Thursday, September 28, 2006

Mitzpe Ramon

My latest story for The Jewish Week's "Israel Travel" supplement is up! I'm really proud of this one. I had a great day in Mitzpe Ramon, and am pleased with the way the article came out.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Is that a pig that just flew by?

A sign that hell is in danger of freezing over, imminently:

Ha'aretz printed an update on the deplorable situation of Gush Katif evacuees.

Bottom line: Even for communities who signed relocation agreements with the government long before the disengagement, not a single groundbreaking has occured for permanent housing. Whole uprooted communities are still living in trailers, more than a year after the evacuation.

You don't have to have opposed the disengagment to recognize that this is ludicrous and cruel.

Monday, September 25, 2006

"The Greatest Deception of Modern Times"

Before jumping into this post, I just want to wish a "happy new year" once again to those readers who celebrated Rosh Hashanah. Personally, I celebrated the holiday at the home of friends, and oh. my. goodness. was there a lot of food. Beyond belief. Their new house, by the way, is gorgeous.

While Allison takes a break from her duties, I'm going to be covering for her at Israelity. Below is one of the posts which will appear today. I think it's important that anyone reading this explore the post and pass along the information if you can. In particular, do read the whole Maariv article.

Cross-posted from Israelity:

Who is killing the Muslims?

Imshin has gone to great effort to translate an important article from Maariv, with the following introduction (by Imshin) about why she wants this story to get more attention in English:

The reason I translated the article by Ben Dror Yemini that appeared on the Friday addition of Maariv is that it is extremely important. It makes the important case of the libel against Israel, which he calls the greatest deception of modern times.

He explains that while Israel is seen as a state committing genocide and war crimes, and its very right to exist is widely questioned, in actually fact ‘only’ about 60,000 Arabs have died in the Arab-Israel conflict since 1948 (including the War of 1948 itself), most killed in wars started by the Arabs themselves, and only a few thousand of those killed have been Palestinians!

Now, it goes without saying that every one of those killed is a tragedy, but the numbers killed in this conflict are dwarfed to insignificance by the terrible, horrendous atrocities that have been committed elsewhere in the Arab and Muslim world at the very same time. All this time, millions of Muslims and Arabs have been dying at the hands of Muslim and Arabs. And he goes into detail. He calls it a cover up and says that the great deception of the libel against Israel is the great tragedy of the Arabs and the Muslims - for it allows this horrific carnage to continue undisturbed.

The full English text of the article begins here and continues here and here.

A summary:

Number of Arabs killed in the framework of Israeli-Arab conflicts since the creation of Israel (including in the 1948 war for Israel's independence, all the wars fought between Israel and its neighbors, and the occupation of Palestinians): 60,000.

Number of Algerian Muslims killed by the French in the 1950's Algerian war for Independence: Between 500,000 to 1 million.

Number of Muslims killed by other Muslims in the 1990's Algerian civil war: 100,000.

Number of people, including some Muslims, killed by Muslims in Sudan between 1955 and today: 2.6 million- 3 million.

Number of Muslims killed by the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980's: at least 1 million

Number of Muslims killed by other Muslims in the Afghan civil war of the 1980's-90's: 1 million

Number of Muslims killed by the Americans in efforts to overthrow the Taliban: less than 10,000.

Number of Muslims killed by other Muslims since 1977 in Somalia's civil war: Between 400,000- 550,000.

Number of Muslims in Bangladesh killed by other Muslims from Pakistan since 1977: 1.4 million-2 million

Number of Muslims killed by other Muslims in Indonesia since 1965: at least 400,000.

Number of Muslims in East Timor killed between 1975-1999 by Muslims from Indonesia: 100,000 - 200,000

Number of Muslims killed in Iraq by other Muslims (mostly those in the regime of Saddam Hussein): 1.54 million- 2 million

Number of Iranian Muslims killed in their war with Iraq: 450,000 - 970,000

Number of Lebanese killed by Israelis between 1975-1990: up to 18,000 (this number is included in the first statistic given several lines up, about Arab deaths at Israel's hands)

Number of Lebanese killed by other Lebanese or by Syrians between 1975-1990: at least 112,000.

