The following is a list of all entries from the If I ran Israel category.
As a kid who grew up in Los Angeles, I learned at a young age that anyone on the street could rob you. I lived in Hollywood, and unlike what most foreigners think, in the 90’s it wasn’t about the stars, but more about homeless people and prostitutes. By the age of seven I knew how to hold my purse over my shoulder (why did I even have a purse?), look out for weirdoes, and never talk to strangers. As you can guess my childhood was anything but normal.
When I moved to Israel, I became more worried about terrorism and less about criminal activities. I started checking buses like I was a Mossad agent, even though I had no idea what I was actually looking for. Jerusalem, despite what you see in the news, gave me a sense of security, unlike that of LA. I forgot about my purse–shoulder attire, realized that all the weirdoes had Messiah syndrome or were loud Americans on the bus, and strangers were Israelis that just wanted to know how much you make.
I let my guard down.
And I was robbed and attacked.
It happened this past March when I was walking home with my son. I saw the guy, and even though my intuition kicked in, I ignored it. He seemed young, wasn’t looking in my direction and kept to himself. He came at me from behind and covered my mouth. My instincts kicked in. My fear kicked in. My mommy powers kicked in. Oh, and did I mention I was seven months pregnant at the time? For some reason I tried to fight him, seeing that he wasn’t pulling out a weapon. My son grabbed at my legs, as the attacked grabbed at my jacket. He eventually got my cell phone (good bye smartphone….24 payments, and I had just paid the last one), and threw us both down the stairs as he ran off. I had screamed for help the whole time, but no one was around, even though it was 4:30pm in the afternoon. I had looked him in the eyes, trying to remember his face. But it took the police a week for the sketch artist to meet with me, so it didn’t do much good.
I still walk around trying to find him. Who cares about the phone—I want him off the streets.
That day my son and I took our first ambulance ride. I thought my water broke in the fight and the fall, but it turns out I just peed myself. It was a hot day and I had a smoothie, and pregnant women aren’t good with bladders anyway. Thanks to Israeli bureaucracy, I am still fighting the ambulance bill, which claims I called them—of course that’s ridiculous since I didn’t have a phone.
Once at the hospital, in the trauma unit, I decided I would never end up there again. I decided I needed to learn how to properly defend myself. I hadn’t listen to my instincts, and I fought like a little girl, lots of bitch-slapping to the face, but no real harm. I knew I would have to wait until after I gave birth, and so I began counting down the days until I could sign up for a class. I also walked around with pepper spray, which helped, but made me feel like I would spray myself.
Finally the day arrived. We organized a self-defense class through El Halev, to be held in our neighborhood, in order to encourage other women to take the course. The class taught me how to listen to my surroundings, and to my intuitions. It gave me the basic tools to fight off an attacker if I need to. We all had the opportunity to hear and bond with each other over similar fears for safety and know we are not alone. We learned that we are strong and we have the power to defend ourselves.
Every woman should take a self-defense course. What happened to me could of course happen to anyone else. I say this from a place of strength and not fear.
Think of self-defense like a supportive bra. Eventually every woman needs it.
In the final class, each one of us had the opportunity to break a cinder block with our bare hands. The first time round it took me three tries to break that bugger in half, but I did. The feeling of strength was so powerful, I begged to break the block again. This time before I broke it, the instructor told me “this one is for the attacker, go get him.” As we were taught in the class, I belted out a loud, “NO!,” and slammed down hard on that block, cutting right through it. Right to my core.
On to Krav Maga…who’s with me?
It seems like someone famous is always closing down the streets of Jerusalem nowadays…that or snow. Either way this city likes to be on lockdown. While citizens of Jerusalem are grrr-angry with the shortage of streets set to take place over the next few days, some would like to offer Obama tips on places he should visit while in the city of gold. I hit the streets with talented filmmaker Elahn Zetlin of Chutzpah Media to get the word on the street for Mr. USA’s visit. Enjoy the video, learn and little (or not) and tell me where you think he should go on this trip…the more creative the better!
