Cats at Rest
Big Sister and Little Brother from the colony at work:
I have been reading responses throughout the Jewish blogosphere to the vile and cowardly attack that Miriam Shear suffered on the No. 2 bus line in Jerusalem several weeks ago, and I find some of the responses almost as horrifying as the report of the attack itself.
I strongly object to the use of modesty as the reason why four bullies ganged up on Ms. Shear and beat, kicked and spat on her when she refused an inappropriate demand to move to the back of the bus. I also object to the appalling tendency I have noticed in several blogs’ comment sections to blame the victim by saying such things as: Well, she was looking for a fight and she got one, or: She only sat where she did in order to make a statement, or: She should have moved to the back of the bus in order to avoid conflict, because that is how truly modest people behave.
In other words, they say, Ms. Shear deserved what she got because she didn’t know her place. She should have given in to the bullies.
To those who truly believe that, I have the following challenge. Ask yourselves honestly: What would you do if someone were to beat up your mother, sister, wife or daughter on a public bus?
You would punch their lights out and ask questions later.
Modesty does not mean being a doormat. Nor does it mean ganging up on other people and beating and kicking them in order to make a point. Modest people mind their own business and do not bully others. So let’s not fool ourselves. The attack on Ms. Shear had nothing at all to do with modesty and everything to do with power, control and defending turf.
The Hebrew word mehader comes from the word hadar, which means “beauty” or “splendor.” The literal meaning of the word “mehader” is “one who beautifies.” It is also related to the phrase hiddur mitzvah—the act of putting special effort into the fulfillment of a particular commandment. Similarly, the word “mehader” refers to a person who is meticulous in observing the commandments. Its plural form, mehadrin, is often used to describe any product or service, such as the supervision of kosher food or the quality of a ritual object, that conforms to the highest standards of Jewish law. I understand that the proper word is actually “la-mehadrin”—“for the mehadrin”—meaning that the product or service is specifically meant for meticulously observant people. Over the past several years, the prefix has been dropped, and the word “mehadrin” now describes the product or service itself rather than its intended consumers.
When applied to public transportation, the word “mehadrin” refers to sex-segregated buses. To my mind, that is a misnomer. I see nothing beautiful or splendid about seeking to impose an unnecessary and invasive restriction upon an unwilling population. Jewish law does not require separate seating on public transportation. Even if it did, there is no excuse for the ugly, arrogant and brutal behavior of the bullies who attacked Ms. Shear.
A campaign to segregate Egged's 1 and 2 bus lines in Jerusalem has been going on for years, and it is obvious that the supposed advocates of modesty are not above using deception in order to get what they want. I remember seeing, approximately eight years ago, photocopied signs taped to bus stops at the beginning of the route just outside the Old City stating that the 1 and 2 lines now required separate seating. The sign-makers had photocopied the seal of a well-known Haredi rabbinical court—a familiar image that can be lifted easily from most products available in local supermarkets, from canned fruit to laundry detergent—onto the signs in an attempt to give them legitimacy and authority. (Fortunately the 38 line, the minibus that travels between the Old City and the main part of downtown, appears to have escaped this nonsense so far.)
At that same time, stickers began to appear on articulated buses, stating that these vehicles should be sex-segregated, with men in the front and women in the back, citing a phrase from Tractate Berakhot 61a of the Babylonian Talmud: “Aharei ari ve-lo aharei isha” (“It is better to walk behind a lion than behind a woman”). The stickers were red and white, like other official Egged stickers, though of course Egged had nothing to do with their production or distribution. The campaign also includes outright lies. Only several weeks ago I saw large posters in the Geula neighborhood exulting that lines 1 and 2 are “now mehadrin,” when in fact they do not require separate seating.
Does anyone remember Naomi Ragen's story about what happened to her several years ago on a bus to Jerusalem’s Ramot neighborhood? A man demanded that she move to the back of the bus, and when she refused, he abused her verbally until he reached his stop. The driver did nothing.
