Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Appreciation Wednesday: Dance Your Pants Off

Oh, I'm so glad today is Wednesday, because reading the comments to my last post, about Israeli politics, just puts me in a bad mood for the whole day (though it is a treat to have earned a link from My Obiter Dicta). I don't know why I bother. It just makes me want to reach for more chocolate. Every time I write about anything having to do with Palestinians, I gain 5 pounds.

Therefore, today's Appreciation Wednesday is dedicated to my favorite exercise-video guru, Richard Simmons. Yes, the little man with the Jewfro and the penchant for saying things like "Don't forget to breathe!" and "Shake that arm, and shake some of those fat cells right off!" The (formerly obese!) diet and fitness expert with the closet full of shorts and tank tops. The one who tells fat people -- because he knows what it is like-- that they are worthy, and wonderful, and deserve to appear in exercise videos.

I have never seen Richard Simmons on TV, nor have I ever followed his "Deal-a-Meal" weight-loss plan. However, I am the proud owner of several of his videos: Sweatin' to the Oldies, Sweatin' to the Oldies II, Sweatin' to the Oldies III, Disco Sweat, Broadway Sweat, Broadway Blastoff, and my personal favorite, Dance Your Pants Off. Each one features fantastic music, a great set, and people of all shapes and sizes following the moves and having a great time. And of course, Richard himself, who is so far away from those "Aerobic Teacher Barbies" who instruct most other videos. He jokes, he has trouble holding his ankle during the stretches, he gives personal messages to women out there ("Karen Miller, this one's for you," "Donna, I love you.") He is not a stud. He is not self-conscious. He's a formerly fat man who gets it. And they are all having so much fun!

So, for making my workouts so enjoyable and showing people everywhere that, regardless of how we look, we are all entitled to have some fun and dance our pants off, I hereby express deep appreciation to Richard Simmons.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Bogus Argument

In the Letters section of this week's New York Jewish Week, Raanan Elozory of Jerusalem writes in with the following complaint:

The article on Amir Peretz titled “The Man Behind The Mustache” (Nov. 18) refers to Peretz’s opposition to “the occupation.” Gaza is part of the Jewish biblical homeland. If a Jewish presence in Gaza is occupation, how is a Jewish presence in Jerusalem any different? Do Jews have a right to any place on the planet?

I've heard this argument so many times before, and it makes no more sense than the first time. "If Jews have to leave Samaria, who is to say we don't have to leave Tel Aviv?" they say. Or "any argument you make about disengaging from Gaza, the Palestinians could use to say we have to get out of Petach Tikva." Etc etc.

Now, it is true that there are a lot of people living in this here Middle East who would love nothing better than to force the Jews out of Tel Aviv and Petach Tikva, one way or another. And it is also true that in the minds of many of our enemies, there is, in fact, no difference at all between Gaza, Jerusalem, or Bet Shemesh.

However, this particular argument -- that once we waver on our right to be in Gaza, the next logical step is to deny our rights to areas in the pre-1967 borders-- is not a good one at all. There are plenty of good arguments about why we should have stayed in Gaza, why we should stay in the West Bank, why we need settlements, etc etc (not that I agree with all those arguments, but that's not the point) without using this argument.

And the reason this argument is bogus is that the State of Israel does not equate the occupied territories with Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. We never annexed the West Bank (except for East Jerusalem). We never annexed Gaza. And in fact, Gaza has always, since 1967, been "saved" as a bargaining chip by every single PM Israel has had. It was never even intended to be annexed.

Israel itself will tell you that different laws apply in Tel Aviv vs. Hebron (for example, according to Israel, the Geneva Convention does not apply in the West Bank, whereas it definitely applies in the pre-1967 borders). Israel itself will tell you that the occupied territories are occupied. A Jewish presence in Gaza is occupation because everyone calls it that, including Israel. But Israel does not call its presence in Jerusalem - not even in East Jerusalem - occupation, and most countries in the world are not calling Jews' presence in most of Jerusalem, or Tel Aviv, or Petach Tikva, "occupation," and therefore there is no logical leap between the political reality of one area and the political reality of the other.

