Thursday, March 31, 2005

At Last: The Lady in Red

Now that I’m finally able to take digital pictures and post them to my blog, I’d like to introduce my readers to a very special cat. I don’t know her name or even if she has one, so I call her the Lady in Red.

Meet the Lady in Red

For close to a decade if not more, the Lady in Red has been living at a local nursing home adjacent to one of the most beautiful parks in the city. She is well cared for and I believe she’s spayed because I have never seen her with kittens.

Whenever I walk through the park, I usually see the Lady in Red sitting on a bench next to an elderly person or near an adult with a child. She doesn’t demand attention or beg for food. She just sits quietly, offering her good energy to the world.

The Lady in Red waits for visitors

Sometimes she enjoys playing Hide and Seek.

The Lady in Red plays Hide and Seek

The Lady in Red and I have known each other for years. I look for her whenever I walk through the park, and it’s always a treat for both of us when she’s around.

Would you like some skritches, Lady in Red?

Kittyworship for the Lady in Red. Notice the black whiskers on the right side of her face

The Lady in Red enjoys a skritch

Ah, I thought you might.

Sometimes the Lady accepts a drink of water from my hand. Like I said, she is well cared for, but in Israel’s dry climate it is always good to offer water. The Lady purrs as she takes a drink.

The Lady in Red drinks water out of my hand

Once the Lady has drunk her fill, it’s time to wash.

Bath time

Satisfied that she is spotlessly clean, the Lady surveys her kingdom, looking much like her cousin, the lioness.

The Lady surveys her kingdom

The most striking incident in my friendship with the Lady in Red occurred about a year and a half ago, a few days after one of my closest friends died suddenly of a heart attack. Although a light, misting rain was falling, I decided to go to the park to be with my thoughts in nature. As I stood in the park I suddenly heard a loud meow at my feet, and I looked down to find the Lady in Red looking up at me in unmistakable command as if to say Sit down, please. I found a concrete bench that was miraculously not soaking wet, and the Lady in Red did something she had never done in all the years I have known her: she jumped onto my lap and stayed there as the rain fell. The rain didn’t faze her at all, and she made it clear that she would stay with me as long as I wanted her to. I hunched over her to protect her from the rain as long as possible, and when I felt the tips of her fur starting to get wet I said goodbye and left.

Like I said, the Lady in Red is a very special cat.

And being a cat is hard work. Time for a nap.

Time for a nap

P. S. Check out the Carnival of the Cats, this week at

P. P. S. Thank you, Imshin.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Still Blah

I always say I’m too busy to be sick, but apparently my body believes otherwise.

I’m told that some pretty nasty bugs have been making the rounds over here, so I’m not sure whether this is a homegrown bug or something that stowed away with me when I came back from the States. Either way, my voice is just about gone, my head feels like it has a mattress wrapped around it and I’m probably a one-person germ factory by now. I figured it was time to call the doctor and say: This isn’t working; can we try another option, please?

So I called for an appointment only to discover that both my doctor and her partner are at a conference all day today. Which probably means that most of the other physicians who deal with this sort of thing are there, too.


Well, they’re entitled, and anything that improves the quality of medical service is a good thing. So I can’t complain. Not too loudly, anyway.

So my appointment’s tomorrow. In the meantime, I’m missing work, which I actually don’t enjoy doing. But my co-workers really don’t need someone around who sounds like a rusty hinge, has a sore throat and swollen neck making her irritable, can’t focus too well just now and has a germ output that’s likely off the charts.

Come to think of it, I don’t either. I think I’ll go back to bed.

Monday, March 28, 2005

The Blues

Woke up this morning feeling pretty blah. The doctor diagnosed an acute upper respiratory infection. Phooey. What’s so cute about that? (Sorry—couldn’t resist.)

On the way from the doctor’s office to the pharmacy and then home (fortunately they are all within walking distance of each other), I saw a bunch of scarlet pimpernels and took some pictures of them with my new toy, a cellular phone with a digital camera. Here’s one that came out pretty well:

Scarlet Pimpernels

Yeah, I know. If I want to take this seriously I need to get a better camera, one that zooms. One day.