Number of Yemenites, Egyptians, and Saudis killed in the Yemen civil war of 1962, and in the Yemen riots of 1984-1986: 100,000 - 150,000

Number of Chechen Muslims killed by the Russians since 1992: 80,000- 300,000

Number of Arabs and Muslims killed in Jordan (includes at least a few thousand Palestinians), Chad, Yugoslavia, Tajikistan, Syria, Iran, Turkey, and Zanzibar in the course of smaller conflicts in the 1970's, 80's, and 90's: at least 150,000.

Summary of the summary:

The next time Arabs and/or Muslims complain about the persecution they suffer at the hands of the Americans and Israelis, remember this . . .
Since 1948, the number of Muslims killed by the Americans and Israelis combined is still less than the number killed by the French. And the number of Muslims killed by the French, Israelis, and Americans combined is still less than the number killed by the Soviets/Russians. And the number of Muslims killed by the Soviets, Russians, French, Israelis, and Americans, combined, is still about 1/3 of the number of Muslims who have been killed by Muslim states.

I don't mean to minimize anyone's suffering, and as an Israeli I'm interested in continuing to pressure Israel to keep Arab casualties at a minimum while still protecting Israelis. But if the goal is to save lives, then to focus one's pressure on the deeds or misdeeds of Israel is to apply an incredible, ridiculous double standard, one clearly motivated by anti-Semitism and nothing more. If the goal is to spare Muslim lives, then the Muslims could start with themselves, and come back to us when they value each other. (Oh, and when they themselves don't think anymore that 1,000 of them is worth 2 of us.)

Friday, September 22, 2006

Fun way to waste some time

Inspired by a New York Times article about kids who search for possible colleges to attend through the internet (college admissions is actually an interest of mine, and possibly a "beat" I would have explored if I'd stayed in the States and gone into Education reporting), I went here and filled out a profile based on how I was as a senior in high school. That is, I put in the majors I thought I wanted when I was a senior, the activities I thought I might do, type of campus atmosphere I thought I wanted, my GPA from high school, my SAT scores (had to make one up for the Writing Section, since it didn't exist then), etc. The idea is that the site then recommends colleges that fit your criteria and are likely to accept you, or that would be good "reaches" or "safeties." It's a tool for being exposed to colleges that one might not have thought of otherwise.

The system had no way to account for the one factor that was most important to me (and still would be): the presence on campus of an Orthodox Jewish community, even if it's a small one. I needed kosher food, Orthodox services nearby, and a few Orthodox friends so I wouldn't be the only crazy one on the entire campus! But this Counselor-O-Matic device by The Princeton Review doesn't ask if you want a specific type of religious community, only if you want a college with a specific religious affiliation. I checked "no," since as a high school senior I did not need the internet to tell me which Jewish colleges might be good for me; I was able to weigh the pros and cons of YU, Brandeis, and Touro on my own. What would have interested me at age 17 was which secular colleges might be a good fit.

The results were surprisingly fitting. The16-college list generated by the site included six colleges whose brochures I did study wistfully as a teenager, thinking "if only they had a frum community (or a bigger frum community), I might have liked to apply there": Bard, Amherst, Syracuse, Yale, Brown, and Skidmore. On the list were two colleges I did apply to: Harvard and Cornell.

The rest seemed out of the blue to me, and if a frum community weren't important perhaps I would have been inspired to look into them more, though in most cases I doubt it would have made a difference: Carnegie Mellon, Hamilton, Gettysburg, Claremont McKenna, Elmira, SUNY Stony Brook, Juniata, and Washington College in Maryland.

Notably, the list did not include the college I actually attended, and loved (Barnard), nor did it include another college whose brochure I slobbered over and actually wrote to in order to find out how far a walk it was from the nearest Orthodox synagogue: Bryn Mawr. (To this day I get wistful when I hear about Bryn Mawr. Oh, the sacrifices one makes to be an observant Jew.)

