Friday, May 28, 2010

Learning to Trust Again

I think that Hadi is gradually forgetting her traumatic visit to the vet. This morning, she appeared much calmer, and she let me pet her and offer her bellyrubs.

In fact, we went from this...

Under Hadi's watchful eye 1

... to this...

Paw on hand

... to this.

Blissed out

Hadi appears to be feeling much better... and she also appears to be learning to trust again.

The Friday Ark. The Carnival of the Cats.

No Vow of Poverty

Like most people I know, I’m a member of several professional email lists. An ad appeared on one of them recently from a local outsourcing company seeking workers.

Soon afterwards, one of the list members posted a link to the company's brochure, suggesting that we read a certain excerpt. She ended her post by wishing us appropriate, gainful employment. Although she did not tell us what she had discovered or include an explicit warning, her tone was clear enough.

When I clicked on the link, I found the following:

In the current economic climate especially, clients would gladly outsource these services if they could save money without sacrificing quality. The challenge? Finding qualified Americans (and other Anglos) who will work for wages considerably less than the US standard.

The solution? Israel! There is a wealth of American/Anglo émigrés to Israel. Most are highly credentialed, highly motivated professionals with limited job options. Salaries in Israel are generally lower than in the US, demand for jobs is high, and this group, who accepted material sacrifice when they moved to Israel, and with limited knowledge of the local language, are happy to accept work at much lower than US rates. It’s a win-win – a difficult to employ group gets challenging work in a congenial work environment while earning a living wage and [redacted] gains the ability to offer higher end services to its clientele....

My first thought was: what hutzpah! This company posted an ad looking for workers, and at the same time describes in their brochure how they intend to take advantage of them! Still, I can say one thing in the company’s favor: at least they’re honest about it.

I was also offended at the thought that the founder of this company, himself an English-speaker living in Israel, is so willing to cash in on his fellow immigrants’ economic plight. But then, this isn’t the first time something like this has happened in Jewish history. Jews were sweatshop owners, too, back in the day. (And worse than that—but that’s a post for another time.)

I also felt personally insulted—as though this particular employer were portraying English-speaking immigrants to Israel as a bunch of miskenim (Hebrew: poor, pitiful creatures) at worst or, at best, starry-eyed idealists who took a vow of poverty on the tarmac at Ben-Gurion Airport. No, Mr. Company Owner, none of us “accepted material sacrifice” when we moved here. Yes, we put up with certain disadvantages in order to live in a Jewish country, but I do not know anyone who is resigned to them. Every single person I know who lives and works here is constantly trying to better his or her situation, as am I.

Not only that. Many of these “credentialed, highly motivated professionals” who are forced to accept “wages considerably less than the US standard” end up leaving Israel after a while. The long, relentless struggle to meet basic living costs and cut expenses can be extremely wearing and, in many cases, dangerous to health. Over the past several years, quite a few of my friends have left the country because even with all their training, ability and motivation, they couldn’t make a living here. They would have preferred to stay, but their circumstances deteriorated beyond mere “material sacrifice” to outright poverty, and at a certain point, they’d had enough. Just last week, a friend of mine, a brilliant, capable English-speaker who works three jobs, all in her field, told me that with all the work that she is doing, she can barely make ends meet. She hasn’t given up, though. She constantly takes courses and expands her field of knowledge in the hope of finding better employment.

I don’t think anyone needs a degree from Harvard Business School to figure out that companies do better when their employees are pleased and feel appreciated. Desperate, embittered employees earning subsistence wages do not make for a stable, productive work force.

Speaking for myself, Mr. Company Owner, I do understand. Really. You want to make a profit and live well. There’s nothing wrong with that. Only there’s this one thing: so do I. Like any reasonable person, I prefer to work where my employer appreciates me and pays me what I am worth.

When you are willing to do that, sir, we can talk. Until then, I hope and pray that I will never be desperate enough to need a job at your company.

The Wanderer

Just as I was getting ready to go to bed a little while ago, I heard meowing in the stairwell. Thinking that perhaps one of the local strays had become trapped in our building, I opened my door in order to go downstairs and let it out.

Imagine my shock when a lovely tortoiseshell cat with white paws walked into my apartment and started sniffing around!

She was not wearing a collar. Fortunately, I realized immediately that she belonged to the couple who live in the apartment directly below mine. I picked her up gently, reassured her that all was well, and made my way down the flight of stairs. Luckily, my neighbors were still awake. I put the cat down, and she waited politely at the door. I knocked, and the husband answered.

“Is this your cat?” I asked him.

“Yes! Thank you so much! I’m sorry for any trouble that you went to,” he said.

“It was no trouble at all. I’m glad she’s home,” I said, and headed back upstairs to tell the story...

... and go straight to sleep!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Great Ear Mite Massacre

For the past several days, Hadi had been scratching at her right ear so much that she had developed a sore on the skin nearby. This morning, my neighbor and I got her into the cat carrier and took her to the vet.

It was a fascinating visit. The vet took samples from Hadi’s ear, prepared a slide and put them under his microscope. “Oo-wah,” he said—that’s the Israeli equivalent of “Wow!”—“look at that! She’s got ear mites, all right—loads of them. And an ear infection, too. Hey, come look at this—there’s a female ear mite laying eggs, right here on the slide.”

We looked. She was.

Well, no more. The vet gave Hadi an injection and several topical treatments, including Revolution. That little kitty is now up to her ears—literally—in medications, and it looks like she’s going to be fine.

