Saturday, January 31, 2009

This Week's Menu

Crossposted on Give Peas a Chance.

Pakistani Dahl

Brown Rice

Sweet Potato soup

Ingredients
Two enormous sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped up into small chunks (about 1000 gram)
Equal amount (in volume, not mass) of dala’at, chopped into small chunks. Dala’at is like pumpkin, but HUGE. It is as if someone captured the Great Pumpkin, killed it, butchered it and sold it for parts.
Five large carrots, peeled and chopped
One leek, chopped into little circles
Celery (optional--the recipe calls for you to forget to put it in. So if you want the authentic Gila-cooking-experience, buy the celery and then forget to add it to the soup. But you do not have to. The soup will come out the same, either way. Obviously).
Three or four cloves garlic, finely chopped
Finger of fresh ginger, grated
I cup plain soymilk
2 tbsp oil
Water
Spices: salt, pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves (There may have been chili powder as well. I honestly cannot remember. Go ahead and add it—I bet it would be tasty.)

Instructions

  1. Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed soup pot.
  2. Add the leeks, garlic and ginger and sauté until soft.
  3. Add the sweet potatoes and dala’at and mix the whole thing well.
  4. Allow the whole mess to sauté until the sweet potatoes and dala’at are soft (approximately a year) or until you get sick of waiting (thirty minutes). Whichever comes first.
  5. Add the carrots, the spices and enough water to reach up to the top of the veggies. Allow the whole mess to cook (I do not know the technical term—hot but not actually boiling) while you go goof off on the internet.
  6. Call a friend. She should point out that your plan to run AFTER Shabbat lunch is not wise, since it is supposed to rain. Agree with her. Tell her that she is very sensible. Under no circumstances should you admit to your friend that this is what you were counting on—that the rain would force you to scrap your exercise plans.
  7. Of course, now you have no choice but to go running right now. Bring the soup to a good boil, then turn off the heat and then cover the soup so that it will continue to cook, albeit slowly. Put on your running shoes and go for a half hour run.
  8. Come back home. You have exactly 20 minutes to get showered, dressed and made up for Shabbat lunch. Turn the heat back on so that the soup can cook a bit more in the meantime.
  9. While getting ready, make sure to curse your hairdresser and all of his future descendents for dying your hair this nasty, dead coal black instead of the warm, dark brown that was on the color swatches he showed you. Seriously consider getting a buzz cut.
  10. Turn the heat back off and go to lunch.
  11. Come home three hours later. Take a look at the soup. The dala’at has disintegrated, the sweet potatoes are mushy, the carrots are still crunchy and the whole thing is cold. Ask yourself whether vegetable soup is likely to cause a) the type of food poisoning that is really and truly fatal, or b) the type of food poisoning that is highly unpleasant and that you may wish was fatal, but will not actually kill you.
  12. Turn the heat back on. We are talking vegetables here. Of course it is type b!
  13. And besides, food poisoning is dietetic.
  14. Let the soup cook for an hour. The sweet potatoes have now disintegrated. The carrots are still crunchy.
  15. It is time to put an end to the carrot resistance. Take your little hand-mixer thingy and puree the soup. Make sure to aim for the carrots. They are soon reduced to mush. Take THAT, you arrogant little mother-fuckers!
  16. Add the soy milk. Mix into the soup. It now looks really creamy and elegant looking.
  17. Without (and this is critical) even tasting the soup, add more of the spices. Do it randomly. A lot more cinnamon. A little more nutmeg. Whatever! Be free!
  18. Continue to cook on hot-but-not-boiling heat for a bunch of minutes.
  19. Take the soup off the heat and taste it. Yum!
  20. Put soup in refrigerator.
  21. (This step is only for those who bought the celery). Notice the celery. Realize that you forgot to add it to the soup.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Facebook is the Devil's Spawn

I am firmly convinced that Facebook is the devil's own handiwork. I know, I know, people have been saying that for a while now. I was not convinced. But this week, something happened to convince me.

So it is like this. Remember how on Sunday I went running? Well, later on that day, a random thought invaded my brain. "Gila!" the random thought whispered. "How about training for a 5K run?"

Now, PRE-Facebook, the random thought would have hung around my brain for a few hours and then, for want of activity, would have shriveled up and died. This is as G-d intended. G-d does not want me to run 5K's. If He did, I would have been born a horse. But we are in a POST-Facebook world in which random thoughts (and the more random the better) are immediately enshrined on Facebook as "status updates". Accordingly, I popped onto Facebook and updated mine.

Gila: So, if I were to train for a 5K run, what 5K run would I want to do? 4:40pm

Within half an hour, one friend had sent me a list of local races. Another friend egged me on. And then, my friend Katherine responded. Katherine is not any friend. Oh no. Two weeks ago, Katherine and I started running (to be understood as "mostly walking with a bit of running tossed in for effect") on a weekly basis. This would make Katherine my official "running buddy".

Katherine: one with me of course :) what a jolly good idea - is that what we are doing?

I saw her response the next day. Clearly, at this point my answer should have been "No fucking way in hell! That was not me speaking—that was a rogue random thought that infected my brain. I am going to go off beat it with a stick now. Have a nice day!"