So here’s one of my mistakes—a pretty traditional one, thumb in the lens—but you have to admit that the subject matter makes it worthwhile:

Kittycat with Thumb

Ah, kittycats.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Waiting in the Wings

In honor of Purim, there were plenty of events on the downtown pedestrian mall today: clowns on stilts, dancers and singers, jugglers, you name it. But a surprise waited in the smaller alleyways leading onto the mall: three ponies who came, together with their people, all the way from a farm in the Sharon region, about an hour’s drive north of Jerusalem. When I met them, they were waiting for police permission to enter the main area.

Pony Waiting to Enter Pedestrian Mall

Ponies for Purim

Can We Go In Yet?

I’m sure they eventually got their entry clearance. How long could anyone resist these sweet ponies?

The Eucalyptus that Won’t Quit

Near my apartment building is a eucalyptus tree that’s been through it all but is still kicking. This tree can give some valuable lessons about surviving during challenging times. Though its top is shorn off and its bark is shaven, it still produces branches and leaves every spring.

Still Alive and Green Despite It All

Another extraordinary thing about this tree is that for years it has been home to a family of large bees, likely carpenter bees (though I’m not sure). In order to drive the bees away, the bark of the tree was shaved off, exposing the tunnels the bees dug to house their eggs.

Bee Tunnels

In past years, when I’ve investigated the tunnels—some of which are as thick as my thumb—I’ve been buzzed by a bee that came out of nowhere to guard her former home, but never stung. According to those in the know, bumblebees are peaceful and rarely sting. But then, these may be carpenter bees. The next time I see one over there, I’m going to have to get a look at its underside.

(Just in case you were wondering, Israel grows bumblebees. I don’t think we grow carpenter bees, though. At least, not on purpose.)


All right, so the photograph is a bit blurry. But you get the picture: these are some of the jacaranda trees we have downtown, which a knowledgeable friend of mine likes to call by the whimsical name “Purpletrees.”

Jacaranda trees in downtown Jerusalem

(I’ll try to get some better pictures of them soon. I’m still pretty new at this digital photography thing.)

Friday, March 25, 2005

The Train, Boss! The Train!

Wonderful news: after a seven-year break, Jerusalem is about to get train service again. This train is the slower of two lines we’ll be getting and will take approximately 73 minutes to reach Tel Aviv, going through Beit Shemesh and other places. (The speed is slower is because this particular line uses the old Ottoman rail route, which is so full of curves that the trains cannot travel along it safely at full speed. There were many jokes about just how slow the old service was, one of which was that a passenger could leave the train during the trip in order to pick wildflowers and then re-board the train with no problem. In 2008 there will be a faster train from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv, which will take approximately half an hour to arrive.)

Here are two sites for more information: and

This new service is a far cry from what there used to be (see Imshin’s post at Israelity for more details). Israel’s trains are clean, run on time and are just plain delightful.

(I must admit to a certain amount of bias. I happen to like trains. A lot. I’m especially fond of the New York subway system, which I rode quite a bit these past two weeks when I got to travel to the United States for the first time since I moved to Israel thirteen years ago. Also, when a good friend asked me what I’d like to do for a fairly significant birthday I have coming up next month, my answer was: a trip to the Israel Train Museum in Haifa. I kid you not.)

Seeing that it’s almost Shabbat, I’ll have to post about my trip to the States another time. For now, I think I’ll start making plans to ride the Jerusalem train on Saturday night, April 9, when it goes into service for the first time. Yesh!

What? I can hear readers asking. Ride the train to Tel Aviv and back just for fun? And when the bus takes so much less time?

Well, um, yes. Did I happen to mention I like trains?

(Cross-posted on Israelity)

Monday, March 07, 2005

Hello, Elijah Speaking

I refer, of course, to the biblical prophet Elijah, one of the major figures in the Book of Kings. He was renowned for his fierce stand against idol worship and his dramatic ascent to heaven in a chariot of fire.

But Elijah also has a gentler side. According to Jewish tradition, he is present at every circumcision. He visits every Jewish home toward the end of the Passover seder to take a sip of wine or grape juice from the special cup each household lovingly sets aside for him. And every Saturday night Jews sing a hymn asking that he appear to announce the arrival of the Messiah, heralding a time of peace and tranquility the like of which we have never seen on earth.