For more funny check out www.hahafuch.com
To learn more about the talented Elahn Zetlin go to http://www.chutzpahmedia.co.il
The Israeli Presidential Conference “Facing Tomorrow” is an annual conference run by Israel’s president, Shimon Peres, which brings together some of the biggest names in politics, technology, and… sex therapy. The conference discusses what the future holds for the world, and specifically for Israel. At the age of 89, you gotta give Peres credit for still having game and putting on a great show. As Tony Blair, who spoke at the conference, said “I did the the math and it seems you were a minister (of Knesset) before I was even born!” and as Dennis Ross said “In 20-30 years, many of us won’t be around anymore, but you Shimon, will definitely still be here!”.
I feel honored and privileged to be able to attend such an extraordinary conference that has the potential to inspire the world and bring the Jewish people together, and therefore hesitate writing anything negative since I know first-hand how hard it is to organize a large event. Having said that, I would like to give you a real sneak peek as to what it’s like to be at the conference and what the future has to offer, for better or for worse.
Here is a preview of how the future would look, based on my experiences at the Israeli presidential conference:
- Hot, messy, long lines: For those of you familiar with Israel’s line culture (which is to say, a long, rich history of being… culture-less), you may not be surprised that we were thrown into a hot mosh-pit of a registration area with no clear division of lines and little air-conditioning on a sweltering summer day, so we just picked a spot to stand and hoped for the best. Oh, how we pined for those ropes at the airport to restore order but the only remnant of airport life here was the tight security and the little scarves that the registration ladies wore. I guess I had my hopes high for an orderly line experience being that this is the conference about the future of Israel.
Lesson learned: The future of Israel may not contain enough ropes.
- Free wine and fancy bite-sized snacks: I am pleased to announce that the future of Israel will be overfloweth with half-full glasses of red and white wine, as well as adorable and tasty hoers d’ouerves such as, but not limited to: breadsticks with salmon, toasted bread with eggplant drizzled with honey, and my favorite, a vanilla ice cream with a chocolatey treasure at the bottom.
Lesson learned: I think once you have some wine in your system and some small treats in your belly, you can start to relax and fully appreciate the world and strive for peace. Or at least come to terms with the hot mess of a line you just had to stand in (see #1).
- Chaos and confusion: Once we arrived and enjoyed sipping our wine and nibbling on spinach something-or-other, we tried to get into the plenary session featuring Shimon Peres, Henry Kissinger, and Tony Blair.
But alas, you must have a ticket to enter the plenary session. A ticket? Even though you already have a badge and enjoyed some wine and are clearly “in”? Yes, you must still have a green paper ticket to enter the hall. Waaaaaah. Although crying didn’t work, divine intervention did. My friend spotted someone whispering “tickets.. does anyone want a ticket?”. “DID YOU SAY TICKETS?! YES!!” she screamed, and so we whisked ourselves up the 5 flights of stairs to the nosebleed section and sat down just as it began.
So you may be thinking, obviously when we came the next day, we knew to get tickets to all the plenaries and never go through the confusion again and live happily ever after. But no! We only got tickets for the morning plenary session and got an unclear answer of whether or not tickets were needed for the afternoon plenary session. SIGH.
Lesson learned: The future will be confusing. And ticket-based.
- Women relegated to the back of the bus, again: The conference deals with many social and economic Israeli issues, such as the tent protests and how to create a greener Israel. The conference could have dealt head-on with some major women’s issues in Israeli society such as women literally sitting in the back of the bus. And, at the conference itself, less than 10% of the speakers were women. I met a women from the NCJW who told me that statistic, so I hope she’s right.
Lesson learned: The future will tiptoe around women’s issues.
- Sex is still alive and well: You will have more energy as you age then ever before – just look at Shimon Peres, Henry Kissinger, and Dr. Ruth. Dr. Ruth, a psychosexual therapist, age 83, once again dazzled the crowd with her frank discussion on the importance of relationships, sex, and family life in the era of new media. She also managed to use her sexual references to compare the early exit of Israeli startups to premature ejaculation. Only Dr. Ruth could get away with making that comment on a stage in front of thousands of people, including many dignitaries, such as Peres and Kissinger.