Yes indeed, that should have been my answer. And in a pre-Facebook world, that would have been my answer. But this is a Facebook world, a world that demands quick, clever answers. As a result, my answer was:

Gila: What the hell...yes, that is what we are doing. I even bought proper running shoes last night. All we need now is a 5K run.

At this point, my friend Sarah jumped in to inform us that there was no way that we were doing a 5K without her, allegedly to make sure that Katherine and I cannot talk about her behind her back. Of course this is nonsense. The real reason is that Sarah has been running approximately a zillion kilometers a week for the last year, and just wants to whip our asses.

As of my last run two days ago, I can run approximately one kilometer. And then I have to stop and hack up a lung or two.

I am so going to die.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Friday Night—at a table with my friend Galia, her family, and a passel of other guests. Including a single man. Whom she no doubt expected me to try and impress. And I am sure I did…in my own, unique way.

Single Man: (offering to pour) Would you like some wine?

Me: No, thank you.

Other Guests look surprised. Apparently I should want some wine. It is a fizzy wine, in a pretty blue bottle. The bottle is lovely. I do want that. The wine I can live without.

I decide to explain.

Me: I do not like wine.

Another Guest: This is not wine. This is fizzy grape juice. (Single Man and the other guests laugh and agree).

Me: Just the same, no. Honestly, wine is wasted on me. And besides, I already have enough expensive habits; no need to add more. Like my hair. My hair is very expensive.

Single Man: Your…hair?

Me: Absolutely! No way can I maintain my hair and a taste in wine. One or the other.

Single Man looks confused.

Me: Well, first, there is the color.

Single Man A: That is not your color?

Me: (laughing) Of course not! My real color is this. [I yank out a hank of hair that has somehow avoided being tortured from nearly black into a light brown.] See?

Single Man A: (a bit taken aback) Oh…ummmm….yes. I see.

Me: And then there is the whole haircut thing. They wash your hair and get the dye out and give you a head massage and they give you tea….

Single Man: Tea?

Me: Oh yes! With nana! It is so lovely! So you sit there with your tea and the hairstylist comes up and plays with your hair a bit and makes a pronouncement as to 'what we are going to do with it today'. And then he cuts it and styles it and tells you that it is very special and will continue to be special as it grows out.

Single Man: Very nice.

Now, I will acknowledge that I probably should have stopped there and started asking him about his hobbies and doing all the other stuff one is supposed to do in order to impress a man. But I was having so much fun, and was on a complete roll and there was no stopping me at this point. And besides, he appears to be far too religious for me anyways. And right now I am kind of off the whole concept of marriage and children. So what the hell! I continued on.

Me: So this all takes hours and hours. It is not just a haircut. It is an event. And it costs bazillions of shekels. And on top of that, you have to buy gook.

Single Man: Gook?

Me: Oh, absolutely. First I put on gook to flatten my hair out, so it does not frizz. Then I put on this other gook to poof it back out again and make my hair springy and curly. Anyway, so between the color and haircut and the gooks and the head massage and the slightly campy hairstylist and the tea with nana, why…I think I spent 600 shekels the last time I got my hair done.

Single Man: (appalled) Six hundred shekels??? Well, it is a lot easier for us guys.

Me: Right. Not nearly as complicated. Just go in, and get it cut.

Single Man: Exactly.

Me: Well, there you go. That is why men need to drink.

Single Man: Wow….you may be right.

If I am not mistaken, Single Man drank several glasses of wine that night.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Roxie the Diet does not like weekends. That is because every weekend, I neglect her, eat whatever I see (and at Shabbat meals, one sees plenty), and proceed to gain back 2/3 of what I lost during the week. Then I bitch and moan and whine all week because I have to go through the sugar withdrawal process all over again. If Roxie had her way, there would be no weekends EVER.

But, alas, G-d has mandated differently and G-d trumps Roxie and the weekend happened as scheduled this week. As it happens, this weekend was particularly difficult. In the immortal words of Monty Python, Roxie is not dead yet, but a simple whack or two with a stick could put her out of her misery (and me out of mine--diet misery, that is). But I do not want Roxie to die. I need Roxie to thrive! I want Roxie to hit that glorious goal of 20 kilo so that I will be svelte and French-looking and can be pimped out by friends and co-workers! To that end, I got up early this morning, put on my jogging shoes and went for a run.

Can I tell you something? You know, without any doubt, that you are fat, when your JAW hurts when you go jogging because your double chins are bouncing around so much.

My G-d. I need a sports bra for my face.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Israel likes to believe that its Defense Force is the world's most "moral" army, and it insisted throughout the recent Gaza war that great care was always taken to avoid inflicting civilian casualties. It may surprise and rile many Israelis, then, that their government is trying to protect its citizens from war crimes charges that could be filed in foreign courts over the conduct of hostilities in Gaza.

I take it that no Israelis were interviewed in the making of this article.

Riled, perhaps. Surprised, no. Old news around here. Hmmmm…I realize that the statute of limitations has probably passed, but I wonder if I could sue someone for war crimes for what happened to me? Not in the US—I was asked to participate in a trial and refused.* In the Hague. International court.

Actually…given that Hamas claims that it comprises the legitimate government of Gaza and given that Israel is no longer occupying Gaza, perhaps a resident of Sderot or Ashdod or Ashkelon or Beersheva should file a suit against Hamas for war crimes. You want recognition as a government? B'vakasha. Have it.

