Sunday, April 13, 2008

Absorption Experience #5,016: Police Report

Something which used to be true, but isn't anymore, is that when dealing with Israeli bureacracy, it's best to bring a book, be prepared to wait for several hours, and then be prepared to be given some sort of run-around. These days, one who assumes that this "common knowledge" is always true will often be in for pleasant surprises. (Not always, but often.)

Last night I went to fill out a police report about my stolen backpack. Now, the Israeli police are not exactly known for being warm and fuzzy. And it's probably true that if I'd been in the police station because I, myself, had been suspected of having committed a crime -- petty or otherwise -- I probably would have had a much harder time.

But as it was, I was there to report that I'd been the victim of a crime. I got there prepared to wait for an hour or three and then to be "processed" by a bored and unfriendly clerk who couldn't care less that my bag was missing.

In truth, I waited for five minutes. There was no one ahead of me, and I just had to wait for the officer on duty to get off the phone. (Later, when I left, a line had built up with about 7 people in it; I guess I was lucky to have gotten there immediately after Shabbat ended.) In the waiting area were big posters, listing the rights of crime victims in Hebrew, Arabic, English, and Russian.

The woman who took my complaint was courteous and thorough. Yes, she picked up her ringing phone a few times, but it was clear that each of her calls was about internal police business and that she was getting off each call as quickly as she could. A few times I heard her tell the callers "I can't speak with you right now, I'm with a mitlonenet (complainant)." At one point another officer came in and interrupted, and she actually told him "you are going to have to wait until I finish filling out a report for this lady here." When I said "wow, that's good service," the other officer -- the one being rebuffed-- smiled and said "we like to give good service here."

What country am I in, again?!?

I also think it should be noted that everyone who hears that my passports were stolen has the same reaction. First, they express dismay because stolen passports can be used by terrorist groups for less-than-honorable purposes. Then they say: "Oh, getting a new Israeli one won't be a problem, because the Ministry of the Interior is pretty efficient. But you lost your American one? Oh, man. That means a trip to the American consulate. That sucks. I'm so sorry."

The times, they are a'changin'. (Except in the American consulate, which apparently is as mean-spirited as ever, including to American citizens.)

Friday, April 11, 2008

Grrrrr . . .

So, I went in to teach today, and then I went for breakfast at the little plaza next to the Mister Zol supermarket on Shai Agnon Street. One of my students came by, so we sat together and drank our respective drinks (my coffee, her "ice vaneel"), and shmoozed about Macbeth and The Great Gatsby and about her high school.

When she left, my backpack was gone. I knew she hadn't taken it. It had been next to me, on my side of the table. Someone extremely talented must have swiped it while we were engaged in conversation.

Grrrrr . . .

So now I'm spending my afternoon cancelling credit cards, cancelling unused checks, having the locks changed on both my old apartment and my new one, and trying to make a list of everything else that was taken so I can deal with them on Sunday - everything is closed now for Shabbat.

Driver's licenses from two countries. Israeli ID card and passport. My cell phone. My new lease and another important document which will be a pain to replace. Some of my students' journals. My grade register.

Receipts that I needed to send to a client so I could be reimbursed for expenses. That's about $200 right there.

And there is the backpack itself, which I loved.

If there is time before Shabbat, I'll go file a police report.

All I can say is: THANK GOD my computer wasn't in my bag. !!!!!


Thursday, April 10, 2008

Pre-Passover Fire Safety Tips

As Passover approaches, Jewish homes everywhere are up to "here" with lots of boiling water, which people use to kasher their kitchens and to cook.

The oven is going constantly, the stove is going constantly . . . more kashering, more cooking.

And families get together, and light candles for Shabbat and the holiday . . . lots of fire there, in one place.

So, here is Chayyei Sarah's traditional pre-holiday fire and burn (and, while we are at it, poison) safety reminders! This information is based mostly on a press conference which was held by Mount Sinai hospital a few years ago before Passover. (They said that Jewish holidays are the most busy times for their burn unit!)

  • Keep small children away from toxic and caustic cleaning agents; do not leave bottles of cleaning fluids out where tots can find them.

  • Keep small kids out of the kitchen while you are kashering it; teeny tykes and and boiling water are not a good combination.

  • Place tape on the floor, creating a perimeter of several feet around the stove/oven unit, and instruct children that they may NOT cross this line.

  • Tables and counters which will have candles or boiling food on them should not have tablecloths or other hanging decorations which a child might pull on. This is equally true in synagogues as at home.

  • Light holiday candles well away from curtains.