- Ayaan Hirsi Ali will hopefully run the world: What an incredible woman. Author of “The Infidel“, Ayaan Hirsi Ali has had a crazy life. Born into a Muslim family in Somalia, her family moved to Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia and Kenya. From Kenya, she escaped to The Netherlands and eventually became a member of Parliament. She spoke out freely against Islam and while working on a documentary film, “Submission”, her friend and producer, Theo Van Gogh, was murdered. Since then, she’s had to live under security watch to protect her against the many Muslims who want to silence her.
After reading her book and being her biggest fan, I was honored to see Ayaan in person, knowing the huge effort and security risks she must have taken to come to Israel. Ayaan was on the panel “The Strategic Look at Tomorrow” amidst American and Israeli Jews. However, I think that while the other members of the panel were trying to create checklists of what needs to be done to achieve peace in the Middle East, it was only Ayaan who really told it like it is. She said that there are 3 main values that must change before there is going to be peace in the Middle East:
1. Muslims’ belief in governments with absolute authority
2. To compromise in the Muslim world is to lose face
3. All answers can be found in the Koran
Ayaan said that until those fundamental beliefs change in the Muslim world, there might never be peace in the region. She is the only one willing to say that the Israelis and Palestinians have fundamentally different views of peace and what the region should look like. Here is a fitting analogy I came up with: If I say I’m fat, that’s ok, but if you tell me I’m fat, that is totally not ok. Because Ayaan was born Muslim, she feels like she can say anything she wants and is less afraid of offending Muslims. So, in the future, when you ask “Who run the world?” the answer should be Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
- Direct access to the President of Israel and other highly esteemed people: Last year, I had the privilege of meeting Shimon Peres, Natan Sharansky and Jimmy Wales with a group of Israeli bloggers. This year I had the chance to again be in a private blogger session with Shimon Peres as well as Yossi Vardi and Peter Bainert.
Lesson learned: The future holds the promise that ordinary people like me can have access to leaders of the country.
- Film, literary, and musical artists will be personal and lovable: I went to a session that hosted Etgar Keret, a great short story writer, Joseph Cedar, producer of Oscar-nominated films Beaufort and Footnote, and Achinoam Nini, a phenomenal singer. Each of these artists opened up about how they grew up with complex identities and how being Israeli is really special to them and definitely plays a role in what they create. I loved how down-to-earth each of them was and how approachable, and lovable each of them was. And Achinoam surprised us by singing just before the session ended.
- Lots of business casual attire: After 3 days of wearing business casual in Israel, which is a big deal considering the casual dress culture, I believe the future will require you to dress up and look nice. As for the present, I’m just glad the conference was only 3 days since I ran out of fancy things to wear!
- Major FOMO: As Deena and Miriam pointed out, this conference relies heavily on FOMO(fear of missing out) to entice people to come. And even once you’re at the conference, there is still major FOMO since you can only attend one of the 4 or 5 sessions happening simultaneously. Obviously you’re going to think you picked the wrong session and then feel left out when everyone else has inside jokes about it later. If you think FOMO is something made up, I assure you that it is not and a whole FOMO science complete with statistics is starting to develop. Needless to say, the future will be full of FOMO.
I know this was a long post, so high five if you read it all, but it was a really long event so it’s only fitting. Once again, thank you (you know who you are) for letting me attend this conference and giving me some major food for thought as well as for my belly. Whether or not there will be peace in the region is debatable, but at least there will be hope for another fancy conference next year!
Wow it has been way too long since we have blogged. I am sure it’s been a difficult few months for you, our readers. How have you managed to live without my adorable sarcastic posts and Rebecca’s incredibly informative write-ups?
So let’s just jump right (or write) in. I’m writing what I am sure will be one of many angry light-rail train posts. Now that the train has been up and ‘running’ for the last few months, I am interested to hear what people think of it. So share your comments with me after you finish reading.
On principal I am not riding it. That and it doesn’t actually go anywhere I need to go.
However, the train and I have met in passing. It’s like a bad date you have to keep reliving, because the person lives a few blocks from you. So, indeed I am not at all fond of this crap train. The train butchered the city with its tracks. It forced stores to close down, has turned the city center into a pretty little ghost town. It causes traffic jams. And some old guy just got hit by it.
