Sunday, February 27, 2005

Inspiration in unexpected places

This is one of the best J-blog entries I've ever read, for so many reasons and on so many levels. I'm not telling you what it says. Go see for yourself. (But after my hyperbolic introduction, don't expect the moon.)

(hat tip: Allison)

Friday, February 25, 2005

Best Line about Portmangate

Last night I attended the (wonderful) wedding of Chava Boylan and Marc Neustadter, and overheard the following conversation:

A: [blah blah blah] . . . what happened to Natalie Portman at the kotel.

B: What happened to Natalie Portman at the Kotel?

A: [Explains that Portman filmed a kiss scene in the parking lot and some worshippers eh, behaved badly in response, it made international headlines, etc.]

[pause while B thinks that over]

B: May all of Israel's problems be like that in the future.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Batman vs. Spiderman

I wonder what would happen if you took some of the "heretic" bloggers and locked them in a room for 24 hours with some of the "ba'al teshuva" bloggers and some of the more earnest, passionate FFB bloggers?

It would be, like, a clash between 2 implacable, intractable, irresistable forces!

In this corner: Shaigetz! Mis-nagid! The Hedyot! Chassid/Heretic! Gadol Hador!

And in this corner: Frum Actress! Ba'al Teshuva! Passionate Life! Aidel Maidel! Simple Jew!

Would the Believers convince the Heretics that Orthodox Judaism is beautiful, meaningful, and perhaps even - gasp!- possibly true? Or would the Heretics convince the Believers that Orthodoxy and its adherents are so rife with illogic and hypocrisy that they should run away and never look back? When we opened the doors, would they all be having a kumsitz led by Lazer Brody? Or would we have to send in Renegade Rebbetzin and Treppenwitz to clean up the mess?

Things that make you go "hm."

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Self-hating Asians or Panderers to the Western public?

Have you noticed that the people in Japan who draw anime always give the characters the biggest, roundest eyes you have ever seen? Is this only for anime that they plan to export to the West, or do Japanese children sit around all afternoon watching cartoons full of characters whose eyes look nothing like their eyes? If the latter, doesn't that suck for Japanese youth, the way that youth in the West are being all messed up by media who badger them to be ever, ever thinner? Why not draw anime that shows powerful superheroes who look identifiably Japanese? Is this a matter of self-hating Asians, or just a matter of them catering to their Western importers? If the latter, why not draw characters who look more Japanese to make the statement that "Asian is beautiful"? It seems so wrong, somehow, for Japanese anime not to have more Japanese-looking people in it.

A few examples (not even the best ones) for your convenience: Characters from Spirited Away, Battle of the Planets, DragonBall Z

Things that make you go "hm."
Thoughts on Disengagement

I'm fascinated that there hasn't been more discussion in the blogosphere about the historic decision by the Israeli cabinet to disengage from Gaza. I would have thought that it would be the ONLY topic of discussion.

Well, here's my two cents:

One thing I've noticed about the whole question of giving land to the PA, disengagement, etc is that while in the whole people are working with the same set of facts, their interpretations of those facts -- or, more specifically, their (our) judgements of which facts have more weight -- depends much more on one's overall world outlook or priorities, rather than on actual security concerns.

So, for example, regarding uprooting Jewish communities from the Gaza strip, we have all sorts of considerations:
the desire not to harm one's fellow Jew by forcing him to leave a community he has spent 30 years building; the ancient yearning for a "greater Israel"; the fact that Gaza was not part of Biblical-era Israel; the fact that having Jewish communities in the territories is a boon to soldiers serving there; the fact that many Israelis resent that their children have to be serving there in the first place; assertions by many security experts that Israel will be able to defend itself from terrorists in Gaza even after the disengagement, and perhaps better; assertions by other security experts that that is not true; the antipathy by Israelis to "reward" terror by dismantling settlements; the fact that now we are dealing with Abbas, not Arafat; the perception that the Palestinian public does not see disengagement as a reward, and does see the intifada as having failed; lingering memories in the Jewish community of anti-Semites who uprooted us from our homes, usually as a prelude to killing us; the fact that every home-owner in the territories signed a contract acknowledging that they will leave if politics forces them to do so; the question of how much the government is compensating the settlers for their loss, and where they will move to now; worries over what will happen to Jewish graves, holy sites, etc in the abandoned areas; and haunting questions about what all those Jewish residents of Gaza were living and dying there for in the first place, if we are simply going to pick up and leave.

Each of these factors is nuanced and, in most cases, each one, itself, relies on judgement calls rather than a black-and-white answer. For example, the army itself had to make judgement calls about how, and to what extent, Israel can defend herself against terrorism if we disengage. People on both sides of the issue can find army people who will support them. And then, each factor creates a domino effect for the others, while simultaneously being affected by the others. Which factors are most important?

Religiously, too, there are judgement calls. For some, the vision of Greater Israel is so important that nothing else matters. But I can tell you that for me, as a religious person, the question of whether it's OK to force Jews to leave homes on land that is politically and militarily under the auspices of a Jewish State is ALSO related to the question of their safety, my safety, and the fact that Gaza is not part of Biblical Israel. And I do believe that there is a big difference between the Holocaust-era German idea of a place being Judenrein, versus one group of Jews asking another to come within the geographic lines of the Jewish State, in order to (in their judgement) more effectively protect the entire group (which, presumably, is an important consideration for almost everyone in the debate).

Therein lies another issue: The perception of both sides that those on the other are fanatics who do NOT care about security. Everyone says that they know what's best for Israel's safety, but there is a perception in Tel Aviv that "those crazy settlers" are messianic wild cards who care more about some crazy Biblical vision than about the safety of soldiers or even their own children. And there is a perception among settlers and those who support them that those on "the Left" are atheist radical-secularist intellectual-snob AshkeNazis who care more about their cocktail parties and their children's prom dresses than they do about their fellow Jew or the holiness of the land. It's impossible to have an intelligent discussion when each side is saying "I'm the one who cares about security! All you care about is your idiotic way of life, and hating me!"

So, the conclusion I've come to myself is that while, all things considered, I think disengaging is the appropriate and necessary thing to do right now, I want to be crystal clear that the whole thought of it also breaks my heart. The Jewish communities in Gaza are beautiful in so many ways, and I feel so, so sorry for all the people who are about to be forced to move. And, yes, the "Judenrein" images are strong for me as well. I simply believe that we cannot allow our emotions and historical baggage to get in the way of our assessment of security issues. Ultimately, I believe (and hope) that disengaging will save Jewish lives and strengthen the State of Israel. That belief is based on a host of wispy, interconnected judgement calls, a cobweb of differently-weighted factors, one which apparently shares some characteristics with that of the Israeli cabinet.

