Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Chilly willy

Up until a few years ago, central heating was considered a luxury in Israel. With the exception of most housing in the Jerusalem area, whose high altitude brought biting cold winters that often included snow, most people made due with space heaters, portable radiators, gas heaters, coil heaters, and the like, which more often than not did nothing but take the chill off, if that. Our town has bitter cold winter nights, and before we put in our heating system, I was utterly miserable as soon as the weather turned cold. I hated the fact that it was colder inside our house than out, and rainy days were simply a form of torture, spent huddled underneath a blanket, whether it be in the bedroom or the living room. It was absolutely wretched. The feelings were that since winters were “short” (hardly!), it didn’t pay to invest in decent heating. Same thing held true for air conditioning for the summer months. What a load of crap! The best thing we ever did was to install our central heating and air conditioning system, making all seasons bearable and comfortable.

As far as I can recall, all of my work places have had central heating and air as well (which is also the case in most public buildings like shopping malls, hotels, etc.), and I can remember not wanting to leave the warmth of my office for the cold and damp of my home. How lovely to be all nice and toasty warm when it’s oh so nippy beyond the windows, to not have to wear multiple layers, to not be forced to sit in front of the computer wearing gloves.

There is one strange anomaly in all of this, though. For some reason, bathrooms in Israel are not heated, whether it be in homes or in offices. Sure, many people put up a little heater on the wall, but not everyone does it (especially in guest ½ baths, nor in our very small en suite bathroom, though our full guest bathroom does have one), and offices certainly don’t. “Makes sense”, you say. “How much time do you really spend in there?” you ask. I say bull. Call me crazy (and some of you already have!), but frankly, when it comes down to it, why would you not put heat in one of the few rooms (and hopefully the only room in your office) that requires you to remove clothing? A vexing question to be sure, one that drives me to distraction these days as I enter the refrigerator-like facilities, where one could chill wine quite nicely, were one so inclined to do so (though I might be inclined to question one’s mental faculties, were one so inclined as to chill wine in the restroom). Not exactly the environment that screams, “drop your drawers”, I dare say.

This morning, I had the distinct “pleasure” to run out of hot water during my shower, which doesn’t often happen, as I’m usually the first one to shower. Today I was third, and I paid dearly. Of course, what made it even worse was that we’ve got no damn heat in the bathroom, as it’s so small and the ceilings are so low that there’s no place to put up a heater! And then, after quickly toweling off and coming out into what should have been a warm bedroom, I was dismayed to find it somewhat chilly, Husband having turned the heat towards the living room (quick explanation – heating system is divided into regions, the living room/kitchen area is one and the bedrooms make up the other. There’s a dial in the middle that allows us to direct the heat between these regions, and it can never be at 100% in both. Get it?) so that he and the little one wouldn’t be cold (a perfectly legitimate act). In any case, who was I to deprive the little one of heat, just so that I could be warm? If I'm ready to give my life for him, I'm certainly ready to share the heat with him.

I suppose I should be thankful that we’ve at least got a timer on the water heater, so we don’t have to get up in the middle of the night just to turn the thing on. That’s another crazy thing. Water temperature in most places is controlled by a hot water heater. Ours is solar, so in the summer, we don’t usually have to turn it on, and can just let the sun work its magic. In winter though, you’ve got to turn it on whenever you want hot water, at least an hour before you think you’ll need it, so that the water has a chance to heat up. If you don’t have a timer, it can be a major inconvenience. Of course, the big problem here is that it’s quite easy to run out of hot water, and unless you’re prepared to pay exorbitant electricity bills to keep your water heated all day long, you’re going to find yourself repeatedly losing feeling in your hands every time you need to wash them. It’s an especially refreshing experience at work, as you wash your hands with ice cold water while standing in a room cold enough to chill wine, and you actually feel elation as you leave the bathroom to return to the relative warmth of the rest of the office.

The joys of an Israeli winter. When I bought my winter coat several years ago in London, Husband just laughed, claiming that I would never use it. Needless to say, it is one of the staples of my winter wardrobe. It can get surprisingly cold here (especially while waiting for the train at 7am in Northern Israel!), but having grown up in a cold climate (much colder than Israel!), I learned early on that you simply have to know how to dress in order to stay warm. Of course, all rules go out the window when it comes to the bathroom, where the layers must come off for the trip to be successful. In Norway, in addition to the room being heated, the bathroom floors are actually heated as well. In England, our towel racks were heated. For Israel, I propose a drastic, yet revolutionary measure – heated toilet seats, anyone? Perhaps I’m talking out of my ass on this one, but seriously, how great would that be? Definitely not a shitty idea, no sirree, Bob! Would just require a wee bit of design. Any engineers out there care to take this on? Come on now, don’t be sissies! The person who succeeds with this will surely make millions – definitely not a bum deal, eh?

Okay, enough is enough. I’ve made you laugh, I’ve made you groan. Suffice it to say, I’ve done my duty, and, feeling a little flushed, I think I’ll take my leave, before this post drains my mind any further. Hey, stay warm out there (and of course, in there)!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Happy Festivus to all, and to all a good night...

I feel very fortunate to have grown up in a multicultural society. My friends were Jews and non-Jews, Asian, South American, Greek, and so on. You get the picture. A veritable United Nations. Growing up in such an environment allows you to be exposed to so many different and exciting things, whether it be foods, customs, holidays, etc. It was a wonderful experience. Of course, living in Israel has exposed me to many different kinds of Jews, but in some ways, it’s just not the same. I mean sure, the Persians, the Moroccans and the Iraqis each have their own customs, their own ways of celebrating the Jewish holidays, and sure, it’s interesting, but when it comes down to it, I mean, when it really comes down to it, what do I miss? Christmas.

Yep, I miss Christmas. I miss the lights dancing in the trees and bushes, seeing the Christmas trees through the living room windows (and you shouldn’t infer that I’m a peeping tom, I’m referring to those trees that can be seen from the street), I miss the music, I miss the festive feeling in the air. I suppose that some aspects would be similar to the feelings that we get here in the period leading up to holidays like Rosh Hashanah, but it’s not quite the same. Of course, I didn’t actually celebrate Christmas in the truest sense. I mean, it’s not like we had a Christmas tree or anything. I miss the feeling of Christmas. The excitement of Christmas. I miss going to the neighbors’ Christmas parties. I miss eggnog. I miss watching “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” I miss going out for Chinese food and a movie with all the other Jews (when one of my Israeli friends relocated to the US a few years ago, I explained the Jewish traditions vis a vis Christmas and he thought I was kidding. Later on, when I asked him what he’d be doing over the Christmas holiday, surprise, take-out Chinese food, and renting movies with friends, or perhaps some skiing, the other favorite Jewish pastime on Christmas. He even went so far as to admit that he hadn’t believed me, until he actually witnessed it with his own eyes.).

My fondest Christmas memories were created with my best friend and her family. For years I would go to her house in the days and weeks before the holiday, helping her family to decorate the tree, while lovely Christmassy music played in the background (care to remind me what the music was, my dear?). To this day, whenever I drink Chamomile tea, its taste comforts me, taking me back to those tree decorating days, when we’d all sit around the living room, drinking tea and admiring our work. There were even years when they would schedule the decorating so that it coincided with my trips home from university (thanks for that, guys!), or at least leaving it up after the holiday long enough for me to see it, if I hadn’t been able to make the decorating session.

Being the inquisitive lass that I was, I even went with my friend to Midnight Mass one year, just to see what it was like. Well, it was beautiful. A church full of happy people dressed in their holiday clothes, celebrating the birth of Jesus. I enjoyed the singing, the spirituality of the evening. I enjoyed watching (and participating) as everyone offered good wishes to those around them, as part of the service. And, for those of you who are worried, you needn’t be. You’ll be pleased to know that when the time came to take communion, I decided against it (visions of the church falling down around me while being repeatedly struck by lightning if I did so was the primary deciding factor).

Now here I am, living in Israel. The Holy Land. The land where it all began. Christmas is distant, and it just feels wrong. Needless to say, there’s no snow on the ground, only big dirty puddles. No Christmas lights so blinding that you’re not even sure if there are bushes underneath. No overdone Christmas/Nativity scenes. Call me crazy (go on, most of you do anyway!), but I miss it all (well, not all. I can certainly do without the “mall” music). A large chunk of the world is building up a feverish holiday frenzy, and here in Israel, we go about our daily business as if nothing is happening (same thing happens with New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, but that’s for another blog entry). To keep myself entertained, I periodically play a selection of Christmas songs on my computer, running the gamut from the original Band Aid tune to various Muppet Christmas ditties, and needless to say, a punchbowl full of eggnog certainly wouldn’t hurt.

In any event, us folks over here at something something wish all of our readers who choose to celebrate a Merry Christmas. And, given that Chanukah begins on Christmas day (how terribly convenient!), Happy Chanukah to all of our Chanukah-celebrating readers! Or perhaps we should just wish you all a Happy Festivus

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Bumps and Bruises in the Blogosphere

The Internet can be a wonderful place. Through this blog, I’ve been able to connect with other bloggers from all over the world. I’ve discovered like-minded Israeli bloggers such as this one and this one, exchanged hopes for peace with Jordanian bloggers like this individual or this one, discovered some interesting Norwegian bloggers who seem to share my world outlook and sardonic sense of humor, and joined forces in a battle against evil with the folks over here. And these are just a few of my regular reads. This blogger makes me cry with laughter on a regular basis, and the writings of this blogger never fail to entertain.

