Saturday, January 29, 2005
Travelers to societies radically different from their own should always remember that what they see is just the outer surface, like the exterior of a house. Learning to understand a society properly, actually getting into the rooms of that house, requires one not only to live in it but to really invest oneself in it, and a ghetto of foreigners is not good enough, mind.
Bu then again, many people have this tendency to go all starry-eyed about going native. Maybe to really understand a society, a culture, one has to grow up in it.
Then again, I could be wrong.
Friday, January 28, 2005
Wednesday, January 26, 2005
Riding home from work today, along the banks of the Yarkon River, I came to the conclusion that the Best ‘Life in Israel’ Blog is, regrettably not Not a Fish, nor any of my other friends on the list, but Anglosaxy.
I know I’m far too emotionally involved in what happens here to do a good job of describing life here. Ashley tells it like it is. Go vote for him.
And while we’re on the subject of doing a good job at describing life in Israel, I hope you’re keeping up with Lisa’s story. I’m finding it hard to read. Some of it touches painful places for me.
I was so unhappy about yesterday’s post that I obsessed about it all through my art class. My fellow students and teacher were very nice about it, although I must have been a real pain. I spent two days on that post and I’m still not satisfied with it. Everything I write seems to come out all wrong.
What used to get me with regard to Hannah Senesh was the old ‘what if’ question: the ‘what if they hadn’t sent her on that fool’s errand’ question; the ‘what if we lost a great poet or playwright’ question; the ‘what a waste’ question.
But that’s all just silly when you think about it. More likely than not, she would never have matured into a writer; more likely than not, she would never have even published any of her poems. I think she was the sort of person that, more likely than not, had she lived, would not have pursued the kind of life that would have made her well-known. She would have been one of those hundreds of thousands of Israelis who, in the early years, quietly and modestly went about building this country. In which case she would never have touched my life, not directly, anyway, not in a way I would have known about.
But she did touch my life and enrich it.
And I only ever heard of her because she was sent on that fool’s errand, and because she ‘didn’t talk’, and because she stood up to the Nazis the way she did.
(So much for being cynical about national heroes, as is fashionable these days.)
Tuesday, January 25, 2005
I woke up in the middle of the night, the night before last, and wrote two words on a piece of paper, in large, hardly-intelligible handwriting.
I don’t know why her name came to me in my sleep, or why it was so urgent for me to get the words down so I wouldn’t forget them till morning.
* * * *
About ten years ago, a fictional play was to be aired on Israeli television based on the story of the famous Kasztner trial. The play twisted historic facts by saying that Hannah Senesh (Szenes) had broken under SS interrogation and had turned in her friends, thus bringing about their capture by the Nazis and their eventual execution, and, of course, the failure of their mission. The whole country was up in arms.
If I remember correctly, Hannah Senesh’s family appealed to the High Court of Justice to try and prevent the play from being broadcast, claiming, if I am not mistaken, that it was libelous. They were turned down for reasons of freedom of speech or artistic license or something. The play was broadcast.
I have a guilty little confession. I couldn’t care less if Hannah Senesh ‘talked’ or not. And another: I could never understand what that parachuting mission in Europe was all about.
I should have had a blog back then, because all the time that the stormy public debate about this issue was going on, I wanted to shout out, I wanted to tell Hannah Senesh’s family how I felt. I wanted to say to them:
Don’t worry. It’s okay. It doesn’t change anything. It doesn’t make her anything less.
(We know she didn’t talk, but even if she did, who could blame her? How could we expect her to withstand the sort of treatment the SS interrogators would have had no qualms at meting out to those with secrets. Just look at what they did to those guilty only of belonging to the wrong race. And she was both.)
Even if she did talk she was still a heroine. But she didn’t talk. And now we have this opportunity to look at just what that really means.
But don't you see that she was, and is, far more than how she died?
At least to me.
* * * *
Hannah Senesh was my most important role model when I was growing up. I felt, and still feel, very strongly about her.
She was my role model not because she didn’t break under the SS torture she went through before her execution; and not because she volunteered to parachute into Nazi-occupied Hungary, against all odds, in order to try and save Jews; and not because I loved the poems she wrote; and not because of her diary, in which she shared, with such youthful enthusiasm, her Zionism and her story of leaving her Hungarian home for a new life in Palestine; and not even because of that one particular little poem she wrote, so simple and lovely, expressing in just a few words her wonder at the precious beauty of the world and man's place in it, as she walked on the beach near Caesarea.
