Sunday, February 26, 2006

It’s All Semantics

I’ve always loved language. Not languages, but the English language in particular. I love to read it, speak it and constantly improve my vocabulary. I derive great pleasure out of hearing someone speak in beautiful, articulate English.
However, one of the drawbacks of being a ferocious reader at a young age is my innate ability to occasionally mangle words. Certain words just aren’t pronounced as they are read, and my mispronunciations still make for a good laugh 10 or 15 years after the fact.
I am also known for inventing my own words. My parents loved that I would blithely use a word, and when informed that the said word did not exist, would respond with, “Well, now it does.”

My latest attempt at word reformation was when I tried to recreate the meaning of the Yiddish word “shtup”. For those not in the know, shtup is the Yiddish word for intercourse (for alternative meanings, see here). I found shtup to be delightfully onomatopoeic and decided to use it as a passing verb. Let me demonstrate:

“Just shtup the box onto the shelf”

“Can you shtup that over here?”

“I shtupped all the way across town….”

You get the general picture. However, for those who understood what shtup meant, my casual usage usually put a stop to any conversation/action and for those who had to be explained the former and new meanings of the word (in my little world), they all assumed the similar “she’s nuts, but we like her” look.

I have a new word I’m crusading for, and it’s a real one. I take great issue with the Hebrew word for husband. The root of the word comes from old Norse and means “master of the house” or “a man who has land and stock”. While the meaning might be somewhat chauvinistic, those who speak modern English have no idea what the root is and accept this as the acceptable term with which to call a woman’s partner.

In Hebrew, the word is ba’ali. The root of the word is ba’al which means master, and is used it biblical terminology as the word for husband. Ba’ali means my master. On the one hand, kudos to Hebrew for maintaining its biblical ties. On the other hand, I pity the fool who would consider himself my master. Thankfully, the hubby is a wise man, and whenever he talks about us, he makes a conscious usage of the term “us” and consistently describes us a partnership. I never had to ask him to us terminology which would denote equality, that’s just the fantastic kinda guy he is. However, there are lots of people out there who don’t know how wonderfully emancipated and liberal my man is in the sex wars, which is why I have begun to use the term Ishi which means “my man”. Yup, it sounds Showboat-ish (Can’t Help Lovin’ That Man) and somewhat ghetto, but it really is just the masculine version of Hebrew's term for wife, which is Ishti which means “my woman”.

If you perchance have the opportunity to use the term ishi, try it. Only by introducing the term into common usage, will it become a known and used part of the Hebrew language and perhaps change some antiquated perceptions of what the husband-wife relationship ought to be.

Friday, February 10, 2006

You've Got to be Kidding Me

Blood libels against the Jews in Europe were quite common for close to a millennia. The first recorded blood libel occurred in Alexandria, first century CE. For those of you who aren’t clear on what this is, Christians would claim that the Jews had murdered a Christian child in order to use his (it was usually a boy) blood for making Passover matza or that the Jews would drink the blood of Christian children in order to take on a Christian appearance. The instigators would murder a Christian child or dig up a freshly buried corpse, plant it in the home of a prominent Jewish family, gather up a howling mob, raid the house, find the body, and Voila! Instant reason to perpetrate a massacre of hundreds or thousands of Jews. The last known blood libel occurred in Kielce, Poland on July 4th, 1946. The 46 victims were all Holocaust survivors, living in a community center, trying to rebuild their lives.

Now, why do I bring this up? Let me tell you…. For the past few years, I have read, often with mirth tinged with sadness, of many of the ludicrous accusations made against the Jews/Israel by the Palestinians, Syria, Iraq, Iran, etc. Today’s remark was yet another which made me snort, yet frustrates me with the stupidity and true danger which lies behind those remarks.

Here are a few gems - the Palestinians claimed Israel was dropping poisoned candies over Palestinian cities and then that Israel had murdered Yasser Arafat by directing a long-distance laser beam at him over a protracted period of time. The Saudi’s claim that the Jews were behind 9/11(must have been due to the high rate of Jews flying planes into buildings), someone else’s claim that Israel was partly responsible for the tsunami, which they claim was caused by deep-sea nuclear testing done by India, America and Israel.

