Friday, July 28, 2006

My First Blog Interview

It’s here.

I’ll write the same clarification here that I did there, since it appears toward the end: I am located in Jerusalem, nowhere near the front lines of the conflict on either front.

Those Amazing Bet Shimshis

Like many towns in the central region of Israel, Bet Shemesh is taking in people fleeing from the rockets striking the north.

Via Eric J. at Meryl’s: Among the Bet Shimshis who are doing their utmost to help the war refugees is this talented young soldier, Elie Deutsch, who has started a hesed project to help soldiers and residents of the north. The proceeds from his CD sales will be going to help these charitable organizations.

Via Sandy Cash: a post from her Israel Diary with further details on what the Bet Shimshis are doing to help their fellow Israelis, and how even those who aren’t in Bet Shemesh, or even in Israel, can help.

P. S. Treppenwitz (of Efrat) is part of an important effort, too. Read about it here, and join if you can.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Fur of Snow, Eyes of Topaz

Orange and blue topaz respectively, that is.

Odd-eyed white cat

Click on the image to see a larger version.

(Check out the Friday Ark up at The Modulator. This week’s Carnival of the Cats will be up at The Scratching Post on Sunday.)


Sometimes you just need to take a step back, take a deep breath and take pictures of grapes.


A bunch of grapes

Grapes in the sunlight

Grapes on the vine

(Click on any image for a larger version.)

I especially like the play of light and shadow, and the bunches of grapes suspended among the leaves of another plant.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Cats and Jews

Get your weekly dose of cats and Jews right here!

(Courtesy of Creatures of the Earth and Life of Rubin, respectively.)

Cat Therapy for Meryl

Meryl had a rough day recently. Looks like she could use some cat therapy.

Although Meryl has two cats of her own, the Right Worshipful Tig and Gracie, I still believe that one can never have too many cat pictures (or videos). So here are a video and some pictures of the Self-Skritching Calico Cat, whom I met again yesterday on the way home.

Here’s the video, with an audible purr:

Here are the photos. First, a closeup of the kittycat:

Calico close-up

A very happy cat gets a skritch:

The Self-Skritching Calico Cat gets skritched

More skritches for the calico lady:

The Self-Skritching Calico Cat

Feel better, Meryl.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Hope in the Midst of the Heat

Not ripe yet, but an encouraging sign: autumn is coming. ...


(Click on the photo to see a larger version.)

My Visit to the Friendly Neighborhood Vampire Van

I confess that I wasn’t sure whether to post these pictures. But when I saw that David of Treppenwitz had blogged his blood donation, I figured that if he could, I could, too.

I guess you could call it a case of “Blogger see, blogger do.”

The technician who drew my blood was kind and had a great sense of humor. He joked with me the entire time he was preparing my arm, and just before he inserted the needle, he said, “Now make a face as though you’re in a lot of pain. ...”

He had an excellent touch, too. I hardly felt a thing.

So ...

The van:

Magen David Adom mobile blood donor unit

Putting my feet up during a busy day:

Blood donation

I join Treppenwitz in urging all locals who can donate blood to do so.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Where to Send Help

Via Meryl: Daled Amos has a list of places to send help at the end of this post.

Meryl includes a link to Magen David Adom. For the locals: MDA needs blood donations, too. I’ll be showing up at their blood-donation van (which I like to call the Friendly Neighborhood Vampire Van) sometime next week. There’s just something really neat about getting to put my feet up for a half hour in the middle of downtown, even if I do have to pay for it in blood.

A New Definition of Hutzpah

The classic definition of the Hebrew word hutzpah is one who kills his parents and then throws himself on the mercy of the court because he is an orphan.

A friend of mine just suggested a new definition of hutzpah based on the following item from the radio news. It seems that an imam who had been deported from the UK to Lebanon for having preached in favor of suicide bombing came to the ship that was evacuating British subjects from the country, claiming that he, too, had the right to live in safety.

The British had enough good sense to throw him out.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Missy in a Tree

Toward evening, Missy gets very energetic and has to let off steam. So one evening this week, she went outside and began to leap up the trunks of the trees in the yard.

What goes up ... oh, no. You’ve got to be kidding.

Looking down

Help! How on earth do I get down from here?

How do I get down from here?

Having conquered the smaller tree, Missy goes for the elm:

Missy on the tree trunk

Go hind legs first and dig your claws deep into the bark, little kittycat, and you’ll get down safely.

Missy on the tree trunk

She did.

(Check out the Friday Ark up at The Modulator. This week’s Carnival of the Cats will be up at Creatures of the Earth on Sunday.)