But with rights come responsibilities. And with responsibilities come international sanctions if you do not live up to them.

*Various reasons—one of which being that I had the distinct impression that the lawyers involved were 1) idiots and 2) looking for $$$.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Carrots

You all want to know how Roxie the Diet is doing, yes? Good, because I must share.

I am not hungry. I do not have the munchies. No, it is much worse than that. I am going through fun-food withdrawal. My throat is tight. My eyes are strained. My thoughts are scattered. All I can think about is foodfoodfoodfood. Today's obsession has been shipudei pargiot and rice and pitot and salatim. As in, Sima. In fact, I believe that was yesterday's obsession as well. I expect it will also make an appearance tomorrow. Though who knows... maybe tomorrow's edible heroin will be Pringles.

No no no...do not start thinking about Pringles. Bad bad idea.

And again (really) I am not hungry. The problem is not the quantity of food. The problem is the type of food. Instead of eating fun food, I am eating healthy food.

Take carrots for example. I have eaten six today. Three of them were eaten a mere half hour ago. I am trying to convince myself that they are JUST as satisfying as the butter-flavor popcorn available in the vending machine downstairs in the lobby.

Yes yes yes. Just as satisfying. Do not need that salt and butter and carbohydrates. Nope...do not need it at all.

And G-d help me, I still have 18.5 kg to go.

Oy. Either I am going to kill Roxie or she is going to kill me.

More Elections

Yesterday, at the gas station:

I filled up my car and went inside to get a cup of coffee. The employees were chatting in Arabic. As she prepared my coffee, the woman behind the counter turned her head and said something to me over her shoulder.

"What? I did not hear you".

"Bibi, Livne, Barak…who are you voting for", she repeated.

Fuck fuck fuck. Must not say Bibi. Not someone right wing. Hell, right now, Barak and Livni are out too. Not to an Arab. Not right after a war. I quickly search my brain….got it.

"I am not sure…. I was thinking of the Green-Meimad party. I like them; they have good ideas." (They also happen to be more on the left, and are strong on the Arab civil rights. And I am not lying. They do have good ideas. They just also qualify as a boutique party—and I am tired of throwing away my vote).

The woman comes over with my coffee.

"Who are you voting for?" I fully expect her to respond "Hadash" or another Arab party. Or perhaps Meretz.

"Livni".

"Livni?" (LIVNI???? She is voting Livni? The same woman the human rights groups are trying to get arrested on her next trip abroad?). "Oh…why Livni?"

"She is a woman. We women have to support each other. You want change, put a woman in charge".

I nodded, paid for my coffee and headed out to my car.

I was still shocked, and more than a little ashamed. To think…I was so busy seeing her as an Arab that I forgot to see her as a person.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Let the Games Begin

Now that the war, or at least this particular round of it, is over and Obama is finally in office, we Israelis can finally get down to the business of our own "peaceful transfer of power". In three weeks, millions of Israelis will head to the polls to decide which of our approximately five zillion political parties will lead us into the future. We will make this decision based on little more than campaign jingles, campaign commercials and campaign posters — often conveniently adorned with helpful verbal and pictorial commentary courtesy of an opposing party—in which each candidate tries to look Strong and Leaderlike and Trustworthy (nu, guys, we KNOW you already) and Able to Make Tough Decisions. Apart from the long-haired guy in the Meretz poster. I have no idea who that man is, but he looks like he just got done smoking an enormous reefer.

But what about the voter who takes his responsibility seriously? Could he not also try reading and listening to interviews with the various party members? He could, but seeing how most of these interviews are comprised of Politician A rambling on about how and why the members of the opposing parties are corrupt, incompetent, weak, short-sighted, self-serving and likely to lead the country into ruin, blah blah blah….Mr. Responsible Voter will be led to the inescapable conclusion that all of our parties and all of our politicians are corrupt, incompetent, weak, short-sighted, self-serving and likely to lead the country into ruin. And, hey, he already know that. So why bother?

My first few elections, I favored a series of boutique parties. You know, small parties that have wonderful ideals, and honest politicians and a breathtaking vision of how to fix Israel. The reason I favored "a series" rather than "one" boutique party is because these parties never last long and only occasionally get a seat in the Knesset. This gets tiring, getting excited about parties and then having them die on you. After seven years of this, I find myself looking at elections in a completely different light than I used to. I am not looking for honesty. I am not looking for leadership. I am not even looking for basic competence. Views I agree with would be nice, but are to an extent optional. What is key and what I am really looking for is…a snake:

From Carpetblog, February 5, 2008

First, Hillary is a snake, but she's our snake. In a fight, I'd want her watching my back. She's going to know where to stick the shiv and how hard to stick it. I like Obama. He's a very talented politician (and cute too!), but getting a pass on your Senate campaign because your opponent got caught going to S&M clubs does not qualify you to withstand the shitstorm that the Republicans will gin up. I want someone who knows how to fight dirty and win at all costs. On our side, no one can do that like a Clinton.


Of course, in the end, Hillary did not win. The Carpetblogger's logic was faulty…in respect to the US. In respect to the Israeli political arena, however, it was spot on. In Israeli politics, if you want anything to get done, anything at all, even things you do not agree with in the slightest…but just to see that something SOMETHING can actually can get done here….you need some sleazy bastard who call in favors and twist arms and threaten and wheedle and sell his own grandmother if it will help him get his way. I want a Clinton, or at least the Israeli version of the same. If Arik Sharon were not in a coma, he would totally be my man. Alas, he is and I must ask the question: Who is Arik Sharon's reptilian heir?