I only hope that the intricate lace of my beliefs and hopes is strong enough to hold the suffering it will inevitably cause to my fellow Jews. To those who are following Israeli law and now peacefully leaving Gaza I want to say: Thank you for all you have done to protect Israel. Thank you for caring so much about the Jewish State. I'm so sorry for your pain and your loss. I hope what Israel is losing geographically it will eventually more than gain in emotional, material, and spiritual security for us all.

A friend of mine who recently bought a home in the West Bank tells me that as far as her Hebrew-speaking lawyer told her, none of the documents she signed included a statement that she'd be willing to leave if politics forces her to do so. I apologize for the error. I had been told by a resident of another settlment that he had signed something to that effect and that all homeowners in "the shtachim" must do similarly. Perhaps I misunderstood him, or perhaps such a contract used to be required but is no longer, or perhaps it is only required in certain areas. I'll try to find out. Again, I apologize for the inaccuracy.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Ingenius Solution to my Dating Dilemnas (non-PC alert)

I just watched "50 First Dates" starring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore, and am thinking "My God! That's it! Why didn't I ever think of this before?!?"

All I have to do is be in a horrible car accident that ruins my ability to move new knowledge into long-term memory, and erases, each night while I'm sleeping, any memory of what I did that day. Then I'll meet a guy who thinks I'm sweet and funny and pretty, and after a while he'll make a video for me to watch each morning, explaining that it's not, actually, February of 2005, but actually much later and look! We're in a relationship! In fact we're married and have kids! We have a great life!

And then, every day, it will be, like "Wow! Presto! I'm in a relationship with a great guy and we have kids and are vacationing on this boat and life is great!" What a way to start the day! And I won't have any memory of any more set-ups or clueless married men, because every day will be a new day that I'm suddenly, magically, married!

Brain damage! It's ingenius. So much easier than what I'm doing now.

God, I love Hollywood.
"And who knows if for a time such as this, God created the Region 2 DVD?"

I've mentioned a few times my friendly local video/DVD rental store, Ozen Hashlishit ("The Third Ear"). This store contains a treasure trove of the most eclectic mix of movies you could ever want. In one place: American, Israeli, French, Russian, Japanese, and British films and TV series. Maybe Spanish, too. They've got everything from "The Parent Trap" and the entire first season of "Little House on the Prairie" to blockbusters like "The Matrix Reloaded" and Israeli standards like "Sallah Shabbati." They've got every episode of Friends, about 10 DVDs of The Simpsons, Faulty Towers, Who's the Boss, and every episode of Babylon 5. It's paradise.

Today, in the shelves next to "Murder on the Orient Express" and "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," and not so far from "50 First Dates" and "Kadosh," I found . . .

All 85 episodes of "Battle of the Planets"!!!!!

Aaaaaahhhhhhhhh . . . do you remember "Battle of the Planets"? This is the first show I remember watching religiously. Even before I first saw Star Wars, even before I discovered the Monkees, I was slavishly devoted to Mark, Jason, Princess, Tiny, and Keyop. The G-Force. 7-Zark-7. God, it's no wonder I'm not married yet . . . what real guy could possibly live up to the animated teenage godly hunkiness of Mark and Jason? This show premiered when I was 6 years old, and spoiled me for good. I remember dreaming many years later of joining the G-Force and being able to fly and swoop around just like them. I mean, real dreams, at night. I still remember them. Aaaaaaahhhhhhh . . . . the G-Force . . . .

So, with happy tears in my eyes, I brought the first DVD to the desk. And guess what? It is a Region 2 DVD. And guess what? I bought my computer, with the DVD player in it, back when DVDs were new technology, and there is no option for switching the region. It is all Region 1, all the time. Believe me, I tried to switch it, back when I wanted to watch the last 2 DVDs of "Sex and the City" and discovered that while Ozen Hashlishit had gotten the first gazillion episodes in Region 1 version, the last 16 were out of my reach. Maybe I can have someone hack into the software and change it, but right now I'm stuck.

But, it's OK, because you know what? The DVDs are there, just a 15 minute walk from my house. Battle of the Planets. Battle of the Planets!!!! The G-Force. Princess. Mark and Jason. Aaaaaaahhhhhhhh.

(Yes, I know. I'm very weird. And I like it.)

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Chayyei Sarah: The Audio Version

Did you see the article in today's NY Times about Podcasting? Oh, my God, that looks like the funnest thing EVER. I must find out how to get started. What will I Podcast about? Probably, Podcasting my dates would not be a good idea . . . Oo, oo, I must podcast from the theater when I see the next Star Wars film! Or I could interview Israelis about fun stuff!

The possibilities are endless! Oooooooo I'm so excited!

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Week in Review

What Chayyei Sarah is . . .


Writing about

(most singable song on the Garden State soundtrack!)

Dancing to


(to her detriment)

Still thinking about

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

An Open Letter to Men Who are Married, Engaged, or Seeing Someone

Dear Gentlemen Who Are Taken,

Since I wish to believe that you, my dear male readers, are sensitive people who do not wish to hurt others, I’m offering a bit of unsolicited but often much-needed advice.

You can file this under “How Not To Humiliate Yourself, Your Wife/Girlfriend, or Some Poor, Unsuspecting Single Woman."

We will study my suggestions along with two examples, out of many many, that I've just now made up . . . . off the top of my head. I have never been in any of the following situations! No, of course not. They are hypothetical. Really. No really.

Suggestion #1: DO avoid protracted conversations with a single woman other than your wife/girlfriend, particularly conversations that involve a lot of eye-contact, laughing, or emotional soul-baring. (Exceptions exist, such as: If one of your wife’s single friends, who obviously knows that you are married because you are married to her friend, comes to you for dating advice, that’s fine.)

Suggestion #2: If you must speak with a single woman at length, DO say something – at the beginning of the conversation – to indicate that you are taken. For example, DO say “that’s a nice sweater. My girlfriend has the same one” (even if she doesn’t) or “You have a good point. I was just talking with my girlfriend about that the other day” (even if you weren’t). DO NOT wait until the end of the conversation to say such a thing.

Suggestion #3: If you have been dating your girlfriend for only a short while and aren’t sure you want to proclaim that you are taken, see suggestion #1.

Example A: If you are, say, a new graduate student at Columbia University, and you are practically engaged . . . and if, during your first Shabbat on campus you meet, say, a senior at Barnard College (ie, not your girlfriend) . . . DO NOT stand around talking with her for an entire seudat shlishit, giving her no indication that you are very very taken.

DO NOT sit with her on the side of the room while everyone else pulls their chairs into the middle of the room to sing. DO NOT continue talking to her, looking her in the eye and laughing together, until it’s time for ma’ariv.