Today’s doozy is from Syria, who claims that Israel is responsible for the bird flu, and that we invented it “with the intent to harm the genes of our Arab neighbors”. I read this and roll my eyes, thinking what unbelievable crap it is, but know that there are millions who do believe it. It’s all seems like a big conspiracy plot that one would need a serious amount of alcohol and mind altering drugs to come up with, but most the people living in the countries surrounding us, as well as many others who are biased and uneducated around the world, will read this and say to themselves, “Those lousy Jews are at it again…”. I know that our allies and the majority of the Western world knows better than to even give it a moments consideration, but accusations like this pop up regularly in the Arab world. Many in the West consider Israel as an obstacle to world peace, but it’s theories like this, alive and well, which threaten mankind as a whole.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Cartoons Again...

It just keeps getting worse and worse. An Iranian paper has decided to run a contest for Holocaust cartoons. How on earth did we get drawn into this? The Muslim world already has a field day depicting Jews as baby killers, monkeys, pigs and a whole slew of other truly flattering characters. The stated intent was that this would test the world's reaction to an alternative form of freedom of speech.

Now really.

While the depiction of Mohammed was a religious issue, the Holocaust was a period in history which affected peoples of multiple religions, and was a crime against humanity. Muslim Protestp against the cartoons? Absolutely, it is your right, your freedom of speech. In the BBC, a picture was printed of a youth during a protest in London, holding a sign which read:

Freedom Go To Hell

The hypocrasy of it swamps me. You idiot, the only reason you can hold that protest and make those statements is because you are in a country which allows and encourages freedom of speech.

The NYTimes had a wonderful article today, including a quote by Flemming Rose, the culture editor of Jyllands-Posten, which first published the cartoons. One paragraph included the following: "He insisted last week that his interest was that of asserting the right to free speech over religious taboos. "When Muslims say you are not showing respect, I would say: you are not asking for my respect, you are asking for my submission," he said."

One of the main reasons the cartoons were published was to highlight the media's reluctancy to publish anything which may offend the Muslim community, resulting in self-censuring and biased reporting. From reports, it seems that the cartoonist did not mean serious offense, but to make a point, however difficult, as political cartoons do.

However, if Iran is so upset about the cartoons, then run cartoons about Danes, not about Jews. For once in a while, leave us out of it. Unless this is yet another opportunity for the world to truly see the blatant antisemitism of many in the Muslim world, if Ahmadinejad's previous comments haven't been enlightening enough.

The world is once again being presented with an opportunity to do the right thing. Will they fail again?

A Dybbuk Has Entered My Husband

I need to apologize to S.Y. Ansky, who wrote The Dybbuk, for paraphrasing his ending to Act I.
As the lead sinks to the ground in a swoon, an extra states, "A Dybbuk has entered the bride."
For those of you who don't know, in Judaism a dybbuk is a malicious possessing spirit, believed to be the dislocated soul of a dead person. Once a person is inhabited by a dybbuk, an exorcism is required, which can result in the death of the person whose body had been inhabited.

My husband is suffering from such a problem.

I cannot say with certainty how long the dybbuk has been residing in his body. It's actions are unlike that of a classic dybbuk. Its presence is only apparent when prokoved. Provocation comes in the form of a televised Liverpool game. My husband has been a soccer fanatic since the age of 5, supporting the team which is father z"l supported. I knew when we got married that I was the wife but soccer the mistress, who did not present a serious threat, and must be allowed.

However, when the hubby sits down in front of a game, the dybbuk emerges. It begins with the changing into of his Liverpool jersey. It progresses with the opening of a bottle of Carlesburg. The possesion reaches its peak during tense moments of the game, when my eloquent and chivalrous husband lets loose a barrage of language filthy enough to make sailors blush or shouts of joy loud enough to wake the dead, and pays me no note. It would literally take a life or death situation to draw him away from the screen. As the game draws to a close, depending on the result, the dybbuk will recede, leaving my husband in a morose or jubilant mood. Being possessed is difficult and exhausing work, and often results in one's spouse needing to do the dishes or be left to their own devices for the remainder of the evening.

As I write this, the dybbuk is in full possession. All I can say is GO LIVERPOOL!!!