The fact that there are those who would make illogical and violent leaps does not mean that we have to succumb to stupid, intellectually dishonest arguments.

And we especially should not be saying that "Gaza equals Jerusalem" because then those on "the other side" will have a logical reason to put the two in the same category: Israelis like Raanan Elozory have done it themselves.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Hey, my friend is in a video!

Some of you might remember my mentioning Roseanne, my old college buddy-turned actress-turned mom with whom I've recently become reacquainted. Well, now you can not only admire her beautiful head shots, you can also see her in action in a video for Congress of the Jewish People. Go, Roseanne!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Appreciation Wednesday: Singing for My Supper

A lot of married people wonder why more Jewish singles don't host Shabbat meals, even meals for families. So I want to say right now that I do often host meals, and have even invited over families. It's hard to have families because my apartment is tiny (I have room for up to 5 guests at my table, tops) and not particularly child-proof, and some of the families I have invited live far away and said that their little ones just can't walk that far but thank you. However, I am very conscious of the fact that just because I am single does not mean I cannot cook, and it does not mean that I can't child-proof my apartment to some extent, or that I am absolved of the social responsibility to return invitations. So, you'll often find me on a Friday, stuffing zuchinnis, basting chicken, peeling potatos, and chopping vegetables, in anticipation of my honored guests - be they single or married. I usually enjoy the process.

Yet, hosting meals, when you live alone, takes some maneuvering. Since I do not live with (or near) family or even a roommate, I have three choices: invite people over, hope I get invited out, or eat alone. If I'm not invited out, I always try to invite friends -- who more often than not are in the same boat as I, and are grateful for the invitation -- but then you get into the matters of: Have I started extending invitations early enough in the week to get the people I want? Have they made other plans? If I start inviting people too early, then sometimes I get a precious invitation to a family afterward and must turn it down since I'm hosting. But, wait too long and everyone says "I have plans." Remember, if I'm not invited and no one comes over, then I'm by myself.

And of course, there is the matter of cost and cooking time, relative to what I'm doing anyway. People with families are usually buying food and cooking up something for Shabbat anyhow; having a guest or two doesn't significantly add to the cost or effort of the meal, especially an "easy" guest (like me) who is just so grateful for the company that she doesn't care at all how simple the food is, or how messy the house. It costs the same to buy two challahs, a bottle of grape juice, a gefilte fish loaf, etc whether one is cooking for 5 or for 6. But the difference between cooking for zero and cooking for 5 is very large, proportionately. A person cooking for his/her family will spend the same amount of time making a cholent whether the cholent is for 8 people or 9. But for me, it's a question of "do I invite people over and spend time and money making chicken and kugels, or do I not have to cook at all or spend anything?"

Often on Thursday night, after a busy week, I'll realize that I have no Shabbat plans. It's depressing, usually, to spend Shabbat alone (yes, there are times I enjoy the down time and the quiet, but usually Shabbat goes better as a community event). So, I'll call some of my closer friends, the ones I don't feel I have to "impress" with elaborate cooking, and see if we can get together for a small meal with good friends, deli, salad, and nice conversation.

But again, it often happens that those friends have plans, and then, unless I'm really up for an "alone" Shabbos, the begging begins. My friends might ask their hosts if I can come, or I'll call families I know "to say hi" and hope they ask me if I have plans for Shabbat. A couple of times I've resorted to asking my shule rabbi if he could set me up somewhere. I cannot tell you how degrading this all is. It's an awful feeling.

So, on this Wednesday, I am expressing my appreciation to those families everywhere who make a point of inviting singles to their homes for meals. I am referring specifically to those families who call the singles early in the week and ask them personally to come, rather than simply saying "call me whenever you need a meal." It is hard to put into words the relief and gratitude I, and many others, feel when someone calls and not only absolves me of the responsibility and cost of cooking, but also shows that they they like my company and went to effort to seek it out.

Those usually become the families that I do feel comfortable (mostly) calling "whenever I need a meal." I know that they really like it when I come, because they go out of their way to invite me.

In particular, I appreciate Ruth and Moshe Cohn of Old Katamon, who often call me not one but two weeks in advance, and are always incredibly gracious. And Sara and Rich Brownstein of Baka, who invited me enough times that I finally believed them when they said I really can call on Thursday night or Friday morning if I'm stuck - and their door is always open.

