Saturday, October 31, 2009

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Demonstrating against Segregation

Demonstration against segregated buses 1

Over the past several months, I have attended two demonstrations against segregation on Jerusalem’s buses. (See my photos here and here.)

Last Tuesday morning, a special 11-member committee appointed by the Israeli Ministry of Transport determined that sex segregation on buses must be voluntary, not coerced.

A special committee appointed by the Transportation Ministry recommended on Tuesday conducting a yearlong trial during which passengers on "mehadrin" public bus lines would be allowed to enter from either the front or the rear doors, so those who wished to maintain gender separation could do so.
However, the committee stressed that the separation of the genders must be solely on a voluntary basis, that the passengers riding on these buses may not impose it coercively and that bus drivers would be responsible for intervening to prevent coercion if it arose.

While I was at yesterday’s demonstration, I suddenly found myself recalling a verse from the Book of Lamentations (1:8): “... She herself also sighs, and turns backward.”

The original Hebrew phrase that is translated as “turning backward” is va-tashov ahor. On Tuesday morning, I remembered it with a slight error, thinking that the word was va-teshev—“she sits in the back.”

When I got home, I looked up the text and realized my mistake. But then, I remembered that the Jewish sages engaged in a great deal of word play in order to illustrate various homiletical points. I decided to follow their example, and this is what I came up with:

איכה 1:8: ”גם היא נאנחה ותשב אחור“: אל תקרי תשב (בקמץ) אלא תשב (בצירה), שהאשה נאלצת לשבת מאחור לא מתוך רצון ולא מתוך בחירה או סתם מקריות, אלא מתוך כפייה ופחד, השפלה והשמצות כגון שעצם נוכחותה ברבים מהווה מכשול גם כאשר היא לבושה בצניעות הראויה, וכל זה מנוגד לדעת תורה ידועה. ולאשה אסור לתת קולה נגד מנהג מוטעה זה או להביע את צערה שמא יתנפלו עליה קנאים וירביצוה, אז אין לה אלא לשתוק ולהאנח....

Lamentations 1:8: “She also sighs, and turns backward.” Do not read tashov (she turns backward) but rather teshev (she sits in the rear), since the woman is being forced to sit in the rear not out of desire or choice or even by chance, but out of coercion and fear, humiliation and false accusations that her mere presence in the public sphere constitutes a stumbling block even when she is modestly and properly dressed. Even though all this violates well-known religious rulings, the woman cannot raise her voice against this misguided custom or express her sorrow over it for fear of physical attack by fanatics. So she can do nothing but remain silent and sigh.

I suspect that we haven’t heard the end of the matter.

The Return of Pinocchio

No, not the character from the book or the film. I’ve written about Pinocchio here before. She’s a shop cat who lives at a frame store in Jerusalem.

The shopping center where Pinocchio lives is on the other side of town from where I live and work. I don’t get there often these days, but whenever I do, I always like to call on Pinocchio, who was adopted about seven years ago by one of the shopkeepers. When I went there this morning, I dropped by his store only to be told by her near-distraught owner that she had disappeared the day before.

“She’s done this only once before in all the seven years I’ve known her, and she came back the next day,” he told me. “I worry about her. Once, about six years ago, she was hit by a car. She somehow made it up the stairs and came to me, and fainted at my feet. Somehow she knew I’d help her. I picked her up, put her in a box and ran with her to the vet on the corner—he’s gone now but his clinic is still there—and he told me that her injuries were so bad that it might be better to euthanize her. I wouldn’t hear of it and told him to treat her. Even after all the discounts that he gave me, the bill still came to three thousand shekels. Pinocchio’s got a lot of metal in three of her legs now and she walks with a slight limp, but she’s fine. You know, I have metal in my leg, too,” he said. “From the army.”

He pointed out Pinocchio’s usual sleeping place: the highest shelf in the store. “She sleeps up there every night,” he said. “She’s got everything she needs here—wet and dry food, fresh water, a litter box that I clean every day. My daughter’s a vet, and she comes to examine her every few months and gives her her shots every year. And you have no idea how many people come to see her!”

“I can imagine,” I said. “I visited her here once and had to stand in line to pet her. And once I had a cat who lived in a park for most of her life and had lots of fans.”

“Last night I waited for Pinocchio until late, but she didn’t come back,” he said. “When I finally went home, I left food and water outside the door for her, and I came in early this morning just in case she’d shown up. I didn’t sleep all night. I’ve asked every shop owner here to keep an eye out for her, just in case.”

“I hope she comes back soon,” I told him. “I’ll keep good thoughts in my heart for both of you.”