Israeli Drivers

A seemingly innocuous title. Yet here is where I let loose.

&$#%ing Israeli drivers!!! May all of you lane hogging, forgetting to signal, going waaaay below the speed limit and don't know rules regarding the right of way imbecils behind wheels rot in bad driver hell!

Ahhh, what provokes this outburst, one might ask. Aliza is such a sweet individual, where does the excess of rage spout from? Let me explain.

I am a good driver. I will openly admit that I do enjoy travelling at "enhanced" speeds and that driving on Jerusalem roads necessitates the usage of what I have termed "defensive driving". However, I always check and then signal if I would like to switch lanes. I will not engage in behavior which would endanger myself or others. My parallel parking may not always be successful on first attempt, but I always get it right by the end. I don't have patience for idiots who aren't paying attention,cause problems with traffic, take up my precious time or endanger my life.

Tonight, I encountered such an idiot. I was on my way to Shaare Zedek hospital to visit my friend Adam who just made Aliya a month ago and managed to land himself in the hospital with a fairly rare intestinal complication. He's hopefully getting out tomorrow, and I came to help him ask a few questions, pay him a visit and bring him back his wallet and winter coat which I was babysitting. Yes, there is lots of theft in hospitals. As I'm waiting at a light, it turns green. I'm waiting 5, 10, 15 seconds for the car in front of me to start, but no go. I honked my horn - perhaps the driver was fiddling with the radio or writing a text message, it happens. The idiot does nothing, so I honked again. Slowly, the car begins to creeeeeep across the intersection. I honk again. I'm not expecting zero to sixty, but zero to 1.5 is a bit slow. The car then sped up and smashed on its brakes almost causing me to crash into it, then repeated that shtick. I then signaled to switch to the other lane, intending to overtake, as I needed to be in the turn lane we were both occupying. The car zigzagged in front of me, constantly cutting me of, and trying to force me into a lane and to have an accident. Thankfully, I turned left while the shmuck went straight. I memorized their license plate number but unfortunately had no witnesses in the car with me. In the States, I would definately have made a call reporting reckless endangerment. Here, I would have been told to "calm down honey" and let it slide.

So here is my way of dealing with it:
If any of you ever see a car with license plate number 69 221 05, give 'em hell and flip 'em the bird, from me.


My passion is theater, and my passion within my passion is musicals. I admit, I am a musical theater buff. My earliest debut was a number of home performances from Annie at the age of 4 and continued from there. My life is one big musical - if the moment is appropriate, I will sing a song to go with it. I'd say my four favorite musicals are Rent, Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera and Wicked. My husband knows to carefully word a request for the time, for if he says "What's the time?", I'll respond by singing, "It's gotta be close to midnight..." (Rent, Out Tonight) regardless of the hour. My CD collection in the car is usually scorned by certain family members, due to the large number of musicals in liue of, oh, U2 or the like.

The trend these days is to turn popular and profitable musicals into movies, to allow larger audiences to see the show (and in my opinion becauser there aren't many good movie ideas out there and Hollywood execs are desperate...). Thus, with great anticiption, I have patiently been waiting for Rent to make it's screen debut. I've seen it twice on Broadway, completely worn out my Rent soundtrack and The Best of Rent CD, not to mention having gone through a period where I swore I would be the first white Mimi. I know every nuance, every note of the show by heart.

Finally, 2 weeks ago, it arrived. I was finishing up my semester, and was completely swamped, and did not get a chance to see it until Saturday night. Ahhh, be still my beating heart. Granted, I have critique. Hey, you're reading the blog of a woman who caused her cousin to miss most of the show because her lip synching was causing uncontrolable laughter. I was suspicious of some of the plot changes, certain changes in words, cutting out songs (how they could cut out the finale to Act I I'll never know). However, certain changes were plot enhancing, and there were some great guest appearances (yay Anna Deavere Smith!).

The greatest thrill for me was the fact that almost the entire original cast was in the film. This was no star-studded production, but had gone back to those actors who had made it a hit. I so appreciated the integrity of the filmakers in that respect.

