Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Isn't It Ironic

Monday night was Yom HaShoah - Holocaust Rememberance Day. I had been invited by Hebrew U's Hillel house to participte in an alternative Holocaust ceremony. Israel seems to have a formula for solemn ceremonies, which is 4-6 parts dramatic readings, 2-3 parts songs and a few poems/candle lightings. The Hillel house's ceremony consisted of a number of different students speaking about the Holocaust from their perspective, as well as having a somewhat famous folk singer play a few interspersed songs. It was actually quite interesting. A number of the people spoke had no family in the Holocaust - students whose families cam from Ethiopia, Yemen, Tunisia, etc and their only connection to the Holocaust was their religion. I was asked to speak because I spent most of my life in America, and I was asked to talk about what it was like growing up in a country where the ghost of the Holocaust is not part of the national identity. However, the most interesting student, by far, was the only non-Jew who spoke.

Jan is an overseas student from Germany in his mid-20s, who is an artistic, sensitive, talented and extremely eccentric student. He was asked to talk about his Holocaust experiences, as someone from the "other side". His words were moving and powerful. He told us about the time when a religious Jew came up to him and asked, "How many Jews did your father murder in the Holocaust?" When Jan told him that his father had been born after WWII, the man persisted and asked, "Then how many Jews did your grandfathers murder?" He told us about how he wasn't aloud toy weapons as a child, because his parents told him, "We're Germans, we don't play with guns."

After he got off the stage, he sat down next to me. As he took his place, I realized he was shaking, quietly sobbing, and on the verge of hyperventilating. I instinctively took his hand and held it, and told him what a brave thing he did. I held his hand until he calmed down, until his breathing was less erratic and he stopped shaking.

At one stage, as I looked down at our hands, lit only by the faint spotlight focused on the stage, the irony struck me. Here I am, a Jew, sitting in Jerusalem, our Jewish capital, calming and comforting a non-Jewish German on Holocaust Day.

Take that, Hitler.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

It's About Friggin Time

I think I like this new pope...

Check it out

Baruch Dayan Emet

Please take a few moments to read about the 9 vicims of Monday's suicide bombing in Tel Aviv.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Ode to the Jewish Woman Making Pesach

Twas the night before pesach
All was silent in the house
Nothing was stirring
Not even a mouse

Then up from her bed
With a strangled cry
Leapt a Jewish housewife
With fear in her eyes

“The chametz the chametz”
She cried and moaned
“I dreamt that it was everywhere
All over our home”

Her screams woke the children
And much to their delight
They saw mom freaking out
In the middle of the night

Her husband rubbed her back
And murmured in her ear
"It was just a nightmare sweetie
Go back to sleep dear"

But with a maniacal gleam
In her bloodshot eyes
The woman stood up
And boldly decried

“My dream was an omen
A sign from up You Know Who
We must re-check the house
That’s exactly what we’ll do"

Her husband protested
Her children tried to procrastinate and pause
But hell hath no iron will
Like a woman with a cause

Starting in the attic
They worked their way down
Unfolding and lifting
Silently, without sound

They checked under the beds
Inside the cupboards too
The breakfront and closets
And the baby’s toy zoo

They swarmed over the kitchen
Eyeballing every nook and cranny
Finding naught but some matzah meal
And a picture of dad’s granny

At last, exhausted
And empty-handed but relieved
The mother sent her brood to bed
For a well deserved reprieve

Now dear reader, heed this lesson
And pay tribute to the woman of the hour
Who’s scrubbing, cleaning and cooking
Has used up all her power

She tirelessly converted
The whole house as it should be
And come Seder night
Her work is a pride for all to see

This is for every Jewish woman
Who has been stressed and worried
Who has been fraught with nerves
And somewhat harried

I honor your labors
And congratulate you too
Now sit back and relax
There's nothing left to do!!!

Chag Sameach!

