Wednesday, December 31, 2008

I'm NOT war blogging,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Sunday, December 28, 2008


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Blahs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The good news:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 09, 2008


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

She is checking the brocolli and the spinach for bugs.

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

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

Quote of the day:

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

Monday, December 08, 2008

Happy New Week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Sad (and Tiring) Day

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Funeral Information

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

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

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

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Pictures of the Week

Sometimes when I'm feeling low, I stop by the pet store on Emek Refaim Street to . . .
Pat the Bunnies!

Ain't it sweet?

I think it's hysterical when they sit in their food bowl. Stupid animals! (But cute)

The pet store recently got a large shipment of guinea pigs. You all know how I feel about guinea pigs. I know that some people think they look like rats, but now everytime I see one, I think of comment about "let loose the guinea pigs of war." :-)

However. You see that calico guinea pig on the left? And how the others are cowering along the edges of their cage? That's because the calico guy was TERRORIZING the other guinea pigs. Just when they'd all find a nice place to relax and chew on a snack, he'd go RUNNING all over them, scattering them to the ends of the ... cage... and then wait for them to relax again before having another nervous fit and chasing them again.

I have to admit that, being somewhat evil, I admired his personality.

Now here is a picture I took from the escalator inside the Jerusalem Central Bus Station, of the crowd outside pushing and squeezing to get through the ONE functioning metal detector, with Shabbat just two hours away:

It's hard to see, but the throng of people extends down the street, past the back of the bus at the top of the photo.

The irony is that the security system is meant to prevent anyone from blowing up the bus station, or spraying passengers with bullets . . . but any terrorist with a brain can easily figure out that one could kill 100 Jews at a time by detonating himself, or opening fire, inside the crowd of people waiting to get through the security.

Stupid system.

That's all for this time. Have a good week.

PS If anyone gets information about the time and place of the funeral for Rabbi and Mrs. Holtzberg, please share it here. I want to attend.
What a Weekend

About a week and a half ago, I made plans to spend this past Shabbat at the home of my friend S., who lives in Shiloh. Shiloh is fairly isolated, and the buses from Jerusalem leave only about once an hour. I had been hoping to make the 1 pm bus, but there was so much cleanup to do after our Thanksgiving meal, that in the end I rushed through packing, put on the first nice outfit I could find (which was not really weather-appropriate, but I figured I'd be spending all of Shabbat in S.'s warm house) and left the my apartment at 1 pm, more than early enough -- I thought -- to make the 2 pm bus (the last one from Jerusalem to Shiloh on this cloudy and chilly Friday afternoon).

I'd forgotten that the traffic on Yaffo street these days is horrendous due to the construction of a light rail, and traffic heading toward the Central Bus Station was at less than a crawl. I got out and walked most of the way up Yaffo, getting to the CBS at 2:05 -- chilled to the bone. Did I mention that one of the two metal detectors at the Central Bus Station was out of service, so getting through security was a nightmare?

Meanwhile, I'd called S. from my cell phone, and we worked out that instead of the bus to Shiloh, I'd take the bus to Kochav Yaakov, and she'd pick me up from there.

(I want to say here that the people who drive through the gas station outside Kochav Yaakov are really nice -- every single driver stopped and offered "trempim" -- rides -- to those of us hanging out at the bus stop. In Israel, this is not creepy, it's just friendly.)

S. picked me up about 40 minutes before Shabbat, and we drove faster than I'm used to, through the rain, to her house, getting there just in time for me to take a hot shower before candle-lighting. For the next few hours, all was well. I was warm and fed, and S. has really cool chairs in her living room that are exceptionally comfortable. At about 11 pm I slid into a deep sleep in my bed.

2:40 am: S. was yelling "Sarah! Sarah! Can you get up?!?" I thought maybe the house was on fire.

The house was fine, but S. was not. On her way back to her bed from a bathroom trip, she'd fallen and hit her face on the corner of her nightstand. She had a deep cut just next to her eye, and there was blood everywhere. I convinced her to call for an ambulance, and we took the one-hour trip to Jerusalem in the back of the Shiloh emergency vehicle, in the company of two local medics -- a woman with a white kerchief covering her hair driving the ambulance, and a (very cute, I must say) yeshiva student in the back taking care of S. They'd taken one look at her eye and said in unison "Hadassah Ein Karem." So off we went.

At Ein Karem, we had to walk back and forth between two buildings -- in the cold -- before finally settling down in the Opthamalogy unit. The Opthamologist was upset at first that neither the medics nor the ER staff had cleaned the wound, but then he looked at it and said "Nehedar! (Awesome!) No wonder no one else wanted to touch this."

S. got several stitches next to her eye, and two in her eye. Have I ever mentioned that I'm extremely squeamish, especially about things having to do with eyes, and sticking things in one's eye? Ooooooooogh.

Also, may I remind you that just weeks ago, I went to spend Shabbat with friends, and in the middle of the night the husband got sick, and they went to the hospital and I spent Shabbat in their home with their two kids? Do you remember that a few weeks ago I spent Shabbat in Hadassah Har Tzofim with Chava, who had just been diagnosed with diabetes? And that shortly after that, I went with my roommate to the Ein Karem ER because the old fracture in her spine had become excrutiatingly painful? What the heck is goin' on with me???

Anyhow, by about 9 am, S. was released by the hospital, but we couldn't go anywhere because it was Shabbat. We found the prayer service in the hospital, and the Shabbat meals, and a room set up with a few cots for Shomer Shabbat visitors. All in all, if you are going to be stuck in a hospital for Shabbat, it wasn't so bad. But ... what the heck?

S. can see, but her eye looked really bad. And later, we returned to the Opthamology unit to get some more cream put on it, and --like I said -- I'm really squeamish about eyes, and there I was, surrounded by patients with eye injuries, and finally I said to S -- who was the patient -- "I am reaching my limit, and I need to get air or I will faint." I was sitting there with my head in my lap, taking deep breaths, and S -- the patient -- went to get me a glass of water.