It appears that things have only gotten worse since then.
I would feel more comfortable if the bus bullies and their sympathizers simply told the truth. They couldn’t care less about modesty. What they care about is power, and their actions—bullying, lies and deception—show that they don’t care very much about how they get it. In order to get the control they crave, they violate the very ethics that they claim to value, and they desecrate the very name of the God Whose law they claim to uphold.
Beauty? Splendor? Show me where.
Oh, all right, so I’m late. But here is an entire tummy study to make up for it.
Resting state. The cat is about to begin a stretch:
An excellent start ...
What form! What grace! What elegance! What fuzz!
Returning to resting state:
Yeah, I think I’ll give that a perfect 10.
Check out Lisaviolet’s site for lots of lovely kitty tummies.
This post originally ran on May 4, 2005.
There is a famous photograph of a Hanukkah menorah in a window opposite the town hall of Kiel in Germany. The year is 1933, and the building that the menorah faces is decorated with a Nazi flag. The photograph always makes me think of David and Goliath, except that here, David did not dispatch the enemy with one blow. Instead, it was Goliath who attacked—with unparalleled cruelty and viciousness—and David who survived, after bleeding almost to death.
I saw the photograph for the first time in A Different Light, a book about Hanukkah. Soon after I got it, I read it from beginning to end and discovered the photograph, which made a strong impression on me.
Several months after I received the book, I spent Shabbat with friends of mine in a town near Jerusalem. At lunch, a woman at the table asked: “Has anyone ever seen the menorah at the home of the M. family? It appears in a famous photograph”—and she proceeded to describe the very same picture I had seen in the book. I couldn’t believe my ears. The M. family lived on the same street where I was staying, only a few houses away from my friends’ home.
After Shabbat I went to the M. family’s home and asked to see the menorah. The family graciously allowed me to look at it, touch it and hold it, and they told me its story.
The menorah had belonged to the town rabbi, a direct ancestor of the M. family. At approximately the time the photograph was taken, the rabbi denounced the Nazis from his pulpit. Understanding the danger he was in, his congregants begged him to get out of Germany, and although he resisted at first, in the end they persuaded him. He immigrated to pre-state Palestine together with his family, who brought the menorah with them.
When I got home later that night, I e-mailed the author of the book. “You’ll never believe what I just saw and held,” I wrote. The author put me in touch with an archivist at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC, and in turn I put her in touch with the M. family. The story of the menorah and the rabbi who defied the Nazis from his windowsill and from his pulpit is now properly archived in the museum.
Recently the M. family was blessed with a grandchild. As he grows up, he will learn the story of his courageous ancestor and the menorah he brought from darkness to light.
Eugene, a blogger from New York, tells how his granddad invented the Holocaust.
My grandfather and his sister had many relatives. The exact count is not known. My grandfather used to know, but, as time went by and his mind weakened, his estimates started to vary. Somewhere around 20 seems to be about the right number. You can count 16 in the group photo from 1940, or is it 1941, that I have seen. You only get 8, I think, if you count the names mentioned in the yellowed letter. Yes, I think it’s 8 names that the neighbor lists as my grandfather’s relatives who were lined up outside the village and shot by Germans and Ukrainians in 1941. It’s 8 if you just count the names, but then the letter does refer to “and everyone else.” I don’t remember the names. I haven’t seen the letter for a while. My grandmother had it, but she has given it to a museum. I live on a different continent now. This doesn’t mean these people never were. First, they lived, and then they were dead. It is a fact. I had relatives, before I was born. It is a fact. I have seen the letter.
That is not all, though. My grandfather said that when he had returned from the war, he went home. Home to his Mama. He said that when he had got there, a Ukrainian woman neighbor opened the door. To be clear, that’s not the same neighbor as the one who wrote the letter. He had remembered the neighbor well. The neighbor was wearing his mother’s pendant, and had opened his mother’s door. His mother wasn’t there because she was dead. So was his sister, and the rest of his relatives. Whether there were 8 or 16 of them, or, may be, more, because some had not made it into the group photo, they were all no longer. First, they were, and then they were not. It is a fact. I have heard my grandfather tell the story and cry. 40 years on, and he still cried. It made me sad that they were dead... Silly, I have never met these people.
