Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Sun Has Teeth

I’ve been saying that for years. One doesn’t fool around with the Middle Eastern sun.

Which is why I didn’t take my frying pans to be kashered by blowtorch last Friday. Not only did I feel that I wouldn’t be up to the trip – but I also felt that I couldn’t justify exposing the young man who does the work to the extra heat when the temperature was already close to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. I figure that the job can wait until the weather is cooler.

I do need to go on some errands tomorrow morning, though, and I wonder: will I be able to step outside without the sun eating me for breakfast?

I am so ready for this heat wave to be over.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Claiming Fealty

Her Ladyship lies on my foot, claiming fealty (and evidently trying to stop me from going anywhere):


The Friday Ark. The Carnival of the Cats.

My Latest Voiceover Work

Here it is – a video for an excellent and important organization, Bishvilaych (“for you” in Hebrew), which promotes women’s health throughout Israel.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


I wrote a few days ago about going to have some kitchen utensils kashered in the Geula neighborhood. Now I would like to write about two incidents that took place while I was there.

When many of my utensils had been boiled and rinsed, it was time to start putting them back into the bags that I had used to carry them there. I lifted a bag with my left hand, shook it open, and tried to put several stacked pots into it with my right. It didn’t work. I needed someone to help me hold the bag open.

Since Geula is mostly a Haredi neighborhood, it is likely that most of the people who come to have their utensils kashered are members of the Haredi community (as opposed to the national-religious community, for example). I don’t know how often people from outside the community use this service. I was dressed modestly, wearing a long cotton skirt and a high-necked shirt with sleeves to my elbows, but it was obvious that I was not Haredi. (The young man who boiled and rinsed the utensils did not look as though he belonged to the Haredi community either.) Several men in Haredi dress were standing to my left, waiting to have their utensils boiled and rinsed. I looked up at one of them. Our eyes met for a moment. He could see what I was trying to do – anyone in the room could see it – but before I could take a breath to ask him for help, he looked uncertain for a moment and then turned away.

I turned to the next man in line and said, “Please, would you hold my bag open so that I can get these pots inside it?” He did, and I thanked him.

I noticed that the man who did not help me was younger than the one who did. Was the younger man perhaps afraid that if he was seen having any contact with a woman who was not a family member and obviously not from his community, he or his family would suffer some sort of reprisal? That wouldn’t surprise me. Unfortunately, it’s common in very closed and strict Jewish communities here. A person’s chance to get a good shidduch (marriage match), place in school or acceptance by the community can be compromised if he or she is seen doing things that the community frowns upon, even if those things are not necessarily wrong or against Jewish law.

After the pots had been boiled, I began to dip them in the mikveh. As I worked, I noticed a young girl waiting nearby. She looked to me to be in her early to mid-teens, was dressed according to Haredi standards, and held several knives with serrated edges and plastic handles in various colors, the kind that many people here use to cut vegetables. Since I knew that I would be taking much longer than she, I offered to dip her knives for her. She shook her head. I moved aside so that she could dip her knives, and then went back to dipping the pots.

When I was done, she was still there. Perhaps she had more items to dip than I had seen – I don’t know. As I picked up my bags and prepared to leave, I smiled at her and said, “Shabbat shalom.”

She didn’t answer. Thinking that perhaps she hadn’t heard me, I smiled at her once again and said, “Shabbat shalom.”

She tightened her lips and turned away.

I left, wondering why she had done that. Was she perhaps upset with me because I had taken so long at the mikveh? But I had shown her that I was willing to step aside for her. Had she been taught not to talk to strangers? Or was it perhaps because I wasn’t a member of her community and therefore not religious enough for her taste? (If she really thought that, then I wonder what she thought I was doing there, taking all those pots and pans to be boiled on such a hot day.) I guess I’ll never know, but I felt sad about it. I confess that I still do. We talk so much about Jewish unity... and yet, here were two instances where Jews turned away from a fellow Jew even as she was engaged in a mitzvah. What does this say about us?

