JUMPING SHIP

Daily Prompt: Walking on the Moon

by Krista on February 23, 2014 – What giant step did you take in which you hoped your leg wouldn’t break? Was it worth it, were you successful in walking on the moon, or did your leg break?

I was born in Brooklyn, New York in March 1947. By the end of 1977 I found myself at emotional loose-ends. I was closing the book on chapter one of my life and looking for the next part of the story. Which is why, in January 1978, I tossed everything into a couple of trunks, got permission to take my son with me … and ran away to join the circus. Well, not the circus. I made Aaliyah and went to live in Israel which is very similar. I’d wanted to go there since I was an overly romantic teenage girl with visions of Ari Ben Canaan stuffed in my head.

I had a bunch of reasons for going, though the bottom line was a persistent hunger for adventure and a yearning for romance. It went like this:

  • My marriage was over. I wanted to get on with life and being very far away seemed like a fine choice
  • I wanted to put an ocean between me and my father. I forgot this would put an ocean between me and everyone else, too
  • My idea of Israel was gleaned entirely from books, movies and Mom — but it sounded great
  • I wanted to get out of my safety zone and into a wider world. I was bored
  • I wanted culture shock. To immerse myself in a different society. Really bored
  • I was tired of suburban life and wanted to do something big. Or, in other words, I was really, really bored.

How did it go? I gave up a lot to go there. Everything. Except my son. Divorce is easy if you hand everything to your ex and take a hike. I probably should have made a better settlement but I was young. Freedom was worth everything. Eventually I came to realize money matters too, but back then, it didn’t seem all that important.

I got plenty of excitement. I got layer upon layer of history, the ghosts of millennium walking with me on the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem. I got romance too, but not the sweaty, breast-heaving sort. It was the romance of discovery, more interesting than I dreamed. All in all, a worthy adventure.

Where I used to live.

Where I used to live.

I learned a lot in Israel. I discovered how provincial and ignorant I was. I learned how inaccurate the international press is, that everything you read about the Middle East is slanted. Sometimes, it’s completely untrue. As in “that never happened.”

Israelis — like other people — are not of one mind. Israelis don’t walk, talk and think in lock-step. If you know anything about Jewish culture, the idea that millions of Jews could live together and agree on anything (much less everything) is funny. Get three Jews in a room and you’ll have 4 — or more — opinions. With millions of Jews all packed together? Imagine the possibilities.

When I am asked about Israel, I find myself saying: “It’s complicated.” Which translates to “The amount of time it would take me to answer your question exceeds any real interest you have in the subject. ” Where Israel is concerned, it’s always complicated. Because everyone is right. And wrong.

Flaws and all, it’s the only place on earth where Jews live by a Jewish calendar, where we aren’t a tiny minority. We need Israel as our safe place when nowhere else will take us in. It’s not paranoia — it’s history. Without Israel, Jews are fragile nomads, blowing with the winds of war and public sentiment.

Home

Home

What brought me back?

I’m American. This land is my land (please join in for the chorus). The seasons sync with my body. I can smell the salt air of the Atlantic. The trees are the right color and they turn gold in autumn. After 9 years away, I needed to come home.

I’m glad I went, glad I stayed but very glad I came back.

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BRAINWAVE: IT SEEMED LIKE A GREAT IDEA AT THE TIME

What’s the best idea you’ve ever had? Regale us with every detail of the idea — the idea itself, where it came to you, and the problem it solved.

Photographers, artists, poets: show us BRIGHT.

75-SunflowerNK-2

Ancient Estate and Garden Fountain Unearthed in Israel

See on Scoop.itTraveling Through Time


The remains of a wealthy estate, with a mosaic fountain in its garden, dating to between the late 10th and early 11th centuries have been unearthed in Ramla in central Israel.

The estate was discovered during excavations at a site where a bridge is slated for construction as part of the new Highway 44.

“It seems that a private building belonging to a wealthy family was located there and that the fountain was used for ornamentation,” Hagit Torgë, excavation director on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, said in a statement. “This is the first time that a fountain has been discovered outside the known, more affluent quarters of Old Ramla.”

Fountains from the Fatimid period were mostly found around the center of the Old City of Ramla called White Mosque, Torgë added.

Researchers found two residential rooms within the estate along with a nearby fountain made of mosaic and covered with plaster and stone slabs; A network of pipes, some made of terra cotta and connected with stone jars, led to the fountain. Next to the estate, archaeologists also founda large cistern and a system of pipes and channels used to transport water.

Other discoveries at the site included oil lamps, parts of dolls made of bones and a baby rattle.

A network of pipes, some made of terra cotta and connected with stone jars, led to the fountain disc …

“This is the first time that the fountain’s plumbing was discovered completely intact. The pipes of other fountains did not survive the earthquakes that struck the country in 1033 and 1068 CE,” Torgë said in a statement.

Ramla was founded in the eighth century by the ruler Suleiman Ibn ‘Abd al-Malik. Its strategic location on the road from Cairo to Damascus and from Yafo to Jerusalem made Ramla an important economic center.

The entire area seems to have been abandoned in the mid-11th century, likely in the wake of an earthquake, according to the IAA.

Once the excavation is complete, the fountain will be displayed in the city’s Pool of Arches compound.

Due to Israel’s long history, construction projects often yield archaeological discoveries. For example, a “cultic” temple and traces of a 10,000-year-old house were discovered at Eshtaol west of Jerusalem in preparation for the widening of a road. And during recent expansions of the main road connecting Jerusalem to Tel Aviv, called Highway 1, excavators found a carving of a phallus from the Stone Age, a ritual building from the First Temple era and animal figurines dating back 9,500 years.

See on news.yahoo.com

 

DUAL CITIZENSHIP

I went to live in Israel at the end of 1978. I had a lot of reasons, almost all personal and non-political.

  • My marriage was over. I wanted to get on with life
  • When I was 14, I had read “Exodus” so many times the binding disintegrated
  • I had a romantic idea of Israel gleaned from books, movies and Mom
  • I wanted to get out of my safety zone and into a wider world
  • I wanted culture shock. To live in another place and immerse myself in a different society
  • I was bored with my suburban life and wanted to do something big.

