Saturday, July 26, 2008


Her Ladyship and Missy in symmetrical pose:


The Friday Ark. The Carnival of the Cats.

Friday, July 25, 2008

A Word to Those Seeking Free Advertising on My Blog

A few minutes ago, I deleted an ad that was left in a comment on a recent post. It was for a product I’ve seen before and that appealed to me, but I deleted the ad anyway. It looks as though whoever left it had simply looked up a certain word on the Internet and found it in the post, probably did not bother to read said post, and left the ad thinking something along the lines of: well, it couldn’t hurt.

Well, hey, guys, I put out this CD a few years ago, and it’s really good. It even won a prize. If I were to ask you to advertise it on your website for free, would you agree?

I didn’t think so.

OK, look. Don’t sneak ads into my comments section without permission. It’s not polite, to say the least. You might try asking me nicely for a link, and if I like your product and I’m in a good mood, I may agree. But don’t try to hijack my comments section. It won’t work. I will only delete the ad as soon as I see it. If you’re stupid enough to try a second time, you will be banned from leaving comments here at all.


Women Knesset Members Silenced—in the Knesset

While the Israeli Knesset is the perfect place for power plays, this particular kind of power play was inappropriate even there.

When the Knesset choir sang “Hatikva” in honor of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s visit last Monday, women members of the Knesset choir were deliberately excluded so as not to offend Haredi Knesset members.

Female MKs joined forces Tuesday in protesting what MK Marina Solodkin (Kadima) described as an anti-democratic decision to exclude women from the choir that sang “Hatikva” at the conclusion of British Premier Gordon Brown's Knesset appearance on Monday.

The choir in question was the official Knesset Choir, in which Solodkin, as well as MKs Zevulun Orlev (NU/NRP), Orit Noked (Labor) and Colette Avital (Labor) are active members.

On Tuesday, Avital collected the signatures of all 17 women MKs on a letter protesting the decision to exclude women from singing to avoid offending the sensibilities of haredi MKs.

“At the time, in the plenum, I didn't even understand what had happened,” Solodkin said Tuesday. “We began to sing ‘Hatikva,’ and I heard only men’s voices in the choir. I looked and saw our choir director leading all of our male choir members... When I heard how it sounded, I understood. Without women, the ‘Hatikva’ is different.”

Solodkin said she then asked some of the men in the choir what had happened, and they told her that they had been given a briefing before the performance, informing them that women were excluded from singing in the plenum because of the presence of haredi MKs.

I admit I don’t understand the logistics of this at all. The women MKs are members of the choir, so why didn’t they just join in when the singing started? Did someone turn off their microphones? Were they told to stay in their seats when the men went up to the platform to sing (if the men indeed did so)? Did they not know that the national anthem was going to be sung on this occasion? Something is missing in the article, but one thing is clear: there is a despicable power play going on here.

The Knesset is not a Haredi synagogue any more than the Western Wall plaza is. And the Western Wall plaza has been turned, for all practical purposes, into a Haredi synagogue rather than a place of prayer for all Jews. (Witness the modesty ushers in the ever-shrinking women’s section, the unchallenged presence there of male workers while no female workers are ever permitted to set foot in the men’s section, and the fact that the new indoor space for women provides them no access whatsoever to the Western Wall itself, but rather keeps them behind the men, separated by a partition of one-way glass.) The Knesset, the governing body for all Israelis, religious or not, Jewish or not, must not follow this disgraceful example.

Funny, but I don’t recall the Haredi MKs being so concerned with Knesset decorum before. What exactly is their problem? Are they concerned that the singing of the national anthem by women MKs at an official ceremony is going to make them think lewd thoughts? Do they really think that the next step after a mixed choir in the Knesset is a visit from the Vice Squad? Well, then, what’s next? An official dress code for women MKs? Requiring them to participate in sessions from a separate room, via closed-circuit television, because their presence in the plenum is considered a violation of modesty? Not having women MKs at all? Unfortunately, in the current climate those possibilities don’t seem all that ridiculous, even though they should.