Nu, it is Bibi. Of course it is Bibi. No one screams "snake" as much as Bibi.

But then, if I want Bibi, I have to vote Likud. And not some cute, idealistic boutique party. I would actually have to vote Likud.

Damn. This is harder than I thought.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Live Blogging the Inauguration and Financial Reporting

I had thought about going to a party to watch the inauguration with my fellow Americans. But between the fact that 1) I have to finish monthly reporting and 2) I looked at the guest list and realized that, I have neither the time nor the desire to spend that much quality time with my fellow Americans, the party is a no-go. Nonetheless, I cannot miss this particular inauguration. I have found a happy medium: working at home while getting the inauguration live-stream via CNN.

18:22 The former presidents are now being announced. I do love how they are all smiley and lovey dovey with each other outside. When CNN showed them moving into position to be announced, none of them were smiling and certainly not at each other.

18:23 Well, Jimmy Carter was smiling. But then, he is an idiot.

18:24 Obama's kids are being led in by a woman in what has got to be the worst outfit ever. They look so happy and innocent. Remember this moment. We can all think back on it wistfully when they hit 18 and get outed doing some underage drinking.

18:26 Everyone is going wild for those kids. Can you say "future years of intensive therapy"?

18:29 Wow, that is a lot of people. I know this is terrible, but I am half expecting for some nutcase to try to blow it up. In terms of targets, this beats ANY crowded J'lem bus or coffee-house hands down.

18:35 They just announced George Bush. My, but that is some weak applause--in particular from 2 million people. Of course, I expected to hear boos.

CNN keeps cutting out. Probably a tad overloaded.

18:39 Joe Biden--Go BLUE HENS!

In the interests of full disclosure (am way into that, since I am (supposed to be) in full accounting mode) I do not know that he went to University of Delaware. I could check, but I am supposed to be working so I should not be screwing around on Wickipedia. But he is from Delaware, and that counts.

Supposed to be working=not supposed to be blogging.

18:44 For a minute there, I thought that they were playing the Star Wars theme. Glad to know that this is not the case. That would not be presidential.

Now that is noise. Banshee central...all right next to the CNN cameras.

Wouldn't it be cool if someone were to throw underwear up onto the podium or something?

18:46 "Peaceful transition of power". Does this include or exclude mudslinging elections?

18:48 Okay--preacher slipped the Shema into the invocation. I do hope he realizes that that prayer has nothing to do with Jesus.

18:52 Does anyone else think that the way the preacher said the names of Barak's daughters sound like something out of bad movie? Or a porn film? Or what was that action hero from the 70's --Shaft!

SSSSasha. MmmmmalIa.

I hope Michelle Obama whops him upside the head.

From a friend: "What is up with all the Jesus stuff in the prayer? "

Jesus taught you how to pray? Lovely motek. We Jews taught Jesus.

Again--that Hear O'Israel stuff? Jewish prayer. Predates Jesus by several centuries. Sheesh!

18:55 Anyway, Aretha is God. Anyone can see that.

(Friend disagrees. Thinks George Michael is God).

19:00 Welcome President Obama.

19:02 ooooohhhhhh pretty music

19:07 Wireless fell...and then came back. Got back into CNN right at the start of the speech. Let's hope it does not crash again.

19:09 Crashing economy, war, pestilence, ignorance....yes...I would say that these are indicators of crisis.

19:10 Damn, but this man can speak.

19:12 I seriously have chills.

19:13 Aaaaaccckkkkk!!!! No! Where did you go Obama? Come back! Come back! Not sure if it is stupid CNN or stupid computer.

19:16 Ahhhh....ideals. Not so useful in my neighborhood. alas.

19:17 Power alone cannot protect us, but US would not be nearly as influential if it had no power. Nor would it be as large; a good chunk of it was taken in wars.

19:19 Me: Man can speak.... Friend: ...in full sentences. Me: How on earth did he get elected?

19:20 People in Muslim nations will judge based on what has built, and not based on what is destroyed? Right, because that has been so accurate to this point.

19:23 Yay! Responsibility! I am sending Obama a big old sloppy kiss.

"A man whose father some 60 years ago might not have been served in a local restaurant stands before you today to take a most sacred oath".

Nice.

19:30 Now the poem. The poet's recitation is choppy--sort of a monotone. I presume this is intentional. I cannot decide if I like it or not.

19:37 Now that was a benediction. Amen!

19:44 Back to work.

Friday, January 16, 2009

A Must Read

A.B. Yehoshua in an open letter to Gideon Levy of Haaretz.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Anyone know anyone at Netvision? If so, please do tell that...

THEY SUCK! THEIR SERVICE SUCKS!

If I have to call them one more time to try to get an invoice sent on a monthly basis, I will probably go postal.

Grrr.....

And the tune they play while you are sitting on hold for years....vile.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

On the way to work, Galgalatz played Ivri Lider's cover of "I Kissed a Girl (and I Liked It)".

Please allow me to share the giggle....



(For those not in the know, Ivri Lider is gay. )

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Racist

So, I am sure that all of you have been waiting with bated breath for updates on my newborn diet. Has she survived? Does she have a name?