I got the excitement if not the romance. It was more interesting than I dreamed, but entirely different.

Where I used to live.

Where I used to live.

That’s how come I’m a dual citizen of the U.S. and Israel. I didn’t ask for Israeli citizenship. I lived there 9 years and it was automatic — the Law of Return in action. I haven’t gone back to visit since I left in 1987 (though I was there on business in 2001), but I find it comforting to have a spare country. If I need to gather my family and make a run for it, there’s Israel. How ironic. Paranoia and Jewishness are natural partners.

I learned a lot living in Israel. I discovered how provincial and ignorant most Americans are, including me. I learned the international press does not accurately report news from the middle east. It’s not just Israel. Some press is slanted towards Israel. Most is slanted toward the Arab side … and none is accurate. Everything you read is slanted and much of it entirely wrong.

Israelis — like every other people — are not of one mind. Israelis don’t walk, talk and think in lock-step. If you know anything about Jewish culture, the idea that millions of Jews could live together and agree on anything is laughable. Get three Jews in a room and you’ll have 4 — or more — opinions.

When I am asked about Israel, I find myself speaking in clichés. “It’s complicated,” I say. Which means that the amount of time it would take me to answer your question exceeds any actual interest you have in the subject. Where Israel is concerned, complicated doesn’t begin to cover it. You are right. He is right. I am right. And all of us are wrong.

Pretty much all the news of the middle east you see on television is staged, in whole or in part. This shouldn’t surprise anyone. By definition, the arrival of cameras changes an event. As soon as the crews show up, people line up offering to form an angry mob. Some do it for cash, some to fuel a political agenda … and most do it for fun. Everyone wants to see themselves on TV. Some are regulars. If you follow the news, you’ll see the same faces show up over and over again.

I’d been living in Israel for a while before I realized I didn’t know anything. All the opinions I had before I got there turned inside-out. It is very complicated. It is perfectly possible to agree and disagree with everyone at the same time. There have been more than enough mistakes, more than enough atrocities for everyone to have a good dollop of blame.

For all that, I believe in Israel. More specifically, I believe it has a right to be there. After thousands of years of persecution, Jews need a little piece of planet Earth to call home. The Arab world has plenty of physical space, lots of land. The only reason any Palestinians remain refugees is political, not practical.

Regardless of the myriad rights and wrongs on both sides, suggesting Israel give up being a sovereign nation is ludicrous. Suggesting it give up additional land is ridiculous too and if you’d ever been there, it would be obvious why.

The country is miniscule, barely sufficient to house its existing population. It has no natural resources, not even water. No oil. Erratic rainfall in an arid zone. Crappy soil and not much of it. About the only things it has going for it is the determination of its people to survive, some really great beaches, an impressive community of scientists and engineers. And tourism. It’s not a plummy sort of place, not the rich land of milk and honey suggested in the Old Testament.

It’s the only place on earth where Jews live by a Jewish calendar, where we celebrate our own holidays along with our neighbors, where Jews don’t have to fend off Christmas. Where we aren’t a tiny minority.

We need Israel, need that safe place. Even if it isn’t entirely safe. Even though it’s controversial. Without it, Jews are back to being a people without roots or country.

A WIN FOR WOMEN

In the mid 1980s in Israel, I worked at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot with the team developing DB1, the first relational database. Those familiar with databases and their history should go “Ooh, aah.” Feel free to be awed. These are my bona fides certifying my “original geekhood.”

I was not a developer of course. I’m a computer-savvy writer, but I worked extensively on Quix, the first real-English query language and I documented DB-1. I was eventually put in charge of creating promotional materials to sell the project to IBM. They bought it and from it, DB2 and every other relational database ultimately emerged. Cool beans, right?

The Weizmann Institute - - מכון ויצמן View fro...

The Weizmann Institute (Photo: Wikipedia)

Technical writing was new. In 1983, it didn’t have a name. I was a pioneer. I didn’t chop down forests or slaughter aboriginal inhabitants, but I went where no one had gone before. Breaking new ground was exciting and risky.

The president of the group was named Micah. He was the “money guy.” Micah knew less about computers than me, but wielded serious clout. His money was paying our salaries, rent, and keeping the lights on. The definition of clout.

As the day approached when the team from IBM was due, it was time for me to present the materials I had created with Ruth, a graphic artist who had been my art director at the failed newspaper I’d managed the previous year. (This was well before computers could generate graphics properly.) Ruth was amazing with an airbrush. I’ve never seen better work.

The presentation materials were as perfect as Ruth and I could make them. I had labored over that text and she had done a brilliant job creating graphics that illustrated the product, its unique capabilities and benefits. And so it came time for the pre-IBM all-hands-on-deck meeting.

Micah didn’t like me. His dislike wasn’t based on anything I did or even my disputable personality. He didn’t like women in the workplace. I was undeniably female. As was Ruth. Strike one, strike two. At the meeting, he looked at our materials and announced “We need better material. I’ve heard there’s a real hot-shot in Jerusalem. I’ve seen his work. It’s fantastic. We should hire him.” And he stared at me and sneered.

Onto the table he tossed booklets as well as other promotional and presentation materials for a product being developed in Haifa at the Technion. I looked at the stuff.

“That’s my work, ” I said.

“No it isn’t,” he said firmly. “I’ve heard it was created by the best technical writer in the country.”

“Yes,” I agreed. “Me.”

He was not done with humiliating himself. He insisted a phone be brought to the table and he called his friend Moshe in Jerusalem. I’d worked for Moshe, quitting because although I liked the man, he couldn’t keep his hands to himself. I had a bad-tempered, jealous husband — something I didn’t feel obliged to reveal.

Moshe gave Micah the name of The Hot Shot. It was me.

“Oh,” said Micah. I didn’t say anything. I didn’t have to. The deadpan faces around the table were elegant examples of people trying desperately to not laugh. Micah wasn’t a guy you laughed at, not if you wanted to keep your job.

