Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Just a quick update:

I am leaving for the US in approximately 25 hours, and I'm so not ready! I have so much to do in the next 25 hours and so little time! (only 25 hours, to be exact.) Aaaaagh.

Cute story: My sister and nephews are already at my parents' house for Pesach. When I called a couple of days ago, my 4-year-old nephew asked, as he always does, "When you come MY house?" (his speech development is impaired, though he's otherwise a very smart little kid.) This time he said "When you come Nana and Sabba's house?" Usually I say "I'm sorry, I can't come to your house, I live too far away." But this time I said "Well, I'm coming on Thursday!" He literally GASPED and I heard him put the phone down and say "Nana! Sabba! Doda come your house!" God, he is so adorable.

In other news, I got my hair cut yesterday. Which reminds me, here's another thing for the Things My Shaliach Never Told Me file. You know how, in America, before you get your hair cut, there's a person who washes your hair? And it feels really nice because, for a minute there, it's like a head massage, right?

Well, in Israel, these people who wash your hair are trained in, I swear, erotic massage. At first I thought it was just the guy at my hair salon near my apartment, but then a friend in another town told me she'd had a similar experience at her salon, so it must be an Israeli thing.

So let me tell you about Amir, the guy who washes hair at Salon Ayal at the corner of Emek Refaim and Rachel Imenu streets. Amir is dark and gorgeous and wears a black t-shirt and jeans. Yum. You get the shampoo, and then two rounds of conditioner, and then . . . and then . . the most incredible, sensuous head massage of your life. I can't even describe it. The first time I went there I was stone silent while he was working, because I was afraid of what would come out of my mouth in public if I said anything. So he asks me "You like?" and I was like "Oh. My. God." This time I didn't even try to hide it. I just said "Amir, you have the magic fingers. There is nothing I would not do for you." I'm telling you, it's worth the 170 shekel just to have Amir wash your hair.

The problem comes at hair-drying time. The cut, which Ayal does himself, is great. But the way he blew it dry . . . yeah, there was a lot of volume, lots of curls . . . but I felt like I have a nest on my head. It was a very Israeli-looking, walk-on-the-wild-side kind of style, but to my puritan Bostonian tastes it looked like they were sending me out into the world with my hair a mess. I never knew my hair could . . . do that. It was . . . . different. Of course, Amir is telling me "This is how you should always do your hair. It's sexy. Very sexy!" and I said "thank you" and part of me was thinking "hey, it's nice to have a gorgeous guy tell me my hair is sexy, even if it is the gay guy who works in the salon" but part of me was thinking "Yeah, it's sexy if you like women with nests on their head."

OK, now it's time to go to sleep.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

I feel bad about not updating my blog in so long, but it’s been really crazy-busy. I just finished writing a 3,000-word feature story for which I had only 2 weeks’ notice. Plus, since I had given my boss from the job-I-just-quit 2 weeks’ notice, I had to continue showing up there. Plus, I got a temporary job at a terrific newspaper here in Israel; I’m covering for another reporter who went on maternity leave. Plus things like cleaning for Passover, doing my laundry, preparing for my trip to the US for the holiday, etc.

In addition to this really nice temporary position I just started, the other good news is that I’m in a slightly better mood than I’ve been in for my last few posts. No particular reason, I’m just feeling better. Well, maybe it’s because I got out of a job that was not a good situation. Or maybe it’s because the very day on which I resigned, I was contacted by this newspaper asking me if I’m available to cover for someone for a few months. Or maybe it’s because the weather has been gorgeous over here (for lunch this Shabbat, Yael and I are having a picnic in the park!).

