Tuesday, October 24, 2006


YOU WON'T BELIEVE THIS - or - Maybe You Will

You won't believe this - or maybe you will. Yesterday evening as I was sitting and writing my blog and waiting for Myra to pick me up - we were going to the Begin (Begin as in Menahem, not begin as in start) Center for what turned out to be a fabulous multi-media presentation on his life - I was quietly sitting here and writing my blog when it suddenly disappeared into the ether. (Whew - that was some run-on sentence.)

Disappeared completely. I do not know where it is. I looked all over - I clicked on everything - even though I always have the feeling that when I click on an "unknown" my computer will self-destruct. And I can honestly say - because no one will ever know to the contrary - that it was a wonderful blog. All about food. But not to worry - I'll do it again some other time.

In the meantime - we should all give a shout of "HURRAH" that my CM, Elad, is back from Thailand. My computer is losing its mind - does a computer have a mind by the way? I am convinced that there is a gremlin living in my computer and doing its best to drive me crazy. For instance - in the middle of typing a sentence the font suddenly changes - for no reason at all - it seems to make up its mind that it is tired of typing in Arial and changes to Times Roman. (By the way - I hate Times Roman. My apologies to the Times and to the Romans but there it is - I only like sans-serif fonts.) It also switches to italic - for no known reason. Not to mention the other myriad quirks that this brand new computer has. Elad - please finish all your other not very important tasks - like moving into your new flat and registering for University - and come back to me.

Which reminds me - do you ever wonder about the little lady (well, she must be little or she wouldn't fit) who lives insde your telephone or your answering machine? What does she do all day when she's not answering your phone?

Stay Safe.


Saturday, October 21, 2006


VA'AD BAYIT -or - Instant Insanity - PART 2

Tomorrow will be three weeks since I became Rosh Va'ad (President of the Building Committee). I am now certifiably mad.

If you remember the first blog I wrote about the Va'ad - I told you that we were interviewing a management company to take care of the building. That lasted about thirty-two minutes. We hired someone - who made a very good impression - despite the fact that he arrived late to his interview and wearing (horrors) a sort of undershirt thing - sleeveless. (That should have been your first clue, Dick Tracy.) But - this being Israel - and our "norm" being somewhat different from norms in other countries - he was hired.

Almost immediately I knew it was a mistake. He did absolutely nothing - less than nothing if that's possible. He was asked to do something - anything - didn't matter what - he smiled - said "Yes, of course" - and continued to do nothing. I wanted to fire him after two weeks. The former Rosh Va'ad said "absolutely not" - how could I expect her to admit to all of the dyareem (people who live here) that she made a mistake!!! But - and here's the big BUT - there was then no one to run the building.

So - in a moment of madness - I said "fire him and I'll run the building". And they did and I am - and I must be out of my mind. I set down certain ground rules - fat lot of good that does here. I sent around a letter to everyone - both in English and Hebrew so no one could claim not to understand - advising the dyareem of the Va'ad fees for the winter months and asking everyone not to just show up at my flat whenever they choose to - please call me first to see if it is convenient for me. Hahahahahaha.

Yesterday morning my doorbell rang - one of my neighbors wanting to pay her Va'ad fees. Yes, she said - she had read my letter but as she lived in the building anyway she decided not to waste a phone call and to simply show up. O-Kay.

Last night I was out at friends for dinner. There were nine of us - the food was good, the conversation sparkling - we had a wonderful time - and I got home at about 1:00 AM. I'm entitled, aren't I? By the time I got to bed it was well after two. Also OK as the next day was Saturday and I could sleep as late as I wanted to.

So - this morning I got up very early - as I usually do - but - as I had no special plans for the day and the weather wasn't too terrific anyway - I went back to sleep. At 11:00AM my doorbell rang - believe me - the outside doorbell is very loud - and I ran to answer the bell as I thought there was some kind of emergency. What emergency? Another of the dayareem coming to pay his Va'ad fees - at 11:00 AM on a Saturday morning! It was very obvious I had been sleeping - hair awry, eyes puffed with sleep, voice not working properly - and wearing eyeglasses - yes, eyeglasses in public. There are actually very few people who see me in eyeglasses - I'm very vain and always wear my contact lenses - but not this morning as it was Saturday, you will remember, and I was sleeping.