Monday, April 10, 2006

Minyan (Wo)Man

I spent Shabbat in Pekiin this week, a lovely town up north with is distinct for the fact that it has Muslim, Christian, Druse and Jewish residents all living peacefully together. I was there with work and in charge of the religious aspect of Shabbat. I was a bit tentative, as Shabbat is incredibly important to me, and I need to be able to pray and hear the Torah being read and feel like I'm in an atmosphere condusive to a spiritually fulfilling Shabbat. Aside from having a somewhat frantic drive up, as I had never driven in that area before and encountered over an hour of traffic due to terrorism warnings and a car accident, I arrived at the youth hostel 45 minutes before candle lighting to a lovely youth hostel. The majority of the students on the weekend were not what you would call religious, comprised of various streams of Judaism, with perhaps 15-20 shomer shabbat (Sabbath observant) students and the rest Conservative, Reformed or unaffiliated (out of 140 students).

I came to Friday night services and was pleasantly suprised to see both the men and womens' sides were packed (and the women's size was larger than the mens!). The student leading Mincha had a strong clear, voice but then we got to Kabbalat Shabbat (the part of services for welcoming in the Sabbath). Here a religious student took over, but sang very softly and not particularly well and kept looking over his shoulder at me for reassurance. For those of you who don't know me, I act and sing, and have been performing since I was a child. One of the things I'm known for is my strong voice and ability to project. So project I did, to the point where I was congratulated after services by a number of the female students for leading a lovely service. It had not been my intention to do so, but in a place where there are no men...It's up to us women to pick up the pieces. I should be clear - I'm modern orthodox, and while I'm lenient in certain areas, I attend an orthodox shul and services, and do not take part in services where women lead prayers or read from the Torah. However, I have no problem singing in public and while my intentions had not been to hijack prayers, I was happy that I had been able to add to the ruach and make it a little more upbeat.

At the end of davening, I announced that prayers would begin at 8:30 the next morning and more than enough male students said they would be there. I organized Torah reading and Haftorah reading, which is a responsibility which normally falls to men, as they are the ones obligated, but since I was a staffer, it became my responsibility.

Shabbat morning - 8:45 AM, I run into shul embarrased that I'm late to discove 2 women and 3 men. I then spent the next 75 minutes working my tush off to get a minyan (quorum) together. That meant running around, cajoling those lingering over breakfast to join us, putting my ear to doors to see if I could hear any male voices, convincing the atheist that he just had to sit in the room, he didn't have to participate, etc. This was something very new for me. As mentioned before, men are the ones meant to organize prayers with a minyan, as it is a mitzvah which is incumbent upon them, not women. I felt a sense of pride that I was the one enabling not only the male, but the female students as well, to benefit from a proper Shabbat davening. It was Shabbat HaGadol, which meant there was a special Haftorah, and I did what I needed to do to ensure that I got the shabbat I wanted, as well as making sure the students were able to have one as well.

It was the same shtick for Mincha and Ma'ariv, with a suprisingly popular havdalah. It was a great shabbat, lots of fun and suprisingly Shabbat-ish. I won't mind returning back to my place on the women's side, but was pleasantly suprised to see how well I did when push came to shove.

Monday, April 03, 2006


I thought I was done blogging for the night, until I read this. Treppenwitz is an incredibly talented and sensitive writer, and the hasbara scene needs far more people like him. Check it out at

Thank you for your story and insight.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Girl's Weekend In

With hubby away, I decided that I wanted to spend the weekend at home, but didn't fancy being alone. So I called in reinforcements, in the form of my friend Gila. Gila and I met through a mutual friend about a year ago, and hit it off right away. We have the same sense of humor, fashion style and if I was still single, would be hitting the scene as Gila's partner in crime. However, I'm content to read about her dating escapades, and planned on spending a fun weekend giggling and gossiping. I got a bit of a preview with my first phone call to Gila. (Note: Gila's roomate is a male friend of hers, they are not a couple):

Me: Gila, do you want to spend Shabbat with me? Hubby is away, so you'll sleep over and we'll find meals together - sound good?