After Shabbat, my friend Yael got an SMS message from me that just said "Guess where I am right now?" Yael, bless her, happened to be on her way out to visit a cousin who was sick at . . . Hadassah Ein Karem. Yael knew right away I must be in a hospital, the question was just which one. In the end I waited for Yael to finish her visit, and got a ride home with her.

What. The. Heck.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

What a Week

Sunday: Attended a "Resume Workshop" sponsored by the OU here in Jerusalem. As instructed I brought my CV, both on paper and on a memory card. I was hoping that we could translate it from English to Hebrew, so that I'll have a Hebrew version to give to potential Israeli clients. But you only got about 10 minutes with your interview advisor. I met with someone named Ron Machol. He was quite helpful and gave me tips for how to rearrange the information on my English resume for an Israeli audience, and things that I could take out because Israelis won't care. I also met someone who has been wanting to talk to me about co-writing a screenplay. I've never written a screenplay. I haven't written fiction since I was an undergrad. But ... it could be fun?

Monday: There was an event for deferred Barnard students, run by yours truly. It was a great success. Out of the 52 young women in Israel for the year who are slated to go to Barnard in the fall, 43 attended the event, along with 7 alumnae. There was about 45 minutes of mingling and bagel-eating, then about an hour of ice-breakers and little group activities to force everyone to meet new people. That part was run by RivkA, and it was lots of fun. Then each of the alumnae introduced herself and spoke about what she's been doing since graduating from Barnard, and then we had cake. The students loved the chance to meet their future classmates, and overall there was a good feeling. Glad I did it.

Tuesday: OU Job Fair. I went to try to drum up new freelance work. I have two observations about this event. First, it was huge, with over 1,200 job-seekers and dozens of employers. I was very impressed with how smoothly it was coordinated. They even provided breath mints at every table (I'm big into breath mints because I'm always paranoid about possibly needing one). Kudos to the OU for all the effort they clearly put into this. Second, I realize intellectually that 1,200 unemployed people is not a lot, and that statistically it's not really a big deal. But in reality, when you see 1,200 people all together and realize that ALL of them are looking for work, it's quite depressing. When I arrived, I felt so confident. I'm talented! I'm professional! I've got a cool-looking folder! But by the time I left, I felt like a cog in a wheel. It was a very tiring experience... However! I may have gotten a second teaching job out of it for the spring. Not the type of work I was looking for, but what with the economy so bad and magazines and newspapers shutting down (one of my regular clients recently suspended publication), I figure that a temporary teaching job may help tide me over, in case things don't get better so quickly.

Wednesday: Met with Noa L, a lovely young woman who is going to run the next UYO course in Israel. I'm sooooo happy that someone else is picking up the baton, and that another course will happen without my having to do all the work to make it so! Noa is a smart cookie and very enthusiastic, whereas I am burned out, so I'm really happy that she is taking this on. I met with her for two hours, giving her suggestions, so that hopefully she won't repeat my mistakes. The next course will be May 6-9, and I will be there to help out!

Thursday: Hosted Thanksgiving dinner with my roommate. Made a 14-pound turkey with stuffing, and a great zucchini soup. Liza made mashed potatoes and 2 pies. Brought by guests: cranberry sauce, sweet potatos, green beans. There were 10 of us altogether at the table (7 American expatriates, 2 Brits, and one Israeli who used to live in America) and I think it was a successful meal. Good news: We were so organized about cooking and cleaning that I got to take a 2-hour nap this afternoon. Bad news: I was so tired before the meal even started, that I needed a 2-hour nap. It is now 11:30, I'm full of carbs, the leftover turkey is in the freezer, the dishes are being left for tomorrow, this blog post is done, and I'm going to bed!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Sarah's Hebrew Touch-Typing Progress

Level 1 (middle row only)

WPM: 17

Accuracy: 92%

Level 2 (middle row and top row)

WPM: 16

Accuracy: 91%

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


I'm planning an event for next week -- it's for deferred Barnard students in Israel for the year -- and instead of trying to do absolutely everything by myself to prepare, I went onto the Barnard Club in Israel list serve and asked if anyone could help me out with the shopping for food and paper goods (that's the only part of the process that is hard for me, since I have no car). And another alumna in the neighborhood volunteered, so now I have a ride, and company, and less stress.

Asking for help instead of trying to do everything oneself is a good thing. And hard to learn!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Sarah's Hebrew Touch-Typing Progress

After maybe an hour of practice . . .

Level: 1 (middle row only)

WPM: 12

Accuracy: 97%

I've decided I'd rather go slower and be accurate than the other way around.

I just want to go on record saying that in English, I was last tested as typing 75 WPM, with 95% accuracy.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Links to Like

1- My newest project: Learning to touch-type in Hebrew.

2- My friend's son is going through the process of trying out for an elite army unit. He went through a round of exercises and made the first cut, which already is not bad considering that he just moved to Israel 5 years ago. Regarding the second, more grueling "audition," go here, scroll down to October 26, and then read posts going upward. Sorry, I tried linking to individual posts but it didn't work for some reason.

3- Funny series on YouTube, satirizing the gaming world. Episode 1 here.

4- Went to Arad today. More about it in the future Jewish Week article on the experience. For now, all me can say is, me like Kfar Hanokdim.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

My Latest Piece(s)

I got an email a few days ago from, asking if I'd be willing to write for them. I'm not chassidish, as you know, and I have some misgivings about those Chabad-niks who believe the Rebbe was the mashiach, but I also am familiar with all the good works Chabad does all over the world. They do stuff no one else does. Upon some reflection, I decided to go for it.

So here's my very latest piece -- I wrote it tonight and it went up shortly thereafter. It wasn't a big deal to research or write, but I know some of you (like, my relatives) like to keep up with my work and shep nachas, so since a link is available I'm providing it.


Oh, lookie. Two more of my stories are online now, for the Jewish Week's Catered Events supplement. You can see them here and here.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Municipal Elections Today!

Inside the (makeshift, but private) voting booth: The candidate choices, my blue Israeli ID card to prove I was at the correct polling station, and the envelopes I was given to vote with.

Inside the yellow envelope, you put one of the yellow slips of paper, indicating your choice of mayor.