I did my errands with a heavy heart, thinking of Pinocchio and her worried owner. When I was done, I decided to go back to the shop to see whether she’d come back. As I approached, I could feel my heart lift. There she was, walking out of the store into the hall, followed by her much-relieved owner. She had come back only a few minutes before. As I watched, she jumped up on a stool. I managed to give her some skritches as I took this photo:

Pinocchio gets a skritch

The cat came back the very next day. Thank goodness.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Carnival of the Cats 293: Pinch-Hitting Edition

Standing in for this week’s host—to whom we wish a swift and complete recovery—heeeeeeere’s Catschka!

Ummm... Catschka? Where are you?

“Up here. Can’t you see me?”

Can you find me?

Oh, now I see you! Hey, sweetie, come down out of the tree for a bit. You’ve got a carnival to host!

“What—me? You want me to host the Carnival of the Cats? Let me check my calendar. Hmmm, let’s see... climbing trees first thing in the morning, then eating, sleeping, grooming, bothering Her Ladyship, getting skritches and cuddles, playing and eating again, then turning in for the night with Her Ladyship and my mommy.... Nothing here about a carnival. Sorry! I’m going back up the tree now. See you later!”

Oh, come on, Catschka, it’ll be fun! Don’t you want to greet your fans all over the world and let them admire you?

“Oh, well, if you put it that way, I don’t mind if I do. Ahem.... So here, without further ado, is the 293rd edition of the Carnival of the Cats!”

Thank you, Catschka! I’m so proud of you, hosting a carnival like a big kitty! Who’s first?

“Here’s Ted the imperious in soft focus at The Poor Mouth. Doesn’t he look like he rules the roost? He ought to. I rule mine. Or at least I try to. And I must say, Ted’s very handsome.”

Oh, yes, that he definitely is! What a gorgeous tuxxie... look how fluffy....

“Hey, stop staring at him, Rahel! Look at me!”

Oh, right. Sorry. Here, have a skritch....

“That’s better. Now, here’s a cat who knows what she wants—and she’s a gorgeous Siamese, just like me! Go right ahead, Hakuna—demand that skritch! I’d sure love to meet you over at Blog d’Elisson. I’d jump out at you and invite you to play, just like I do with Her Ladyship....”

Oh, yes, Catschka, and we all know how fond she is of that....

“It’s Caturday at Mind of Mog! There’s Meowza, looking so sweet! What does Mog mean when she says that he looks adorable, but if we only knew?”

I think Mog means that Meowza gets into mischief sometimes.

“Oh, good! I like mischief. And speaking of mischief, Rosie’s sharing news of some with Arthur over at My Cats and Funny Stories. Trouble is, Arthur just keeps nodding off.”

Humans do that too sometimes, you know.

“Wow, really? Oh, this is nice: Maddie’s celebrating her eighth Gotcha Day at StrangeRanger! Congratulations, Maddie. My first Gotcha Day was just a few months ago. I send you and your people my best tail-swishes and happy purrs from here!”

That’s sweet of you, Catschka. I send my congratulations, too! Who’s next?

Luna’s on the patio at CatSynth. I think her patio is very pretty, but it’s even prettier with Luna on it!”

I agree.

“Oh, look, another beautiful Meezer! Cheysuli is grateful that she survived the Male’s birthday. Maybe I should subscribe to the The Cat Post Intelligencer to get the latest Meezer news over there. What do you think?”

I don’t think they sell subscriptions, but we can certainly go and visit.

“That was the last post. Now it’s my turn! Do I get to show my picture now? I’ve waited so long!”

Of course, Catschka. You’ve been a very patient kittycat and an excellent host. So here, on this very blog, is Catschka gazing at me while she rests on the terrace of my friend’s apartment.

“One more! One more! I’m the host, right? So I get one more picture!”

Catschka, you’ve already got two.

“Come on! You said I was a very patient kittycat and an excellent host, right? So I get one more picture!”

Sigh.... Kittens! All right, Catschka, how about the one I took of you in the garden last week, with your tail curving so gracefully?

“Oh, yes, that one’s nice. I do great tail-swishes. Go ahead and post it!”

What’s the magic word, Catschka?

Now! Just kidding. Please.”

Catschka poses

Now what do we say, Catschka? Do you remember?

“Ummm... the next Carnival will be at... oh, Rahel, I forgot! Can you help me?”

Sure. The next Carnival of the Cats will be hosted at Kashim, Othello and Salome’s place, Three Tabby Cats in Vienna.

“Wow! They come all the way from Vienna? Isn’t that really far?”

Yes, Catschka, it’s pretty far.

“Oh. Well, I’m going back up the tree now. Is that OK?”

Sure, sweetie. But say goodbye to our guests first.

“Bye! Thank you all for coming! Come back again soon!”