One of the reasons I played this little game is that, being a Barnard Alumnae Admissions Representative, I've often thought lately that admissions to Barnard has become so competitive, I doubt I would get in if I applied now (with my high school record). The fact that Barnard didn't make my "list" doesn't necessarily mean anything, but I did think that some of the "rankings" were interesting. For example, Yale and Cornell came up as a "good matches" but Amherst, Brown, and Claremont McKenna came up as "reaches." It implies to me that either these lists are more random than they should be, or else they are frighteningly accurate, taking into account the most nuanced preferences of admissions committees at various colleges. It also could indicate the rise and falls of various schools in the 17 years since I applied to colleges: Brown, for instance, is MUCH more popular now then it was then, and therefore much more difficult to get into.

Anyway, that was fun. A little pointless, but fun.

To all my Jewish readers: Have a good and sweet new year.

To my readers who are not Jewish: Have a good and sweet next 12 months.

Thursday, September 21, 2006


I just returned from a heavenly, 2 1/2- day, Israeli-style vacation in a "zimmer" (German for "room," referring basically to a cottage rental) in the north. I feel like a different person.

Thanks to the wonders of two online portals of Israeli guest houses, cottages, villas, etc., I found Villa Morgana, a secluded establishment with three guest suites in the small town of Yavna'el, a short drive south of Tiberias. Click here and take the bottom three "virtual tours" to see my room and the swimming pool. It reminded me of Enchanted April for its beauty, solitude, serenity, and its being called a Villa, though staying there did not result in any improvements in my love life, as far as I know.

I deliberately waited until September to take a vacation, in order to avoid the high season crowds of families whose kids are off from school. By the time September rolled around, I was frayed at the edges and in such desperate need of a real vacation (that is, not a trip to visit family, or a trip for work that involves taking notes about everything I do) that I was practically in tears from the anticipation. It's been two years since I've gone anywhere to relax.

I discovered that very few people are crazy enough (or flexible enough job-wise) to go away the week before Rosh Hashanah -- who goes away before Rosh Hashanah, instead of on Rosh Hashanah? -- so I could take my pick of places to stay. The owners of Villa Morgana gave me a fantastic rate based on my coming alone, and in the last minute. In fact, there was no one else there. I had the swimming pool, hammock, and tanning areas all to myself, as well as the jacuzzi in my bathroom. It. was. fantastic. Have you ever floated on your back in a pool, gazing up at millions of stars? Incredible. Just what the doctor ordered.

Yesterday I took the bus into Tiberias and went swimming for a bit in Lake Kinneret. The water was beautiful, but the beach is very rocky and I found getting into the water quite painful, slippery, and frightening. I was told that the other side of the lake has sandy beaches rather than rocky ones. Next time, I'll go with a friend, pack some sandwiches, splurge on a boat ride to the other side of the lake, and swim near those sandy shores.

I also walked around Tiberias quite a bit, taking note of things I'd like to look into doing the next time I go: The water park, the warm springs spa, and Decks - a meat restaurant directly on the Lake, known to be the best in Israel. I was told that it could cost me up to 250 NIS (about $55) for lunch, so I opted instead for Pagoda, an upscale chinese restaurant with a lake view and an excellent business lunch deal.

The best thing was coming back to the Villa and being able to get into the swimming pool within about 30 seconds. And the jacuzzi . . . oh, the jacuzzi . . . Today, I just lounged around, getting into the pool when I felt like it, getting out when I felt like it, sunning in the hammock . . .


(Cross-posted to Israelity.)

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Happy Rosh Hashanah

Via Israelity, a very entertaining little video for the Jewish New Year.

[The rest of the post has been deleted because I got some insulting comments from humor-impaired readers, including one who wrote two completely different comments from the same IP address one right after the other, and I just don't have the energy to deal with it right now. Post and comments are gone now. ]
What does this mean?

So, I've run up against a curious problem in my life. At first it was just annoying, but now it has grown to such proportions that I'm starting to think it means something.