I was quite ungracious - not rude, mind you - just not ready to deal with the outside world. "I came to pay my Va'ad fees" he said. "What are you doing here so early on a Saturday morning?" I queried? He looked at his watch and in a very annoyed voice answered "It's already 11 o'clock - why aren't you up yet?" Eze chutzpah! (what nerve!)

I was almost speechless - 'almost' being the operative word. All I could think of to say in reply was "Even G-d only worked for six days and rested on the seventh. Aren't I allowed to do the same?"

And with that I wish you a Shabbat Shalom.

Stay Safe.


Thursday, October 19, 2006



Today as Marallyn and I were having brunch - yes, we sometimes have brunch on days other than Fridays - we spoke about many things, as is our wont. While we love to gossip and talk shtuyot (silliness) - we also very often talk politics and world events.

And today - I can't remember just what it was that set me off - we discussed the Jonathan Pollard case. This evening, when I checked the TV section of the paper to see if there was anything worth watching - I noticed that there was a documentary on Channel 8 - my absolutely favorite channel because it is all documentaries - about Jonathan Pollard. Synchronicity? Coincidence? In any event I watched the program.

Now I am really angry. I have been angry for years about the way Pollard was railroaded - and have signed many petitions to that effect. All to no avail. And now, after watching the program I am convinced that he is in jail today only because he is a Jew and was spying for Israel. As Alan Dershowitz said - if he were an Egyptian spying for Egypt or a Pole spying for Poland he would not be in jail today.

Does anyone today even remember the Walker family spy case? The Walkers were an American Navy family. Several years ago they sold America's secrets to Russia - an enemy state - and got off with no more than the proverbial slap on the wrist.

Pollard wasn't selling secrets to an enemy state. He was providing Israel with information that the United States had promised to give to Israel - and didn't. Was he wrong to act as a spy? Of course. But did his "crime" call for life imprisionment? Of course not. A life sentence calls for a parole hearing after ten years. He was denied that. And was incarcerated under the harshest conditions imaginable.

According to the film, his spy-handler, Colonel Aviem Sella, left Anne Pollard sitting in a restaurant and got on the first plane out to Europe that night. Today Colonel Sella is personata-non-grata in the United States, as I understand it. Rafi Eitan, his spy-master? Got away scot-free.

But to my mind, the most culpable individual was Casper Weinberger. Just before Pollard's sentencing Weinberger wrote a memo to the presiding judge accusing Pollard of treason. Pollard was never accused of treason. That didn't even enter into the equation. I believe - and have always believed - that Casper Weinberger was a self-hating Jew and was getting back at all the Jews through Pollard. I also believe that it wasn't even Pollard he was angry with but someone else involved in the case whom he was getting back at. No proof - it's just a feeling and a belief.

However - more than being angry I am deeply ashamed. I am an American citizen - and am ashamed of America for allowing this travesty of justice to go on for more than twenty years. And I am an Israeli citizen - and ashamed of Israel for doing absolutely nothing to free Jonathan Pollard. Israel made Pollard an Israeli citizen and gave him an Israeli passport. Whooppe! Now what?

Israel has had many chances to bargain for Pollards release. He is still in prison. America has had many chances to right this wrong - after all, Weinberger has been dead for many years - let it go.

What else can be done? What else can we do?

Stay Safe.


Wednesday, October 18, 2006



The other evening I went to the most fun wedding I ever attended - and that's saying a lot as I've been to many many weddings - including two of my own!