She wrote it just two years before she was shipped off to Europe never to return, never to know that it would become one of the best loved Israeli songs of all times, its wistful innocence an everlasting symbol of the devastation of the Holocaust.
These would have been reasons enough for my admiration of her, more than enough. Probably they should have been the reasons for my admiration of her. But I was a child. I had my own agenda. I didn't see her as the perfect heroine adorning the walls of the hall of fame of Zionism. All that stuff didn’t interest me in the least. Perhaps that is why the question of whether she talked or not hardly mattered to me.
In my eyes, she was a real person, an ordinary person, someone I could touch, and identify with. And that was her magic for me.
You’ll probably think I completely missed the point, and maybe I did. But I’m hoping you will be able to understand, for I was only a child - a little immigrant child who feared that she had lost one language without gaining another to take its place, and who felt as if she had become mute, no longer able to express herself in any language.
The thing that gave Hannah Senesh a special place in my heart, the thing that made me identify with her so much, was a seemingly insignificant biographical detail - insignificant perhaps when considering who she was and what she did, but not insignificant for me - that she started writing in Hebrew just six months after she came to live in Palestine, and in such beautiful Hebrew. This was an important lesson for me.
More than anyone or anything else at the time, she gave me hope. Now isn’t that ironic?
Hannah Senesh showed me, showed us all, in the way she lived her life, and, yes, in the way she went to her death, that if we care enough, if we have enough determination and dedication, we can do anything.
(I think Rinat reminds me of her a bit.)
אלי, שלא יגמר לעולם
רשרוש של המים
Afterthought: Aren't these fine words from this underachiever? Well, there's hope yet.
John sent me these words of Hannah Senesh:
though they have long been extinct.
There are people whose brilliance continues to light the world
though they are no longer among the living.
These lights are particularly bright when the night is dark.
They light the way for mankind.
Update: I have just one more thing to say about this subject.
Monday, January 24, 2005
While I was hibernating the Jewish and Israeli Bloggies were taking form. I was sort of vaguely aware of this, but I was far too sleepy to participate in the festivities and assumed that no one had nominated me for anything anyway. This only seemed fair, seeing as I hadn't been writing anything.
Anyway, voting for the preliminary round, whatever that means, has commenced and it appears someone nice did nominate me and I’m up for two categories: Best Overall Blog (Group A), and Best Life in Israel Blog (Group B).
Competition is fierce and it’s a difficult choice because I really like most of the nominees, and I’m sure you do too. I’m not even sure if I will vote for me myself (just kidding, I already did – couldn’t help myself, isn’t that awful of me?). Anyway, head on over and vote for whoever.
And may the best Jews (or non-Jewish Israel supporters) win!
Thank you Dave, for all your hard work. The logo is great.
Important update: Dave tells me Zahava Bogner (AKA Mrs. Treppenwitz)designed the logo.
Sunday, January 23, 2005
They found only about 7000 shells of human beings, the last survivors of what, for four years, had been the biggest wholesale death factory in history.
One million and two hundred thousand Jews were sent to the Auschwitz-Birkenau intersection, where they went through a selection which sent the great majority of them straight to the gas chambers – the contribution of German technology to mass extermination. Their bodies were cremated. The few who were found suitable for hard labor died of starvation, frost, torture and, eventually, in death marches.
You who live safe
In your warm houses,
You who find, returning in the evening,
Hot food and friendly faces:
Consider if this is a man
Who works in the mud
Who does not know peace
Who fights for a scrap of bread
Who dies because of a yes or no.
Consider if this is a woman,
Without hair and without name
With no more strength to remember,
Her eyes empty and her womb cold
Like a frog in winter.
Meditate that this came about:
I commend these words to you.
Carve them in your hearts
At home, in the street,
Going to bed, rising;
Repeat them to your children,
Or may your house fall apart,
May illness impede you,
May your children turn their faces from you.
* * * *
The State of Israel, and nothing else, is the answer to Auschwitz.
We shall not forget it.
I suggest you read the entire piece, if you can read Hebrew.
Saturday, January 22, 2005
I googled Chilean poet Pablo Neruda yesterday, looking for the English version of a lovely poem Eldest got in Hebrew with her end of semester report card. Today I went into amazon.com looking for something completely different and was immediately offered a variety of books by and about Pablo Neruda.