It’s been an enjoyable ride, though certainly not without its bumps and bruises along the way. I enjoy the writing immensely, the often fascinating exchanges of ideas on a veritable plethora of topics. Blogging fills a void for me, providing me with the opportunity to write creatively (and often provocatively) that I so desperately need. I’ve learned a lot about myself and about others, and discovered the awesome power of the written word. Through the blogosphere, I’ve seen how good people can be, Arabs and Israelis who truly believe in peace, people who brilliantly use their blogs to try to break down the barriers and the stereotypes. It’s writers like her and those mentioned above who give me hope for the future, hope that we can come to understandings with our neighbors, that we can stop the bloodshed and work towards what I hope is the common goal of peace for our region and mutual respect for all its inhabitants.

Of course, alongside the good that the Internet brings, there is bound to be bad as well, people who use their blogs and websites as platforms for spewing hate, people whose primary goals seem to include spreading divisive propaganda as truth. I am sadly awed by the depths of their hatred, their rudeness, the lengths to which they will go in order to publicize their own agendas even in the most incorrect of forums. It is clearly not enough for these individuals to promote their twisted cause via their own sites, as they purposely seek out other forums simply to create a furor, hijacking the blogs of others and sprinkling them with noxious comments in order to do so, and then crying foul when the predictable flurry of angry responses begins to flow. Sometimes the comments are simply left for shock value, but in other instances, the agenda is quite clear.

What brought this post on, do you ask? There has been a recent flurry of vitriolic commenting on one of my favorite blogs. The writer of this blog portrays herself as liberal, a strong believer in the possibilities for peace. She writes beautifully about her experiences, her encounters with a wide variety of Israelis and Palestinians, presenting their stories without judging, and providing a window for her readers into events that they might otherwise never get to see. Her frequent descriptions of life in Gaza and the West Bank have raised the ire of right-leaning Israelis and Jews in the Diaspora, and have earned her no small amount of vicious comments, as have many of the more left-leaning blogs including this one. It is for this reason that I’m puzzled as to why certain individuals chose her blog, of all the blogs in the Israeli blogosphere, to hijack. These individuals espouse beliefs that are intolerable to most left-leaning Israelis, and their comments provoke both sadness and anger, so malicious are they. Comments that leave no room for discussion, written for the sole purpose of provocation, or so it would seem, based on the wording and the intended audience. There is no point in trying to reason with these individuals, as they are not there to reason or to share opinions, but you just can’t help yourself, because you simply cannot believe that not only does such hatred exist, but it is literally being shoved in your face, right in your very own home.

While I do read some blogs whose content I don’t always agree with, I continue to visit those blogs because they are well-written – they make me think, and sometimes they make me smile. I read them because somewhere in there, there is room for common ground, something to agree on. If there is no common ground or nothing to make me smile, then there’s no reason for me to be there. You will never find me lurking around a blog that questions Israel’s right to exist. I would not be welcomed, and I would probably find nothing but aggravation and frustration. What would be the point? Even at my most liberal, I would have nothing to “positively” contribute, so why bother? In such an environment, I imagine that my comments would cause nothing but trouble, would be met with harsh responses and jibes. Why willingly subject one’s self to attack in what would clearly be a hostile atmosphere?

In much the same way that I seek certain qualities in my friends, I seek certain qualities in a blog and in its writer. Aside from a few demonstrations in my long-forgotten university days, I would never actively seek out and join a group of people whose opinions I despise for the sole purpose of pissing them off, so why do it in a blog? Maybe people do it because it’s easy, or because it’s exciting, but what does that say about you as a person? What does that say about the standards to which you hold yourself as an individual?

Sad is the person who derives their greatest joy from upsetting others.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Food glorious food

When I started the new job, did I happen to mention the free food in the company dining room? Breakfast is wonderful – eggs, cheeses, fresh vegetables, different breads and cereals, smoked fish. Should I go on? I thought not. No complaints whatsoever about breakfast (though sometimes I can’t find a fruit-flavored Actimel yogurt beverage, and am forced to forego, as I don’t like the plain flavor). And, if breakfast isn’t enough, everyday at 4:00 in the afternoon, fruit and cake is served. Nice, huh?

Then, there is lunch. Some days have a more obvious theme. For instance, I know that today will be sushi day, when they bring in sushi from one of the local Japanese restaurants (note to self – go to lunch on time!). The other day we had meat day (most days are dairy). Yet on some days, the theme is a bit more difficult to ascertain. I believe that yesterday was brown food day. Quiche, kuggel, vegetarian shwarma and steamed vegetables consisting of onion, eggplant and cabbage. The fish dish was the only exception, being that it was in a bright red sauce (hraimeh), which I avoided like the plague. Not one of our more successful meals. One colleague, looking as though she was about to cry, vowed on the spot to go out for lunch today, until we discovered that today will be sushi day. Another popular theme seems to be carbohydrate day, when the meal consists of a veritable plethora of different dishes such as rice, potatoes, pasta, and quiche. Mushroom day is another biggie, when all the dishes on offer seem to contain mushrooms. Fortunately, I love mushrooms, so wasn’t too put off (despite the fact that it was probably mushroom and carbohydrate day). One of the meat themed days was particularly depressing. I’m not a big fan of meat to begin with, so needless to say, I did not do so well on luncheon meat day.

The strange thing about all of this is that whenever the topic of food comes up in conversation, it turns out that everyone is thinking about losing weight, has lost weight, or is currently trying to lose weight – including at least one of the women in the kitchen. Everyone wants healthier food, or at least healthy alternatives to the current selections. Sometimes, I tell myself that I will head straight for the salads, and only once I’ve mostly filled my plate there, return to the “nasty” stuff. It never works though, as the salad choices are less than tantalizing, and certainly not worthy of filling an entire plate. I usually try to limit myself to one carbohydrate per lunch, but on carbohydrate day, it’s an exercise in futility.

During the interview process and my first few days here, I was warned that whenever people begin working here, they initially put on weight, not unlike the long forgotten days of the “freshman 15”, which refers to the weight put on by incoming university freshmen who are suddenly faced with dining room meal plans, late night food runs and the like. In those days, I didn’t have to worry about things like the freshman 15. I was only betrayed by my metabolism after university. My academic years were spent chowing down on alarming quantities of pizza, lots of pasta (after all what else did we know how to cook?), desserts, copious amounts of Chinese and Indian food, frequent visits to McDonalds when it was practically downstairs from my dorm room, alcohol (though admittedly less than most of my peers, never having been a big drinker), and so on. Aside from running around campus between classes, meetings, etc., I was quite the sedentary individual, yet despite the winning combination of heavy food and total lack of exercise, I gained no weight, even losing at times.

Ever the slim one, it came as quite a kick in the ass to discover that said ass had widened and deferred to gravity, and I now had a problem. I yoyo-ed up and down the scale (mostly up) for a number of years, and finally managed to bring myself down to a most respectable weight before and then again after my pregnancy, and have more or less managed to maintain the weight for over a year now. It’s still a constant struggle, and the company dining room is definitely not helping! Haven’t gained any weight since I’ve been here, but on the other hand, I haven’t lost any either, which is what I’d like to do. Nothing radical, just another 2-4 kilos to get down to my optimal weight (and after having lost more than 10 kilos in recent years, this is indeed a paltry amount). Unfortunately, unless radical changes are made to the dining room menu, I don’t see any health-themed days in our future, and may have to resort to more “out of pocket” experiences, popping over to any one of a number of cafes and salad/sandwich places in search of the simple, healthy food I know I should be eating crave.

Thursday, December 08, 2005


As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’ve been in Israel for quite some time now. My Hebrew is decently fluent, and I usually feel comfortable conversing on a variety of subjects. I may not understand every word, but I almost always get the gist. I converse with my colleagues in Hebrew, I’ve dealt with doctors and emergency situations in Hebrew, I argue in Hebrew. I just had a conversation with the woman sitting across from me on the train in Hebrew, about the computer that I’m using. I think in Hebrew and I dream in Hebrew, but there’s one thing I have yet to do in Hebrew, and it looks like I’m going to have to, due to an unfortunate series of circumstances. I know you’re all going to laugh, but in all my years here, I’ve never gotten a haircut in Hebrew. I don’t know the terminology, and the thought of it makes me quake in my boots, right to the tips of my (extremely) split ends.

It all began when I was nine years old. My mom made me get my hair cut short, and it traumatized me for life. I wore a hat to school for ages, and refused to take it off, and I have never gotten my hair cut short since. For years, I would have nightmares; I dreamed that people would hold me down and cut my hair short. I dreamed that I would go to sleep with long hair and wake up with short hair. I dreamed that I would request a trim, only to look in the mirror and see that I’d been shorn. As a result, whenever I’ve found a hairdresser who I’ve liked, I’ve stuck with them for as long as possible, no matter how inconvenient. Since I’ve been in Israel, I’ve used a hairdresser in Jerusalem. He’s a native English speaker, so I knew that nothing could get lost in translation (an old college friend who was fluent in French decided to get a haircut while in France. She asked for highlights, and ended up looking like Barbie.). He’s just as relaxed and laid back as I am, and I knew he’d never do anything that didn’t suit me. He accepted my paranoia and worked around it, and for the first time in a long time, I didn’t wake up the day after the haircut wondering what the hell I’d done. The happiness I derived from each session far outweighed the inconvenience of getting there, despite the fact that I live two hours away, but it was still tricky nonetheless, made even more so after my son was born, and my time became even more limited. When he switched salons, I even switched with him. That’s how dedicated I was.