Oh, who am I kidding? The only thing anyone around here has been waiting for is war updates or passionate articles defending Israel. And I WOULD write about that, I would, if it were not for the fact that…well…must I? With a sincere apology (and some profound embarrassment) to those in Southern Israel and Gaza who have actual cause to be traumatized right now, I am a bit traumatized. Every day there is some new screaming headline about an Arab Israeli going postal: rioting, attacking people with an axe, attacking people with a knife or (and this one scores top points for creativity and drama) lighting oneself on fire and trying to use oneself to blow up a gas station.

I live in Jerusalem. I work in Lod. Two cities with mixed Jewish-Arab populations. This should be inspiring. Thanks to the headlines, it is a sort of nightmare.

Thanks to the headlines, I have become a bit more paranoid, a bit more nervous. Last Thursday, the same day of Operation Human Torch, I realized I was out of gas. I did not have enough gas to get home. I actually hesitated before going to the gas station. Most of the employees were Arab; what if one decided to embark on his own personal Jihad while I was there? But then, the alternative was to drive home without gas, get stuck and end up being kidnapped and murdered by Arabs. And even if I got home, eventually I would have to go to a gas station. Which would, no doubt, have a high percentage of Arab employees who would all want to kill me. Well, in that case—what the hell—may as well get the gas now. Carpe Diem! At least the gas station in Lod has good coffee; I could have a nice café au lait before I died.

That same night, I commented to a friend how I hated the feeling of having to be afraid of 20% of the population of my country. Her response: okay, but you wouldn't go walking around Harlem either. She is right, but that does not make me feel better. Should we not be aiming for something better?

To complicate matters even further, I am aware that my fears are way overblown, are really disgustingly racist and basically consist of my tarring every last Arab Israeli with the same violent, vengeful brush. Even if one assumes that the average Arab Israeli hates Jews (an opinion given some support by Sayed Kashua's column this week in Haaretz), it does not necessarily follow that the average Arab Israeli is going to do anything more unpleasant to me than smiling pleasantly at while cursing me out in Arabic. So now I have guilt on top of the paranoia. Both in order to counter the guilt AND to counter any potential subliminal animosity I might be communicating due to my fear, I now find myself going out of my way to be excruciatingly polite and respectful to the Arabs I meet (for the most part at the gas station)—so much so that I am sure that they can sense how false it is…and hate me even more.

As you can see, good times all around here.

It could be worse. I could be an Arab Israeli trying to navigate this war.

So yes, I would like to ignore the war for a few seconds, if I may. My diet is not dead. She is now a full eleven days old. Her name is Roxie. With the minor exception of my going through sugar withdrawal—making me cranky, jumpy and ready to gnaw on my computer screen if I thought there were any sugar in it, it is going well. And to cheer us all on---I leave you with a performance by Roxie's namesake.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Were they trying to be funny?

From Haaretz

In a possible sign Hamas was unwilling to compromise yet, a senior Hamas official in Syria, Mohammed Nazzal, told Syrian TV on Thursday that the group would never surrender and vowed to fight house to house against Israeli troops in Gaza.

Indeed. A stated intent to fight to the bloody end of themselves and the residents of said houses can be taken as a sign that, perhaps, Hamas is not quite ready to leave this party.

Yes, I do realize that Hamas is broadcasting a wide variety of messages, and that some of them are pure bombast and as such, the bloodthirsty rhetoric may or may not indicate a rejection of compromise. And so on and so forth. Whatever. I still giggled when I read that line.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Update on Keshet's relief work in Sderot

Kayla asked me to post this letter from Yitzhak Sokoloff (executive director of Keshet). He has been spending a lot of quality time in Sderot this past week. Seeing how she just bought me a toaster (belated birthday present) I can hardly refuse. :)


Shalom,


I just returned from a long day in Sderot and the area, where the streets are still largely empty and one can clearly hear the sounds of the fighting in Gaza, less than two miles away. My first stop was at the headquarters of Reut, a group of families who moved to Sderot as a matter of principle in order to make a contribution to a struggling development town fated by its location to absorb thousand of rocket attacks over the last eight years. Reut has set up a food distribution center for about 300 Sderot residents living way below the poverty line, including 150 who received daily meals from the Reut soup kitchen and a few dozen who received weekly packages of diapers until the money ran out last week. Its rather amazing to me that this could happen while Sderot is in the center of attention for Israel and the dozens of foreign journalists roaming its streets, but that is the reality. It costs $2000 a month to serve daily meals to 150 people (less than a dollar per person per day but the fruit, vegetables and labor are all free). During my visit I was joined by my friend Amos Davidowitz from Kibbutz Gezer. Amos contacted friends in the kibbutz movement who contacted a diaper factory which promised to help out, and I spoke with Yehiel Marcus from the Jaffa Institute who offered a shipment of dry goods from their warehouse. But we will also begin supporting this project from the Keshet Israel Relief Fund as of tomorrow.

