The Big Felafel


Single is the way to celebrate Valentine’s Day in Tel Aviv

Another Valentine’s Day trying to separate the happy couples from the sad singles. Oh, but in Tel Aviv this could not be further from the truth (and of course it is far from the truth anyways). It turns out, according to a recent study that a majority of women and men in their 20’s and 30’s living in Tel Aviv, are single. So, like any married Jerusalemite, I went to undercover the mystery behind this shocking new fact. And now I am here to share it with you. I hope you enjoy the results! Take that Valentine’s Day!

 

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Defend Yourself.

me in motion. that cinder block never had a chance.

me in motion. that cinder block never had a chance.

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?

 

 

 


How the Old Train Station got Her Groove Back!

Choo choo!

Choo choo!

When I first moved to Israel I used to walk by the Old Train Station almost every day on my way to my internship. The station once housed the trains that traveled back and forth to Tel Aviv. Years later it became the home to trash and all things smelly. The building was run down and just creepy.

Today, a gap-sweater-wearing-Mayor of Jerusalem, Ugly-Bettyed the crap (literally) out of the old train dump and brought life back to the old girl. The only way this former-LA girl can explain the change, is to explain it through plastic surgery terms: the train station got a lot of Botox, a boob job, tummy tuck, and of course a face lift. And damn is she hot.

The Old Train Station has cafes, open space, fun little shops, tourist attractions, and amazing play areas for kids. It feels like a little bit of Tel Aviv has finally made its way into the Jerusalem Village—and I’m hoping a little beach or canal will follow (what they could totally build a canal or canals in Jerusalem…they built a light rail didn’t they?).

For now, I’ll take what I can get, and hanging out at the train station, drinking a smoothie, while my kid happily plays with a train set or builds another structure with daddy, is damn good. The station is also one of Jerusalem’s more secular areas, catering to a more pluralistic crowd, from non-kosher cafes to concerts on Shabbat. That said, they also have a musical Kabbalat Shabbat at 5pm, showing the versatility of events happening throughout the summer.  As well as food and playtime, the area is home to a great exhibit hall, now featuring a mini-train display that is great for the whole family.

The station is not quite finished yet, with more cafes and shops still being built. I am so excited to see what comes next and how this once abandoned building can still keep things moving!  

 


Stand up: My name. Aliyah. Bureaucracy. And a faxypack.

It’s not everyday you have a captive audience of 400 Israelis willing to listen to your trial and error approach to living in Israel. So, after winning a stand up contest that the New Israel Fund and Bet Hillel hosted in May, I decided to make my five-minute debut about just that: the new immigrant on the block. I was honored to take part in the stand up night, with the other five outstanding and hilarious women that took to the stage. Even better was the fact we were opening for the famously talented Orna Banai. What I also appreciated was how warm the audience was, even though I did my stand up in English. They listened and laughed, and I think they also could relate, even if they are not new immigrants. Bureaucracy is still bureaucracy.

It was a night I will never forget. And an opportunity I hope to have again in the near future.

To see the other ladies click here

I'm the one in pants, and Orna Banai is the the last black dress from the left. Please keep in mind I was 6 weeks after having my second child here...

I’m the one in pants, and Orna Banai is the the last black dress from the left. Please keep in mind I was 6 weeks after having my second child here…


Show me your O Face: Obama Comes to Town!

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 Israel Election: What, Who, What? (VIDEO)

The Israeli Election is just a few days away and the campaign ads won’t let us forget it. That said, many people on the streets of Jerusalem don’t know who they are voting for and what’s the point. In my latest Hahafuch News Update, we take it to the streets to hear what the people have to say. 

Click here to check out the post on Times of Israel. 

50 Shades of Blue and White

50 Shades of Blue and White


Bang…Boom…Shooting…Terrorist Attack…A Reflection on Mental Illness and PTSD

The horrific school shooting on Friday in Connecticut has hit home for anyone and everyone, no matter where you are. For people in the US the question of gun control, parenting, and mental illness is probably dominating the conversation. A friend of mine writing to me from her computer in New Mexico confessed that she is afraid to go outside because anyone could kill her for no reason.

In Israel we are shocked about the news, because these kinds of shootings don’t happen here. Reckless, and random, that’s not how you describe a terrorist attack. We are scared for different reasons, but the fear and outcome are still the same. And as a parent we are all saddened when it is a school and children that is the target, whether it is random or calculated. The attack is just as shrilling.