Into the white envelope you put one of the white pieces of paper, indicating your choice of party/slate for city council.

That's my thumb.

You put the envelopes into a box on your way out, and you are done.

No lines, no fuss. The whole thing was very orderly and took 5 minutes.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Random Questions

. . . which have gone through my mind lately.


If, according to the Arab bloggers quoted here, Biden is a confirmed Zionist, and now Obama has appointed Rahm Emanuel to be his Chief of Staff, am I still supposed to believe that Obama will unquestionably be bad for Israel?


May I posit that the "bad for Israel" argument is really about whether Israel is a) best off left to do whatever it wants, without interference from Americans who don't really understand what is going on, vs. b) encouraging Israel to move in a different direction because Israel does not always look out for its own best interests, and can't see the forest for the trees? Does anyone really know what is "best for Israel"? Do any Israelis know what is "best for Israel"?


When dealing with a man who is Italian or French, how is it possible to tell if he is a) flirting with you, b) gay, c) simply being Italian/French? Inquiring female American-Israeli minds want to know.


Why does IDC-Herzeliya -- which is quite a good school-- think that this advertisement, suggesting that oily Middle-Eastern car salesmen-in-training are representing them, will get people to apply?


Am I the only one who noticed the references to The Merchant of Venice and to Judas in the comments to this article? How disturbing is that? Anti-semites are creepy, no matter what party they belong to.


What should I do on the blog to acknowledge that this week is parshat Chayyei Sarah? Does the question itself fulfill the requirement?


A question posed by a friend:

In Parshat Lech Lecha, God commands that descendents of Abraham should be circumcised. The Sefer Hachinuch, quoting the Rambam, says that one of the reasons for this commandment is that God "wished to affix . . . a permanent sign in their bodies to differentiate them from the other nations . . . just as they are differentiated in their spiritual form . . . this physical differentiation was set in the [male organ] as it is the causal source of the existence of the human species . . . "

I expected my friend to question the need for mutilating a baby, but no. This was her question, and it's a good one:

Given that the commandment of circumcision is a very basic one -- the second in the Torah -- and that it is assumed to be for the purpose of differentiating the Jews, perfecting the body, etc, why did God -- for it is God, not the rabbis, who spell this out -- choose for the mitzva to be performed on a body part that only men have? Why not command that, say, one must cut the pinky finger such that there will be a scar? Or that one must remove an earlobe or something?

Why set down such a fundamental mitzvah -- one that differentiates "the people" and symbolizes our very covenant with God -- in a way that only half the people can participate?

I'm certainly not advocating the practice which has come to be known as "female circumcision" (which is NOT circumcision). Just saying: if the mitzvah involves removing a piece of the body that is pretty much superfluous, why not pick another body part so that the women, too, are marked as different from those of other nations?


Why can't dishes magically wash themselves? and floors? and bathrooms?

Why can't my clothes magically fold themselves and put themselves away?


Have any of you tried this game? Is it good? Is it worth the money to register for it?


My sister and her family got a dog! It is a cockapoo puppy, which apparently has some other breed mixed in because, according to the vet, she is too small for a pure cockapoo. She is about 9 weeks old now and weights 1.5 pounds. Her name is Mishmish (which means "Apricot" in Hebrew). She likes to chase my 2-year-old nephew around the couch (he loves it). Unfortunately I won't get to meet Mishmish until I visit them in America (probably next summer).

Mishmish napping after a busy day.

Mishmish soaking up the love from the 3 smallest humans in the house.

Isn't she cute?

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Live Blogging the Election

6:00 am: FOX has called the election for Obama!
If FOX was willing to call it for Obama at this point, well, I feel it's safe for me to go to sleep now.
I just want to say:
Congratulations to all Obama supporters, especially the campaign volunteers. Obama ran a very good campaign.
Applause for Senator McCain, who is a good man and a respectable man.
Congratulations to everyone who voted for being part of the democratic process.
Kudos to all Americans for supporting a peaceful transfer of power - even if it's to someone you do not support.
Congratulations to black Americans. I'm really happy for you! This is so cool!
Condolences to staunchly conservative blogger Robert Avrech. I look forward to reading complaints about the government on your blog for the next four years (sort of . . . I hope you write a lot more about movies, and about Ariel).
God bless America!
Good night.


5:51 am: Well, given how many votes have gone to Obama, and how many seats are going to the Dems in both the Senate and the House, I think one thing is clear (or as clear as it can be when I've been up all night): American have just sent a very loud message to George W. Bush about what they think of him.

Obviously there is more going on than just that, but I'm too tired to think straight about it.

5:40 am: FOX just called Virginia for Obama. One of the announcers said "Game Over." I hear people cheering in the background.

Sleep or awake? Sleep or awake?


5:34 am: Obama is sweeping the swing states. Part of me wants to go to sleep, and part of me is really curious about which way Florida will go.

Also, there are referendums I'm watching . . . or would be, if results were in and if I could find them . . . three states are voting about restricting abortions (South Dakota, Colorado, California); four states are voting about various issues relating to gay marriage (Florida, Arkansas, Arizona, California); and two states (Nebraska and Colorado) are voting on affirmative action. Those are exciting issues! I want to know what happens!

I'm streaming FOX news while also checking and On FOX they are talking about Palin: What she'll do next, and how mismanaged she was by the McCain campaign. They are saying that they should have let her talk more and make her case, rather than let Tina Fey make a case for her. (or against her, as the case may be).

Interesting scenario they are bringing up: Stevens is booted out of the Senate, and Palin, back to being governor of Alaska, appoints herself to replace him. Then Palin and Hillary Clinton will have to see each other every day in the Senate. Wierd.


5:00 am: Even the cautious NY Times is calling Ohio for Obama. This is starting to get boring. Oh, for the days in 2000 when it was neck-and-neck all night!

I do note that the popular vote is evenly split between BO and JM. America is still a divided country, even if it seems that Obama is winning easily. The electoral system is so ridiculous (though I acknowledge it has its benefits). Too tired to think about that right now. My bed calls to me . . .