If you have failed to communicate to the Barnard student that you are going to get engaged to someone else within a few weeks . . . DO NOT - I repeat, DO NOT- when you see her 2 days later at davening, wait for her to finish davening, approach her when she exits the shule, and tell her that you’d like to walk her home, even though there is absolutely no danger to her and you live in the opposite direction. DO NOT then stand with her outside her dorm building for 30 minutes, looking her in the eye and laughing and talking.

If you do these things, first, the Barnard senior will find out from one of her friends that you are practically engaged, and she will feel confused and disappointed. And then, when she bumps into you on the street a week later, she will take you to task, because she is an angry Barnard woman and has not yet reached the zen state of her thirties. She will ask you whether it’s occured to you how your girlfriend would feel if she knew that you, her almost-fiancee, had chatted up another girl for hours and walked her home. The Barnard senior will tell you that it’s just as well you aren’t available, because she wouldn’t want to date someone who would flirt with another girl like that when you are practically engaged. And you will mumble that the Barnard senior is right, and that you shouldn’t have led her on. And you will slink away.

And then you will get engaged to your girlfriend, and never see the Barnard senior again. You’ll forget all about it. But she will not.

I'm just saying.

Suggestion #4: If you are married, for God’s sake, man, DO wear a wedding ring!

Suggestion #5: If you are married and for whatever reason do not wear a wedding ring, DO refer to suggestions #1 and #2.

Example B: If you are married and you don’t wear a wedding ring . . . if you, say, are in your mid-30’s and have been married for about 8 years and have 3 children . . . and if your wife goes away to visit her parents for a week and takes the kids with her . . . and if you are invited by a family for Shabbat lunch so you won’t be alone . . . and at the meal are three single women in their mid or late 20’s . . . then, when people are going around introducing themselves, at the beginning of the meal, DO say “it’s nice to meet you. Normally I’d be here with my wife, but she’s in Florida visiting my in-laws.”

DO NOT wait until after bentching to mention that you have a wife and three children. If you wait until the end of the meal, then on their way home the three single women will talk about how humiliated they all feel, because all three had been thinking that they’d like to date you. And they will feel like fools.


If you are taken, and if you are talking to a single woman without your wife/girlfriend around, DO assume that the single woman is looking for a date, and DO communicate in clear, simple words that you are not available. DO it early in the conversation. DO mention your wife/girlfriend, often. Absolutely DO NOT flirt with other women. DO NOT lead them on. DO NOT pretend to be clueless; Chayyei Sarah has just given you a clue.

Not that I’m a victim of such a thing.

I’m just saying.

Sincerely NOT Yours,

P.S. Readers of both genders are welcome to add their own suggestions or examples regarding their "taken" counterparts . . . but please keep everything clean, at least minimally respectful, and devoid of any identifying information of guilty parties.
Time to buy stock in Ungar's

I was mildly disappointed to see that Chez Miscarriage didn't do better in the JIB Awards. It was classy of her not to post on her blog that she's been nominated, because we all know what would've happened if she'd done that. But in any case, I rather have the feeling that one reason she didn't perform better is that although Getupgrrl, the writer, is Jewish -- and her Jewishness sometimes comes through in the writing, particularly when she describes interactions with her parents -- overall her blog is very much an "issue" blog, and the "issue" at hand is not about Judaism or Jews. It's about infertility, which cuts across religious and ethnic lines. It sort of goes back to the age-old question "Is it Jewish literature because it's about Judaism, or because it is written by a Jew?"

Anyhow, now that the JIBs are over, Getupgrrl has let her Jewishness rip in this post, where she expounds on the magic that is gefilte fish:

And now, before I go to my meeting, I'd like to tell you what my gorgeous husband bought me for Valentine's Day: gefilte fish. Yes. He drove all the way to my favorite deli and purchased homemade gefilte fish, which is more expensive than a Carribean cruise. Then, as I ate gefilte fish for dinner and more gefilte fish for breakfast, he hid in the bedroom, since he finds gefilte fish to be vaguely upsetting.

He does not yet understand the magic and power of the gefilte. The gefilte fish heals! The gefilte fish is love!

Soon he will understand the magic of the gefilte.

But the part that really makes me feel a sense of sisterhood with her is this latest post:

By the way, it's one o'clock in the morning and I'm eating gefilte fish. TAKE THAT, EVIL EYE! The gefilte, it protects.

You know what phrase I've always hated? "And what am I, chopped liver?" It makes no sense. Chopped chicken liver is beautiful. I'm getting a little misty-eyed just thinking about it, actually. That phrase is tantamount to saying, "And what am I, a glorious delicacy more precious than rubies?"

[Yes, I used to have 2 more paragraphs to this post, with a story about chopped liver. But I think it maybe invades a certain other person's privacy to post it on the internet without permission, so I took it down. I decided not to take down the whole post becuase the quotes from Chez Miscarriage are just so good. "The gefilte fish is love . . . the gefilte, it protects." I'm cracking up.]

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Breaking the Professional Sound-Barrier




Theater Section.

Tomorrow's (Tuesday's) paper, but it's online right now.

Oh. My. God.

Thanks so much to everyone who left congratulatory comments and emails for me. I am indeed very excited about this story, because I've worked very hard over the last 4 years to get to this milestone. After so many years (before the last four) of switching careers and not really knowing what to do with my life, it feels good to know that Hashem is blessing my professional endeavors with success. The trick now will be to keep it up. It's not as if work will start to fall from the sky just because of this article . . . but it's a start and a good sign, and I'm grateful to Hashem for it. It's all from Him! A little hishtadlut from me, and a lot of magic from upstairs! (If only dating were like this.)

Anyhow, for all those who wanted to know where and when they could catch the show described in the article, click here and go to "Calendar." Have fun.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Odd Todd has posted fabulous pictures and his great "everyman" commentary on The Gates art exhibit in Central Park.

I sure wish I was in New York right now, on a trip, to see this. It's stuff like this that makes me miss Manhattan sometimes (though I suppose New York doesn't have art on their recycling bins, now do they?).

I love the quote in yesterday's New York Times article (which otherwise is a bit too "gushy" for me, but sure describes the "feel" of the exhibit very well, and which I'm too lazy to look up right now) in which an onlooker says "it will be fascinating when it is gone." I can imagine that when The Gates comes down, there will be a visual imprint left, like when you look at a bright light and then turn away, and wherever you look, the light is still there for a few minutes.
Thanks to My Readers

Thank you so much to everyone who voted for me in the first (annual?) Jewish-Israeli Blog Awards. Thanks to you, according to the preliminary results, I've come in third place for "Best Life in Israel Blog," third place for "Best Post," and second place for "Best Series." I'm deeply flattered (though not at all humbled) by these results, especially since the competition was very, very worthy.

