Sunday, July 31, 2005

Taking Things into Account

This disturbing report from the Jerusalem Post, about an alleged mobster who wouldn’t take no for an answer, reminded me of something that happened to me several years ago.

I went to a hair salon downtown for a haircut. Since I had no appointment, I was told I would have to wait about a half hour. No problem, I thought to myself; I’ll just head over to the market and do some shopping, and I’ll be back in plenty of time.

As I was preparing to leave, a man walked into the salon and struck up a conversation with the proprietor. He was an older man, his hair black and slicked back, and he had an air of importance about him. It seemed he knew the proprietor well. As I gathered my things, the man began telling the proprietor a story.

“A man from up north called me,” he said, “and told me that he was having some trouble with the local municipality. Seems he’d put an addition on his home without the required permits. I told him: Don’t worry, I’ll take care of it. And I did. When the supervisor from the municipality came to his house to tell him that the addition would have to be demolished, I happened to be there. I told him my name and said that the addition could stay. The municipality guy was this little fellow, really tiny, and when he heard my name he shook all over. Really! He trembled like a leaf. And then he fell all over himself trying to get out of there. No, he said, of course everything was all right, it was all a mistake. He sure left in a hurry! What a little guy he was. And so scared!”

I had heard enough, and I was headed out the door. I’d only gone a few feet when I heard the man’s voice behind me calling: “Hey, lady, wait up!”

This is how my inner dialogue went at that moment:

Voice 1: Oh, no. He’s noticed me. What do I do now?

Voice 2: Turn around and answer politely. This is a crowded area, and it’s broad daylight. Nothing’s going to happen. It might be more dangerous to ignore him.

Voice 1: Can’t I just pretend I didn’t hear him? Broad daylight or not, I’d really rather not have anything to do with him if I can possibly avoid it.

Voice 2: Didn’t I just say that ignoring this guy might be dangerous? You have nothing to lose by being polite.

Voice 1: Oh, come off it. Do you really think this guy’s going to kill me for not talking to him? Maybe that whole story never even happened. Maybe he was just bragging.

Voice 2: Maybe he was and maybe he wasn’t. But you got a good look at him, didn’t you? You have to admit he looks the part. And you don’t want to find out for sure if he really is who he says he is, do you?

I turned around.

He got right down to business. “Where do you live?” he asked me.

“In the city,” I said, which could mean either “Downtown” or “In Jerusalem.” While I might have had nothing to lose by being polite, I wasn’t going to be stupid.

We were headed towards the market, and he remarked: “Soda is so expensive these days. Imagine—I have to pay six shekels for a liter of soda. You have to keep such a close eye on everything! Tell me”—and he turned to me with a serious expression—“do you keep a close eye on everything you do?”

The Hebrew phrase he used was la’asot heshbon, which can also mean to make an accounting, to consider well. But of course I knew what he was really asking. So I faced him straight on, looked him in the eye and said in my clearest, coldest voice: “Absolutely. I keep a close account of what I do every moment.”

He accepted my answer and didn’t press further.

And the haircutting appointment? I kept it. But after that day, I never went back.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

She Keeps Me in Line

Her Ladyship likes to crouch under my skirt sometimes. Apparently this is a fairly common thing with cats—off the top of my head I can think of three feline friends that have enjoyed gazing out at the world through whatever fabric I happened to be wearing at the time—and I’ve heard it referred to as “denning.”

What this photo doesn’t show, though, is that while Her Ladyship appears to be relaxing, half-hidden by my skirt, she is diligently whapping my ankle with her tail.

Her Ladyship under my skirt

Whap! Whap!

I guess it’s her way of keeping me in line.

(Check out this week’s Friday Ark at The Modulator, and the seventy-first edition of the Carnival of the Cats at Your Moosey Fate.)

Monday, July 25, 2005

I Spy?!

As I was about to get on the train today, I noticed some neat symmetry at the station and decided to take a picture of it. Here’s the picture. Look well and enjoy it. It almost got me into a bit of trouble.

Symmetry at the Jerusalem train station

Notice the guy on the right? You can see his reflection in the train door, and also a bit of his foot. Well, that guy happens to be a security guard, and the moment he saw me taking that picture he ran towards me, his face full of stern foreboding.

“Let me see your passport,” he ordered.

My passport? I thought. Why does he want to see my passport? I guess he thought I was a tourist. And then it hit me: Oh, good heavens. This man thinks I’m a spy.