Friday, October 23, 2009

At Rest, Gazing

Catschka resting

Also, here is a video that someone shared with me recently. It was filmed in 1996, and is very suitable for those of us who love music and cats:

The Friday Ark. The Carnival of the Cats.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Two Encounters

Earlier this evening, I went to visit a friend of mine at Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital. (It was a fairly routine procedure, and she’s fine, thank God.)

Since I hadn’t been to Hadassah Ein Kerem in quite some time, I decided to take a look at the new shopping center for a few minutes before I went to see my friend. I walked down the hallway, looking at the stores and restaurants and browsing. Suddenly, I smelled cigarette smoke. When I looked to see where it was coming from, I saw a woman sitting and smoking at a table at the end of the hall. A no-smoking sign was on the wall behind her just a few feet away.

I approached her and asked her either to smoke elsewhere or put out her cigarette. “This is a hospital complex,” I told her. “Smoking isn’t allowed here.”

She answered, “This isn’t a hospital. It’s a mall.”

“Smoking isn’t allowed in malls either,” I told her. “Besides, there’s a sign right behind you. I have to walk through here on my way into the hospital, and your smoke is making it hard for me to breathe.”

Her response: “Then don’t stand here.”

I shrugged and nodded, then slowly took out my cellphone. In these parts, a cellphone means a camera. When the woman saw what I was doing, she did a rapid disappearing act.

(I still intend to report the incident to the municipal inspection department—which, I am happy to report, now has inspectors in civilian clothes instead of in uniform. In any case, just a few moments after the woman fled my camera, a boy in a wheelchair who looked quite ill and was connected to an IV was wheeled through the area where she had been smoking seconds before.)

After my visit, I went back into the mall on my way outside and decided to stop in at another shop. As I browsed, I smelled cigarette smoke once again. When I looked to see where it was coming from, I saw a young man leaning over the counter, talking to the saleswoman. His right hand was at his side, almost behind his back, where the saleswoman couldn’t see it. Between two of his fingers was a lit cigarette.

I approached him and said, “Would you mind putting your cigarette out or going outside? The smoke is really bothering me.”

The saleswoman, a young Israeli woman, stared at the young man with whom she had been having a pleasant conversation just a moment before. “What?!” she shouted at him. “You’re standing here with a lit cigarette in your hand? What’s wrong with you? Get that cigarette out of here right now!”

And he fled.

Throughout the almost eighteen years that I have lived in Israel, when I’ve asked people to put out their cigarettes or smoke elsewhere, I’ve received responses that range from understanding to grudging cooperation to outright mockery. On occasion, one smoker has said to another, laughing, “Asur la’ashen! Smoking isn’t allowed here!” as they kept on smoking. Or they’ve turned to me in annoyance and said, “Look, lady, this isn’t America!”

But there was no mockery whatsoever in this young woman’s reaction. She was genuinely upset, angry, outraged. I think that this was the first time I had ever seen an Israeli react so strongly against smoking. For one utterly bizarre moment, I wondered whether I was looking at a younger, blonde, native-born Israeli version of myself.

As these thoughts went through my mind, the saleswoman turned to her companion, another saleswoman in the shop, and said, “Can you believe that? The nerve! Unbelievable! He was smoking, right here in the store!”

Then she turned to me and said, “Thank you for noticing that he had a lit cigarette in his hand.”

“No problem,” I said, and made my purchase, still pleasantly surprised by the reaction I’d seen.

It’s nice to see that opposition to smoking in public places isn’t just for Americans anymore.

(For anyone who may be interested, here is a link to the website of Avir Naki [clean air], an Israeli anti-tobacco group. One of its goals is to enable citizens to take legal action against violations of the laws against smoking in public places and workplaces. The site, which is in Hebrew, includes the texts of the relevant laws and a great deal of pertinent advice. It also includes a form that one may use to report violations, as well as up-to-date lists of the relevant officials at the national and local levels. I have found Avir Naki extremely helpful.)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

I’m in Another Film!

Once again, my voice features in a short promotional film about the Israeli city of Haifa entitled: Haifa Welcomes New Immigrants.

Click on the link and you’ll hear the narrator: me!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Catschka Thinks


“Hmmm... how can I get up that tree fast enough to grab the bird before it flies away?”

Don’t let her seemingly restful pose fool you. She can move at almost the speed of light when she wants to.

The Friday Ark. The Carnival of the Cats.

I Need A Pick-Me-Up

The days are getting shorter, the nights are getting longer, the news is getting more and more absurd, things in general just feel pretty heavy these days and... well... I need a pick-me-up.

Here. I’ll even share it:

The many colors of green

Ah. I feel better already.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Incident Report: Kitten Attack

So what happened, Your Ladyship?

“Well, there I was in the garden, relaxing, minding my own business...”

Relaxing 1

“... when I suddenly had the feeling that it was too quiet. Something was wrong. Something was about to happen. I looked up...”