It reminded me of a story that I heard a rabbi tell about twenty years ago. He had been on a crowded bus in Jerusalem when a pregnant woman of non-observant appearance got on. I don’t remember the exact scenario, but as I recall the story, he was standing near a young yeshiva student who was sitting on the aisle.

When the young yeshiva student saw the pregnant woman board the bus, he didn’t move to give her his seat. The rabbi, who was already standing, was surprised and asked him why.

“She’s not religious,” the yeshiva student said with a shrug.

At this, the rabbi seized the yeshiva student by his shoulder, hauled him out of his seat, dragged him to the back of the bus and gave him a scolding. “Who’s your rabbi? Which yeshiva do you go to? Was it there that you learned such atrocious behavior? How dare you act this way? You’re causing a hillul ha-shem [desecration of God’s name]!” he said.

I don’t remember what the student answered. I only thought, as I made my way home with my newly kashered pots, that twenty years later, we still have far to go.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Call for More Hours

I just got word at the end of last week that because of a decrease in workload at one of my workplaces, my hours are to be reduced as of the end of this month. So I'm putting it out there: I'm an experienced translator (Hebrew to English), editor, writer and voiceover artist. I'm equally happy working at home or in an office – and I’m particularly happy working in a recording studio! If you hear of anything that you think might be right for me, please let me know.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Why I Couldn’t Make My Bed

A few days ago, I stripped my bed and washed the linens. When I went to make my bed again, this was what I found:

Why I can't make my bed

I didn’t have the heart to disturb his nap, so I made my bed later.

The Friday Ark. The Carnival of the Cats.

Building with a Face

At least, it looked that way to me.

Building with a face

The Great Kashering Caper

Recently, I received a set of beautiful pots and pans from a dear friend. They needed to be kashered (made kosher) – immersed in boiling water and then in cool water – and then dipped in a mikveh.

So I went to work. First, I scrubbed them all clean – not very difficult, since they were already gleaming. Some of the pots had copper bottoms, which I cleaned with a mixture of equal parts of salt, flour and white vinegar. The mixture cleaned the copper on contact, but didn’t polish it. I buffed it to a shine.

Then I waited twenty-four hours, as Jewish law requires, before taking the pots and pans to the Geula neighborhood for kashering.

Near one of the central intersections in Geula is a small street. At the end of the street are some stairs. Just above these stairs is a room with several boilers, a vat of boiling water, a tub of cool water and some benches. This is one of several places where a procedure known in Hebrew as hag’alat kelim – purging of vessels – is performed.

Pots in which food is cooked in water are made kosher by immersion in boiling water. Utensils that use fire to cook, such as frying pans, must be blowtorched. (I’ll have that done next week.)

Here are some photos that I took during the process. First, the schedule – anyone in the area who needs to have kitchen utensils made kosher can do so every Friday at specific times.

Kashering station

Immersing a pot in a vat of boiling water:

Kashering process: the vat of boiling water

Immersing the just-boiled pot in a tub of cool water:

Kashering process: the cool water tub

The mikveh where I dipped the pots after they were kashered:

Immersion of vessels

The journey home:

The journey home

Stay tuned next week for The Great Kashering Caper: Part 2!

Rosh Hodesh Elul

Former Jerusalem city councilwoman Anat Hoffman, chairwoman of Women of the Wall, waits with our Torah scroll outside the Western Wall plaza. A month ago, Anat was barred from entering the plaza for thirty days... for the crime of carrying a Torah scroll away from the women’s section toward Robinson’s Arch, where Women of the Wall is permitted to hold its Torah service.

Anat Hoffman waits with the Torah

When we were at Robinson’s Arch, there were two bar-mitzvah services in progress. Interestingly enough, neither one took place on the wooden platforms that had been built for Women of the Wall. Our group stayed above, where there was enough room for everyone.