And I was so shocked by that thought that I squeaked: “What?!”

“Your passport,” he repeated.

Never mind that I’m not cut out for the life of a spy at all and wouldn’t take the job if it were offered to me. The security guard had no way of knowing that. So I took out my wallet in order to show him my Israeli identity card and made sure he saw the various other cards that most Israelis carry around with them every day: a magnetic card for my health fund, my ATM card and so on. I flipped to the pocket where I keep my identity card, took it out and handed it to him. I watched as he gave it far more than a cursory glance, opening it and looking closely at the photograph and papers inside. Then he handed it back to me in silence and went on his way.

And then it occurred to me that a spy would have precisely the same cards I had. After all, a spy would be doing her (or his) best to blend in with the local citizenry, right?

Huh. Some spy I’d make.

Well, at least the security guard didn’t tell me not to take any more pictures.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Taking a Drink

Her Ladyship finds a way to beat the heat:

Her Ladyship takes a drink


(Check out this week’s Friday Ark and the Carnival of the Cats, coming to The Oubliette this Sunday.)

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Richmond, We Have a Situation

A scandal is rocking the catblogging world: Meryl is holding Tig and Gracie hostage at her blog. In fact, Meryl is holding the entire blog hostage.

This cannot go on! What’s to do?

Free the cats! Right now! Whatever it takes!

Missed It

So I’m walking home after seeing Yisrael Campbell’s great comedy monologue entitled “Not in Heaven” at Off the Wall—highly recommended, by the way—and I can see, from a distance, the fireworks of the closing ceremony of the Maccabiah. I put down my backpack, scramble for my camera, set up a shot, and just as I’m ready for the next burst of fireworks ... there isn’t one. It’s all over.


Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Here and There

Meryl needs some encouragement of the material kind. She provides a valuable service (not to mention wonderful kitty pictures). So go visit, and hit her tip-jar.

She also has an account of the march at Kfar Maimon from someone who is currently there.

Google is celebrating the thirty-sixth anniversary of the moon walk. Head over and look at the moon—just be careful not to zoom in too close. You never know what may happen.

Blogathon signups are now active. Check ’em out. Laurence Simon will be blogging for the Cat Welfare Society of Israel, a cause dear to my heart. (If that’s not your cup of tea, there are plenty of other worthy causes to choose from.)

And I have work to do, so I’m outta here.

Fruit and Flowers

Well, all right, just one flower. Here’s the new sunflower blossom near my building at work. (Somebody broke off the other one. Boo.)

New sunflower blossom

Next we have these luscious grapes in the sun:


And finally: when life gives you lemons, take pictures of them before you make lemonade.


(Did I mention that I’m absolutely delighted at the sight of fruit on the tree? Oh, right. Thought so.)

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Friday Pictures

Here are some pictures I took last Friday after work.

Remember Shalom’s vegetable garden? One of the two sunflowers bloomed. Here’s the whole blossom ...

Sunflower in bloom

... and here’s a closeup.

Sunflower closeup

More cherry tomatoes on the way:

Cherry tomatoes

After taking some pictures of the garden, I headed to the main downtown street to do some errands. On my way to the market I passed a store that sells watches, and these lovely ones caught my eye. (This one’s for Laurence Simon.)

Watches with Hebrew numbers

Further along, I passed a sign for a local parking garage. (Windows? Why? Does Bill Gates own a stake in it or something?)

Parking garage entrance

Then I caught a bus home. Ah, air conditioning! What a relief!

On the bus home

I finally got home to find that a bunch of these flowers had invaded our parking lot. They smell sweet and appear to be semi-cultivated. If anyone knows their proper name, please tell me in the comments.

What kind of flower is this?

And I’m done. Shavua tov.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Lights Out

So what do you do when your entire street suddenly finds itself without electricity just when you were about to head for bed?

That’s easy. You take pictures.

The building across the street, plunged into darkness:

The building across the street in darkness

(Is that a flashlight in the right-hand corner of the building? Dunno.)

The traffic circle below, taken without a flash:

The traffic circle below my window, dark

The same, with a flash:

The traffic circle, with flash

Finally, the candle I lit in my kitchen for some light:

A candle in the kitchen

Blackouts, like most disruptions of routine, can be interesting and exciting. But there comes a point where you’ve had enough, particularly if you’re a creature of routine, like I am.