Relaxing 2

“... and bam! There she was. Before I could get my legs under me, she pounced on me out of the blue, the little imp.”

Kitten attack!

“See how she puts on her Little Miss Innocent act? Looks like butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth, she does... but don’t believe it for a moment! She’s evil! Awful! Diabolical!”

Catschka on the walkway

Your Ladyship, you were a kitten once. Don’t you remember what it was like?

“What, me? I never behaved like that, honest! I was a perfect kitten in every way!”

Sure, Your Ladyship. Whatever you say.

“Grrr. Kittens! I wish this one would go climb a tree.”

Whew! Made it!

The Friday Ark. The Carnival of the Cats.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

An American Classic in Hebrew

I just found a delightful Hebrew translation of the American baseball classic poem “Casey at the Bat” by Ernest Lawrence Thayer.

I particularly like the reference to the Yom Kippur prayers in the penultimate stanza. Wonderfully on target!

Has anyone told the Israel Baseball League about this? (Oh, wait—I just did!)

Monday, October 05, 2009



A sign directing hikers to the various parts of the new Hadassah Trail, which is reachable by bus from most parts of Jerusalem and, in my opinion, contains some of the most beautiful natural areas and views in all of Israel

For quite some time until several years ago, some friends and I—all of us young adult women from English-speaking countries—used to hike in the Jerusalem Hills a few times during the spring. Our favorite hike started from Tel Tzuba, went down the hill near the Sataf spring, through the Jerusalem Hills to another spring known as Ein Hindak, and then to Hadassah Hospital and back to civilization. We would usually hike during the Passover holiday and again on Independence Day, with an election day thrown in if there was one, since election day is a holiday in Israel.

At one point during one of our hikes, we noticed a fork in the path up ahead. We began wondering which direction we should take, and then began reflecting on the various directions that our lives had taken since we had made the choice to live in Israel. Someone commented that we had all taken a road that is not usually taken... and from there it was but a short mental hop to Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken.” “Does anyone remember it?” one of us asked. A quick check showed that between us, we remembered most if not all of it. A tradition quickly developed: at some point during our hikes, one of us would recite the poem for the group from beginning to end.

Today, I went on a walking tour offered by the Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel (AACI). The route, which included part of the new Hadassah Trail, was very close to our old hike route. At one point, I stopped along the way to take some photos. After a few moments, I realized that the group had gone on ahead, toward a fork in the trail. They were still well within sight, but not within earshot... and as I walked to catch up, I watched as they took the path that went toward the left, back to civilization.

At that point, I couldn’t resist any longer. I invoked our group’s old tradition, reciting “The Road Not Taken” first silently and then sotto-voce, careful not to be seen or heard doing it lest anyone who saw me think I’d lost my marbles.

On the other hand, this was a hike sponsored by an organization dedicated to assisting immigrants from English-speaking countries... so it’s likely that they would have understood if they’d known.


Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Diverging paths

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Arba Minim 5770

This year’s arba minim:

Arba minim 5770

(Read about the arba minim, or Four Species, here.)

Moadim le-simha!

Saturday, October 03, 2009

In the Garden

Catschka stalks an unsuspecting Her Ladyship. Yowls ensue.


Catschka, what are you doing? You know you’re not allowed in the neighbor’s sukkah without permission!

Catschka the sukkah cat

Her Ladyship gazes...


... and Ms. Neighborcat visits.

Ms. Neighborcat

The Friday Ark. The Carnival of the Cats.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Adventures in Translation

I work in a translation office a few times a week, starting very early in the morning. As in 6:00 a.m.

Things there stay on an even keel most days. But sometimes, a little adventure waits among all that text.

This morning, it was a snippet of conversation between a journalist and a well-known Arab personality. The journalist mentioned security concerns, and the Arab personality responded with a rude and dismissive Arabic phrase to the effect that he was sick and tired of hearing about security. The language was pretty strong, but no matter how I may feel about what he said or the way he said it, it’s my job to translate it. And here was the conundrum. You see, while we’re committed to accuracy, we’re also a family outfit, and we prefer to keep our copy clean.

How rude was that phrase? you may ask. Well, in English it would go something like this: “Security, your sister’s [unmentionable body part]!”

Yup. That rude.

What to do?

I did what I always do when I find myself in a translation conundrum: consult with my colleagues. For a few moments, we were serious as we considered phrases that would satisfy the demand for accuracy, at least in spirit, while avoiding an unnecessary and potentially very troublesome descent into profanity.

And then, inevitably, came the laughter.

“Security, my foot,” one colleague suggested. When I heard that, I couldn’t resist suggesting a polite, archaic American expletive denoting the backside. “How about ‘Security, my Aunt Fanny’?” I answered, getting some giggles from our editor.

Finally, we settled on “Security, hell!” and moved on.