Monday, November 29, 2004

New OU Prez off to an inauspicious start

At least, it's inauspicious vis-a-vis American immigrants to Israel.

David and Allison have both posted the following clip from a Jerusalem Post article dated November 25, in which the new president of America's Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, Stephen Savitsky, is reported as having said:

"People are starting to go to Israel for the right reasons. Years ago aliya was for people who were running away from something. They weren't successful. They didn't have a successful marriage. They were coming because there was a reason. They weren't role models.

"But today I see really successful people. Young people. Doctors, lawyers, business people, finance people, who are giving it up not to come here to starve. Not to schnorr from their parents[.]"


Memo to the moron: What do you mean STARTING? Who exactly, are the North American immigrants who populate my town of Ra'anana -- doctors, lawyers, business people, university professors -- who have been here for 10, 20 years or longer?

Also, nobody comes to Israel with the INTENTION of starving or taking money from their parents. In fact, if your goal is to sponge off your parents, moving far away from them isn't the greatest strategy. If they have financial difficulty in Israel, it certainly isn't because of laziness, it's because it's not easy to make ends meet here, no matter how many qualifications you arrive with. Cost of living is equal to or more than that in the U.S., and salaries are much, much lower.


Not being Orthodox, this guy doesn't represent me, and so I don't know if it's my place to call for his resignation, but he darn well better apologize.

And while he's at it, he can explain to me exactly what Golda Meir was running away from...

And here's David, who is extremely upset and calling for Savitsky's resignation (I'm quoting the more reasoned parts of his post):

What he's saying is that all of the people from North America who have previously given up successful careers, financial security, proximity to friends and family, as well as whatever standing they may have had in their former communities... all in order to live with impossibly high taxes and a lower standard of living... these are apparently all just figments of Zionist mythology???

It sounds like he is trying to liken us to Australia's early immigrants; refugees and outcasts from a society in which we all failed miserably. Apparently, it is only the current wave of immigrants that are coming for the "right reasons" and who are proper "role models".


Since I moved here within the past two years, Mr. Savitsky probably thinks of me as part of this 'good aliyah'.

Thanks, but no thanks. If you have to lump me with someone... I'd much rather be counted with the brave, selfless, idealistic Americans who came before me... for all the RIGHT reasons!

Also via Allison, check out the well-stated response by Jeffrey Woolf, whom Allison says is a faculty member at Bar-Ilan University.

But I think the best response is from Zahava, David's wife, who wrote the following as a comment to David's post:

I wonder how many of the "new" olim would have the patience to sit hour after hour in office after office, only to be told their documents are insufficient and they need to return day after day to correct things?!

Or to be the first Anglos in a community, with no other English speakers to help you or your children with your klita?

I am so very grateful to the thousands of olim who preceded me! They are my heros! Through their successes I learned that I, too, could be successful! Their invaluable advice, their so-called-failed-attempts at making a living, their desire to escape WHATEVER � they showed me that it IS possible to reinvent yourself and to make a sustainable home and pursue happiness in our homeland.

When I read Mr. Savitsky's words, my heart hurt for the former olim who welcomed us into their homes on our pilot trip. These selfless people � some who've lived here more than 30 years � are so infused with a love of our land and our people that they open their homes 3, 4 and 5 times a year to groups like Tehilla to educate potential olim and to offer emotional and logistical support.

I also thought of the many former olim who've dedicated their professional lives to easing the path for new olim: many (if not all) of the staff at the Nefesh B'Nefesh offices, the folks at the Sachnut (Jewish Agency), the folks at Tehilla, AACI, the list could go on indefinitely.

And even if his comments didn't actively insult olim whose aliyah was "years ago" � don't you find it odd � perhaps even a tad [note the dripping sarcasm here!] hypocritical that these comments are being made by someone who has YET to make aliyah?

I deeply understand that the decision to make aliyah (or not) can be difficult. Separating yourself from family, friends, language, country, etc. is a monumental task. Some people require more time to work up the courage to take this step.

Certainly, new olim are deserving of encouragement, admiration, and recognition; BUT, to honor them at the expense of those who've not only preceded them but improved their lot, is just plain wrong!

Personally, I'm most upset not by the pomposity and ignorance in Savitsky's statement (assuming, of course, that he has not been misquoted --and I dearly hope he has), but rather by the implication that the new president of the Orthodox Union doesn't seem to grasp that perhaps for the past 58-plus years, Americans have been moving to Israel because of an ideal. That, even if these olim had problems later supporting themselves (and who could blame them?) or weren't the law/medical-degree-wielding folk that Savitsky seems to value so much, that perhaps they did, in fact, believe in something (the mitzva of living in Eretz Yisrael, perhaps? Or Zionism?) greater than themselves. That even people who had problems in their lives in the United States (and, who in this world does not have some sort of problem?), perhaps they also wished to help build the Jewish state?

Would Savitsky dare to say "up until now, all the baalei teshuva were losers who only became frum because they wanted to make their parents mad, or because they wanted a sense of control in their lives, or because they were a little mentally unbalanced -- but lately the people becoming baalei teshuva, I've noticed, are psychologically together, wealthy people who we can be proud of!"? Of course not.

How disturbing that an Orthodox leader would imply that people with familial or financial problems cannot also be idealistic and live according to values that may make their lives uncomfortable. If we all waited to have perfect lives before we lived according to our values, none of us would be Orthodox.

And, of course, there is the implication that if someone had a failed marriage or needed financial assistance from his or her parents, that the person could not be a role model. I wonder what he thinks about all the divorced or financially-as-yet-unstable members of OU shules?

I'm also deeply disturbed by the low quality of the writing and editing in the article, but that's another story.

My Materialistic Chanukah Wish List

(Because I know that so many of my readers are really, really wealthy, and can't wait to offload some of their liquid assets by buying me presents.)

1. A laptop computer (don't forget the DVD player, ethernet card, whatever I need to use WiFi access, and enough USB ports for all my "stuff.") Please load it with a Microsoft package that is in English, but can recognize (and preferably type) Hebrew characters.

2. A teabox. You know, those pretty boxes you use to display teabags, each flavor of tea in its own compartment? It doesn't have to be fancy. I just don't want to have to dump a bunch of different boxes of tea onto my Shabbat table.

3. The soundtrack to "Garden State"

4. The debut albums of . . . I hesitate to admit this . . . Britney Spears, *NSYNC, and Christina Aguilera (see my previous post re: dancing to 80's pop music).

5. A trip to Greece

6. Scented candles. I'm partial to spicy flavors in the winter -- Oatmeal Raisin Cookie, Spiced Pear, etc-- and floral flavors for the summer. Also, anything with Vanilla!
UPDATE: Spiced Pear has been "retired" by the Yankee Candle Company (noooooooo!!!!), but I happen to like their Tulip scented candles, and the Spiced Pear is still available on ebay. Or you can just visit the site of my friend and Personal Candle Consultant, Miriam, who knows exactly which products I covet and will give you a discount if you mention Chayyei Sarah.

7. Any CD of Enya music (I own none)

8. A complete set of fleishik dishes (8 place settings) - big plates, dessert plates, salad plates, bowls- and a matching tablecloth. I'm tired of using paper for Shabbat! China is unnecessary. Just real, matching plateware.

9. A European-size washing machine, preferably front-loading (but top-loading works, too). And I'd take a dryer, even though there isn't a space for me to put it in right now.

10. A blender/mixer, the kind that crushes ice, so I can make shakes (and creamy soups).

11.A set of those Tupperware containers that you put in your fridge, and they have little holes, and you use them to keep vegetables fresh, like, forever.

12. A copy of The Kosher Palette

13. Barring a laptop (see #1), a sleek, slim flat-screen monitor, to replace the clunky 10-year-old monster I'm using right now.

14. All the materials needed to transform my room into a 70's sanctuary: A huge disco ball, shag carpeting, lava lamps, (satin) bedding in psychedelic colors, curtains to match the bedding, and one of those bead curtains for the door. (Note: I want either all of it, or none. The whole thing has to pull together, or it will cross the line from "eccentric retro" to "college dorm room." OK, I'd take a lava lamp.)