It was a moment of triumph so sweet — so rare — nothing else in my working life came close. I won one for The Team, for professional women everywhere. Eat it, Micah.

DAILY PROMPT: NO SAFE PLACE?

JerusalemOldCitySepia-3French Hill was a suburb of Jerusalem where I managed a weekly English-language newspaper. I had fallen into the job when the previous editor quit after his paycheck bounced. Twice. Me too, but I wanted the paper to succeed, and was willing to work for free if we might save it.

The newspaper was broke. No money to pay anyone, but I loved running a newspaper. It was the most fun I ever had — professionally. I had an editor, a proofreader, and an art director … and a bankrupt publisher. Her money had kept us in business for a year. We hadn’t gotten the advertisers or investors. Not surprising. The Israeli economy was a disaster.

Israel was in turmoil, Years of bad blood between Arabs and Jews, an awful economy, soaring temperatures. The predominantly Arab areas were seething. The Jewish population was none too happy either. It was bad, but when has it been otherwise?

Jerusalem’s diversity is part of what gives it its unique character. The Jewish population is diverse — from secular and anti-religious, to ultra-Orthodox and everything in between. There are also Christians of every stripe, every flavor of Islam. Bahai, Samaritans … sects I never heard of plus more than a few wannabe Messiahs. I sang along with the Muzzein when he called the faithful to prayer. I loved the chanting, the traditions, clothing, markets, everything.

French Hill is at the northeastern edge of Jerusalem. Good schools. Atop a hill so you can catch a breeze, if there is one. In the summer, Jerusalem simmers as the khamsin, super-heated sandy air masses from the Sahara, turn the city into a sauna.

It was August, perhaps the 10th day of an extended khamsin. Almost nobody had air-conditioning in those days. During khamsin, heat never eases. The air is thick, hot, sandy. Night is as bad as day. Airless. Fans make it worse. If you can’t get out-of-town, find a pool or get to a beach, your best bet is to close your windows and lie on the tile floor wearing as little as possible trying not to breathe. People get crazy when it’s that hot, even people who are normally friendly to one another.

Trying to keep the newspaper alive, there was no escape for me. Except for my car, which had air-conditioning. Which is why I volunteered to take the pages from the office to the typesetter in Givat Zeev.

Jerusalem sits on the top of a mountain, a mile above sea level. There’s a rumor the city has just one road, but it winds a lot. If you keep driving, you’ll get there eventually. Not quite accurate. You can get close — but close can be far.

I’ve no sense of direction at all. When I hear “You can’t miss it,” I know I will miss it. This is how I wound up in downtown Ramallah in the middle of a mini-uprising in late August 1983  I didn’t know what was going on, but I was pretty sure I shouldn’t be there. Fight? Uh, no, I don’t think so. Flight? I was lost. Go where? I stopped the car, pulled to the curb and sat there. No idea what to do next.

A few moments later, two Arab gentlemen jumped into the car with me. No, I didn’t lock the doors. If they wanted to break into my car, they might as well use the doors as smash the windows.  Was I about to be murdered? Abducted?

“You are lost,” the man in the front seat said.

“Oh, very much,” I agreed. The two men conferred in Arabic. I picked up a couple of words, one of them being “American.”

“Okay,” said the man in the front seat. “You need to leave. Now.”

“I couldn’t agree more,” I responded. We swapped places. He took the wheel and drove me back to French Hill.

“You must be more careful,” he chided me. “You mustn’t go into dangerous places.” I thanked him with all my heart. He smiled, and the two of them headed back, on foot, to Ramallah. Offering them a lift didn’t seem quite the thing to do.

I never felt endangered, though probably I had been. It was the end of the times when Arabs and Jews could talk to each other, even be friends. I am sad when I think of friends I had in Bethlehem who asked me to stop visiting them because it put them in danger to have an Israeli in their house. There came a time when I could no longer go shopping in the Old City or Bethlehem, when Jewish children could no longer safely play with Arab children.

I lived there for nine years. There has been so much wrong on all sides for so many years it’s impossible to figure out a solution to which all would agree. I don’t see peace on the horizon. There are not just two sides to this conflict; there are an infinite number of sides. I chose to come home to the U.S. The longer I stayed in Israel, the less I understood.

I arrived in Israel in 1978 believing I had some answers, that I knew something. By 1987 , I knew there were no answers and I knew nothing.

WHEN YOU ABSOLUTELY POSITIVELY CAN’T GET THERE FROM HERE

Garry had a prescription to pick up in town. No big deal except he wasn’t feeling good and just wanted to get the errand run, come home, and crash on the sofa. He couldn’t get into town. On the Sunday before Veteran’s Day a parade was in progress. He asked the local cop how he was supposed to get into town.

“You can’t,” he said.

“But what,” asked Garry, “If this was an emergency? I mean, I need my medication.” The cop shrugged.

“You’d still have to wait till the parade passes.” Garry didn’t like the answer, but there wasn’t much to do about it. He went to the other grocery store, the one just across the border in Rhode Island, picked up a couple of things and came home.

“I couldn’t get to Hannaford’s,” he said. “There was a parade.”

I nodded. “Veteran’s Day.”

“One of the problems of living in a small town.”

75-downtown-21

“What, you never tried to get somewhere in Boston on Patriot’s Day? Or any day when the Red Sox were playing? How about when President Clinton visited the North End? They closed the entire city. You couldn’t go anywhere until the Secret Service cleared the area.”

Garry grunted. “Still,” he said, “What if I needed those pills and it wasn’t just a refill?”

“If you were that desperately sick, you’d be in a hospital, not on the way to the pick up a prescription.” He harrumphed.

“Did I ever tell you about the day I had to sign for my new car in Jerusalem? I had just gotten to Israel and it had taken me a little while to get everything in order. But now, it was March 26, 1979 and I had ordered my new car, a white Ford Escort. And I absolutely had to get to the Ford dealership, sign the papers and give them money.