4:52 am: FOX and CNN are calling Ohio for Obama. If they're right, as far as I'm concerned this is all over and I may as well go to sleep.

You might be wondering who I want to win . . . well, maybe I'll tell you, and maybe I won't . . . but for now let's put it this way: If Obama wins, I'll think it's really neat that the US has gotten to the point, socially, where a black man can become President. And if McCain wins, I'll think it's neat that we have a female Vice President (even though I can't stand the woman and I cringe every time I watch her talk).

Regarding their policies and fitness to lead, maybe I'll write about that some other time. Or maybe not.

I've been posting updates at the bottom of my last post, but am thinking it would be better to create a new space for the live election blogging, and post new stuff up top.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Sitting on Shpilkes

I cannot wait for tonight.

I will be up, either at my desk with my internet connection on, or at the local "Barack, Arack, and Boreka" election party (so named by the Canadian-Israeli organizer because "Barack" rhymes with "Arack" - it's open to McCain supporters equally) at the PresenTense offices.

I will have my lists of states, my maps, my pen and my calculator! Whoo hoo! Whoo hoo! All psyched to stay up until at least 4 am Israel time! Go democracy! Whoo hoo!


1:50 am: The polls are closing in some states, and I'm still up. Chose to stay at home where I can poke around doing chores in between checking the news sites. On my desk I've got a list of all states, who they voted for in 2004 and whether it was close, which states are considered "swing" this year, and how many electoral votes they each get. Am greatly enjoying the interactive features at Am ready to keep an eye on Senate and House seats, and results of referendums. Am psyched!

4:15 am: Well, finally we're seeing some movement. If the votes in early-reporting states go the way the projections say, Obama currently has 62 electoral votes to McCain's 8. In more definitive news, the Dems have won 51 seats -- a majority -- in the Senate. In between keeping an eye on the results, I'm watching Anne of Green Gables: The Continuing Story on YouTube, segment by segment. It is a terrible film. It has nothing to do with the books, and it's just all around bad. It moves slowly, the plot is going nowhere. It's awful. The only reason I can stomache it is that I'm pretending that it has nothing to do with the series by L.M. Montgomery, and just happens to be about people named Anne and Gilbert. That, and because once I start to watch a movie, it would have to be slighty more terrible than this for me to stop in the middle. But I'm tempted.

4:35 am: A distant muezzin is sounding; time for morning prayers!

I find it very interesting, which news outlets are calling projected winners in various states. One would think that after what happened in 2000, they'd be more cautious. Some outlets have been projecting winners, even in swing states, after only 2% or 5% of precincts have reported in. The differences are wide: At this very moment, FOX, ABC, and NBC all say that Obama will pocket 200 electoral votes vs. McCain's 85 or 90. Meanwhile, the New York Times is the most cautious, attributing 87 votes to Obama and 8 to McCain.

I'm sure they've all got there actuarial science behind them. But Sarah says: It ain't over 'til it's over.

Saturday, November 01, 2008


Tonight, the US goes to Daylight Savings Time. Therefore, the time difference between Israel and the East Coast will once again be 7 hours, and between Israel and the West Coast will be 10 hours.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Photo Blog

I finally uploaded some pictures I've taken with my cell-phone-camera over the last few weeks. Behold! Scenes from Jerusalem:

A few weeks ago, Liza and I heard a ruckus from the street below, the sounds of Jewish music being played incredibly loudly, people singing, and people talking.

Oh! I exclaimed. Maybe it's a hachnasat Torah, a ceremony in which a synagogue has procured a new Torah scroll, and accompanies it in a sort of parade through the streets and into its new home in the sanctuary.

I'd once seen a "Torah Truck" in my neighborhood designated for this purpose, with the loud music and incredibly tacky lights. Could it be . . . ?

Yes! Here they come, and here they go, right under our porch window . . .

Next, here we have a blurry photo of some cupcakes my roommate made:

I realize that in the photo they look like poo, but in reality they were delicious cupcakes with an amazing, chocolate-mousse-flavored buttercream frosting! She'd been experimenting with various recipes for buttercream over the course of about two weeks, which meant I ate a lot of homemade cupcakes . . . yes, having a roommate has definite advantages. This particular buttercream, her fourth attempt, was my favorite, though she prefers the fifth incarnation.

Now we go on to Sukkot pictures. In the weeks leading up to the holiday of Sukkot, a business that sells sukkah set up -- of course -- a sukkah on Emek Refaim Street, where they took orders. And next to it was the most adorable little sukkah playhouse for children, complete with plastic schach, and the same mesh windows and embedded decorations as the adult models:

Isn't that so cute?

Up the street is my favorite video store, Ozen Hashlishi ("The Third Ear"). The employees there are young, art-student types. It's a funky place. One of the employees went to the trouble of creating a model of a sukkah, about a foot high and maybe a foot-and-a-half long, out of cut-up movie posters, abandoned computer parts, plastina and empty vodka bottles. It was sitting on a table of movie-related books, next to the checkout line.

Here is the exterior:

Here, a view of the interior. The detailed decorations -- such as the teeny, tiny paper chain -- were amazing:

And an aerial view (clearly, this is not a kosher succah, since enough schach was left out to allow people to get a bird's-eye view inside):

Finally, a photo I took just this afternoon, of a perfect arc-shaped rainbow that appeared fleetingly over Emek Refaim Street:


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Odds and Ends

* My roommate has started a new blog, a pictorial guide to things people wear on their heads in Jerusalem. She just started it but there are a few posts up. Click here to see.

*Over Sukkot my roommate and I each hosted a friend: she had her friend Elizabeth over for a couple of weeks, and my friend Lisa came in from New York and stayed with us for 3 nights. So we had a Liza, a Liz, and a Lisa. Very confusing, but fun.

* It's gotten cold and rainy here. I have to close my windows even during the day or my room gets too cold to function. At night I'm using two blankets. Today I'm wearing a sweater and boots and I needed an umbrella. We went to daylight savings before Yom Kippur, so it suddenly - BAM! - gets dark at about 4:45 pm. Quite gloomy.