But of course, this is not about modesty, just as the shameful political muscle-flexing at the Chords Bridge had nothing to do with modesty. It has never been about modesty. It is about power, and those who say otherwise are either deceiving others or deceiving themselves.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Praying in Her Own Voice: Update

I just found out about the trailer to Yael Katzir’s excellent film about Women of the Wall, Praying in Her Own Voice, two nights ago. I am proud to link to it here:

In my post about the film back in March 2007, I promised to post again when I had more information. Now I do.

Dan Katzir, Yael’s son and a producer and director himself, has provided the information in a comment he just left. I am happy to reproduce it here (edited slightly to incorporate the links into the text):

Thanks for the warm words about the film.
We recut it and you can see the new trailer.
People can read about the film and also contact us about it on our website,
If someone would like more info they can contact us directly:
dan [at] newlovefilms [dot] com.

I understand that the film is really starting to take off. Yasher koah, Yael and Dan! I look forward to hearing more good news.

UPDATE: Praying in Her Own Voice is going to be screened at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival! Click here for details.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Once It’s Out There...

Out of my life I fashioned a fistful of words.
When I opened my hand, they flew away.
Hyam Plutzik (1911–1962), American poet

In other words, once you get your text out there, you have precious little control over where it ends up.

Some time ago, I put up a post, together with pictures, about the tzitzit that I made for a friend’s small daughter. Recently, I found a site dedicated to issues of women and tzitzit. On quick investigation, I found that most of my blog post had been copied and pasted there (with proper credit, so I don’t mind on that score). On further investigation, I found that the site is run by so-called Messianics. I won’t even get into the inaccuracies about the wearing of tzitzit that I found there. Suffice it to say: it ain’t the real thing, folks.

I haven’t done anything about it and don’t intend to. People are free to believe what they choose. I just want to make it clear that I have nothing whatsoever to do with that site, nor do I support any so-called Messianic endeavors in any way, since the “Messianic” movement is really nothing more than a thinly-disguised attempt to persuade Jews to convert to Christianity (usually an evangelical branch).

(See Elisson’s excellent comment to this post for more clarification on why so-called Messianism is completely incompatible with Judaism.)

(In reference to the above epigraph: Many years ago, I kept a poster of the poem that contains these words on my wall. Its title is “On Hearing That My Poems Were Being Studied in a Distant Place,” and its full text may be found here.)

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Some Thoughts for Saturday Night

(Since the Israeli work-week starts on Sunday rather than on Monday, Saturday night is a “work night.” That goes double for me, since on most Sundays, I have to be at work at six o’clock in the morning.)

It’s been a tough couple of weeks, and there is other stuff going on right now that is difficult to deal with but that I don’t feel free to write about at the moment. (I sometimes joke that my biggest blogging category is “Things I Do Not Blog About.”) Let me clarify a little: there is no cause for alarm. I’m fine and in good health, work is fine, things are stable and OK here. Nevertheless, it’s not an easy time right now, and I’d appreciate some good thoughts and prayers.

Of course, I miss the Lady in Red a lot. This afternoon, I was going to go to the park for a while. Then I remembered how, several years ago, Lady came out in the rain to comfort me in the park after a close friend of mine had died. True, Lady had not lived in the park for almost the last year and a half of her life, but the memories were just too strong. So I didn’t go.

On the brighter side, I have started a project that I hope to complete fairly soon. It’s a counted cross-stitch sampler, and when it is done I intend to include a picture of it here, together with a post about where it’s going and why. Working with my hands gives me a lot of comfort, and I can surely use some of that now.

Another bright spot is that I got an order for more soap. The man in the open-air market who sells my soaps asked for a specific kind, and I hope to make it sometime this week.