I appreciate Rachel Miskin, Gila Staum, and Esti Yaari - a set of roommates, and good friends to me, in San Simon - for not only having me over for meals often, but making me feel like "part of the family." I can't count how many times I ended up falling asleep on their couch after lunch and staying over until the end of Shabbat. Thanks, guys.

I appreciate my friends Sarah Beth and Ari Solomont in Chashmonaim, and Simcha and Beth Shapiro in Kochav Yaakov, for asking me about twice a week "when are you coming over for Shabbat?" and making it safe for me to call on Thursday night if I decide I have to get out of Jerusalem.

And I appreciate Yael Rockoff and Natalee Cohen, both of whom, when they are around and also stuck on Thursday night, make wonderful "Shabbat buddies." They are good enough friends that we can say to each other "I have no plans either, but come over and I'll, I don't know, buy a kugel and defrost a babka." Where there is babka and good friends, there is happiness.

And finally, I appreciate the "hospitality committees" at synagogues everywhere, especially the ones who work during the week to make sure everyone is "set up" for meals before Shabbat, so that fewer people have the stress of going to shule on Friday night not knowing whether they will be eating alone or not that night.

Tizku l'mitzvot.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

My Latest Stories

. . . appear in The Jewish Week's "Israel Travel" supplement.

Main story here.

Sidebar here.


Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Things my Shaliach Never Told Me, and Absorption into Israeli Society Step #3946

Tonight, for the first time, I tried sachlav, a middle-eastern drink (actually, it was more like a pudding) made out of milk and . . . orchid bulbs. I did not know about the orchids when I ordered. I found out about that when I got home and poked around on Google to figure out what the heck it was that I'd just consumed. At the time, I saw "warm sachlav" on the menu at The Coffee Shop, asked the waitress what that is, she mumbled something about flowers and shrugged, and I said "well, I'll try it!" I was feeling adventurous and thought "what the heck, let's go native." It's important always to try new things, shake things up, get into that Israeli spirit!

Sachlav is a little weird, but it was good. Sweet and, well, like flowers. They sprinkled coconut and hazelnuts on top. It was a nice warm puddingy-drink for a chilly Jerusalem night. A nice warm drink that I ate with a spoon.

Not soul food. Not like, say, hot chocolate. Not something familiar. But interesting. And sweet. And like flowers.
Introducing "Appreciation Wednesday"

Treppenwitz has "photo Friday." Orthomom has her "Jewish Heroine of the Day" series. And now, for your weekly reading pleasure, Chayyei Sarah introduces Appreciation Wednesday, for which I will choose, every (sort of) Wednesday (sort of) a person or group of people whose hard work on behalf of their community, my community, or the world at large goes largely unnoticed and unthanked. People who do stuff should get a "thank you" every once in a while, dagnabbit!

I do not promise to do this every week, and not always on Wednesday. But I'll try.

This week, I would like to thank Jeff Finger and Zev Stub, the moderators of the Janglo group on Yahoo.

Janglo (short for "Jerusalem Anglo") is an email list serving about 1500+ English-speaking residents of Jerusalem; that is, 1500 people who, for the most part, did not grow up in this city and therefore don't have all the "connections" and Hebrew-language abilities of the natives. It is a place to turn when you need a recommendation for a doctor, plumber, or furniture store. Selling your couch? List it on Janglo. Looking for a ride to Be'er Sheva? Ask on Janglo. Need tips on where to take the kids during the Sukkot holiday, or how to rid your apartment of ants, or for a good travel agent? Ask on Janglo. Planning an event? Advertise on Janglo.

No, it's not a place to exchange grand ideas (or jokes. Or real estate listings). But the existence of Janglo allows people like me to exchange information that makes life a little easier. And moderating such an active list is a huge job. Zev and Jeff read every incoming message and strictly enforce the posting policies (I know; I've had one of my own messages rejected! But Jeff was very polite in explaining why). They devote a lot of time to make sure that Janglo remains as useful as possible while overloading people's inboxes as little as possible.