Some of the Google results I got for Neruda were on amazon.com but I don’t remember clicking through to any of them.
I love the Internet but I wish it weren’t so intrusive.
Update: Alisa reminds me that one can make the Internet less intrusive. She's so nice to me. I do know this. Bish has been over it with me. But it's all so fuzzy-brain. It requires thinking.
Now I have to go collapse into bed.
I’m thinking about what I wrote yesterday that it was maybe upsetting for women who are having difficulties getting pregnant or staying pregnant, or who would really like kids but haven’t found the right partner and don’t want to go it alone.
I ask myself guiltily if maybe I should not be writing about good experiences that I have had, because they might be upsetting to some who haven’t been so lucky. It’s like I’m waving about that I belong to this cool club of biological mothers. But that wasn’t it at all, and these thoughts didn’t cross my mind when I wrote it yesterday.
I am reminded of how alienated I used to feel sitting with a bunch of men talking about their army experiences. They had this camaraderie I could never belong to. It annoyed me, but now I see that this is much the same thing. They were just talking nostalgically about their army experiences, it wasn’t against me, or excluding me. That was all in my head.
So I don’t think I should feel bad about writing about pregnancy and childbirth just because many women (and all men) sadly cannot experience it. Still I do feel bad a bit. It’s my inherited Polish Jewish guilty complex about having to please everyone all of the time or else I’m a horrible person.
Afterthought: You will note that the last of my ancestors left Poland round about the beginning of the nineteeth century, so you can imagine how powerful this complex really is.
Friday, January 21, 2005
Shortly after I began blogging, I was informed by a fellow blogger that imshin meant ‘pregnant’ in Korean. I thought ‘nice’.
Korea and Korean meant very little to me, although all that has changed since we bought a Korean car, but imshin meaning pregnant suited me down to the ground. It was, well, pregnant with meaning (Sorry about that. I couldn’t resist it).
Imshin is a nickname made up by Eldest years ago, and long discarded, derived from Ima, the Hebrew for Mom. So pregnant was fine by me. I’m a mother and in order to reach this state I was pregnant. Twice. For nine months each time. And it was nice being pregnant.
You can imagine my surprise when, a few months later, I got an e-mail from someone expressing their amazement (horror?) at my use of the word. I think what he (it had to be a ‘he’, didn’t it?) wrote was something on the lines of “I can’t understand why anyone could possibly want to call themselves that.” As if it were a dirty word, as if pregnancy was something obscene, some terrible malignant disease suffered by those poor unfortunate women, but not, thank God, by us men, heaven forbid!
Not wishing to be impolite to a reader – I didn’t have many of them back then – I think I just answered something nice and ordinary, not letting on how clueless I thought he was. But I’ve had it tickling the back of my mind ever since, giving me the occasional giggle.
I think it’s time to set the record straight, seeing as we women are doing such a pathetic job of stating the case for womanhood, and for the really great things we can do that the men folk can’t.
Lying in bed after Youngest was born, I was overwhelmed by an intense feeling of love for this tiny creature that had just come out of me. It had swept over me almost immediately like a big wave.
This hadn’t happened when Eldest was born. Perhaps it was because I had epidural with Eldest, or perhaps it was because I hadn’t been a mother when Eldest was born. Motherhood is something you have to grow into. But this wave of love on the second time around really bowled me over. I hadn’t expected it at all. In fact, when I was pregnant with Youngest I had been worried that I wouldn’t be able to love her as much as I loved Eldest. I couldn’t believe that there would be room in my heart for both of them. God knows I’m not the warmest, most giving person in the universe.
What I discovered when Youngest was born was that I didn’t have to share the same amount of love between them both. It was like a miracle had happened. My capacity for love had swelled to twice the size it had been before, if not far more.
So there I was lying in the maternity ward just a few hours after Youngest popped out (She did pop out, we almost didn’t get to the hospital in time, but that’s another story), and I was feeling all this love and completeness and contentedness and compassion, all the usual mushy stuff. Bish had said that I looked like a Buddha, before they chucked him out so I could get some rest.
And then I started feeling really really sad. It was because of Bish, you see. In my overflow of compassion, I was feeling so very sorry for him, that he didn’t get to experience for himself the amazing wonderful intensity of what had just happened to me – childbirth. It seemed so unfair.