While the news is still unfolding, it seems obvious at this point, that the gunman was someone plagued with mental illness. It is an issue that I understand all to well. My brother, who took his own life almost three years ago to the date, suffered from mental illness his whole life. It’s not something I talk about often, but I believe his story is important for the future of mental health awareness and change.

He was always brilliant. He was always upset. And most of the time he was violent. We couldn’t understand him. He couldn’t understand what he was going through. And as much as my parents tried, the system seemed to fail him. My brother turned to religion, drugs, and then the US army to find a solution for his mental problems. The US army should have never allowed my brother to serve with his illness, but during the Iraq war, they seemed to overlook his problems and accepted him to become a foot-solider in one of the most volatile areas of the world.

I can only imagine that what he saw on a daily basis added to the list of emotional and mental traumas he had suffered. When he returned to the US he of course could not function in a normal setting. The Vet office gave him pills to help the problem. They needed it and him to go away. He took the pills. The whole bottle at once in fact. He almost died but was rescued and once his stomach was pumped he realized he didn’t want to be this person.

He escaped to another state and became another person. But you never escape mental illness. Now he was alone. But still had his pills. Many pills. On the outside he tried to fit in and become the citizen the US wanted him to be. On the inside he remained traumatized. His demons, the ones from childhood and now war, never went away. He died alone, overdosing on pills in his home.

In my eyes, my brother never really had a chance. He never received the proper health care he needed. He was given jail time for his actions. And pills for his pain. He took his life, and I thank God he never took anyone else’s. His violent outbursts led to fights and broken limbs, but never death. He was 24 when he died.

 Now that I live in Israel my battle with mental health treatment turns to the issue of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). As a citizen and journalist I have met many children and adults with PTSD in Israel, and they are not treated for this severe issue. After experiencing just two rockets in Jerusalem, I realized just how serious trauma can be. When the first rocket hit on Friday night, I will admit that it was the first time I did not have an appetite for Shabbat dinner. I was afraid to leave the shelter, quickly packed an emergency bag and couldn’t stop shaking. I had to be a mother, a wife, and still somehow walk the dog. But I was no longer me. The one rocket hit my core.

I heard the second rocket. I will never forget that boom. I stood in a stairwell and could see the blue sky. I waited for the rocket to appear and crash. Of course it was miles away, but my mind couldn’t handle the truth. As well as the boom, I heard to the beautiful voices of children singing songs about Chanukah. They too were stuck in the stairwell with nowhere to go. How many of these children will forever be affected by war, terrorist attacks and hate? And these children experienced two rockets, what about those down south who had rockets rain on them for years?

Mental illness is just as serious as a broken arm. Just like a broken arm, you are not able to work at normal capacity. You are no longer completely functioning. And until you can get use back in that arm you will never be the same person. We don’t realize how much we need that arm until it is broken. With mental illness it takes moments like a school shooting or rockets to make us realize that our minds can be broken too.

I have shared this post today because we all need an outlet. For the US I hope that there will be a serious change in the healthcare system that puts more weight on mental and emotional illness and behavioral problems. Not more pills in a jar. For Israel I hope we can add more emphasis to PTSD and give people the proper attention they need. After all you can have IVF free in this country, up to two healthy births, but therapy is only partially subsided.

 


Thanksgiving in Israel: I Know How to Give Thanks. Now Get Me My Pie!

Get in my belly.

Thanksgiving in Israel is just not the same as in America. The truth is, in America I was thankful for the week off and to eat a lot. But in Israel, every Friday I manage to stuff my face with a Thanksgiving style meal. In Israel when I celebrate Thanksgiving, especially this year, I know what I am thankful for.

I am thankful to the soldiers that protected me for the past week. Leaving their homes, some still with diapers on at the age of 18, these men and women put their lives on the line to serve their country. These are the people I normally try to push ahead of in line on a bus, or fight with in the supermarket, but this week they weren’t there for me to attack, because they were under real attack.

I am thankful for the people that live down south and their example of strength and courage. They have had to deal with the rockets for the past several years. No one should have to experience this, and yet they have on a daily basis. How do they do it? How are they so strong? I experienced two sirens and one loud boom, and I am still shaken up. So how do they do it? I am thankful for them and their courage to try and live normal lives under these horrible circumstances. I admire them and can only hope the rockets are part of their past and they can now move on into a quieter future.