I think part of the reason I’d been in such a bad mood, other than this looming gotta-quit-my-job thing, was that I’ve entered the next “stage” of the klitah (absorption) process. They say that those who move to Israel go through four (or is it five?) stages. The first is “euphoria,” which lasts for 6-12 months. And the second is “depression.” Since I’ve been here 8 months, I’m right on schedule, eh? At least I can look forward to “adaptation” (the I-don’t-feel-like-an-Israeli-but-I’ve-got-a-groove-going-on stage) and “absorption” (which, according to one speaker I heard about this, you know you’ve entered when you “visit your friends and family in America and you don’t understand where they are coming from.”)

Next week I have several stories to work on, and I have to clean for Pesach, but I might treat myself to a movie. I haven't been out for a while, not like that. (Actually, that's not true. A couple of weeks ago I went to see an amateur production of "Good Night Desdemona, Good Morning Juliet," which was hysterical.) I’m trying to decide whether to see “Monster” or “Lost in Translation.” Anyone want to weigh in on this?

OK, here’s something from the Things My Shaliach Never Told Me file:

A few days ago, I went to the corner makolet (grocery), and as I was putting my change into my wallet, the cute owner, Shabi, wished me a “chag sameach” (happy holiday). I was confused because it was a tad early to wish me a happy Passover. I said “which holiday? Rosh Chodesh?” and he looked at me like he feels sorry for me and said “blah-blah-blah-in-Hebrew, tomorrow everyone is going to be partying and celebrating blah-blah-Hebrew-blah Yassin blah blah.” I said “WHICH holiday?” and he said “blah blah the death of Yassin blah blah the death of Haman.”

At this point, I was not putting together what he meant. To me, “chag sameach” is what you say to someone before an established, rabbinically-ordained kind of holiday, like Purim. It’s what you say before a holiday that’s been around for, like, at least a thousand years. So I thought that maybe the Sephardim had some holiday celebrating some bad guy who’d persecuted them in, like, Morocco. Finally, incredulous that I didn’t know what he was talking about, he said “Yassin! Yassin! Didn’t you hear they killed Yassin?”

Finally the penny dropped, and I was like “Oh! I get it! Yes, yes, it’s very good. Yes, chag sameach. Chag sameach.” I felt like an idiot.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

I received some emails in response to my last posting which made me realize I must provide more context for, and explanation of, my comment about intermarriage. I might not be able to do it today, but stay tuned. I will say now, however, that in no way did I mean to imply that no children of intermarriage have a moral compass or sense of identity or culture. In fact, one of my best friends in New York has one Jewish and one not-Jewish parent, and she's one of the most ethic people I know (which is why she qualifies to be my friend) and has a stronger Jewish identity than most Jews. Obviously I need to provide more context to my original posting in order for it to be properly understood. More to come.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

So this morning, in the shower, I was thinking about traffic fatalities, and how stupid it is that the US is so concerned with terrorism, when by far more Americans die every year in car accidents than they do in terrorist attacks. By far . The presidential candidate I want to see is someone who will get on TV and say “it’s the car accidents, stupid.” Same thing in Israel. I was so mad I thought about starting my own political party that stands for better enforcement of the speed limit, more traffic circles, and more “road rage” and seat-belt education. I was just hopping mad that more people aren’t paying attention to this.

Then, while walking to work, I got mad at Jordan. The country. On behalf of the Palestinians in the West Bank, I felt righteous indignation against Jordan. Because, you know, before 1967, these people were Jordanians. And then the Israelis take over – the hows and whys are for a different time, I’m just looking at one particular aspect of this big ugly situation right now, so please don’t flame me—and you would think – you would think —that the other Jordanians, the ones on the East Bank, would say “oh, no, our countrymen need a place to live! Come here, brothers! Live with us!” But nooooo. Thanks to an Arab League resolution in 1949 not to absorb Arab refugees from Israel, all those people and their children and grandchildren are living in refugee camps to this day.