It was raining and cold tonight in Sderot, and just as I was remembering how miserable those conditions are for soldiers in the field I received a call from the quartermaster of an elite IDF unit which is in the thick of the fighting in Gaza. He told me how proud he is of the young soldiers in the unit, but mentioned that since their job requires them to be out in the open day and night the damp and the cold are taking their toll. He asked us to purchase 150 sets of a windproof fleece, hat, and gloves and promised to bring them into Gaza tomorrow (i.e. Thursday) afternoon. A letter to a group of 10 people who had visited this unit last year produced half the budget for this ($2500) within 2 hours. I am hoping to receive commitments for the remainder by tomorrow morning (Israel time) so that we can purchase the entire shipment. In fact, that is why I am still at my computer at 3:30 AM!

The most encouraging experience I had today was my visit to the volunteer headquarters in Sderot. About 80 Israeli kids- mostly 18 or 19 years old- were meeting to report on their experiences during a week of work in the shelters of Sderot. They came from all over the country, from nearby Beersheva to Rosh Pinna and Moshav Meron in the far north, and they included men and women (really boys and girls) from almost the entire spectrum of Israel- religious and secular, pants and skirts, pony tails and crew cuts, Ashkenazi, Sepharadi and Ethiopian. It was a scene that reminded me of a youth movement get together in Israel or the U.S., except that these kids had just spent a week underground with children who were petrified by all the sirens and the explosions. The organization behind the volunteer project is called Lev Echad (one heart), and it rises like a phoenix every time there is a major crisis in Israel. Just feeding all these volunteers is a major undertaking, and I am proud of the fact that we have been able to support them and hope to continue to do so.


If you are able to help and haven't done so yet, please send your check to Informed Choice for Israel or The Keshet Israel Relief Fund (aka) 244 North Ave, New Rochelle NY 10801. E-mail me that once you have done so. Please indicate the amount of your contribution, and if you would like to allocate it for one or more specific purpose. Passing this letter on with a cover letter would also be very helpful.

We are still awaiting our final letter from the IRS approving Informed Choice as a recognized non profit organization, but we have been in touch with the IRS. Final approvals should come in the next few weeks and all donations will be tax deductible retroactively. Sadly, events in Israel have proceeded at their own pace. Any contribution that you give will be used immediately and all of your money will be put to work.

Yitzhak Sokoloff
Executive DirectorKeshet: The Center for Educational Travel in Israel

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

If you will allow me a brief primal scream...

I would just like to remind everyone that having a minority opinion does not necessarily mean that one is part of a fifth column. Yes, I believe that the war is justified and no, I do not believe that diplomacy is going to quite cut it at this juncture. And yes, I do take issue with those who are screaming and yelling now, but who never thought to do so during all the years rockets were falling on Israeli cities. Nonetheless, each person is entitled to his opinions and to his (peaceful) protest. Of course, this does mean that each of us is liable to hear things that we do not agree with, that we find disagreeable. Consider this the price of the privilege of living in a democracy. One could argue that it is also the benefit received; minority opinions force us both as individuals and as a society to think about our own stances.


So, what do I think of Israelis (Arab and Jewish) who oppose the war? It varies. Some are naive. Some are biased. Some are self-hating Jews. Some are committed pacifists; a noble persuasion, but one that is likely to get you killed in this neck of the woods. Some may be guided by thier frustration over the inequities between Arab and Jew in this country. Some, perhaps even a great number and perhaps even the majority of the minority, have followed the entire conflict carefully and have simply come to a different conclusion than have I.

And yes, some, SOME, are a fifth column, actively fighting and hoping for the outright destruction of the State of Israel.

(And no, holding an opinion that you think will lead to the destruction of the State of Israel is not the same thing. I think that Israel will be destroyed if she continues to produce mind-numbing reality shows. Shall I therefore lump all Big Brother and Survivor fans into the category of "fifth column"? Can I? Please????)

Seriously, there is enough collateral damage in this war already. Let us all try to be careful about how we aim our words.

And remember: the fact that we have minority opinions here and that they are voiced is what separates us from the terrorist organizations.

(Oh...and do remember that, from time to time, derided minority opinions have become the majority opinion.)
****Links***
Muqata-Liveblogging the war with commentary
Israellycool-Liveblogging the war with snarky commentary
Jack-Daily round-up of blog and MSM posts on the war (from varying points of view)

Monday, January 5, 2009

Having nothing to do with the war....

Call me a slave to tradition, but on New Year's Eve, I decided to start yet another diet. I know, it is passé, but starting and breaking diets is a serious hobby for me. As such, I can hardly allow such a momentous milestone as the secular new year to go by without starting another diet. So I did, and at work the next day, I mentioned this to my co-workers. I invited them to place bets on how many hours I would last before hitting the chocolate. But somehow, by some miracle, not the least of which is that no one is bringing in junk food now that we are finally done with those godforsaken Hannukah donuts, the diet survived the entire first day. It then proceeded to survive (more or less) the weekend.

Yesterday, at lunch, I updated my co-workers.

Me: My diet has not died yet!

Hadas: Good for you!

Me: But she is still very fragile. I am not going to name her unless she makes it a full week.

Asaf: Name it? Name a diet?

Me: Nu, not yet! It is still really touch and go.

Hadas: Right, you do not want to get too attached. You are better off waiting.

At this point, Asaf is clearly trying to figure out if I am insane or if my Hebrew is just so atrocious that I really am saying something that makes sense—I am just saying it badly. I barrel along.

Me: So, I think a week is good. If she can survive a week, she might be able to make the distance. That is when she gets a name.