The dealership was across the street and down the road from the King David Hotel, so I hopped a bus. The bus stopped about 100 yards before town. A policeman came to the door, told the driver he had to stop. We were told to get off the bus. We weren’t going any further.

“But,” I said, “I have to get to the Ford dealership. I have to sign for my new car and give them money!”

The policeman shrugged. “Your President is here. Anwar Sadat is here. Begin is here. You can’t go.”

I looked around. There were snipers on the rooftops. The area was crawling with Israeli armed forces and the secret services of three countries, all of whom looked ready to shoot me. A lot of fire power.

“And that is when,” I told Garry, “I knew I absolutely, positively was not going to sign those papers or make that payment on my new car.”

“You win,” said Garry. “You trumped my story.”

SadatInJerusalemI remembered watching the cars sweep by, the big black limos each carrying a head of state with the flags of their respective nations affixed to the front. I caught a glimpse of each man as they took those corners at remarkably high speed. No one was taking chances. It was such an optimistic time in Israel. Everyone thought  we would have — at long last — true peace. Not a cease-fire, but the real deal.

Moshe Dayan — Israel’s negotiator — was glowing. Carter was smiling. Sadat looked content. The crowd cheered for each car as it flew around the corner. Then, gradually, the military withdrew. The road opened up. I went home to return the following day.

On October 6, 1981, Sadat would be assassinated. Ten days later, Dayan would be dead  too. Technically it was his heart and the cancer he’d been fighting for a long time, but I knew it was the same bullet that killed Sadat. When they shot Sadat, they killed Dayan. And killed the hope of peace.

Under the weight of the Iran Hostage Crisis which dragged on for years, Carter’s presidency would be in tatters. The optimism of March 1979 would be replaced by sadness, bitterness and pessimism.

For one bright afternoon, a day on which I absolutely couldn’t get where I needed to go, Jerusalem was full of joy, hope and celebration. And I had a new car waiting for me at the Ford dealership across from the King David hotel.

Postscript:

I knew at the time I was witnessing history. I know I wrote letters home to tell people what I’d seen. And then, for the next 34 years, I forgot it — until Garry was talking about not being able to get to the store. Strange, isn’t it? That I forgot such a big moment for so many years. I’m glad I could share it. I never have before.

PICKING AND CHEWING

Once upon a time, in a far away land, The Boss assigned me a secretary. Not part of a pool, but a whole person. With a master’s degree from Mt. Holyoke. Pretty daunting, me with my little B.A. from Hofstra. So I said to The Boss:

“What is she supposed to do?”

“You write, she does all the typing.”

English: IBM Selectric II typewriter (dual Lat...

English: IBM Selectric II typewriter (dual Latin/Hebrew typeball and keyboard) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He apparently thought I wrote my drafts in longhand. On paper. Although this was the early 1980s, I had long since given up pen and paper. Initially for an old manual Royal with glass sides, then for a basic electric machine, and eventually for the ubiquitous IBM Selectric, the ultimate achievement in typewriter technology before computers blew them off the scene.

I had been using computers since they became available. I was, as we say, an early adopter. Very early adopter. The moment I touched a computer, I knew I had found My Thing. It went beyond love, beyond passion. I was … An Original Geek. (Dum de dum dum … DUM!)

Now, I had a secretary. Who was supposed to type for me. I cannot think in longhand. I can barely write out a shopping list, much less a book. I doodle like someone demented and wish I could save the mad creations that emerge on the borders of papers on which I’m supposedly taking notes at the meeting. Really, I’m trying to keep awake and look busy. Also, I can’t help myself. Give me a pen and paper. I will doodle.

And there was my secretary. American, like me. Thin. Tall. Blonde. Very very nervous. A bit of what we might call “a twitch.” We discovered we shared a mutual passion for horses and went riding together (no, not on company time). She rode better than me (a lot better) and had her own helmet, crop, jacket … the whole regalia. I had jeans and a pair of battered boots. I’d never worn a helmet. Probably this explains a lot about me. That’s when I discovered that Israel is the largest breeder of Arabian horses anywhere, but they get trans-shipped to Arab countries because you know, they can’t buy Israeli horses. They might turn out to be a Zionists!

One day, I realized my secretary had a little compulsive habit. Maybe not so little. She was a dedicated nose picker. And she ate it. She was fast and sneaky, but when you spend every working day with a person, it’s hard not to realize she’s got one of those long, nervous fingers up her nose all the time.

nose-picking-sign-300x300

Everyone probably picks their nose sometimes, usually to get something that’s blocking air. But this wasn’t like that. She just couldn’t stop. She admitted eventually she’d caused permanent damage to the lining of her nostrils from constantly attacking them with her fingernails. Oy.

Our offices were located on the fourth floor of a warehouse. No elevator, so you got exercise. You didn’t have to go out for lunch. It was catered, delivered daily and we all ate at a long table amidst many prayers. The Boss was an orthodox Jew from Belgium. Other than Judaism, he believed in feeding His People and giving everyone lots of vacation time. It was a good job; he was one of the kindest, most decent men for whom I ever worked.

Two floors below us was a chocolate factory. They made all kinds dark chocolate-covered citrus fruits (my favorite was grapefruit). No milk, so if you were Kosher, you could eat them with meat or dairy. And oh my, they were so good. Around two in the afternoon, they fired up the chocolate vats and the smell would start drifting upward. I sent my secretary to get me chocolate. I didn’t know what else to do with her and watching her ream out her nose was getting to me. By mid afternoon, I not only needed chocolate. I needed a break.

She was such a nice woman. Smart. Well-educated. Over-qualified as a secretary, but she didn’t have qualifications for anything else, either … just a Masters in English Literature. Not the ticket to success in Israel in the early 1980s. Probably not now, either.

She objected to being sent on errands. I sighed. I didn’t really have much else for her to do. The nose-picking was wearing me down. I found myself trying to not look at her lest I catch her digging with a finger in there up to a second knuckle. One day I was sure she’d hit brain matter.

candied-chocolate-covered-orange-peel

Finally, she refused to get me chocolate and I had no work for her. Moreover, she was unable to keep her fingers where they belonged. I went to The Boss. I said I felt my secretary needed to move on, perhaps to someone else in the company who needed her services more than I. He looked at me.

