Wednesday, July 23, 2008



And so the craziness begins. Shiputzim is the word we use when we are talking about renovations - and I have just begun to leshapetz (renovate) my flat. Three days into the job and I am already asking myself "WHY?". Don't ask. Or as Marallyn and I sometimes say - "dun't esk".

Wasn't my flat beautiful enough as it was? Why can't I leave well-enough alone? Why do I need this meshugas (craziness)? Well - because I want something new and modern and beautiful - and if I get through this with my sanity intact - it will all be new and modern and beautiful.

...and because I wanted a new refrigerator - a very big - VERY BIG - "Sharp" refrigerator - stainless - four-door - and VERY BIG!! So - in order to make room for this new member of my family we had to break a wall in my kitchen - what a dirty, messy job. The dust doesn't end. It's in everything.

Why just stop there? I'm putting down new floors in the whole flat, changing all my front windows - putting in a new en-suite bathroom (a very dramatic bathroom I might tell you) - building a big storage unit for all my "stuff" (serving platters and serving dishes and all the "stuff" I use when I have dinner parties) - moving my living-room furniture around (which is why I need the new storage unit so that I can get rid of the one in the living room) so that I can fit in a large dining area (which, of course, means buying a new, large, dining table) - building more book shelves for my ever-growing collection of books - and on and on and on.

I'll tell you about my cast of characters. We'll begin with Menashe - my architect - who is one of the sons of one of the best-known restaurant families in the city - but you already knew that everything I do is - somehow - tied in with food. He's half Parsi and half Turkish. Incidentally, I've eaten at his family's restaurant hundreds of times over the years I've been here - and like the food very much - so that part works for me.

I like him because he knows what he's doing - is very professional - and he listens to what I have to say. He doesn't always agree with me - but he gives me the courtesy of listening and discussing. And he didn't run in horror when I presented him with three single-spaced typewritten pages of what I wanted to do. Some things are do-able - some things not - we compromise.

I wanted to begin this job a month or so ago but Menashe wanted me to wait until a particular kablan (contractor) was free to work for me. And was he ever right. He brought me Avi - a Kurdi - who brought with him Shimshon - also a Kurdi. I cannot believe what yekkes (from the German word for 'jacket' - which is used in Israel to describe someone who is very exact and precise) they both are. Suits me just fine. I've never seen people who work with such care and precision - just my type of people.

And Avi also brought me his father - Shmuel - an old-time cabinet-maker - who is also a Kurdish yekke. Couldn't be better.

Last - but not least - is Rachel - who is my source for floor tiles and wall tiles and bath-tub and sink and faucets - Moroccan - who is like everyone's Mama - she worries about every little thing....the right tiles - the correct roba (grout) to use - finding me the bathtub I wanted when everyone said it wasn't available - and a voice of calmness and sanity. Nothing seems to faze her.

And so it begins. Will keep you up to date on the progress. Wish me well.

Yalla, Bye.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008



Am Yisrael (the people of Israel) is crying. Just a few hours ago we received the bodies of our two dead soldiers - Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev - in return for the release of one of the most vicious murderers, Samir Kuntar - alive.

Not to mention that we still haven't received any definitive word about the fate or whereabouts of Ron Arad.... which was promised to us as part of this deal.

Not to mention that we are still trying to obtain the release of Gilad Shalit.

I won't go into all the whys and wherefors of this travesty - you have all read every word about it in your newspapers.

What I will say, however, is that we must change our government now - and change the way we deal with the issue of our kidnapped soldiers and the terrorists we have in our prisons.

How Nasrallah must be laughing at us. And how this one-sided exchange must be giving all the terror groups hope. Hamas, Fatah, Hezbollah - and anyone else who is planning to kidnap our soldiers and civilians - only have to know that we will accede to their demands in return for dead bodies, one or two photographs and some old bones.

How very sad for the families involved - never to know the fate of their loved ones. But - we must send a message that we will consider releasing terrorists "with blood on their hands" - or any terrrorists for that matter - only for our captives who are returned to us alive. And we must verify that fact. Where was the world during this exchange? Where was the Red Cross? Where was our government?

Dear Goldwasser Family, Dear Regev Family - I - and all of Israel - cry for you and with you today.

May you be counted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.


Tuesday, July 15, 2008


VA'AD BAYIT - or instant insanity - part 4

In my last "VA'AD BAYIT" post I told you that we would have our assifa clalit (Annual General Meeting) on July 8th. We had the meeting - although not at my house as I had planned - because I'm starting my shiputzim (renovations) shortly and my flat is not exactly organized at the you can well imagine. (More about the shiputzim as time goes on.)

In case you had forgotten, I am the Rosh Va'ad (head of the building committee) - and as such, I am in charge of everything pertaining to the building. And I mean everything. And I don't want to be the Rosh Va'ad any more. So - I began the meeting by saying "I resign". "No, you can't". "Yes, I can". "What part of 'I resign' don't you understand"? And this went on and on and on - and to put you out of your misery - yes - I agreed to continue as Rosh Va'ad.

You will say that I have no strength of character - and you will be right. I hate being Rosh Va'ad - I don't want to be the mommy of the building any more - I want to go back to being a private person. But - and here's the BIG BUT - I don't have to do it all alone any more. This time around I actually managed to enlist some help. This time around I actually have a Va'ad (committee). Two other owners have agreed to be an active part of the committee with me - that makes three of us instead of just me - and one owner has agreed to do the books. I think that this time they really believed me - and I really was prepared to resign. In fact - I was looking forward to it.