To summarize - I laughed, cried and lip synched to EVERY SINGLE SONG. Luckily for myself and my friends, there were only 3 other people in the theater with us, so we got to make ourself comfortable, and kick the chairs in front of us to the beat of the songs.


Sunday, February 05, 2006

Echo From a Bygone Era

Normally, I have to car to take to work and run my various errands. Since the hubby needed the car today, I was thrown at the mercy of the public transportation system. I cannot recall the last time I got on a bus, though there was a time (about a year and a bit ago) where I knew where the majority of Jerusalem bus lines went and where their stops were.

All during the intifada, I insisted in taking buses as a means of defiance. In my mind, refusing to take a bus out of fear was acquiesing to terrorists, allowing others to set my path for me. I've never been one to take being bullied and felt that continuing to use and support the public transportation system (along with cafes, restaurants and bars) was a means of resistance, defiance and my own little way of saying "*F*&% You" to all those who wished to terrorize me.

However, certain habits still remain, despite the near cessation of bombings. Whenever I get on a bus, I quickly scan everyone sitting there, and try to sit near an exit. During the bus ride, and elderly gentleman sat down in the seat next to me. As I felt someone settling in next to me, I quickly turned to see who my new seat companion was. To my suprise and utter delight, the gentleman (and I purposely use this term) nodded at me, and then raised his cap, saying,

"Boker Tov G'veret" (Good Morning Ma'am)

In today's day and age, where we interact with the majority of people in our lives via cell phones and internet, it was a pleasure to have such a pleasant interaction with a stranger, albeit brief.
And hey, I am an utter romantic. Having someone tip their cap at me is straight out of the movies and really made my day.

A Jewish Thing

Last week was a fairly busy one for me - my semester ended and I was involved in organizing two major events. The first was organized solely by moi, as an opening event for new students at the Rothberg international school. I was extremely pleased by the turnout and success of the event, and my bosses are happy with me. The second event was the Jerusalem Winter Ball, a peer organized charity event, which serves the purpose of creating a reason for people to get dressed up and party for the fun of it, while still doing some good by donating all proceeds to a charity organization. Props to my friend Eli Gurock who spear-headed the ball and did most of the hard work. But back to the first event. As the student evening was slowly dying down, I was standing by the door, saying goodbye to students as they left. A pretty, sweet girl tapped me on the shoulder and asked if she could ask me a question in private. We walked over to a corner, and I smiled at her, in order to give her a bit of confidence, as she was twisting her hands a bit nervously. What next came out of her mouth still causes me to chuckle as I write this:

I'm a single 20 year old religious Jewish girl, looking for a nice guy. Know anyone?

As I spent a few seconds composing myself, trying not to laugh, it struck me how some things just never change. As I was the visible face of a Jewish event organized for students, I had unknowingly cast myself into the role of matchmaker (matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match. . .). My response was simple, and luckily a practiced one. I'm often approached by female friends, who know that my husband still has a number of single, eligible buddies and by male friends of mine and my hubby's friends who know that I'm still in university, with bachelorettes galore. My standard response is:

"We need to sit down over a cup of coffee and talk about who and what you are looking for, I refuse to set people up just because they happen to be of the opposite sex and single."

I stated this to the student, who immediately pulled out her phone to take my number in order to call me to arrange a coffee date. On the one hand, I'd like to be able to find her a boyfriend. Dating is fun and the personal self esteem and security offered by a boyfriend/girlfriend can be helpful, especially while abroad at universty. However, I am reluctant to set up an overseas student with an Israeli or someone who has made aliya. If you are making aliya, great. But why would I want to set up my friends with someone who is leaving in June? To let them get their hearts broken or have them follow her back to America?

Those concerns aside, I now have a new title to add to my job - Matchmaker!

Thursday, February 02, 2006

When the Shoe Is On the Other Foot....

I've been following, with some amusement and growing concern, the Muslim world's reaction to derogatory cartoon depictions of Muhammd in a Danish newspaper. Today's latest bit of reporting had me snorting at the seemingly "macho" reaction of our neighbors. I understand that Islam forbids any depiction of Muhammed or Allah, but open your eyes people - not everyone is Muslim, nor do they have to adhere to the rules of your faith!