So I'll tell you about an Israeli wedding....or this particular Israeli wedding anyway. For one of the few times I've attended a wedding here in Israel it was held close to Jerusalem. (For some reason Jerusalemites are big on holding weddings far from Jerusalem. The further away the better seems to be the conventional wisdom.) This was only about a half hour's drive from my house - practically around the corner. The huppa (wedding ceremony), so I was told, was to take place at exactly 7:30 because a lot of people had come in a hired bus from far up north - it's about time other people had to travel for hours to get to a wedding instead of me - and had to leave by 10:30 to get home at a reasonable time. Now - no Israeli wedding ever takes place at exactly any time. Never early - always much later. The kabalat panim (reception) was to start at 6:30, so I split the difference and arrived at 7:00. Seemed reasonable to me. Luckily, I was with people who were fun because 7:30 came and went, 8:00 o'clock came and went - we finally ambled towards the chuppa (wedding canopy) about 8:15 - and finally, after much waiting around the ceremony was performed. OK - so now they are married and we can eat - by this time I am ready to eat the tablecloths. Didn't have to eat the tablecoths - Israelis love to eat - so there was good food - and plenty of it.

And what were people wearing? Anything. Everything. Remember in my last blog that I said I was going to "get dressed to the nines"? Well - I actually don't know the genesis of that expression - but I got "dressed to the sixes" - so to speak. I didn't want to be overdressed - which is a great understatement. The father of the groom wore casual slacks and a white pull-over shirt - at his other son's wedding he wore a white T-shirt - so this was really dressed up. The groom's mother wore a beautiful dress and a gorgeous necklace. The groom's uncle wore a suit and tie - another uncle wore a white T-shirt - an aunt wore jeans - the guests wore everything from quite dressy to going-on-a-picnic casual. And that's the way people dress at weddings here - and I've attended weddings which were small (that means only 200 guests) and relatively modest to a wedding at which were the President of Israel (Ezer Weizman) and every general of the Army and Air Force and which had 750 guests in attendance. The bride? She wore white. And so did the groom - white slacks and a white untucked-in shirt and a white crocheted kippa (yarmulke). No tie.

The bride and her family are rather religious - the groom and his family not. So in order to accommodate everyone most of the guests sat together - that means men and women at the same tables - and the bride and her girlfriends sat behind a mehitza (screen) - so that they couldn't see the men and the men couldn't see them. The bride danced with her friends and the groom danced with his.

The atmosphere was fantastic - and after we had eaten and were just sitting around and talking we heard music - do you know the sort of mournful music you hear in New Orleans or at a southern Italian funeral - brasses and drums? That kind of music. So down the side of the hall, walking very slowly, came a brass band - horns and trumpets and trombones and clarinets and drums - and when they got to the front of the hall they really let loose - and it sounded like Dixieland-come-to-Israel. One of the sisters of the groom has a boyfriend who has this band - which, incidentally, just got back from playing gigs in Europe - so don't for a moment think this was any kind of amateurish performance - and they played their hearts out until almost midnight - and we were all jumping and dancing and jiving to the music. It was like being at the best rock concert - only better. And I had no idea that the groom and his brothers and sisters were such fabulous dancers - actually, they're an incredibly talented family all around - which is why I'm so lucky to have them for my friends.

And the people who had to leave at 10:30 to get back to Nahariya? Only when the band stopped playing did we notice that people had left - miskenim (poor things) - they missed the best part.

Stay Safe.


Sunday, October 15, 2006



It's almost the end of Succot - for some people it already ended - for others it ends tonight. Don't ask - I really don't understand it myself. A custom has sprung up here among the (mostly) American Jews - mostly religious - all kinds of religious - black hat religious - kippa sruga (knitted yarmulkas) religious - Conservadox religious (sort of a compromise between Orthodox and Conservative) - Flexidox religious (flexible in their practices - for instance, they don't drive on Shabbat but they watch television) - any kind of religious you can think of - that custom being that they come to visit for Hol HaMoed Succot (the intervening days of the Holiday). The ones with children of marriageable age come to make shidduchim (matches) for their offspring. Certain of the hotels have become very popular for this shidduch visit...especially the Inbal and the Citadel. These hotels are very pricey - so you know that the people you meet there have money - same as you have. There are also people who have young kids - they just come to have fun.