* Can I just say that I know I'm supposed to be grateful for rain, and be glad that we have the blessing of water, but in my heart of hearts I'm not and I'm not? I mean, I know we need the water. I know. But . . . really? Truly? I don't like rain.

Please don't hate me for saying that.

* Lately I've pitched stories to: Glamour, Real Simple, Written By, Hadassah, The Jewish Week, and First. Awaiting answers. Pitched to, and was rejected by, O, Writer's Digest, and NYTimes Magazine. Coming up this week, pitches to the New York Times, Destination Weddings, Reader's Digest. Wish me success. Due to the recent downturn of the dollar against the shekel, and a few other things, I've become what is known in some circles as a Poor Girl. New work would be great.

*It's confirmed, this Spring I'll once again be teaching part-time (2 sections of 11th-grade English) in this program. I'm really looking forward to it. For the first time in my life I can re-use lesson plans from a previous year! Woo hooooooo!

*Liz is back in the Holy Land -- I'll let her announce herself where she's living, since that is a story and a half in itself -- I've convinced her to start blogging! We're taking the advice of one of you good readers and having her simply guest blog here at Chayyei Sarah. If she likes it and starts blogging a lot, then she'll start hosting her own blog. If it's an irregular thing, you'll be able to read her stuff here. More to come when she sends me something!

Friday, October 24, 2008

An Endorsement by Chayyei Sarah

Ha! I bet you thought this would be an endorsement for Obama. Well, you were wrong.

I'm posting today to endorse an independent ticket called Hitorerut Yerushalmim (loosely: Wake Up Jerusalemites), who are running for the Jerusalem City Council (not mayor) in the upcoming municipal elections on November 11.

Please note: One may cast a vote for the mayor of one's choice AND vote for HY for City Council. It is two separate ballots.

HY (on the ballots, they are listed as such - heh yud) is a group of independent residents of Jerusalem -- both native Israelis and immigrants from around the world -- who have between them varied histories in city politics, business, environmental lobbyism, and law. I know two of them personally: Rachel Azaria used to be the Executive Director of Mavoi Satum, which provides legal and social counsel to women whose husbands refuse to give them a Jewish divorce (and before that she did environmental work); and Jean-Marc Lilling, a French immigrant who works as a lawyer at the Justice Ministry. In both cases I gladly vouch for their integrity, intelligence, and sincere care for the city and its people. These are not folks who play politics or take bribes. They are young, sincere, and very, very smart.

For me, the important thing in this municipal race is not how charedi or not-charedi the city will be, which is what most candidates are focusing on. What I, Sarah, care about is the fact that are not enough jobs for all the young people who want to live here, and that housing prices are so high -- and rising so rapidly -- that families cannot afford to stay here. The rate of apartments being bought by foreigners and staying empty is alarming to me, as is the seeming lack of long-term economic plans. I also care about cleaning the air, cleaning the litter, and improving public education. And I'd like the upcoming light-rail system to be expanded so that it serves more areas.

Here is my (incomplete) translation of the little brochure they were handing out yesterday on Emek Refaim Street. Notice that there is nothing here about religion. It's just about improving quality of life in the city for anyone who happens to live here. Will they have to play politics? Of course. But at least with them we'd be starting with a responsible, truly caring slate of representatives.

On 11/11 a new generation is taking responsibility


We take responsibility for reasonable housing prices: The Hitorerut Yerushalmim list will advance [something I don't understand about residences] and fight against the phenomenon of ghost-like apartments

We take responsibility for industry in the city: The Hitorerut Yerushalmim list will [verb] the activities of small businesses, high-tech factories, [something else] and the arts

We take responsibility for quality education: The Hitorerut Yerushalmim list will increase the budgets for state and state-religious schools and kindergartens.

We take responsibility for improved public transportation: The Hitorerut Yerushalmim list will advance a public transportation infrastructure that integrates buses, service taxis and the light rail.

We take responsibility for enlivened and compelling culture: The Hitorerut Yerushalmim list will work to increase the municipal care for culture centers in Jerusalem and to awaken local creativity.

On 11/11 put one ballot for mayor and a second for Hitorerut Yerushalmim.
Hitorerut Yerushalmim for City Council

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Sleep, Glorious Sleep

Hi, everyone, and chag sameach (happy holiday) to my Jewish readers.

I know, I'm way past due for an update. Here's what's been going on:

1) I cannot sleep. First of all, I'm about one thousand percent sure that I have sleep apnea, and that I've had for the last, oh, three gazillion years. Which means that I have not had a decent night's rest for a long time. Months ago I went to my doctor about it, and I went to a sleep specialist about it, and I got a referral to spend a night at a sleep clinic. But the thing is, in Israel you can't just take your referral and make an appointment at the sleep clinic. You first have to take your referral (hafnaya) to your insurance provider (kupah) and have them give you a hitchayvut - a statement that yes, they will pay for this.

I took my hafnaya to my kupah, telling them that my sleep specialist wants me to go to the clinic at Shaarei Tzedek, which is where he works - and which is known as an excellent clinic. Unfortunately it's also more expensive. So Meuchedet, my kupah, told me that I have to go to their clinic. I got a huge runaround, and I tried being Israeli and insisting and nudging them until they got sick of me and gave in -- especially since the sleep specialist said that ALL his patients go to Shaarei Tzedek, and Meuchedet DOES cover it -- to no avail. I became disheartened and dropped it for a while. Meanwhile the sleep doctor said "fine, just go where they send you, the important thing is to go." But now I don't know if his referral is still valid, since so much time has past.

So, I'm working on that.

2) Meanwhile, I have a terrible cough, which has been keeping me up at night and wearing me out during the day. I've discovered that a combination of cough suppressent w/codeine at night, and Acamol (paracetamol) during the day, helps me rest when appropriate and work when appropriate. So I'll just keep doing that, and drinking hot tea, until this goes away.