Itai: Like a brit milah!

Me: Exactly. Just without the ceremony. And the food. Apart from maybe some chopped carrots.

Hmmmm…what should I call her?

Asaf: Your diet is a girl?

Me: Nu, bemet—"dietah" ends with an "a". That means it is a she.

Itai: Of course!

Me: Of course, she will probably die.

Hadas: I have faith in you.

Me: How sweet. Now remember, if she does survive, and I do lose the 20 kilos and look halfway decent and date-able, I am counting on you guys to help pimp me out.

Asaf starts to choke on his stuffed peppers. Itai looks confused. Hadas takes it in stride "Oh, we can do that already!"

Indeed? Stay tuned for updates.

Oh—the diet is still not dead. If she makes it to January 7, she gets a name. What to name her…that is the question.
(Names of co-workers changed)

My friend Kayla (often mentioned in these pages) works for Keshet, the Center for Educational Tourism in Israel. Just as they did during the Second Lebanon War, they are redirecting their financial and personnnel resources to providing aid to Israelis under attack. If any of you are looking for a way to help--well, here is a way.

Rather than reinvent the wheel, and (honestly) I really do need to get some work done here, I am copying over the email I got from Kayla.

Keshet Israel Relief Fund- December 2008

Dear Friends,

Shalom. I am writing to you either because you have supported the activities of the Keshet Israel Relief Fund (KIRF)in the past or because you are a member or friend of the Keshet family - participants on one of the hundreds of unique Israel experiences created by Keshet: The Center for Educational Tourism in Israel or its new partner: the Israel Studies Institute (ISI). As we have done during past emergencies- during the intifada and the last war in Lebanon- we are mobilizing our staff and dedicating our financial resources to make a difference in the current situation in Israel. To date, 6,980 missiles have been fired into Israel from the Gaza strip, causing loss of live, injuries, property damage and terrorizing the civilian population, leaving them feeling vulnerable and frightened. To view the film we made about the situation before the IDF's operation, take a look at this link, which shows the situation through the eyes of several mental health professionals in Sderot: http://keshetisrael.co.il/sderothelp.htm


We are now joining together with the Lev Echad (One Heart) organization to do what we can to help out. We have already begun to bring buses of student volunteers to Sderot in order to run activities for children who are now restricted to shelters. The goal of this activity is two-fold: 1) to make their forced stay underground less lonely and frightening and 2) to minimize the natural desire of children to leave the confines of the shelter for simple errands or just go out "for air" and thus expose themselves to danger. Over 1000 volunteers have already registered for this program! We are working to cover the costs of these young people's activities, which include approximately $15 per volunteer for transportation per day and $10 per volunteer for food per day. In addition, we are now in touch with the community social workers in Sderot, Netivot and Ashkelon and making plans to provide alternative housing in youth hostels for particularly difficult cases of families who are not able to cope with the pressures of living under attack. It is not our purpose or within our capacity to relocate thousands of people, but by using the social workers "on the ground" as our eyes and ears and by funding alternatives for particularly difficult situations we believe that we will be making a critical contribution. In particular we are trying to assist single parent families, the elderly and Ethiopian families who generally lack a support network that can provide alternative housing in an emergency.

Our representative, Yuval Sokoloff, is already based in Sderot coordinating the volunteer project with Lev Echad. I will be joining him shortly to explore ways to provide more assistance and to give you a personal view of the situation.


We would very much appreciate it if were you able to add a personal introduction and circulate this request to individuals whom you believe would appreciate the opportunity to assist in this way.

As in the past, our goal is to provide immediate relief upon the receipt of contributions to our efforts. Keshet has therefore undertaken to extend its own resources to supply funding and financial commitments to suppliers such as bus companies, food providers and hostels as soon as we receive commitments from our donor base and using our own resources even before receiving actual payment.


Funds should be made out to the Keshet Israel Relief Fund or Informed Choice for Israel and mailed to the following: Informed Choice for Israel244 North Ave New Rochelle, NY 10801

Transfers can be accepted to the following account: 726209182 with routing number 021000021 JP Morgan Chase ICI is in the final stages of receiving tax exempt status from the IRS and will soon be able to issue tax exempt receipts for contributions.

Thank you for being our partners in this important effort.

Yitzhak Sokoloff

Executive DirectorKeshet: The Center for Education Travel in Israel..


Sunday, January 4, 2009

More on Gaza

As an addendum to/continuation of my last post...

In respect to the anti-war demonstrations by Arab-Israelis, Sayed Kashua presents (in brilliant, sarcastic form) another point of view. Go read it, and then come back. I will wait.

waitwaitwaitwaitwait.....

You back? Yofi. Now my two cents. In respect to the West Bank--yeah, I am going to leave that alone. I feel it is a bit more complicated than how he presents it. However, I do agree with him in respect to the status of Arabs who are citizens of Israel. While I do not understand the support davka for Hamas, I do understand the dissatisfaction.

It does not have to be this way.

In respect to Hamas and Gaza, right now, war is the only option. In respect to Arab-Israelis, we still have other, peaceful, productive and just options. Like, for instance, dropping completely the bullshit argument that Arab in Israel should not complain because they have it so much better here than in Syria or Saudi Arabia. The question to be asked is whether they have it as good as the Jews. So long as the answer is "no"--so long as the Arab sections of Lod bear a striking resemblance to Aza (as per my co-workers who have been there) while the Jewish sections feature such luxuries as "sidewalks", --we have work to do. And so long as we continue to ignore this work, no one should be surprised if Arab-Israelis are not particularly enamored of Jewish-Israelis.