“What is the real problem?”

“It’s embarrassing.”

“Tell me.”

“She picks her nose. And eats it.”

I thought he was going to toss his cookies on the desk. That was the end of the story. In reality, not only did I not need a secretary, no one did. It was a computer development company. We all worked on keyboards. So her departure was inevitable. I just speeded it up by a few weeks.

I was nice about it. I didn’t mention the picking thing, but I suspect she knew. She also had to realize she was underemployed. I’ve been in that position. You always know when you’re redundant and sooner or later, you’re going to have to leave. No one will keep paying you forever if you aren’t doing something worth a paycheck.

Still, if it hadn’t been for the nose picking and her flat refusal to go down to the first floor and get me chocolate, she’d have had a little more time.

AN ISRAELI QUARTERBACK AT THE SUPERBOWL

2011-02-08-superbowl

The coach had put together the perfect team for the Chicago Bears. The only thing missing was a great quarterback. He had scouted all the colleges — even the Canadian and European Leagues, but he couldn’t anyone with an arm who could guarantee a Super Bowl win.

One night while watching FOX News, he saw a war-zone scene in the West Bank . In a corner of the background, he spotted a young Israeli soldier with a truly incredible arm. He threw a hand-grenade straight into a 15th story window 100 yards away.

KABOOM!

He threw another hand-grenade 75 yards, right into a chimney.

KA-BLOOEY!

Then he threw another at a passing car going 90 mph.

BULLS-EYE!

“I’ve got to get this guy!” Coach said to himself. “He has the perfect arm!”

He goes to Israel and after much searching and negotiating, brings the Israeli to the USA where he trains him in the great game of football. And the Chicago Bears go on to win the Super Bowl!!! The young man is hailed as the greatest hero of football. It’s a miracle! When the coach asks him what he wants, all the young man wants is to call his mother.

“Mom,” he says into the phone, “We won the Super Bowl. I’m a hero!!”

“I don’t want to talk to you,” the woman says.”You are not my son!”

“You don’t understand, Mom,” the young man pleads. “I’ve led the team to victory in the greatest sporting event in the world. I’m here among thousands of adoring fans.”

“No! Let me tell you!” his mother shouts into the phone. “At this very moment, there are gunshots all around us. The neighborhood is a pile of rubble. Your two brothers were beaten within an inch of their lives last week and I have to keep your sister in the house so she doesn’t get raped!” The old lady pauses, and says, tears choking her voice …

“I will never forgive you for making us move to Chicago!”

 

Victor Davis Hanson – The Israeli Spring

See on Scoop.itIn and About the News

IsraeliSpring

Israel could be forgiven for having a siege mentality — given that at any moment, old frontline enemies Syria and Egypt might spill their violence over common borders.

The Arab Spring has thrown Israel’s once-predictable adversaries into the chaotic state of a Sudan or Somalia. The old understandings between Jerusalem and the Assad and Mubarak kleptocracies seem in limbo.

Yet these tragic Arab revolutions swirling around Israel are paradoxically aiding it, both strategically and politically — well beyond just the erosion of conventional Arab military strength.

In terms of realpolitik, anti-Israeli authoritarians are fighting to the death against anti-Israeli insurgents and terrorists. Each is doing more damage to the other than Israel ever could — and in an unprecedented, grotesque fashion. Who now is gassing Arab innocents? Shooting Arab civilians in the streets? Rounding up and executing Arab civilians? Blowing up Arab houses? Answer: either Arab dictators or radical Islamists.

The old nexus of radical Islāmic terror of the last three decades is unraveling. With a wink and a nod, Arab dictatorships routinely subsidized Islāmic terrorists to divert popular anger away from their own failures to the West or Israel. In the deal, terrorists got money and sanctuary. The Arab Street blamed others for their own government-inflicted miseries. And thieving authoritarians posed as Islam’s popular champions.

But now, terrorists have turned on their dictator sponsors. And even the most ardent Middle East conspiracy theorists are having troubling blaming the United States and Israel.

Secretary of State John Kerry is still beating last century’s dead horse of a “comprehensive Middle East peace.” But does Kerry’s calcified diplomacy really assume that a peace agreement involving Israel would stop the ethnic cleansing of Egypt’s Coptic Christians? Does Israel have anything to do with Assad’s alleged gassing of his own people?

There are other losers as well. Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan wanted to turn a once-secular Turkish democracy into a neo-Ottoman Islamist sultanate, with grand dreams of eastern-Mediterranean hegemony. His selling point to former Ottoman Arab subjects was often a virulent anti-Semitism. Suddenly, Turkey became one of Israel’s worst enemies and the Obama administration’s best friends.

Yet if Erdogan has charmed President Obama, he has alienated almost everyone in the Middle East. Islamists such as former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi felt that Erdogan was a fickle and opportunistic conniver. The Gulf monarchies believed that he was a troublemaker who wanted to supplant their influence. Neither the Europeans nor the Russians trust him. The result is that Erdogan’s loud anti-Israeli foreign policy is increasingly irrelevant.

The oil-rich sheikhdoms of the Persian Gulf once funded terrorists on the West Bank, but they are now fueling the secular military in Egypt. In Syria they are searching to find some third alternative to Assad’s Alawite regime and its al-Qaeda enemies. For the moment, oddly, the Middle East foreign policy of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the other oil monarchies dovetails with Israel’s: Predictable Sunni-Arab nationalism is preferable to one-vote, one-time Islamist radicals.

Israel no doubt prefers that the Arab world liberalize and embrace constitutional government. Yet the current bloodletting lends credence to Israel’s ancient complaints that it never had a constitutional or lawful partner in peace negotiations.

In Egypt, Hosni Mubarak’s corrupt dictatorship is gone. His radical Muslim Brotherhood successors were worse and are also gone. The military dictatorship that followed both is no more legitimate than either. In these cycles of revolution, the one common denominator is an absence of constitutional government.