I am thankful for Israel.

I am thankful for my friends.

I am thankful for the amazing healthcare system.

I am thankful for old Israeli women that can make loud jokes on the bus in a time of fear.

I am thankful for family.

I am thankful for the delicious Israeli food.

I am thankful for quiet.

I am thankful for Jerusalem Fashion that makes no judgment on my crocs when I ride my bicycle.

I am thankful for the war jokes that get us through the harsh times. That makes us laugh when we are falling a part.

I am thankful.

This one-week of terror makes you realize how simple and quiet can be so good sometimes. This week has made me appreciate what I have here. It has made me realize I don’t want to be anywhere else. It has made me thankful.

Now enough sappy crappy, I am ready for my turkey, pumpkin pie and a belly full of yummy.

 


Story time and JELLY ice cream party in Jerusalem

Don’t get nauseous yet. A JELLY ice cream party is not what you think. Thanks to a friend, I have now been exposed to a whole new kind of JELLY – the Jerusalem English Library for Youth, one that is not red and gooey, but instead offers story time, day camps and other activities, including an ice cream party at the end of the summer (for free!). 

As an English speaker living in Israel, I have to make a concerted effort to teach my daughter English. My husband speaks to her in Spanish and she learns Hebrew at daycare. So, I was obviously excited when I found out that there is English story time in Jerusalem. This gives my daughter another place to hear English and for me, another place to connect with other English-speaking parents.

JELLY (Jerusalem English Library for Youth) is an AACI program that offers the following:

  • Monday evening story time: Each week, different parents volunteer to read books over a half hour. The story hour is free.
    • When: Mondays at 4:15pm. September 1 to the end of June.
    • Location: Baka Matnas (community center) at 3 Issachar St. 
    • Contact: Deborah, 02-671-8514
  • Summer JELLY ice cream party: To encourage kids to read, the goal of the party is to have kids read (or have read to them) 10 books. 
    • When: Wednesday, August 22, 2012, 4-6pm. 
    • Location:  Gan HaShoshanim park (Pinsker St, Talbieh)
    • Admission is free. Call AACI 02-561-7151 to RSVP
  • The JELLY Summer Theatre Workshop: The 12-day workshop is for 6-9th graders with the thrill of being on stage, as well as the crafts that go into producing a show, culminating in two an evening performances of a play, on stage in a theatre for family and friends. 
    • When: July 16-31 2012
    • Location: Baka Matnas (community center) at 3 Issachar St. 
    • Contact: Deborah, 02-671-8514
  • Camp JELLY – an Adventure with Books: for kids going into gan hova or 1st grade.  All activities such as arts and crafts, games, songs are based on books -each day with a different writer or theme. Lively but structured with aim to encourage English and a love of books.
    • When: August 12-16 2012
    • Location: Baka Matnas (community center) at 3 Issachar St.
    • Contact: Deborah, 02-671-8514
  • English library for youth: The Baka library has 50% English books.  The picture books for younger kids (and teachers’ library) are on the 2nd floor  and all other books of the Baka library including easy readers to adults are on the 1st floor. JELLY volunteers do the mending, shelving, entering books into computer, etc.
    • Hours: The Baka library is open Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, Thursday 2-7pm & Tuesdays 9-12am
    • Taking out books: To join is free with a security check. 
    • Location: Baka Matnas (community center) at 3 Issachar St. 
    • Phone number: 02-671-1734

 
Any other questions about JELLY or ice cream, you can be in touch with Deborah Lionarons jellyaaci@gmail.com


The future of Israel according to the Israeli Presidential Conference 2012

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:

  1. 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.

  2. 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).

  3. 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.

  4. 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.
  5. 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.

    Dr. Ruth – not afraid to speak her dirty mind. (Photo courtesy of the Israeli Presidential Conference)

  6. 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.

    Even her initials spell AHA! (Photo courtesy of the Israeli Presidential Conference)

  7. 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.
     

    What close proximity!(Photo courtesy of the Israeli Presidential Conference)

    At the 2011 conference, I got to meet Jimmy Wales!

  8. 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.

    Best panel ever! Love you Joseph Cedar and Etgar Keret and almost had the courage to take a photo with you.

  9. 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!
  10. 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!