Wednesday, December 31, 2008

I'm NOT war blogging,

OK? In case you haven't noticed. Not interested in the stress; I have enough, thanks.

If you want war blogging, go read Treppenwitz. He's saying a lot of what I'm thinking, especially here and here. Oh, and here. And this is pretty thought-provoking, too.

So far (thank God) there is only one way this war has affected me: My mother called from the States and made me promise a few days ago not to take any buses or eat in restaurants, because she's afraid that the suicide bombing will start up again in Jerusalem soon.

Because she is my mother, and I love and respect her, and because she rarely asks anything of me, I agreed to do as she asked for one week. Two days later, I told her that if I have to work from home for a whole week I'll be miserable, and to please release me from my promise, which she did. (She rationalized her way to feeling better by telling herself that "the suicide bombing won't be this week, anyway, because the terrorists are busy being bombed. It will be afterward." I guess she'll worry about it then. My poor mom!) I'm now writing this from my table at Tal Bagels.

In non-war news, an extremely intelligent and talented acquaintance of mine has started a new blog, Borei Hoshech, in which she explicates the Jewish morning liturgy through the lens of her depression. It's meant to be a meeting place for Jews to talk about depression and anxiety disorders, and the intersection of those things with Jewish ritual (for better and for worse). I love the title, which comes from a blessing we say each morning, showing gratitude to God who creates light and who creates darkness.

Oh, one more thing about the war: Amos Oz, A.B. Yehoshuah, and David Grossman are all extremely talented novelists, but don't seem to read the news, or they'd know that "cease fire" has long since ceased to mean anything to Hamas other than "chance to re-arm." I'd love peace as much as they do, but the articles they've recently published are so much hot air, if I kept a few copies in my apartment then Liza and I wouldn't have to pay such a fortune for heat.

That said, I'm wondering: When Ehud Barak says that we'll keep attacking Gaza until "all our goals are met," to what goals, exactly, does he refer? Are there specific targets or people they are still going after? Are they waiting for some specific announcement? Continuing attacks until the Israeli populace feels satisfied with the amount of revenge it's gotten? I'm seriously confused. Emphasis: I agree Israel has to do something - in fact, a response to the thousands of rockets that have rained over Sderot is way overdue. But now that we're finally doing something, how long do we plan to do it? And does anyone really think that we're really accomplishing anything? What would accomplishment look like?



Sunday, December 28, 2008


Sorry it's been a while. Thank God, I've actually been busy. So, here are a few updates:

1- Yesterday I was at the home of my friends C and M, and we heard planes overhead. M went to the window and said "looks like we're about to attack somebody. Those were military planes, and they weren't doing training." There was a pause, and C pointed out "you know things are very bad when even Meretz [a far-left political party that is very into making peace with the Palestinians] say that we have to take military action."

My feelings about what happened in Gaza yesterday: I feel very sad that it had to be that way. But it had to be that way. We can't let rockets rain down on our citizens and do nothing. I look forward to the day -- may I live to see it -- when the Palestinian leadership figures out what "compromise" and "good leadership" and "promises" and "tolerance" actually mean. I'd really like for our army to have nothing to do. That would be fantastic.

2- I spent a night at the Dead Sea last week, compliments of the Spa Club hotel. It was amazing. The nicest hotel I've ever stayed in. For the first time I experienced a Turkish bath, and Loved it. I also went to the museum at the base of Masada. They've done a great job with it. Really brought the story to life.

3- Here's the thing about being a freelance writer in bad economic times: you don't exactly lose your job. You have a few clients hanging on, and new projects can (and do) come in. But you don't exactly keep your job either, and making ends meet becomes a challenge. So you're in a better position than those who are laid off from their "normal" jobs and have no income at all, but not in as good a place as those who are managing to hold onto their jobs and are making the same salaries as before. Good luck to everyone just hanging on until things get better again!

4- Despite what I just said, I did splurge last week and went out to see Twilight with Sparky. More commentary on that later, I think. It should be its own post.

5- I got the results back from the sleep lab! More details later, but for now: Yes, I have problems with my sleep, and now they have been diagnosed, and now I can move forward and be treated. I really hope the treatment will work so that I can actually get a good night's rest, something that has not happened for a few years now.