In Syria, there never was a moderate middle. Take your pick between the murderous Shiite-backed Assad dictatorship or radical Sunni Islamists. In Libya, the choice degenerated to Moammar Qaddafi’s unhinged dictatorship or the tribal militias that overthrew it. Let us hope that one day westernized moderate democracy might prevail. But that moment seems a long way off.

What do the Egyptian military, the French in Mali, Americans at home, the Russians, the Gulf monarchies, persecuted Middle Eastern Christians, and the reformers of the Arab Spring all have in common? Like Israel, they are all fighting Islamic-inspired fanaticism. And most of them, like Israel, are opposed to the idea of a nuclear Iran.

In comparison with the ruined economies of the Arab Spring — tourism shattered, exports nonexistent, and billions of dollars in infrastructure lost through unending violence — Israel is an atoll of prosperity and stability. Factor in its recent huge gas and oil finds in the eastern Mediterranean, and it may soon become another Kuwait or Qatar, but with a real economy beyond its booming petroleum exports.

Israel had nothing to do with either the Arab Spring or its failure. The irony is that surviving embarrassed Arab regimes now share the same concerns with the Israelis. In short, the more violent and chaotic the Middle East becomes, the more secure and exceptional Israel appears.

— Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. His new book, The Savior Generals, is just out from Bloomsbury Books. You can reach him by e-mailing author@victorhanson.com. © 2013 Tribune Media Services, Inc

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Daily Prompt: So long, it’s been good to know yuh …

So Long, Its Been Good To Know Yuh
(Dusty Old Dust)
Words and Music by Woody Guthrie

I’ve sung this song, but I’ll sing it again,
Of the place that I lived on the wild windy plains,
In the month called April, county called Gray,
And here’s what all of the people there say:

CHORUS: So long, it’s been good to know yuh;
So long, it’s been good to know yuh;
So long, it’s been good to know yuh.
This dusty old dust is a-gettin’ my home,
And I got to be driftin’ along.

A dust storm hit, an’ it hit like thunder;
It dusted us over, an’ it covered us under;
Blocked out the traffic an’ blocked out the sun,
Straight for home all the people did run,
Singin’:

CHORUS

We talked of the end of the world, and then
We’d sing a song an’ then sing it again.
We’d sit for an hour an’ not say a word,
And then these words would be heard:

CHORUS

Sweethearts sat in the dark and sparked,
They hugged and kissed in that dusty old dark.
They sighed and cried, hugged and kissed,
Instead of marriage, they talked like this:
“Honey…”

CHORUS

Now, the telephone rang, an’ it jumped off the wall,
That was the preacher, a-makin’ his call.
He said, “Kind friend, this may the end;
An’ you got your last chance of salvation of sin!”

The churches was jammed, and the churches was packed,
An’ that dusty old dust storm blowed so black.
Preacher could not read a word of his text,
An’ he folded his specs, an’ he took up collection,
Said:

So long, it’s been good to know yuh;
So long, it’s been good to know yuh;
So long, it’s been good to know yuh.
This dusty old dust is a-gettin’ my home,
And I got to be driftin’ along.

 Strange for that song to be rolling around my head, but we watched a PBS show about old folk singers the other night … and there it sits, in my brain, rolling around and around.

It’s the anthem of my generation. We’ve said goodbye to a lot of folks. Some are gone because they went away to that other place, bought the farm, as it were … but just as many — even more — really did buy the farm, or at least real estate in a community far away where the only crop they grow are old people.

I never wanted to live in an Old Community, though I recognize one doesn’t always have a choice in the matter. I never wanted to live in any community that was all of a type. When I was young and raising my son, I sought out racially diverse communities because I like the grittiness of different cultures mixing together. I wanted my son to know, without being told, that people come in all colors and shapes and there’s no reason to be afraid just because someone doesn’t look like you. It was a very unpopular position to take, but fortunately my husband agreed with me and we found … and lived in … mixed communities the entire time my son was growing up.

96-ArchesNK-BW-1

It worked. He didn’t — doesn’t — recognize skin color as a descriptor. He could tell me the type of refrigerator the new people in town had in their kitchen and every detail of the cars they drove, but not the color of their skin because for him — and my granddaughter is the same way — it was a matter of gradation. There were no black or white people, just off white, pink, tan and brown people, with a variety of hair textures and colors. Some friendly, some not so much.

Then we lived in Israel and he was one of the few Jewish kids who had Arab friends because no one had told him he shouldn’t, and even though it was dangerous, I wanted him to know that people are people, not the labels we put on them.

75-RED-LIGHT-NK-14

Color blind. That’s the word for it. My granddaughter gets mad when someone calls her grandfather “black” because, she says, he’s not black … he’s a nice light to medium tan, depending on the time of year and whether or not he’s been in the sun. As for me, I stay a disgusting shade of fish-belly white no matter what I do and any effort to alter it results in third degree burns, a lot of pain, and turning an unnatural shade of hot pink which may look good on a tee-shirt, but looks alien on human skin.

And all of this somehow reminding me of driving down the highway in Garry’s old flame orange Dodge Challenger. He bought it when he was working at ABC Network in New York in the 1960s. He bought it in 1969, the year my son was born which is relevant because Garry is my son’s godfather. But the car was a 1970 model year. It was the car he brought with him when he became a reporter in Boston in November 1970.

1970Challenger

It was his first on the air job. It would be his last, too, because he would work at Channel 7 for 31 years, the remainder of his career. He would drive the orange car until after we were married, until it finally stopped being dependable and wouldn’t drive in the rain because the wires got wet and it would stall. It still drove like, as we say, a bat outta hell because it had a huge engine and Garry took pretty good care of it. Not great because he entrusted its care to a garage that cheated him and he, not knowing enough about the mechanical stuff to realize it, assumed that if it looked okay, it was okay.