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

... And Pages to Go before I Sleep

I just finished part of the enormous freelance job that I’m doing in my copious spare time. The job is made up of several tasks (joblets?), and the part that I just completed was particularly long and labor-intensive. It helped keep me from obsessing about what’s going on here even worse than I am already. And it felt good to be able to send the finished product off to its destination.

Tomorrow I translate news from the Hebrew press starting at 6:00 a.m. local time. I usually pray for a boring shift, but I guess that’s already been decided.

Here are some pictures of the Tel Aviv beach from my trip there last week:

A sandbar at a Tel Aviv beach

Clear ocean water

Tel Aviv sunset

I pray that tomorrow will be a quiet day, or at least a quieter day, in the north and in the south. My thoughts and prayers are with everyone who lives there, and of course with our soldiers in the IDF, wherever they are. May God send healing to the wounded, comfort to the families of the dead, and to our troops: good aim.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Guess I’d Better Go Pack My Bags. Not.

Richard Cohen of the Washington Post says that Israel is a mistake. He drags up all the manufactured talking points (read: lies) that we have been hearing from various and sundry professional Jew-haters for the past several decades: that the Jews are intruders on the land, that we have no right to be here, blah, blah, blah.

The man’s ignorance—or willful disregard—of history is absolutely astonishing. It would seem that he has never studied the subject. Or maybe he wasn’t paying attention in class. Whatever the reason, his article is so full of holes that I am tempted to use it for a colander, except that I would rather not expose my good pasta to anything that stinks so badly.

Since the amount of work I have right now prevents me from giving Cohen’s article the treatment it so richly deserves, I’ll direct my readers to those who have done just that. AbbaGav has an excellent fisking, together with a list of bloggers who have treated Cohen to fiskings of their own, including Meryl Yourish, Dave Bender, Carl of Israel Matzav and Judith of Kesher Talk. Soccer Dad has an extensive roundup of responses as well.

Israel a mistake, Mr. Cohen? No. Try your entire way of thinking. Oh, and this just in: the Cyclops enjoyed the wine very much, and has promised to eat you last.

Monday, July 17, 2006

N.Z. Bear: Mapping Middle Eastern Bloggers

N.Z. Bear, he of the amazing aggregator projects such as the TTLB Ecosystem and the Übercarnival, has begun yet another: mapping Middle Eastern bloggers who are writing about the current war.

I join Laurence Simon in urging all local bloggers who are blogging about the war to register.

Weekly Dose of Cats and Jews

This week’s Haveil Havalim is up at A Barbaric Yawp.

And this week’s Carnival of the Cats is up at Musings. Ah, kitty goodness. Much needed. Much appreciated.

Blogging the War

For current updates and commentary on what’s happening here—and what we can do—check out this post at J-Blogosphere.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

So What Do You Do during a War?

Treppenwitz has an excellent post on what those of us inside and outside Israel can do to help during this challenging time.

Meryl has ongoing news and blog roundups, and Imshin has some thoughtful posts. Laurence Simon has insight, cats, much-needed laughs, cats, a Bingo game and oh, did I mention cats? (Oh, yes, today is Carnival of the Cats day, too. I’ll be seeing it tomorrow morning if all goes well. Dratted time-zone differences.)

And me? Well, owing to some unexpected large expenses this month (one that I have blogged about and another that I haven’t yet, but it involves several close encounters with a dental drill), I’ve taken on some extra work, and if I want to pay my bills, I’d better get cracking, war or no war.

Before I go, a few updates: my friend, the one who moved to Safed recently and whose apartment took a direct hit several days ago, is doing fine, though she can’t go home yet. Her landlord says that her possessions are recoverable.

Her Ladyship seems almost fully recovered. I saw her outside in one of her favorite spots yesterday, and she gladly accepted some skritches.

I saw the Lady in Red yesterday, too, and she was in a jealous mood. When she saw me paying attention to a calico mama cat with kittens, she got upset and swatted me.

Back to work. I’ll post more when I can.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Friday Catblogging: Davka Edition

(See Normblog for an excellent definition of the wonderful, almost-untranslatable Hebrew word, davka.)

Her Ladyship on the terrace table

“Catblogging? Now?! Don’t you know there’s a war on?”

Yes, I know, and I’m doing it anyway. Davka.

Her Ladyship was ill this week. She came back to my friend’s apartment one evening with a high fever and a pronounced limp. The veterinarian’s diagnosis was an infected cat bite. My neighbor diligently gave Her Ladyship doses of antibiotics, which she swallowed obediently. (Oh, all right, she was bribed. Chicken. She adores the stuff.)