Get a bunch of mothers together and ask them about the births of their children. Be prepared that this can take hours. I find that all mothers love talking about it, even if it was a difficult experience for them (but maybe not if it was really traumatic). And it doesn’t matter how long ago it was, or how old their kids are - they can be grandmothers.
For a feeling of empowerment, of being really in contact with life in the most uplifting way, for sheer intensity - there is no experience that can come near it.
Breastfeeding is good too.
Update: Maybe not everone sees motherhood the same way. Brrrr.
Thursday, January 20, 2005
And here is something interesting - survivors of the Lodz Ghetto get a chance to see previously unpublished photos of life in that ghetto taken by Henryk Ross. Some recognize themselves or people they knew.
Now, with the complete set of photos we could compare them with the photos that had been used before in publications and exhibitions and see how our image of the Holocaust has been dominated by survivor memories. What emerges from the complete set of Mr. Ross's photographs, unlike from previous oral and textual survivor testimonies and Mr. Ross's previously disseminated pictures, supports the view that all ghetto residents had to face the same kinds of dilemmas and that the contrast between the Jewish Council and "ordinary Jews" in the ghetto was not one of black and white. It is a chronicle of the breaking down and reconfiguration of competing bonds of human solidarity in the face of violence. A chronicle that makes the Nazi Holocaust even more diabolically cruel for its victims than survivors could express.
The specter of civil war.
You’ll laugh, but one of the reasons Bish and I decided to get married when we did was the fear that if we waited too long, we wouldn’t be able to afford to buy an apartment because the prices would go up. The reason that this would happen, we reckoned, was that a Palestinian state would be established before too long, and tens of thousands of evacuated settlers would descend on Tel Aviv. This was 1988 (although we only actually tied the knot in 1989). Weren’t we the optimistic ones?
Prices did go up, and we were right in investing in real estate when we did (with the kind help of our parents), but not for the reason we thought. Prices went up mainly because of the influx of immigrants from the former Soviet Union countries that came pouring into Israel following the fall of Soviet communism.
* * * *
Is it any wonder I’m acting the ostrich these days? How can I write about the public debate going on about the discussed disengagement from Gaza and a few settlements in the north of the West Bank and about what we probably have in store, when it’s all so horrible?
In the heat of the argument (not recently, I haven’t been in the mood for any good political arguments recently, but in the past, when I was more clearly identified as a Lefty), people have asked me what I would do if it were my home that had to be evacuated, if it was me that would have to move?
I’m maybe the wrong person to ask such a question. I’m not very house proud. These days, I live in a rented flat out of choice. I’m easy.
On the other hand I love Tel Aviv. I don’t want to live anywhere else, besides perhaps Mitzpe Ramon, if I could make a living there. So if I had to leave Tel Aviv for peace, would I?
Say I was living in disputed territory, and that by moving to an area that was also kind of disputed but more internationally accepted I would, in the short run, save lives and get the international community off our backs, and, in the long run, solve a demographic problem and perhaps even increase the feasibility of real peace between my people and our main current enemy, without completely compromising chances for future survival and hopefully even considerably improving them, would I leave? (you can breath now…)
You betcha. With tears in my eyes and sadness in my heart. But then again, maybe I wouldn’t be living in such an ultra-‘disputed area’ in the first place.
The thing is that people we’re being exposed to on the TV a lot lately don’t believe that this disengagement will bring peace. And they have a point. I too am worried that it might turn out to be a miscalculation. I too am worried that it will be rewarding terrorism and give the Palestinians the feeling that just a few more years of pressure, just a little more blood and sacrifice, and they’ll be rid of us; and that it isn’t time yet, although I have a feeling that it is time, what with Arafat gone.
So leave Tel Aviv, never to come back, to see it in strangers’ hands, maybe destroyed, for something I don’t believe in, for something I am skeptical about happening, for something I fear will make things far worse? That’s a much harder question.
And we have to remember that that is the dilemma that is facing settlers.
But if my democratically elected government had made a decision, would I fight or would I leave quietly, even if I didn’t believe in it?
I would like to think that I would go quietly. I believe that once a decision has been made, like it or not, we should all pull together to make it work. Of course, it is quite understandable that people opposed to it would want it not to work, so that everyone would know that they were right all along. Sadly this approach could kill us all.
