the curb, look both ways, and then cross the street.

4) I've been feeling ultra-pressured at work lately. Oh, everyone is very nice to me and I enjoy the work, but I don't enjoy the pace of the work. Ideally, I'm supposed to be submitting 4 or 5 articles each week, generally with only a few days at most to research and write each one. I realize that for people who work at, say, wire services, this is nothing. But I'm used to working on featurey articles for which I'm given several weeks' notice. In freelancing, I might have several stories on my plate at once, but if, say, a person I must interview is at meetings all day and can't call me back until tomorrow, then it's no biggie. After 4 months at my current position, I've come to the conclusion that, for all that freelancing is financially insecure, the pace of it is much better for me, usually. I'm tired of waking up at 6 am in the hopes of catching someone in California at their home number, and then staying up until 11 pm or later waiting for an email that I needed yesterday. Maybe if the job were going to last longer I'd learn more to work "smarter" instead of just "harder."

Of course, this could be just a lot of hot air while I reconcile myself to the fact that my job is ending in a few weeks. Truly, I've been very lucky. For someone who made aliyah so recently to have a job in her field and be able to say "everyone is nice to me and I enjoy the work" is a very big deal, and I'm grateful for it. But in the end, since I do, baruch Hashem, have something to fall back on, I'm sort of glad that I won't be in this forever.

Then again, in a few months when I report that I am living on spaghetti because I have no money, I might rue having written this. Whatever!

5) Happy wedding anniversary to my little sister. She's been married for 8 years! And still going strong! Mazal tov! (and I'm still single. Does someone have a window I can jump out of? I live on the first floor.)

6) Speaking of marriage, I was at a beautiful wedding a few days ago at the Mount Zion hotel in Jerusalem. Specifically, the event took place on the various patios and lawns outside, situated along the side of one of Jerusalem's hills. The view was incredible. What a gorgeous place to have an outdoor wedding, under the holy sky. Even the meal was outside, at night, and the July weather was just perfect. Unfortunately, there is not a lot of room for dancing. Still, I took note, ever hopeful that perhaps someday the information will come in handy.

7) At the wedding, a strange thing happened. A woman came over to me and said "Did you go to Camp Moshava?" I said "yeah, for one year." She said "we were in the same bunk. I'm Esti ______." Immediately I remembered who she was! I gaped at her, not believing that she recognized me after almost 20 years. I even remembered something about her. I have a memory of the two of us looking out the window of our bunk, shmoozing and watching other campers walk by. We were talking about the concept of "shomer negiah," which I'd never heard of before I went to camp, being that I was young and not from New York (the two in combination made it understandable that I'd never heard of it, even though I went to a Jewish school). It was sort of sinking in, what this whole "shomer negiah" thing was all about, and I asked her "are YOU shomer negiah?" and she said "yeah." And I was like "oh. OK." And sort of chewed on that for a while. I'd never had a boyfriend -- that summer I crushed the whole time on a skinny little kid in my Eidah named David (I guess I've always had a thing for the scrawny guys!), but he never asked me for a Shabbat walk, thereby beginning a dating life that has been "a perfect graveyard of buried hopes," but I digress--so the question of whether I'd "do" anything with them was very, very moot.

By the way, a girl in my bunk wrote to me after that summer ended that David had told her he'd wanted to ask me on a Shabbat walk but was too shy. I never went back to Moshava, though, and never saw him again. Like I said, a perfect graveyard.

In case you are thinking "oh, wouldn't it be romantic if she bumped into this David now and they dated and got married, after all those years," I should mention that I've heard rumors that he's married and living in Queens with his wife and kids.


Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Hey, dear readers.

FYI I'm going to be really busy the next few days with work, so there might not be any new posts until Friday, maybe. You can keep checking here if you want but I don't promise anything. If anything truly dramatic happens I'll write it up (bli neder). Otherwise, assume that it's business as usual.

Just letting you know in advance, so you won't wonder what happened.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Hey, all you American citizens living outside of America! Here's a site where you can request an Overseas Voter ballot for the 2004 election.

Vote! Vote! Vote!

(for Kerry Kerry Kerry)
From the Things My Shaliach Definitely Never Told Me file:

I hate beer. So on Shabbos afternoon, when my Israeli neighbor Nechama invited me in for a beer, I was like "uh, no thanks." She said she understood, and introduced me to a drink called a "shendy," which is beer mixed with diet Sprite.

It was delicious! She said that you can acquire a taste for beer by slowly decreasing the percentage of Sprite in your shendies. Honestly, I don't see why I should try to acquire a taste for beer. The stuff is vile. But Shendies are terrific.

Now, if I ever go to a bar, I'll have something I can order.

The last time I was in a bar was for Ephi's leaving-New-York-to-move-to-Atlanta party. That was so long ago. He's already been back in New York for a while. At the party, Ephi looked at me holding a drink in my hand and said "Sarah! You? With a drink?!?"

I said, "Ephi. It's a coke."

And he sighed and smiled, gratified that the world had not turned upside-down on him.