When I saw Her Ladyship earlier this week, she was feeling miserable. She was hunkered down in her “sickroom” at the bottom of my friend’s bedroom closet. My friend put down blankets and brought in food and water so that Her Ladyship wouldn’t have to go too far for either; the poor kitty was having quite a bit of difficulty walking.

Good news, though: since that day, and after a full day under observation at the clinic, Her Ladyship is well on her way to complete recovery. When I saw her last night, she was walking almost normally, with only a slight trace of a limp. She has regained her ability to leap from low to high surfaces and back, and she is venturing outside once again.

Even with all the insanity, sorrow and fear in these parts, there are still plenty of things to celebrate. Her Ladyship’s recovery is one of them.

So go to hell, Hizbullah. In your face, Hamas. Am Yisrael hai—ve-hatulenu gam ken. The Jewish People lives, and so do our cats.


(Check out the Friday Ark at The Modulator. This week’s Carnival of the Cats will be at Musings on Sunday.)

Close Call

I got a text message from a friend of mine while I was at work yesterday. She had a close call.

She’d been settling into her new digs in Safed, having moved up there recently from Jerusalem. Several days ago she was called back to Jerusalem unexpectedly on urgent business, and she was still here yesterday when she received a call from her landlord. It seems that her apartment took a direct hit during the rocket strike on Safed.

She doesn’t yet know the full extent of the damage or whether any of her possessions are recoverable. We’re all very grateful that she was far away when the rockets hit and that she is alive and well.

I guess she will soon be benching gomel—reciting birkat ha-gomel, the traditional Jewish blessing of gratitude for having escaped a dangerous situation.

The blessing is usually recited in the synagogue, during the Torah reading, by men and women alike. The Sages determined four main categories of people who must recite the blessing: one who has crossed the ocean (in our time, this includes air travel), one who has crossed the desert (or been saved from any other life-threatening situation), one who has recovered from childbirth or serious illness, and one who has been released from prison. The one reciting the blessing says:

בָּרוּך אַתָּה אֲדֹנָי אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, הַגּוֹמֵל לְחַיָּבִים טוֹבוֹת, שֶׁגְּמָלַנִי כָּל טוֹב.

Barukh atah, Adonai, Eloheinu, Melekh ha-Olam, ha-gomel la-hayavim tovot, she-gemalani kol tov.

Blessed are You, Adonai, our God, Ruler of the universe, who bestows goodness upon the accountable, who has bestowed every goodness upon me.

The congregants respond:

אָמֵן. מִי שֶגְּמָלְךָ (ל"נ שֶׁגְּמָלֵךְ) (כָּל) טוֹב, הוּא יִגְמָלְךָ (ל"נ יִגְמָלֵךְ) כָּל טוֹב. סֶלָה.

Amen. Mi she-gemalekha (feminine: she-gemalekh) (kol) tov, hu yigmolkha (feminine: yigmolekh) kol tov. Selah.

Amen. May the One who has bestowed goodness upon you bestow goodness upon you always. Selah.

Yes, Judaism—which has a blessing for just about everything—has a blessing for close calls, too.

(More details about birkat ha-gomel and its laws may be found here.)

Thursday, July 13, 2006


Good grief. Spend a lovely day with a dear friend, and come back home to find that all hell has broken loose.

It looks like our government finally gets it. We are at war. Actually, we have been at war for the past several years, but now there can be no mistake or willful disregard about it any longer—at least, I hope not.

God protect the IDF and the residents of the north and south.

God be with us all.

There’s one bit of silver lining in all of this: arch-terrorist Muhammad Deif is in critical condition. That’s one fewer enemy for our troops to deal with.

Treppenwitz has an excellent post, and Meryl has a round-up of links to Israeli bloggers who are blogging the situation.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Sunday Carnivals

Haveil Havalim is up at Me-Ander.

The Carnival of the Cats has made it to 120! It’s up at Music and Cats.

Friday, July 07, 2006

A Hidden Gem of Jerusalem

I was walking along a street in a Jerusalem neighborhood yesterday when I heard the sound of a waterfall. The sound surprised me since Jerusalem is not exactly known for its waterfalls, particularly in July. Perhaps I was imagining things, I thought. But it was real:

Hand-built waterfall

A little farther along, I discovered that whoever had built the waterfall had also built a wooden windmill:

Wooden windmill

There was a waterfall, complete with water wheel, beneath the windmill as well. The whole thing was operational, too. The arms of the windmill were turning, as was the water wheel, and the water—probably in a closed system—was flowing freely.

Below the windmill

Here is something that looks like a small chapel, with a staircase leading to it:

Wooden chapel

Here are two views of a wooden ship with a crocheted Israeli flag at its bow. From the front:

Wooden ship

From the side:

Wooden ship, right side

All of these amazing things are located at the entrance to an apartment building in Jerusalem. Has anyone else seen them? Does anyone out there know the story of these hidden gems and their builder?