What I find very troubling and very frustrating are the people who are talking about our irrevocable historic God-given right to this land, all of it, even the parts inhabited by the Philistines in the olden days. It is as if two thousand years of exile caused by infighting, fanaticism, and lack of flexibility never happened. It’s like the Palestinians are air. No compassion. Worse - peace appears not to be a concept that interests them in the least. Living by the sword, on the other hand, seems to hold some romantic biblical meaning.
Scares the hell out of me.
And everyone pussyfoots around them, as if they are misunderstood children and must be treated gently. Mind you, some of them are, literally.
I know I’m falling into the trap the mass media have prepared for me. I know it, because I have become aware of the manipulations they do, and because religious people I know personally who live in the territories do have compassion, and are not frothing at the mouth with religious fervor. They show us the fruitcases and we get the impression they are all fruitcases.
I hate getting all worked up over this, especially as I personally know some of the people who will have the unenviable job of dragging these people -- men, women and children; kicking, spitting and clawing -- from their homes and from the vacant homes of those who have left quietly, should the disengagement go ahead. It’s all very worrying.
So much easier to pretend it isn’t there, and curl up in bed with a nice book.
Update: Our Sis wishes to point out that as far as she knows a fruitcase is just a case for fruit. She thinks I should have written 'nutcase'.
Well, I'm very sorry, I'm sure. Is it my fault I'm a bloody foreigner? No, it isn't! It's Mum and Dad's. I had absolutely no say in the matter.
On the other hand, I did choose to ignore that little squiggly red line underneath the word 'fruitcase' in MS Word when I was writing this post, so I can't really blame previous generations with a clean conscience.
Wednesday, January 19, 2005
I wish a happy Id Al-Adha to all Moslems, Druze, and Circassians.
Update: Hang on. Circassians are Moslems. What am I talking about?
I have completely shut down to current affairs recently. I’m not sure why, although I could get into dime psychology if I were so inclined (I’m not). Even losing that post I wrote about disengagement is fishy. I was iffy about publishing it anyway.
I dislike watching the news. The newspapers don’t interest me. And come to think about it, some interesting things have been happening round here. But I just don’t want to know, let alone write about it.
This blog being sort of current affairs orientated for so long, I was at a loose end until the offer from cafeDiverso arrived. That sort of woke me up, gave me a new direction, some much needed discipline. So I thought it would be a good opportunity to pack in the blog. Bish was dead against. He said I was getting cobwebs between my fingers. And he was right as usual.
Seeing as my stats are dropping anyway, I might as well keep it up and just write whatever comes into my head. I’ll crack the riddle of my aversion to current affairs in the end, or not, and in the meantime you’ll get to read my cognitive wheels creaking round. Or not. You don’t have to. There’s no quiz at the end and no report card. Don’t you just love being all grown up?
I told them about it in my art class, and we talked about priorities. I have a friend there who is the exact opposite of me in that respect. Her home is the most uncluttered, tidiest, best functioning home I know (yes, even more than yours, Our Sis). And it’s dead cool too, in this understated way. I usually walk around it with my mouth open in wonder when I’m visiting. But she says she never gets any of her own stuff done, and she is incredibly talented so this is a shame.
My problem is that I say to hell with the dishes. I want to get that little thought in my head down before I forget it, or before I don’t feel like it anymore. Or, more often than not, and this is the worst, I say I’ll just have a little shloff before I get started, and before I know it, it’s the next morning.
I am waiting to hear from cafeDiverso if they mean to use the two sample stories I sent. Curiosity is slowly killing this particular cat here. I’ve already written more stories for next month, due to be sent in on 1st February.
I’m so used to the immediacy of blogging. You don’t appreciate something until you experience something else. On the other hand it will be interesting to read stories two months after I submitted them. The time delay will make it like reading something someone else wrote.
Of course, there is this niggling insecure feeling (What?! Me insecure? Never!) that they will never actually use anything I send. It will all be found to be inappropriate or something. But fear not. Whatever is turned down by cafeDiverso will appear on Not a Fish straight away.
Talking about cats (as in ‘curiosity killed the…’), Shoosha is being very derelict of her duty lately. The pigeons are back. I told her I would have to sack her if she didn’t pull her (little cotton) socks up. But she just glared at me, meowed, and then walked off in disdain. That showed me!
It’s a very stormy day today. Whoever said that ‘it never rains it pours’ obviously lived in Israel. Just my luck, today is the day I’ve volunteered to chaperone a group of students from Eldest’s school on their weekly visit to a school for autistic children. I think it’s lovely that these kids are doing this, and I am very happy to do my bit to help, but I would have preferred if it wasn’t on such a stormy day.