15. Any album by Billie Holiday (other than Greatest Hits, which I already have)

16. A copy of this book.

17. A little carry-on size suitcase with wheels, for when I go away for Shabbat.

18. An oven thermometer, a meat thermometer, and a turkey baster (for next Thanksgiving! It would come in handy!)

19. A car. It doesn't have to be a new car, or a fancy car. It just has to function. If you could include insurance, registration, tune-ups, repairs, gas, and parking expenses, that would be fabulissimo!

To be continued, if I think of other things . . .


So I'm trying out this photo thing. Here's a picture of the half-turkey I made for Thanksgiving. You can see the bits of garlic and some of the potato slices that have roasted with it (I roasted more potatoes separately), and the apple pie next to it. Mmm mmm, golden-brown, juicy turkey. mmmmm. Posted by Hello

Friday, November 26, 2004

Blogging with one hand, and survey: corn, stuffing, or both?

As you may recall, before my next doctor appointment I'm supposed to spend 4 days not using my right hand. Argh! The whole reason the hand hurts is that I NEED it! I decided to start the 4 days now, since Thanksgiving is over so I don't have to worry about making turkey with one hand. Still, this is bad. Opening jars . . . cutting food . . . washing dishes . . . perfect environment to feel sorry for myself for being single and living alone. Though it's better than being single and having an obsessive-compulsive, hypocritical, selfish, conniving [w]itch for a roommate, that's for sure. (Not that I'm referring to anyone in particular, oh no.)

Anyhow, Thanksgiving was amazing. I'd bought a 16-pound (7.4-kilo) turkey, the smallest they had, and managed to find an acquaintace to buy half of it from me, since it only barely fit in my oven. So I made an 8-pound half-turkey with stuffing, roasted potatoes, hearty vegetable soup, cranberry sauce, corn on the cob, and an apple pie. Not bad for my first Thanksgiving, though I sweated buckets all day that the turkey would either burn or undercook (it was fine).

During the day, Amy S, my life-saving seminary cleaning girl, came over to dust, mop, etc (God, she's amazing. So thorough!) which gave me time for a special treat: lunch at Cafe Hillel with Ari S. and my dear friend Shimmy, who is visiting from the Old Country. It was like old times, when the 3 of worked together in NCSY. Go check out Shimmy's new organization serving Jewish teens.

My cousin Meir came for dinner with his lovely wife Suzi, sons Roni and Shauli, and Ron's beautiful and intelligent girlfriend, Shani. This was their first time at my place -- I usually go to see them in Petach Tikva-- and it was so nice to be with family on Thanksgiving. Being that they are Israeli, this was their first Thanksgiving, and they pointed out that I could have made chicken and hummus and said it was traditional, and they wouldn't have known the difference, but I'm happy I went the whole 9 yards. It was for myself, too.

Interestingly, they hardly touched the stuffing, which was GOOD stuffing, but finished off the corn, which I only made because it's Thanksgiving, so you have to have corn. Is that a cultural thing, or just them, or do Israelis make stuffing differently, or what? I'm not insulted, just confused. Tell me, would YOU choose corn on the cob and not touch the stuffing?

OK, that's enough for one day with one hand! Shabbat shalom.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

And now, a recipe

Sarah’s Winter Delight

1. Take your favorite mug or cup, preferably something with a pretty picture on it.

2. Into this cup, put:

3 spoonfuls of sugar
1 spoonful of cocoa powder
a liberal sprinkling of cinnamon
a teeny tiny dash of ground cloves

(Whether you use teaspoons or tablespoons depends on the size of the cup and your taste. Winter Delights are 95% art and only 5% science.)

3. Into the cup, pour boiling water. It is best if you keep a hot-water heater (the kind people use on Shabbat and at parties) going at all times, so you can have a Winter Delight whenever the mood strikes. Pour the water about half or 2/3 of the way up, depending on the size of the cup.

4. If you want, you can then add milk or Vanilla Rice Dream (not regular. Oh, no. Vanilla). Drink and enjoy. Remember to cup both hands around the mug sometimes, so the warmth will spread into your hands.

5. Optional: light a scented candle, preferably in Spiced Pumpkin or Oatmeal Raisin Cookie or some other baked-goods flavors. If you light it in advance, the aromas from your Delights will mingle together, taking you back to Grandma’s kitchen. It does not matter whether your Grandma ever baked. You know what I mean.

6. Optional: Enjoy in bed with a good book.

7. You can also put on an Enya CD.

I recommend doing this at least once a day, all winter, for emotional equilibrium. And if, a few hours before having your Winter Delight, you put on an 80’s pop mix and dance as if no one is watching (because they are not), it couldn’t hurt.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Mazal tov

. . . to my very very very dear friend, Chava Boylan, on her engagement last night to Marc Neustadter.

Marc is a great guy, and Chava is awesome, and so this is just . . . . yay!


(AND, they will be living in Jerusalem, within walking distance of me. Yay!)
For C.B.

If you are interested in learning mishnayot in memory of Chaya Bracha ("C.B.") Weichsel z"l (nee Bruchofsky), send me an email and I'll put you in touch with the person who is organizing the endeavor.

I didn't know C.B. very well. She was a friend of one of my former roommates, so I had several Shabbat meals with her when we were both on the Upper West Side. I knew her before she met her husband, and there was a period when both of us were having a hard time when it came to dating, and agreed that "we really need a drink." The trouble was, neither of us really were in the mood to go to a bar or get drunk. We liked the idea of drowning our sorrows, but didn't really want to do it. I don't even like alcohol. So she went out and bought us two fruit slurpies, and we went to her apartment and spiked them with vodka, and pretended we were being bad. It was such a comical combination of feeling genuinely stressed and laughing at ourselves. It was nice to be "out for a drink" with a girlfriend. Sharing troubles with someone else made them a little less.

A few weeks later she met her husband and got engaged quickly thereafter. And then I made aliyah, and we weren't in touch. I'm sorry about that now, even though I know I can't be equally in touch with everyone.

I'll miss you, C.B. In my mind I'm holding a strawberry slurpy, laced with Absolut, and raising it to you. To C.B. Whereever you are.

Monday, November 22, 2004

It's raining in Jerusalem!

Hard! Buckets!

A Few Announcements

The good news, and the bad news . . .

1. The Good News: I got a New York phone number that rings in my Jerusalem apartment. For the price of $25/month, I can now make unlimited calls to the US and Canada. Perhaps more importantly, people in the US can now call me, for the same price they'd pay for any call to New York. Which means that I can now pitch article ideas that are USA-based, and do phone interviews, and when I call people to interview them they might actually call me back. Before, I always left my email address on people's machines because no one ever calls back when you give an Israel number. It's a psychological thing. They might even have a good phone plan; it might cost them only pennies to call me; but Americans seem very intimidated by the thought of international dialing. I've found that many Americans actually have no idea that one must dial 011 to make an international call (I sure didn't, before I started having to call Israel). If you say "country code 972" they have no idea what that means! So, now I'm soooooo communicationally equipped, and I can call friends and family every day if I want, and those people I need to interview don't even need to know that I live outside of America. Yippee!!!

2. More Good News: I got an oven! Did I write about this yet? Maybe, but I'm so excited about it. Last Shabbat I made a whole, roasted chicken, stuffed with my mother's awesome stuffing recipe (well, the stuffing, not the recipe). It came out of the oven warm, ready to be carved, golden brown on the top, yellow-crispy on the bottom, and with the juices flowing and the meat practically falling off the bone. And the stuffing was amazing. I'm telling you, when I took that golden, crispy-tender chicken out of my new oven, I felt like Betty Crocker. It's a whole new world. I plan not to make shnitzels again for at least a year.

That was practice, of course, for the turkey I plan to make for Thanksgiving. Can anyone recommend a website that shows how to carve a turkey properly? (Thanks, Rachel, for showing me how to carve the chicken).

3. Bad News: This is old, actually, but I never got around to posting about it. So, some of you might, perhaps, be wondering why I never write about fencing anymore. And the answer is that I gave up on it, at least for now. After attending the fencing club in Jerusalem a few times, I realized that it doesn't offer what I need.