Gila: Oooh, it'll be so much fun, cause you don't live with a girl either!!! We'll get to do all the stuff female roomates would do.

Me: Gils, I'm married. It's a bit different.

Fast forward to Friday afternoon, where I was shopping for weekend snacks which would be appropriate for aforementioned diet. Gila calls to let me know what time she'll be over:

Me: By the way, I hope you like strawberries and passion fruit, I'm stocking up on snacks for Shabbat. I'm trying to lose weight, and have thrown out all the nosh and crap.

Gila: Ooooh, I love strawberries!!! I'll bring Nutella, it's a great combo.

Fast forward to our walk home. I had brought walking shoes, as my stilletos were not appropriate for a 30 minute teeter home, and we had eaten fairly far from my apartment. The walking shoes are very comfortable, but have a slippery heel which I keep meaning to take to a cobbler to get some rubber put onto. As Gila and I had both consumed a fair amount of wine, we linked arms for the walk home as girls often do, as well as providing a necessary support system. But the wine and slippery heels won, and I found myself on the pavement at one stage, laughing hysterically. Gila was sure that serious damage had been done, but after assuring here that my winter weight gain had finally paid off in the form of instrumental padding, we continued home. I slipped and slid a few more times, but Gila kept me upright. After we got back and were changing into pajamas, I somehow got a bit tangled up in the bedroom curtains, which are too long and which I've been meaning to shorten for some time. To make a long story short, I experienced deja vu as I found myself flat out on the floor, lauging hystrically. Gila wasn't sure if I would be allowed to walk anywhere else for the rest of the evening, but I assured her I was fine, and we went to bed.

I got up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, and as I was making my way down the pitch black hall, I suddenly heard a voice...

Gila: Where are you going?

Aliza: To the bathroom.

Gila: Do you need any help?

Aliza: No, I think I can pee on my own, but thanks.

Gila: Oh, I thought you might be going to throw up or something.

Aliza: Gila, we went to bed 4 hours ago, and I wasn't even drunk.

Gila: Oh, g'nite then.

Suffice to say, it was a fantastic weekend, as Gila had mercifully forgotten the verbal diarrhea which I'd been spewing on the walk home, and I had fun hearing about her dating life. She's a great girl and phenomenal friend, and I'm so lucky to have her around to spice up my life. Hopefully hubby won't be leaving me for shabbat any time soon, but I have a feeling that Gila and I may need to have another girl's weekend together... somewhere where they serve cocktails with little umbrellas... But that will have to be another post.

Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head

Yes, yes, you've all heard about the ridiculous amount of rain which Israel has been experiencing over the last 24 hours, but hopefully all of you have read about it from the dryness of your own home. I cannot say the same. Living in an old Arab house had its charms and advantages, but remaining dry and non-leaky ain't one of them.

I woke up this morning and went downstairs to make myself a cup of coffee. That plan stopped as soon as I placed my food squarely in the middle of the HUGE puddle in front of my front door. It actually had turned into a mini-river, as it had cascaded over the entrance, down the two steps into the living room and spread out. Forget the coffee, backtrack, bring towels and begin Operation Mop-Up. Of course this has to happen with hubby out of the picture. My brother in law stopped by as I was mid-mop and asked if water had gotten into our basement. Our apartment is the bottem third of an old Arab house, and the basement used to be the food cellar and well. The conversation went something like this:

Him: Did the water make it into the basement?

Me: Nah, the top step is dry.

Him: I'll just check (pause as he goes down the stairs) Aliza, there is a lot of water down here!!!!

Me: Oh *$%@

My relaxed morning, which was meant to be spent reading articles for class, was a mess of insurance phone calls, towels all over the place and a good friend (who also did the renovation on the apartment) coming over to help out. Hubby kept calling and apologizing that he wasn't there. I stoically informed him that I would be ok, it would all sort itself out, and he could repay me in any form of diamond or pearl jewelry he felt suitable for the situation.