For all the hours they spend maintaining Janglo as a fabulous resource for Anglo Jerusalemites, I hereby express appreciation to Zev and Jeff.

PS To nominate someone for Appreciation Wednesday, please write to me at chayyeisarah- at- yahoo- dot- com. Thanks.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

A Woman of Many Talents

I'm not just a writer and reporter, but also an editor! See, you learn something new every day. Now and then I pick up an assignment to copy-edit a brochure, long article, or series of articles. I enjoy it because it gives me a feeling of self-righteousness to know that my knowledge of grammar and punctuation is so much better than most people's that some folks are willing to pay me for my expertise . . . . It sure is lonely up here at the top. Anyhow, here's a link to a piece I copy-edited for a journal put out by the Lookstein Center for Education at Bar Ilan University; it's basically a trade journal for teachers of Judaic Studies. This piece is from an issue they ran about teaching Hebrew as a second language.

Remember that I have absolutely nothing to do with the content, only the spelling, grammar, punctuation, flow, internal consistency, and clarity of ideas. :-) But I do think it is very cool that if you use the three middle fingers of each hand to indicate "three," and put them together, you have two letter shins - which form the Hebrew word for six . . . get it? Two times three is six? Shesh? Two shins? Pretty cool.

I also edited another story in that issue, the one by Professor Wohl, but it's not available online to those without a password. It's too bad because it was very interesting to see how his instructional methods converge with, and diverge from, bar-Lev's.

When you are a freelance journalist/writer/editor you get to learn so many interesting things.

Monday, November 14, 2005

What I'd write more about if I had more time to compose my thoughts

1. Ten years since the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin:

a. I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I heard he'd been killed. It changed me forever, not because I'd been a particular fan or non-fan of Rabin himself, but because he had been killed by a Jew, and by a "religious" Jew no less (again, there's the "more like me than not like me" factor . . . though the fact that he is a vile murderer and I am definitely not would put us on different sides of the like-unlike divide, I suppose!) From then on, I myself became suspicious of the ideologies of those "like me," and certainly couldn't blame secular Israelis for being mad as hell. The aftermath in the religious-secular divide was horrible on many levels . . . and it's because of that that I mourn. I do not mourn Rabin himself as much as I miss the assumptions we -- and by "we" I mean all Israelis, and religious ones in particular-- allowed ourselves to live with before he was killed.

b. I read the media reports about Rabin and listen to the memorial services on the radio, and wonder, when they call him a "man of peace," are they referring only to the Oslo accords (which, regardless of whether you think they are a good idea, were certainly a bold thing for him to do), or to his entire career? My understanding is that Rabin was considered a "Labor hawk." So what are they talking about, exactly? And when Ariel Sharon says that he "loved" Rabin even when they were at odds, is he serious? Does he "love" Shimon Peres? Or would he just say he did after Peres was dead?

c. Regarding the media reports that run every year asking "what have we learned from Rabin's death?" and answering: "nothing," I say: Yes, we have. The specter of Rabin's assassination was present throughout all the rallies protesting the Gaza disengagement last spring and summer, and certainly throughout the disengagement himself. I do not know whether it is fair to say that events would have progressed more violently had Rabin never been assassinated by a right-wing Jew, but I do think it's fair to say that the assassination was one important factor in the fact that things went as non-violently as they did. The religious right-wing should get credit where credit is due.

2. A Palestinian boy who was shot by the IDF because they mistook his toy gun for a real one had his organs donated by his family to six Israelis. Other bloggers have written more beautifully than I have time to do right now about the beauty of the gesture, but what I would like to focus on at the moment is the idea of organ donation generally, and the fact that it is reprehensible that more Jews do not donate organs when it is possible to do so. The idea that organ donation is categorically against halacha is a myth, and because so many Jews believe that myth, hundreds of Israelis die, needlessly, every year, waiting for organs that could have come but didn't. Israel was even disqualified from an international organ-donation system, because Israelis were taking organs and not giving any. This is terrible.