I'd also like to thank the 59 people who voted for me for "Best Overall Blog," the 59 folks who thought mine is the "Best New Blog," and the 71 people who voted for me for "Best Personal Blog." Again, I'm flattered but never humbled.

And now, I'd like to draw your attention to the wonderful blogs who placed ahead of me:

Best Overall: Meryl Yourish, Jewlicious, JewSchool, An Unsealed Room, Bloghead

Best New Blog: Jewlicious, Treppenwitz, My Urban Kvetch

Best 'Life in Israel' Blog: On the Face, Treppenwitz (two of my own favorite blogs! I'm so proud!)

Best Personal Blog: Ari Goes Down, Treppenwitz, JewView

Best Post: Meirav Was Two (indeed, one of my favorite contenders), Aliyah

Best Series: Pop Culture Entry (a bitter pill for me to swallow, losing this category, but I offer congratulations to a worthy opponent. I'm trying to be classy about it!)

And of course, a warm "thank you" and "yasher koach" to Dave at IsraellyCool, for a job well done in creating and administering the awards. During the most recent voting period, I got 50-100 more hits per day than I did before; I hope some of those will become new regular readers.

Thanks again to everyone who voted for me. I appreciate the attention and support!

Saturday, February 12, 2005


I'm fine. Really. Cool as a cucumber.

Right. As you were.

PS This post is totally unrelated to my Shabbat in Beis Yisroel with my Haredi third cousin, which happened to have been a lovely, albeit noisy, experience. Eight children make quite a racket, let me tell you. But I got lots of hugs and kisses from some very affectionate little girls and boys, so I'm happy. About that.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Mazel tovs all around!

1) To Judah Kaplan, on his engagement to Carolyn Krupnick. I'm so happy for Judah I can hardly describe it. Although it's a complicated happiness, due to my missing Judah's former wife, Jenny, I feel so incredibly glad that Judah has found a wonderful woman and is looking forward to a happy future. When Judah called yesterday to tell me, it restored my faith in the generosity of the cosmos. I hope that the next time I'm in the States I'll be able to meet Carolyn and wish her "mazal tov" in person.

2) To Chava Boylan, whose bridal shower I hosted last night. It went very well -- probably the best shower I've ever been to-- because it was so unshowery. No stupid paper-plate hat made out of the wrapping paper! No bridal gowns made out of toilet paper! No drawn-out stories from each person about how great the bride is (though of course I personally could go on for hours about that - Chava is terrific). After giving people time to eat, the "program" part of it was short, sweet, and to the point. My co-host, Aviva, and I had prepared a short, humorous, parody of Megillat Esther, in which we re-told the story of how Chava and Marc got to this point. Then, Chava opened the gifts, which each guest had connected somehow to the Megillah (she got a lot of perfumes and body lotions, and things for cooking and setting a "banquet" table . . . really, anything can be connected to the Megillah). Then a short dvar Torah, and off to dessert! That was it. Fun, Torah-related, focused on the bride, good food . . . and we're done. No shtick!!!! What a "mechaya."

3) To Prince Charles and Camilla. I've been turning this over in my head, because on the one hand, he committed adultery with Camilla, and adultery is so not cool. On the other hand, everyone knows that Camilla is the love of his life. They've been together since long before the unfortunate Diana ever came into the picture. In many ways, it's about time that they made official something that everyone has known is bashert for a long time. In many ways I see Prince Charles as rather a tragic figure, and it's about time the royalty cut through all the BS and just let the man have a little serenity in his life.

That's all for today. I'm off to visit Harediland. Have a Shabbat Shalom.
Morale boost

A few months ago I posted that one day I went to my local paper-recycling bin to discover that overnight, someone had painted it with a beautiful painting! And then it turned out that all the recycling bins in my neighborhood had been painted, each one with a different design. What a morale booster! Where in some other cities there would be grafitti, here we had beautiful works of art, on our recycling bins! It made me really happy.

Lately I've been taking photos of the recycling bins near my house, to share with you. I was meaning to post them soon, and lo and behold, David's Photo Friday post for today is all about "repositories"! So, I hope he doesn't mind if I continue his theme, and bring to you, my dear readers, some of the paper recycling bins of Katamon/The German Colony.

a) If the backgrounds of the photos look dark and wet to you, please bear in mind that it's been raining here lately; it's not always so dreary looking around here!
b) The Hebrew lettering on most of the bins says "lineeyar bilvahd"- "for paper only."
c) Feel free to comment about the ones that you like (or not)

Have a Shabbat shalom, everyone.

This is the first painted recycling bin I saw, soon after they did the project. What a happy thing to have such a thing on my street. Isn't it nice? The bird is reminiscent of the dove which represents peace, but to me it also looks like a seagull, and I love the ocean and seagulls! And the criss-crossy pattern in the middle top reminds me of apartment buildings. The whole picture has an aura of what Jerusalem could be if it were more peaceful. Beautiful! Posted by Hello

Sunflower. Always cheery. Nothing more to say about sunflowers! Posted by Hello

I hated this one at first but now it's grown on me. Those are purple and turquoise lizards at the top, and bumblebees, I think, on the bottom. Now it makes me laugh, because it's so random. The lizards remind me of the yellow-spotted ones in the book "Holes." Posted by Hello

It's hard to see, but this recycling bin has a tree whose branches are reaching to the top of the painting, and it has little white dots, like a willow or cotton plant. At the bottom is a meadow and there are rays spreading out, like from the sun.  Posted by Hello

This isn't a recycling bin. It's a set of two mailboxes. This is what mailboxes look like in Israel. They go along with the "receptacle" theme for the day. I like the way the line of the curb kind of cuts across this picture, the way it's all just slightly asymmetrical. And the picture follows the "rule of thirds." It pleases me for some reason.

Notice that the slot for the mail is very narrow . . . so that a bomb won't fit through it? Posted by Hello

At first I didn't like this one, because I was like "what in the world is that? A dinosaur coming out of some abstract thing, and a lady just standing there?" But the more I look at it, the more it draws me in. There's something about the lady with the bow in her hair, and all the zigzags that look like teeth, and that lizard/dinosaur thing (a dragon?) that is fascinating in its own way. Posted by Hello

Ladybugs. This one always makes me feel a little cheery. Even on a rainy day like the one in this picture. Posted by Hello

Abstraction Posted by Hello

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Busy Week

So far this week, I have:

1- Seen "Columbia Unbecoming," the documentary about intimidation against Jewish/pro-Israel students in the University's Middle East Languages and Cultures Dept. It was shown to a crowd of about 450 people in Jerusalem, about one-third of whom identified themselves as alumni of Barnard or Columbia. Two of the students who appear in the film spoke afterward. I was happy to see that the issue they were emphasizing was not "Columbia should hire more pro-Israel teachers," but rather
a) The proper response of a professor whose views are challenged by a student is to let the student have their say in class and provide more background reading so that everyone can research the facts and come to their own conclusions and
b) this isn't just about Israel, it's about what could happen if a professor is anti-homosexual or sexist or ANYTHING.
The point is not that the professors are Muslim or support the Palestinian cause on their own time. The point is that when a student with a kippah asks an Arabic professor to give an example of how to conjugate the verb "to prevent," the teacher should not use the sentence "Israeli roadblocks prevent Palestinians from getting to work." And when a student at a lecture about the Arab-Israeli conflict precedes his question with "I'm Israeli and served in the IDF and am wondering . . . " the professor should not immediately cut him off by asking "how many Palestinians have you killed?" In an academic environment, everyone - EVERYONE - should feel free to express their opinions calmly, and to have the professor answer them in a thoughtful, informative way.