But the worst of all? The city is using it as yet another way to rob its citizens. No, I am not referring to the ticket price (as I write this, news has just broken that they plan to charge NIS 6.40 for a ride). No I am referring to the ticket you get when your car gets stuck in the intersection thanks to the new traffic light system, programmed for the train and not the people.
Do I think Israeli drivers are more dangerous than the threat of Iran actually building nukes? Yes I do. But the ones that are getting ticketed at the intersection of Jaffa (by the municipality) are getting fines for fake reasons.
That’s right, the police are standing by waiting for cars to get stuck in the intersection where they then tap on the window, ask the driver to come with them, and give them a big fat ticket. I have heard from several people that the tickets range from NIS 500 to NIS 1,000. I have also heard and even seen for myself that hundreds of people are getting tickets. You do the math on that and you’ll see how the city is planning to get itself out of debt with this method.
Before you get to this evil intersection, you are stuck in a horrendous traffic jam. I believe this is the part of the psychological torture that drives the drivers into the intersection where they get stuck. Instead of having two lanes, all the cars are forced into one lane, thus further frustrating your target ticket audience. Add to it, the many drivers that cut the line of cars by driving on the wrong side of the street, and you have a pretty angry driver that just wants to cross the light already and get from A to B. And I don’t have to tell you that the drivers who are driving on the wrong side of the street, literally meters from the police, don’t get a ticket. Why would they.
The train sucks. Its only lightness is how light it is on any concept of how to truly benefit the city and people. The city sucks for handing out tickets to drivers that don’t deserve them, while standing by and doing nothing about the real issues. With all this sucking, you would think that the whole problematic ordeal could be sucked away into a black hole somewhere.
So it’s shameless self-promotion…so what! I’m just trying to get you to come to the Hahafuch Comedy Variety show this Thursday, July 7th at 8pm. I just want you, person living in Jerusalem, to have a good night out. I want you to laugh, drink some beer, enjoy music and maybe meet some cool people. Is that really so bad?
I hope to see you there. There will be comedy sketches, improv, music, beer and even stand-up with the very talented Benji Lovitt.
For details click here.
It’s almost summer, but if you’re like me then you’ve been drinking ice coffee (also known as ice cafe or froozen coffee) all year round. However, with the heat about to go up a couple of notches, the ice coffee craze will also make waves of its own.
If you get addicted or simply can’t afford the amounts of delicious goodness you are consuming then let me help you out. If you’re an avid reader of the blog (which clearly every person that reads our blog is) then you’ve heard this spiel before, but now there’s more!
Marzipan, a bakery known for its gooey rugelach has been selling ice coffee for NIS 5 for the past three years. Every summer I worry that they will raise their prices, but I am happy to say that’s never the case. In fact these are some of the smartest Israeli business people I have ever known. Without any advertising and just word of mouth, they have managed to expand their shuk operation to a bigger store and open up a shop just off of Emek Refaim. And now the smartness (is that a word, ironic) continues with the expansion of their ice coffee treat.
Instead of just one ice coffee machine, they’ve now taken over the adjacent stall and opened up a row of machines featuring different flavors from banana (not a fan) to lemon-nana to sweet vanilla. You can even combine the flavors and each cup is filled to the very top. This is about as close to a slurpee that we will ever get to! I’ll have to stop writing this now since the mere thought demands that I go out and purchase yet another treaty-treat of ice coffee!
Marzipan I thank you for your continued support in my ice coffee addiction. You’ve allowed me to continue purchasing my favorite drink at a consistent low price and, forced other vendors to lower their ice coffee prices as well. But have no fear my loyalty is to you. I promise I will always drink your ice coffee and sometimes vanilla and a few times lemon-nana and continue to spread the word about your smart business ethics and amazing deal. I only ask that you have the same low price at your Emek Refaim shop where you would no doubt win over the hearts of people forced to pay NIS 18 at the coffee shops throughout the area.
The next sip is on me!
Why is the US making such a big deal out of last week’s declaration to build more homes in Jerusalem? Is it because it embarrassed Vice President Biden during his trip in Israel? I mean dude get over it. No, what I believe we have here is more likely a case of Fake Friends.