Update: Well, the chaperone thing is off, someone sprained an ankle or something. I can't say I'm devastated. I've got a new date for April, which is unlikely to be stormy.
Monday, January 17, 2005
If you think I have any intention of rewriting it THINK AGAIN!
Do you want to hear a secret? doo da dooo...
I had neglected to read Alisa’s Hebrew bits, assuming they were the same as the English. Well they’re not! Not word by word, anyway, according to Alisa. Eat your hearts out all you non- Hebrew speakers out there!
And how did I learn this important piece of information? Because I skivved off work today lunchtime and went out with Alisa to Tel Aviv Port, lucky me!
Ooh and I saw Pashosh and Mr. Alisa too.
Sunday, January 16, 2005
When I left England for Israel at the ripe old age of nine, my school presented me a book as a school leaving prize. It was a local Jewish school. The headmaster was a friend of the family. He called me into his office one day and asked me to choose a book from the pile on his desk.
This is what I chose.
It was later presented to me in front of the whole school, during a ceremony bidding farewell to all the school leavers, mainly eleven year olds leaving for high school. They had added a dedication on the inside of the front cover with my name in print. I couldn't have been prouder.
I read this book over and over again for years afterwards. I think it was one of my most beloved childhood friends. I still have it. It has survived many many of Bish’s book throw-out fests.
And even though I haven’t read it for a while, I can safely say that it is still one of my most favoritest of books ever. I am so happy to see that it is still available.
Saturday, January 15, 2005
--------A SIMPLE Child,
That lightly draws its breath,
And feels its life in every limb,
What should it know of death?
I met a little cottage Girl:
She was eight years old, she said;
Her hair was thick with many a curl
That clustered round her head.
She had a rustic, woodland air,
And she was wildly clad:
Her eyes were fair, and very fair;
--Her beauty made me glad.
"Sisters and brothers, little Maid,
How many may you be?"
"How many? Seven in all," she said
And wondering looked at me.
"And where are they? I pray you tell."
She answered, "Seven are we;
And two of us at Conway dwell,
And two are gone to sea.
"Two of us in the church-yard lie,
My sister and my brother;
And, in the church-yard cottage, I
Dwell near them with my mother."
"You say that two at Conway dwell,
And two are gone to sea,
Yet ye are seven!--I pray you tell,
Sweet Maid, how this may be."
Then did the little Maid reply,
"Seven boys and girls are we;
Two of us in the church-yard lie,
Beneath the church-yard tree."
"You run about, my little Maid,
Your limbs they are alive;
If two are in the church-yard laid,
Then ye are only five."
"Their graves are green, they may be seen,"
The little Maid replied,
"Twelve steps or more from my mother's door,
And they are side by side.
"My stockings there I often knit,
My kerchief there I hem;
And there upon the ground I sit,
And sing a song to them.
"And often after sunset, Sir,
When it is light and fair,
I take my little porringer,
And eat my supper there.
"The first that died was sister Jane;
In bed she moaning lay,
Till God released her of her pain;
And then she went away.
"So in the church-yard she was laid;
And, when the grass was dry,
Together round her grave we played,
My brother John and I.
"And when the ground was white with snow,
And I could run and slide,
My brother John was forced to go,
And he lies by her side."
"How many are you, then," said I,
"If they two are in heaven?"
Quick was the little Maid's reply,
"O Master! we are seven."
"But they are dead; those two are dead!
Their spirits are in heaven!"
'Twas throwing words away; for still
The little Maid would have her will,
And said, "Nay, we are seven!"
For a short while when I was young I thought everything had to be beautifully designed, cold, tidy. This was before I realized that my own personal untidiness was not something I was ever going to outgrow, and that I was destined to live my life amid uncontrollable clutter. No beautifully designed modern apartment for me. I'm far too lazy to be bothered to do what has to be done to have such a home. And if I ever find myself with one, I wouldn’t know what to do with it.
Now I'm an ugliness groupie. The little makolet (grocery store) on the corner (sadly there are not many of them left); trees along the sidewalks decorated with homemade notices for apartments to rent, lost dogs, cosmeticians (these days, municipal workers take them down minutes after they’ve been pinned up); a little river of rain water flowing into a drain at the edge of the road, blocked with leaves, plastic bags, the remains of a discarded red umbrella (as long as there’s rain, we’ll always have that).