That's the big thing - I'm ashamed to admit it but I don't even know how to balance a checkbook. I keep records - for the building - in triplicate. Why in triplicate? Because I don't know what I'm doing and that way I have my own system of knowing what comes in - but I'm not always sure of what goes out. Some bills are paid by me - some bills are paid by the bank - I see numbers and my eyes glaze over.

So - we are at the beginning of a new regime. I will never have to ask anyone for money again. And that means NEVER. I will never have to balance a checkbook again. And that means NEVER. I will never have to lose sleep about the people who don't want to pay - that's someone else's problem.

All I have to worry about now is running the building. And to celebrate that, I'm having someone in tomorrow to take pictures of a pipe which we think has broken underground and which is causing a major leak. In the whole scheme of things that should be a snap.

By the way - in the "it can only happen in Israel" department - yesterday Marallyn and I were driving to visit her son and daughter-in-law for a barbecue - yes, another Kurdi barbecue - to celebrate Sweetsie-Tootsie's (her grandson) birthday. Between us we have absolutely no chush kivoon (sense of direction). Give us directions and we'll follow them to the letter - but don't ask us to improvise. So - just as we got to the street where we have to turn "right" - the police waved us off. Why? This is a quiet, completely residential neighborhood. What can be happening? Well - I'll tell you. A new torah scroll was being delivered to the neighborhood synagogue. That's a reason to close a street?

What would we do without cell phones? We called Sweetsie-Tootsie's mother - several times I might tell you - and finally made it to their house. As in all these new developments all the buildings look the same - exactly the same. But - Sweetsie-Tootsie and his Dad were outside - home free. Needless to say - all the Kurdim and the three Ashkenazim had a wonderful time.

Yalla, Bye.

Monday, July 07, 2008



Last week my cousin's daughter got married - of course the wedding was miles and miles from my home. Why should it be otherwise? I've only been to three weddings in Jerusalem itself and tthree weddings in "the vicinity" - which means I had to drive for less than one hour.

This wedding was gorgeous - and one of the happiest and jolliest weddings I have ever attended. And - for the most part - the people really dressed up. True - there were some jeans and crop-tops - and an aunt of the bride actually wore blue trousers and her son's cast-off T-shirt. But that's her style - and nothing is ever going to change her.

I was invited to dress at my cousin's house instead of driving for hours in all my finery. My cousin is such a lady - and with such good taste. She knows that I hate to arrive at a big function all alone and so she said to change my clothes at her house, sleep over after the wedding - and we'd all drive to the wedding together. How graceful she is. And how grateful I was. There she was - organizing this event for three-hundred people and also thinking of me.

And she looked gorgeous - as did the bride - who is gorgeous anyway - and her sister - who is also gorgeous anyway.

Everything has changed over the course of the years I've been here - even catering. Weddings used to be interchangeable - all the food was the same and all served the same way. Burgundy table cloths, lots and lots of food at the kabbalat panim (reception) before the chuppa (wedding ceremony) - so that when it was time for the dinner it was impossible to eat a thing. Which didn't matter as the food was usually awful - little oval dishes with indifferent salataim (salads) already on the table, a choice of fish or puff pastry stuffed with liver for the starter and for the main course a choice of reva off (quarter chicken) or tough and stringy pot roast. And the tosafot (side dishes) - all on platters in the center of the table - roast potatoes, rice, grey string beans - you get the picture.

Instead of a lot of heavy food for the reception, waiters passed around light h'ors d'oeuvres - delicious goodies such as kebabs on cinnamon sticks, ceviche in martini glasses, mini vol au vent shells with liver pate and phyllo dough packets with portobello mushrooms which looked like wrapped candies.

But the main courses were something else. Buffet-sit down - white table cloths - glass bowls filled with pebbles and candles - and "stations" to get your food around the perimeter of the room. But each station had another complete main course. With people serving and arranging the portions beautifully so that the guests didn't walk away with their plates looking like an archeological dig - you've seen that awful sight - salads and vegetables and fish and meat and... and... and...all piled on top of each other willy-nilly in case you might miss something.

And the plates were different at each station to fit the food - square plates with a delicate mixture of diced vegetables topped with a filet of succulent fish - large round bowls with a bed of red lentils topped with beautifully roasted eggplant topped with a mixture of chickpeas and pargiot (boned chicken thighs) topped with baby greens and a delicate dressing (one of the most beautifully presented and delectable dishes I have ever eaten!) - round plates with entrecote steak served with roasted potatoes and pears(!) - larger round plates on which was an "order" of 'burgers and chips (french fries) all properly garnished - and smaller bowls with noodles and rice and stir-fried vegetables in a coconut milk sauce. On each table was an assortment of square bowls with beautiful and tasty and original salads. I could have made a meal of the salads alone.

For dessert there was a coffee bar set up with baristas preparing espresso - and teas - and butz (a particularly Israeli coffee which looks like mud - which is what butz means). And, again, pass-around platters of miniature desserts - as many of us had dispersed to the tables and sofas set up outside - and so that people could sample lots of things.

A nice touch - a red wheel barrow filled with shiny buckets of all kinds of candies was set out for all the noshers after dinner.

The bride and groom were adorable - the guests had fun - the food was delicious - the taklitan (DJ) was great - the music was wonderful - a perfect start to what I hope will be a perfect life for the young couple.

Yalla, Bye.

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