Here’s all I’m saying: I have friends that I really like and friends that are in my circle but I’m not so close to. If my ‘fake friend’ in the circle does something that annoys me then it drives me crazy. I can’t stop thinking about it, it changes the whole way I look at the person and makes me want to push them further out of my circle. But if a good friend did the same thing that annoyed me, I really wouldn’t care or make a big deal out of it. They are a good friend and I know them so it really doesn’t affect me and we move on.
Let’s cut the crap and call Israel and the US what they really are: Fake Friends. The US is always bashing Israel for making minor mistakes and even when we admit to the mistake, try to fix the mistake and move on there seems to be an endless amount of repercussions even leading to Israel’s ambassador to the US, Michael Oren stating that our relations are the worst in 35 years. This sounds like a case of fake friends and not just bad relations.
Case in point: Hey didn’t the Palestinians just fire kassam rockets into Israel this past week? Why yes they did. And where was the US- were they condemning their actions and telling them how this destroys any chance for peace and the process? Well I certainly didn’t read about it in the news and it hasn’t been coming out of Hilary Clinton’s mouth or Obama’s so I’m guessing they’re ok with it.
And that is because the US is playing favorites in their friend circle. I get it and it’s clear, Israel is a fake friend. You don’t want us to prosper, you don’t want us to build homes and you get us in trouble for doing the most minor of mistakes while the other side has blatantly begun violent attacks from kassam rockets to rioting in the Old City, a classic beginning-of-the-Intifada move.
I think good relations or bad relations, what does it really matter? As a fake friend you will always remain inside the circle and when you are needed then you edge closer to the juicy middle where you are appreciated but just know you will always do something to piss off your fake friend and end up on the outskirts again. That’s not diplomacy it’s just obvious.
If Israel and the US were Facebook friends, then we would need to create a status called fake friends (to tell you the truth this should already be an option since I clearly have ‘friends’ that I never talk to, like ever).
Israel needs to accept this status and go with it. Let’s focus on our better friends, the ones that like us, even if they are few and far a part (and I can’t think of any right now). Let’s hang out with them, have slumber parties, girl talk, bake and roast marshmallows. And as for the US let’s keep our distance, and continue to build homes for our people, protect our children and enjoy the fruits of our country’s success. Cause if we don’t, no one will.
A few months ago I heard that Merkaz Hamagshimim was sold and moving to another location. All because of scumbag Madoff who lost $90 million of Hadassah’s money. I started reminiscing with others about what a wonderful “soft landing pad” The Merkaz was and how chaval (a shame) that it won’t be there in the same format for the next olim or would-be olim who come to Israel. The Merkaz was a combination of absorption center and community center located in the German Colony of Jeusalem. A place where you could live for a year on the cheap after making aliyah or while figuring out what to do in Israel and seeing if you want to move here for good.
If it hadn’t been for Merkaz Hamagshimim, I don’t know that I’d still be in Israel. It was while living in The Merkaz that I got to go to ulpan, work at an internship-turned-job, do Jewish learning, meet my would-be husband, meet co-blogger Molly and other friends, and the list goes on. In order to get a real sense of coming to Israel through a newcomers eye, I dug into group emails I had sent and found hilarious observations from my first year in Israel in 2004-05 while living at The Merkaz. Enjoy!
I’ve arrived!!!!!!! Merkaz Hamagshimim is unbelievable. I love my room but am still slightly nauseous from the ride from the airport. Replace ride with crazy israeli driver. i think he thought it was six flags great adventure and that we were on a roller coaster. he was the only one that went weee. oy.
Walking to town
We timed the walk to town today, and with our new carefully planned route it takes about 20 minutes to the Conservative Yeshiva and 30 minutes to town. I know the time, not because I have a watch, which I don’t, but because I’ve been carryng around my clock. Every time I want to check the time I pull out a clock from my bag. Maybe I should tie it around my neck. Or get a watch. We’ll see.
My room is really cute, airy, breezy, and right across from a camp (I hope) where Abba’s “dancing queen” has been playing since 9AM. Sometimes they listened to it in hebrew for variety and sang along. To say the least, its been in my head all day. My room also has a stove top and a fridge. the stove top was SOOOO nasty, so i bought some cleaning spray, only to find out later it was really to polish wooden furniture. yeah for hebrew and the english i failed to pay attention to. way to go. but actually it cleaned the grime nicely and also turned it into wood, which was an added bonus.