Personally, the trend of automatic obescience towards any sense of affront felt by any Muslims has gotten a bit extreme. I advocate sensitivity towards religious group (Hell, I work with international students, of all races and religions) but this constant turning to pacifism which is seeming to border on subsequience is flaming a serious fire. As a student of Communications, one of the basic principles taught is the necessity of freedom of the press, and unbiased reporting. While the latter has disappeard for quite some time, the former is a necessity in order to enable democracy. The world must take stock, and ask if they are willing to create a framework of mollification every time someone is upset. Granted, it's not just poking fun at a leader or political issue. However, if we are arriving at a stage where countries are threatened for their allowance of freedom of speech and press, then this is a wake up call - stop constantly assuaging every perceived slight and say "Welcome - this is the world we live in, it's not solely Muslim. Get used to it."

A note to the Palestinians - if you would like to have the world pity you and support your cause, I highly suggest restraint in public utterances, especially those which blatantly state your intention to blow up embassies over a cartoon. Stuff like that ain't great for public relations.

Now really, don't you think it's all a bit extreme?

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

A Glitch in the System

In The Matrix, Neo is told that deja vu is merely a glitch in the system. Real life is a bit different, and any feeling of repetition is based on experience and memory, not just some code experiencing a momentary problem. Our human code allows us to recall via one of the most primal senses we contain - intuition.

Today's feeling of deja vu was one which evoked so much pain and so many memories, that I found myself wishing it was all just a product of complex computer programming. I was in a Hebrew U cafeteria buying lunch with a friend, and as we passed by a TV over one of the counters on our way out, my friend stopped and motioned to the screen. At first I thought there had been a terrorist attack - there was fire, smoke, soldiers and screaming people. Then I realized it was the evacuation of Amona. The Amona issue is a delicate, and one which I haven't got the strength to go into now. But watching the evacuation, I was mentally catapulted back to August, and the Gaza Disengagement.

I was against the disengagement, and while I didn't go down to Gaza to participate in a last stand, I proudly wore my orange ribbon on my bag and my car made it's statement as well (much to the chagrin of my husband, who was pro-disengagement). During the days when they were evacuating the Gush Katif and Neve Dekalim shuls and yeshivot, I would come home from work every day and sit in front of the TV crying. I deal with stress and pressure in various ways, and one of them comes in the form of my old friends Ben & Jerry. The hubby would come home and find me red faced, eyes swollen, with empty ice cream cartons on the side. But the saving grace of the disengagement was the humanity which shone through it all, on both the settlers and soldiers sides. Today was a different story. Today was the disengagement gone wrong.

The news ribbon on the bottom of screen reported hundreds had been injured and a total state of chaos had ensued. I began to cry. Now, for those of you who are unaware, academia in general is fairly left wing. Hebrew U is a proud bastion of left-wing sentiment, much like the proverbial ostrich with it's head buried in the sand. Getting an alternative voice to be heard is a bit like surgery minus the anesthesia. Results are achieved, but at a cost. My friend whom I was with was shocked. She asked me why I was crying, and placed what she thought was a calming hand on my shoulder. She could not understand why I was so affected and how someone "like you" could be right wing.

I was crying for the settlers being evicted from their homes, who were living there for the purest of motives.

I was crying for the soldiers who were in the position where they were being attacked by their fellow man, their fellow Jew.

I was crying for the teenage activists whose belief in G-d and the Torah, and in their mission is so pure and is being shattered to pieces, and innocence being destroyed.

I was crying for my country, my people, what we've come to.

Have we brought ourselves to this place? Has world intervention brought us to this place? I loathed the sight of youths throwing tables from rooftops as much as soldiers coming in with truncheons and riot gear. The youth of Gaza and Amona be of army age in a few years. Will their encounters with the army have soured them so much and destroyed so much of their ideology and love for our country that they will become like the Tel-Avivniks who are proud to state that they refuse to serve in the Israeli army? Will the soldiers forever be embittered against those who are doing their utmost to staunch them?

Will the wound keep being reopened and reopened, until the tissue can no longer heal and a festering wound is all that's left? As I go to sleep with a heavy heart and tears in the back of my throat, all I can do is pray that my little country can pull itself together and get past the self-inflicted wounds, which some say will save us and some say will break us.