Now if I can just get the sight of those reproducing ear mites out of my mind....

Friday, May 21, 2010

So How’s Hadi Doing?

Thanks to my friend, her human mom, Hadi’s doing just fine.

She’s so much better since her recent visit to the vet. She’s gotten more affectionate, more trusting and more playful. Here are some photos of her enjoying some human company.

First, doing some kitty yoga:

Hadi practices kitty yoga

Now, posing for the camera:


In all this, we’ve been lavishing love and attention on Her Ladyship:

A skritch for Her Ladyship

After a cuddle, Her Ladyship curls up to sleep:

Princess of Siam

Her Ladyship and Hadi have met a few times, and Her Ladyship has yowled and hissed. But we’re not worried. She will get used to Hadi in time, and who knows? They may even be grooming each other in a few months’ time.

The Friday Ark. The Carnival of the Cats.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Bully at the Bus Station

A young woman named Noa Raz was assaulted in the Central Bus Station last Tuesday for bearing the imprints of tefillin on her arm.

Here is the news story at JTA.

From Ms. Raz’s own account of the incident:

A few minutes after I got to the station, I noticed an older man, in Haredi garb, standing and staring at my arm. A few more seconds went by until he realized that his stare was not transmitting his message clearly enough. He leaned over towards me, pointed to the ruddy stripes on my arm, those that linger on the skin after taking off tefillin, and asked, “Tell me, is that from tefillin?” I ignored him, but he asked again: “Is that from tefillin?” Again, I ignored him, but he moved in on me, stood right in front of me, and again asked, in a loud voice: “Is that from tefillin?” I couldn’t ignore him anymore, so I looked at him and replied, “Yes. What do you want from me?”

To be truthful, I was sure that as soon as I would answer him, he would spit out some curse, turn around and leave. But I was mistaken, he had just started. He forcefully gripped my left arm and simply began kicking me. Of course, he didn’t forget to scream out a concoction of words such as “woman, abomination, desecration,” and more.

At first I just froze. I didn’t understand what was going on. But after a few moments I came to my senses. I struggled with him to free myself and ran for the bus that had now arrived. I felt completely alone. The place was not busy, but there were some people around. Some looked on with interest, others turned away. Only one woman shouted back at him, "Leave her alone, already." I don’t want to think what might have happened had I not managed to get away.

This is yet another example of the highly troubling, and increasing, trend of Haredi extremism here in Israel. I hope that the police are looking for the perpetrator, and that he will be prosecuted for his actions—just like anyone should be prosecuted for attacking someone else unprovoked. (Sorry to say, I’m not holding my breath.)

Since I can’t arrest that despicable bully myself and bring him to justice, here is my answer to him and to all who are like him:

A woman's hand 2

A woman’s arm wrapped in tefillin straps, and her hand holding tzitzit, touching the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest accessible site. (Come to think of it, a can of pepper spray or a Krav Maga logo might be more appropriate, but I don’t have a picture of either.)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

My Latest Voiceover Work Is Up on YouTube!

A video produced in honor of the 130th anniversary of the founding of the Neve Horim home for the aged in Jerusalem:

Monday, May 10, 2010

Welcome, Hadi

My friend rescued a cat from her workplace about a week and a half ago. She had her spayed, brought her home, and took her for further veterinary treatment today.

Meet Hadia—Hadi for short.

The new kittycat

My friend, Hadi’s human mom, tells me that both names are actually different words in Arabic. Hadia means “gift.” Hadi means “quiet,” which certainly describes this new little one.

For the first several days, Hadi barely stirred from her cushions on the floor of the closet where she chose to stay. Once she felt more secure, she began to explore her new room. Here, she sits in a regal pose. A rescue she may be, but she is definitely royal. Princess Hadi!

Regal pose

Hadi’s human mom and I are working to get her used to human contact. Here, Hadi allows me to pet her for the first time.

A skritch for the new cat

Hadi enjoys her new scratch pad. Look at her go!

New cat on scratch pad 2

After a vigorous round of scratching, Hadi takes a rest:

Taking a rest 2

Hadi is recovering nicely from her visit to the vet, eating heartily and accepting gentle petting and cuddles.

Welcome, sweetie. Welcome, Hadi.

The Friday Ark. The Carnival of the Cats.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

The Latest Batch

My camera’s finally back from the shop, and so: pictures!

(Profound thanks to my friend N., who lent me her camera for the duration so that I wouldn’t have to go through photo withdrawal.)

A window decorated with flowers and flags in honor of Israel Independence Day:

Flowers and flags

Passing a stopped train on the way from Bet Shemesh to Jerusalem. Since the route, which was built more than a century ago during the Ottoman era, is so narrow, a side track was built at the old Bar Giora station in order to allow the track to be used by two trains at once. The Tel-Aviv-bound train stops briefly on the side track while the Jerusalem-bound train passes it and the two drivers wave to each other—yes, I saw that!

Train meet

Here’s the train parked at the Jerusalem station:

Jerusalem train station

A display downtown to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the birth of Theodor (Binyamin Zeev) Herzl. This popular Israeli song (lyrics: Yankele Rotblit; music: Yair Rosenblum; vocals: Rivka Michaeli) was on the soundtrack as the display progressed:

Celebrating Herzl's sesquicentennial

Finally, a mirror image on a plant at Kibbutz Tzora:

Mirror image