I urge anyone reading this, and particularly anyone living in Israel, to go to the site of the Halachic Organ Donation Society, read up on the various rabbinical opinions about the conditions under which one may or may not donate organs, and consider signing up for a donor card. And, please tell your family about your wishes, as ultimately it will be up to them to decide whether other lives might be saved as the result of their tragedy. The presence of a donor card in your wallet makes no difference if your family doesn't know what you want.

I realize this is a morbid topic, but again, people die because of an idea in Jewish culture that organ donation is against Jewish law. It doesn't have to be this way. Read the site, and tell others about it. The life that is saved by creating more awareness could be yours, or mine.

3. Yesterday was the anniversary of the death of the matriarch Rachel (wife of Jacob, mother to Joseph and Benjamin). According to the Bible, Rachel weeps over her children being in exile, and waits sadly for us to return to the holy land.

I have always loved all the stories about Rachel, especially the one indicating that it is in her merit that God did not destroy the Jews, even in times that they were worshipping idolotry. According to that story, all the matriarchs and patriarchs (or, their souls, since they'd already passed on) argued with God, giving reasons that He should have mercy. But it was only Rachel who convinced Him, arguing that surely, if she were able to overcome her jealousy and allow her older sister, Leah, to marry Jacob first, the Almighty can overcome His jealousy when his children worship idols? Her meritorious action indeed calmed God down.

And so now she waits for us, crying bitterly because we have vanished into the diaspora, and the Bible says that Hashem comforts her with the promise that one day her children will return.

The location of Rachel's tomb, or what traditionally is her tomb (actually, my understanding is that we don't really know for sure where she is buried, but a shrine was set up in the approximate location), is in what is now a hostile area of the West Bank. Without getting into any of the politics of that, I wanted to point you to photos from a trip that was organized by Arutz 7 and Kumah, who brought dozens of Jewish Israelis to Rachel's tomb to commemorate the anniversary of her death. I would have liked to join the trip, since getting to Rachel's tomb is sort of tricky if you aren't in an organized group with a bullet-proof bus, but had to make the choice between the trip or my gemara class, and the class won.

The kumah website often annoys me no end. My political leanings, and those of the Kumah leaders, are very different. Sometimes I read their site and just want to pull my hair out! But I have to say, the pictures touched me (if not all of the captions). Again, I am not interested in getting into the politics of visiting Rachel's tomb right now. I am focusing on it purely from a religious perspective, and am happy that my co-religionists made an effort to honor the memory of a woman who, somewhere in our incomprehensible cosmos, is waiting desperately for us all to come home.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

This is so dumb

One of the reasons my klitah (absorption into Israeli society) is going as well as it is, to the extent that it is going well, is that I arrived with enough Hebrew skills to basically get around and take care of my business, especially since in Jerusalem so many of the bank clerks, tech help, and salespeople speak English. Between my intermediate Hebrew, my ability to mime, and their English, I was able, from day one, to do things like open a bank account, rent an apartment, find items I need in the grocery store (at least basic staples like bread, fruit, and meat), tell taxi drivers where to take me, etc. It was often hard, and still is -- even though my Hebrew has advanced tremendously -- but I could usually manage, somehow.

If I couldn't manage, I would do without. I am only now, for example, starting to buy Hebrew magazines to enjoy on a lazy Shabbat afternoon. If I can't understand someone because they are speaking too quickly and refuse to slow down . . . well, I just hope whatever they were saying wasn't that important. Yes, there were times I incurred fees for things because I couldn't understand all my mail, but I just chalked that up to the cost of Aliyah and went on with my day. If one is going to move to Israel, it helps to be "zen."

It also helps to remember that one is now an immigrant, in a foreign country. Expecting Israelis to speak English, and getting angry when they do not, is, frankly, Amerocentric. Yes, most Israelis learn English in high school. But many never had a chance to use it and have forgotten it all, and many Israelis are also immigrants and never learned English in whatever country they are from. Even if they are fresh out of high school and therefore supposedly know the language . . . well, how well could you carry on a meaningful conversation with your high school-level French or Spanish? Sure, Israelis have the benefit of being drenched in American culture. They hear English at the movies, on cable TV, and on the radio. But still, Hebrew is the national language, and as immigrants it behooves us to remember that we're just not in Kansas anymore.