I was thinking how I would feel if I were still back on America’s East Coast, and some foreign country took over – for whatever reason-- and I decided it would be best to skip town. Don’t you think the people in, say, St. Louis and Milwaukee and Los Angeles and Seattle and Houston would feel horrified shock that other Americans were in trouble, and would open their homes and towns and communities? I’d like to think so. But if they didn’t, I’d be hopping mad. I would shout “Hellooooo! I’m a FELLOW AMERICAN!!!! You can’t just leave me in the lurch! You can’t betray your FELLOW AMERICAN!!!!”

And here these Jordanians just let their own countrymen live in refugee camps for 37 years . Those Jordanians suck! If you want to argue that the Israelis shouldn’t be playing a part in the Palestinians living in refugee camps – well, do what you gotta do, but I’m not touching that on Chayyei Sarah. But even if you think the Israelis are at fault, the Jordanians still suck. “Arab brotherhood” my ass. They left their “brothers” high and dry. It’s disgusting.

So, in this pleasant frame of mind I got to work, and entered to two of my colleagues discussing an event that one of them is planning at her synagogue, to raise awareness of the 2-billion-dollar (or was it shekel? Still a lot)-per-year sex slave industry in Israel. It seems that a lot of people are abducting girls from the former Soviet Union, from Egypt, from all sort of places, and smuggling them into Israel to be sex slaves. Not consentual prostitutes, but SLAVES. There are thousands of them all over the place, and the Israeli Army turns a blind eye when trucks full of these girls cross the border from Egypt. My, my, how lovely. All these Israeli men being serviced by kidnapped girls. That’s lovely.

So, we have preventable traffic fatalities, and sucky Jordanians, and sex slaves. Don’t forget that all but two of Israel's rivers are contaminated, and the garbage everywhere. And the fact that we’d probably have peace in the Middle East if we could just stop with the oil and get with the solar energy program, but nooooo, the oil lobby in America is too powerful, so Israelis are getting blown up thanks to the money the West is feeding the terrorists so we can drive our fancy cars.

Oh, yeah, later I found a book in the bathroom of my office about interfaith marriages. There was a chapter with “advice from children of interfaith marriages,” in which the interviewees were basically all like “Thanks, Mom and Dad, for giving me no identity at all, no moral compass, and no culture I can completely call my own. ‘twas real good of you.” Yeah, interfaith marriage, that's another thing. It did nothing to improve my mood.

So, basically, the world is going to pot. I realize that there are many good people out there—actually, considering how many people out there are really decent, nice human beings, it’s surprising that the world isn’t a much more pleasant place – but apparently there are two problems:

1. A huge number of not-nice people and

2. A lack of systems in place that help nice people actually DO something with their niceness. For example, I’m sure that a lot of Israelis would recycle their metals and glass, if such a thing were set up here. And if there were more traffic circles and lower speed limits that were enforced, I’m sure that very few people would deliberately cause car accidents.

I feel like the world is a raging river of polluted water, and the nice guys of the world are trying to stop up the holes in the dam with our tie-dye t-shirts and peace-sign necklaces, and meanwhile the manure of the world is just rushing right past us, and there’s no way to stop it.

I guess the fact that God hasn’t just decided to start all over again means there’s always hope that good will prevail. But there’s too much to do.

Sunday, March 14, 2004

Do you have what it takes to be a staffer on a presidential campaign? Find out by playing this game!

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Where we learn that H.H.N.F.L.T.W.O.A.W.S.*

*Hell hath no fury like the wrath of a woman scorned .

Another day, another rejection.

Apparently this man, who has met me on several occasions and otherwise seems like a bright guy, thinks I'm "too American" to go on a date with.

Being a straightforward American, I'd like to tell him where he can stick his red-white-and-blue.

Pseudo-British prick! He can take his Marmite and shove it.

Another day, another rejection.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Hey, everyone. I quit my job today. So now it's freelance journalism all the way, baby!

Sunday, March 07, 2004

Here's a fun one: The History of Western Philosophy in 149 seconds!
This site gives me the creeps. Be sure to scroll down to the part about the Atheist Goat.