It’s been a year and a half since I’ve been to see “my guy” (having made do with interim solutions in the meantime), and I called yesterday to make an appointment. Much to my utter dismay and surprise, I found out that he had left the salon two weeks ago, and didn’t leave a forwarding number. I suppose I could be industrious and track him down. I imagine it shouldn’t be too difficult. I find myself in a dilemma. Do I track him down and continue to be faithful, despite the inconvenience, or do I take this as a sign to finally move on, to make a clean break and find someone closer to home who can fulfill my hair care needs? With a heavy heart, I lean towards the latter, as the distance has become too much of a burden.

Where to look, though? I work in Tel Aviv, so this would seem a natural choice, given that I imagine the options in my own area would be more limited. A few friends have suggested various options in Raanana, and I am tempted, though that too, would not be the most convenient. So now, to the crux of this post. I am opening up the floor to suggestions and recommendations, in the hope that some of our Tel Aviv-based readers can help. We’re looking for a nice, laid back person, preferably a native English speaker (though this isn’t a deal breaker), preferably with a good sense of humor (they would need one to deal with me), and preferably someone who won’t charge an arm and a leg. If they offer complimentary coffee to customers while they wait, I’d consider it a big plus. Oh, and obviously, they should give a good haircut, and not feel the need to unleash their own creative energies during the session.

So, what say you, people?

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Yalla, Kadima, or… Ode to a Mustache

The game is on, the scene’s been set. The players playing without a net.

Politicians running to and fro – no one knows which way they’ll go!

We watch in awe, we watch with glee, for who knows what next we’ll see?

Sharon and Peres, Peres and Sharon, wish they’d realize their crows have flown.

With all due respect, their time has passed. How long can their careers really last?

Perhaps it’s time for someone new. Mr Mustache, could it be you?

The parties are changing, the Likud’s in a snit – their ranks have really taken a hit!

The faces in Labor are changing as well – Yechimovitch and Braverman, too many to tell.

Then there’s Kadima – the biggest surprise!

Politicians are joining from far and from near – opportunists the lot, it’s really quite clear!

We wait and we watch. We watch and we wait. To join up with Sharon is to seal one’s own fate.

More changes to come, of this I’ve no doubt. Excitement is what the game’s all about!

Who will go and who will stay? Place your bets, there’s politics to play!

Three months of posturing – it’s what lies ahead. Everyone knows there's much more to be said!

Finally, but finally, it’s gotten exciting, and not in a way that’s depressing and frightening.

Shunted aside are the scandals and bribes, in favor of intrigue and positive vibes.

The public can feel it, the change in the air. So much going on, and suddenly we care!

One thing’s for certain, one thing is clear - Yalla, Kadima! The mustache is here!

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Shirking Responsibility 101 - A required course for Israeli bureaucrats at all levels

Even after so many years in Israel, there’s one thing that happens here that still amazes me, despite the frightening degree of regularity with which it takes place. It’s that unwavering ability to wait for something horrible to happen, and only then to react with shock and dismay that the event happened in the first place. The signs are all there, of course, but those in charge repeatedly choose to ignore them. It happened with the Versailles wedding hall, it happened with the Maccabiah bridge, and these days, it’s happening in our schools. Bureaucrats are playing with the lives of our children, ignoring the signs and failing to take action. It is a travesty in the making, and if action isn’t taken soon, the children will pay the price.

My friend A has been at the forefront of a battle against the school board in the Sharon area town of Kfar Yona (there are many similar stories, and Yediot Ahronot’s Hebrew website has even created framework forpublishing these stories via public complaints). His daughter is a first-grader at the Amal school there, which has been turned into a treacherous construction site. What originally began as a battle waged by the parents over asbestos ceilings has turned into a situation where the school grounds have turned into a perilous obstacle course. One part of the school has been torn down and preparations have been made to begin reconstruction, which will, of course, take place while school is in session, subjecting the students endless noise distractions, not to mention the inevitable increase in dust levels that accompany all such work.

Promises have been broken right, left and center; it was agreed upon that certain aspects of the work would take place and be completed during the holidays, when school was not in session, but it seems that they’ve been unable to stick to the timetable. A fence was supposed to be erected to keep the children away from the construction site, which is currently a large, two-meter deep hole in the ground (and contains additional narrow 12-meter deep holes for poles to be inserted). The fence has been erected, but it is not complete, has holes in it (including a gate that allows people to enter the school grounds freely, contradicting local laws designed for security reasons), and was built too close to the hole, a fact that became quite evident following recent rains that shifted the sands in which the fence was erected, creating a situation where the fence threatens to topple into the hole itself. As a result of this dangerous situation, the children were forced to remain in their classrooms all day long, and were not allowed to go outside during breaks.

In the midst of this big balagan (mess), the local council is claiming that everything is going according to plan and that all security precautions are being taken. Was this the case when tragedy was narrowly averted the day a tree cut down by the workers fell over the fence and into the school yard? What a miracle that no children were hurt, given that it occurred DURING school hours! A and the other parents have been waging this battle for their children’s safety since July (who can blame A for not wanting to send his daughter to school on a construction site?), and have met with little success as all agreements have been ignored, all promises broken, and all concerns belittled?

This situation is a tragedy waiting to happen. All it will take will be for one curious and industrious child to make his way to the other side of the fence. After all, isn’t such an obstacle merely an invitation to these children? Who wouldn’t want to take a look to see what was happening? Who among us hasn’t tried to steal a look between the gaps in a fence to see what was on the other side? In this case, the results could be disastrous, even fatal. I can already see the recriminations, the passing of blame that so many Israelis in positions of power seem to be so good at in situations like these. As is par for the course, they will claim that they didn’t know. That all security regulations were being met. That something unexpected must have gone wrong. But none of that will matter, as a child may be injured or dead. The nation will be shocked and outraged, will demand that something be done. And something probably will be done, but it will be some token measure, taken to pacify an outraged public. The cycle is sadly predictable. We will move on to other issues, and everyone will forget about what happened in Kfar Yona. And then, once this tragic episode is firmly behind us and forgotten, the nation will once again rise up in awe and anger when it happens again, because someone chose to shirk their responsibilities until it was too late.

For more info on this situation, check out this link from the local Kfar Yona newspaper (in Hebrew), or this article that appeared in Haaretz back in August (it's the story entitled "Parents protest overcrowding during school reconstruction").

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Expat Musings...

For nearly 15 years, I’ve been an expat living in Israel, absorbing the culture and doing my best to assimilate. It hasn’t always been easy, though overall, I think I’ve managed to do a pretty decent job. It’s taken some time, but I’ve managed to build myself a network of friends and acquaintances, many of whom are even Israeli; I live in a Hebrew-speaking community (as opposed to one of the English-speaking enclaves like Raanana, Jerusalem, or any one of a number of settlements); I speak and read nearly fluent Hebrew (though admittedly, my writing leaves something to be desired), and even dream in Hebrew on occasion. I can understand the news (as much as one can understand the news here, anyway), I can make people laugh (intentionally!), and I can argue with the best of ‘em. My life is here, and for the most part, I’m happy.

And yet, when it comes down to it, I am, and probably always will be, American. My formative years were spent in the US (I moved here after graduating from university), and as settled and as comfortable as I am here, I will probably always feel a little more comfortable there. Not for lack of trying, you understand. It’s simply a fact. There is a big difference between growing up in a culture and learning to adapt to a culture. What came naturally to me in the US is not necessarily par for the course in Israel, and vice versa (in a really big way!) with regard to the norms I’ve internalized in my adopted culture. And, with all that I have going for me here, there is always that pull to go back to the US, even if only for a few years. Since my first trip to Israel, I have never felt 100% in either place – always being drawn to one when I am in the other. Perhaps it would be different if I had opted for a country whose culture is more similar to American culture (I could certainly see myself living very happily in England, uber-Anglophile that I am…), but then again, perhaps not.

At times, I feel limited as a foreigner, a non-native speaker; limited in my work choices, limited in my study options, severely limited in my ability to understand Israel’s greatest comedic/cultural icons – Hagashash Hachiver (as fluent as I am, the nuances and cultural references simply escape me – Husband has given up trying to help me understand)… Granted, mother-tongue English is often quite desirable here, but usually only in very specific sectors like hi-tech. If my interests were in a different direction, I might not feel so restricted. However, I can’t help it. I want to write. My Hebrew writing will never reach the levels of my English writing, so essentially, I’m screwed. It’s the deal I accepted when deciding to move to a non-English speaking country, a decision that I’ve chosen to live with. All part of being an expat, I suppose.

Hands down, though, the hardest part of being an expat is the altered dynamic between yourself and those you’ve left behind. My whole family still lives in the US – I miss births, deaths, weddings, family reunions, etc, as do they (we postponed our son’s brit for two days after he was born a week early, so that my parents could be here for the big event). Visits are high-pressured affairs, as we try to cram as much as we can into two or three-week stints once or twice a year, generally invading each other’s personal space and getting on each other’s nerves with a degree of regularity that could compete with the precision of a Swiss watch.