2- Researched 4 projects, because I'm getting work. Yay!

3- Attended an evening out with a few other friends of Chaya Bracha (CB) Bruchofsky (did I spell her name right this time?). CB, who was just a year or two older than I am, died a couple of months ago, suddenly, from a pulmonary embolism. Five of us who knew her and live in the Jerusalem area got together at the Ticho House (a restaurant) and shared funny CB stories, listened to an audiotape of CB's husband's eulogy for her, and learned a few mishnayot. It was subdued, but nice to be doing something. We all agreed that CB would have been very happy to know that we're eating all that food at her memorial service.

CB had excellent taste in friends.

4- Planned the upcoming bridal shower for a good friend of mine. Yes, Chayyei Sarah is co-hosting a bridal shower. Yes, she hates bridal showers. Loathes them. Yes, the bride knows this. Yes, Chayyei Sarah knew that her good friend, who moved to Israel so recently and doesn't have so many other old, old friends here, wants a shower, and it's Chayyei Sarah's job, as a good friend, to do it. Yes, that is a halo over my head.

5- Attended the first of 12 Contact Improvisation classes for women, that I just signed up for. It was nice but, my God, I am sore.

And in the next few days I will (b'H):

6- Write 4 stories . . . my least favorite part of the process. Ugh. But it will feel good to have them done.

7- Take a driving lesson. More about this later. I love driving and can't wait to finally get my Israeli license. I pushed it off because it was non-urgent, but lately have been figuring that I may as well get it over with (for those wondering: Yes, I did all the initial paperwork while my foreign license was still usable here.)

Feeling a little nervous because my teacher only speaks Hebrew. How do you say "accelerator" and "brake" and "3-point turn" in Hebrew? I'm very much drying off that I don't know this.

8- Visit my Haredi cousins for Shabbat for the first time. Yes, I have shomer Shabbat family in Israel! The ba'al habayit is my third cousin, and he and his wife have, um, I think it's eight, children - under the age of 10. He learns at the Mir. They are very frum. Their whole neighborhood is very frum. I met them last sukkot, and they were very welcoming to me, though I'm not sure they knew what to make of me at first, and maybe still. The kids were adorable and were so excited that I was there. I think the parents got more comfortable with me when they realized that I'm not going to try to convert their kids to Modernity. (Even though really, part of me was like "what planet is this?" But . . . the other part of me was like "family! family! FRUM family!"). We'll see how that goes. I may have to do a significant amount of holding my tongue this weekend, no matter how painful it may be. But what is family for, if not to give us reasons to hold our tongues?

OK, it's time for shluffies. Gotta go. Bye!

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Have you voted (for me) yet in the Jewish-Israeli Blog Awards?

Look, people . . . I was never vain enough to expect to win the "Best Overall Blog" category. And I can't expect to win "Best New Blog" against group blogs, who simply have more manpower behind them.

But David is leading by a lot in the "Best Personal Blog" category. Now, you know I love David. Really, I do. I even voted for him once or twice (against myself!) in the preliminary rounds.

But what could possibly be more personal than sharing with you my anger and religious ups and downs? I let you in on the goodnight song, my feelings about dating men with disabilities, and the moment I started to feel uncool. Through this blog, you know just how eccentric I really am.

Geez, just how raw do I have to be, to be the most personal of the personal bloggers? Sheesh. You guys are one tough audience.

The fact that I'm coming in first for Best Series is a small consolation. That Shabbaton sure was personal.
An Immigrant Moment

Today I had to call a native Israeli in order to apologize for a mistake that I made. (Yes, it really happens! Chayyei Sarah is imperfect and makes mistakes! Hard to believe, I know.)

I got the machine and left a message, in Hebrew.

But I'm afraid that instead of saying the Hebrew equivalent of "I'm sorry, and I'm very embarrassed," I may have said "I'm sorry, and I'm very much drying myself off."


Monday, February 07, 2005

Vote Vote Vote

for me, me, me!

Polls are now open for the final round at the Jewish-Israeli Blog Awards! No more of this "vote every day" thing, now it's One person/ One vote, so make it count!

I am up against some incredibly impressive competition, people. I strongly urge you to check them out. Some of my competitors were people I myself nominated, knowing I might have to run against them, because they totally deserve attention. So, check them out, and then vote for me anyway! (Oh, fine, vote with your conscience. Just remember that "A Vote for Chayyei Sarah is a Vote for World Peace.")

My blog is up in the following categories. Click here to vote (for me!):

Best Overall Blog
Best New Blog
Best Life in Israel Blog
Best Personal Blog
Best Post (Taxi)
Best Series (Shabbat- click here and read from the bottom upward, starting with Saturday Dec. 11)

Thanks to everyone who nominated me and voted for me in the preliminary round! Let's make it count!

(and meet me at the clock . . . )

PS Can anyone tell me how to keep this post at the top of the blog until voting closes?

Oh, what the heck, here's a gratuitous link to Dov Bear.

Proud to be counted among such people

I must thank David for writing such a beautiful and flattering post about our brunch last Friday with the writers of Ben Chorin and MOChassid. Indeed, there was something magical about it. David I'd already met on several occasions, and in fact I'd spent a Shabbat at his home; it was wonderful to see him again. MOChassid I had met the one time, when he first got to Israel, and again it was special indeed to have more time to talk with him before he returns to the States.

But for me the highlight was meeting Ben Chorin. I must be honest; I'd hardly read his blog at all before going for this brunch. I think I'd looked at it once or twice. About 30 minutes before leaving I checked it out so I'd have a clue, and was impressed. But after meeting him, I'm more impressed. This is one smart and accomplished guy, and he's got something of the mischievous gleam in his eye, and yet there is something pleasingly soft-spoken, almost gentle, about him. Or at least, there was at the brunch!