We got another convertible after that … a red Mustang and had that for almost a dozen years, but it was getting to the end of the convertible years and they didn’t make them like they used to. They didn’t make us like they used to either, and I needed a car where I didn’t have to wrap myself up like a mummy to keep my hip length hair from turning into a mass of knots  or getting a horrendous sunburn just sitting in the car. Only in TV shampoo commercials do long-haired girls drive in top-down convertibles with their hair blowing free because it’s going to take hours to get that mass of hair untangled later.

And now, it’s time to stop, even though this has rambled from one place to another without any logic to it … Fast writing, stream of time, stream of consciousness. We’ve driven a ways down the highway of memory and time … I wonder if the old orange car is still around? It was a few years ago. It had been restored, I hear and I was glad to know it. I have such fond memories of the old beast. Of all the old things and old people I knew.

UU Church Uxbridge

We still don’t live in an Old Community, though this community is old in other senses. And I’m glad, though I sure do wish we had more ethnicities among us. Miss the mixing up of color and culture and music and dance … and the wonderful smell of the food everyone cooked on holidays …

Jewish Jokes

My father was not a really nice guy, but he was a salesman and spent a lot of time on the road. Consequently, he had an enormous repertoire of jokes. Some I can’t repeat, not because they are dirty, but because they were mostly in Yiddish and they don’t translate, but others are universal.

That’s the thing about ethnic humor. It really isn’t “Jewish” or “Italian” or any other group. It is human. From group to group, there is often more truth in the jokes we tell about ourselves than in any other form of communication.

Mea Shearim in 2006 — Photograph by Ahron de Leeuw

The Nature of the Jewish Husband-Wife Relationship

So one day, a surveyor comes to the home of an Orthodox couple and asks if it would be alright if he asked a few questions about male and female roles in the household.

“Sure, why not?” says the Lady of the House.

“My first question is,” says the surveyor, “Which of you is in charge of making the important decisions about your family or do you split them up?”

“Oh,” says the wife. “We are very traditional. I do the unimportant decisions and he takes care of the really important ones.”

“What unimportant decisions do you make?”

“I decide how we will pay the bills, where to send the children to school, whether or not we need to move to a different neighborhood, how we will handle our healthcare, what we will eat, making sure the children learn about God and attend to their religious duties. That sort of thing,” she explains.

The surveyor is puzzled. “So what,” he asks, “are the important things your husband handles?”

The wife smiles. “He decides what relationship God has with mankind, how we achieve peace on earth, and the nature of righteousness.”

Tiberias, on the Sea of Galilee — Israel Ministry of Tourism

Judaism and Jews

Twelve Jews are stranded on a desert island. They are there many years. When finally a ship comes by and they are rescued, the rescuers are surprised to discover that there are 13 synagogues on the island.

The ship’s captain is puzzled. “I can understand,” he says, “why you might have 12 synagogues, but what’s with thirteenth?”

Replies everyone in concert “That’s the one nobody goes to.”

(Note: Whether or not you find this funny depends on your ethnicity.)

Dead Sea – Israel Ministry of Tourism

An Israeli Joke

An Israeli man who studied in Texas gets an email from his old school mate saying that he’s going to visit Israel and can they get together?

Avi is delighted and prepares to show his country to his Texan friend. But while he’s giving his friend  “the tour,” every time he shows something to his friend, the friend says that his father owns, or has built something bigger and better in Texas.

He shows him the Old City in Jerusalem and his friend says “why we’ve got ghost towns on our ranch bigger than that.” When looking at the Sea of Galilee, the Texan comments that “there are puddles bigger than that on our ranch.”

Finally, in near desperation, Avi takes his pal to the Dead Sea.

“You see that?” he says, pointing at the body of water.

“Yup,” says the Texan.

“My father killed it,” says Avi.

Weekly Writing Challenge: Papa Says Get Economical – Destiny in Under 500 Words

The Path

Life happens. We plan. We’re psyched. Announce our upcoming adventure! Oops. Sickness. Financing falls through. The place we were sure was ours sells to someone else. Job offer dissolves; budget cancelled. Harvard said what? Who’s writing this script?

People (who ARE those people?) say “everything happens for a reason.” I’m not so sanguine, but I know we follow our destiny, like it or not. The longer I live, the louder I hear that drumbeat. Plans go awry. If fate decrees we aren’t doing it, discussion over. Make new plans? They fall apart too. Different reasons, same result. Another plan anyone?

Years pass. The you making plans has changed. If you get what you want, it won’t be what you expect. Could be better, might be worse. Surely different.

Take it easy, go with the flow. Bring energy, enthusiasm and a sense of wonder to everything,  planned or not. Life’s unexpected, but needn’t be dull.

From womb to tomb, it’s a journey. We are forever becoming. The only thing we can always count on is us. Wherever, whatever, we bring ourselves to the party. The unplanned things were the most important. Never entirely fun. Rarely easy, but critical. Meaningful.

From 13 years old I wanted to go to Israel to live. Not visit. I had no interest in tourism. I wanted to live there, experience culture shock, be enveloped by foreignness. My first attempt to move there — with mom’s collusion — got cancelled when I chose college, a special B.A. program I thought wouldn’t let me in. I planned to study nursing in Israel. I was 16, just out of high school.

Twelve years later, I did move to Israel — on my own with my 9-year old son. No plans to study. I’d gotten my chance 5 years earlier, accepted into an exclusive Master’s program for administrative nursing. I dreamed of running free clinics for people without insurance.

Along came life. My first husband got cancer at 34. After I got up off the floor, I figured I needed an income, not a master’s. I found work as a writer; remained a writer my entire professional life. How would the lives entwined with mine have been changed if I’d moved to Israel in 1963? My son might not exist — or my granddaughter. I’d never have met Garry. I can’t imagine such a life.

This is where I should be. I know it, though not why. If I’d chosen, I’d be richer, healthier, living with better weather and no mortgage. But I wouldn’t trade for what I’ve got. Life’s not what I planned. It’s a challenge. But it’s good. I am where I should be. Destiny.

My dogs are happy. They never plan, except for the next biscuit. I’m with the dogs.