Every so often I will call a business or government office, and the telephone menu will offer choices for Hebrew, Russian, or Arabic. I have heard about American immigrants who get upset by this, wondering why they don't offer English as well, and to them I say: because there are a hell of a lot more Russian- and Arabic- speakers in this country than English speakers. We "Anglos" like to think we're so important, but in the grand scheme of Israeli society, we are but a drop in the bucket. One can't expect, say, the Ministry of Transportation to offer service in every language spoken by every immigrant in Israel. When 20,000 Americans are making aliyah every year instead of 2,000, we'll talk again. Meanwhile, I'm learning to understand those menu options in Hebrew.

On the other hand, there is the perspective of the Israeli business, and from that angle, offering English menu options is a good practice because English is understood by people from a wide variety of countries. It's true that there are very few native English-speakers here, but when you consider, also, the immigrants from France, Germany, Argentina, etc who often speak a little English, English offers more value for the money than, say, trying to offer menu options in French, German, Spanish, etc.

Still, my feeling is that most businesses and government agencies are capable of figuring out who their clientele are, deciding what services they can afford to offer that clientele, and offering language options accordingly.

Unless, of course, we are discussing the Ministry of Tourism.

The Ministry of Tourism, obviously, exists in order to increase tourism to Israel. The people at the Ministry of Tourism presumably know a whole lot about fun and interesting things to do in this country. And therefore, presumably, the Ministry of Tourism might -- just might-- be an office that would be called by a very great many tourists and potential tourists. And, presumably, most tourists to Israel do not speak Hebrew and wouldn't be expected to.

And therefore, presumably, it would be a good idea for the Ministry of Tourism to offer callers an immediate option to hear the telephone menu in different languages. In fact, of all the private and public establishments in Israel, one would presume that the Ministry of Tourism would be the one most likely to offer menu choices not just in English and Russian but also French, German, Spanish, and Japanese, if not a wide variety of other languages as well. At the very least, one would expect something like "click 7 for Spanish" and then, when you click the 7, to hear a message saying "for Spanish-language tourism information about Israel, go to the following website . . . to speak with a representative now in Hebrew, click pound-2" or something like that.

But, we are presuming wrong, because when one calls the Jerusalem office of the Ministry of Tourism, one gets a menu entirely in Hebrew. Big fat help that is for most tourists, eh?

And, I should also note, the Ministry not only closes at 4 pm but also does not allow an option, after that hour, to leave a message. Which means that anyone from North or South America who wants to call the Israeli Ministry of Tourism has to get up with the sunrise in order to catch a human being at the other end.

Yes, yes, the Ministry has a New York office. Spectacular! (I'm not being sarcastic. Having a New York office is clearly a smart idea.) And yet . . . if someone is a tourist in Israel, already here, and wants some last-minute information about what to do or how to get where they want to go. . . who are they supposed to call? Are we interested in attracting hoards of tourists, or not? What is up with this?

PS I hope no one from the Ministry reads this before tomorrow, because I need their press person to give me an interview for an article I'm writing. About tourism to Israel. Don't hold this against me, nice Ministry of Tourism press person!

(Oh, yeah . . . they are closed . . . and they don't speak English! I'm home free! . . . um, that was a joke, oh holy media spokesperson . . . )

PPS When I get around to it, I'll try calling the Ministry of Immigration and Absorption and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and let you know what their stories are.
Ask and Ye Shall Receive

A couple of weeks ago, I got a notice that a package is waiting for me at the post office. Well, I finally made time to go get it. And guess what? It was a birthday present! From a reader whom I don't know! But now he's one of my favorite people!

So, thanks very very much to Aaron K. of San Francisco, for sending me "Billie Holiday: The Ultimate Collection"! I'm so excited! This is so great! I love presents!

And for those who are jealous of Aaron's personal mention on Chayyei Sarah: The Blog, remember, there are plenty of possible (belated) birthday gift ideas to go around. (wink wink)

In fact, now that I'm studying at Pardes, I will add a couple of other things I'm coveting, namely books I still need for my classes. If anyone can give or loan me any of these, I'd be extremely grateful, and of course you can consider yourself as having a share in any "merit" I earn from my Torah study:
  • Torat Chayyim on Sefer Shmot (A friend has offered to loan me a copy but I would like my own, eventually)
  • Frank -- Practical Talmud Dictionary(ditto)
  • Jastrow's Aramaic-English dictionary
  • Steinzalz reference guide to gemara (I think about this book and just drool)

And now a little personal update.