As David said, we didn't talk about anything of much import, but as the meal went on, I felt more and more strongly that these are three of the nicest men anywhere. I was really sorry when I had to be the first to go, to finish cooking for Shabbat. As I left, it occured to me that I'd just had brunch with three Orthodox Jewish men (read: "patriarchal misogynists"-- or whatever, not my words), two of whom live in the West Bank (read: "settlers who are an obstruction to the peace process"), and therefore, according to all stereotypes, should be Enemy Number One.

But they were so nice.

Yeah, I was the only woman. Yeah, I was the only single. Yeah, I was the youngest, by quite a lot (heh heh). But instead of feeling different or bored or intimidated, I just felt really honored to have spent an hour eating salads and sandwiches with these guys. They are A+ people.
Well, now that you put it that way . . . .

My sister on the Super Bowl

Sunday, February 06, 2005

FYI for women in Jerusalem area

Several months ago an acquaintance of mine told me about a dance class he was taking called "Contact Improvisation." Basically, you partner with someone in the class, the teacher puts on music, and (with guidance from the teacher, sometimes) you improvise a dance. The idea is that you stay in physical contact with the other person, and have to really pay attention both to how you feel like moving at any particular moment and to what your dance partner is doing. I told him that sounds pretty erotic and he assured me that actually the environment was very safe-feeling, and more earthy than sexual. He does Yoga too so I took his word for it. (Geez, there are so many fruity people in this town!)

Well, anyone who has known me in person for more than 5 minutes knows that I'm very touchy-feely, so when I found out that this guy's teacher was now offering a women's Contact Improv class, I had no hesitations about signing up. Since it's not co-ed, I could totally circumvent any "halacha vs. what I want" internal conflict and just go! And it really was great. It was more exercise than I thought it would be, so it's like going for a 2-hour workout. The people ranged in age from about 20-60, and were really nice. And since there are no moves to memorize or techniques to "master," it made no difference that I'd never tried it before. Very non-threatening! And I loved it. You just go there and move. You don't have to be tiny or have rythm or be able to can-can or anything. You just do it. It feels so great!

Then the teacher went abroad for a few months, so that was that.

Now she's back! And she's starting a 12-week women's class (2 hours once a week)! It starts this week, at a dance studio in Talpiyot. I am so there. I need the exercise, and it feels good. Totally worth the 50 NIS per session, I must say. It beats trying to force the fencing to work for me. And it's more healthy than spending the money on a 2-hour movie and popcorn.

I'm not posting the day or time of the class because announcing on the internet when I won't be home is not a good plan. But, if you are female and live in or near Jerusalem and want the details, send me an email. I think more people should know about this class, because it's so great.

(Does this mean that now I'm one of the fruity ones? If I ever write a post about the wonder of walking everywhere barefoot, smoking pot, and/or using the words "tikkun olam" more than twice in a conversation, please just shoot me.)
The Roller Coaster of Religiosity, Part II: The Highs (long post)

[Click here for Part I and the disclaimer.]

Let's start with an analogy.

Do you remember the intensity of feelings involved in being a teenager? There was no sadness, only despair; no anger, only hopeless rage; no gladness, only fly-from-rooftops joy. And there is no love like the way you love someone in high school.

I never really had a boyfriend in high school, but I had two serious crushes. Do you remember those? The way there was no one else in the room if that person was there? The way you felt like either shaking or dying every time the person walked by? The way, if they smiled at you, you’d practically spasm from the agony and the ecstasy? The way that person was perfect?

Do you remember the first time you were in love? For me it happened when I was 18. Do you remember being in love at 18? There was a purity to the feeling that can’t be repeated, ever, because once you aren’t a teenager anymore, it’s hard to feel anything with teenage passion. I did love someone in my twenties, and because I was older and wiser and knew the person better, the experience was richer and deeper and in many ways more
important. But it wasn’t the same. It wasn’t as pure.

As David Foster wrote in the theme song to St. Elmo’s Fire, “we’ll never love again like we did then.” That song always reminds me of high school, seminary, and freshman year of college; it awakens, a little, the passion. “We laughed until we had to cry/ and we loved right down to our last goodbye/ we were the best we’ll ever be/ just you and me/ for just a moment.” Fly-from-rooftops joy.

That was the joy I felt, in high school and seminary and freshman year, about Judaism. I felt it most keenly at NCSY Shabbatons. For havdala we would congregate in the darkened social hall of the synagogue, and the band would play rousing songs about Jewish unity and mashiach and Jewish pride. We teens would stand in front of the stage, in rows, arms around each other’s shoulders, swaying and singing and smiling and feeling the Jewish unity. Some older kids, the student leaders, would be on the stage holding candles. The regional director would share an inspiring story and we’d feel how special it is to be an observant, knowledgable, strong Jew. Sometimes the stories were about us, about how important we were, having been created in the image of God.

Now, with the cynicism of the years, I can understand how cliched and carefully calibrated those havdala services were. But from my first Shabbaton I felt very strongly the symbolism of the candles, the idea that each of us has a soul that is unique and alive and has the power to light up the world.

I felt, in those moments, brimming love for Torah and for the Jewish people. My love started with the teens and college-aged counselors around me, and extended to all Jews: the ones around the world who were being oppressed; the ones who came before me and had kept the flame alive; the ones in future generations who, maybe, would have moments like this one because people like me would pass along what we had learned. It was not unusual for me (and lots of other kids) to cry during havdalah, because we couldn’t bear the exquisiteness of our joyful longing for God.

My seminary year felt like one long havdala service, and then I went to college and listened obsessively in my dorm room to songs like Destiny's "Lornero Family" and Avraham Fried’s "The Time is Now," tears streaming down my face and my heart bursting with pride and love for myself, for Jews, for God, for Torah. I loved being Jewish so much I couldn’t sit still. I had to dance, to sing.

“We’ll never love again like we did then.” When it came to dating, everything got more complicated, eventually. Now, it’s not enough for a man to light up a room, though of course that is a prerequisite; now, no matter how brilliant his smile may be, my passion is tempered by realism and practicality, by questions like Do we communicate well? Is he mature enough to make a real commitment? Between us do we earn enough to raise a family? If not, what could we do about that? Would he be a good roommate? Would his mother live next door to us and drive me crazy? The experience, when it goes well, is deeper, richer, more important. But not the same.

Similarly, my pure love for Orthodoxy ended when I was 20 years old. I had a religious crisis and almost left it all behind, the religion, the observance, the community. I decided to stay and to believe, but it was different now. I didn’t automatically trust my community as I had before, and my commitment to Jewish law has a more intellectual, cerebral feeling to it. It’s not usually a passionate love anymore. It’s more complicated, more measured, more adult. More nuanced, perhaps, and therefore richer and more important. But not the same.

And so for me, the highs are the moments when I love again as I did then. In dating it’s the times I meet a man whose smile makes me feel, all over again, warm and melty and like there’s no one else in the room. In Judaism
it’s the times I feel, all over again, that being a Jew is so exquisitely beautiful and important and special that I can hardly bear the joy of it.