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Friday Cats

Her Ladyship catches some rays:

Siamese in the sun

Here’s Missy. Little does she suspect what’s in store for her ...

Missy the Unsuspecting


Missy gets a skritch!

As a bonus, here’s a photo of the friendly white kittycat I met a few days ago:

Friendly white kittycat

Shabbat shalom, and may we hear good news.

(Check out the Friday Ark, up at The Modulator. This week’s Carnival of the Cats will be at Music and Cats.)

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Close, but Not Quite

I just saw this article in the Jerusalem Post: Damaged Kotel Ramp to Be Removed.

After a two-and-a-half-year delay, a three-decades-old wobbly ramp leading up to the Mughrabi Gate adjacent to the Western Wall which has long been unsafe by city engineers will be removed soon, enabling the shortened women’s section of the Wall to return to its natural size, officials said Wednesday.
The stone ramp, which was built after the Six Day War in 1967, and served as the point of entry for non-Muslim visitors entering the Temple Mount, was badly damaged during an earthquake that rattled that region two years ago and by inclement wintry weather, archeologists said.
Heavy rains during the winter of 2004 caused a partial collapse of the ramp onto the women’s section at the Wall.
After being deemed unsafe by city engineers, the strategically-placed ramp was blocked off and a new bridge was built next to it, which is currently used as the main non-Muslim entryway to the Temple Mount.
After a section of the pathway collapsed, the area of the Wall allotted for women's prayer closest to the rampart has been cornered off due to the danger it posed to worshippers, severely reducing the women’s section of the wall.
With the planned removal of the rampart now said to be imminent, the section of the wall allotted for women’s prayer is expected to shortly return to its natural size.
“There’s no reason that in the most sacred site for the Jewish people, the men will have a big comfortable plaza while the women will have to be cramped and crowded,” Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski said, who has supported restoring the women’s section of the wall to its natural size.

“Natural size”? Just what does that mean? The size of the women’s section at the Western Wall is determined by human beings (specifically, by men), not by some vague force of nature.

I have a challenge for Mayor Lupoliansky and the authorities in charge of the Western Wall: If you truly want the women to have a comfortable prayer area and not be “cramped and crowded,” then move the mehitza. Make the men’s and women’s prayer sections the same size, indoors as well as outdoors.

Talk is cheap, Mayor Lupoliansky and Rabbi Rabinowitz. As long as you keep the women’s section roughly one-third the size of the men’s, your words mean nothing. As long as you reserve nearly all the indoor space for the men and allow the women next to none of it—especially during Israel’s long, hot summers and beneath its broiling sun, which turns the Western Wall into the equivalent of a stone oven—then all your words are worthless, and you are endangering lives as well.

Prove that you mean what you say, Mayor Lupoliansky. Move the mehitza or, if you cannot, then ask those responsible to do so, putting the full weight of your position as mayor of Jerusalem behind your request. Provide equal space to men and women, indoors and out. There can be no justification in either halakha or Israeli civil law to allow the current inequity to go on.

(See my previous posts on the spatial inequities at the Western Wall: Western Wall Renovations I, Western Wall Renovations II and The Incredible Shrinking Women’s Section.)


The Carnival of the Cats is up at Watermark. Haveil Havalim is at The IgNoble Experiment. Enjoy.

Cats and Jews. Nothing like ’em.

Strange Day

Lots of ups and downs today.

On July 27, 2004—Tishah be-Av of that year—my refrigerator broke down. I posted the following:

I called the repairman and described the problem. Getting up my courage, I asked him: What could this problem be, and how much will it cost to fix? He replied that it could be anything from a minor repair to one that would cost approximately two thousand shekels.

Last night I noticed that my refrigerator was making strange sounds. This morning, I noticed that it was no longer cold inside. The Seventeenth of Tammuz is around the corner, so I guess that my refrigerator has chosen to mark the Three Weeks with a broken compressor pump.

Two years ago, it was the inexpensive repair. This time it’s the two-thousand-shekel one. The good news is that the part is guaranteed for one year.

On the other hand, I may have some freelance work coming in, which will be nice, particularly since one of my jobs is about to end. (More on that later.)

Finally, today’s 4:00 p.m. Israel Radio news report included a prediction of a slight drizzle up north. Rain in Israel is highly unusual during the summer, and to add to the feeling of strangeness, the announcer’s voice, which is usually trained and laconic, reflected his surprise ... but professionally, of course.

I find myself wishing I could be up north for that drizzle.