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Lost in Rhode Island

I used to commute from our house in Uxbridge, Massachusetts over 100 miles to Pfizer in Groton, Connecticut. In a desperate and hopeless attempt to find a shorter route, I experimented with various combinations of back roads. There was no truly direct route and it was such a long drive, I didn’t think I had much to lose.

GrotonToUxb1

I have been lost for most of my life. I’ve been lost all over the United States, England, Wales, Ireland and Israel. GPS technology was relatively new and while some people had them, most didn’t. Including me. I had an atlas, but whatever road I was on never seemed to be on the map.

One evening, at the end of my long drive home from work, I got lost in Rhode Island.

I wasn’t a just little bit lost. I was completely turned around, totally confused. It was dark; I was low on gasoline. I didn’t recognize anything; it all looked the same.  Eventually I realized everything not only looked the same, it was the same. I was driving in circles.

Rhode Island Road

I called home. At least my cell phone worked. It didn’t help. Since I didn’t know where I was, I couldn’t tell anyone how to find me. I was much too embarrassed to call 911.

I drove around for what seemed forever hoping to find a familiar road or see some kind of landmark by which I could orient myself. Eventually — tired, hungry and humiliated — I found my way home. I had been no more than a few miles from my house. The following day, I bought my first GPS.

There’s a moral in this story, but I have no idea what it is.

NO SAFE PLACE?

JerusalemOldCitySepia-3It was an ordinary day in the suburb of Jerusalem where I managed a weekly English-language newspaper. I had fallen into the job when the previous editor quit — after his paycheck bounced. Twice. Me too, but I wanted the paper to succeed, and was willing to work for free if we might save it. Most of us kept working without pay. We were optimists in the midst of disaster.

The newspaper was broke. No money to pay anyone, but I loved running a newspaper. It was the most fun I ever had — professionally. I had an editor, a proofreader, and an art director … and a bankrupt publisher. Her money had kept us in business for a year. We hadn’t gotten the advertisers or investors. Not surprising. The Israeli economy was a disaster.

The lira was in free fall. 180% inflation is hard to imagine. The value of your paycheck disappears between breakfast and lunch, so your best bet is to spend every cent immediately, then spend more.

Israel was in turmoil, Years of bad blood between Arabs and Jews, an awful economy, soaring temperatures. The predominantly Arab areas were seething. The Jewish population was none too happy either. It was bad, but when has it been otherwise?

Jerusalem’s diversity is part of what gives it its unique character. The Jewish population is diverse — from secular and anti-religious, to ultra-Orthodox and everything in between. There are also Christians of every stripe, every flavor of Islam. Bahai, Samaritans … and sects I never heard of plus more than a few wannabe Messiahs. I sang along with the Muzein when he called the faithful to prayer. I loved the chanting, loved the traditions, the clothing, the markets, everything. Not everyone loved me.

French Hill, where I worked is a pleasant neighborhood at the northeastern edge of Jerusalem. Good schools. It’s atop a hill so you can catch a breeze, if there is one. In the summer, Jerusalem simmers as the khamsin, super-heated sandy air masses from the Sahara, turns the city into a sauna.

It was August, perhaps the 10th day of an extended khamsin. Almost nobody had air-conditioning in those days. Under normal weather condition in the desert, when you step into shade, the temperature drops 25 or more degrees. The air is so dry it doesn’t hold heat.

During khamsin, heat never eases. The air is thick, hot, sandy. Night is as bad as day. Airless. Fans make it worse. If you can’t get out-of-town, find a pool or get to a beach, your best bet is to close your windows and lie on the tile floor wearing as little as possible trying not to breathe. People get crazy when it’s that hot, even people who are normally friendly to one another.

Trying to keep the newspaper alive, there was no escape for me. Except for my car, which was air-conditioned. It was a Ford Escort with a tiny 1.3 liter engine, but the A/C worked pretty well. Which is why I volunteered to take the pages from the office to the typesetter in Givat Zeev.

Jerusalem sits atop a mountain. There’s a rumor the city has just one road, but it winds a lot. If you keep driving, you’ll get there eventually. Not quite accurate. You can get close — but close can be far.

I’ve no sense of direction at all. When I hear the words “You can’t miss it,” I know I definitely will miss it. This is how I wound up in downtown Ramallah in the middle of a mini-uprising in late August 1983  I didn’t know what was going on, but I was pretty sure I shouldn’t be there. Fight? Uh, no, I don’t think so. Flight? I was lost. Go where? I stopped the car, pulled to the curb and sat there. No idea what to do next.

A few moments later, two Arab gentlemen jumped into the car with me. That’s right, I didn’t lock the doors. If they wanted to break into my car, they might as well use the doors as break the windows.  Was I about to be murdered? Abducted?

“You are lost,” the man in the front seat said.

“Oh, very much,” I agreed. The two men conferred in Arabic. I picked up a couple of words, one of them being “American.”

“Okay,” said the man in the front seat. “You need to leave. Now.”

“I couldn’t agree more,” I responded. We swapped places. He took the wheel and drove me back to French Hill.

“You must be more careful,” he chided me. “You mustn’t go into dangerous places.” I thanked him with all my heart. He smiled, and the two of them headed back, on foot, to Ramallah. Offering them a lift didn’t seem quite the thing to do.

I never felt endangered, though probably I had been. It was the end of the times when Arabs and Jews could talk to each other, even be friends. I am sad when I think of friends I had in Bethlehem who asked me to stop visiting them because it put them in danger to have an Israeli in their house. There came a time when I could no longer go shopping in the Old City or Bethlehem, when Jewish children could no longer safely play with Arab children.

I lived there for nine years. There has been so much wrong on all sides for so many years it’s impossible to figure out a solution to which all would agree. I don’t see peace on the horizon. There are not just two sides to this conflict; there are an infinite number of sides. I chose to come home to the U.S. The longer I stayed in Israel, the less I understood.

I arrived in Israel in 1978 believing I had some answers, that I knew something. By 1987 , I knew there were no answers and I knew nothing.

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