Apparently, when my grandfather returned home and saw the neighbor with the pendant and all, he understood. He said she had told him, but she needn’t have. He was gray when he woke up the next morning. I suppose it is possible that he went gray gradually, over the years, but he said it had happened overnight. I don’t know if it’s true, because I wasn’t there, and my grandmother didn’t know my grandfather then, so she can’t say, and he didn’t have any relatives who were alive, so they would not have been able to confirm it, and he didn’t have any friends left in the village, because they were all in the same ravine as his relatives, but I believe him. I don’t think he would have lied about that. 1945 – 1941 + 17 = 21.
My father knows where the ravine is. He has seen it. He never lived in that village, but he went there to see it, just this year. He says he saw a collective headstone. I know he did, because I have seen the photo of the headstone that he took. He says he spoke to an old Ukrainian woman who told him how it had happened. She was a child at the time, and she was there. I have seen her photo. I wasn’t there, but I believe him. He would not have made it up.
My father went to the archives when he was there, and he got the names. I don’t have the photocopy of the list of the dead, but he does. A long list of names with my, very rare, last name. They don’t mean much to me, but these names once were. It is a fact.
I have no cousins. I have no second cousins. I have no third cousins on my father’s side. I have no fourth cousins on my father’s side. How long is the list of natural numbers? If you get to the end of the list, which is not a mathematical possibility, I don’t have those cousins on my father’s side. I have never been to a large gathering of my family – there is not much of it to gather. My father’s father was lucky – he played the trumpet far away from home that year. My father’s father begot my father. My father begot me. That is it on that side. It is a fact.
Now, the President of Iran and a group of assorted nut-jobs that the Associated (with Terrorists) Press has dignified by referring to as “scholars” are holding a “Holocaust Conference.” They would have me believe that my family never was. My grandfather, apparently, made up his story about having a family of 16, or whatever that number was, and then not having it. Part of a grandiose conspiracy spanning the continents and dozens of languages, deep inside the Soviet Union, which a mouse could not have entered unnoticed, not knowing a word of Hebrew or English or whatever other language my people had conspired to dupe the world about their suffering in, my grandfather joined the millions of those who invented their loss. I have not seen the letter. If I have, it was a fake. The edges must have been held up to the lamp to make them look yellow and old. The smudges of the ink were not those from tears, but from tap water. My father cannot speak Ukrainian, and if he does, he made it all up. The group photo that I have not seen is of paid extras. Their similarity to me is striking, but that is just a ruse. I have not seen my grandfather cry, and if I did, he was faking it. There was never a neighbor. There was never a house. There was never a pendant. There was never a mother. There was never a sister. Everyone goes gray at some point. The photo my grandfather never clutched was a cut-out of a model from a house and garden magazine. There were never “and everyone else.” There was never a child who saw. My father lied about it. And if he didn’t, he was duped – the old woman invented the story. The photocopy is just that, a poor quality copy of a piece of paper. The ground beneath the stone is empty.
There is a method to this madness. If you prove that one invented one’s past suffering, one’s future suffering does not seem as atrocious. No reason to feel bad about exterminating a people who have pretended to have been part-exterminated before – they are just getting what they have been faking all along. If my grandfather’s family did not exist, when I go, who is to say I ever was here?
My family was. I am. I will be. It is a fact. I will beget children. My children will beget their children. My children’s children will beget their children. Till the end of time. It is a fact. Screw you, Ahmadinejad.
Just look at these fruits and veggies.
And those artichokes. Especially the artichokes.
In Israel, many fruit and vegetable vendors give away their produce at the end of the day. So does at least one bakery. Treppenwitz tells us more in a post that is several weeks old, but always timely. (By the way, go vote for him.)