Then, of course, there are the friends who are no longer physically a part of your daily life. People with whom you have actively chosen to forge emotional ties, who are suddenly forced into the periphery of your new, distant life. People who you’ve left behind, people who have left you behind. A natural part of the life cycle, for sure, but painful nonetheless, and with a greater degree of finality when you live in different countries. My best friend in the world is also an expat – an American living in Europe. We’ve been friends since high school, and have lived our lives on parallel tracks. She has enriched my life in so many ways, seen me at my best and gotten me through my worst, given of herself in ways that have touched me more than I could ever express in words. We are in touch on an almost daily basis, whether by phone, email, SMS (when I got my new cell phone last year, I opted for GSM so that we would be able to text each other, and I specifically inquired as to the cost of text messages to the country where she lives), etc. It’s not the same as being there, though. Knowing exactly what she’s doing on a given evening or weekend is not the same being an active participant in the activity, and though we are still very close, the fact that she is not physically present in my life leaves a gaping hole. I’ve made some very close friends here, but it’s just not the same.

Anyway, I’ve rambled on here much more than I ever intended to do, and as I read what I’ve just written, I realize that it’s actually quite depressing. I just want to make it clear – I am happy here, happy with the life I’ve chosen (or the life that’s chosen me, depending on how you look at it). It’s not always an easy life, but it’s certainly an exciting one. It’s exciting to live in a country that’s small enough to allow its regular citizens to have their say and make a difference. We’ve got the greatest reality show in the world – the world of Israeli politics (nobody could simply make up the stories that unfold here on a regular basis!). We have socialized medicine (for better or worse). We have amazing coffee. I can wear jeans to work everyday if I want. Yet despite all of that, I just want a little more sometimes. Nothing wrong with that, is there?

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Terror in Jordan

I know I've already posted today, but I just wanted to condemn the latest in a series of attacks perpetrated by Al Qaeda, designed to sow fear and terror and destroy innocent lives. This latest attack, this time targeting the people of Jordan, has served to show that these fanatics will stop at nothing, and no one is immune. My hope is that this will finally act as a wake up call to those who have remained silent in the face of such acts. Terror must be condemned and fought in all of its forms, or the terrorists will win and the global community will cease to exist as we know it. My sympathies go out to the Jordanian people, and my prayers are with the victims and their families.

Laboring over Israeli politics

Israel woke up this morning to discover that a revolution had occurred in the Labor party. Shimon Peres is to Israeli politics what Susan Lucci is to the daytime Emmy awards in the United States – always a candidate, yet no matter how deserving, never a winner. In yesterday’s Labor party elections, Amir Peretz, who is also the chairman of the Histadrut labor union, managed to pull off a victory, beating Mr Peres by winning 42% of the vote to Mr Peres’ 40%, with Binyamin Ben Eliezer trailing too far behind to even be noticed.

I have great respect Mr Peres. I share his beliefs and admire his courage. His ability to be a true statesman and a politician whose goal actually seems to be to make Israel a better, safer place for all its inhabitants (instead of the tendency of most Knesset members who only seem to want to improve their own lives) makes him a rarity in today’s political scene. The man has worked tirelessly on behalf of the country, promoting its interests abroad, and striving for peace. He has led an incredible life, and has created a legacy of hope, of optimism, of courage to fight for belief in the greater good, never giving up even when the odds are stacked in the wrong direction. Mr Peres is to be commended for his actions. There is no other politician in Israeli today who embodies the true spirit of politics. Whether one likes or dislikes his beliefs, it is hard to deny that he is an elegant, elder statesman in the truest sense, and that if more politicians behaved as he has, Israeli politics would be quite a bit more civilized.

Part of me believes that the time has come for Mr Peres to leave the crumbling world of the Labor party and focus his efforts elsewhere, as there must be many areas and realms in which his talents would receive the proper appreciation, given that he has been so dreadfully underappreciated in Israeli politics throughout his career. Then there is the other part which is reluctant to see him go. The Labor party is already in tatters, and despite Mr Peretz’ recent win, I do not see him or any other prominent party activists who are suitable to pull the party out of the mire in which it has been swimming for quite some time now. There doesn’t seem to be anyone else capable of successfully leading the party, let alone leading the country.

All of this leads me to one final thought. If Mr Peretz should be elected Prime Minister, will he finally be forced to resign as chairman of the Histadrut, a position he has retained throughout his tenure as a Knesset member, or will he be able to continue to perpetuate this absolutely astounding conflict of interest, organizing labor strikes for the most absurd reasons and paralyzing the country he leads? I can hardly wait to see how the latest chapter in the soap opera known as the Israeli government unfolds.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Spine Chiller

Before I get started, this is in no way a political post leaning leftwards, but I'm sure the odd idiot out there will take exception to something or other I, if you are an idiot, please read no further.

Tomorrow sees the 10th anniversary of the Rabin assassination. Can you remember where you were 10 years ago tomorrow?

Crazy, eh? 10 whole years, 10 years since we heard those spine-chilling words read from the PM's spokesman at the entrance to Ichilov hospital in Tel Aviv, pronouncing the death of Rabin, followed by cries of despair from the crowds surrounding him. I don't do spine-chilling much, as She might vouch, but this is a moment which almost gets my tear-ducts juicing up...

I'm guessing most of you (at least those in Israel, or those connected in some way to Israel) know exactly where you were when you first heard the news that Rabin had been shot. I know exactly where I was. I was shopping with my then girlfriend, as it was actually her birthday, and we had gone out to celebrate. Don't remember where we'd been before we walked into Super-Pharm (and don't remember her much, if I'm honest, though every Rabin anniversary flashes me back to this moment when we were together) but we heard some of the cashiers talking about somebody getting shot. When we asked, they looked at us in surprise: "What, you didn't hear? Rabin was shot!"

I remember us making our way back to her parents' place (unable to talk as we were on the back of my scooter, and probably numb with nothing to say anyway) and entering a noisy house complete with TV blaring. My girlfriend's father had his head in his hands and was mumbling to himself that he wished he hadn't said the things he'd said about Rabin. As you can guess, her father leaned so far to the right he was walking on three limbs...

It wasn't long before the confirmation of Rabin's death came through and the trauma that was solely Israel's was underway. Who can't forget the endless crowds at Kikar Malchei Israel (eventually renamed Kikar Rabin), the candlelight vigils, the tearful kids that seemed to take it the hardest, the funeral procession, Clinton's magical "Shalom Haver" ("Goodbye, friend") quote. And then, we moved into the blame process, with endless stories of conspiracies, undercover agents, "rabid right-wingers" and "looney lefties"...and despite the trauma, a cleverly-waged election campaign from Netanyahu saw the right-wing Likud take over the governmental reins only a few months after Rabin's death. Oslo and any dreams of peace were dead and buried for now.

You know what's most galling about this 10th anniversary? That his killer, Yigal Amir, the one with that arrogant sneer that really needs wiping off, is still in the headlines. What with his ambitions of procreating with his nutter groupie of a wife and fresh announcements of a cover up, he still fronts our newspapers, still has his face greeting me when I access news websites...

10 years on and there are still people who don't appear to have learned. Conspiracy theories still abound, but it looks like most are clutching at straws. A myth has been created, even Rabin himself has become a myth and comes out smelling like a true hero, despite his obvious flaws. I'm a big advocate of free speech, but how this guy is getting away with publishing his theories and doctored pics of Peres, I don't know. Sad stuff.

10 years on, eh?

Well, do you remember where you were when you heard Rabin was shot?

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

It's all in the dough...

Now that the disengagement is behind us, it seems that the Israeli government has returned to its previous routine of devising ways to screw the weaker sectors of society, while rewarding those situations are somewhat less precarious.

As of today, the price for a loaf of bread will rise by 6.57 percent. According to an article on the Haaretz website, the primary reason given for this increase is that gasoline costs have recently risen by 131 percent. Huh? Excuse me? I could understand if the rise in bread prices was due to rising costs of flour, which I believe may have been the reason given behind previous increases (please correct me if I'm wrong, my mind is a bit hazy this morning), but to connect it to the rising cost of gasoline sounds absurd, especially in light of the fact that the same article mentions that also as of today, the petrol prices decrease by 10%. I'm sure those individuals who can barely afford to buy bread at current prices, let alone own a car, will be thrilled to know that while a loaf of fresh bread may now be beyond their means, a liter of gasoline is now within their grasp. Kudos to the government for this savvy little agreement!

And, for some of those struggling to buy bread, the folks over at the Finance Ministry have decided give them yet another kick in the teeth by not allowing the Israel Association of Community Centers to run its successful enrichment programs for some 5000 disadvantaged children, many of whom are immigrants.

The article states,

"Suspending the supplementary study program, known by its Hebrew acronym PELE, is another attempt by the treasury's Yaron Zelekha to issue tenders for all IACC programs - a move that will lead to its privatization. Zelekha claims the IACC
is a monopoly that undermines free competition. The IACC warns that privatizing it would deal a severe blow to the populations it serves, including new immigrants, people with disabilities and the elderly."

Once again the government is playing games with the lives of Israel's disadvantaged, and this act is a particularly vicious blow, as it targets the children. To curtail activities aimed at lifting these young individuals out of poverty and giving them tools to succeed, the government is doing nothing but perpetuating this devastating cycle and denying these children the chance to eventually become successful, productive members of society, instead simply leaving them to languish in their disadvantaged, difficult lives, with little hope for improvement. What makes this issue even more tragic is that the primary beneficiaries of these programs are the children of immigrants, who carry the additional baggage of cultural differences and difficulties assimilating into Israeli society. Instead of doing all it can to help these children feel Israeli, the government has essentially chosen to play games.