See, what I love about fencing isn't the fencing. It's not about the game, for me. It's not about beating my opponent. For me, the joy of fencing comes from the lessons, be they group or one-on-one. I love practicing the footwork, learning new steps and combinations, being made to coordinate the bladework with my feet, learning strategies for avoiding traps and tricking my opponent. I love improving my technique. I love the way it feels to do a perfect retreat-advance-advance-lunge while simultaneously executing a counter-4, counter-6, disengage, and attack straight to the heart. I love the feeling of dancing ballet on a chessboard. I love the click-click-click of the blades as you beat your teacher further and further back, knowing that you are improving, knowing that your whole body - your legs, your arms, your eyes, your brain - is working as one unit. The game itself, the time playing against an opponent, is incidental to me.

The other thing I love about fencing is the people. People who fence tend to be interesting and polite, usually. At my club in New York I became acquainted with folks of all ages, in all sorts of careers. Most of them fenced better than I did and were happy to advise me when I asked.

But at the club here, I don't get lessons. I'm just thrown onto the strip to fence, and to fence a weapon I've never played before, with no guarantee that I'll ever "earn" one-on-one time with a coach to be trained. I'm not fencing, I'm just waving a stick in the air.

And, while the kids are, in fact, polite, it's hard to communicate because they speak Hebrew and Russian, not English. Plus, I'm one of the only adults there, whereas in New York there was a range of ages. The kids and the adults worked together. We didn't treat each other according to age, but according to commitment and maturity. In Jerusalem, I'm just the "old lady" whose presence is tolerated politely because I'm not hurting anyone.

So, I'm sad to say it, but my foils and epee and mask and custom-made jacket and knickers are all going into storage. I consider this the third-hardest loss involved in my Aliyah, after leaving friends/family, and leaving my language. If the club here ever starts a program for "grown-ups" that involves lessons, I'll probably go back. Until then, I'll keep the click-click-click in my heart.

4. Consolation: Now I'll have more time to go back to Contact Improv. And eventually I'd like to learn to tap. There's always something new in Chayyei Sarah. En guarde.

Sunday, November 21, 2004


To whomever is using IP address 80.178.68.#, and who visited this site today at 4:58 pm (Israel time) and stayed on for 13 minutes . . .

You were the 20 thousandth visitor to Chayyei Sarah!

Woo hoo! Identify yourself, and you could win an excellent doorprize, this lovely . . . um . . . cactus plant . . . or maybe, eh, a handy box of Q-tips . . .

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Poem of the Day

Well, my last poem post didn't get any comments, but I don't care. I will continue to post quotations, poems, and other things that inspire me!

This here is from Robert Fitzgerald's translation of Homer's The Odyssey. It's included at the end of The Time Traveler's Wife, which is where I found it (I don't normally sit around reading The Odyssey). Seems to be describing the end of the epic, when Odysseus finally gets home to his faithful Penelope. But it could describe any two people who are reunited after a long time apart . . . I sure hope someone feels this way about me someday . . . . . . . . I love the part about "keep[ing] alive through a big surf to crawl, clotted with brine, on kindly beaches, " which basically sums up the dating process! "Poseidon's blows, gale winds and tons of sea," indeed.

Now from his breast into his eyes the ache
of longing mounted, and he wept at last,
his dear wife, clear and faithful, in his arms,
longed for as the sunwarmed earth is longed for by a swimmer
spent in rough water where his ship went down
under Poseidon's blows, gale winds and tons of sea.
Few men can keep alive through a big surf
to crawl, clotted with brine, on kindly beaches
in joy, in joy, knowing the abyss behind:
and so she too rejoiced, her gaze upon her husband,
her white arms round him pressed as though forever.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Mazel tov to Beth and Simcha on the naming of their new daughter, Sophie. (Hebrew name: Tzofia Nessa)

Detailed labor and birth story here.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Fun and Spooky!

Via Jew View, I took this quiz. Interestingly, although I fairly intentionally avoided answers having to do with imaginary creatures and the like, I still got the following result. How did it know???

Lord of the rings
J.R.R. Tolkien: Lord of the Rings. You are
entertaining and imaginative, creating whole
new worlds around yourself. Well loved, you
have a whole league of imitators, none of which
is quite as profound as you are. Stories and
songs give a spark of joy in the middle of your
eternal battle with the forces of evil.

Which literature classic are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

How did it know about my eternal battle with the forces of evil? Wonder twin powers, activate!

Let me know in the comments what novel YOU are. Have fun.
Red Tape, Red Tape Everywhere

Immigrants to Israel like to complain about how "stupidly" things are run here, and how much bureacracy we have to plow through.

Now, it's true that many things about the way Israeli society is run are pretty dumb, and there is a lot of bureacracy.

But the people who make these comments tend to forget that much of the bureacracy stems from our being immigrants, not from our being in Israel.

If you want to talk about red tape, call someone who immigrated to America, speaks only Spanish, and is dealing with the Immigration and Naturalization Service. THEY can talk about red tape! In the land of the free!

The people who complain about this stuff also tend to forget that, back in America, they had to stand on lines to get their driver's license, to get their passport, to mail a package, etc etc. Lines, lines everywhere. It's part of the human condition. It's not about Israel.

I'm not saying that everything in Israel runs smoothly and intelligently. I'm saying that the holy land does not have a monopoly on bureacracy and stupidity.

Finally, I've noticed that things are improving here. Between my last visit in 1994 and my aliyah in 2003, there have been changes. Government forms are available online, the customer service at large companies is improving, lots of paperwork is being turned over to computers . . . . the changes may be small, but they are there. There is yet hope.

And, for anyone who still isn't convinced that Israel does not have a monopoly on stupidity, please refer to the latest posting at my sister's blog, about how my brother-in-law can't visit his family in Brazil because he'd be arrested upon arrival . . . . the big criminal!

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Clarification (now with update)

I just got an email from a friend wondering if the previous post is an indication that I'm depressed.

The answer is definitely "no."

I feel great, actually. But I like that poem because it's a good poem. It's good at making me feel something I wasn't feeling before, or think about something in a way I hadn't thought about before. It's good at making me feel melancholy and a little bitter and frustrated - which is its job, I think.

But I could just as easily have picked a poem that makes me feel silly, because it's good at being silly.

It's about the wonder of words, that's it. At least, that's it today. Maybe tomorrow I'll pick something for content. Or maybe not.

Does that make sense to you?


OK, so the above post, while true, is not the whole truth. The whole truth is that "First Love" speaks to me because sometimes -- not right now, not lately, but sometimes -- I think about the men I've loved in the past, and I feel like this man who is narrating the poem. Especially when I know the guy is now happily married and settled and has great kids, etc. And I have a happy life, but it's not that life, and so I feel wistful. Sometimes. I wasn't feeling wistful, until I read the poem. The poem reminded me. So you see, it is an effective piece of writing.

OK, that's really it.
Reinstituting "Quote of the Week" - Quote #1

Back in the mid-90's when Chayyei Sarah was an email newsletter, I had a Quote of the Week section.

Lately I've been realizing (again) how privileged I am to be surrounded by so many wonderful books, so many words, and to love them so much!

So, every so often (maybe every day, maybe every other day, maybe 3 times a day), I'll share with you what catches my fancy.

The problem: Where to start. There is no beginning and no end to the words I love. So we'll start in the middle, here, with "First Love" a poem written in 1985 by Michael Waters. A little sad, but true, sometimes. Here we go:

First Love
by Michael Waters (b. 1949)

So what if you're living in Jersey
with a man who works for the phone company.
Your life must be miserable--
a name lost in a row of mailboxes

studding the loud, gravel drive,
your husband shaking the whole trailer
when he grunts onto you each night,
his workshirts souring in one corner.

So what if none of this is true
and your daughters grow lovely on lawns,
if your husband steps off the 5:14
asking, "Can we do nothing this evening?"

I imagine the fireplace, the flokati rug,
the cat sighing on her silk pillow.
So what if I live just across the river
and speak to the immigrant shopkeepers

or to no one, so what if I chain
my dog to a hydrant for hours, so what
if I buy a single pork chop for dinner.
So what if this life flows on, if I read

a passage in some Russian novella
and think of you, if I go to the table
to write this poem, but have nothing to say
except so what, so what, so what?

[Sarah's note: Feel free to leave your impressions/ analysis/ comments. Once an English teacher, always an English teacher! (but you won't be graded.)]