Several weeks ago, I started working on a few assignments for a client. Let's call the client National Jewish Organization (NJO), and my job was to call various chapters and get information on their activities, write them up in separate articles, and hand them in. But many of the heads of the chapters were not calling me back, despite repeated (in some cases, 4-5) messages. It was very frustrating. I thought perhaps it's part of the culture of this particular organization not to call people back, but it was strange, since I was working for their own national office. Maybe they weren't calling back because I was not "real" media but rather calling from It was strange. The client wasn't too pleased that I wasn't getting things in, but what can I do if their own people aren't calling me back?

Then, about a week and a half ago, another client asked me to write an article for their magazine, on a very tight deadline. The story was about a certain health issue, the extent to which it affects Israelis in a specific part of the country, and what Israel or Israeli organizations are doing about it. So the first thing I did was call hospitals in that area -- some well-known, others smaller and more obscure, but still serving a respectably-sized population -- and asked to speak with the spokesperson's office.

At several hospitals, I left messages for the spokesperson (known among reporters as "the spox") when I got their voicemail. I found it surprising that they did not leave emergency numbers for the media, because this is Israel, where lots of people get injured in sudden terrorist crises or wars, and they are a hospital, and even the most obscure organizations generally leave an emergency number for reporters, and the nature of hospitals is that sometimes there are emergencies. But whatever. I left messages. Can you believe, that at not one but three hospitals, I never got a call back? From the spokesperson? And at one hospital, there was never any answer at all, not even voicemail? In the spokesperson's office? And at another hospital, I did reach the spox in person, and to my surprise, she spoke no English. Luckily I speak Hebrew well enough to get my questions across, but do you mean to tell me that in the entire area (granted, not near one of Israel's biggest cities), a hospital cannot find a media spokesperson who speaks English? I don't mean to be Anglo-centric, but . . . it's the media office.

Anyway, between the hospitals and one major university with a Medical school (the spox at universities do speak English and do call back), I eventually managed to get the phone numbers of several doctors whose expertise lies in the subject of my story. One called back pretty much right away, but at a time I couldn't talk, so we set another time, and then when I called her, there was no answer. Over the day I left two messages for her, but she never called. And one other professor called me this morning -- after I've been trying to get someone to interview for over a week -- and when he heard what I wanted, he said he can't spend the time to talk with me today, and we'd have to schedule an interview for a later date.

A week of calls, one scheduled interview to show for it.

Meanwhile, I was also working on an assignment for NJO that involved "fleshing out" the story with people from outside their organization, specifically college students who attended one of their programs. After pulling teeth some more to get people in NJO to call me back, I finally got the phone numbers of two students who had agreed to be interviewed. I called them and called them but was always leaving messages. Finally I sent them each an email saying "unless I hear from you otherwise, I'm calling you in 2 days at 8:00 [or 8:30] am your time."

The second [8:30] student, I did manage to reach at the appointed time, and she gave me a fantastic interview. Very nice and helpful young lady. The first student, I called this evening at 8:00 am her time, like I'd said. Busy. Busy 10 minutes later. And 10 minutes later. Finally she called me, saying she has bad phone reception, and could I call her back so she won't be paying for the call? So I called her back. Busy Busy Busy.

Later I left my apartment for literally 5 minutes, to return something I'd borrowed from an upstairs neighbor, and when I got back there was a message from the missing student. The message said "I saw that you called, but there is something wrong with my phone, so when I picked up nothing happened. Sorry. I don't think I want to do this interview anymore. I don't like it. It's not working for me. Bye."

Uh, ok.

So, the bottom line is that everywhere I turn, interview-wise, I get stuck. People don't have voicemail, or they don't call back, or their phone is broken, or they don't call back, or they are busy today and I have to call again later, and then they are not home, or they don't call back.