When trying to save children, every moment is precious. To squander an opportunity is to negatively affect the future of our children - in effect, endanger our future as a country. When will the government learn that it cannot continue to allow the weak sectors to become even weaker, while the rich become even stronger? We are a tragedy in the making, and if the government continues in this direction, we shall become our own greatest enemy.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Ode to a City

Who’d have guessed it? I’ve fallen in love, and it feels so good! The sights, the sounds, the people (well, obviously not all the people, and certainly not in an individual, sexual sort of way! Get your minds out of the gutter, people!)! That’s right, I’ve fallen in love with Tel Aviv! I know what you’re saying. You think it’s too soon. I’ve been on the new job for less than a week. You’re thinking that I’m still in the honeymoon period, that chinks in the armor will start to show soon enough. Okay, I’ll grant you that it’s certainly a possibility, but only as something in the vague, distant future. Not something that’s going to happen today, tomorrow, next week, etc. For now, this is it. The real deal. The tingly feeling (or is that a Fimbley Feeling? Too many hours spent viewing the kiddie shows on BBC Prime, no doubt…) I get when crossing the bridge from the train station, the adrenaline rush as I power walk through the streets towards my office (which may very well be connected to the caffeine buzz I pick up while inhaling the large, low-fat cappuccino I grab each morning at Ilan’s Café). Oh, and did I mention the magnificent vistas from the 7th floor patio of our office, with sweeping views of Tel Aviv? I know it sounds so cliché, but on a clear day, I can even see the sea! Oooh! It’s just so lovely!

Of course, with all due respect to those of you who actually live in the city, I’m not sure that I could live there, as attractive as it seems at times. I like my quiet and I like my space, both of which are at a premium in Tel Aviv. Still, I’ve been spending quite a bit of time there of late, and find that I’m sometimes envious of those who don’t have to tramp back to the suburbs at night, those who can step out of their homes directly into the hustle and bustle, with restaurants and shops at every turn. I mean, shit! How exciting must that be?! Don’t get me wrong, I love where I live. However, you can’t really walk anywhere, and the public transport is less than stellar. And despite the fact that we’ve got a number of shops open on Saturdays, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I sometimes wish for something more. I mean, not that I’m expecting a food festival or love parade, all I’m saying is that it might be nice if things were a bit livelier.

And Tel Aviv is definitely a happening place. Why, in my own little adopted corner of it, there are a veritable plethora of restaurants to suit all sorts of tastes, at least one excellent coffee place (as mentioned above), an assortment of shops and bakeries, and, for those of you who might be interested (though there’s certainly no need whatsoever to bring your interest to my attention), there’s even a selection of strip clubs. A most diverse area indeed. I haven’t had much of a chance to explore (and there are a few establishments that will most likely not make it to the list), but I do know that the British Council has an office around the corner, with a quaint little café that provides a range of current British newspapers, English news on the telly, a small library and a bank of computers connected to the Internet. Even the name of the café was quaintly British, though it escapes me now.

Just being in this exciting city makes me feel good, like I’ve suddenly been presented with a gift of endless possibilities, all mine for the taking. I can make plans with my Tel Aviv-based friends to meet up for lunch or a drink, or attend a stimulating lecture. I can go to the theatre or a concert, or catch a movie at any one of the many cinemas that the city has to offer. I can sit in a café for hours on end, nursing lattes and writing, while the world of Tel Aviv passes by. Aaaah, bliss.

I’m not quite sure how to end this, but it seems that the decision has been taken out of my hands, as the train will shortly be pulling into my stop, and given that it’s Sunday and the path to the door is an obstacle course of people, bags and weapons (many soldiers with rifles casually slung over their shoulders), it’s best that I start now, otherwise, I’ll never make it off the train, and will miss my morning coffee (shudder).

Monday, October 24, 2005

Where's Pa? Where's Gamma?

Whew! Parents successfully dropped at the airport (though admittedly, I have yet to hear whether they’ve arrived back home safe and sound, so I suppose it’s possible that they’re still at the airport, though I imagine they’d have called had this been the case). Two hectic weeks of running to and fro, here and there, and essentially, everywhere. I felt like a tourist in my own (albeit adopted) country, given all the sightseeing we did. Just to give you a brief rundown – the Safari in Ramat Gan, Mini-Israel, the Golan Heights and around the Sea of Galilee, parts of Tel Aviv, Caesarea, and Zichron Yakov. We visited beaches, parks, galleries, and festivals, and went to more restaurants than Husband and I manage to get to in a year. Speaking of restaurants, should you find yourself hungry while driving through the Jordan Valley towards Tiberius, I highly recommend stopping for a bite at “Tzel Hatamar”, a fabulous restaurant just North of the Peace Island of Naharaim, and across the road from Moshav Menahemiya. Food and service were both excellent (we highly recommend the salmon and the spring chicken), prices were reasonable, and the setting was lovely.

During the course of our travels, we managed to get together with family friends, do some shopping, and appear on television. Okay, if truth be told, it was only for a second, and it was only Husband and the Little One, but it was still pretty cool! We went to the Arts Festival at the Reading Power Station in Tel Aviv (following a terrific little meal at the Comme il Faut café at the Tel Aviv port), and while practicing to name the different facial features on a very colorful statue, a Channel 2 camera man filmed the two of them for a few seconds. Didn’t know at the time that it was Channel 2, but coincidentally managed to catch the story about the festival on the news that evening, and there they were! Husband’s sister called us straight away to say she’d seen it, but otherwise, it seems that viewership is down, as nobody else we know had seen it. If truth be known, we prefer the news on Channel 10, and just got lucky while flipping channels during the commercials.

And, as if all of this activity wasn’t enough, whenever we were home, especially during the last few days, parents were glued to either the television or the Internet, tracking Hurricane Wilma, and wondering if they should arrange for the windows of their home in Southwest Florida to be boarded up, while at the same time corresponding with my brother in Southeast Florida about the pros and cons of putting up permanent hurricane shutters. After several days of uncertainty regarding Wilma’s plans for South Florida, it seemed that while my parents’ home would miss the brunt of the storm, my brother’s home could take a more direct hit. I suppose that only time will tell, and we will be wiser (and perhaps somewhat battered) 24 hours from now.
So, as I look back over the visit, I think I’d have to say that aside for a few bumps, it was mostly successful. The Little One realizes (as much as a 17 month old can realize) that something is different around the house, and that his grandparents aren't around anymore. I ask him where they are, and he goes into the guest room looking, while raising his hands in his typical "I don't know" gesture and saying, "where's Pa?". This morning, he pointed at their pillows on the bed and made a shushing gesture, as if we didn't see them because they were still asleep. Very cute! The house is definitely quieter now, and aside from some new toys and clothes, you'd never know they were even here visiting.

Anyway, now that I've more or less returned to real life (and whatever that may entail), I imagine that my posts will reflect the change accordingly, and I shall return to my usual maddening, obnoxiously witty (with just a trifle of modesty!) self.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Tis the season to be jolly

And they just keep on coming...

Holidays galore round here, though I can see the light at the end of the tunnel - just one more little festive round to go. Bit strange though, right? On the one hand we're all smiling because we know that nasty ol' working week is a little shorter for each week in October. On the other hand, we know that the holidays bring about an unhealthy amount of quality time with your nearest and dearest (including Uncle whats-his-face and Auntie whats-her-name-again plus their cherub-is-heading-for-a-slap-if-he-doesn't-stop-kicking-me).

So I have a confession...yesterday saw me pull a sickie and politely decline the opportunity to spend time yet again with the in-laws. My cough got miraculously better the moment my wife left, but, strangely enough, it reemerged the moment I heard her key in the door...strange that.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Busy Busy Busy!

Yes, we've been quiet. We know. But, we've got very good excuses. All of our parents are in town! He and I haven't even had a chance to touch base, we've just been so busy running around with our ancestors and watching them turn all mushy in the presence of our children that we haven't had a moment to write! With the little one safely in day care, Mom lingering over breakfast and Dad sitting on the porch reading the newspaper, I thought I'd take a few moments to let you know how it's going.

Arrival two days ago went fairly smoothly, though there were moments of anxiety when my parents thought they'd lost all of their luggage. In the end, it turned out that someone had taken everything off the carousel and left it stacked together off to the side somewhere. A happy ending, but certainly something they could have done without, following the flight from hell. The little one recognized them straight away, thanks to our constant drilling with photos, and even managed to point to my dad and say his name (though to be completely honest, he first pointed at Mom and called her by Dad's name). Upon arriving at home, suitcases were emptied of toys, videos, books and clothes for the little one. Given the sheer quantity of items for the grandson, it's amazing that there was even room for any of their stuff! They might even be able to return home with a lunchbox-sized carry on! I'm kidding, of course, but there will be at least one or two less bags on return.

Yesterday we went to the Safari - a wonderful zoo in the Tel Aviv area, and had it pretty much to ourselves. The little one slept the whole way in the car, and started to wake up as we pulled into the grounds. One mention of the word "animals", and his eyes popped wide open in amazement, as he saw all the birds coming up to the car, the zebras, the hippos in the pond. I love the zoo, but to see it through the eyes of my son is truly something special. He ran all over the place, looking at the monkeys, and completely taken with the birds. "Bye bye, tuh-tle" had us rolling in hysterics, as did his roaring at the "cat" (which was actually a fierce looking black puma). He was intrigued by the sheep, especially as they ate the pellets straight out of Mommy's hand, and enjoyed watching Mommy in the petting zoo. When he started to cry on a bench by the deer area, one of the female deer stood quietly by the fence watching him, only going away once we managed to get him to stop crying. She was obviously concerned for the crying baby, and we were in awe of her apparent concern. The look on his face when one of the birds said "hello" was priceless! I knew that Mom had reached her zoo limits when we walked through the bird area. The birds started making all sorts of birdie noises, and all Mom could say was, "ah, shut up". Given that she's not prone to taking out her aggressions on our feathered friends, I realized that it was time to head for home.