The highs come when a Hebrew song awakens my heart, or when I talk with other Orthodox Jews – friends, rabbis I like, new faces—who are compassionate and smart and sincere, and I feel proud to share a religion with such people.

I feel the highs when I see that I’m not alone in my vision of what Judaism is or could be; when I attend large conferences for like-minded Jews or hang around at Bar Ilan University or find sites like this one or this one. I feel the high when I go to events where Jews of all flavors are getting along with each other, focused on something positive and productive.

I felt a high when my grandmother told me stories about my great-grandfather, who was a respected Chassidic rabbi in Poland, and when my nephew said last Passover “I want to go with Sabba to burn chametz! Please can I go, Imma?” I feel a high when I’m learning a complicated bit of Talmud and suddenly the lightbulb goes on and I understand it and feel satisfied, like I’ve just eaten a delicious meal.

I feel the highs when my struggles with certain Jewish laws somehow lead me to a holier place. I feel the high when I’m talking to God and know, somehow, that despite all the times I feel far from him, he’s still listening to me. I’m still important. My soul is unique and alive and has the power to light up the world. I’ll always be a creature in His image.

How do you get your religious highs?

Thursday, February 03, 2005

The Roller Coaster of Religiosity, Part I: The Lows (long post)

[In the next two posts, I sometimes use the terms “Orthodox Jew” and “Jew” and “committed Jew” as if they are interchangable. I realize that they are not. I know that there are many Jews who are not Orthodox who are proud of their Jewishness, and committed to whatever Jewish ideology they espouse. But in my internal life, being a Jew and being Orthodox and being committed to other Jews and to God are almost inextricably bound up with each other. Trying to separate them would involve a whole other long post, and may be impossible for me. For now, please accept my apologies for lumping them together.]

Sometimes I feel more “religious” than other times.

Sometimes, I’m simply thinking about things that have absolutely no connection to God, such as how to decrease my electricity bill, or whether I’d rather meet my friends at Cafe Hillel or at Norman’s Steak ‘n’ Burger. (I’m sure there are some people who are now tempted to comment with ways that all things are connected to God and Torah, somehow, but . . . come on, you know what I mean! And anyway, usually I make those connections on my own. There is little in my life that I don’t see or experience through the prism of being a Jew.) In those moments, the reason I’m not being actively religious is simply that I’m thinking about something else. Sometimes, being Orthodox is passive. That’s life.

Sometimes, I’m thinking about religion but don’t feel very religious, because I’m faced with a commandment or a halacha (Jewish law) that is super hard for me, and by some trick of rationalization I fail to bring myself to keep the law. Like any other Orthodox person, I’ve become accustomed to doing things that are sometimes a pain in the neck, and I’ve become accustomed to living without many things that maybe I would have liked. Usually it either doesn’t bother me much because I'm used to it, or I manage to feel some holiness in the struggle. But some Jewish laws restrict me in ways that I really, really, really dislike being restricted, or they obligate me to do something that I really, really, really do not want to do. During these moments, I do (unfortunately) break halachot. (Which ones? That’s between me and God.)

In those moments, I am not being a hypocrite, because I have never in my life claimed to believe that each of us is cosmically bound to keep all the halachot. What I always say is that each Jew has a responsibility to do their utmost, to put in every effort, to do their very best. Everyone fails sometimes. As the Talmud says, when I get to heaven, no one is going to ask me whether I was as holy as Abraham, or as pious as some great rabbi. I’ll be asked “Were you the best Sarah you could be?” Sometimes I’m afraid of how I’d answer that.

There are some interesting mental gymnastics that go on when a person who otherwise cares about Jewish law is about to break one. I’ve been thinking lately about what goes on in that moment, when I have to choose.

In a few instances, the internal conflict does not reflect any sort of grand theological doubting, it’s just a matter of my being lazy, or too tempted by whatever fun or satisfying thing it is that I’m not supposed to have. I might say, in that moment, “God will understand,” or, if I’m very tempted by the forbidden fruit, “God will just have to understand.” It’s a cop-out, yes, one of which I’m not proud. But often, there’s something deeper going on.

Being an intellectually engaged, self-aware Orthodox Jew with one foot in the non-Orthodox world is a lot of hard work. As I’ve indicated before, I do a lot of thinking and evaluating and re-evaluating. In many ways I sit on philosophical fences, but the fence keeps shifting under me and so I can’t stop paying attention, or I’ll fall off. If I fall asleep on the job, events and trends and habits will overtake me, and I’ll get lost.

Sometimes, my butt hurts from sitting on fences. Sometimes, I’m just tired. Tired of always worrying about my actions and my words. Tired of “representing” Jews and Torah and God, and having to worry about what kind of impression I’m making on others, whether I’m being a kiddush or a chillul Hashem, whether I or others in my community are giving us a bad name. Tired of redefining myself, over and over, against the people to the “right” or the “left” of me. I’m tired, sometimes, of worrying about Jewish continuity, and replacing the people we lost in the Holocaust, and passing Torah to the next generation. I’m sick, sometimes, of being part of the “grand sweep of Jewish history.” I’m tired of wondering about God’s plan for me and for Jews and for the world, and what is my purpose in life, and am I fulfilling it?

And then, on top off all those things . . . is there a bloodspot in my breakfast egg? Is this shirt too low-cut? Can I finish this project before Shabbat begins? Does this restaurant have kashrut certification?

In short, sometimes, being a committed Jew is just too exhausting. And so, sometimes, I dissociate. It’s like an out-of-body experience, almost. I can see myself in my body, making a choice, living with all the trappings of religious belief, knowing what I’m supposed to do. And yet I’m also standing on the side, not caring anymore.

This “not caring” sometimes manifests itself in the thought that “I just can’t believe that God really concerns himself with whether I do such-and-such or not.” It’s a handy way of displacing the indifference, to say “I do care about God’s instructions and his plan for me, but I don’t think, right now, that this law is really what He wants. So I’m going to ignore it.” Later, I might feel guilty. Or not.

But what’s worse, so much worse, is when I stop caring even about God. When I’m so tired and so removed and so unspiritual and empty that the only thought filling the emptiness is "futility, futility, all is futility.” This is not an intellectual thought, nor is it a belief. It’s a state of being. It’s what happens when I’ve been caring so much about my Jewishness that I’ve blown a spiritual fuse and my brain rebels, screaming “Enough. It’s too much responsibility. I cannot carry this yoke anymore.”

Those are the lows.

[Coming up soon: The Highs]
Tova Mirvis responds to Wendy Shalit (but I'm still pissed off at Nathan Englander)

In an article in today's Forward (registration required), Tova Mirvis reminds Shalit that not only does Shalit not have a monopoly on the Orthodox experience, but that it makes no difference: the fact that Mirvis makes things up is what makes it fiction.