This morning I went to the Inbal to have breakfast with the daughter of very old friends of mine - my friends aren't so old, they're friends of long-standing...about twenty-five years or so and I was at their daughter's wedding twenty-one years ago. (In case you are interested I even remember what I wore to the wedding!!) Before I continue - my friend's daughter does not fit into the category I'm going to tell you about - far from it. They are a family of six - so you know they have to have the means to stay at the hotel - and they are buildng a holiday flat here so they don't have to stay at a hotel when they visit. OK - money. But they're very unpretentions and down-to-earth people - educated, interesting and fun to be with.

So why am I telling you about this? Because I'm still in shock. ( I'm not going to use names this time as I don't want to embarrass anyone.) Where was I? Oh yes. So I got to the hotel at 9:45 in the morning. I was dressed very nicely - I thought. Slacks and a top, nice shoes and bag, relatively modest jewelry (for me anyway as I don't go out of the house without, at least, earrings, rings, a bracelet or two, a nice watch - you know, my everyday jewelry). Was I in for a shock. The women I met were decked out in full glory - enormous diamond stud earrings (to tell the truth I'd kill for a pair of 3 carat each stud earrings), big big big diamond engagement rings, diamond wedding rings, dressy dresses and high-heeled shoes. And that was for breakfast. And the young girls were also all decked out - fancy dresses, little heels - although sans diamonds.

Am I moving in the wrong circles? We mostly don't even get dressed like that to go to a wedding. You're lucky if the groom is even wearing a tie!!! The only time I saw women dressed like that in the morning was a fashion show Devora and I went to in Tel Aviv. We thought we looked pretty terrific - instead we looked like someone's poor relations. And it's not that we don't have knockout jewels and great clothes - we just don't wear all our finery to breakfast. But I'm going to a weddng tomorrow night - I'm going to get all fapitzed (dressed to the nines) and knock 'em dead.

Stay Safe.


Saturday, October 14, 2006



Sometimes things - and people - get so crazy here that you wonder why you stay - and then - some other things happen and you know exactly why you stay. I lived in my co-op in Manhattan for twenty-six years and in all that time I think I was in five other flats in the building. The building I lived in wasn't very large - by Manhattan standards - twelve floors and ninety-six flats. I lived on the eleventh floor and so had to use the lift all the time - except when we had one of our famous blackouts and had to walk up and down. Anyway - you got into the lift - said "hello" if there was anyone else in the lift - and then faced front and earnestly studied the indicator so that you wouldn't have to make eye contact. You know the way it is in large cities. The only people I saw with great regularity were the doormen and the porters. Here - except for a very very few buildings - we don't have doormen and porters.

Here, I live on the ground floor - in a four storey building - four entrances - thirty-two flats - with a lift to be sure - which I don't, of course, use. But "ground floor" are the operative words. My doorbell is the first one your finger goes to. Amisragas comes to read the gas meters? They ring my bell to gain entrance. Hevrat HaHashmal comes to read the electric meters? They ring my bell. And nevermind that you are in the shower and can't get to the door - or are simply "otherwise engaged" and don't want to answer the doorbell. They simply ring and ring - and if you have no strength of character and can't ignore the bell - you leap out of the shower - and dripping all through the house
- you run to answer the door - because it may be the Millionaire come to give you a very large check (!) - and when you finally get to the door you find that they have rung someone else's bell and are already in and checking the meters. And are most annoyed that you didn't come running when they first rang.

Some years ago I put a sign on my doorbell asking people not to ring my bell if it wasn't I they wanted. Do you know the Yiddish expression "Vit gorhisht helfen?" (It doesn't help.) It didn't help - not in the slightest. They always wanted me. "What do you mean I don't want you?" Of course I want you. I want you to open the door". See what I mean about living here?