It’s important to me to finish what I start. But today, I had to make the most difficult decision that I’ve had to make in a long time: the decision to bow out.
I won’t go into detail here, but I will say this: the project was, and is, something very special. I wanted very much to be a part of it, and even though I’m no longer involved in it, I still support it.
Sometimes, things don’t work out the way we think they will. And sometimes, when that happens, we can’t stick around, no matter how much we would like to.
The decision wasn’t easy by any stretch. I agonized over it for days. But today I did what I felt I had to do in order to preserve my own health and sanity.
It’s a disappointment, but that’s the way life is sometimes. I’m fine, and I’ll get over it.
“Allah be praised! I’ve invented the zero!”
The above quote is from a segment of the wonderful short film, Why Man Creates, which I saw first in elementary school and then again in high school. Although I never knew much about the film and can’t even claim to have understood it all that well, I never forgot it.
Recently I found a review of Why Man Creates during a spur-of-the-moment Internet search. And as I read quotes such as the following, I wanted to shout: “Oh, yes, I remember that!”
In “A Parable” a ping pong ball is created in a ping pong ball factory, proves too high a jumper to fit in with all the other ping pong balls, is disposed of on the street, despairs, recovers, joyously bounces into traffic and across a busy intersection, finds a park where other discarded ping pong balls live, then bounces into the sky, never to seen again. The sequence concludes:
There are some who say he’s coming back and we have to wait ...
There are some who say he burst up there because ball was not meant to fly ...
And there are some who maintain he landed safely in a place where balls bounce high ...
But what stood out for me the most was the following quote:
Why Man Creates was frequently screened in elementary and high school classrooms across the United States throughout the late 1960s and much of the 1970s. Many adults who were schoolchildren during this time have extremely fond memories of Bass’s film.
Until I read that article I had no idea who Saul Bass was or that he designed titles for films such as the Hitchcock classics Psycho, North by Northwest and Vertigo. Thanks to the Internet, now I know. I also know something else: I am going to buy myself a DVD of Why Man Creates for my next birthday. I’ve missed that fantastic film and wanted to see it again for ages.
Heck, why wait all the way till spring? Maybe I’ll get it for Hanukkah.
UPDATE: Watch the famous segment of the film, “The Edifice,” here. It is a brief animated history of the world, very cleverly and delightfully done.
Sad news: Piper, one of Laurence Simon’s three cats, passed away suddenly yesterday.
Seeing Piper on Laurence’s catcams always gave my day a lift. Although I never got to meet her, I felt like I knew her, and I will miss her, along with her many other Internet fans.
My deepest condolences to Laurence and Gina, and to Nardo and Frisky too.
Or at least the first that I’ve seen since the rains began.
(Click to embiggen.)
Yesterday I was out the door before sunup and got back only a few minutes before Shabbat. Hence, no posting.
But now there’s time to post some pictures of the lovely tux I met yesterday. Here he is:
I had just gotten off one city bus and boarded a second. Putting my backpack on my lap, I prepared to relax for the last leg of my trip when I looked down and saw that one of its compartments was open. A rapid, quietly panicked inspection revealed that my wallet was gone.
Quickly I pressed the button to get off at the next stop so that I could begin retracing my steps. Maybe I’d forgotten to close that compartment and my wallet had fallen out. Maybe some honest person would find it and return it to me. After all, I thought, such things happen. I’ve had lost objects returned to me before—most recently my bus pass, by a very nice young man who was visiting here from the north. And I’ve had the privilege of returning some, too.
But I knew the truth. My bag had been completely closed only a few minutes before. Whoever the thief was, he was good. I hadn’t felt a thing.
Fortunately, there was only a very small amount of money in my wallet. Mostly, what I had to deal with now was not a nightmare but a headache: cancelling my credit cards, going to the police station to file a complaint, going to the offices of the Ministry of the Interior downtown to get a new ID card and so on. And, of course, buying a new wallet.