3) I've decided to change to a new primary care physician. I've been going to the same person for all the five years I've lived in Israel, and until recently I thought she was OK. But back when I first told her that I suspect that I have sleep apnea, she said "Sleep apnea isn't important. You don't have to be concerned about it." I said "My understanding is that sleep apnea can be very dangerous." And she said "no, it's not important." I said "But . . . I'm tired all the time. That can't be good." And she said "If you are concerned about it, go to a sleep specialist."

Well, that didn't sit well with me. And when I mentioned it to other health professionals, they all said "Are you kidding? Sleep apnea is terrible. It causes depression, it causes metabolic problems . . . maybe you misunderstood her?"

So I went back a few days ago and told her how I'd understood what she said. She apologized for making me feel that my concerns were being dismissed. But she reiterated that sleep apnea "has no negative health effects."

So now I'm wondering what other concerns I've gone to her about in the last five years, that she dismissed as unimportant, that may have been important. It's really a bummer.

4) First day of Sukkot was nice. I went to Beth and Simcha's house, as usual. But this time I couldn't actually sleep in their house, because another family from their yishuv had just had a baby that day, at home, and the whole family was also staying with Beth and Simcha so that they wouldn't have to worry about food or anything and could just hang out and sleep. Which is all great, and mazal tov, and I didn't mind at all sleeping in the guest room of another family across the street . . . except that their neighbors have roosters. You see where this is going . . . .

So, basically, I'm OK but quite tired!

Monday, October 06, 2008

Good Rule of Thumb

So much makes sense now!

My roommate taught me a neat trick, which she learned from a book called Thief of Happiness, for identifying music from the 17th-19th centuries:

If it sounds like people bowing formally to each other, it's baroque.

If it sounds like people sitting in a cafe eating fabulous pastries, it's classical.

If it sounds like people falling in love or joining the army, it's romantic.

Try it. History of Music made easy!

(And I bet you thought this blog was only about dating and Israel!)

Friday, October 03, 2008

Quick pre-Shabbat update

1- Guess who got to go to the ER again? Yup. My roommate's back gave out (an 8-year-old fracture in her vertebra has been acting up), and I went with her to the ER at Hadassah Ein Karem. We were in and out pretty fast, so though it took up a morning, it didn't turn into an overnight saga or anything. Unfortunately, she's still in a lot of pain, and neither the percocet nor the codeine she's been prescribed are helping enough. I feel really bad for her.

2- Rosh Hashanah at the Solomonts was amazing as always. The prayer services (in the social hall of their synagogue) were meaningful, just slow enough to think about what you are saying but not so slow that it "shleps" out. The fact that in Israel, there are no "Rosh Hashanah appeals," no long sermon, and no bidding on aliyot really helped. Both days, shofar blowing was around 10:50 am (after a half-hour break so people could go home and have something to eat), and we were home for lunch by -- I don't know -- I think 12:30 or so. Maybe 1 o'clock, latest.

What I really loved was the singing at the meals -- with 4 and 5 part harmonies -- 6 part harmonies! -- and Sarah Beth's "questions of the meal." That, combined with the freedom they give guests to "just chill," helped me have a truly meaningful experience, with lots of time to reflect.

Sarah Beth cooked so much food, I think I'm going to explode. And that's including the fact that both lunches were dairy . . . it doesn't really make things "lighter" if "dairy" means fettucini alfredo and a chocolate mousse cake. Oh my God.

3- Shabbat plans: tonight I'm going to my next-door neighbors for a meal for the first time. We've been on friendly terms but this is the first time they are having us over. Liza is invited too but doesn't know how long she can sit up. Tomorrow: Relax around the house with Liza's home-made challah and my tuna patties, stir-fried veggies, and egg salad. We're keeping things very simple because both of us are still recovering from the four-in-a-row feast experience of Rosh Hashanah.

4- I've been pitching stories to some highly competitive magazines. Wish me luck (and give me work!)

Shabbat shalom.

Friday, September 26, 2008

On Tiberias, and the Chocolate Tour

I've got two articles in the "Israel Travel" supplement of The Jewish Week this week.

For some reason they are formatted badly online. Don't worry, in the print edition there are actually paragraph breaks.

Tips on what to do in Tiberias here. (Please excuse the repetition of the first paragraph - that's NOT the way I handed in the story!)

Chocolate-and-Charity Tour story here.
Wisdom of the "Natives"

I was so proud of myself, ages ago, when I introduced Treppenwitz to the Pe'air bakery. It's nice to have little insider secrets about what's good in one's city, which one only finds out after living there a while.

Last week, my brother-in-law was in Israel for business meetings, and we spent an afternoon together, shopping for gifts for my sister and eating out, catching up on news at home, etc. It was up to me to choose where to eat; his only criteria were "not dairy, and must be inside and air conditioned."

My first thought was Cafe Rimon, but when we got there, we looked at the menu they've set up outside, and it didn't look appealing. They don't have a business lunch, and spending 50+ shekels on food that I wasn't in the mood for just didn't do it for me.

So I led my brother-in-law through the labyrinth which is the Ben Yehuda pedestrian square and Yaffo Street, and then suddenly made a right through a gate in the street, down a dark alley.

"Are you sure this is the place?" Luiz asked.

"Trust me."

And suddenly, the dark alley became a quaint, old-fashioned courtyard, with restaurants lining each side.

We ate at Eldad VeZehoo, which I'd heard from others is one of the best restaurants in Jerusalem - and they were right. The service was good, the decor was great, and the food - YUM! (And yes, they have a business lunch deal.)

"I never would have found this place on my own," Luiz said. "For some things, you really need a native."

After five years, it's nice for someone to think of me as a native!

For those who want to share in the secret: The alley is at 31 Yaffo Street.

Shabbat shalom.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

For This, She Showered?

My roommate has been having a hard time the last few days, physically and emotionally. Among other things, she spent several hours in the emergency room recently because she's had debilitating back pain.

And now, this.

Before you read it, I just want to add that the guy she's talking about drove in from Holon . . .

(In my news: I spent Tuesday with my brother-in-law, who was in Israel for business meetings, and yesterday I spent with Sparky. I also picked up my new, frameless (more invisible/less funky than the old ones) glasses. This afternoon I'm trying to get some work done so I can, you know, earn money.)