Here is one group:

Bar mitzvah at Robinson's Arch

Here is the other:

Another bar mitzvah

I know of quite a few religious and traditional families who chose to hold their bar- or bat-mitzvah services at Robinson’s Arch. I don’t blame them. They simply do not want to be forced to adhere to the increasingly strict regulations at the Western Wall plaza. The women do not want to have to stand on chairs and lean over a fence – compromising their own physical safety – in order to watch their sons read Torah.

The Western Wall is not what it was when I was first there in 1983. It is no longer a national site, no longer welcoming, particularly for women, who now have a fraction of the space that we once had, and highly restricted indoor access to the Kotel.

It’s sad.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Two Views of Kitten

On his chair, wide awake:

Kitten on his chair

On the sofa, stretched out and napping:


The Friday Ark. The Carnival of the Cats.

Thriving Purslane

Wow! Looky here – my purslane is thriving!


And to think that I’d almost given up on it.

A few days ago, I saw the first seed cup.

Seed cup

By now, there are more seed cups, so I can start giving seeds to anyone who wants them. Locals, let me know if you’d like some purslane seeds, and I’ll be happy to give you a bunch.

Around and About

Two pictures from my brief trip to Efrat last week:

A view from inside the protected bus stop:

Efrat junction

One of several similar trucks that I saw heading south:

On the road going past Efrat

Back in Jerusalem, some street art in the Talpiot industrial zone. The legend here reads, in Hebrew, “Tzav giyus,” which means, in its correct spelling, a call-up order from the army. Here, though, the word “tzav” is spelled differently, rendering the meaning “turtle.”

Painted turtle street art

A Rare View of the Talpiot Industrial Zone

Well, rare for me, that is.

Last week, after the demonstration against the segregated bus lines, I took a bus to work, which is located in the Talpiot industrial zone. This particular bus stopped just outside the industrial zone, so I had some walking to do in order to reach my destination. I didn’t mind. I can always use the exercise, it was a beautiful day, and I had my camera with me.

And so, without further ado, here are some of the pictures that I took on the way to work:

The Egged bus depot, where many of Egged’s buses go to sleep at night:

Where the buses sleep at night

A large, full-service fuel station at the entrance to the industrial zone, complete with a taxi stand:

Fuel station in Talpiot

A tire-pressure chart in Hebrew and English, by make and model of the car:

Tire pressure chart

A used-car lot called New Chicago Cars. (Someday I’ll get up enough courage to ask the owners why they chose that particular name.)

New Chicago Cars

A wild tobacco plant, Nicotiana glauca, growing by the side of the road.

Tobacco plant


A model motorcycle in a display window at the Malha mall:

Model motorcycle

A real motorcycle parked in Jerusalem’s Talpiot industrial zone:

Yamaha motorcycle

(Disclaimer: I know absolutely nothing about motorcycles and have never ridden one in my life. But I think that they are beautiful to look at and to photograph, and I do hope to ride one just once.)

Demonstration against Segregation

Last week, I attended another demonstration against the segregated bus lines. (On principle, I refuse to call them “mehadrin” lines or anything else but what they are: segregated.) Here are several photos:

Some of the signs, stating that segregated buses are a violation of halakhah (Jewish religious law) and that in Israel, we do not require any particular group to sit in the back of the bus, so why demand it of women?

Demonstration 8

An exhibit at the demonstration. The black plastic chairs are, of course, meant to symbolize seats on a public bus. The signs read: “For Sephardim only,” “For secular people only,” “For Arabs only,” “For Ethiopians only,” “For non-Jews only,” “For homosexuals only,” “For women only.”

Demonstration 9

The exhibit, photographed at another angle:

Demonstration 10

When I watched the exhibit being prepared, I asked one of the other demonstrators, “Who’s the seat in front for?” The answer came back, “For normal people!” I cracked up in that instant... but the message wasn’t lost on me, nor, evidently, was it lost on the people who passed by in their cars and honked in support.

Here, a “normal person” (in other words, a man) sits in the front seat of the bus, and everyone else must sit behind him.

Demonstration 11