Yesterday - after trying for hours to get out of the house - my friend, Myra, came to get me as it was Friday and we were going out to breakfast (yes, I know that Marallyn and I usually go out to breakfast together but sometimes Myra joins us and as Marallyn is in the midst of an allergy attack and Rosaline is in the States visiting her son and daugter-in-law and "eineklach" (grandchildren)) - it was just Myra and me. So anyway - after dealing with the man who takes care of our building, speaking on the phone several times, meeting the new tenant for the parking lot - we finally left. We went to the Moshava - to "Caffit", one of my favorite cafes - and dying of hunger by that time as it was already 11:30 - we sat down to eat. Gaby - one of the owners - saw me and came running over to greet me and wish me a "Shana Tova". And the next thing we knew - there was a plate of all kinds of goodies on the table. That was in addition to the breakfast we had ordered. Just a plate of goodies to say "hello - we are so glad to see you". And it's by far not the first time it's happened - and it's so personal and so welcomng - and so warm - and it's one of the many reasons why I love it here. Just a little thing - but such a big thing.

Stay Safe.


Wednesday, October 11, 2006



As a matter of fact, I do say tomahto. I don't know where that bit of affectation came into my vocabulary but there it is.

What started me thinking about that was last night some friends and I went to a Food Fair at which was sold all kind of "pickevkas" (tchotchkes) and, of course, food. What did I tell you about Israelis eating all the time? Whenever and wherever - we eat. After all, we never know where our next meal is coming from! So anyway, my friend ordered a "giapetta" sandwich with some kind of filling. So what's a "giapetta"? It's a "ciabatta" - a kind of Italian roll. "Ciabatta" actually means shoe in Italian because the roll is vaguely shoe-shaped - if you use your imagination. "Giapetta" sounds like Pinocchio's daddy - only with an "a" on the end. Israelis are really so creative when in comes to language.

Like going into a cafe and ordering coffee and a "corazon". What's a "corazon'? A heart - in Spanish. What they really mean is "croissant". Now, I ask you .....

We also use English words for certain things - with a little Hebrew twist just to make them our own. For instance - sandwiches are called "SEND-vitch-im" - "im" being a plural ending in Hebrew. ("ot" is also a plural ending - but that's another story for another day.) And sweaters are called "SVEDER-im". And brakes (on your car) are called "BREKS-im". And a back axle (also on your car) is a "bek-eksl" - and a front axle is a "front bek-eksl".

But we're not the only people who make "hackflaisch" (chopmeat) out of language. I watch FOX News from America and I cringe when I hear the newsreaders pronouncing some of our Hebrew names. Shimon Peres is call "per-EZ". He just so happens not to be Latino. His name is actually pronounced "PEHR-ess". And Bibi Netanyahu's name is pronounced "net-in-OW" on the news. It should be pronounced "neh-tan-YAHOO".

But my biggest cringe comes when President Bush talks about "nu-CYU-lar" energy. Mr. President - it's "nu-cle-ar" - nuclear - NUCLEAR!!!!

Stay Safe.


N.B. - Oh yes - one request - when you want to comment on my Blog - please enter your comment in the space under the Blog called "comments"...and not into my e-mail. Why? Because I haven't yet figured out how to transfer the comment from the e-mail to the Blog. As I've told you before - I am the most technologically challenged person I know. Thanks. R

Monday, October 09, 2006



So why do I say "probably"? Because I'm superstitious - because don't want to give myself an "ayin ha ra" (a "kunnehora" in Yiddish - a "malocchio" in Italian - or just a plain evil eye in English). And besides - you should never say never. I won't do all ten today - I'll just do them one at a time as I think of them - you try to keep it all straight. And there will probably be more than ten. So what made me think of this today?

We are now celebrating Chol Ha Moed Succot - the intervening days of Succot. Wherever you go in Jerusalem - well, in the rest of the country, too, but I'm speaking particularly about Jerusalem - people are eating all their meals in succot (the temporary booths built with the roof open to the sky) - some people sleep in succot - and those of us who do not build succot (they're called sukkas in the States) are often lucky enough to be invited to someone's home who does build a succah.

Today I was invited to my friend Joey's house. Whatever Joey does he does with class - and his succah reflects that. What a gorgeous setting - overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem. But I'm not writing to tell you about his gorgeous succah and the delicious food and the icy-cold white Yarden wine and the perfect fruits - fresh figs and grapes, rimonim (pomegranates), passiflora (passion fruits), dates --- I'm thinking about the guests who were there. Now, it's not as if we were invited for a specific time. He holds open house for two days and you show up any time it suits. So we showed up at about a quarter to one and who was there? A curator from the Israel Museum whom I studied with about twenty eight years ago - and whom I run into periodically, and the man who takes care of my flat when I am abroad - among other people. And the usual comments - I didn't know you knew so-and so - why didn't you tell me you were going to be here? A whole cross section of people - who in another world wouldn't even know each other. But here in Israel - every one knows everyone else.