If anyone knows Mr. Kashua, please pass on to him that I do not know what I can do to improve matters, but I will do what I can.

For more on Gaza:

Jack is continuing his roundup.

The Muqata and Israellycool are liveblogging the war.

And please keep on praying for our soldiers. As I said yesterday, I am not afraid...but that is for myself. I am very afraid for them.

Even though it is not the first time I have noted this fear, it continues to surprise me. I would expect to be more removed--seeing how I do not have anyone involved. But instead I have this knot in the pit of my stomach, and I know that I will be checking the news anxiously every half hour or so to see that everyone is okay. I do not mind the fear. The opposite is true. It means I am more Israeli. And that is good.

***Update****

Op-ed from the Jerusalem Post on the same topic.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Gaza

"How do you feel about this whole thing?", asked the woman on the other side of the phone. "This whole thing being the operation in Gaza and "the woman on the other side of the phone" being someone in the UK that I know through work.

I thought about it for a minute. Poked around a bit in my brain to see what feelings might be lurking about. Ahhh...that is what I want. I grab it and present it to the woman on the other side of the phone, like a gift.

"Frustrated", I reply.

There is no other word.

Well, of course that is a bit of an exaggeration. There are plenty of other words. For example, there is "worry", as in:

"I am worried about our soldiers".

There is "shock", as in:

"I am shocked beyond measure that our government may have actually done something without completely fucking it up. Granted, it still may fuck it up, fucking things up being the one thing our leaders--of all of the political denominations--do so incredibly well. Nonetheless, one does have to admit that the element of surprise thing was well done. And that is shocking. "

(As an aside, I would love to say "קטן אליכם" to our fearless leaders...but sadly, that would not be all that accurate).

There is "guilt", as in:


"I feel guilty because my life is going along so normally, while half the country is living in bomb shelters. And there is not a whole lot I can do for them".

There is pride. There is anxiety. There is disgust. There is hope.

(Interestingly enough, there is no fear.)

But most of all, there is frustration. And that is what I offer up to the woman on the other side of the phone. There is the frustration involved in seeing the world’s reaction. What, because Hamas has either bad luck or lousy aim, the missiles they have been lobbing over for the last ten years do not count? There is the frustration in hearing that old, worn-out canard “disproportional response”. This is war, not a high-school judo match. Besides which, a proportional response would be to respond to each missile fired at us with an identical missile, sent with an equal level of concern for civilian populations. A proportional response would be to respond to each suicide bomber on a bus with an identical bomb (sans the bomber) on one of their buses. I could be wrong, but I suspect that such a policy would go over like a lead zeppelin at the UN.

There is the frustration in seeing the reactions of the left-wing and Arabs here in Israel. Where was your rage and where were your demonstrations when we were not attacking, and yet Hamas was sending missile after missile? You think that Hamas is so harmless? That their missiles are just homemade playthings? Put your money where your mouth is—go demonstrate in Sderot for a day or two.

There is the frustration in listening to a news report. Hamas has been broadcasting messages in Hebrew. “We are not afraid. We have lots of missiles”. Which they will continue to send from civilian areas. Because they prefer for more civilians to die. It makes for better propaganda. There is the frustration in reading the reports of bombs hidden in school grounds and mosques and of Hamas leaders sending their wives and children up to the roofs as human shields...and having that sick feeling that the far right may be on to something in its assertion that the language Arabs understand is force .

(Oh, please G-d, do not let it be so. If it is so, there will never be peace. )

There is the frustration in reading and hearing the world’s reaction…and knowing that the world is right. What is happening in Gaza is terrible. And there is the frustration of knowing that the world is right, but we are more right. The rockets have to stop. And really, the world does not give a rats’ ass about rockets falling on Sderot and the Negev.

There is the frustration involved in wishing, desperately, that there was another way…and not seeing one. Not when the other side is only interested in conflict.

The other day, I was witness to a conversation. Two men—both of whom did army service and still do miluim– were debating the merits of a ground operation. One held that it was the right thing to do. Go in, and get the job done. Even if the losses are high—it would be worth it. The other disagreed. Such high casualties…not worth it. The first man’s response: but is that not what an army is for? To fight?

He is right. And if we do not fight now, when will we fight? When the bombs start to hit Tel Aviv? This fight cannot be avoided, merely delayed. And why assume that a delay is in our interests?

(But then, I did not serve, and I have no one who did serve, so who am I to have an opinion either way? What is my opinion based on? This is also frustrating).

I am frustrated. I am angry. I am hopeful. I am worried. I am proud.

Most of all—and I do not say this to the woman on the other side of the phone— I am very, very sad.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Gaza

My apologies to all and sundry (but in particular to my fellow Israelis) for ignoring the war on my blog. My excuses are as follows: it is year-end and I am an accountant; I just got internet at home yesterday and ...I do not know exactly what to say.

I will think of something and post it later, but in the meantime:

1) This guy is saying part of what I am thinking, and very well.

2) Jack has pulled together a collection of what everyone else is saying.

3) This video says a bit more of what I am thinking.