I can deal with a crisis, I'm fairly level-headed and don't lose my cool. I'm very happy that Israel is getting the water it desperately needs, especially at the end of the rainy season when the chance of a decent downpour is slim to none. But really, did it all have to happen when I'm on my own, drowning in reading and assignments for uni (no pun intended) and just when I've really started my post-winter dieting?!?! Come on, I can't even bury myself in chocolate or Ben & Jerry's.

Hopefully, there will be a blog in about two weeks raving about how hubby has lavished gifts and attention on me to make up for his, albeit unintentional, absense. Until then, I'll have to rely on Sweet n' Low Fudgsicles.


More Heroes

I wrote earlier how Azzam Azzam has become a new hero of mine. I now have two more names to add to that list - Rafi and Helena Halevy. They were the couple driving the car in which the terrorist exploded himself. The details can be found here. This couple figured out that their anonymous passenger was a suicide bomber and refused to continue, sacrificing their lives to save their communitites.

As the intifada raged, my thoughts would turn to possible heroic situations. My high school was a 3 minute walk to Ben-Yehuda street and there were numerous times that terrorist attacks occured within the close vicinity. What would I do if I saw a terrorist taking out a knife, a gun, a grenade or about to activate an explosives belt? Would I run and hide? Would I shout out a warning as I was running in the opposite direction? Would I try to tackle him/her and prevent the attack like the waiter at Cafit did in 2003? Thank G-d I've never been tested, but Rafi and Helena were. Their choice was clear - they did everything in their power to prevent their friends, neighbors and community from being harmed.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines hero as "A person noted for feats of courage or nobility of purpose, especially one who has risked or sacrificed his or her life". Youths are lauded to be heroic, strong, emulate the heroes of old. But being a hero usually entails nothing glamorous or exciting, but simply being at the right/wrong place at the right/wrong time, and making the right decision.

Rafi and Helena - May your memories be blessed.

Baruch Dayan Emet

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Life Here

Friday morning I read more about the terrorist attack I mentioned earlier. The terrorist dressed up as a religious Jew, hitched a ride outside of Kedumim and then blew himself up in the car, murdering a couple from Kedumim and two teenage hitchhikers.

While every terrorist attack is like a knife in the heart, this one had particular relevance for me. Aside from the fact that my husband is now directly helping to protect the residents of the area, I hitchhiked for 5 years. When I made aliya at the age of 14, my family first lived in Efrat, and then moved to a yishuv in the Modiin area. I went to a high school in Jerusalem, and the quickest way for me to get to school was to hitchhike while waiting for the bus. I quickly developed a system of who not to get into a car with, and always listened to my gut, which meant that I would get out of a car or pass up a tremp (as a ride is called in Hebrew) if I felt uncomfortable.

One memorable experience was when I was hitchhiking at the Shilat intersection and got into a car driven by a middle age man, along with two soldiers (I know, Mom, what was I thinking), who got off at a yishuv mid-way to Jerusalem. The remaining 25 minutes in the car was spent with the driver lecturing me for getting into a car with men, especially soldiers with guns, the danger I had put myself in as a vulnerable woman (I wasn't too thrilled with that one) and how lucky I was that someone like him had picked me up. Someone with daughters, who was not a maniac, yada yada yada. I got out chastened and while I still continued to hitchhike with all sorts of people, this particular ride represented something special. I live in a country where it's safe enough to get into a car with a complete stranger, a country where that complete stranger feels that he has the responsibility to lecture me on my safety. It gave me a sense of belonging, that this random Israeli man cared enough about me and my safety. Sure, I was annoyed at the time that he felt that he had the right to lecture me, but in retrospect it is a perfect example of all that is good in Israel.

The attack struck me in a place of vulnerability, as it was an attempt to destroy yet another layer of trust in the fabric of Israeli society. Life here has changed so much due to the violence, and I am so saddened that this honest and simple way of camraderie in Israeli life was targeted.

Shavua Tov