Purim has not gotten off to a good start. First, I gave up my chance to go to Ari and Sarah Beth's seudah, in order to make sure I was in Jerusalem on time for the Megillah reading and "Purim Shpiel" at Yakar. When I got there . . .

a) There were not enough seats, so I stood up for the whole reading. I've been having back pain lately, so this was not a good situation. And

b) There was no shpiel this year!

I was very disappointed. However, you know what they say . . . v'nahafoch hu! . . . So I have better hopes for tomorrow.

Happy Purim to one and all.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Check out the March 4, 12:12 am posting on Protocols. Apparently, Rabbi Adam Mintz did not read my February 16 posting about how to avoid being misquoted by reporters.

A few odds and ends:

- It’s Thursday night and I have no Shabbat plans. If anyone in or near Katamon/the German Colony wants to invite me for a meal, send an email to

- I thought I had found someone to rent my apartment over Pesach, but she cancelled. If you are coming to Israel for Pesach and want to rent my apartment in Jerusalem, write to It’s basically a very spacious studio (but the kitchen is a separate room). There’s one bed, but I can put in a cot. So if you are a single, or one adult coming with a small child, or a couple who doesn’t mind a cot, please write to me. The apartment is just south of Old Katamon.

- From the Things My Shaliach Never Told Me file: Purim is around the corner, and the malls and supermarkets are all selling pre-packaged Mishloach Manot. Costumes are being sold everywhere. At the (kosher) Burger King at the Hadar Mall, you can get a piece of a princess costume with every kid’s meal. The local makolet (Hebrew for “bodega”) has been selling hamantashen for the last month. The radio is playing Purim songs. It’s all so fun! This is my first Purim in Israel, and I love it!

- From the Things My Shaliach Never Told Me file: This is also going to be my first year celebrating Purim on Shusan Purim. In most of the world, Purim will be on Sunday. But in Jerusalem and Tzfat, it will be on Monday. I’m trying to arrange to go to Ari and Sarah Beth’s seudah, outside of Jerusalem, on Sunday, and then another one on Monday – two days of Purim! I’m so excited!

- This week I had a meeting with a rabbi to talk about what I should do about Second Day Yom Tov when I go to the U.S. for Pesach. This is my first time leaving Israel since my Aliyah in July, so I’ve never encountered this before. Fancy this: For Purim I get an extra day. But on Pesach, while everyone else is celebrating two days of Yom Tov, I only have one! Hot diggity dog. It will make the second seder more complicated; I’ll sit with my family, but since it’s not a mitzvah for me to have the second Seder, I have to be careful not to say some of the blessings, not to lean while I eat, that sort of thing. It’s all very interesting.

- Last night. Fourth date in 11 days. Definitely not “shayach.” I’m getting depressed about this.

- Two nights ago I hosted a little dinner party for some of my friends from Ulpan. It was so great to see them. In attendance were Eduardo and Regina (Brazil); Bar Pinchas (Holland); Phillipo (Italy); Luba (FSU); and Toby (U.S.). I discovered that hosting a mid-week dinner is really nice, because you can invite people who live far away, and there’s no issue about washing the dishes right away. It was really nice.

- Last night, before the date, I saw a tax advisor to deal with my American taxes. We also spoke about a long-term plan for minimizing the taxes I have to pay to Israel. Lots of paperwork to do. It was a little overwhelming. In the U.S., when I spoke with Linda Katz (my awesome, awesome H & R Block representative; for anyone who lives in New York, she’s at the office on West 72nd Street in Manhattan), I always understood what she said to me. I mean, I’m no tax expert, but being that I’ve been filling out U.S. tax returns on my own for the last 9 years, I understand the basic concepts. Here, the tax advisor, who is a registered CPA in both Israel and the US, was trying to explain to me how the tax system works here, and it all went over my head. I wanted to cry. It’s so hard to be an immigrant and feel so lost!

- Please write comments. I love the interaction with readers. And have a Shabbat shalom.