To which I say: Tell it, sister.

I'm a bit disappointed that Mirvis includes Nathan Englander in her argument, since Englander does not limit his fiction to his novels. He laces publicity interviews with fiction as well. For example, while I can see how growing up in an affluent Long Island suburb may be stylistically stifling (for anyone, Jewish or not), and he's not the first person to call the suburbs a "cultural vaccum," isn't it going a little overboard to call it a "shtetl mentality," as if he grew up in Williamsburg instead of West Hempstead? Are all the (parent sponsored) pool parties and teenage drinking common in his community indications of "fire and brimstone"? Is it fair to call his HANC (read: Ivy League prep school) education "anti-intellectual"? Or to say that reading literature was his way of "looking elsewhere," when his "fire and brimstone" Orthodox high school includes Shakespeare, Orwell, and Bronte on their reading lists?

He says that "I had no idea that you could spend your life writing fiction, that this was actually an option. Coming from my background, I didn't think it was permissible." Who told him that? His AP English teacher?

Face it, Nathan. When you make up stories to be sold in Barnes and Noble, you're a fiction writer. But when you make up stories to a reporter or your publicist, it's just lies.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Random and only somewhat meaningful thoughts for the day

A few things I thought of today, when I was supposed to be doing other, more productive things. If you are looking for very deep thoughts, this is not your day.

1. It is so easy to blame everything wrong in my life on the fact that I'm still single. Almost completely unjustified, but so easy.

2. Many moons ago, my 8th-grade Social Studies teacher, Mrs. Kaufman, had us read, every week, one of these "current event" magazines for junior high school students. This was in the mid-80's, when teen pregnancy was a hugely talked-about social issue. One time there was a little blurb about a 13-year-old girl who had just had a baby. I remember thinking "Ewww! Gross! On so many levels!"

But one of the girls in my class, who we'll call, uh, Shaindy, said that she doesn't understand, what's wrong with someone having a baby? What could be bad about a baby?

Mrs. Kaufman [peering at Shaindy from over her glasses]: Shaindy, how old are you?!?
Shaindy: 13
Mrs. K: And are you, young lady, ready to have a baby?!?
[boys in the class start snickering]
Shaindy: No!
Mrs. K: I thought not.

And that was kind of the end of that. I think Shaindy got the message about the social problem at hand. But more importantly, it was ingrained in my head that "Oh, my God, I'm 13, too. And somewhere out there is a girl exactly my age with a baby. Holy cow."

Today I was thinking that somewhere out there, the baby is now 19 years old. Actually, that baby may have been one of my students when I taught in New York. And somewhere out there is a woman exactly my age with a 19-year-old daughter. She may even be a grandmother by now. Holy cow.

3. Next thought: She might already be a grandmother, and I'm still single. Where is the justice?

4. There is no such thing as my to-do list ever being empty. As long as I eat, there will be dishes to wash. As long as I open windows and doors, there will be dust to . . . dust. As long as I get mail, there will be papers to wade through and bills to pay. As long as I wear clothes, there will be laundry to do. As long as I live, I will generate garbage (literally, though I hope not metaphorically). There will always be tax forms to fill out, and hair to get cut, grocery shopping to finish, and meals to cook. There is no such thing as being "done." If I'm waiting to be "done," I'll be waiting forever.

5. . . . but if I were married I could split the work.
Before you complain to Verizon . . .

Some Jewish websites are reporting that according to Verizon Wireless "there is no Israel" or implying that there must be some nefarious intent behind Verizon's listing of "Palestine" as a place where one can SMS, but not Israel. Also, when you click on the map of Asia, and then the dot for "Palestine," the PA flag pops up, completely covering the holy land.

I was glad to see that some of the commenters at the Jewlicious link had their heads on straight about whether there is really any reason to complain, and that if one does complain it's best to do it POLITELY.

First, the menu of countries on the Verizon list obviously is not meant to include every country (or political entity, if you prefer) that exists or which they believe "should" exist. The list doesn't include Austria, either, and I'm sure Verizon has no issues with Austria. Also missing: Luxembourg. Saudi Arabia. And probably around 50 other perfectly "undisputed" countries around the world.

It just so happens that Verizon has a contract with a Palestinian cellular carrier, and not with an Israeli one. Who knows why? Perhaps they haven't gotten around to it. Perhaps they are in negotiations. Perhaps the Israeli terms were too high. Perhaps Israeli cellular companies are in cahoots with Austria.

And regarding the map and the flag: All the flags, of all the "partnering" countries (political entitities, whatever), are the same size. It's not Verizon's fault that Israel is so small that the flag graphic swallowed it up.

However, it it's an insensitivity that I hope Verizon will correct, once it is pointed out to them. Obviously, we Jews and Israelis are very, very sensitive about the fact that there are a bajillion-million people out there who would like to drive our little Jewish state into the sea. And it's only 60 years after the Holocaust, and so we've got every reason to have the heeby-jeebies about people who want to destroy us. Our paranoia is justified, you know? (I'm not really being facetious, here. The Arabs do want to destroy us.) And so we are very very scared of the dark. And along comes hapless Verizon and, thinking they were just saving electricity, they turn the lights out. Time to write to them and ask them to please leave a night-light on.

If you want, go ahead and ask them if they could please write "Palestinian Authority" rather than "Palestine," and make the flag pop up a little higher or a little to the right so that it is over Lebanon or Jordan, rather than Israel. I tend to think that once they realize that they've stepped into a landmine, they'll do what they can to be more accomodating to our feelings. As they should. (And then the Palestinian bloggers will have a field day talking about how hysterical and jumpy we are. And in this case they'd be right.)

Anyhow, I look forward to hearing how Verizon handles all the complaints they are about to get from angry, angry Jews.

You know what this reminds me of? I used to have a graphic on my blog from It said "the weather in Jerusalem is . . . " and then gave the temperature, humidity, etc. Underneath that it said "as reported from Queen Alia Airport, Amman, Jordan." This annoyed me because Amman isn't much closer to Jerusalem (if at all) than is Tel Aviv, which is almost always noticably warmer than Jerusalem. Due to all the mountains and other geophysical factors here, Jerusalem's weather is very different from the weather in other nearby areas; so why should I believe that if it is 45 degrees Fahrenheit in Amman that it is the same in Jerusalem? I didn't think anything of it politically. I just felt it can't be so scientifically accurate.

But one of my readers left a comment to the effect of: "Have you noticed that the weather report on your site is anti-Semitic?"

What an idiot! The weather does not see political borders. I pointed this out to him, asking him whether he thinks that a storm front over Jordan would discriminate over Jerusalem due its being in a Jewish state.

It's not always about us, people.