Monday, September 22, 2008

Night and Day

My friend Chava went into the emergency room on Thursday at the suggestion of her doctor: tests had shown that she might have diabetes. Her husband, Marc, called me and asked for help. He had to go home to be with their little daughter, but Chava needed company overnight. Could I come?

Of course I could. Chava is one of my best friends AND when I'm sick, she comes to my aid all the time.

So I spent Thursday night at Hadassah Har Tzofim (Mount Scopus), first in the ER and then in the Intermediate Care unit. (She indeed has diabetes. Type I. Utter surprise for her and necessitating major lifestyle changes. A shock and a big adjustment . . . )

Then, on Friday, I came home and took a nap and showered and packed some more stuff, and went back to Har Tzofim to spend Shabbat there. Chava and Marc very generously booked a room for me and our other friend Gila at the nearby Regency hotel, so that we could sleep comfortably and still have a short walk to the hospital (since Orthodox Jews don't use cars on Shabbat).

Now, this is the second time I've spent Shabbat in a hospital. The first time was when my mother was hospitalized in Boston for over a week, and I flew back to the States to be with her because no one else in my family could do it at the time (long story).

Let me tell you, the difference between being a hospital guest in the States vs. Israel, if you are an observant Jew, is like night and day.

Let me preface this further by saying that Har Tzofim is not a particularly "Jewish" hospital. From what I could see, most of the patients and half the staff are Arab. In my 2.5 days there, I didn't see so many Jews, considering that it's Jerusalem.

However. In the States, since I couldn't leave the hospital during Shabbat, I slept on a couch rolled up in a sheet in the visitor's lounge in the hallway, underneath a blaring television which I couldn't turn off. I was on a high floor, so I didn't go outside at all because getting back up to the room would have been a royal pain. On Friday, the Young Israel of Brookline sent over catered, boxed Kosher meals for me, but finding a place to refrigerate them was an adventure. It was boring, and lonely, and incredibly depressing. (To be fair, I was alone, and my mother was unconscious most of the time, and in pain when she was awake, so the boredom was worse -- this time, Chava was awake and talkative most of the time, and Gila was there too.)

At Har Tzofim, visitors who are Sabbath observant are provided with mattresses and sheets, and allowed to sleep overnight on Friday night in doctors' offices, where one has a sink and a door one can lock. I was privileged that Chava and Marc could afford to put us up at the hotel, but what a relief to know that those without the means for the Hyatt can still sleep in a quiet, dark, private room on a real mattress.

Shabbat meals with singing, divrei Torah, and traditional (Ashkenazi) foods are served for dinner on Friday, lunch on Saturday, and seudat Shlishit, with Edah Charedit kashrut so that anyone can join. And indeed, everyone did: Men in shtreimels, men in blue-and-white kippot, and men who put on a kippah just for Shabbat. At my table there was a be-sheiteled woman from Mea Shearim whose father had had a stroke, a settler-looking labor coach spending Shabbat in the hospital because a client was in labor, a dati-leumi doctor from the pediatric ER; and two elderly patients in wheelchairs who were clearly haredi.

On Friday afternoon, patients and visitors may light their Shabbat candles at the nurses' stations. Someone comes around to say kiddush on each floor for anyone who wants to hear it -- same with Havdala on Saturday night. Traditional prayer services are conducted on the second floor. And there are "Shabbat elevators," which stop automatically on every floor.

Additionally, for Gila and me, there was the fact that the Regency is gorgeous, serves kosher food in the dining room, and also has Shabbat elevators. And the electric main door is "neutralized" for Shabbat.

Though I feel bad for Chava, and of course spending time in the hospital is stressful even for us guests, in an odd way it was all sort of fun, like some sort of twisted, but successful, Shabbaton. Gila, Chava and I had a great time indulging in "girl talk," there was lots of good, hot, kosher food easily available, the Regency was gorgeous . . . it was almost like camp.

Except that my friend is sick and was on an insulin drip.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Life Update

Nothing dramatically new to report. Just a quick update for the benefit of my friends and family:

1- Liza and I spent Shabbat at the home of Trilcat, whom neither of us had met before. She reads our blogs and invited us for Shabbat. A good time was had by all. The baby is adorable, and I became very good friends with Poofy the dog. Thanks, Trilcat and Trilcat's husband!

2- I signed up to go to a Shabbat meal this coming Friday night, for singles aged 30-45. I was so proud of myself for doing something proactive. Now the meal has been cancelled because not enough people signed up. :-( So I'm planning to go to Beth and Simcha instead.

3- Last night, Sarah Beth, Liza and I went to the Malcha Mall to see "Mama Mia!: The Movie." It was so much fun! I was dancing in my seat.

4- I just finished a few articles and am looking for new projects. Meanwhile, I'm busy re-organizing my closet.

5- My washing machine is broken! For real this time! It stopped in the middle of a cycle and now won't turn on at all. The repairman is in my bathroom at this very moment, working on it.

So you see, life is all thrills and chills in the Middle East.

P.S. The comments over at this post have become very interesting. Check it out!

P.P.S. Washing machine is fixed! The on/off button had burned out and is now replaced. Thrills and chills, people!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Meet Liz

Liz is one of my new favorite people.

She is a friend of my roommate, and now she is my friend too (I hope!)

Liz is an American. She is not Jewish. Her studies in linguistics in college led to an interest in Semitic languages, and she became impressively fluent in both Hebrew and Arabic. Then she decided to get an M.A. in Middle Eastern Studies, and got into Hebrew University, which is how she ended up in our neck of the woods.

To help with necessities like, oh, a place to live, Liz also became a part-time "professional volunteer" for a non-profit organization that runs a playground and rock-climbing facility for Palestinian children in the tiny, mostly Christian, Bethlehem suburb of Beit Sahour (otherwise known as "the middle of nowhere"). The job came with a cheap place to live and something interesting to put on her resume.

As a secular American living in PA-controlled territory and studying and hanging out in Israeli Jerusalem, speaking both Hebrew and Arabic, Liz has a unique -- and frankly, hysterically funny-- perspective on Arabs, Jews, and Arab-Israeli relations. I keep telling her she's got to start a blog, but she's too shy.