I don't think I'm doing anything differently. I leave the same sort of message I always do: "Hi, my name is Sarah so-and-so. I'm a reporter in Jerusalem. I'm writing an article in English for Publication XYZ about topic ABC, and was wondering if I could interview you for the story [or: if you could recommend people from your institution whom I could interview]. Please call me back at [my number] or [my cell number]. Thank you." If appropriate I mention that I'm on a tight deadline. If the voicemail message is in Hebrew, I normally leave the message in Hebrew; if it is in both Hebrew and English, I leave it in English. If the message is for someone in the States, and I am leaving my VOIP number, I do what I always do, usually to great effect: I specify that "this is an American number, so it is a domestic call for you, but it rings in my apartment in Jerusalem. I'm 7 hours ahead of you, so the best time to call is when it is moring in New York [or whereever]." Normally this all works. But all of a sudden, I'm a persona non grata.

I feel like there is a message in this, but I don't know what it is. I'm not usually the type to associate a problem like this with my spiritual state, or anything I'm personally doing wrong, but when it becomes so repetitive, from people in different countries and stations in life, then it makes me wonder whether maybe there is something I myself am doing that is making me be "stuck," and something I have to change in order to get "unstuck."

Any thoughts?

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Letter to the Palestinians who firebombed two churches in the West Bank because they were angered by a perceived insult by the Pope:

Dear Muslim neighbors,

During the Israel-Hezballah war over the summer, I'm sure you called Israel's actions disproportionate. Maybe they were, and maybe they weren't, but as long as we're on the topic, want to give you a tip about proportionality.

If the leader of another religion, say, the Pope, verbally offends your religious sensibilities by, say, quoting an anti-Muslim Byzantine Emperor in the context of a broader speech to academics, there are many proportionate ways to respond.

You could, for example, have your own religious leaders issue statements of condemnation to the Pope and to the press.

You could schedule meetings with Catholic leaders to make sure they understand how offended you are.

You could approach the religious leaders of your local churches in the West Bank and request that they publicly distance themselves from the insulting words.

And if you are really, really offended, you could stage mass protests in which hundreds or thousands of people demand that the Pope apologize.

See, among rational, mature human beings, a verbal attack produces a verbal response.

But, if you are going to get upset because in a very indirect way someone called your religion "inhuman," or you thought that he did, then firebombing places of worship is not a great way to go. Because, see, firebombing places of worship because someone called you names is a pretty animalistic thing to do. Pretty inhuman, you know.

Yeah, I just compared you (not all Muslims, just you and your friends) to animals. So what are you going to do now? Condemn my blog? Or firebomb a synagogue on another continent?

If you want anyone to take you, Islam, Muslims, and/or Palestinians seriously, I recommend that you take a chill pill. Because starting riots or setting fire to churches when someone has hurt your feelings is not cool.

Start of a Fresh New Week

Happy New Week, everyone.

I know some of you were worrying, since my last post was quite depressing (or just depressed, depending on how much you empathize), and I haven't posted for several days. Don't worry, I'm fine. I'm not going to lie - last week was a bummer in many ways. But I'm OK.

Not much new to report, but here are some odds and ends I've been thinking about:

1) Why do people need sleep? I'm not asking what are the health benefits of sleep-- those are well documented. I'm asking, from the perspectives of religion and of evolution, why are we designed in such a way that sleep is necessary?

From an evoluntionary standpoint, it seems strange that the species most dominant in the world, human beings, need as much sleep as we do. Sleep makes one vulnerable, for example to attack by other animals. Wouldn't it have made more sense for evolution to select those who are genetically needy of the least sleep?

And from a religious standpoint it's even more strange. Here God puts us in the world to serve Him, to develop the world, and to fix its problems. And yet he creates us in such a way that 1/3 of our lives must be devoted not to our purpose in the world, but to lying still with our eyes closed. Why not create humans beings the way humans have created electronics-- in need of fuel (that is, food) to keep us going, but not sleep? That way, as long as we keep eating at regular intervals, we can keep going, like energizer bunnies. Why make us in such a way that we have to rest so utterly for several hours a day?