In Jewish folklore, Elijah the Prophet is a kind of Jewish Superman. (Or perhaps Superman is the American Elijah?) He is the one who steps in at the last possible moment, when the situation is desperate and there seems to be no way out. No task is too great for him, no method too dangerous, if it means saving the life or livelihood of a person in trouble. According to one story, Elijah once appeared in the guise of a prostitute in order to rescue an innocent man fleeing capture. In another, he built a palace by himself overnight in order to save the livelihood of a poor man. Elijah is also learned in all the secrets of the cosmos, though only a privileged few merit to study them together with the immortal prophet.

In every generation, including this one, people have their own stories to tell about meeting Elijah. All these stories have one thing in common: when things are at their worst, Elijah the Prophet appears to save the situation, giving people the encouragement they need to go on or just doing something nice for someone who could use a favor.

Does Elijah the Prophet really spend his time roaming the earth, seeking out people who need help? I don’t know. But I believe that Elijah is potentially every one of us. To put it another way, perhaps every human being is endowed with a spark of Elijah’s essence. At some point in our lives, someone may need help just when we happen to be able to provide it. And as soon as we take up the challenge we become Elijah, if only for a brief moment. That’s what I think, anyway.

Here’s an example. About fifteen years ago a newly observant friend of mine was in a bookstore in a small Israeli town. He wanted to buy a prayer book but was a bit short of cash. Another man who did not know my friend at all happened to be in the store just then and overheard the conversation between my friend and the proprietor. He rushed over to the counter, plunked down the remaining amount and dashed out of the bookstore before my friend could thank him. My friend was convinced that this man was Elijah. I agree.

Then there’s what happened to a close friend of mine just a few weeks ago. This extraordinary woman has been caring for her seriously ill husband for more than a year and a half. Unfortunately, during this time their financial situation has become quite challenging, to put it mildly.

Early one morning, my friend’s doorbell rang. Since she was busy taking care of her husband, she couldn’t answer right away. When she opened the door a short while later, she found a plastic bag tied to the screen-door latch containing hot, fresh bread and an unmarked envelope. The envelope contained a generous donation for my friend and her husband. There was nothing else, no note of explanation. Just the bread and the envelope.

As my astonished friend stood holding the bag, her phone rang. On the other end was a woman whose voice she didn’t recognize.

“Are you home?” the woman asked.

“Yes,” my friend replied, perplexed. “Who is this?”

“We left a bag on your door,” the woman said. “Did you find it?”

“Yes, but who is this?” my friend persisted.

“That’s not important,” the woman answered.

“Please, I would really like to be able to thank you properly,” my friend said.

“No, no, it’s really not important,” the woman said. “I just wanted to make sure you received the bag.”

“But I want to thank you,” my friend said. “Please, won’t you tell me who you are?”

“Friends,” the woman answered. “We just want to help. All the best to you.”

And with that, Elijah said goodbye and hung up.

(Cross-posted on Israelity)

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Good News for the Cats of Katzrin

The cats of Katzrin have a new lease on life thanks to The Cat Welfare Society of Israel.

The Veterinarian Service Department and the City Council in Katzrin announced that there will be no use of any poison against cats in Katzrin and withdrew their intentions to use poison, as was previously expressed in their first announcement to the public and to the media. This decision came as a result of the petition that was served by the Cat Welfare Society of Israel at the Magistrates Court of Nazareth against the Katzrin City Council following the discovery of a rabid dog in the area. Instead of mass poisoning, the authorities will engage in steady activities of vaccinating and neutering/spaying of all cats in Katzrin.

My hat is off to the members of this extraordinary group and to performing songwriter Yehuda Poliker, who will be giving a concert to benefit Israel’s street cats and raise awareness of the problem.

(I saw a television program about Yehuda Poliker several years ago. At one point the camera focused on one of his cats, who was sitting on the floor beneath a table in his recording studio. Although no one was touching the cat, its eyes were closed in what looked like utter contentment, it was kneading with its paws and I could see its body vibrating with the force of its purr. I remember thinking: Wow. There must be some really good energy in that studio. I sure wouldn’t mind singing there.)

If you’re fond of cats, scroll down to the bottom of Yehuda Poliker’s page. This one’s a beauty.

And catch the concert if you can. Yehuda Poliker is an amazing performer, and it’s for a good cause.

(Cross-posted at Israelity.)