Life - unplanned, un-designed, just comfortable ugly.
Israel has become more ‘designed’ in recent years than ever before. I find it hard to connect. It seems false.
Some of it is nice. This ‘retro’ trend is nice, even though it tends to be too precise. Hip Sixties/Seventies style restaurants with wooden window frames and aluminum chairs and tables never quite manage to capture the wonderful yuckiness of the real thing.
Do you know what I really miss? I miss real honest-to-God kitsch. I miss Shimi Tavori.
Update: Oh dear. Dad's trying to fix me. Look what he just sent me. I'm feeling panicky. Didn't I just say I liked clutter, or something like that? I joined though. I'm a pushover. Apparently I am now a FlyBaby. Here goes nothing.
Friday, January 14, 2005
Of course you do. It was the summer we had that magical date 7/7/77. At the age of twelve it seemed meaningful for some reason.
What else? Virginia Wade won Wimbledon. And Elvis died.
It was also the summer my parents dumped R.T. and me with our grandparents in England and went off by themselves to sunny California.
Now it wasn't as if I didn't appreciate being able to spend time with my grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins, and it wasn't as if they weren't all very kind to me, doing their best to entertain me. It was just that after a while I wanted to go home already.
R.T. was fine. He still had loads of friends in England and was busy most of the time. I had lost touch with mine. I was bored.
Boredom is probably why I remember those momentous events listed above. Instead of spending the summer at the beach and/or investigating leaves and dissecting ants (unlike my poor deprived children, my parents did not make me live in the middle of a concrete and asphalt jungle), I watched most of Wimbledon’s Ladies Tournament, a novelty because it wasn’t shown on Israeli television (not surprising, seeing as there was only one channel and even that was run by the state and was still in black and white for years to come).
If I had been in Israel, I doubt I would have heard of Elvis’s untimely overdose of barbiturates, or whatever it was. I’d have been too busy wandering around the apartment building inhabited by that boy I had a crush on, in the hopes of bumping into him (Not! I was far too shy).
And if I had been in Israel, I certainly wouldn’t have got into Grandma’s bad books for my shameful exhibition of lack of respect for the Royal Family.
I wasn’t English anymore, see? I was Israeli now. But, unfortunately for me, 1977 also saw the celebrations of Queen Elizabeth’s Silver Jubilee and royal fever was at its pre-Diana peak. So when Grandma called me to come quickly into the morning room, because the Queen was on the telly, I just stayed in the kitchenette (I don’t know why it was called that, it was far bigger than most Israeli kitchens) and kept on munching my chocolate biscuit.
Grandma was not amused. She was even less amused when I announced that she wasn’t my queen. I was in the bad books all summer.
* * * *
I thought about Grandma (Aleiyha Hashalom) this week while reading about young Prince Harry’s latest antics. Good thing she wasn’t around to witness it.
Thursday, January 13, 2005
Wednesday, January 12, 2005
Monday, January 10, 2005
As a child I highly appreciated the express line in the supermarket checkout. Instead of standing in line for half an hour, holding my painstakingly chosen bar of chocolate, in between two old ladies who would bump into me repeatedly with their with enormous trolleys and shout at me, hoping I would go away, I could now stand in line for only fifteen minutes in between two old ladies, who would still shout at me, but without the threat of trolley violence.
The three item maximum meant that all they usually had to pay for was a loaf of un-sliced bread (they didn’t have self-service bread slicing machines in the supermarkets back then) and a dripping plastic bag of milk (cartons were yet to be heard of; glass bottles had not long been discarded).
And then one day, years later, I was standing in line at the express with my maximum three items, when I suddenly noticed that the lady in front of me had (gasp!) five items. I managed to make a complete fool of myself, before she smirked and pointed at the sign: Five items maximum. Oysh.
That was the beginning of the end. There should have been a law passed right there and then in the Knesset about the three item maximum, they should have stopped it before it got out of hand. Because if one thing is certain, and not a lot is certain in this life, it’s that it’s been all down hill since then. The five item maximum was soon six, and then eight. Now it’s ten.
These days it’s quicker to stand behind a woman with three trolleys holding the week’s groceries for a family of TEN than trying for the (no longer) express line.