2) APPRECIATION WEDNESDAY ON SATURDAY NIGHT: The heart is an amazing thing. The heart never sleeps! From before we are born until we die, the heart just keeps on beating, without ever stopping to take a break. That is amazing. It makes me tired just thinking about it. How amazing that we each have a muscle that can keep going like that. When I stop to think about the fact that my heart beats, whether I'm conscious of it or not, well, it's just a miraculous thing.

(But why aren't ALL of our muscles and organs like that?)

3) I've been noticing a lot more people in my neighborhood speaking French. Must be lots of new French immigrants here. French women are very slender. And they dress impeccably. (I hate them.) :-P

4) Via Manolo, the I Hate Crocs blog. Read it. Live it. Get me the "Friends Don't Let Friends Wear Crocs" t-shirt. I cannot wait for that trend to end.

5) I love the variety of my work. Recent clients have included, in addition to several Jewish papers in the States (reporting/journalism): a travel portal about Jerusalem (content writing), the corporate magazine of a large pharmaceutical company, and a Jerusalem-based company that rents out satellite services, television production equipment, and studio space to news organizations. I'm also writing the chapter of a book, commissioned by a Jewish foundation in the US.

I learn so many interesting things. Just this past week, when writing about tourist attractions for Christians, I learned what the Ascension, the Visitation, and the Magnificat are. Did you know that John the Baptist's parents were named Elizabeth (probably Elisheva) and Zachariah? Not I.

I learned why pharmacuetical companies' marketing offices are particularly busy in September, and why the issues of child custody and support in a divorce in Israel is sometimes decided by the secular courts and sometimes by the rabbinate. I learned that film is made of chemicals which smell more and more powerfully of vinegar as they break down, and that there was indeed such a thing as color film in the 1930's. I learned that Japanese women are really into elaborate, feminine, neo-Victorian jewelry that has lots of lace and crystals and pink in it.

Perhaps someday some of this knowledge will come up at a cocktail party and I can "wow" people with my, uh, extensive knowledge of, um, random facts.

And I learned that The Coffee Shop on Rachel Imeinu Street closes their cash register at about 3:30 in the morning but does not kick people out, and that Emek Refaim street does empty out eventually, certainly by 4 am. I also learned that the chocolate souffle at The Coffee Shop is served warm, with a small scoop of ice cream, and is heavenly.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

The Truth About Rosh Hashanah

Today was a bad day. I'm upset about a lot of things, so upset that I can't even bring myself to complain. Cuz, see, half the things I'm upset about are my own fault, and the other half have to do with being single. And I don't want to be a whiny single, you know?

Except, that I just want to say, that I've heard from several single girlfriends this year that they are just plain dreading Rosh Hashanah, not with the normal, expected, "dread" as in "awe," but in the way that only a person who has been single for over 30 years can dread it. Cuz, see, every single year we pray on Rosh Hashanah for the same thing -- to be married by next Rosh Hashanah, or at least in a good relationship-- and every darn year we're back in synagogue on Rosh Hashanah, in the same darn seat, in the same darn marital status, praying for the same darn thing again. And again. And again.

The consensus: Rosh Hashanah is our least favorite time of year. It used to be a mixture of happy, awe-inspiring, and intimidating. Now it's just depressing.

A few friends are going away for Rosh Hashanah, some place they don't normally go, just so that they aren't in the same place, again, literally and figuratively. I, however, do not have that option, so I'll be praying in the same place I went to the year before last, and the year before that. Praying with the same (very nice) single people who were there two years ago, and the year before that. The same people who, give or take a few, will most likely still be there next year. (No "ayin hara" intended.)

Rosh Hashanah is not a fun holiday when you are starting to give up on the idea that your life might actually change for the better in the next 12 months.

But . . . no, we are not whiny singles! Far be it from us to be sad! Happy happy happy! Because bitter people don't get set up! No sir! We have perfect faith, and our hearts are waaaaaay open! We don't care how much they bleed out, because people who are whiny and angry don't get any dates! Whoo hoo! Happy happy happy!