  • If you are using a crock pot, make sure the electrical cord is situated such that children won't pull on it.

  • When visiting the homes of friends or relatives for the holiday, find out the first day you are there where all the fire exits are - and make sure everyone in your family is informed.

  • If you have guests for the holiday, show all of them where the fire exits are shortly after they arrive.

Best wishes for a happy, kosher, and safe Pesach!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

For Pete's Sake

I haven't even finished unpacking my suitcase from England, and I now I have to pack everything I own and get it out of here on time to move out by May 1. Totally overwhelming. A good problem to have, but still sort of a problem since I am too overwhelmed to know how to solve it. In some ways, it's fantastic that I'm moving around Pesach time, because Liza and I have agreed simply not to bring any chametz into the new place -- perfect -- but meanwhile it means I can't, for example, pack up all my kitchen gear and bring it to the new place. So what to do with it meanwhile?

Someone who is interested in moving in after May 1 is coming on Friday to look at the place, and meanwhile everything I own is out on the floor. Everything. To get from one end of the apartment to another involves stepping around a complicated maze of boxes, bins, suitcases and just . . . random stuff everywhere. Because, seriously? I really don't know what to do right now with my Thanksgiving decorations, or my vacuum cleaner, or my sticker collection from when I was in elementary school.

In other news, this morning the air-raid siren went off -- yes, in Jerusalem -- and at first I freaked out. And then I went to sit in the only place in the apartment that is not in the direct line of a window. And then I remembered that today they had scheduled an air-raid drill.

Oh. OK.

Monday, April 07, 2008


Liza and I signed a lease yesterday, paid April's rent and a security deposit, and got keys!

I'm moving into a gorgeous, stunning, pre-1948 (read: beautiful Arab architecture with high ceilings) apartment with an amazing porch. The place was just totally renovated and has brand-new floor tiles, brand-new plumbing and electricity, a brand-new kitchen, and a brand-new bathroom. Wow. I'm one of the luckiest people in the world.

Now. To all my long-term readers. The ones who have been with me for years, through the Shabbaton-from-hell series, and the posts about the Second Lebanon War that got forwarded around. Remember how much that post about unleashing the guinea pigs of war meant to you?

Now, do you see that PayPal button on the right?

I'm just sayin' . . .


Thursday, April 03, 2008

Moving Right Along

Thanks to everyone who wrote to me with comments re: my singles article. The response so far has been gratifying, with pretty much everyone saying that the story is sad, but well-researched and well-written. That's all a journalist can ask for!

A few things going on with me . . .

1- Last week I went to London for the first time. Did you know that Europe is much closer to Israel than it is to the States? :-) I plunked down $900 and got a round-trip 5-hour flight and 3 nights in a really nice hotel in exchange. I love Daka-90! After being sick twice this winter and losing an apartment I'd been planning to buy, I was in desperate need of a vacation, and I got it. Tower of London (amazing!), Madame Tussaud's (amazing!), the rebuilt Shakespeare's Globe Theater (amazing!), a play in Leicester Square ("The Mousetrap" by Agatha Christie, the world's longest-running play. Amazing!), a bus tour (great!), and dinner in Golder's Green with my roommate from Michlalah, whom I haven't seen for about 15 years. I think that last was the most meaningful; it turns out that, though the details are different, our lives have taken similar paths, with both of us moving around a lot, switching careers, getting higher degrees, and really taking advantage of the time "given" us by being single - though regretting being single. Nice to know I'm not a freak!

2- My friend Lisa (who, actually, is going by her Hebrew name, Liza-- that's LEEZA) finally got out of her lease at the Hebrew University dorms, so we have begun the search for a new apartment! I've seen two places and both were great, actually. Liza is planning to come to Old Katamon tomorrow to check them out too, and hopefully by Sunday we'll have firm plans to move! Woo hoo!

3- In somewhat bad news, I'm going through something of a religious crisis. Nothing new here, it happens every few years. What kind of Jew would I be if I didn't do some questioning every once in a while? But it sucks while I'm going through it. Really, really sucks.

That having been said, I'm basically doing OK. Feeling refreshed from my trip and looking forward to getting out of my little studio and having a porch, and a living room, and some company. NOT looking forward to packing, but come to think of it, pre-Pesach cleaning and packing can go together a little and I'll kill two birds with one stone.

Oh, and

4- I love my teaching job! We're studying Amos Oz's A Tale of Love and Darkness, and it's a truly engrossing read, and my students are very engaged and motivated. Such a pleasure!