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

If I forget thee . . .

Around the time that I left Israel a few weeks ago for a month's vacation, I started feeling tingling and numbness in the fingers of my right hand. At first I thought "Oh my God, I'm having heart failure, I'm going to die." Then I thought "I've finally done it, I've gotten diabetes, and now I'll get blue toes and I'll never be able to eat anything tasty ever, ever again." But I calmed down when I realized that the pain was only in my right hand, not my left, and not in my feet. So then I thought "Ah, my stress-injury symptoms are returning. Better get that fixed before I get full-blown carpal tunnel syndrome and need surgery."

So today I went to Dr. Claire, a nice doctor from England, who first refused to prescribe sleeping pills for my insomnia unless it persists for another few days. Then she told me that before we explore things like physical therapy or "expensive and painful" nerve conduction tests, I should put my arm in a sling and my splint for 4 days and let it rest completely. Completely, she said, as in no computer, no using that hand to put on a pocketbook, no using it to get dressed, nothing. Nada.

This is basically the end of my life for the next few days. If you don't see many posts, it's because I'm sitting around doing nothing, because what can I accomplish in this world without my right hand?

Yes, I'm exaggerating, slightly. I'll cope somehow. And, being the spiritually-oriented person that I am, part of me is thinking that this is an important opportunity to slow down, really think about what actions in my life are important enough to do even with only one hand, muse about how lucky I am to have two functioning hands in my life, etc etc etc.

There is also part of me that is a little spooked that just as I left Jerusalem for a fun-filled 5-week vacation in which I hardly thought about Israel at all, my right hand "lost its cunning." Wooooo. Creepy!

But in general, I'm trying to figure out how much I can still use my right hand while pretending in my mind that I'm letting it rest for a few days.


Monday, November 15, 2004

On a happier note

Mazal tov to Beth and Simcha on the birth of a baby girl!

Mazal tov to Rachael Brickman and Doron Levin on their engagement!
Black Monday

I just found out that not one, but two of my acquaintances from the Upper West Side have died.

What is going on? I'm only 32. I shouldn't have so many peers who have died. I feel like God is killing off all my friends (chas v'shalom).

Sarah Beth suggests that it's just that I know so many people . . . so statistically, I'm bound to know more young people who have died . . . . I hope that's what it is . . . but still, this is shocking and terrifying.

Live life to its fullest!

And, if you live on the Upper West Side, or some other place known for being rather clique-ish and anonymous, spare a smile and warm thoughts even for people you don't know well; you never know who might be the next one to disappear.

Baruch dayan ha-emet. Blessed is the True Judge.
Insomnia update

Thanks to everyone who left recommendations for sleep aids in the comments.

At the suggestion of a pharmacist, Chava got me an Israeli product called "Rigeeyon lie-la" (night relaxation), whose ingredients include "concentrated standardized extracts of passion flower, skullcap [I assume they do not mean yarmulkes!], hops, and lemon balm."

I went to a wedding last night and got home around 11:30 or midnight. Took the pills around 12:30 and lit a scented candle (I know you aren't supposed to leave on a candle while sleeping, but I do it with the Shabbat candles all the time, so why not this? Besides, I put it on the floor in the middle of ceramic tiles with nothing around it.) and tried to go to sleep. After about an hour I fell into a fitful sleep, woke up at 4 AM, blew out the candle because I realized that I was, deep down, worried about burning to death in my sleep, and after that I slept well until about 11 am, when Chava called to find out if the pills had worked. :-)

On Tuesday I have a doctor appointment to deal with my hand; I'll ask her about serious, serious sleeping pills as well.

Thanks for all the support!

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Send her some prayers and love!

For the 3 people who have not been following the drama and laughs over at Chez Miscarriage, our dear blogger Getupgrrl and her amazing-sounding husband have decided to switch doctors and do one more round of fertility-hormones-to-get-some-eggs-from-her-poor-battered-body cycle. Only this time, they will put the eggs into a gestational surrogate (the one about whom Getupgrrl's Jewish Mother loudly proclaimed in a restaraunt, "if that nice woman gives us a grandchild, I'm going to buy her one of those imitation Louis Vuitton bags.") If this cycle doesn't work, Getupgrrl has decided to quit trying with her eggs and go on to an egg donor.

So, please go over to Chez Miscarriage and send loving thoughts and prayers that this cycle works, because there are a lot of people really hoping that this baby has Getupgrrl's humor, sensitivity, and writing genes. And Getupgrrl is on an emotional tightrope right now.

[Please don't go over there to troll with comments about how really she should adopt, or "should" do this or "should" do that. She's considered all the options carefully. Getupgrrl, her husband, and the surrogate all sound like very special people. Let's support her in where she is!]
On Being Awake at 2:19 AM

A poem I found on this site:

Night Without Sleep

by Ellen Bailey

Night Without Sleep
Have you ever had a night
when you just couldn't sleep?
Even when you're so tired
you could fall off your feet?

You get up for awhile,
and then you lay back down
And just lie there,
watching the clock go round

Have you ever had a night
when you just couldn't sleep?
And you remember that old adage,
"Try counting sheep"

After some time has passed by
You decide you'll give it a try

Have you ever had a night
when you just couldn't sleep?
And you start counting sheep,
even their feet

Since sleep won't come,
you get out of bed
And decide to have some
roast mutton instead

Friday, November 12, 2004

The birds are singing . . . .

5:48 AM.

I am still awake.

It's 3:36 AM. Do you know where your blogger is?

I got back to Israel on Monday afternoon.

Monday night: Slept from about 10 pm until 11 am the next day.

Tuesday night: Couldn't sleep. I tried lighting scented candles and doing breathing exercises. I tried reading a magazine in bed. At 6 am, as the sun was coming up, I fell asleep. Woke up at 2 pm that afternoon.

Not good. I want to get to the health clinic during their morning drop-in hours, to get my hand checked out. Carpal tunnel symptoms returning. Must wake up early. Must sleep at night.

Wednesday night: Forced self into bed at 11 pm. Fell asleep at 1 am. Alarm went off at 7; I actually got up and got dressed. But fell asleep again in my clothes. Woke up 1:15 pm.

Must go to health clinic. Must make calls for an article I've been assigned, due Monday. Must sleep at night and wake up early.

Thursday night: It's 3:41 am right now, and I'm blogging.

Must sleep. Must sleep. At night, dagnabbit!

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Baking in Mime

FYI, starting in two weeks I'll be taking a Hebrew-language class called "The Short Story." It will meet every other week, for 6 meetings, for 1 1/2 hours each time (evenings), for 250 NIS. It's appropriate for people in levels heh and vav. Each week we'll be given a short story to read, puzzle over new words, and analyze at home. Then in class we'll discuss it, go over vocabulary, etc.

If you live in or near Jerusalem and want to take the class with me, send me an email and I'll let you know the details. I asked and there are still spots in the class.

Eventually I'd like to sign up for another 5-month intensive ulpan, but 'til then, these little mini-courses sound like a good way to improve my skills, especially since I work and live in English almost all day, every day. My goal is eventually to finish level vav. No, actually my goal is to be able to live my life completely in Hebrew: doctor appointments; calls to the plumber; grocery shopping; meetings with my kids' teachers (when I have them, someday); classes in arts, crafts, dance; etc.

This goal seems soooo far away. It's off on the horizon, like a mirage in the desert.

Today I went to the makolet and needed ingredients to bake a cake. I didn't know how to say "baking powder," so I told Shabi "I'm baking a cake, and need this stuff that's like baking soda [yeah, I knew how to say baking soda], but not. It's white. You use it to bake . . . um . . . um . . ." and he was like "flour? cornstarch? sugar?" and I was like "no. no. no." Finally he said "baking powder" and I was like "yah! Yah!"

The word for baking powder is, literally, "powder for baking." [Avkat afiah, or avakah l'afiah, or something like that]. Who knew? Especially since baking soda is "soda l'shtiyah"- "soda for drinking" [????]

Eich omrim "dagnabit" b'Ivrit?

Ding Dong the Wicked Witch is Dead (now with update!)

So, OK, now that I'm back in Israel I suppose I should say something about Israeli politics and Arafat.