When the electricity came on about a half hour later I reset all my clocks, turned off the lights and went to bed. Boring, no?

As I’ve learned to say, living in Israel and translating news here: Boring is good. We like boring.

Laila shaket—a quiet night to all.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

“This Normal Life” Moves to Own Site

This Normal Life,” a blog by fellow Jerusalemite Brian Blum, has picked up stakes and moved to Bloggerce, Brian’s new blogging service.

Go check it out.

Monday, July 11, 2005


It’s fennel blossom season ...

Fennel blossoms

... and here’s a ladybug who came to join the party.

Ladybug on fennel blossom


Here’s a selection of nails offered by a local beauty salon. Neat, eh?

Selection of nails at local beauty salon

Terrace Catnip Watch

It’s growing ...

Catnip growing on my terrace

... and growing ...

More catnip growing on my terrace

I guess it’s time to thin the seedlings.

Pictures from an Ordinary Day

Here are some pictures I took today:

The sunflowers in the vegetable garden at my workplace are about to blossom any day now.

Sunflower about to blossom

Here’s a field of sunflowers with beehives just coming into the frame. Taken from the train.

Field of sunflowers, with beehives, seen from the train

The old Kfar Vitkin train station:

The old Kfar Vitkin train station

Our Friend Hillel

This is Hillel. He lives near my workplace and is cared for by a building full of people, but he could really use a proper home. Hillel is neutered, intelligent and loving.

It looks like he also likes my backpack.

Hillel likes my backpack

“It’s mine! All mine!”

Hillel takes possession

Hillel is a gently playful, sweet-natured cat who loves to be petted and skritched, and he is quick to reward those who befriend him with his wonderful purr. He is very good-looking, too; these photographs don’t nearly do him justice.

OK, Hillel, I did an entry on you. Now may I please have my backpack back?

Hillel thinks

“I’ll think about it.”

(Check out this week’s Friday Ark, and on Sunday check out the Carnival of the Cats.)

Be Prepared

It appears that Israel Railways is prepared for any eventuality.

Usually, when the train pulls into Malha Station, a recorded announcement greets passengers, saying something like: “Welcome to the Jerusalem Malha Station. Please don’t forget any of your personal belongings on the train. Thank you for traveling with Israel Railways.”

The train to Jerusalem was about an hour late tonight. When we pulled into the Malha station, a slightly different recorded announcement greeted us: “Welcome to the Jerusalem Malha Station. We apologize for the delay.”

Well, that was nice of them. I just hope they won’t have to play that one too often.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Grape Season

Grape season

In Memoriam: Edna and the Dowager Duchess

Edna was a special cat. My friend, her human companion, used to describe her as noble. Even when she was sick she never complained, so during her final illness my friend had to watch her carefully to see whether she was in pain. As a young cat Edna was a huntress, often bringing “gifts” to my friend. Edna loved to be petted and brushed and particularly enjoyed bellyrubs, which elicited a purr so strong that I used to joke that it could be used to power a city. Edna passed on several weeks ago at the age of twenty-two (103 in human terms). Her name means “tenderness” and “refinement” in Hebrew. She was indeed refined, a true lady.

Edna relaxes after enjoying a bellyrub

The Dowager Duchess has left us, leaving Her Ladyship as an only cat. The Duchess was fifteen and was fine until recently. In her youth she enjoyed hunting and climbing trees. She enjoyed being petted but always looked over her shoulder, fearing—with good reason—that Her Ladyship would muscle in and chase her away from the source of the attention. Toward the end of the Duchess’s life, Her Ladyship mellowed a bit and tried to cheer her up, inviting her to play, but unfortunately the Duchess was too ill to take her up on it.

The Dowager Duchess surveys her domain

Neither Edna nor the Dowager Duchess were my cats, but I will miss them both. My deepest sympathies go out to their human companions, who have each lost a long-time friend.

(Check out the Friday Ark at The Modulator, and this week’s Carnival of the Cats at That’s Another Fine Mess.)

Friday, July 08, 2005

Jerusalem Pictures

In honor of the first day of the Hebrew month of Tammuz, and with prayers for the victims of the attacks in London and their families:

Here are the stones of the Western Wall, crowned with leaves and flowers, beneath a clear Jerusalem sky.

The stones of the Western Wall crowned with leaves and flowers

And here are olives ripening on the tree.

Olives ripening on the tree

Shabbat shalom.