6- Two Chanukah highlights: Attending the official candle-lighting ceremony at the Spa Club hotel, and having the management of my supermarket say the blessings over the loudspeaker. I love these little events that just don't happen in America.

7- My friend Penina is visiting from the States and spent Shabbat with me. 'Twas nice to catch up.

8- It is freezing here. Winter coat weather. Brrrr.

7- You can see my article (plus sidebar) on Arad at the Jewish Week website, here and here.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Blahs

I'll get to the good news soon, but basically in the last week I've:

1- Lost my glasses. One evening I was in a hotel room (see below) and had them; the next morning they had utterly disappeared. There's $400 down the drain.

2- Lost my glasses. Which means that by the time I get the new ones (on Sunday, please God), I'll have been squinting and getting headaches for a week and a half.

3- Had some sort of virus that kept me in bed on and off for the last three days. Blegh.

4- Have had to face the fact that the "world economic meltdown" has trickled down to my own poor, depleted bank account. Quite a stressful turn of events.

5- Was stood up on a date. Sort of. It's a little more complicated than that, but "stood up" is the best way to describe what happened in simple terms. This feels very bad.

I realize that in the grand scheme of life, none of the above is a horrible thing. I have a nice apartment, good friends, some income, food on the table. It's fine. I'll get through it. But it's been a "blah" week.

The good news:

1- I got a free night at the Margoa hotel in Arad, and a free, excellent tour of Masada the next day. This was all for an assignment I'm working on. It had been 18 years (half my life) since I'd been to Masada, and I have to say, going as an adult who knows something about Jewish and ancient history makes the experience much richer than going as an 18-year-old who has never been to Israel before. First of all, I knew this time to wear layers. Second, I knew that the Snake Path sucks and that if you must hike up, it's the Ramp Path you want. Third, the story of the kannaim had context for me now. I understand more -- mostly from visits to other, excellent National Parks such as those at Tzippori and Bet Sha'an -- about the Roman conquest and the complex relationship between Jews and Romans. And Fourth, the double-layered history of Masada (Herod's buildings, and later the Jews' use of those buildings) was much more clear to me this time. I think the last time I went, all I could think about was how absolutely horrible the Snake Path was, and why didn't anyone tell me to wear layers?

Thanks to Peter Abelow of Keshet: The Center for Educational Tourism in Israel, for guiding me through Masada. Peter's commentary was wonderful.

2- I've ordered new glasses ... and they are much nicer than the old ones.

3- I'm very excited because my parents are coming to visit me next month!

4- For all the "blahs," my lack of funds, etc., life goes on and it's not bad. I've got my family, my friends, my books, my internet connection, my apartment, my food, my clothes... lots to be thankful for. And pretty soon I'm starting not one but two teaching jobs, each of which is a four-month gig, which will help tide me over financially and also, I hope, will be fun. I'm a bit nervous about taking on such a large teaching load, but mostly I'm looking forward to the change of pace.

And now, for something cute, a very serious conversation I recently had with my three-year-old neighbor, as we were both leaving the building one morning (this was all in Hebrew):

Tahel: Hi Sarah!
Sarah: Taheli! Good morning!
Tahel: Where are you going?
Sarah: I'm going to work. Where are you going?
Tahel: I'm going to gan [nursery school]. You have a backpack!
Sarah: Yes, I do. And so do you, I see.
Tahel: What is in your backpack?
Sarah: My computer and some papers. What's in yours?
Tahel: Food. Do you have food in your backpack?
Sarah: No.
Tahel [looking concerned]: So what do you eat?
Sarah: Um, well, see, I do my work in a restaurant, and I get food there.
[Tahel looks understandably confused.]
[Tahel's father emerges from their apartment with her jacket.]
Sarah: Tahel, you look so nice in your outfit, with your cute purple pants and your green jacket. Look, you are wearing green, and I'm wearing green too!
Tahel: You are wearing a sweater-shirt!
Sarah: Yes, that's true.
Tahel [as we all walk down the stairs]: I like green. Do you like green?
Sarah: Yes.
Tahel: But it's not my favorite color. My favorite color is purple. Do you like purple?
Sarah: Oh, yes, very much.
Tahel [as we get to the street]: Do you know what can be purple?
Sarah: Um, no, what?
Tahel: Parsely leaves can be purple!
Sarah: Um, yes, that's true.
Tahel's father: Tahel, it's time to get in the car. Say goodbye to Sarah.
All: Bye bye!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008


Liz is in my kitchen, making us stir-fry for dinner.