But I haven’t given up on special counters yet. I have a foolproof idea to solve all aggravation in the supermarket: The Suckers’ Line (in Hebrew = frayerim, a word guaranteed to deter undesirables).
This is the line for people like me, who would rather wait in line for two hours with two items, behind that woman with the three trolleys, I mentioned before, only in triplicate, than to have to contend with the following (who will, of course, be strictly banned from the Suckers’ Line):
People who park their trolleys in line with two items in it, then proceed to gradually fill it up with the rest of their shopping, going off and coming back with more and more items, as their place in the queue moves nearer to its destiny.
People who hide baskets with groceries underneath those stands they always put by the counters with things you really don’t need but your kids can’t resist (those will be banned from the Suckers’ Line as well), and then come back after half an hour, produce their baskets as from thin air and demand to be let in before everyone in the line because they were there first.
People who park their trolley in one queue and then go and stand in another, because how are they to know which queue will be faster.
People who go through the so-called express line with fifteen to twenty items, and the checkout workers who allow them to.
People who think the express line is a place you go to get rid of the very smallest of your change, for which they have to dig to the very bottom of their very full purses (‘I’m sure I had another five agorot piece down there somewhere’).
And last but certainly not least:
People who ram their trolleys into particularly small nine-year-old girls.
I know, I’m dreaming.
I’m sure her life is wonderful in her dinky little house, with Dor having all that freedom to run in and out of the dinky little garden. I’m sure it’s worth every minute of every hour of sitting in the big nasty SUV in the traffic on the way to and from work.
It’s just not my cup of Turkish coffee.
I am one of those rare exotic birds – the ideological inner city dweller. It’s not that I don’t fantasize sometimes about my own little dinky house with its dinky little garden, although knowing me it would just be a weed garden. And it’s not that I never had guilty panic attacks, when the girls were little, that they weren’t wild nature children wandering freely, investigating leaves and dissecting ants.
But I do so love being in walking/cycling/short bus ride distance from everything I could possibly ever need (although I do own a car and I even use it occasionally). And I love the bustle and the people in the cafes, and yes, even the roads full of cars and buses, especially when I can whiz past on my bike. It’s all so alive.
And if all that is not enough, I really do think this country is far too small and far too populated, for us to allow ourselves the luxury of suburban sprawl.
Saturday, January 08, 2005
Well, for one thing, it's winter and my family never fails to succumb to winter illnesses. We haven't had anything really bad this year so far (tfu tfu tfu), but we've been coughing and spluttering our fair share.
Today is a lovely sunny day. I thought I'd get up early and go out for a spin on my bike before anyone else woke up, but just limbering up a bit at home first tired me out, so I decided maybe it was not such a good idea.
I've come to the conclusion that much of my dissatisfaction at work is a result of my sitting alone in a room. I have been playing with the idea of going back to what I did before, which involves far more interaction with other people. It's in the same department, and is therefore not such a big move and I will probably be welcomed, if they have a position for me, because I am experienced and pretty knowledgeable, although things have changed a bit since I stopped doing it. One of the smaller managers has actually been trying to persuade me to make the move, but I'm not sure how much say he really has in the matter.
On the other hand, I like my little kingdom (queendom?), even if it is sometimes a bit lonely. I have a lot of independence and am able to promote things that interest me, or that I think are important. I will miss all that. So I am undecided.
The nicest news is that I have been invited to join cafeDiverso as Storyteller for Israel. I'll tell you when anything of mine is published there. Until that happens, you might like to read some of the lovely stories there written by other people. This is one of my favorites.
Friday, January 07, 2005
Bish, R.T., and I started a course with the Open University today. One Friday a month we will go on a bus trip to learn about "Man and the Desert". Our teacher is archeologist Avner Goren, who you will probably know all about if you have read Walking with the Bible. I haven't, but definitely mean to. I dare you to try to read that link without it making you want to order the book. This too. They're making a film of it, by the way.
Today was a sort of introduction to the course, and took place in the Land of Israel Museum in Tel Aviv, and in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. We learnt so much, and it was so very interesting, that I can't tell you about it, I wouldn't know where to begin.
I can just say one thing, and that is that we saw tangible evidence that we really are living in what was the cradle of civilization. And I feel privileged to be able to learn about it all straight from the horse's mouth. (Would that be a very rude thing to say about a world-famous archeologist?)
Next month we're in the Beer Sheva area. If I remember to, I could take the camera and take some photos to show you.