Calling the Monster by Its Name

When is terrorism not terrorism? When it is perpetrated against Jews.

From the excellent analysis by Meryl Yourish:

I feel terribly for our British friends. But I maintain that Al Qaeda has been directly influenced by the world’s refusal to call palestinian terrorism what it is: Terrorism. Bombings in Israel have been shown to work, especially in the area of public relations. Yasser Arafat, mass murderer of Jews, was fêted the world over and actually won the Nobel Peace Prize. The Europeans are secretly (openly, now) dealing with Hamas. They refuse to classify Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.
As long as the world allows certain groups to use terror as a weapon and go unpunished for it, any group that wishes to do the same will continue to do so.
Until the world recognizes all terror for what it is—and that includes terrorism in Iraq, and especially terrorism in Israel—the terror groups will keep bombing civilians.
Let’s stop ignoring the T-word, and call a terrorist a terrorist, and a terror attack a terror attack—no matter where it occurs.

Read the whole thing.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Explosions in London

No, actually, not just explosions. Bombing attacks. The deliberate murder of innocent civilians as they go about their business. In other words: terrorism.

Miriam of Bloghead is live-blogging from London.

David of Treppenwitz weighs in with a gloomy but (in my opinion) on-target analysis.

Israelly Cool has lots of updates, as does LT Smash.

Laurence Simon of IFOC gets it:

Want to know what we are? Want to know what we are when we go about our daily lives, looking out for one another, getting along without slitting the throats of our neighbors or blowing up buses full of innocent people for what we perceive as wrongs halfway around the world? Want to know what you are when a nutcase with a bomb or a C-4 vest loaded with ratpoison-soaked shrapnel wants to shred you for the reward of a 72-virgins orgy in Paradise?

My prayers and good wishes go out to all those injured or killed, or who were in any way affected by the attacks.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Workplace Vegetable Garden Watch

Shalom, the custodian of the building where I work, has taken a tiny patch of earth on the grounds and turned it into a small vegetable and herb garden. So far he’s growing tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, spearmint (nana in Hebrew) and sunflowers. He’s also giving joy to quite a few people, since it feels so good just to gaze at his garden!

Fried green tomatoes, anyone?

Cherry tomatoes

Notice the symmetry of the stems of the tomatoes in the picture below. Isn’t that amazing?

More cherry tomatoes

Better hurry up if you like ’em green. The one on the right is starting to ripen.

Cherry tomato starting to ripen

The sunflower bud tracks the sun even before it blooms.

Sunflower bud

Ah, the wonder and the joy of nature, right here in a little urban vegetable garden.

Thank you, Shalom.

An Old Battle

Lynn B. has an excellent post at The Jewish View about evangelical Christians who try to deceive Jews into converting to Christianity.

The mass conversion of the Jews is seen by some Christians as a necessary prerequisite for the “Second Coming.” The method by which it’s accomplished is largely unimportant. This brand of Christian missionary long ago figured out that, partly due to centuries of persecution and gruesome tales of forced conversions, Jews tend to react badly to evangelical overtures. The solution: strip both “c” words out of the pitch. You need neither convert nor become a Christian. In fact, you can stay “Jewish,” pray in a “synagogue,” celebrate Passover, even have a Bar Mitzvah, so long as you realize that your ultimate destiny as a Jew is to accept Jesus as your messiah.
The pitch is a scam. Think of “Messianic Judaism” as a half-way house. A rehab treatment facility for the theologically misdirected. A crutch to enable us Jews to get over our irrational phobia of Conversion to Christianity. It’s a sort of phased plan or “plan of stages” to eliminate the unbelievers. Yes, the ultimate goal is to return us to our Jewish roots, i.e., the roots of that small segment of the Jewish community that, two thousand years ago, chose to abandon the faith of their ancestors and look elsewhere for their salvation. The first Christians.

Read the whole thing.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Happy Fourth of July

Flying the flag in honor of July 4th

It’s the Fourth of July, and this proud American citizen has to go to work.

But I’ve got my American flag flying on my porch (see here for correct ways to display and store the American flag), and I’ll be heading for the AACI annual Fourth of July/Canada Day Picnic at the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo later this week.

Go check out Meryl’s Fourth of July post.

By the way, notice anything different?

Carnival of the Cats, 67th Edition

This week’s Carnival of the Cats is up at Watermark. Stop by and see the kitties!