The long ride back was broken up by stops at two supermarkets - first to Tiv Taam, as we were in desperate need of seafood (Dad's been after me to make him crab cakes for some time now), and then to our regular supermarket, to stock up on a veritable plethora of other items. By 9pm, parents, husband, the little one, and the dog were all fast asleep, completely exhausted from our day at the zoo. Today and tomorrow we'll be on forced rest, due to Yom Kippur, but come Friday, we'll be off again to parts unknown. The longer I live here, the harder it is to come up with good destinations, as the parents have been nearly everywhere at this point. We've got a tentative schedule for the duration of their trip, but if anyone has any suggestions for outings, especially child-friendly outings, I am definitely all ears! Mini-Israel is already on the schedule, as well as vaguely defined plans to head "up North", but we are seriously running out of places!

Anyway, must go drink more coffee. Had only one cup of regular coffee yesterday, as opposed to usual three cups of latte, and paid for it dearly with a dreadful headache! For those of you fasting on Yom Kippur, I wish you an easy fast, with a reminder to watch out for the mad cyclists who take over the roads every year. I'm sure the little one will be running about madly and riding his tricycle as well, but given that his feet don't quite reach the pedals yet and he's only just discovered the magic of being able to steer as of this morning, I'd be willing to bet that one would have nothing to fear if they found themselves in his path. Bye-bye, tuh-tle.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Tribal gatherings

I haven't posted for a while, so thought I'd grab you with some seasonal banter...

Oh yeh. The holiday season is upon us.

That means lots of family gatherings to enjoy and savour. I don't know about you, but my wife's family is a bit on the enormous side, so these 'little' gatherings take on proportions that always manage to give me the willies. Uncle whats-his-face and Auntie whats-her-name-again arrive with pesky little junior-is-heading-for-a-slap-if-he-doesn't-stop-kicking-me and conquer my in-laws' garden for the annual Jewish New Year do. It wouldn't be so bad if it was just one set of Uncles and Aunties, or just once a year, but unfortunately it's a whole tribe's worth and we're set to cross each other's paths over and over again this coming month.

I always used to think it was me, that I was the sad bastard who was anti-family or perhaps a bit unsociable. Then I met other Anglos married to clans and realised I wasn't alone. It's them, right? The Israeli side of the family. An unhealthy appetite for grouping together for as long as possible under one roof. It just ain't normal. Me, I'm used to short and sweet family get-togethers, where the taxi is invited in advance (because we're a family of festive drinkers and nobody wants to drive) at a specified hour, so there is a guaranteed cut-off point. That does it for me, no overkill, no unwelcome overstayers and no extended hours of listening to Uncle whats-his-face's jokes, the ones he told us last year.

Anyway, one majorly good thing about all this holidaying is that the holidays have fallen very nicely throughout October. Next week, it's the Jewish New Year, the week after Yom Kippur, and then the two weeks after that we have the Succot double-ender. It doesn't always work out this way, of course, thanks to the Jewish calendar, so us employees are counting our blessings and rubbing our hands in glee at the short working weeks ahead of us.

From the both of us (He and She) at Something Something, we wish you all a healthy, sweet, prosperous, and most importantly, happy New Year! And if you're sharing your holiday with an extended tribe, have a drink (or 3) on us!

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Looking to buy a little property...

Life in Israel is no picnic (aside from Independence Day, of course, when the whole country turns into one big barbecue party), so occasionally, we imagine going somewhere else. Maybe relocating back to the "old country", or just heading to the Far East for a while. Most of us have considered it at one time or another, and needless to say, it's been an especially attractive fantasy during the past few years, between the intifada, the collapsing economy - generally, a deterioration of our quality of life here. Who among us hasn't wanted to escape the reality, do a bit of exploring, experiencing life in a different environment?

I know I have. Entertaining thoughts of going back to the US for a couple of years, or maybe checking out England (I love England, but that's a subject for another blog entry). Those of you with some extra pocket change to spare might want to consider this option. That's right, folks, how about buying your very own island? Of course, if you're not sure, you can always just rent. A former colleague of mine and I used to check out the different real estate options in this snazzy little niche market, and discovered that, well, it's not as little as you might think. There are islands to suit a variety of budgets (though unfortunately, not mine), climate interests, and location considerations. Like the tropics? How about Fiji or Canada? If you're looking for something inexpensive, how about something like this? Okay, the name Guano leaves something to be desired, but hey, for that price, you can hardly afford to be choosy!

In my mind's eye, I'm already ensconced on my island. It's in the tropics, of course (with all due respect to the lovely islands in Canada, if I'm going to invest in an island, it's certainly not going to be one with snow potential!). We've got beaches and mountains, and an unlimited supply of fresh fruits and vegetables, not to mention infinite amounts of fish. And, as long as it's my fantasy, I am very adept at creating a veritable plethora of fish dishes, including sushi! There's a lovely home, nestled into the mountains (but not too high up) and reflecting the lazy island atmosphere - wrap-around porches, lots of big windows and skylights to capture the natural sunlight. Ceiling fans, perhaps an outdoor shower and jacuzzi (in addition to the indoor facilities, of course - I may be romantic, but I'm no fool! I'll still need a shower when the weather is bad, won't I?). A number of (well-appointed) guest cottages for our friends and we're all set. Imagine, spending your days lazing about, communing with nature, writing that book you've always dreamed of (which is certainly something I dream about, so why not do it on my island?). Internet and phone services are a necessity, obviously, and perhaps some television as well - nothing terribly exciting, just BBC Prime, perhaps an international news channel or two, and maybe Star World.

Down by the beach, we've got some great hammocks stretched between the palm trees, close to the barbecue (as opposed to the hammock and barbecue we've got up by the house, of course). Also at hand is the small hut with a refrigerator for beverages, the blender (for all sorts of fruity drinks), and a bathroom (for those who prefer your standard loo facilities, as opposed to a comfy rock and a few strategically placed bushes). Naturally, there's the dock, so that people can get to the island (or get off the island, though why you'd want to, I sure as hell don't know!), and we can take our boat out for some fishing and diving. And, because you're the only ones on the island, modesty is no longer an issue. No one is going to notice how you look in that bathing suit (or out of it), no one's going to stare at your thunder thighs, or laugh behind your back because you've missed a spot when shaving your bikini line. For that alone, it's worth having your own island, I'd say.

Sounds idyllic, doesn't it? And of course, because we'd be the only ones living on the island, we would frequently invite our friends to partake of our island hospitality (and I promise to wear a bathing suit and take extra care with the bikini line). I bet y'all wish you had been nicer to me before, eh? :-)

Monday, September 26, 2005


Heh heh. By golly, those crazy Likud pranksters are at it again! Last night during the Likud Central Committee meeting, someone (or perhaps several someones) managed to sabotage Prime Minister Sharon's microphone just as he was starting to speak. And this was done not once, but twice. After having sat through Mr Netanyahu's eminently predictable speech (and the man certainly does know how to drone on and on and on...), I had decided that if necessary, I would use my powers of persuasion (limited as they are) to convince Husband that we should examine our other viewing options, as I had no desire to hear whatever it was that Mr Sharon planned to say. Well, it would seem that I wasn't the only one who felt that way.

The Prime Minister began to speak. Nothing! No sound! Suddenly, things were beginning to look interesting. We watched as people began to scamper around, playing with wires and making anxious phone calls. We watched the faces the Prime Minister and other Likud politicos, wishing that we could read lips. Nothing doing. There was no sound to be had. Yakov sent the broadcast back to Mikki at the anchor desk, who treated us to shots of a burnt out car in Gaza - where we had apparently ended the life of an Islamic Jihad leader and his deputy, and a few time-filling commercials. Suddenly, it was back to Yakov, on location at the Likud meeting. The sound system had been repaired, and Mr Sharon had returned to the main podium.

We all watched as the man put on his glasses, pulled out his speech and began to speak. He managed to get a few words out before being drowned out by a noise that can only be described as a microphone that lay dying, and then, nothing. The Prime Minister again returned to his seat, and once it became clear that he wasn't going to be making his speech any time soon, he and his cronies got up and left. That was it. The meeting was over. Party members variously mingled in groups or left the room, and we watched a few heated exchanges taking place between those party members who remained, most likely trading accusations and blame for what had happened.

I'm no fan of Mr Sharon (though I'm impressed that he managed to pull off the disengagement and get us out of Gaza after 37 years of settlement activity, much of which was instigated by the man himself), though I must admit that even I felt twinges of embarrassment for him last night. This banana republic masquerading as the Likud party is a disgrace, and it would serve them right if Sharon were to leave now, to crumble in a pile of dust. The petty, egotistical, internecine squabbles serve no one but themselves, and the party is rotting from the inside. It is high time that these folks clean out their Knesset offices and turn them over to people who actually care more about this country than they care about themselves - a rare trait indeed in the insular world of Israeli politics, where true statesmanship and quality leadership are sorely lacking.

I'm speechless with anticipation to see how it all unfolds...

Friday, September 16, 2005

Welcome to my job

Well, after more than three months of searching, I've finally done it. I found a new job! I've been with my current company for more than four years; lots of ups and downs, redundancies and general disorganization had completely sapped my energy and will to continue working there, and an interesting reorganizational move following the last round of firings provided me with a boss whose micromanagement style made me want to beat myself repeatedly with a hammer. Motivation to move on had reached dizzying heights. Dusted off and updated the old CV, shot off a few emails and contacted a few old friends, and then sat back to see where the chips fell.