On Monday, I went to the makolet (local grocery), and Shabi was in the best mood I'd ever seen him in. He was literally singing while ringing up purchases and organizing shelves. I was thinking that he must have an amazing new girlfriend, but no, his lightheartedness was because Arafat was going to die any minute. He could barely control his happiness. He was so happy that it spilled over to me. I became happy because it's hard to be around someone in such a profoundly good mood and not share it!

Now, I don't know Shabi's history. It could be that he and his family and friends have a much more personal relationship with Palestinian terrorism than I do. Far be it from me to judge someone else's reaction to the demise of a terrorist who may have been directly responsible for the death of people Shabi knew and loved.

But in general, I think there's something gauche about being that ecstatic over Arafat's death.

Oh, please don't misunderstand. I think Arafat was a lying, manipulative, evil, murderous, embezzling sneak and a cheat who betrayed Israel AND his own people. Hundreds of millions of dollars of humanitarian aid that he took from them . . . . the support for terrorism coming from one side of his mouth while he spoke of peace with the other . . . he was a disgusting specimen of human DNA. He deserves every ounce of hatred and contempt that is sent his way.

As one friend said to me, "it's sad to think that someone lived his life such that no one is really sorry to see him go." Technically she was wrong: Allison Kaplan Sommer has several posts about the BBC reporters who are sad to see him go. But my friend's basic point stands.

Over at Biur Chametz, our friend Zman Biur has an interesting roundup of rabbinical opinions about how, why, and to what extent Jews should or may rejoice at Arafat's death. I recommend going there to read it.

But my conclusion is different from Zman's. Given that very few of us are on such a spiritual level that we'd be celebrating out of "love and gratitude to God" (and, note that we have not witnessed a miracle - Arafat died of natural causes in old age - hardly a sign that God is about to deliver us from evil . . . ) I think the appropriate reaction at this time is not rejoicing, but rather grim satisfaction.

I'm sure that if there are large-scale celebrations in Jerusalem or other areas, the media will be happy to report on it. I wonder who will watch that footage and think "Those Israelis are just as unsympathetic, inhumane, and unclassy as the Palestinians are" and who will think "Well sure they are rejoicing, Arafat was a murderer, and the Israelis are the only ones who seem to understand that!"

Question: Has anyone seen any obits that say straight out that while Arafat may have been famous and somewhat powerful, he was a lowlife? Please send links. I'm tired of all the ones that say "everyone knew who he was, and he had this unrealized dream of a Palestinian state, blah blah blah, that's the best we can say about him, and we won't bother listing the worst we could say, if we wanted to."

Arafat finally dead. May his memory be cursed. And may his death bring about new opportunities for real peace between Israelis and Palestinians, and new opportunities for the Palestinians, as a nation, to conduct themselves in constructive ways. And may the Israelis and Palestinians both take advantage of those opportunities.

We shall see!


Do you speak Spanish? Can you translate this blog post, which links to mine?

Thanks to Dov Bear for linking to this post, and your kind words. I appreciate it. (I love Dov Bear's blog, by the way! It's smart and sassy. Check it out! I'll add it soon to my blogroll.)

Thanks to Delphine's Ocean for the link and kind words. And no, I don't think you are anti-Israel at all, but I urge you to reserve your compassion for people who are more likely to deserve it. I think at Arafat's death we should neither party nor shed a tear, but rather breathe a sigh of relief, perhaps indulge in visions of the fiery pit he's probably in right now, and then move on to constructive things like peace talks.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Out of the mouths of babes

My nephews, ages 4 and 6, take karate lessons twice a week near their northern California home. In addition to their regular class, they also take a "leadership" course that combines cool-looking martial-arts moves with discussions about "life skills" like generosity, self-esteem, perseverance, etc.

Rivka tells me that yesterday, Mr. E, the instructor, suggested to the children that every morning they give themselves a "pep talk" to make themselves feel good and start off the day on a positive, high-energy note.

"I tell myself I'm a genius!" piped one little boy.

"I thank God every day that I'm alive" added a little girl.

"Every morning in school, I daven to Hashem!" said Ilan.

There was a beat.

"What was that, Ilan?" asked Mr. E.

"I daven to Hashem," Ilan repeated.

"Uh, what does that mean?" Mr. E asked.

Ilan thought for a second. "It means I pray to God," he explained.

"Well that's nice," Mr E responded. "So that's a way of saying that you thank God, too."

"Yes," Ilan said. "That's exactly what davening is. Only, the long way."
Chayyei Sarah Quiz Results

Mazal tov to Rivka K, who, with only 2 incorrect answers, narrowly beat Judah in the "I-know-Sarah-better-than-you-do" competition (original post, in honor of Parshat Chayyei Sarah, is found here).

Thanks to all 7 people who sent in answers: Rivka K, Judah Kaplan, Susan Jacobs, Jessica Q., Beth, Noa, and MiriamSDB (who wishes me to announce that she is a past winner, which she is).

Correct answers below!



1. Which of the following has NOT happened to me since my aliyah?

a. Broke a lease after my apartment turned out to have extensive water damage and noxious fumes
b. Quit my first job because my boss was, shall we say, not creating an ideal working environment
c. So many men knocking down my door, I don’t know what to do with them all.
d. Amazing job in my field fell into my lap without my having to search for it.

CORECT ANSWER: C. It's incorrect because I very much DO know what to do with them all . . . just kidding . . . maybe . . . .

2. Of which of the following books/movies/TV series am I NOT a near-rabid fan?

a. Star Wars
b. Star Trek
c. Harry Potter
d. Lord of the Rings
e. The Matrix

CORRECT ANSWER: B. I am shocked - shocked!- that so many of those I thought were my nearest and dearest friends guessed The Matrix instead of Star Trek. How many times do I have to tell people "I respect Star Trek, but I am not 'osek' in it?" How many times do I have to tell people how much I love the scene in Matrix III where Neo goes to confront the machine king guy? How many times do I have to tell people that Star Trek and Star Wars are not the same thing? Please, people. Have some mercy here.

3. What is my official response to questions about Luke Ford?
a. His comments amuse me.
b. His comments embarrass me.
c. Anything that increases traffic to Chayyei Sarah can’t be bad.
d. No comment.

CORRECT ANSWER: D. I can't believe that I mentioned Luke Ford by name on this blog and he didn't pick it up. Perhaps he was too busy reading Lisa's blog. Ah, well. As Anne Shirley would have said, "the sun will continue rising and setting whether I'm linked to on Protocols or not."

4. Which of the following is NOT a friend from the “Old Country” who is now living in Israel?
a. Ari and Sarah Beth
b. Beth and Simcha
c. Chava
d. Yael
e. Judah

CORRECT ANSWER: E. And by the way: Ari's blog is here. Sarah Beth's blog is here. Beth's blog is here. And Judah's blog is here.

5. How is my Hebrew?
a. Started Ulpan at level aleph, now on level Bet.
b. Started Ulpan on level bet, now on level gimmel.
c. Started Ulpan on level gimmel, now on level daled
d. Started Ulpan on level daled, now on level heh.
e. Started Ulpan at level gimmel, now on level vav

CORRECT ANSWER: D. I'm flattered by the fact that 5 out of 7 people guessed E, that I've jumped two levels already, but no. I entered in Level Daled. Now, I'm a "high heh," almost a vav. (Level Aleph is beginner; Level Vav finishes with the assumption that you can understand a university lecture in Hebrew, which I'm positive I could not). My skills are pretty good, but I still can't engage in conversation in Hebrew for more than 10 minutes before losing my concentration.

6. Approximately how much money does Israel’s Income Tax Authority owe me, as far as they’ve estimated so far?
a. Under 5k NIS
b. 5k-10k NIS
c. 10k-20k NIS
d. 20k-30k NIS
e. 30k-40k NIS


7. The weekend course for which I often volunteer in the States and plan to bring to Israel is:
a. IOU
b. ILU
c. TLC
d. SNL
e. UYO

CORRECT ANSWER: E. And we are definitely moving ahead with it! The main question is whether to do it this spring, since people all over America are pumped to volunteer, donate funds, etc., or whether to wait until the fall in order to have more time to prepare. Either way, it will be amazing! If you live in Israel and want more information, send me an email at chayyeisarah at yahoo dot com.