Only two computers at The Merkaz
Thank you for your emails, i read them over and over (you know who you are who have been emailing) because i miss you and because i love staring at this computer screen, i have been at it for (gasp) the past 2 hours almost. i am hogging the computer at the merkaz (there’s more than 1) because i am far too tired to be social So last night after scrubbing my stove for 3 hours (or so it felt) i tried to fall asleep to the beautiful sounds of cats meowing. oh jerusalem, you will never cease to live up to your reputation of being infestd with stray cats, even for me.
The no-shake internship
This morning I met with the people that I will be interning for. It took me less than 20 minutes to walk there, which is great. The walk to work is so nice, with lots of flowers, and cute stores, and fruit stands, and i’m sure i won’t be able to resist the little bakery with fresh, warm, baked goods (my biggest weakness) so i’m really looking forward to it. The guys that I’m working for are really laid back and seem very nice. They are religious so there was no handshake (in case that was on your mind, now you know)
Speaking of hands, I am sooo awkward, well in general, but more specifically at the supermarket, I extend my hand for the change but they always place it on the plastic counter. next time i will remember. woooops.
I went to the supermarket and pretty much bought everything in sight. How could I resist those sesame pretzels, and ‘vaflim’, and nutella, and cucumbers that I thought were zucchini. Woops.
Hebrew and Japanese
Ya caught me- i got nothin on japanese, but my hebrew is improving drastically. I love the people in my ulpan- i went to lunch with them and spoke hebrew for an hour. it was ‘fantasti’ .
Israel. week 25? Maybe. whos going to check.. honestly
What I’m trying to say is that I’ve been here for a while and am still very unsure of the future.
one more thing- food item called sabeech— amazing! ‘madheem’ wowsers. i hate eggplant but not sabeech eggplant, so fried and delicious and the pita and the hardboiled egg and wow. come visit and i’ll show you the best place.
Going on tiyulim
so i’m going on a Merkaz tiyul this weekend with hiking and biking and raking and caking and poking and soaking (?)
Rak Rega. (insert hand motion here which makes me want to curse out Israelis every chance I get)
Returning after a trip to the States
here i am. back in israel. as an israeli. more agressive? don’t think so. better hebrew? yes. better than an israeli? ehhh…
so i’ve gone and i’ve done it. the big A word. not the curse word, the other one. aliya. or aliyah. depending on how much you like silent letters.
This country is funny. Have you ever met someone who is an airhead yet somehow they have a full scholarship to a top university? They can figure out math problems that use numbers and letters but they can’t remember to look both ways before crossing the street? That airhead is Israel.
It seems weird but after I tell you what I tell you, I think you will agree. Here’s why Israel is such an airhead: Trains. It comes down to trains.
In Jerusalem you have the light rail, or you have the tracks, dirt and mess of what is supposed to be a light rail. It’s been in the process of being built for about 10 years and who knows when it will ever be ready. In fact it was recently reported that practice trains will begin to ride some of the tracks- which means they will find all sorts of problems and have to rebuild, remodel and restart the whole train game. The light rail has literally eaten up the center of the city and left its remains like a toilet. You know it’s true even if you don’t like the analogy. Stores and cafes have shut down due to lack of commerce, buses travel down narrow one-way streets which are used as two-way streets and sometimes even three-way streets (dirty). My favorite people-watching cross walk at King George and Jaffa has disappeared along with the businesses and bustle of everyday life.
Yet all this said something so innovative and brilliant is also happening on trains in a different part of the country. Israel Railways is offering a lecture series, from top Professors while you ride your usual morning commute. This is pure genius. Where did they come up with this? Rather than staring out a window, listening to your iPod, or trying not to fall asleep and miss your stop, you can now have a refreshing cup of morning coffee and refreshing lecture from top Hebrew University Professor Chanoch Gutfreund on “Einstein’s Love Letters.” I mean could you think of a better way to start your day?
So there’s my point in case. The Jerusalem light rail makes this country an airhead, twirling her hair around her finger and staring into space. Yet, while she may look like no one is home, the sheer genius of train lectures makes you realize that indeed the lights are on and only getting brighter.