Interviewed at nine different companies in a veritable plethora of locations. Gotta love the interview process. Repeating the same information about yourself so many times that after while, it begins to sound fake. Honestly, if I hear someone ask me one more time to "tell me a little bit about yourself", I think I'm going to gag. One company even sent me for psychometric testing! Filled out a nine-page questionnaire (written in Hebrew, though I persuaded the powers that be to at least let me answer in English) by hand, followed by a series of intense logic-type tests using a computer. Was there for just over five hours, and by the time I was done, I felt like my eyes were going to bleed. Just to put you in the right frame of mind, think SAT exam from hell.

To make a long story short, in the end, I had to choose between two great job offers, each with it's own set of advantages and disadvantages. In the end, the company with the better location won out. Both companies offered some pretty nifty benefits, and I found that with just a bit of negotiation and playing one company off the other, I managed to get a salary and benefits package that was better than I'd hoped.

One standard option in many Israeli hi-tech companies is the option to take a lease a car through the company. Your salary is reduced by a certain (relatively reasonable) figure, and in return, you get a new car with all gas, insurance, etc., covered by that figure. If you happen to require a lot of gas, it can be a really great deal. Or, if your current car is beginning to die a slow, painful death, the leased car is suddenly a most attractive option. Given that we fall into that latter category (and we're not too shabby when it comes to doing a lot of driving, either), we've decided to take a car. Was told by the powers that be in the new company that we can choose between the Ford Focus, the Mazda 3 and the Toyota Corolla.

And so it began. We researched. We asked our friends. We became peeping toms as we wandered around parking lots, peering into windows to check the space (if we were lucky, there was already a baby seat, which would give us a better idea as to how our own baby seat would fit) and using our arms to measure trunk sizes. The husband even hit the dealerships, coming home loaded with brochures and information.

Back and forth it went. Apparently (depending on who you ask, anyway), the Mazda 3 has the best drive and the most comfortable driver's seat, but the smallest back seat area and trunk. The Ford Focus has the biggest trunk and is the most spacious, but doesn't have a lot of storage space for little things, no armrest for the driver, and no pick-up. The Toyota Corolla, might have a bit of a smaller trunk than the Focus, but there's more storage space. Everyone we asked had a different opinion. Back and forth, around and around, until we were dizzy. In the end, we decided on the Corolla, as it seemed to offer most of what we wanted and needed. Of course, I will continue to take the train to work, given that my new office is only ten minutes' walk from the station, and it would take me at least twice as long to get there by car. Besides, train time is the only "me" time that I've got, so why on earth would I want to give up a half-hour twice a day of reading or writing (on my new company laptop - yeah!) time and replace it with more than an hour each way of traffic time. Seems like a no-brainer to me!

Despite the fact that Husband will be the primary keeper of the car (and accordingly, his wishes as to which car we chose carried more weight, though we were in agreement on the Corolla, once presented with all relevant evidence), he says that I can choose the color! Now we're talking! Damn, it doesn't get much better than this!

(By the by, I would be terribly lax if I didn't make a point of mentioning that the title of my post is also the title of one of my favorite George Carlin skits. Just giving credit where credit is due...)

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Let the synagogues go with dignity

I've just read that the government voted 14-2 against demolishing the synagogues in Gaza, and to be quite honest, I cannot understand why. On the one hand, I can of course understand the not wanting to destroy the synagogues; under the best of circumstances it would be very painful to witness, and this is certainly not the best of circumstances.

If we allow the synagogues to remain standing, how long will it take before they are desecrated and destroyed by Palestinians, whose track record with regard to protecting Jewish holy sites is remarkably less than stellar? What would be more unbearable to watch - Israeli soldiers demolishing the synagogues with the dignity and solemnity required of such a task, or to see these buildings gleefully vandalized and desecrated on purpose - a sort of spiritual pigua (terror attack), if you will?

Unfortunately, I do not see a situation where these synagogues will remain standing under the protection of the Palestinians, given the lawlessness that currently reigns in Gaza. The Palestinian Authority, with all due respect, cannot control its citizens, nor does it really seem to want to do so. Under these circumstances, do we really want to entrust them with our holy sites if we have another choice? Two painful choices to choose from. There is no third choice. The synagogues must die. Do we allow them to die with quiet dignity, or do we knowingly subject them to a painful, undignified death?

And, before people start to attack me for wanting to destroy synagogues, well, that just isn't the case. Secular as I am, it is troubling to see any house of worship destroyed. Sometimes, it must be done though. Like now. If we do not, the Palestinians will. It's as simple as that. I expect our government to act responsibly on such an issue. The outcome of this vote serves no one but those Palestinians who are undoubtedly already making plans for desecration parties, and woe be the people who try to stop them.

Update: Well, as predicted, the Palestinians have set fire to four synagogues in Gaza, and are currently knocking them down. Are any of us really surprised? Apparently, some folks in the PMO expected a different result...

The Prime Minister's Office said Monday that the PA must act to prevent the "acts of arson." "Israel expects the Palestinian Authority to maintain the dignity of the structures of the synagogues," said David Baker, an official in the PMO. "Unfortunately, that has not occurred, and the PA is expected to take the necessary steps to prevent these acts of arson."

How pathetic... How sadly predictable...

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Hey, pregnant ladies! Take care of yourselves!

According to my medical chart when I was in the hospital last year for a pregnancy-related procedure, I have what is known in medspeak as "BOH" - Bad Obstetric History". It took about nine years, five natural pregnancies, three failed egg donation attempts (including two that took us to Europe - gotta love fertility tourism), a wide variety of fetal birth defects, nearly every invasive test out there, meetings with an assortment of geneticists (I even have one of my own now), and the loss of one preemie to finally have our son. It's been a wild, emotional roller coaster, and I wouldn't wish what we've been through on anyone. And, when we finally did manage to succeed, the pregnancy was fraught with peril. I won't go into the details, but let's just say that I was ordered to stay home (not in bed, thank god!) from the 16th week, following an emergency surgical procedure. Difficult pregnancy, long labor, difficult birth. High-risk all the way around.

Through all the pregnancies, I did everything right. Gave up caffeine, no heavy lifting, no alcohol, drugs, etc. Didn't over-exert myself. According to my geneticist, I've got defective genes somewhere, but no one has been able to figure out which genes (and samples have been sent all over Europe and the US at this point) are causing the problems. All the geneticists she's spoken to, both in Israel and outside of Israel (she mentions my case at different forums, meetings, etc.) think it sounds terribly interesting, but no one has a clue as to where the problems lie. All we know is that I was born with a few rare birth defects (all fixed, and you'd never have a clue from looking at me), and in three out of the first four pregnancies, there were birth defects - different defects in each pregnancy, all severe (the fourth one ended in spontaneously, so we don't know if there were defects or not, though we assume there must have been).

Needless to say, I'm more than a little sensitive when it comes to issues of taking care of one's self during pregnancy. When you repeatedly do everything you're supposed to and it still doesn't work, you get really frustrated. You look at other pregnant women and wonder why you can't seem to get it right. Other women make it look so easy, yet you just keep failing. It's awful. So, I'm sure you can all imagine how angry I get when I see pregnant women abusing their bodies, not taking care of themselves. My neighbor is pregnant with her second child - still in the first trimester, I believe. And, as she did with her first, she is continuing to smoke. We are quite friendly, and it's not like she doesn't know the risks (or maybe she does, but it's certainly not my place to tell her), but when I see her light up, knowing that she has this little creature growing inside of her, it makes me crazy. I just don't get it! How can a woman knowingly endanger her unborn child? It takes all of my strength not to let her have it, and it's not easy to hold back.

I remember when I was in the hospital after giving birth. Another woman who had just been wheeled into my room after giving birth asked the nurse if she could get up - she wanted to go outside for a cigarette. She had literally just come from the delivery room! I heard her confide to the nurse that she hadn't given up smoking during the pregnancy, then later on in the day, I heard her talking on the phone to a friend, wondering why the baby was smaller than she'd expected. Gee, do you think maybe there could have been a connection? Ok, not definitely, but maybe, just maybe, the smoking could have been a contributing factor, hmmm? I just wanted to shake her.

For women who have never had problems getting and staying pregnant and then having healthy children, they most likely haven't got a clue what it's like for those of us who agonized over each period, whose lives were lived according to the color of a pee stick, the tests, the failures, the out of control hormones, etc. They just assume that everything's going to work, and it usually does.

For many of us, it doesn't. Many women (couples) are still waiting for their "happily ever after", for the chance to be parents, to experience the wonderful world of parenting (I almost cried with joy the first time we walked outside, the three of us holding hands - it was a dream come true). It is painful, more than you can possibly imagine if you haven't been there. What makes it even worse though, is to see other women taking their condition for granted and not taking care of themselves as they should, knowing that they will still probably have a successful pregnancy, when no matter what you do to take care of yourself, you probably won't succeed. It hurts like hell.

Not sure how to close this, other than to say please, ladies, if you're pregnant, take care of yourselves! Take care of that precious little life growing inside of you! It's a privilege to be pregnant and have children, and should be treated as such. Not everyone has this privilege, and to abuse it is simply criminal.

Just want to add that I am actually very strongly pro-choice. A woman's body is her own and nobody else's. However, if you choose to continue your pregnancy and have your baby, for god's sake, take care of it!