So, instead of complaining about being single, I'm going to complain about something else, because, you see, complaining about being single makes you a whiny single, but complaining about other things makes you a cool blogger. Sick double standard.

In the US, land of excessive consumption and consumerism, apartment buildings leave lights on in the stairwells 24 hours per day. In Israel, presumably to conserve energy, the lights stay off unless you need them. There is a little button on the wall at each level, and if you push it the stairwell light goes on for 10-20 seconds. If you are going up or down just one flight, it's perfect.

But so many times, that light goes off while I'm between, say, the 3rd and 4th floors (because most buildings in my neighborhood are walk-ups). So there you are, stuck between floors, in total darkness, and you have to sort of feel your way carefully down each step, hoping to God that you don't trip and break your neck. Then, at the landing, you have to feel all around the wall, hoping to find the stupid button.

Today I was holding grocery bags in both hands, coming down from the 4th floor of a building, when the light went out. And I missed the last step going down, and practically tripped into the wall. Darn energy-conserving stairwell lights!

It's been a bad day.


Thursday, September 07, 2006

Girl Power

Foreign Minister Tzippy Livni was named Forbes' 40th most powerful woman in the world. (Another Israeli, Galia Maor, is #88.)

I have somewhat mixed feelings about Livni. While the recent war was going on against Hezballah, she entered everyone's radar, and it was widely noted that of all Israel's leaders, she seemed to be the only one who wasn't making an utter ass of herself. She handled herself with intelligent, poise, and a sense of stability and trustworthiness.

But then Israel agreed to that cackamaimy cease-fire / premature admittance of defeat, and as the Foreign Minister, she must have had something to do with that. And the simple fact that she's still in bed with Olmert is tarnishing her image.

Still, I'm not quite crossing her off my list of people I could support for Prime Minister when the time comes. I'm still hanging in there, hoping that she proves to have bigger balls than her male colleagues.
Appreciation Wednesday (on Thursday) - Mutual Admiration Society

MCAryeh, the Whispering Soul, has returned to blogging, and how! He's got some great new posts up. And, he has returned to an ambitious project: reading the entire archives of his favorite bloggers, and writing up introductions to them with links to his favorite posts.

Yes, he recently wrote up my humble blog, and his summary is really flattering.

So, this week I appreciate MCAryeh, both for his efforts in reading my entire archive, which is no easy feat, and for producing a thought-provoking and sensitive blog of his own.

I have not read his entire archive, but there are two very recent posts I highly recommend:
Is Everybody Gay?
Flying High as a Kite By Then
At Last

As I write this, there are two workers in my apartment.

You know what they are doing?

Can you guess what I am getting?


Ah, finally . . .

It's a little late for this summer, being September. But NEXT summer, I will be made in the shade.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

"You shall draw water in joy from the springs of salvation"

I started my new Talmud class! I am now studying at my alma mater, Nishmat, which has moved from the Bayit Veigan neighborhood to a gorgeous new building in Pat (much closer to where I live). For those who are wondering why I opted for Nishmat rather than return to Pardes, it was really a toss-up, with both having compelling pros and cons. The deciding factor was that the class at Nishmat is only 6 hours a week, a reasonable time for me to take away from work, whereas at Pardes I would have been in class for 13 hours a week - way too much of a commitment for me right now.

Another advantage is that I have the privilege of studying under Rabbi Moshe Ehrenreich. Just to give you an idea of how revered and prominent he is . . . in many yeshivas and seminaries, there is a custom to address one's rabbi in the 3rd person, eg "I have a question for the rabbi" and "How would the rabbi explain such-and-such?" Well, two days ago, a member of Nishmat's administration was showing Rav Ehrenreich where our class would be, and the administrator, himself a respected rabbi, was saying "This will be the rabbi's classroom . . . the rabbi can sit here . . . would the rabbi like me to photocopy anything for him?"