What the Chayyei is:
Learning in gemara class and enjoying very much
Reading (in Hebrew translation, very very slowly)
Writing about (link is just a hint; you'll have to wait for the article)
Trying to get an interview with on very short notice
Pitching a story to (if it succeeds you'll be the first to know)
Volunteering for a little
Thinking about
Not thinking about . . . definitely not thinking about . . .
Supposed to be learning but I haven't been practicing
Attempting to follow, with respectable success (this was actually inspired by an assignment, an example of life imitating art!)
Listening to later (thanks again, Aaron!)

Sunday, November 06, 2005

It's a Mystery

Here's a point to ponder:

How is it that a man who has willingly thrown himself out of airplanes, and entered houses full of armed, hostile terrorists, cannot bring himself to call a woman and tell her he doesn't want to go out anymore?

Friday, November 04, 2005

My Latest Cover Feature

At long last, it's finally been published - my feature story about Meir "Magic Michael" Tulkoff, a "humor therapist" at various children's hospitals in Israel, and easily one of the nicest people I've ever met. Michael hails from Baltimore, and the story appears in his home-town Jewish magazine, the Baltimore Jewish Times (thus the rather "heimish" tone when discussing local Baltimore references). To see the photo that appears on the cover, click here and scroll down (will probably disappear in a week, so go now!).

One of the reasons I love working for the Baltimore Jewish Times (among many) is that they always give me plenty of room to cover a subject comprehensively. Sometimes I'm actually astonished at how much room they give me. Part of me feels like this story runs a little too long, but part of me is really glad that I got to fit in all the points about Michael, his work, and his life that I wanted to fit in. It always hurts a little when I have to cut out material that meant a lot to me.

So, thanks to the BJT for the assignment and the space, and to everyone at the hospitals who gave me access to their patient wards, and especially to Michael, whom I enjoyed meeting immensely. He's really a very special guy.

Here's what I think and hope is a permanent link.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Good News, and the Bittersweet

A tidbit I caught in today's Maariv: David Hatuel, the former resident of Gush Katif whose wife, Tali, and four daughters were all brutally murdered by Palestinian terrorists (driven off the road and then shot at close range) a year and a half ago is engaged to be married! His new bride, Limor Shem-Tov, is 32 and lives in Jerusalem. She's never been married. They met through a matchmaking agency that specializes in helping people who were widowed in terrorist attacks find a new mate. The engagement was announced yesterday at a party in Jerusalem.

In the article, Hatuel was quoted as saying that the home he intends to found with Limor is not meant to replace his first family, but to build upon all the love that he'd experienced before to create something new. He said that his personal tragedy and the "national tragedy" (of the disengagement from Gaza) should not inspire people to lose hope and sink into despair, but to work harder to be positive and create new happiness and new life.

Tali Hatuel's parents have met Limor, and according to a family friend they are "embracing her as if she were their own daughter," though of course this is a bittersweet occasion for all involved. David Hatuel's friends were quoted as saying that in the last couple of months, Limor has "brought the smile back to David's face," something they had not seen for a long time.

I know I, for one, have thought of David Hatuel often, and hoped that he would find a good woman and build a new life. So I was so happy to read this article. But, along with that, is simply immense sadness about Tali and the four girls. What was lost can never be replaced.

After a while, a lot of the terrorist attacks in the latest intifada blended into each other. Another cafe? A bus? Was that a disco or a moviehouse? Which restaurant was that, again?

But the murder of Tali Hatuel and her kids was burned into my mind. Her name and her story remain clearly in my consciousness along with those of certain others: Nachshon Waxman, Kobi Mandell, Nava Applebaum, Baby Shalhevet.

I read the article in Maariv and looked at the photos of David and Limor, Tali and the girls, and wondered: Are these tears of joy or of pain I am crying? Sometimes it is hard to tell.