This is Liz, sitting in our kitchen:

Yes, she is well aware that she dresses like a mitnachelet (an Israeli settler). She has been told as much by many, many people. The scarf she has wrapped around her head in this photo, to protect herself against the sun at the Israeli folk festival she attended, completes the look. She doesn't mind being told she looks like a religious Jewish settler. She just says "Well, these are my clothes" and moves on with her day.

Liz sometimes sleeps over at our apartment, because traveling between Western Jerusalem and Beit Sahour is quite a trek. What with all the time she has spent at check-points, Liz now knows lots of useful Arabic phrases, which she has picked up from Israeli soldiers. Our favorite is "take your sheep and go home."

Anyhow, Liz sleeps over and uses the opportunity to read my Kitzur Shulchan Aruch on the laws of kashrut, which confuse her and which she wants to understand better. And then she regales us with tales of life on the other side.

Liz's visa ran out, and her volunteer job came to an end, and she's finished with her classes, so it looked like she'd have to go back to America for good. She spent a long time looking for a job which would allow her to get another visa (which she did, eventually). I asked her why, if she was pretty much done with her Master's, it was so important to her to come back.

She said "I didn't realize, when I signed up to come here, how much the people would come to mean to me. It didn't occur to me that I would love it here, and that I would feel so connected to this place and to the people."

What I love about Liz is that she meant this, completely and sincerely, both about her Christian and Muslim friends in Beit Sahour and about her Jewish friends in Jerusalem.

Liz is smart, entertaining, laid-back, and has a unique perspective, and I'm so happy she is coming back!

Can we please convince her to keep a blog?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Individual Citizen Effects Small But Helpful Change

Kudos to Rahel!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

What were they thinking?

Via Mom in Israel, a new video promoting tourism to Jerusalem, brought to us by the ever-out-of-touch folks at the Israel Ministry of Tourism.

The first 49 seconds are fine. After that . . . well, you'll see . . .

How is this video silly, misogynist, and fat-phobic? Let me count the ways . . .

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

An open letter to the municipal governments of Modiin Illit, Kiryat Sefer, Lapid, Matityahu, and Chashmonaim (and cc’ed to the Superbus company):

[If any of my readers would help me out by translating this letter into Hebrew and formatting it onto a Word document, ready to mail, I'd really appreciate it!]

I’m writing to complain about an aspect of service on the Superbus 310, 320, and 330 lines, which serve your area, and to urge you to either pressure Superbus to improve or to establish bus service with a different company


I take Superbus often on Fridays to visit friends in Chashmonaim for Shabbat. I have no choice but to take Superbus because there is no other affordable way to get from Jerusalem to Chashmonaim.

Time after time, the bus schedule posted at is outrageously inaccurate.

Sometimes it posts that the last bus is at one hour when in fact there are several buses afterward.

But more often, and more problematically, the website will say that the last bus leaves Sarei Yisrael Street at one hour when in fact the last bus is an hour before that. Having learned that this is often an issue, I sometimes try calling Superbus before I leave home to find out what time is the last bus, but there is no answer, even though Superbus service is, supposedly, still running.

This past Friday, for example, I checked the Superbus website, which said that several buses would leave Sarei Yisrael Street between 4 – 4:30 pm. I arrived at the bus stop at 3:50. No buses came after that time. I tried to call Superbus at about 4:10, but there was no answer. I called my friends in Chashmonaim, who said that another of their guests who had called the day before was told the last bus was at 3:30. If the last bus was at 3:30, why did the website say there were buses at 3:55, 4:10, 4:20, and 4:30?

Meanwhile, a crowd of people – I counted 23 at this bus stop alone – were discussing the fact that they needed to get to Kiryat Sefer, Matityahu, and Chashmonaim for Shabbat, while about a dozen Egged buses headed for other destinations passed by us. It is only because another would-be passenger went to the trouble of arranging a 15-seat private sherut at the last moment that I was able to get to my destination. However, there were still 8-9 people at the bus stop when I left, most of whom needed to get to Matityahu; I have no idea how, or if, they got where they needed to go.

In short, it has been my experience over the last few years that Superbus is far from “super,” and I urge you to exert pressure on them to:

a) update their website weekly with accurate scheduling information.

b) be available by telephone throughout the day to their customers, including on Fridays.

c) run buses on Fridays until 2 hours before Shabbat, as other bus companies do.

If they do not make accurate information more easily available, especially regarding the Friday schedule, I encourage you to give contracts to competing bus companies to provide service to your area.

Thank you for your attention.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Window into my sister's life

My nephew David is about 2 years old. I love talking to him on the phone.

Sarah (on the phone with her sister, Rivka): So then I . . .

Rivka: David! What are you doing?

[Sarah pauses]

David, in background: babble, babble

Rivka: What do you mean, you have yoghurt in your pocket? How did it get there?

David: I don’t know! babble babble

Rivka: Did you put it there on purpose? Did you put yoghurt in the pockets of your shorts?

David: Yeah!

Rivka: Why would you do that?

David: I don’t know! And babble babble babble

Rivka: What do you mean, you put yoghurt in your diaper? Do I have to change your diaper now?

[Sarah starts to laugh.]

Rivka: I have a sister working in a café like a grownup halfway around the world, and she’s laughing at my life.

Sarah: No, I’m laughing at David.

Rivka: Here, David, tell Doda what you did.

David, getting on phone: Doda!

Sarah: Hi, David!

David: babble babble yoghurt babble pocket babble diapah

Sarah: You put yoghurt in your pocket?

David: Yeah!

Sarah: And in your diaper?

David: Yeah!

Sarah: How does that feel?

David: Um . . . um . . . babble babble on poopose

Sarah: Does the yoghurt in your diaper feel good, or bad?

David: Bad! And babble babble Ima change diapah

Sarah: Now your Ima will give you a new diaper?

David: Yeah! Bye!

It occurs to me that cell phones and VOIP have completely changed the nature of knowledge one continues to have about one's family after one moves abroad.