Anyway, the class is twice a week. Each time, we spend about 2 hours studying the text in pairs -- I am learning with an English-speaker, who is actually a former NCSYer of mine. Then, for an hour we have class; Rav Ehrenreich speaks in Hebrew. I'm really proud that I'm able to follow him, though I often have trouble understanding my young Hebrew-speaking classmates, who speak very quietly, very quickly, and often let their thoughts trail off at the end . . . I'm amazed at how pervasive their inaudibleness is. I sometimes want to shake them and say "speak up! It won't kill you if we can hear you!"

But anyhow, I can mostly follow the class, and it's very interesting. We've spent two class sessions teasing meaning and questions out of a Mishnah in the fourth chapter of Tractate Sukkot, about a water ceremony they used to do in the Holy Temple on the holiday of Sukkot. Rather esoteric material, but the topic is not the point. For me the point is seeing how much can be learned from just 15 or so lines of text, the contradictions in logic that emerge, and how commentators attempt to reconcile them. We've already gone through so many threads of commentary, my head is spinning. But, yes, this is my idea of fun!

Also, an unexpected benefit is that Rav Ehrenreich is so grandfatherly, I just have this temptation to bring him hot cocoa. And my classmates, despite their apparent inability to speak louder than a whisper, are very nice people. The school has a genuinely holy atmosphere, in a really accessible way. I've been feeling rather spiritually "blah" lately, so maybe this class will help.

Finally, another aspect I want to share: The new building isn't quite ready yet, so we are learning in the synagogue next door. It is shaped like two igloos stuck together, and looks almost exactly like the Lars farmstead on Tatooine, from the Star Wars movies. Anyhow, this morning we had the study-in-pairs session outside, in the synagogue's Sukkah (quite appropriate, given the subject matter), and it did not escape me that I am really lucky. I was studying Torah all morning, which I am able to do because I work for myself, we were in the shade of a Sukkah, the weather was beautiful, and I was in Jerusalem. Life just doesn't get any better than that.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Save the Lettuce

Someone-- perhaps the same someone who spray-painted radical-feminist slogans on Rachel Imeinu Street a few months ago -- recently spray-painted radical vegetarian slogans in the same spots: the wall surrounding a construction site, and the walls of the little huts at bus stations.

The graffitti said, in Hebrew,


After a few days, something along these lines also appeared on the wall

Save the animals! www.[some Hebrew word]

Well. Well, well, well.

The meat-loving populace of the German Colony was not going to let all of that go without comment. One day I saw the following scrawled on the hut at a bus stop:

Did you ever consider the feelings of your lettuce? How do you think those poor vegatables feel? They are crying in pain! Oh, God, save the carrots! Come to the aid of the radishes! www.[Hebrew word for lettuce]

But then, the vegetarian wars got nasty. The meat-eaters did this to the MEAT=MURDER graffitti:


This change was made up and down the street.

So what did the vegetarians do?


I can't wait to see what goes up next!

(Cross-posted to Israelity and Dov Bear)

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Mini Blogger Bash at Baby's Simchat Bat

Try saying that five times fast!

So, I've been following this anonymous blog, Dot Co Dot Il, and have been waiting with bated breath for the birth of the author's first baby.

Having now seen the baby's picture and read the intimate details of her birth, I was pleased to see that the blogger had invited his readers to come over to the "simchat bat," a little party on Friday night to welcome his daughter into the world.

I don't know this guy from Adam, and in fact did not know whether his real name might be Adam, or what. But I sent him an email asking for his address, and on Friday night, after dinner, walked over to his apartment, came through the door, and said to the crowd who were now all looking at me "hi, um, I'm Chayyei Sarah. Um, which of you are the hosts?" Pretty awkward, that.

The baby and mommy were still in the hospital, but I got to meet Dot Co Dot Il, and his in-laws, and some of his friends, which was all very nice. And, as a bonus, I met Ahuva, aka Sabra at Heart! I've been following her blog, and must say that in real life she is every bit as interesting and bubbly as her website. Her first question to me was "so, do you have a new air conditioner yet?" Mind, we'd never met. The whole thing is so weird, in a good way.

Such interesting people we meet, thanks to the blogosphere!