8. Amir, the hairstylist HOT. I've written about him a couple of times. I have to find a new hairstylist, because Amir cuts mine too short, but he's so hot that, well, when he's got his hands in my hair . . . I don't want him to stop . . . I really have to find another place, maybe with an old Russian lady.

9. Shabi, the makolet owner HOT. I've mentioned him, too. Too bad about the language barrier, and his not being very religious, because he's my age. Of course, he also smokes like a chimney, which is NOT hot. But in general . . . I try to make an excursion to the makolet every day.

10. Ephi, my friend: Hot hot HOT. Gay, but hot. This is the same Ephi who inspired a heated and annoying discussion in the comments (deleted when I changed the blog template) about homosexuality and Orthodoxy, which was all the more annoying because I never said that Ephi is Orthodox. He's not. A wonderful amazing friend, yes. Great to look at, yes. Dating a man, yes. Orthodox, no. You know, a woman can be completely dedicated to halacha and always striving to be a spiritual person who loves Torah, and still have all sorts of friends. If all my friends were just like me, my life would be so boring! All I ask is that they are generous, smart, fun, self-aware, intellectually honest, humor my eccentricities . . . and don't try to do things like convert me to Christianity or sabotage my dieting attempts. Not so much to ask, right?

11. Orlando Bloom. CORRECT ANSWER: Oh, come on, he's so hot. Pretty boy, yeah, but did you see him in Troy? mmm mmmm yummy

12. “Garden State." HOT. I know, I know, I posted Susan's feelings about the film, not my own. I just wrote about how much I'm looking forward to seeing it. But in any case, everyone knows the film is hot. And, I did see it in New York. Loved it. Zach Braff: Hot. Natalie Portman: Hot (in that asexual, artistic appreciation sort of way). Peter Sarsgaard: Hot! The story: Hot. See this film! (PS It's going to be showing in Lebanon, but not Israel. What's up with that?)


13. I attended Columbia College. FALSE. Proud to be a Barnard chyck.

14. I got my MA from Columbia Journalism. FALSE. NYU, baby!

15. I hired someone to help me clean my one-room apartment. TRUE

16. I’ve been living without an oven for the past 15 months. TRUE, but I bought a gigantic toaster oven, big enough to bake a whole chicken or two kugels, in Duty Free on this last trip. (I will have you know, by the way, that it is possible to produce a 4-course Shabbat meal in such a way that none of the guests even notice that everything comes from a pot or a skillet. It just takes a little creativity and lots of shnitzel recipes.)

17. I’m so right-wing, I make Ariel Sharon look like Tommy Lapid. FALSE, I hope!

18. I am so left-wing, I make Tommy Lapid look like Ariel Sharon. FALSE, I hope! (One person guessed "true," which makes me wonder about her politics.)


19. Name at least 3 objects I mailed to Odd Todd.

ANSWERS here and here.

20. In at least 3o words, describe my sister's cooking abilities. Give at least 2 examples.

Where do I begin? ANSWERS here, here, here, and here.

21. Why are my parents selling their house and moving to Ohio?

Because my dad got a job he couldn't refuse. Chayyei Sarah is a judge's daughter now! You think that might intimidate my dates?

22. In the world according to Chayyei Sarah, who are the Veela?

ANSWER here. God, that post was depressing, now that I look at it again. True, but depressing.

EXTRA CREDIT/ TIE BREAKER: What is my last name, and how do you know?

Smith. Agent Smith.

It's here!

Teaser trailer for Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.

You heard it here first!

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Well, I'm going to have to disappoint the 7 people who took the quiz- I don't have time to post the correct answers right now- I have to leave for the airport pretty soon, and this time you can be sure I'll be at Logan well before 90 minutes before the flight! Yes, indeedy!

The reason I have no time is that I got caught up in a visit to my grandmother, who lives in a nursing home outside of Boston. No offense to the quiz-takers, but spending time with my Omi is more important! She's really upset that my parents are leaving for Cleveland- she won't get visitors nearly as often now. I feel really bad.

My grandmother loves telling the story about how she was saved by the spirit of her mother from Treblinka. My grandmother was born in 1917, and HER mother died from liver cancer just 2 1/2 years later. My Omi was raised by her father and 6 older brothers and sisters in the Polish village of Opatuf. Omi tells me all the time how people from the village would knock on her door at all hours asking for blessings from her father, who was a chassidic rabbi (not the head of any sect, but he must have been very learned and respected). Every morning he would come back from morning prayers with a roll for my grandmother's breakfast, and he'd bring her a basin to wash her hands. To this day she remembers sitting in bed, putting her little fists over the basin and her father pouring water over each hand three times, and all the words to "Modeh Ani."

Years later, she was living with her uncle, and a notice went out that all the people in the village would be transported elsewhere to do work, I guess for the war. My grandmother thought this was strange; how could the old people and little children do any work? Why would they take EVERYONE? She had a feeling something was up. She went to her mother's grave and cried and asked her mother to please send her an answer of what to do. On her way home, she ran into someone else from the village, who asked her why she was crying. "I was at my mother's grave seeking an answer of what to do - whether I should go with the transport." The man told her that in a few days there was going to be a different transport just for the young people, to a labor camp elsewhere in Poland.

My grandmother took this as a sign. A transport just for young people sounded promising; surely the Germans and Poles would be more likely to save those who were strong enough to work. So she went to her uncle's house and told him of her plan. Her uncle would hear nothing of it. "Our family cannot be separated," he said. "Where we go, you go." Still, Omi packed a backpack with food and clothes, to be ready to leave. She remembers one of her little nephews begging his mother to make him a backpack, too, which she did, and the child was so proud to have a backpack of his own . . . I don't think my grandmother remembers the names of her many nieces and nephews . . . I hope whoever that cousin of my mother's was, he died quickly.

The day of the young-person's transport, my grandmother found that her uncle had locked her out of the house, so she wouldn't have access to her backpack. She saw the pack lying inside the house, next to a window. So, she broke the window, grabbed her backpack, and went to the Jewish Community Center to meet the transport. There, she saw an open wagon full of the other teenagers and twenty-somethings from Opatuf, and an SS officer. She told the officer she wanted to come with this transport, and he hoisted her up into the wagon.

My grandmother spent a few years in a factory, doing slave labor for the Germans. She met my grandfather there; his first wife and son had been killed. They used to fantasize about what they would do when the war ended and they got out. All my grandmother wanted was ana stove oven of her own so she could bake some potatoes. All day she dreamed about potatoes.

When my grandparents were liberated, Omi went back to Opatuf, and found that everyone in the village had been taken to Treblinka and gassed. Out of all her siblings, step-siblings, nieces, nephews, only one brother survived- she found him a couple years later.

I asked Omi today why no one else thought it was strange that the whole village was being taken to "work." Why didn't they think anything of it, when she did?

"They didn't know for sure what would happen," she said. "But they certainly didn't think they were going to their deaths." Besides, where else could they go, but where the Germans told them? It was too late to leave, too late to fight. I suppose they didn't allow themselves to believe they might be killed, because at that point they didn't have many options. Besides, hindsight is 20/20.

Omi says that other survivors sometimes made fun of her for continuing to believe in God. Indeed, my grandmother has had a hard life even besides the Holocaust: her mother dying, poverty, my grandfather's death in the 60's, lots of illnesses and surgeries . . . but she's told me many times "It's not that I suffered those things because there is no God. It's because of God that I survived. My mother watched over me and protected me."

And that's how my great-grandmother saved my Omi from Treblinka.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

On Thursday night I stayed up until 5:30 in the morning, because I couldn't go to sleep without finishing "The Time Traveler's Wife," which loyal reader Miriam L had sent me. That book is . . . wow!


It's a love story! It's science fiction! It's Spiderman and Sleepless in Seattle and Being John Malkovich all rolled into one!

I loved it! I couldn't put it down! I was so tired on Friday, but it was worth it!

After I finished it, I went back and re-read all the parts where the author had set up little mysteries . . . she ties up all the loose ends in such surprising and satisfying ways.


So, thanks Miriam for sending it to me (and let me know what I should do with it now . . . ), and also, thanks to Beth ( for recommending it to me several months ago, so that when Miriam brought it up I knew to say "Yes! I want a copy!"