Then there is another project that I have in the works. The raw materials are completed (whew! It was quite a lot of work), and it only remains to finish its physical production and get it out into the world. I hope to make that happen within the next few months.

The Three Weeks begin tomorrow. May they soon be transformed from a time of mourning to one of rejoicing, which will happen one day, according to Jewish tradition. “He will swallow up death forever. God will wipe away tears from every face and remove His people’s disgrace from all the earth, for God has spoken it” (Isaiah 25:8).

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Return

Beyond sad, beyond outrageous. But this is Hizbullah we’re dealing with, after all. Did we really expect anything else?

There’s a roundup of posts at Meryl’s.



Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Open Letter to a Jerk

To the driver of a certain rental car that was parked downtown, in direct sunlight, at around noon today:

I’m sure that when you came back to your car from wherever you had been, you were surprised to find that your dog was no longer in the back seat. Well, smarty, that was because of me. I am the one who called the police, who in turn called Veterinary Services, who called me back within minutes and sent someone to rescue the dog as I watched. (I have to admit, though: it was a good thing that you left the windows open. Not because it kept your car any cooler—even with the windows open, a car parked in direct sunlight can become lethally overheated very quickly, killing any living creature inside within minutes, and your car was getting pretty hot—but because it helped get the dog out of there that much faster.)

Since you have the wherewithal to rent a car, I have to assume that you have enough intelligence to own and maintain a credit card. It’s really too bad that this intelligence is evidently not transferable to other areas of your life. And while I am sorry that your dog ended up in the municipal shelter, I still think that he has a better chance of survival there than with you. You see, sir or madam, your astonishing display of near-lethal stupidity—or apathy, or cruelty, whatever it was—in leaving your dog in a parked car, at noon, under a Middle Eastern sun in the middle of July, has me convinced that you are not fit to care for a colony of E. coli bacteria, let alone a dog.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Jimmy’s Alley

Jerusalem’s German Colony neighborhood has many treasures. Even though I have been living in or around the German Colony for quite some time, I can’t say that I am familiar with all of them. One of the great things about living in Jerusalem is that even one who has been here for a long time can always discover something new and wonderful.

This little neighborhood gem is a tiny alley tucked between two side streets. I’ve always considered it a bit magical because of the living branches that arch above it:

Simtat Jimmy (Jimmy's Alleyway)

It has no official street sign, but approximately ten years ago it was given a name: Simtat Jimmy (Jimmy’s Alley). Here is the street sign, a plaque put up on a low stone post beside the street:

Street sign

The plaque reads as follows (my translation):

The alley of Jimmy
who wagged his tail
and enjoyed roaming here
during the years 1988–1998

The name has stuck... and I really wish I had known Jimmy. He must have been very special indeed.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

What Happened

The biopsy results came back positive. It was no spider bite, though we had hoped so much that it would be no more than that. Lady in Red had cancer of the tongue, which was so far advanced that even if we had wanted to operate, it would have been impossible. When the vet told us about the biopsy results, he also told us our options, at least on the theoretical level: consultations with veterinary oncologists in other parts of the country, various kinds of surgery and the implantation of a feeding tube. Even before we knew for certain that Lady’s cancer was inoperable, we rejected them outright, since while they might prolong Lady’s life slightly, they would not cure her, and far from relieving her suffering, the post-operative distress would only make her suffer more. Having seen how much Lady had suffered (and endured so nobly) over the past several days, we would not agree to that under any circumstances.

In any case, the point turned out to be moot. When our wonderful vet consulted with the best veterinary oncologists in the country and his partner in his practice about Lady’s case, the answers came back unanimous and unequivocal: no matter what might be tried, Lady’s chances of recovery were nil. Her illness was too far gone. She could not be saved.

With great sorrow, we accepted what we had already realized in our hearts several days before: that it was time to say goodbye. At approximately 12:25 p.m. last Thursday afternoon, Lady in Red, my friend for more than a decade, passed away peacefully and painlessly under the sure and compassionate hands of our veterinarian and his technician, with me by her side. Her body was buried in a pet cemetery in the Ben Shemen Forest later that day.