Friday, September 02, 2005

Memories of New Orleans

When I booked the airline tickets, I hadn't realized that my plans to visit one of my college friends in New Orleans coincided with the NCAA's Final Four basketball tournament, also taking place in - where else - New Orleans. I don't remember my flight to Newark, so I'm guessing that it passed rather smoothly. That all changed with the connecting flight to New Orleans, though. The flight was overbooked. Seriously overbooked. There were also other problems. I can't recall what they are (hey, this goes back more than ten years!), but I do remember that they were serious enough that they considered canceling the flight. I'm sure you can imagine how well that news went over with a large number of sports fans (a number of whom were bookies - one of whom, I had the distinct "pleasure" to sit next to on the plane. He was involved in a variety of card games for the duration of the flight). In the end, we took off, and I made it to New Orleans, several hours late, but I got there.

I remember it being a beautiful, exciting city, with lots to see and do. I can remember having coffee and beignets at the Cafe Du Monde, right by the French Quarter. I tried my very first (and last) crayfish in the colorful marketplace. One end of it is really spicy - wish I'd known that before eating it, though was pleased to be able to provide entertainment for the locals. The food in New Orleans was spectacular, and needless to say, I ate quite well.

I was only there for the weekend, but I can still remember what a vibrant city New Orleans was, and what a wonderful time I had there. This makes it all the more difficult to see the horrible images being shown on television, following the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina across the Gulf of Mexico. It is truly frightening to watch, and absolutely heartbreaking to hear the stories of loss. Who could have imagined such utter destruction, where so many Americans are suddenly turned into refugees? The scale of the damage is simply incomprehensible.

I've got lots of family on both coasts in Florida, and while everyone has been really fortunately so far, they are certainly no strangers to these monster storms. Aside from intermittent power outages and broken tree branches, my family in Florida got away scott-free this time around - a nice change from last year's battering, but nevertheless, having family in the hurricane-prone areas has turned me into an avid storm watcher, and I have seen with my own eyes what these storms can do. Last Winter, we drove from family on the West Coast of the state to family on the East Coast. It was already several months after the end of the hurricane season - several months since the last deadly storm. Yet, during this drive down the highway, we saw electricity poles that had been snapped in two, towns where all buildings still had blue tarp covering them, as the roofs had still not been repaired. We saw highway road signs that had been destroyed, whole towns that had been destroyed. It was an arresting sight, to say the least. And now, this all pales in comparison to the destruction wrought by Katrina.

I heard on the news this morning that the mayor of New Orleans is saying that people may not be able to return to the city for six months or so, and it is difficult to fathom. And of course, we shouldn't forget that it's not only New Orleans, but also big parts of the rest of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, parts of the Florida Panhandle, etc. It is difficult to make a connection between the beautiful, lively city I once visited and what remains of that city today. May the waters recede as soon as possible, may the destroyed cities and towns repair and recover, and may the South rise up and return to its former glory.

Monday, August 29, 2005

My last disengagement post - a summary of emotions

These past few weeks have been very interesting, to say the least. It's been pretty incredible (and not necessarily in a good way) to see how high emotions have risen as a result of the disengagement. While speaking to my parents over the weekend, they asked me what the feeling was like in Israel these days, and I suggested that they check out the Israeli blog scene. Let's face it. We run the gamut of the political spectrum, and the disengagement really put us to the test. Buttons were pushed, battles were fought, and it was often truly scary to witness the venom being exchanged, as people took passionately opposing opinions on a myriad of disengagement-related topics, including the use of children, acceptable levels of resistance, and of course, the actual act of leaving Gaza.

It's been quite the eye-opening experience, and I know some of the events that I've witnessed - both good and bad - will be forever burned into my brain. I never imagined that I would feel such empathy and sadness for those settlers who left on their own, packing up their homes and families, opting to avoid clashes with security forces. Nor will I soon forget the raging anger I felt while watching those who stayed behind - their violence against the soldiers, their defiance, their complete disregard for law and life. I knew ahead of time that it wouldn't be easy, but I don't think I fully realized just how ugly it wasn going to get. Red lines were not only crossed, they were obliterated. Who would have thought that youngsters would taunt and argue with soldiers while their parents simply looked on and watched, or permit them to take place in physical altercations such as what happened in Kfar Darom? Who could have imagined that parents would allow their children to be portrayed as Holocaust victims, stars on their clothes and crying, marching with their hands in the air? Who would believe that Holocaust imagery would be used repeatedly, as though we can even compare people being evicted from their homes and compensated to people being forced to go through the horror of the concentration camps and marched to their deaths? Not to minimize the pain these people are feeling over losing their homes, but please. There can be no comparison between what has happened in Gaza to the greatest tragedy ever to befall the Jewish people.

I have to say, I have been reading blogs on and off for several years now, and I have never seen such fierce writing and commenting on the Israel-related blogs in all that time as I have during the time leading up to and including the disengagement. I have discovered things about myself - some of it not too pretty, and learned some intense lessons. If we can all say the same, then perhaps it wasn't all for nothing. Despite the intentions of some individuals to thwart the disengagement, Israel has managed to leave Gaza. We must now do what we can as a nation to heal the wounds and help those rendered, for all intents and purposes, homeless. The government must do everything in its power to ensure that these individuals can start to rebuild their lives as smoothly as possible, and while there may be small pockets of success here and there, I'm willing to bet that there's still so much more that can and should be done.

As for those who endangered the lives of members of our security forces and committed various other crimes (including all those soldiers caught stealing items from empty homes in the settlements), well, let them rot somewhere. Their actions only served to make a fragile, difficult situation even worse. They are a disgrace to this country and deserve to be treated as such.

On this note, I want to say that I'll make every effort to stop writing about the disengagement (barring any exceptional events that I believe require commentary). It is time for us to start picking up the pieces and move on to other subjects, before it consumes us completely.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Tips and Tricks: How to remove a blog from your blogroll

Oh dear.

I've been on the sidelines throughout the disengagement, watching with interest and sadness the nightly TV broadcasts but leaving out the politics from this blog. Ha, not that I've been blogging that much, it has to be said. She has been doing the dirty work for the past few weeks and doing it very well, I think.

However, after one or two bloggers out there, and one in particular, you can probably guess who, have been sending bullying, self-righteous emails to She because she happened to have a strong opinion on's time for me to throw my ha'penny in.

We don't pretend to be the BBC or CNN, we are but a simple blog with a few readers. We write about what we want to write about, without any intention to incite or hurt anybody. It is just our opinions, straight-forward, sock-it-to-ya opinions. We don't dress it up with all kinds of sugary gunge for a band of worshipping readers to fawn over. We certainly don't claim any moral high-ground. Our original aim was to post interesting articles that would interest some, most probably not all. We also wanted to shake up the Israeli blogging scene a little, because there seems to be this annoying 'clique' of writers who really need to get out more.

If some blogger decides that he wants to throw his toys out of the pram and delist us from his "preciousssss" blogroll, what can I say? Maybe "get a life"? Possibly "grow up"? How about "go back to your worshipping readers and stay there"? I know what, let's be equally mature and delist him from our blogroll. Voila. Sad bastard.

Really, one or two of you bloggers need to get a fucking life. Stop analysing every single word printed, stop trying to find the wrong in everything, and above all, if you don't like what we write, don't bother coming back.

As for the rest of you, we really love you. Honest!

Thursday, August 18, 2005

We've had a bad day

I'm sitting here at the computer listening to some good mellow songs. I'm a big believer in music setting the mood, and right now, just to give you an idea of the way I've been feeling lately, I keep hitting the replay button on Daniel Powter's "Bad Day". There's just something about the song that moves me, and I suppose it has to do with everything that's been going on lately.

To show contrast between what's been happening in Gaza and how it's affecting people in Tel Aviv, those reporters not sent down South have been plying their stories from some of the sandy spots in the city, interviewing folks on the beach. While I can certainly understand the desire and the need to escape from reality, I was actually quite shocked by the amazing display of apathy. These people didn't seem to care that our country is being ripped apart by an issue that will change the face of Israel forever, that history is being made right under their sunburned little noses, that nothing will ever be the same.

I suppose for them, maybe it won't. They will continue to live their lives as if nothing has changed. I just can't understand it. I am in favor of the disengagement. Despite the fact that my heart repeatedly broke as I watched people's sadness and unbearable despair unfold on television as they packed up and left their homes behind, I truly believe that this is still the right thing to do. However, I am still human. What kind of monster would I have to be not to be moved by the images we have seen? It is these people, the ones who chose to leave prior to the deadline, who are heroes deserving respect and to be treated with dignity for their courageous decision and actions. In my eyes, courage lies in making the difficult choices and following through, and that is what these people have done. They have made the decision to do what they can to move forward, to put their lives back on track. They have chosen to do the very best for their families and for the State of Israel, and for this, they should be commended, and provided with whatever assistance is necessary to help them in any way possible.

On the flip side of this equation, of course, are those who have chosen to stay behind and fight. I am truly appalled and sickened by the things that I've seen and heard. Their actions are positively shameful, and I cannot believe the depths to which they are sinking in this battle of brothers. When all is said and done and the security forces have managed to evacuate everyone, what will become of our country? What will it take to heal the wounds inflicted by this necessary move that is just so painful? Is this only the beginning of something, or does it end once all Israelis are out of Gaza? I fear for the immediate future of our nation as I hit the replay button to hear Daniel Powter's words yet one more time.