Here's a link to the Amazon page about the book:

Happy reading!

Friday, November 05, 2004


Just a couple more days to take the Sort-of-annual Chayyei Sarah Quiz. I can't promise, but I'm planning to tally the results and announce a winner on Sunday.

Thanks to those who have already sent in their answers! I feel so loved!


PS Urg, from my parents' computer I can't use the "view HTML" option in Blogger. So here's the URL for the quiz:


Thursday, November 04, 2004


Hey, check me out! My plane to Zurich is over the Atlantic, and I, Chayyei Sarah, am sitting at my parents' computer writing this post. Yes, the flight left without me. You wanna know why? (Or, in UYO parlance, you want to know what kept me stuck?)

OK, let me preface this by saying:

1. I am not late for things as often as I used to be.
2. When I'm late, I'm typically less late than I used to typically be. (Note: OED says we can split infinitives now)
3. I take full responsibility for my chronic lateness, and do not blame others for the consequences of this, my fatal flaw.

So, part of the story is that I ran very late. I called the taxi about 2 hours and a half hours before the flight, and it's a 20-minute drive to the airport. You're supposed to be there 2 hours before, right? Well, there you go, it's partly my fault. I should have left more time for unexpected events.

OK, enough taking responsibility, on to blaming others . . .

First, the taxi didn't show up for 20 minutes, even though the dispatcher had said it would be there right away.

Second, we hit major-mundo traffic. (I know, that's no one's fault)

Third, Swiss Air is a bunch of classist sons-of-bitches.

Ooooo, Chayyei Sarah is using strong language! Well, you would too if you got to the check-in counter at Logan Airport 70 minutes before your flight and was told "Sorry, check-in closes 90 minutes before the flight. You can't go in." And if you then saw them let through another guy who also just arrived for the SAME flight. And if you then saw them let through 2 more people who arrived AFTER you did for YOUR flight, and continued to tell YOU that you are out of luck. You would use words like *#@$! too, to yourself, never to the clerks, if they explained that BUSINESS CLASS customers can check in up to 60 minutes before the flight. You'd feel put out, wouldn't you, if they would not allow you to upgrade to business class? If right in front of you they put other people's luggage on the carousel and then called the gate to say "we just loaded the last suitcase for the 6:55 flight" when you were standing there with 2 suitcases? If you quietly asked the clerk if she could please squeeze you through with the business class customers, so you could make your connecting flight, and she shook her head and said "Sorry, there's nothing I can do," but you secretly wonder whether she COULD do something for you if she didn't have a pole where it shouldn't be?

I totally understand that they need to offer perks to Business Class people, or else why bother having a Business section at all? The part I hate is when they say "It's for security purposes, they close the gate, you need time to be checked by security, blah blah blah" and then it turns out that all these obstacles COULD be surmounted IF you'd PAID to have them surmounted.

*&%#@! lying sons of %&*!^

[On a related note, no one can tell me that I'm "randomly" chosen for a detailed security check at airports when I'm being checked EVERY SINGLE TIME I FLY. You and I both know it's because my ticket says I'm starting and ending in Israel. Do I pay cash? No. Do I change my flight plans in the last minute? No. Do I fly one-way? No. Do I fly without luggage? No. All perfectly random, right? Because even though racial profiling makes perfect sense in anti-terrorist security, even though I think they SHOULD be scrutinizing everyone from the Middle East, including me, I'm really being checked at EVERY SINGLE AIRPORT because of dumb luck, right?

It's not the geographic profiling I mind. It's the lie. Random, shrandom.

Security checks are random, the gate is closed 90 minutes before for security reasons, and I'm the Mona Lisa.]

Anyhow, Swiss Air offered to fly me to Tel Aviv via Newark, but the plan would have involved losing my kosher in-flight meals and spending a full day in Zurich. For London or Italy or even maybe Paris I would have enjoyed an opportunity for a day of European site-seeing, but Zurich? What's in Zurich?

So, basically, I'm staying in Boston until Sunday and (I hope) arriving in Tel Aviv on MONDAY at 2:35. Ride, anyone? Anyone?

It's OK because I was feeling bad about leaving my Mummy to do all the packing in the Boston house. So now I have a few extra days to help her out.

It's all for the best. My itinerary change, the security-randomness lie, perhaps even Bush being re-elected. The world is a mysterious place.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

I'm leaving on a jet plane . . .

1. I don't know when I'll be back again . . .

If anyone in Israel HAPPENS to feel like picking me up at the airport, I'm scheduled to land at Ben Gurion tomorrow (Thursday) at 2:35 pm. Coming in on Swiss Air. A ride to Jerusalem would be most excellent, though I'm not expecting it. I'm expecting to take a cab. With my two full suitcases, backpack, 2 jackets, and the large toaster oven I bought at Duty Free. Welcome home to me!

2. Also, a public and enthusiastic Thank You to my devoted reader, Miriam L, who Fedexed me a copy of a most excellent novel, "The Time Traveler's Wife," on time for me to read it on the plane. I have started it and love it! If you like "Time and Again," you will LOVE "The Time Traveler's Wife."

3. So, Bush won. I'm feeling rather crabby about this. However, I believe that whatever happens is meant to happen, and just hope that Bush won't completely bungle his second term as he did his first. We can hope for improvement, even from him.

Is it just me, or does President Bush have a slightly maniacal look about him? Every time I see him on TV, he's got this smirk and slightly psychotic gleam in his eye. I seriously think there is something clinically wrong with him - not because of what he's done, but because of that glazed, smirky, shifty look he's got.

4. Reminder: Scroll down to take the sort-of annual Chayyei Sarah quiz.

See you in the Holy Land!!!

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Pity the Poor Reporters

This time four years ago, I was in a makeshift newsroom frantically trying to figure out how to write a front-page story about the Presidential election when there was not a clear winner yet and the layout editor was standing behind me yelling “I need the copy NOW.”

It was my first year as a journalism student, we were producing a special University/ Journalism department newspaper about the elections, and together with one of my classmates, A., I’d been given the honor of writing the lead story, whose headline we THOUGHT would be either “Bush Wins” or “Gore Wins,” or, more likely, something more snazzy-sounding than that but with the same idea. Writing headlines was never my strong point; that’s what copy editors are for!

A. and I had spent the days before preparing “B-copy,” that is, the text that would appear further down in the article, and which we could write ahead of time. My job was to research B-copy about the Bush campaign, and A. researched the Gore campaign, and on election night, while some of our classmates hit the streets to interview voters and party-sponsored “victory” bashes, and other classmates sat over the computers nearby churning out copy about the Senate races and referendums, A. and I attempted to combine our research into one cohesive article while simultaneously taking quotes from the reporters on the street and keeping one eye on CNN.

We were under a lot of pressure, all of us, since our work that night would become, for most of us, the first "clip" to show potential employers. A. and I knew that neither of us would have a chance to write front-page news again for a long time. The clock was ticking. There wasn’t a clear presidential winner. If we have to submit the copy before a winner emerges, how in the world are we supposed to write the lead?

The TV was blaring, the phones were ringing, the blue states and the red states were stacking up evenly, the faculty advisor was reading our copy over my shoulder and complaining about it, the layout editor had to get the computer files with our paper to the printer by midnight . . . and there was no winner. Florida went to Gore, then to Bush . . . I felt my hair start to stick to the back of my neck.

In the end, the headline read “Fuzzy finish in a close race” and started “Americans went to bed last night without knowing . . . . “ Neither A. nor I recognized our article as ours- the total was so different from the sum of the parts that neither of us were happy having our names at the top of the story. But it was over.

And it had been really, REALLY exciting.

I don’t think I’ll stay up tonight to see what happens, mostly because I know that whatever happens, the other side will probably say “that is not what happened,” and it will be contested, blah blah blah. Fuzzy, and no finish. Let’s hope I’m wrong about this.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Doda love

A few nights ago I babysat my two nephews so my sister and brother-in-law could go out for dinner. I hung out with them, gave them junk food (a special privilege of being babysat in my sister's house), and cuddled in front of the TV. Then I helped them brush their teeth and put them to bed. I sang each of them our new special goodnight song, a little something I picked up at UYO:

How could anyone ever tell you- you were anything less than beautiful?
How could anyone ever tell you- you were less than whole?
How could anyone fail to notice that your loving is a miracle?