Although I am terribly sad about this and expect to be for some time, I console myself with the sincere belief that while Lady was in our care, we did everything for her that could possibly be done... and this ending was, after all, part of the unwritten contract that we had agreed to when we took Lady from the park to her forever home. We knew at the time that she was at least ten and perhaps as much as twelve years old—an elderly cat even then. We knew that this day would come, probably sooner than later, and that when it did, we would have to love Lady enough to let her go.

There is a lot to be grateful for. Lady’s last seventeen months were good ones. Once she recovered from chronic gum inflammation and diabetes, she spent a happy final year, safe and loved, well cared for and healthy. When her final decline came, it was short and swift: only about a week and a half. In retrospect, we now realize that she had been slowing down, little by little, for some time. (Perhaps it had to do with her illness, her advanced age, the heat of summer, or all of them. We will never know.) But up until that last week and a half, she seemed well and happy in every way, and for that, we are grateful.

Although Lady has a grave, it’s not likely that I will ever know where it is. I don’t intend to go there or to get a marker for it. All I wanted was that her body be treated with respect and allowed to return to the earth. Nevertheless, Lady has a memorial. Shortly after she passed on, I went to a local engraving store and ordered a small plaque. It is now in the place where we first met and spent so much time together, a memorial to a very special cat who was my friend for so many years:

Memorial plaque

c. 1995–10.7.2008
A most special cat

Rest in peace, dear Lady.

My deepest thanks to everyone, in and out of the blogosphere, who cared about Lady with me and helped us when we needed it. May you all be blessed.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Farewell, Old Friend

A rainbow says goodbye

The Lady in Red, c. 1995–July 10, 2008

Barukh dayyan ha-emet. Blessed be the True Judge.

Monday, July 07, 2008

What’s Been Going On

The Lady in Red: Lady had a biopsy yesterday. The vet said that her tongue looks better and that the injury is looking more like an insect bite, but took a biopsy just to be sure. Lady is now getting chicken broth to eat, together with side dishes—more accurately, side injections—of antibiotics and painkillers. The good news is that this morning she drank a fair amount of broth, though this evening she appeared to be in too much pain to eat. She got another dose of painkiller, but since she ate this morning (and possibly at other times when no one was looking) and is excreting normally, we’re not too worried. The vet says that the pain will lessen over the next few days, so her eating should pick up. In the meantime, she continues to get her medications and fresh bowls of chicken broth several times a day. The biopsy results should be back by the end of the week, if not sooner, and we are all hoping and praying for the best.

Asthma and the salt room: I stopped going to the salt room a while ago. At first it worked beautifully. I was nearly asthma-free. But then, a few months later, while I was still going for follow-up treatments, I started experiencing respiratory symptoms that were very unlike my previous, “normal” asthma but that were just as devastating for my breathing (not to mention my speaking and singing). I tried taking a break for a few months and then going back to the salt room briefly, but it didn’t help. Conventional medicine had no answers either.

Recently I started going to an excellent practitioner of Chinese medicine. My breathing improved dramatically after only one acupuncture treatment. When I asked the practitioner why the salt room had failed with me when it has succeeded with so many other people and had worked so well for me at first, she answered simply: “Salt is very drying.” Without going into unnecessary and boring detail, considering what I know about the way my body runs, it makes perfect sense.

So I don’t blame the salt room or the doctor who manages it. It is not his fault that I am so highly sensitive to dryness. I know that the salt room works very well for many people, just as it did for me at first, and I would still recommend it. It looks like I just happen to fall within the percentage of people for whom it doesn’t work well—or at least stops working well beyond a certain point.

In memory of Shimrit: Shiva is being held at her home in the neighborhood and in the community garden that she planted, in which signs have now been put up that read “Shimrit’s Garden.” (In her characteristically modest manner, Shimrit felt that the garden should be called something along the lines of the San Simon Community Garden, with no mention of her name.) At any rate, I’ll post pictures as soon as I can.