So far I have paid the various government offices several times the amount of money that the thief stole from me. Of course, my credit cards are of no use to him and could even get him into quite a bit of trouble if he is stupid enough to try to use them, since I cancelled them minutes after I discovered the theft.
The one who made out like a bandit here was my own government, not the thief.
Well, I guess that’s some consolation.
Not my exact neighborhood, but a nearby one.
Lovely Rita, the florist’s cat:
Tux with a veil of grass:
Hey, ’scuse me, lady—there’s a reason this is called a lounge chair! Now lemme sleep, willya?
Last week I met what I can only describe as a Kliban cat. Here he is, posing for the camera:
Love to get them skritchies ...
Shake, stretch and roll!
(Catch the 113th edition of the Friday Ark at The Modulator. The next Carnival of the Cats will be up at Mind of Mog on Sunday. A big hello to Mog, a big be-sha’ah tovah to her daughter Jill, and skritches to all her furries!)
(Urban Poet’s work reminds me of my late friend Ray’s writing. Maybe that’s why I like it so much.)
Here are some bee pictures I took recently. Here’s a bee hard at work, stretching a leg:
Sipping rosemary nectar:
Going on to the next blossom:
I got this quiz from the wise and multi-talented Elisson.
|What American accent do you have? |
Your Result: The Northeast
|The Inland North|
|What American accent do you have?|
Take More Quizzes
In my opinion, it’s spot on.
But you don’t have to take my word for it. Give a listen to this online demo that I narrated recently, and decide for yourselves!
And now for some lighter stuff: Cats! They make the world go ’round.
First, Little Brother and Big Sister from the colony at work. Here’s Little Brother:
A tuxxie from downtown:
I was in the northern part of Jerusalem this evening, and what I saw there appalled me.
So the Haredim are utterly set against the Gay Pride Parade? Fine—they have a right to their opinion, and I have no problem with their protesting in legal ways. But to destroy parts of the very city whose sanctity they claim to want to preserve, while endangering and inconveniencing large segments of the population, including children, is another thing entirely.
I felt as though I were walking through a war zone. There were trash fires all throughout one of the main streets, with crowds of young boys gathered around them. Although the atmosphere was tense, I got up my courage and took some photographs of the damage. No one commented except some children who asked that I not photograph them. (I did as they asked.) As I was photographing a trash fire that didn’t have a crowd around it, one young man told me as he passed by: “This is nothing. Wait until you see the fires we’ll build later tonight!”
(It made me want to reply: “It sounds like you’re really into this. Tell me, are you really protesting, or are you just out to have some fun?” But I decided that in such an atmosphere, and with a camera on my person, keeping my mouth shut was the better part of wisdom.)
Here is the bus stop where I had been hoping to catch a bus home. I ended up having to walk back into the center of town because, after this behavior, the buses in this part of the city had stopped running. It was a long, mostly uphill walk in smoky air, not at all pleasant.
Next to the bus stop was a destroyed lottery-ticket stand. It looks like someone isn’t going to be able to go to work and earn their living tomorrow.
Most of the fires I saw seemed to be magnets for small boys, with parents nowhere in sight. I told one boy who got too close to one of the fires: “That’s dangerous! Besides, you’re polluting the air of the Holy City. Don’t you care about that?”
His reply: “And you don’t think that what they’re trying to do is wrong?”
I tried to explain to him that even if he thinks it is wrong, that doesn’t make this particular response right. When he left, he had a thoughtful expression on his face. Maybe I got through to him at least a little, maybe not. I guess I’ll never know.
Finally, a trash bin near the bus stop where no buses came:
Also, as if we didn’t have enough problems on the roads here, the traffic lights in a main intersection were out, and the cars and pedestrians there were on their own.
How disturbing, and how frightening. I guess there really are people out there who believe that you have to destroy the city in order to save it.
Two local street scenes:
A sidestreet downtown—check out that colorful umbrella!
A drive-in ATM on the sidewalk?!