I tell you - if I were going to have an affair with someone in Jerusalem, I wouldn't have an affair with someone in Jerusalem - if you get my meaning. It is impossible to be anonymous here.

And that's one of the reasons why I love living here - despite the fact that not only does everyone know you - or if not you personally, then your best friend or your mother or your ex, or has heard about you from someone else. For instance - I ran into someone a few weeks ago who also does volunteer work for MELABEV and she said to me, "You're just the person I'm looking for - I was gloing to call you". Why? She wants to put together a cookbook for our organization and whomever she spoke to said, "You must call Rena Isaacson". And I don't even know these people she spoke to!!!

Someone once said, "A stranger is just a friend you haven't met yet" - I'm lucky to be able to live among so many friends and strangers.

Stay Safe.


Saturday, October 07, 2006



The dog ate my homework. My grandmother died - for the third time this year - and I had to go to the funeral. My computer was down. Pick any excuse. The truth is - the computer died - not my grandmother of blessed memory - life got in the way - the Holidays came and were duly celebrated - I am, once again, the Rosh Va'ad (head of the Building Committtee in case you forgot) ---- nevermind - here I am again.

Anyway - I got through Rosh HaShana without too much damage to my (perennial) diet and without spending too much time in the kitchen. I was invited out for meals, and although I came with my contributions toward the dinners and lunches it still wasn't the same as having to do the whole thing myself. I survived the Fast of Yom Kippur - very easy this year I must say, as the weather wasn't too hot - and did no damage to my diet at all.

So, yesterday was back to real life - although Succot began last night - and Marallyn and I went out for our usual Friday morning breakfast. We missed last Friday as it was erev Yom Kippur and we had a lot to catch up with. I mentioned how much I love to be in Israel for the High Holidays. We're all on the same page - so to speak - you know that almost everyone will be celebrating in some way - some of us go to Beit Knesset (synagogue) - some of not - most of us will be attending festive meals - many of us will have been cooking and preparing and shopping and shopping and shopping - and eating and eating and eating - and on Yom Kippur the whole country is observing this Holy Day. And while not everyone fasts and while not everyone goes to Beit Knesset - no one drives and everything is closed down. All restaurants and shops and places of entertainment are closed, there is no radio - no television - no one drives - the normally very busy streets are absolutely empty except for people walking and kids riding their bikes. (That's another crazy custom that has begun here - kids go out bike riding on Yom Kippur because it's safe - there are no cars on the roads. But somehow this year there were fewer kids than usual on their bikes.) In short - Yom Kippur here is like no where else in the world.

As we were talking - Maralyn and I came to the conclusion that in order to really know Israel and the Israelis you have to be here for three particular days. Yom HaZikaron (Remembrance Day for our Fallen), Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) and Yom HaAtzmaut (Independence Day). On Yom HaZikaron and Yom HaShoah the whole country is in mourning. The television plays - and replays - films of our fallen soldiers and films depicting life as it was in Europe and in the camps. Restaurants and places of entertainment are closed as these days are not times for celebrating. Can you just imagine a day where a siren is sounded in the morning and wherever you are - whatever you are doing - you stop. If you are at home you stop whatever you are doing and just stand and remember. And if you are in your car you stop - get out of your car and just stand and pay hommage to the dead until the siren tells you to go back to your life. The whole country just stops. And when Yom HaAtzmaut comes along we Israelis go back to being the way we always are - caring, loving, rude, sensitive, insensitive, brash, loud - and always hungry. The whole country barbecues - and eats and talks, and laughs and eats some more - and we get on with our lives until next year - when, once again, we remember. Actually - we never forget.

Shana Tova and G'mar Hativa Tova.

Stay Safe.


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