I am still in shock at her death. (So sudden. So unnecessary. So terribly painful for so many people.) The only sliver of comfort in all this is that as far as I have been told, Shimrit never knew what had happened and did not suffer. Another bit of consolation is that Shimrit had signed up to be an organ donor, so that even as she left her own earthly life, she made a last effort to save several others.

Project in the works: When it’s completed and available, I’ll be posting details here. Stay tuned.

Off to get some sleep. Tomorrow starts very early for me, and will be a long day.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Lady Update

It looks like Lady will be seeing the vet briefly sometime tomorrow so that he can get a look at her tongue. Depending on what he finds, she may get a feeding tube inserted the next day, to be used until she heals. The vet will also take a biopsy at the same time.

That’s the plan as of now.

In more immediate news, Lady just put away some chicken broth with great enthusiasm. Eating is still painful for her, but she still has an appetite and she can drink. Those are good signs.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Worried about Lady

A few days ago, Lady started scratching at her right ear and shaking her head as if she were trying to dislodge a foreign body. She was rushed to the vet, who found nothing wrong with her ears.

Then, a day or so later, Lady started drooling quite a bit and was unable to eat her solid food. Soft food helped, but only a little. The vet noticed that her tongue looked swollen and sick, and took a fine-needle aspiration (FNA). He said that he wasn’t sure what’s wrong with her. Could be an insect bite, he said, in which case the problem will go away within a few days. Or it could be—God forbid—a malignancy. He said that he was mentioning this not because he was sure it was, but because it is within the realm of possibility. (Still, he commented that under the microscope he had seen cells that were large and fragile, and had large nuclei with prominent nucleoli. I looked all that up, and it appears that those traits are characteristic of cancer cells.)

There’s no conclusive diagnosis as yet. The vet gave Lady a long-acting antibiotic and some painkiller, with instructions to continue injecting her with painkiller at home as needed. If the problem persists, he wants to take a biopsy.

As readers of this blog know, Lady and I go back a long time, at least a decade before she found her permanent home, and she was already fully grown when we first met. We figure that she was already getting on in years by the time she went to live in her forever home, so there was no telling how long she would stay with us. Still, we’re hoping that this is just a nasty scare, that she will heal, and that in a few days we’ll look back on this with a sigh of relief.

The main thing now is to make sure that Lady can eat and drink, and indeed she can. A FNA under the tongue must be extremely painful, but thank goodness, the painkiller is working.

So far, so good. We’re hoping and praying for the best.

Cat with pillow

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Barukh Dayyan Emet: Shimrit Is Gone

A few hours ago I received the sad and shocking news that Shimrit Ginott, the amazing woman who took a large tract of waste land in my neighborhood and made it into a blossoming community garden, passed away yesterday after having been fatally injured in an auto accident.

Just last Friday, Shimrit hosted a group of approximately forty volunteers from Argentina who came and helped clear the garden of tree branches that had been chopped down and left there. I wasn’t with her that morning, but my friend, who was there, said that she looked so happy as she guided the volunteers and told them the history of the garden.

Shimrit was instrumental several months ago in fighting a particularly invasive construction plan in the area. Ironically, the reason I could not go to the hearing at the municipality was because I had to attend a funeral.

Unfortunately, it looks like I won’t be able to make it to Shimrit’s funeral tomorrow. But I will be attending the shiva, which will be held in the garden that she built from nothing with her own two hands and that she loved with all her heart.

I like to think that Shimrit, our wonderful community gardener, is now enjoying the fruits of her labors in an infinite, Divinely-planted garden. Rest in peace, Shimrit. You will be much missed.

Barukh dayyan ha-emet. Blessed be the True Judge.

(Here is my post about Shimrit’s garden from April 14, 2007.)