She is checking the brocolli and the spinach for bugs.

She just learned about this requirement today. (Bugs are not kosher, so Orthodox Jews have various ways of "checking" their fruit and veggies before eating, to make sure there are no tiny, unwanted creepy-crawlies in the food.)

Liz has now decided that starting today, if her produce doesn't come with kosher certification, she will be checking it herself, halachic requirement for her or no. It had never occurred to her that her veggies might get frozen with bugs inside, and she is quite displeased with this idea.

Quote of the day:

"Contrary to popular opinion, gentiles do not like bugs in their spinach."

Monday, December 08, 2008

Happy New Week

Shabbat was nice. Friday night, Liza and I co-hosted a Shabbat meal, and Chava came over with her husband and little daughter. Liz was there too.

I love Liz. She is so "in tune" with the needs of Orthodox Jews it's rather frightening (and heartening). At dinner, she was the only one who wanted some wine with her meal ...and she asked Chava to please pour it for her. She's just so great.

Lunch was "interesting." I went with Liza to the home of her friends, MS and D, who are really great people and I like them a lot ...but... I was seated between two other guests, a painter and an Art History expert, who spent the ENTIRE meal arguing vociferously about the nature of Truth and Beauty, and what is Art, and whether Israel has developed its own aesthetic, and whether various artists I've never heard of were better at narrative or at form.

They were not affecting a hoity-toity interest. They were actually really into it, and actually really knowledgable.

I love art, and I love intellectual discussions, but I did not love being trapped between these two guys for 3 hours.

Anyhow, yesterday Beth S. and I went together to the Ein Gedi spa, where I gained free entrance because I'm writing on assignment about the Dead Sea (more about that later). I must admit that when I got in for free, even though I truly am a reporter on assignment and had organized it with the manager in advance, I still felt like I'd gotten away with something.

My job doesn't pay much, but the occasional perks are truly fantastic.

I'd been in sulfur pools before and had slathered myself with Dead Sea mud before, but this was my first time actually floating in the Dead Sea. Unfortunately, at first I leaned back too fast and ended up splashing around in a panic and getting heavily-salted water in my eye. Thank God, the good people at the Dead Sea have arranged for spigots to be available out in the water, from which people in my situation could wash their faces with fresh water.

What with the gentle rays of sun (extra-filtered of harmful UV rays by the extra several hundred meters of atmosphere), the sulfur pools, and the mud, my skin looks clear and peachy right now.

Later this week I'm going back to the Dead Sea, and to Masada. Also on the schedule: Write lesson plans, do a lot of laundry, try to get some exercise.

Another normal week. Let's hope it is free of stressful Middle East news.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Sad (and Tiring) Day

As a freelancer, I rarely have to submit a story on the same day I report it. But yesterday I covered the funeral of Rivkah and Gavriel Holtzberg, the Chabad emissaries who were murdered in Mumbai, for I left the house at 9:45 am, got to Kfar Chabad at 11, stood in the hot sun until about 3:30, got some pizza, hitched a ride to the highway, got a bus back to Jerusalem, returned home at 7:30, and filed the story at 9:30.

You can read my story here. A few typos made their way in during the editing process; I'm working on getting those fixed.

Meanwhile, I was supposed to be at the Shaarei Tzedek Medical Center by 9 to spend the night at their sleep clinic. Oops. It's OK, it turned out alright, though between processing the funeral, being hooked up to monitors, and feeling under pressure because I MUST SLEEP AND EVERY MOVE I MAKE IS BEING RECORDED, I couldn't sleep most of the night. Whatever.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Funeral Information

As I've mentioned before, I recently started a writing gig for, so I happen to know that, despite media reports saying the funeral for Rabbi and Mrs. Holtzberg begins at 10:30, it actually begins at 12:45.

However, because everyone who reads Arutz 7 believes it starts at 10:30, anyone wanting to get in should get there VERY early.

The funeral is at Kfar Chabad (between Ramle and Rishon Letzion) and proceeds to Har Zaitim (Mount of Olives) for the burial.