How deeply you're connected to my soul.

Since then I've sung it to them each night. I know they don't understand all the words, but they seem to understand the intent behind them. Nathan, who is four, gazes into my eyes while I sing to him, blinking in the half-light with a peaceful look on his face. Ilan, 6, wraps his arms around my neck and I sing into his ear. Then they kiss me and I tell them I love them, and they say "I love you too."

A couple nights ago, as I was closing his door behind me, Ilan said "Doda, you know what the best present is that you brought for us?"

I said "What's that, Ilani?"

He said, "You."

I'm going to miss these guys when I leave tomorrow.

From Moshe to Moshe . . .

(scroll past the next two posts for the annual Chayyei Sarah quiz)

Yet another close, dear friend has joined the blogging bandwagon. Welcome to Divrei Moshe, who made aliyah 2 weeks before I did with his amazing wife and four fabulous kids. I find the simplicity and sincerity of his blog to be inspirational and thought provoking (and often funny). Almost as great as he is in person. Welcome to the blogosphere.

(Scroll down for the annual Chayyei Sarah quiz!!!)

As we speak, I'm experiencing an aspect of American culture I very much did not miss when I was in Israel this time last year: trick-or-treating.

There are many aspects of Christian-American culture that I do not share, yet can appreciate. Christmas carols and trees, Easter-egg hunts, New Years' countdowns and Auld Lang Syne, that sort of thing. I don't engage in those traditions because they are too connected to Christianity for my taste, but as a religious person and an American, I can see elements that I would enjoy in those traditions were they part of my sub-culture. Even though many of them are commercialized, I can see how religious Christians find meaning and fun in these activities, and how they are harmless and entertaining for secular Americans.

But I do not understand Halloween at all. The whole thing is mean-spirited, literally and figuratively. A holiday (can it be called a holiday if it is an anti-holy day?) dedicated to scary beings of the netherworld, and kids threatening to "trick" you if you don't present them with a "treat"? I don't get it. Is there any religious or spiritual meaning to Halloween at all? Do Christian ministers and priests promote this pagan custom or turn a blind eye to it? Is anyone actively speaking out against it in the American Christian world?

As we say in Hebrew, Halloween is, in my opinion, "lo na-im." In Yiddish we say "pas nicht." English translation: It's just not nice. I'm curious to know what Europeans do to commemorate this night of "All Hallows Eve," or if any readers who celebrate Halloween can given any spin to it other than "it's fun, don't be a party pooper." Anyone?

Kerry/ Bush on Israel: Food for thought

(If you are skipping this, then scroll down to take the annual Chayyei Sarah quiz!!!)

Two articles which I hope you will read if you are one of the people voting for Bush because "Bush is better for Israel." I realize that at this point people have made up their minds. But I want people to remember that there are reasonable people who have reasonable evidence that American policy on Israel will not change, regardless of who wins.

No one can tell the future. We have to vote based on the facts we have and the best judgement calls we can make with that information.

If you believe, as I do, that Kerry is not any worse for Israel than Bush is (and, I might add, there are those of us who live in Israel who don't think that the Bush policy of "hands off" is necessarily constructive), then it frees one to vote for the person whose policies on other issues are more in line with one's own.

Anyhow, here is some reading for you . . .

1. From today's New York Times (requires free registration)

2. From the Haaretz Anglo File section of a few weeks ago (requires paid registration; I'll reproduce it here). Notice that there are quotes in here that could be used by either side to support their views about Kerry/Bush:

Palestinian-Americans largely ignore upcoming U.S.elections
Daphna Berman
Sam Bahour has already requested an absentee ballot for the U.S. presidential elections, but as a member of the Palestinian-American community based largely in Ramallah, he's certainly in the minority. "There's an indifference about the outcome of the [U.S.] presidential election that's hard to explain," he said this week of the widespread voting malaise that seems to have struck a large number of Palestinian Americans living in the West Bank and Gaza. "In the past, we used to have registration drives, and citizen services [from the American consulate in Jerusalem] would come out, but this year, I've heard none of that." According to Bahour, a prominent Palestinian-American businessman who moved to the West Bank in 1995 to spearhead the privatization of the Palestinian telecommunications industry, the disinterest around him is based on a larger belief that neither candidate really addresses the needs of his community. "The gap between the two isn't wide enough that it will make a difference for the Palestinians," he explains. "People feel like it doesn't even matter. I have friends who go back between here and the States and when I ask who they're voting for, they act as if we're in a non-election year." For members of this large, but somewhat politically overlooked community of Palestinian-Americans, the upcoming elections don't seem to be making the splash that they have made among Israeli-Americans. Jewish Americans living in Israel have registered for absentee ballots in unprecedented numbers and organizations like the Association of Americans and Canadian in Israel (AACI) have hosted regular events encouraging Americans here to take part in the election process. Both Republicans Abroad in Israel and Democrats Abroad in Israel have revitalized their efforts in recent months and have hosted a number of registration drives across the country. But as members of the American consulate in Jerusalem confirm, the excitement and energy among Americans in Israel just haven't transferred to their Palestinian neighbors. "Palestinians haven't been as active as the Israeli side," Stuart Patt, chief of the Consular Section at the Jerusalem consulate said this week. "There have been Palestinian-Americans coming in to request forms, but most of the forms go through [local Israeli branches of] the Republicans and the Democrats or the AACI." The number of Palestinian-Americans living in the West Bank and Gaza is difficult to estimate, though Dr. Hazim Arafat, a volunteer with the Palestinian-American Society in Ramallah says that a survey done four years ago found an estimated 5,000 families with dual citizenship, with an average of four eligible voters per family. American officials estimate that some 30,000 Americans live in the West Bank, but that number includes American Jews living in the settlements. And so, while the number of Palestinian-Americans in the territories may pale in comparison to the estimated 100,000 eligible American voters living in Israel, it remains a strong and significant voting bloc, which its members say shouldn't be taken lightly. Still, neither of the major parties has even attempted to target this pool of potential absentee voters. The Democrats would be a logical alternative for a community that sees ousting Bush as a top priority, but Mark Zober, chair of Democrats Abroad in Israel said that his organization has yet to plan voting drives in the West Bank for potential Kerry supporters. The Republicans haven't targeted Palestinian-Americans in the territories either, and though Joan Hills, co-chair of Republicans Abroad, admitted this week from Washington D.C. that it would be a "good idea" to target local Palestinian-Americans, the organization's Israel branch has a Web site with Arafat quoted as calling Bush "the worst U.S. president" and a statement by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon hailing the incumbent president as "Israel's best friend in the White House." "The most important point on our agenda is to get an administration change," said Akram Baker, a Palestinian-American human resources consultant based throughout the Middle East, "and the Democrats should be doing more to bring Palestinian and Arab-Americans to their side." According to Baker, though, a large portion of the local Palestinian-American vote will go to Ralph Nader, an American politician of Lebanese origin who is running on an independent ticket and supports the Palestinian right of return. "Most people aren't interested in voting because they don't see a difference between Bush and Kerry, but those who do care to vote will vote Nader," Shawqi Issa, a human rights lawyer in Bethlehem, predicted. Issa, who holds dual citizenship, sent his American-born wife to the consulate in Jerusalem because his American passport doesn't help him navigate checkpoints given his Palestinian ID card, he says. "If my wife didn't go for us, we wouldn't have had the proper voting papers," the Nader supporter added, obviously unaware, like many in his community, of the possibility to download the proper forms off the internet. Other leading figures in the community confirmed that Nader was in fact the candidate of choice among voting Palestinians who refuse to support either major candidate, and even Bahour, who will probably vote for Kerry as a protest against Bush, says that he would "vote his conscience" and choose Nader if Kerry was pulling ahead in the polls so drastically that Bush had no chance for re-election. The decision on behalf of the Democrats and Republicans to categorically overlook Palestinian-Americans is frustrating, Bahour adds, but not more so than his own community's voter apathy and reluctance to mobilize a grassroots registration effort. "I can't complain that campaigns don't address us as a community," he says, "if we, as a community, don't become more active."
Publication date - 10/09/04
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